Is the United States a ‘Neocon Nation’?

Debating the position of neoconservatism in the history of American foreign policy has, in the years following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, become a vibrant industry.  Initially, an orthodox narrative emerged, which considered neoconservatism an imperialistic, militaristic and hubristic aberration in American history, which, having enjoyed a brief ‘moment’ of post-September 11 influence, was now consigned to historical irrelevance, having failed both theoretically and practically.[1]  More recently, a revisionist school has surfaced which challenges these views, and places neoconservatism firmly within the traditions of American foreign policy.  According to the revisionists, neoconservative foreign policy is proactive, theoretically robust, and is driven by a deep sense of moral virtue and a desire to spread universal values of liberty, freedom and democracy.[2]  Crucially, as the revisionists’ arguably most prominent scholar Robert Kagan argues, the history of American foreign policy is one of consistent active liberal expansion, which is fuelled by the domestic character of the US and its foundation based on universal rights of all.  Kagan concludes that in its dealings with the rest of the world, the US is an ideological, revolutionary state, viewed by others as a ‘dangerous nation’, with a ‘self-image at odds reality’.[3]  Even though Americans may be reluctant to admit it, in Kagan’s view, the US is, and always has been, a ‘neocon nation’.[4]

This paper will assess this claim, by interrogating Kagan’s core argument that America’s liberal universalism drives its actions abroad.  A tentative post-revisionist conclusion will be drawn, suggesting that America is a not ‘neocon nation’, but rather an idealist nation in a realist world: the US does pursue the extension of liberal capitalist democracy, but this idealistic goal must be reconciled with the realities of international politics, which compel states to primarily seek power, wealth and security in order to ensure their survival in an anarchic international system, as discussed in structural realist theories of international relations.[5]  This reconciliation is necessary because of the centrality of liberalism in the formation of American politics and society, and takes place as foreign actions which are undertaken to satisfy parochial strategic interests are framed in moral terms, and particularly as part of an American mission to expand liberal democracy.  This moral framing is not undertaken to provide a ‘fig-leaf’ to mislead the American people, but rather reflects the link between national identity and foreign policy.  America may not like the realities of international politics, but if it must grapple with them and pursue its interests, it will do so in terms of liberty, freedom and democracy, in order to be consistent with its liberal political culture.  In this sense, culture acts as a filter or ‘permissive causes’ on potential reactions to international pressures, deeming certain responses literally unthinkable for the US.[6]  It is this reconciliation that explains America’s moral construction of its foreign policy, which Kagan confuses as the driving force behind it and thus his misleading label of a ‘neocon nation’.  This view is consistent with the tenets of neoclassical realism: power determines state capability and its scope of interests, but ideas and state character determine how those interests are understood and pursued.[7]

The paper will proceed as follows: at first it will briefly consider neoconservatism and its relationship with notions of ‘exceptionalism.’  An analysis of liberal universalism and expansionism will follow, considering to what extent these phenomena have informed American identity, and how far ‘neoconservatism’ is interchangeable with ‘liberal expansionism.’  Next, in order to support the paper’s hypothesis, the chief foreign actions of the Progressive Era, the 1898 Spanish-American War and 1917 entry in the First World War, will be analysed in relation to Bruce Jentleson’s ‘4 P’s’ framework of foreign policy motivations.[8]  It will be suggested that, in the inevitable trade-offs inherent in the decision-making process, realist concerns of power and prosperity drive US foreign policy, but such actions are carried out, and framed in terms of, satisfying more idealistic goals of peace and principles.

Initially, however, it is necessary to consider the terms ‘neoconservative’, and ‘neoconservative foreign policy.’  This paper cannot consider this issue in great depth, though accounts of neoconservatism, its thought and history are numerous and accomplish the task admirably.[9]  Defining these terms is, in Robert Singh’s words, ‘more art than science’.[10]  The task is further complicated as there is no canonical neoconservative view in foreign policy; it is perhaps better understood as a ‘school of thought’, ‘persuasion’, or ‘tendency.’[11]  Nevertheless, for all its heterogeneity and internal debate, there is a coherent neoconservative worldview, with a solid ideological basis.  At root, neoconservatism is based on both the exceptional character of the US, and the assumed universalism of its core liberal values – ‘democracy, free markets, [and a] respect for liberty.’[12]  This is amplified by a strong sense of idealism, and an almost ‘crusading’ impulse, which sees the spreading of these values as the very essence of America’s mission, gifting neoconservatism its distinctive proactive, messianic quality.

