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Should Liberal States Promote Their Values Abroad? Is Force A Legitimate Tool In Advancing These Goals?

2083 words - 9 pages

Since the post-World War 1 period, Liberalism has been actively advanced by Western (or 'first-world') states as a desirable system of political theory. According to Dunne (in Baylis & Smith 2001, pp. 163), the basis for its appeal stems from the fact that Liberalism is viewed as inherently 'optimistic', making it a natural counter-theory to the Realist theories advanced by practitioners of realpolitik in the past (feudalism, dictatorships etc.). What makes Liberalism 'optimistic' in a sense is that, as an ideology, it is fundamentally anchored around the liberty of the individual, and furthermore, strives for global peace. Considering the rampant destruction and bloodshed experienced by ...view middle of the document...

The paper will then analyse the use of force and show that while its legitimacy is without question, it remains highly undesirable and in most cases, harmful to the successful implementation of liberal values within the state in question. The alternative tools available will be analysed for effectiveness, and the paper will conclude with the belief that the best hope for the successful dissemination of liberal values would be through liberal states' own examples.Liberalism's fundamental element has been that of democracy. With regards to this, no one nation encompasses the ideal of liberal democracy more than the United States of America. For decades, the spread of liberal democracy has been indoctrinated into American foreign policy, exemplified by Woodrow Wilson's 'Fourteen Points', Harry Truman's 'Truman Doctrine', John F. Kennedy's 'Freedom' Doctrine, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's 'Four Freedoms'. The US clearly views the spread of democracy and liberal values as a duty, as obligation to their fellow man, leading Samuel Huntington (, pp. 30) to comment that "[America's] identity as a nation is inseparable from its commitment to liberal and democratic values." But why would one nation take it upon itself to so vehemently advance these goals? The answer lies within two rationales: altruism and national security.According to Fukuyama and McFaul (2007), the promotion of liberal democracy is the right thing to do, for democracy is the best form of government. No doubt, many would view this statement as egoistic and typical of the brash nature of Americans, but Fukuyama and McFaul go on to articulate the formulation for this belief. Liberals believe that the state must always be the servant of the collective will (Dunne 2001, pp. 163). Thus, political competition stemming from a democratic political climate results in better governance due to the fact that leaders competing for support will have to cater as far as possible to their people's preferences so as to gain and maintain power. Autocracies, it is purported, produces an atmosphere of complacency and breeds corruption due to the absence of political competition. Furthermore, the ideals of democracy, such as individual freedoms and rights, are arguably universal ideals, therefore states (and in this case the US) have a moral duty to promote democracy.Fukuyama and McFaul make strong arguments for the importance of democracy promotion, but it is not without its flaws. The world is fragmented by ethnic, linguistic and religious differences, and as such, the notion that there exists 'moral universals' is viewed as dangerous (Dunne 2001, pp. 179). Gray (1995, pp. 146) aptly articulated that "the universalizing mission of liberal values such as democracy, capitalism and secularism undermine the traditions and practices of non-Western cultures." And that may illustrate the rejection of Liberalism thus far. Democracy, when promoted by Western states, is inextricably tied in with other Western ideals...

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