Since the "liberations" of Iraq and Afghanistan, it has become popular in Republican circles to claim that Bush is the heir to Woodrow Wilson, and the interventionist, pro-democracy type of foreign policy that Wilson and his Fourteen Points have come to represent. I previously suggested that this approach was merely an opportunist attempt to increase his political and public support.
Via Praktike comes a wonderful essay by G. John Ikenberry on the difference between Bush's efforts at regime change and reform and the beliefs of the internationalist school:
The Bush - and neo-conservative - view seems to be that you can do democratic engagement without building liberal order. One reason seems to be that, in their view, the character of regimes matters more than the institutions, treaties, and other aspects of international community that sit atop and bind together democratic states. If all the states of the world are democratic, you don't need a lot of international rules and institutions - you will get peace without a lot of international superstructure. This view is reinforced by the companion conservative view that resists compromising American sovereignty and national autonomy. In effect, democracy promotion is a goal partly because it will create an international environment that will free the U.S. from the need to build and commit to multilateralism.
Nor is the absence of a true international order a concern, especially in this time of post-Cold War American hegemony. With no state having enough power to confront us on a large-scale basis now or in the near future, it would seem that the United States will be a superpower forever. As for all those other undemocratic countries, they will gradually realize the benefits of freedom. As I wrote yesterday, this view is flawed. Ikenberry agrees:
The "easy" cases of democratization have been achieved. After each wave of democratic enlargement, the remaining laggard states are increasingly tough cases - requiring the democratic world to concert their efforts. Democratic enlargement requires a "democratic village."