The notion of ‘exceptionalism’ is integral to American identity, originating in the earliest Puritan settler communities and pervading the revolutionary period;[13] ‘America is exceptional, both in fact and perception, because more than any other state in history it has embodied and advanced an ideological vision of a way of life centred upon freedom, in politics, in economics, and in society.’  The central dimension of American exceptionalism is its ‘intensely liberal character.’[14]  For neoconservatives, exceptionalism defines not only America, but also American foreign policy, seen as a ‘legitimizing rationale’ for an activist foreign policy which includes regime change and democratisation.[15]  Because American values are ‘exceptional’ and universal, their extension is morally just, enjoying a priori legitimacy.  Further, neoconservatism holds that a society’s vitality is dependent on the conduct of its government; an amoral foreign policy will lead to amorality at home, masking ‘a deeper self-loathing’, bringing with it decadence, nihilism and social decay.[16]  It follows that calculations of a state’s national interests are determined by the internal character of a state: states with ‘good’ (liberal democratic) governments will behave ‘better’ than states with ‘bad’ (autocratic) governments.  Therefore, neoconservatism displays a strong sense of moral clarity and rejection of relativism, based on the subjective assumption that American liberalism is an exceptional universal value, which it is America’s duty to extend, gifting neoconservatism its messianic quality.  William Kristol and Robert Kagan argue that ‘American foreign policy should be infused with a clear moral purpose’, the ultimate goal of which is ‘benevolent global hegemony.’[17]  This hegemony is in itself exceptional, based on the benefits other states derive from it, and the trust instilled in US intentions, due to its liberal democratic character, a perspective termed ‘hegemonic stability theory.’[18]  In this sense, Kagan takes it as axiomatic that neoconservatism is inextricably linked to the notion of liberal universalism, and its proactive expansion.

America’s liberal universalism stems from its foundation and notions of exceptionalism, and can be considered to be the basis of America’s national identity.  The beliefs that ‘all men are created equal . . . with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’[19] as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence have become intertwined with America’s sense of national character, and the basis of the ‘American Creed.’  These ideas stemmed from Enlightenment philosophy and the liberalism of John Locke and Adam Smith; they became fused with American identity through the success of American development, vindicating its ideological basis, and by the necessity for social cohesion and sense of American nationalism.  Kagan’s thesis is premised on the assumption that liberalism has become the defining enduring quality of American foreign policy, due to its central role in the formation of, and maintenance of, American society and identity.  This liberalism, in Kagan’s view, has had the effect of driving American expansion, for both moral and strategic reasons.  Morally, the axiom that ‘all men are created equal’ implicitly called for the US to bestow the blessings of individual liberty on a continental, and ultimately global scale.  Thomas Paine’s rallying cry that ‘we have it in our power to begin the world all over again’ summarises this view.[20]  Strategically, it originates in both the material and ideological vulnerability of what was in its early years a fragile republican ‘experiment.’  The New World was at risk of subjugation by the powerful, ideologically adverse absolute monarchies of the Old; its liberalism could only be protected by its advance.  Complemented by Immanuel Kant’s view of the potential for ‘perpetual peace’, America had to spread its liberal democracy in order to protect its liberty at home.  The logical extension of this view, in the words of Leo Strauss, is that ‘in order to make the world safe for Western democracies, one must make the whole globe democratic.’[21]

A neoconservative foreign policy is not interchangeable with ‘liberal expansionism’ per se, nor least due to debates concerning the means used to extend liberal values on issues such as the role of military force and attitudes towards multilateralism, but the extension of American liberal values in neoconservatism has an almost messianic quality.  Its moral clarity derives from a belief ‘the human condition is defined as a choice between good and evil’, thus rejecting moral relativism in favour of universalism.[22]  Its advocacy of liberal democracy, and desire to spread it abroad is predicated on Lockean ideas of universal natural rights and the human desire for individual liberty and personal betterment.  This is expanded, from the belief that a state’s internal character influences its foreign policy, to the conviction that the spread of democracy can lead to a more stable and peaceful world order.  The means employed to achieve these goals, in neoconservative thought, should be proactive and activist, up to and including, if necessary, military action, in order to ‘bring about a change of regime.’[23]  Crucially, for neoconservatives, America must be the agent of this change, due to its exceptional and benevolent character.

