Have The Liberal Hawks Flown Away?

Feb 28 2013 @ 10:20am

Noticing no movement on Syria, John Allen Gay wonders if we’ve reached the end of liberal interventionism:

[N]ew constraints have arisen abroad that did not exist in liberal interventionism’s 1990s heyday. Russia is no longer a basket case. China’s economy has grown dramatically. The new global balance of power is still unclear, but there is no longer a widespread feeling—as there was just after the Cold War—that America’s example will determine new international norms. The unipolar moment that kept the costs of humanitarian interventions low and thus reduced the urgency of connecting them directly to national interests has ended, and does not appear likely to return in our lifetimes.

Larison suspects that liberal hawks are not vanishing but, unlike neocons, are simply more discerning about where and when to get involved:

While there was significant support inside the administration to intervene in Libya, that is noticeably lacking this time around, so some liberal interventionists may not be interested in berating Obama for “inaction” when he is already coming under attack from Republican hawks for the same thing. In this case, partisan loyalty might actually be blunting interventionist impulses rather than encouraging them. The memory of the Iraq war remains a powerful obstacle to any new war in Syria, but I suspect that the realities of the Syrian conflict are having a far more significant influence in discouraging support for a larger American role there.

Recently, Thomas Wright eschewed terms like neocons and realists altogether, proposing a new division between “shapers” and “restrainers.” He doubts that the recent rise of restrainers in the Obama administration will last:

Restraint is an idea that seems to fit the moment. Americans are tired of war and feel more constrained after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. However, over time, the realization will set in that staying out also shapes the world — and probably in a way that is detrimental to America’s interests. It creates a vacuum filled by others. It fuels uncertainty. And it exacerbates crises.