By Matthew Yglesias
Over the course of my book, I argued that progressive foreign policy needed to re-ground itself in a principled effort to try to create a global order based on rules rather than coercion. For example if I may be so bold as to quote myself on page 185:
Neither neoconservatives nor liberal hawks have really appreciated this point, a failure that stems from a pathological unwillingness to attempt to seriously consider other countries’ perspectives on events. To some critics, such as Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, a determination to do better on this score implies a revival of interest in the foreign policy doctrine of “realism,” but it is likewise integral to the liberal worldview. Where liberals and realists have traditionally parted ways is how to try to take the perspectives of others into account. Rather than simply by doing less or by seeking ad hoc arrangements with other powers, liberals seek to defend liberal societies by embedding them within liberal institutions that can uphold a reasonably just world order and thereby preserve the peace. The concept, well captured by [Anne Marie] Slaugher and [John] Ikenberry’s slogan of aiming at a “world of liberty under law,” is an old and enduring one. The underlying logic of rule-governed reciprocity is, however, made all the more compelling by recent developments. It is precisely the fact that contemporary conditions make it reasonable for the United States to be concerned with what goes on inside the borders of other countries to an unprecedented degree that makes the notion of expressing that concern through stable, rule-based institutions so compelling.
At any rate, Dr Slaughter is know Director of Policy Planning at the State Department and perhaps she had a little something to do with the brand new National Security Strategy of the United States that very much reflects these ideas, arguing that “We must pursue a rules-based international system that can advance our own interests by serving mutual interests.”
I have various doubts about some aspects of the Obama foreign policy (I’m not sure the administration’s approach to drone strikes can really be defended as an instantiation of this idea), but reading the NSS today on a few bus rides really brought home the fact that in a big picture sense I think the president and his team get it.