January 9, 2012
LIBERAL INTERNATIONAL ORDER
G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2011) ("[L]iberal international order is defined as order that is open and loosely rule-based. Openness is manifest when states trade and exchange on the basis of mutual gain. Rules and institutions operate as mechanisms of governance--and they are at least partially autonomous from the exercise of state power. In its ideal form, liberal international order creates a foundation in which states can engage in reciprocity and institutionalized cooperation. As such, liberal international order can be contrasted with closed and non-rule-based relations--whether geopolitical blocs, exclusive regional spheres, or closed imperial systems." Id. at 18. "[T]he more specific features of liberal international order vary widely. The liberal vision is wide ranging, and the ideas associated with liberal internationalism have evolved over the last two centuries. In the nineteenth century, liberal international order was understood primarily as a commitment to open trade, the gold standard, and great power accommodation. In the twentieth century, it has been understood to entail more elaborate forms of rules and institutional cooperation. Notions of cooperative security, democratic community, collective problem solving, universal rights, and shared sovereignty have also evolved over the last century to inform the agenda of liberal order building". Id. at 19. I"The United States will remain the dominant state in the global system for several decades to come. As such, its strategic orientation toward the logic and organization of the system will shape decisively what comes next. So what are its underlying interests and incentives in the maintenance of an open, rule-based international order? It was, after all, one of the great beneficiaries of that order, occupying its center, with all the authority and privileges that conveyed. But if the maintenance of the old hegemonic order is not possible, the United States will want to help shape a follow-on order that retains it open and rule-based character. It will surely struggle over how authority, sovereignty, hierarchy, and institutions are arrayed within the order. But it will also seek to preserve the order's underlying liberal features. The Bush administration's efforts to transform the system into a unipolar security order in which the United States disentangled itself from multilateral rules and institutions failed--and the lessons have not been lost on its successor administration. Moreover if unipolarity is, in fact, in a slow process of decline, the incentives are actually intensified for putting in place and reinforcing a reformed liberal order, even if this entails a reduction of American hegemonic rights and privileges." Id. at 315-316.).