America’s development reinforced this sense of ‘liberal absolutism’ both philosophically and materially, informing its foreign policy.  American liberalism developed in geographic isolation, thus was not challenged by contemporary philosophical forces, such as conservatism and socialism, which were emerging in Europe.  Americans, who were, in Alexis de Tocqueville’s phrase, ‘born equal’, can neither understand nor ultimately tolerate non-liberal societies, an argument put forward most notably by Louis Hartz.[24]  The result is a national identity and foreign policy in tension with the world around it; a tension that can only be alleviated by the spread of liberal values at the expense of those which are seen to threaten them.  Thus the maintenance of America’s liberal society becomes dependent on the spread of its republican ideals.

The cause and effect of this has been the infusion of American identity with liberal universal values.  Samuel Huntington has defined the ‘American Creed’ as consisting of liberal, democratic, individualistic and egalitarian values.[25]  It seems clear that liberalism is the hook off which democracy, individualism and egalitarianism hang.  Further, the American Creed can be seen as synonymous with American nationalism; as noted above the US was founded on liberal principles.  Kagan states, ‘[n]ations are not calculating machines.  They have the attributes of the humans who create and live in them’.[26]  For US foreign policy, this has resulted in a strong sense of morality, to the extent that for Americans, foreign policy goals should reflect ‘the political values and principles that define American identity’.[27]    In this sense, American foreign policy is, at root, neoconservative.

Kagan’s thesis is correct in the sense that neoconservative ideas are not new in US foreign policy, and that liberal universalism informs both America’s identity and its relationship with the wider world.  Yet he ignores or downplays the importance of events when American action has been driven by more traditional, parochial considerations, demonstrating what Huntington has termed a ‘gap between the values and the reality’ of the American polity.[28]  American identity, and its commitment to liberal universalism, has had difficulty reconciling itself to the realities of international politics, and the need to satisfy interests of power, wealth and security.  ‘This convergence between self-interest and morality’, Huntington notes, ‘has appeared as no easy task.’[29]  It has been the norm that liberal expansionism has often been offered as an ex post facto justification for American military activism and intervention throughout its history, or offered as a rhetorical device for action that is motivated less by moral, more by strategic, power-oriented concerns.  This is not to say that America’s ‘liberal impulse’[30]  does not play a role in US foreign policy, but rather that it shapes how the US sees the world, and the character of its foreign relations; however, it is ultimately driven by the nature and realities of international politics.  It is America itself, and not just the neocons, who have been ‘mugged by reality.’

A consideration of the Progressive Era and the Spanish-American and First World Wars, its primary foreign policy events, is instructive.  The Era, dating loosely from 1890 to 1918, generally considered the time when America, spurred on by its rapid post-Civil War economic growth, became a world power in commercial and military terms, is also seen as a high-water mark for liberal progressivism in the US in both domestic and foreign policy.[31]  As its material capabilities increased, America was more able to spread its universal liberal values, through the extension of democracy and free market capitalism on an international scale.  As a growing power, the US developed an ‘expanding sense of both interest and entitlement’, Kagan notes, and these would be pursued through the extension of America’s liberal values.[32]  However, as will be shown, using Jentleson’s ‘4 P’s’ framework,[33] at this time American foreign relations were driven at root by realist concerns of power and prosperity.  They were, however, framed and pursued in terms consistent with more idealistic considerations of peace and principles.  This serves to counter Kagan’s perspective, which sees US foreign policy, and neoconservatism, as informed by principles, with power and prosperity merely tools to support liberal expansion.

