In early 2002, soon after Foreign Affairs published my essay on failed states, I got a call from a prominent liberal hawk. I thought that he, as an advocate of muscular intervention in Bosnia, would like the case my essay made: that orderly rich states need to do more about the disorder in failed states, since power vacuums threaten their stability. But the official was not altogether supportive. My title, "The Reluctant Imperialist," worried him. The liberal internationalism for which he stood would only be discredited if I stuck an imperialist label on it.

My caller was exactly right, although it

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