FPI Director Robert Kagan Cited in The Economist on America's Role in the World

The Economist reports:

America also benefits from its distinctive political ideology and institutions. Founded on Enlightenment ideals rather than a conqueror’s battle lines or a monarch’s bloodlines, they distributed power among the states and the branches of the federal government. Along with a dissident religious tradition, this has meant that in peacetime the United States is in an almost constant state of turmoil, which is evident even when it ventures abroad. “Americans, in foreign policy, are torn,” writes Robert Kagan, an American historian. “Reluctant, then aggressive; asleep at the switch, then quick on the trigger; indifferent, then obsessed, then indifferent again. They are a revolutionary power, but think they are a status-quo power.”

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Yet if you examine the spread of democracy, as Mr Kagan has done, a different picture emerges. Democracy flourished under British hegemony and then retreated as fascism took root (see chart 1)—not because of invasion but because of imitation in places such as Latin America. In 1941 the world contained only a dozen democracies. As Samuel Huntington, a political scientist, has explained, the system then spread in waves, partly because America used its influence to help democracy take root in countries like Taiwan and Poland, and to protect young democracies in countries like Bolivia, South Korea and the Philippines. According to Mr Kagan, the fallacy is to think that the liberal order rests on the triumph of its ideals. “International order is not an evolution,” he writes, “it is an imposition.”

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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