The decision to declare war on Spain in 1898 was by necessity, justified in terms of liberal expansionism, in order to enlist domestic support and reconcile America’s ideals with reality.  Indeed, as Kagan notes the war enjoyed domestic popularity ‘because it involved American ideals, American interests, American prejudices, and American power.’[34]  America’s identity and commitment to liberal universalism would act as a filter, and not allow it to pursue a strategy based on Old World principles of self-interest, but rather see it as an action to ‘earn the praises of every lover of freedom and humanity’, in Senator Shelby M. Cullom’s words, and could thus could be supported.[35]  Kagan quotes Republican Party officials who after the war declared it a ‘“war for liberty and human rights” that had given “ten millions of the human race” a “new birth of freedom”’.[36] The war was, moreover, the result of America’s increased military power; its capability fused with its liberal ideology to drive action.  They now not only could spread their liberal values, but they also should, impelled by their universalist ideology, satisfying the goal of principles in foreign policy.

Yet the liberal character of the intervention disguises the reality, that President William McKinley’s decision was based on American commerce and national security, or prosperity and power: concern for American property in Cuba, where rebels sought independence from the Spanish Empire, and worries that Spain would enlist European support in the Americas, thus breaching the spheres of interest declared in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823.[37]  It is further explained by realist conceptions of growing power leading to a wider scope of interests, and the natural desire of states to expand their sphere of influence in order to ensure their security.  It had long been a belief amongst American statesmen that Cuba ‘would eventually fall “like a ripe fruit” . . . into the American sphere of influence.’[38]

In the aftermath of the war, America found itself for the first time in possession of what appeared a nascent overseas empire, with territories in Guam, Puerto Rico and, most significantly, the Philippines.  These territories were strategically significant, given the importance of Pacific and, specifically, Chinese trade at this time, as the economic opportunities afforded by the American frontier had seemingly been exhausted.  This had consequences for the success of America’s liberty at home too, as Frederick Jackson Turner’s ‘Frontier Thesis’ suggested the symbiotic and mutually dependent relationship of liberalism and expansionism.[39]  Thus McKinley resolved to ‘take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them’.[40]  America’s liberal political culture and assumptions of individual liberty, combined with its aversion to Old World imperialism made an overt annexation of these territories for economic and security concerns unthinkable for McKinley and his policymakers.  If America was going to be imperial, it would do so consistent with its liberal values.  But liberal expansionism here was a tertiary motive, after the importance of economic expansionism and national security.  Around this time, McKinley’s Secretary of State, John Hay, penned what became known as two ‘Open Door’ notes, which called for China, under attack from European powers and Japan, to ‘remain whole, united and under Chinese control.’[41]  Again, this was partly New World anti-colonialism, and morally justified in terms of liberal universalism, but mostly driven by economic and security concerns: America’s economic might at this time was far greater than its military power, and enforced open trade would prevent European influence in the Asia-Pacific theatre, whilst allowing for continued domestic prosperity.  This would further ensure American security through dominance of its increasing sphere of interest.  During this era, American foreign policy was clearly proactive as it forcibly expanded its influence and values, yet this was driven not by liberal universalism, but capitalistic gain,[42] a triumph of power and prosperity, framed as satisfying peace and principles.  Thus the Spanish-American War was not the act of a ‘neocon nation.’

America’s entry in the First World War offers another example of the need for the US to reconcile morals with self-interest.  President Woodrow Wilson famously claimed that America’s involvement was part of an effort to ‘make the world safe for democracy’, and that it would be ‘the war to end all wars’.  However, this is also demonstrative, consistent with the rhetoric of McKinley, of liberal universalist language of peace and principles being used to justify more parochial goals of power and prosperity.  Thus Henry Kissinger is overstating Wilson’s historical importance when he claims his ‘appearance on the scene was a watershed for America.’[43]  America’s entry in the First World War is explained by changes in the distribution of power, and the desire of states to seek security and expand their economy; the character of the action is informed by America’s liberal identity.  This is not to suggest that Wilson was an amoral realpolitik practitioner who dressed up strategic self-interest in moralistic language.  His earlier interventions in Latin America demonstrated a clear adherence to, and evangelical belief in, the pacifying effect of democracy and a clear conviction that ‘[a]ll right thinking people aimed towards the same universal progressive ends,’[44] although these were being obstructed by oppressive, undemocratic regimes in both the Americas and, increasingly, Europe.  In this area, Wilson finds himself in agreement with the neoconservatives.  Yet America’s entanglement in the vicissitudes of European politics was not fundamentally driven by such universal aspirations, but is rather explained by the realist position concerning expanding state power and the commensurate rise in the scope of national interests, both strategic and economic.  Again, however, justifying America’s involvement in the war in terms of self-interest would have been contrary to both the nation’s liberal political culture, and also to Wilson’s personal convictions.  If the US was going to fight in Europe, it would perceive its actions as serving moral goals.

