George from Pathetic Earthlings suggests that George W. Bush is the intellectual heir to Wilsonian foreign policy.

Wilsonians, or those who claimed to be so, include FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan and George W. Bush. Even Nixon (according to this writer the President closest to the TR worldview) kept a portrait of Wilson in his cabinet room. But at the same time, Americans have steadily pushed this "moralistic" template for foreign policy into a shape that William Gladstone himself (who consistently shied from confrontation with Russia, the rival superpower of the day) would never have recognized. Strange that idealism and realpolitik have somehow merged.

I do not think that "idealism and realpolitik have merged," but the traditional justifications for realpolitik are now crouched in idealistic terms. We are not promoting democracy and freedom for their own sake, or because it is the "right thing to do," but because it provides a easy way to justify getting rid of regimes we do not like.

While Republicans now tout both Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of the United States spreading freedom, the fact remains that the Bush administration's primary justification for both of these conflicts were national security. Ask the average American about these two conflicts; they will not speak about freedom and the importance of spreading democracy, but about September 11 and terrorism. The "liberation of women" and the "freedom of the Iraqi people" were simply effective ways to silence for the Republicans to silence their political rivals; nobody likes being portrayed as being "against freedom."

The real test we should use to test whether the Bush administration is "Wilsonian" is how it acted when there was a moral justification for action, but no national interest. Our inaction when there are problems in places like Haiti, Liberia, and Darfur proves that Bush has not imbibed Wilsonian philosophy, except when it is convenient.