Hazony on Progressive Imperialism

Blindness to the existence of competing nations, each with unique laws and traditions that are its own, has likewise found expression in the aspiration to establish a “liberal world order.” In their campaign to establish a universal political community, liberals have assumed that the various rights and liberties associated with the traditional Anglo-American constitution, developed and inculcated over centuries, are in fact dictates of universal human reason and will be recognized as desirable by all human beings. Since the 1990s, this belief has led to American military intervention, with European assistance, in countries such as Bosnia, Serbia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. These operations have sometimes involved protracted military occupations, whose aim has been to impose liberal democracy upon peoples that have no such traditions. At other times, they have involved aerial bombardment aimed at destroying an existing political regime, on the assumption that this would bring the people to rise up and establish a liberal-democratic regime in its place. In all these cases, intervention was shaped by the belief that because liberalism is a dictate of universal human reason, foreign peoples would shrug off their own national and tribal traditions to embrace reason and a liberal form of government. These policies have had an almost unblemished record of failure. In no case have the intensive military operations of recent decades led to the establishment of something resembling liberal democracy—this despite the deaths of perhaps a million foreign nationals, the loss of thousands of American and European lives, and the expenditure of trillions of dollars on these futile foreign adventures. Indeed, far from understanding Enlightenment liberalism as a universal truth, these peoples have tended to retain their national and tribal loyalties and to regard liberalism as the false inheritance of a foreign nation. The more Americans and Europeans seek to instill these ideas in the nations they have conquered, the more certain these peoples become that the ideas in question are nothing more than tools for the extension of American empire and the subjugation of foreigners. Meanwhile, liberals say that such failures are due to “poor implementation,” and continue viewing liberal democracy as a universal truth, which is therefore impervious to alteration in the face of experience.

Yoram Hazony, Conservatism: A Rediscovery

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