Empire State of Mind

The Illiberal Foundations of Liberal Hegemony

Originally published in The Independent Review

What kind of mindset does the proactive, interventionist foreign policy of the U.S. government require? Eight characteristics are fundamental, and each one conflicts with liberal values. This approach to foreign policy contains an inherent tension. Its adherents claim a commitment to liberal values but successfully implementing the strategy requires, attracts, and reinforces a mentality fundamentally at odds with those values. We discuss the defining characteristics of the interventionist mindset and how the adoption of this mentality is incentivized by government bureaus which reward those who successfully implement the government’s foreign policy strategy. Those who rise to the top will tend to be those who are most comfortable and willing to engage in illiberal behaviors toward foreign populations.