In international strategic terms, the emergence of a dominant Germany in Europe would alter the global balance-of-power, and internecine rivalry in Europe, whilst eschewed by American statesmen from George Washington onwards, had allowed America to develop in relative security.  By 1917, American power, economic and political, had grown to the extent that Europe was a vital theatre, and therefore came under the scope of US interests and its expanding sphere of influence.  Thus potential German dominance left American neutrality untenable, partly through its autocratic character, but mainly through its raw power capabilities and potential threat to American security; concerns of power.  This point would find sympathy from structural realists.  Further, it is instructive that the official casus belli for Congress’ war declaration was German attacks on American commercial shipping in the Atlantic.  In an echo to the Spanish-American War, it was concerns over American prosperity that contributed to American involvement, in the form of loans to the nearly-bankrupted European belligerents, especially Britain, to help them purchase American products.  This only served to increase economic dependence upon Europe, whose market had long been integral to American prosperity.[45]  In this vein, American entry in World War I is explained by the expansion of its capitalistic interests, and consistent with narratives of American foreign policy that see it as one of economic imperialism, as Europe becomes dependent on, and supportive of, American prosperity.  Yet, because of both America’s and Wilson’s liberal identity and a foreign policy history of aloofness from European affairs, the president framed the action as ‘a fundamental clash of political morality’, where the ‘virtuous ideas of liberal democracy’ were threatened by ‘the warped values of militant autocracy.’[46]  Again, a foreign policy decision driven by power and prosperity was framed and carried out in terms of peace and principles.  It further presented an opportunity to extend the ‘American system’ of liberal democracy within and between nations through what became the post-war League of Nations.[47]

Whilst the conflicts that dominated the Progressive Era were driven by strategic concerns, the manner in which they were taken was informed by America’s liberal identity.  Both were conceived of and justified as part of a grand strategy of liberal expansionism, not out of duplicity, but because America’s liberal identity is irreconcilable with foreign actions that are based on narrow conceptions of self-interest and the balance-of-power.  Thus, having won the peace, first McKinley and then Wilson resolved to extend the American system further afield, with varying degrees of success.[48]  In the Progressive Era, the US was a not ‘neocon nation’, but rather a deeply liberal and idealistic nation becoming increasingly involved with the rest of the world because of its growing power and influence.  Its liberal identity informed the character of this involvement, but the root causes of the action are better explained by liberty or neoconservatism.

Robert Kagan’s argument that America is, and always has been a ‘neocon nation’ thus only tells part of the story.  As an ex post facto justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, by placing it firmly within the long-term traditions of a US foreign policy driven by liberal universalism, Dangerous Nation and Kagan’s other writings achieve their task to an extent.  America does pursue a liberal foreign policy, and it is a revolutionary, ideological state that ultimately seeks to change the nature of international order.  This originates in its exceptionalist identity and universal values, which in turn inform neoconservative conceptions of foreign policy.    Yet the argument that liberal expansionism trumps all other forces that drive America’s approach to foreign affairs requires selectively quoting American statesmen, whose public pronouncements are necessarily infused with morals and exceptionalism, for reasons cited above, and the ‘cherry-picking’ of motives for action, whilst underplaying occasions when the US has shown restraint in its foreign policy or pursued parochial goals of self-interest,[49]  such as its close relationships with illiberal regimes like Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and Saudi Arabia, which are hardly the acts of a ‘neocon nation’. As such, Kagan’s narrative is incoherent.  He would likely contend that these relationships sit uncomfortably with Americans, and that the ultimate goal of US policy would be to encourage their liberalisation.  This is correct to an extent, as demonstrated by America’s response to the recent revolution in Egypt and other uprisings in the Arab Spring, where the US has favoured democratic rights in the face of government crackdowns.  Yet such relationships also demonstrate explicitly the nature of international politics, whereby moral concerns are by necessity subservient to the demands of the international system and the continual quest for power, wealth and security.  Anarchy trumps exceptionalism.  The military adventures of the Progressive Era, and more recently the Iraq invasion, arguably unfairly labelled a ‘neoconservative war’, demonstrate realist origins for ‘liberal’ actions.[50]

