Tuesday, March 18, 2003

More on "Liberal Empires"

Here's a defense of "liberal hegemony" that I wish I'd read before blogging this morning. The author, Daniel Kruger, argues that:

"Slowly, obscurely, enunciated with difficulty in thick Texan accents, a new doctrine of international order is emerging, of which the imminent war is a crucial outing. It is the doctrine of humanitarian intervention — or, to give it its proper name, neo-colonialism. This doctrine is driven by the firm belief — uncluttered by relativist self-loathing — in the universal principles of liberty and justice. It gives expression to our sense that everyone, not just the West, has a right to live in a decent country — and that the West has a duty to help them do so. In particular, it gives substance to the vacuities of the ‘ethical foreign policy’."

I'm not really comfortable with the way he slings around the idea of "universal principles," or his obvious sympathy for a basically Hayekian defense of liberal capitalism. "Universal" is an easily misused word, and it is too simple for friends of liberalism and democracy to wrongly dismiss legitimate concerns with working from the basis of "local knowledge" as "relativist self-loathing." Much contemporary communitarian thought is devoted to exploring just this balance (see, for example, the introduction of Daniel A. Bell's excellent book East Meets West: Human Rights and Democracy in East Asia). But regardless, Kruger's on the right page, I think, especially when he writes (regarding some neocons, I would guess) that "there is a ‘butcher and bolt’ lobby in Washington, which must be resisted." Read the whole thing.