In This Review

Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition: Essays on American Power and International Order
Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition: Essays on American Power and International Order
By G. John Ikenberry
Polity Press, 2006, 256 pp

What is the nature of American unipolarity, and what is its future? These are the questions explored in this insightful collection of essays, written over 15 years by one of the most articulate proponents of liberal internationalism. During the past 60 years, Ikenberry argues, the United States has constructed a distinctive and remarkably durable international order organized around open markets, international institutions, and cooperative security. This order has proved effective thanks largely to the creation of multilateral institutions that give other states a stake in its success and to the United States' willingness to play by common rules; it has enabled Washington to turn "power into order and domination into legitimate authority." But the current administration, Ikenberry notes, has turned to more unilateralist policies, and his essays on this topic are among the most interesting in the volume. He sees a "new grand strategy" in George W. Bush's policies that challenges not only multilateralism but also conventional notions of sovereignty and deterrence. Not surprisingly, Ikenberry views this experiment as doomed to failure because its costs are unsustainable at home and its substance is unpopular abroad.