The Truth About the Liberal Order

Why It Didn't Make the Modern World

Aboard the USS John S. McCain in the South China Sea, June 2014. REUTERS

Few ideas have gained more widespread currency within the U.S. foreign policy community in the last few years than that of the liberal international order. In my recent essay, “The Myth of the Liberal Order,” I identified three core claims made by advocates of the order about its significance: “First, that the liberal order has been the principal cause of the so-called long peace among great powers for the past seven decades. Second, that constructing this order has been the main driver of U.S. engagement in the world over that period. And third, that U.S. President Donald Trump is the primary threat to the liberal order—and thus to world peace.” Each claim contains grains of truth, I argued, but each is more wrong than right.  

Since the article was published, several scholars have pushed back. Rebecca Friedman Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper argue that the “liberal order

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