Yet Kagan’s thesis should not be entirely discounted.  Americans may have a ‘self-image at odds with reality’, but this does not mean that theirs is a foreign policy built on illusions.  For, even if America’s actions are fundamentally driven by parochial concerns of self-interest, the character of its action is not irrelevant.  When America does act abroad, it does so proactively and in a deeply liberal way, seeking the expansion of its universal values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and doing so out of the liberalism that underpins the ‘American Creed’ and American national identity.  This explains the post-war rebuilding of the Confederacy, the Philippines, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq.  These occupations were driven by strategic interests, but carried out in a manner consistent with those of liberal expansion, informed by universal values.  To use Jentleson’s framework, they may have been taken to satisfy power and prosperity, but the way in which the actions were taken has also often spread peace and were consistent with America’s principles; the post-War occupation and reconstruction of Japan and Germany perhaps best illustrate this.  Thus America is not a ‘neocon nation’, as its foreign policy is driven by realist concerns of power, wealth and security.  Yet the liberal character of these actions, as America reconciles itself with the grim Hobbesian realities of international politics, suggests that America is better understood as an idealist power in a realist world.


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[1] John Ikenberry, ‘The End of the Neoconservative Moment’, Survival, 56:1, (Spring, 2004); Francis Fukuyama, ‘The Neoconservative Moment’, The National Interest, 76, (Summer, 2004); Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

[2] The revisionist school is critiqued in Christopher Fettweis, ‘Dangerous Revisionism: On the Founders, ‘Neocons’ and the Importance of History, Orbis, 53:3, (Summer, 2009).

[3] Robert Kagan, Dangerous Nation: American and the World 1600-1898, (London: Atlantic Books, 2006); Robert Kagan, How the US Distorts its Self-Image’, Financial Times Online, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b28ddf54-8489-11db-87e0-0000779e2340.html#axzz1biAZ3Gqg, (5 December 2006, Accessed 24 October 2011).

[4] Robert Kagan, ‘Neocon Nation: Neoconservatism c.1776’, World Affairs, 168:4, (Spring, 2008).

[5] Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics, (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979); John Mearsheimer, The Great Tragedy of Power Politics, (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001).

[6] Colin Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders: Power, Culture and Change in American Grand Strategy, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), ch. 2.

[7] The term ‘neoclassical realism’ was coined in Gideon Rose, ‘Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy’, World Politics, 51:1, (October, 1998).  The primary text that considers neoclassical realism as a theoretical approach remains Steven E. Lobell, Norrin M. Ripsman and Jeffrey W. Taliaferro (Eds.), Neoclassical Realism, the State, and Foreign Policy, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).  For a neoclassical realist approach to US foreign policy and grand strategy, see Dueck, Reluctant Crusaders.

[8] Bruce W. Jentleson, American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century (4th Edn), (New York: W.W. Norton, 2010), 9-18.

[9] On the historical development of neoconservatism, see John Ehrman, The Rise of Neoconservatism: Intellectuals and Foreign Affairs 1945-94, (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995); Francis Fukuyama, After the Neocons: America at the Crossroads, (London: Profile, 2006); Halper and Clarke, America Alone; Jacob Heilbrunn, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons, (New York: Doubleday, 2008); Irving Kristol, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea, (New York: Free Press, 1995); Justin Vaïsse, Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).  On neoconservative thought and its theoretical foundations, Irwin Stelzer (Ed.), The Neocon Reader, (New York: Grove Press, 2004); Michael Williams, ‘What is the National Interest?  The Neoconservative Challenge in IR Theory’, European Journal of International Relations, 11:307, (September, 2005).  A more concise consideration of contemporary neoconservative foreign policy and its ideological and practical origins, from the perspective of a ‘neocon,’ is offered in Joshua Muravchik, The Past, Present and Future of Neoconservatism’, Commentary, 124:3, (October, 2007).

[10] Robert Singh, Neoconservatism: Theory and Practice, in Inderjeet Parmar, Linda B. Miller and Mark Ledwidge (Eds.), New Directions in US Foreign Policy, (Abindgon: Routledge, 2009), 33.

