Was George W. Bush the heir of Woodrow Wilson? That is the important question addressed by the four authors who created this short but lucid contribution to the U.S. foreign policy debate. The liberal Wilsonians Ikenberry and Slaughter want to answer with a resounding no but are serious and fair-minded enough to give a full airing to the contrary view. The resulting debate does not settle the issue, but it clarifies some of the conflicting and contradictory elements in the legacy that Wilson left. Slaughter's riposte to Smith's contention that contemporary liberal internationalists share key assumptions and priorities with neoconservatives is a strong one, but realists, long skeptical of Wilsonianism in all its forms, will continue -- gleefully -- to insist that neoconservatism is the natural result of Wilsonian errors. As Smith reminds us, former President Gerald Ford said in July 2004, "I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security." For Wilsonians, whether liberal or neoconservative, whatever the difficulties that may arise in particular cases, freeing people around the world is in the U.S. national interest. Whatever their internecine differences, both neoconservative and liberal Wilsonians will continue to argue this core position; realists will quietly continue to hope for a plague on both their houses.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on %taxonomy_term:name From This Issue