Decades after they were supposedly banished from the West, the dark forces of world politics—illiberalism, autocracy, nationalism, protectionism, spheres of influence, territorial revisionism—have reasserted themselves. China and Russia have dashed all hopes that they would quickly transition to democracy and support the liberal world order. To the contrary, they have strengthened their authoritarian systems at home and flouted norms abroad. Even more stunning, with the United Kingdom having voted for Brexit and the United States having elected Donald Trump as president, the leading patrons of the liberal world order have chosen to undermine their own system. Across the world, a new nationalist mindset has emerged, one that views international institutions and globalization as threats to national sovereignty and identity rather than opportunities.
The recent rise of illiberal forces and leaders is certainly worrisome. Yet it is too soon to write the obituary of liberalism as a theory of international relations, liberal democracy as a system of government, or the liberal order as the overarching framework for global politics. The liberal vision of nation-states cooperating to achieve security and prosperity remains as vital today as at any time in the modern age. In the long course of history, liberal
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