[11] Vaïsse, Neoconservatism, 4.

[12] William Kristol and Robert Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’, Foreign Affairs, 75:4, (July/August, 1996), 27.

[13] Walter A. McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter With the World Since 1776, (New York: Mariner, 1997), esp. ch. 1.

[14] Daniel Deudney and Jeffrey Mesier, American Exceptionalism, in Michael Cox and Doug Stokes (Eds.), US Foreign Policy, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 25.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Kristol and Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’, 32; Williams, ‘What is the National Interest?.

[17] Kristol and Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy’, 27, 22.

[18] An argument critiqued in Christopher Layne, ‘The Unipolar Illusion Revisited: The Coming End of the United States’ Unipolar Moment’, International Security, 31:2, (Autumn, 2006).

[19] Declaration of Independence, quoted in David Reynolds, America: Empire of Liberty, (London: Penguin Books, 2010), 66.

[20] Quoted in Timothy Lynch and Robert Singh, After Bush: The Case of Continuity in American Foreign Policy, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 26.

[21] Quoted in Michael Desch, ‘America’s Liberal Illiberalism: The Ideological Origins of Overreaction in US Foreign Policy’, International Security, 32:3, (Winter, 2007), 12.

[22] Halper and Clarke, America Along, 11.

[23] Kristol and Kagan, ‘Toward a Neo-Reaganit Foreign Policy’, 28.

[24] Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America, in Andreas Hess (Ed.), American Social and Political Thought, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2002).

[25] Samuel Huntington, ‘American Ideals Versus American Institutions’, Political Science Quarterly, 97:1, (Spring, 1982), 1.  Huntington lifts his definition from Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972).

[26] Robert Kagan, The Return of History and the End of Dreams, (London: Atlantic, 2008), 80.

[27] Huntington, ‘American Ideals Vs American Institutions’, 19.

[28] Ibid., 10.

[29] Huntington, ‘American Ideals Vs American Institutions’, 19.

[30] Timothy Lynch and Nicholas Bouchet, ‘US Foreign Policy Isn’t Thuggish’, The Guardian Online, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/12/democracy-pomotion-us, (12 April 2010, Accessed 24 October 2011).

[31] On Progressivism as a political movement, see Reynolds, America: Empire of Liberty, ch. 10.

[32] Kagan, Dangerous Nation, 304.

[33] On the ‘4 P’s’ and trade-offs, see Jentleson, American Foreign Policy, 9-26.  The ‘4 P’s’ framework is employed throughout the text.

[34] Kagan, Dangerous Nation, 407.

[35] Ibid., 111.

[36] Kagan, ‘Neocon Nation’, 16.

[37] MacDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State, 110.

[38] Kagan, Dangerous Nation, 408.

[39] William Appleman Williams, ‘The Frontier Thesis and American Foreign Policy’, The Pacific Historical Review, 24:4, (November, 1955).

[40] MacDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State, 112.

[41] Walter LaFeber, The US Rise to World Power, 1776-1945, in Cox and Stokes (Eds.), 51.

[42] Argued as a grand narrative of American foreign policy most prominently in, William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1962); Charles A. Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, (New York: Free Press, 1986).  See also, Andrew Bacevich, Strategy of Openness, in John Ikenberry (Ed.), American Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays (5th Edn.), (London: Longman, 2004).

[43] Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), 50.

[44] Adam Quinn, US Foreign Policy in Context: National Ideology from the Founders to the Bush Doctrine, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2010), 94.

[45] LaFeber, The US Rise to World Power, 1776-1945, 52-53.

[46] Quinn, US Foreign Policy in Context, 96.

[47] On the ‘American System’, McDougall, Promised Land, Crusader State,  ch. 3; on Wilsonianism and liberal internationalism, Ibid., ch. 6.

[48] A theoretical consideration is offered in John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars, (Princeton, NJ: Oxford University Press, 2001).

[49] An argument made in Fettweis, ‘Dangerous Revisionism’.

[50] Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy, (New York: Wiley, 2003); Lynch and Singh, After Bush, ch. 5.

Written by: Jonathan Provan
Written at: School of Advanced Study, University of London
Written for: Nicholas Kitchen
Date written: February 2012

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