What a Real Liberal Foreign Policy Would Look Like

Jeffrey Lewis
June 26, 2015

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published on ForeignPolicy.com:
What a Real Liberal Foreign Policy Would Look Like

[…] States that submit themselves to international norms and law have more sovereignty, not less. Think about nuclear weapons. The early US view was that nuclear weapons were just like any other munition.

[…] Early on, however, liberals argued that we couldn’t keep the bomb a secret forever. We needed some rules for the nuclear age. Otherwise, everyone would get the bomb and end up, sooner or later, dead. Under anarchy, you might be free in theory to do anything you’d like, but in practice you’d likely end up enslaved, on the run, or dead. International anarchy with nuclear weapons presents the same problems. You are free to use your nuclear weapons any time you want, as are your neighbors. Good luck with that.

No, the incredibly destructive power of nuclear weapons compels us to cooperate with other countries, even the hated Russians, to manage the danger they pose.


Cooperation doesn’t seem at all scary to a liberal. Instead of seeing our sovereignty bound by treaties and international institutions, like Gulliver tied down, we see sovereignty emerging from an orderly, lawful world. Treaties do not rob us of our sovereignty, as John Bolton would argue, instead they also allow us to exercise our sovereignty effectively. This, by the way, is why the U.S. Navy supports the Law of the Sea treaty. There are some problems that are so large and complicated — global economic crises, climate change, and, of course, the spread of nuclear weapons — that we can only address them by pooling our sovereignty with other states. It’s easy for a Boltonite conservative to claim that treaties limit sovereignty, but that seems hollow when pollution from Chinese factories, viruses like Ebola, and rising sea levels don’t give a damn about borders.

Read the entire article at ForeignPolicy.com

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