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Conservative Internationalism: A Missing American Foreign Policy Tradition

Conservative Internationalism: A Missing American Foreign Policy Tradition

October 7, 2011 -
11:30am to 1:00pm
Event Speaker: 
Henry R. Nau, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University
Event Sponsor: 
The Munro Lectureship Fund and The Lane Center
Abstract: 
Liberal internationalism is the only, all encompassing tradition of internationalism in the study of American foreign policy. America has a mission to change the world by spreading freedom and to do so in a way that builds up international institutions and diminishes the role of force and the balance of power in world affairs. If you agree with that, you are a liberal internationalist, and if you don’t, you are a realist, who believes in the balance of power to promote stability but not freedom, or a nationalist, who believes that countries are different and some will never choose to be free. Conservatives are usually realists and nationalists. Hence there is no such thing as a conservative “internationalist.”
 
This study defines a new foreign policy tradition of conservative internationalism. Like realists, conservative internationalists focus on threats, peace through strength, and the balance of power. But unlike realists, they do not seek just global stability and mutual co-existence. Instead, like liberal internationalists, they promote the spread of democracy. Yet, unlike liberal internationalists, conservative internationalists expect force to play a larger role than international institutions, not because conservative internationalism is aggressive or imperialist, but because non-democratic countries are less reluctant to use force – after all they use daily to suppress their own people – and more likely to use international institutions to obstruct the pursuit of freedom.
The study explores the new tradition in the foreign policies of four American presidents – Thomas Jefferson, James Polk, Harry Truman, and Ronald Reagan. These presidents, it might be argued, were most responsible for the expansion of freedom under the early republic and for the defense and spread of freedom abroad in the twentieth century. For an early version of the argument, see Henry R. Nau, “Conservative Internationalism: Jefferson to Polk to Truman to Reagan,” Policy Review, No. 150 (August/September 2008), 3-45.
Biography: 
Henry R. Nau is Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University. He directs the US-Japan-South Korea Legislative Exchange Program, semiannual meetings between Members of the US Congress, Japanese Diet, and Korean National Assembly. He holds a B.S. degree in Economics, Politics and Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
 
During the academic year 2011-12 he is the W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo-Campbell National Fellow and the Susan Louise Dyer Peace National Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Previously, he taught at Williams College and as Visiting Professor at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Stanford, and Columbia Universities. He is the recipient of grants from, among others, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the National Science Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, Smith-Richardson Foundation, Century Foundation, Japan US Friendship Commission, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.
 
From January 1981 to July 1983, he served on President Reagan's National Security Council as senior staff member responsible for international economic affairs. Among other duties he was the White House sherpa for the Annual G-7 Economic Summits at Ottawa (1981), Versailles (1982), and Williamsburg (1983) and a special summit with developing countries at Cancun, Mexico (1982). Dr. Nau also served, in 1975-1977, as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs in the Department of State. In 1977 he received the State Department's Superior Honor Award.
 
A member of Phi Beta Kappa and Council on Foreign Relations, Nau also served two years as a Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.