Vance the interests of a Great Power;nand thus a nation whose economic,ntechnological, and military strengthnrelative to the rest of the world dwarfednthat of the Roman and British Empiresnat their zenith, found itself constantlynon the defensive, unable finally to turnnaside even the challenge of,a minornstate like North Vietnam. America’sn”best and brightest” were not onlynunable effectively to use the enormousnpower available to them, but they werenphilosophically unable even to thinknreasonably about its proper deployment.nA more accurate title for thisnbook would be “The Negation ofnAmerican Power.”nJohn Taft has written an interestingnwork, but not one that breaks any newnground. Two circumstances, however,ngive his interpretation greater significancenthan it would otherwise merit.nFirst, the project was commissioned bynMichael Kinsley, editor of The NewnRepublic, the journal Taft properlynidentifies as the home base of theninternationalist liberals since the daysnof Woodrow Wilson; and second, Taftnhimself is the originator and producernof the PBS series America’s Century,nwhich covers this same ground.nTaft defines “internationalist liberalism”nas “a fairly consistent adherencento free trade and investment, antiimperialism,nthe advancement of democracy,nforeign aid, arms control andnmultilateral institutions such as thenUnited Nations.” This doctrine, ofncourse, did not originate with the protagonistsnof Taft’s chronicle: itnamounts, in fact, to nothing other thannclassical liberalism, and is prefiguredn(with the exception of the reference tonforeign aid) in Immanuel Kant’s PerpetualnPeace, written in 1795.nThe two most important liberalndogmas are free trade and antiimperialism.nThe first of these is part ofna general belief in economic determinism:nunlike exponents of realpolitiknand mercantilism, who regard economicnand political power as symbiotic,nliberals wish to replace politics withneconomics (J.B. Say went so far as tonconclude that free trade would makeneven ambassadors — “one of the ancientnstupidities” — obsolete). Whilenthe Marshall Plan is often cited as ansuccessful liberal policy, it was only thenage-old practice of subsidizing alliesnagainst a common enemy. (Liberalnfailures have been of a different sort.)nIn Vietnam, this kind of thinking lednto the fatally flawed concept of limitednwar. The US would provide a shieldnbehind which economic developmentnand social reform would create a viablendemocratic society immune to subversion.nThe problem with this strategy isnthat it takes longer to create such ansociety than it does to lose a war.nChester Bowles thought Hanoi couldnbe dissuaded from seeking dominionnover the region if a Southeast AsiannCommon Market were established underna neutral development agency andnwith a commitment to free trade. PresidentnJohnson did oflFer postwar aid tonHanoi, but to no avail. The Communistsnsimply turned the concept into andemand for reparations.nThe inhibitions placed on militarynoperations during Vietnam reflect thengeneral liberal reluctance to employnforce. Yet the nature of war and politicsnis, as Clausewitz observed, to compelnothers to do our will. Compulsion bynits nature creates a situation where onengroup gives orders to another, whonmust obey or suffer the consequences.nLiberals find such a relationship abhorrentnand can justify it only when thenhighest moral principles are beingnserved. That means that for them thendominant party can legitimately exercisenits power only for the good ofnothers, never for its own gain: a preceptnwhich effectively rules out the nationalninterest as an acceptable motive fornaction.nImperialism is one form of an internationalnhierarchy based on power, andnthus liberals are vehemently antiimperialistic,nan attitude that is closelynrelated to what Taft identifies as theirn”moralistic hatred of Western racismn— of white people lording it overnbrown people.” To liberals, militarynintervention and gunboat diplomacynare simply further instances of compulsionnbased on international inequality,nall of which they reject unless these arenperpetuated purely for altruistic reasonsn(e.g., “the democratic redemptionnof mankind”). Yet, Vietnam is thenturning point for Taft. “I began thisnbook with some enthusiasm for whatnthese people accomplished, or set outnto accomplish, in the world arena. Ancloser examination of the record leftnme far more skeptical. . . . [I]n theirnzeal to promote their program againstnnnCommunist challenges, they may havenended up running a US empire of andifferent kind.”nTaft attempts to draw a distinctionnbetween internationalist liberals andnwhat he calls “ultraliberals.” Bothngroups, he argues, share the samengoals, but the ultras, having beennmugged by reality, are now ready tonlock themselves in at night. “Theynpreferred the United States to retreatninto a noisy geographic isolation rathernthan compromise any important pointnon their agenda.” Indeed, ultraliberalsnbelieve that “America should withdrawnfrom the world not because of itsnsuperior virtue but because of itsnunique wickedness.” Henry Wallacenand George McGovern are obviousnultras, but many of Taft’s internationalistsnmove back and forth to blur thendistinction, and of these, Averell Harrimannis a prime example.nTaft’s criticism of the ultraliberalsnmay sound sweet to conservatives, butnhe is no friend of the right. He admitsnthat “an administration like Reagan’snbecame almost a necessity—and hisnpolicies towards Russia have to be seennon the whole as a success.” Yet, henassails Republicans in general for havingn”rejected the legal and moral internationalismnimplied by human rightsncriteria, the United Nations, the InternationalnCourt and the Law of thenSea,” and President Reagan in particularnfor “Star Wars,” his air raid onnLibya, and intervention in CentralnAmerica.nThough Taft includes a final chapternon the Reagan years, the period holdsnlittle interest for him. He makes nonreference, for example, to the substantialnimpact made on the Reagan administrationnby a new wave of internationalistnliberals; nor to the libertarians,nwho, proudly claiming the mantle ofnclassical liberalism, won control of economicnpolicy and entrenched freentrade in the White House, despite thenmassive trade deficits and the expansionnof foreign industrial and financialnpower; nor, finally, to the neoconservatives,ndirect descendants of thosenliberals who sought refuge in the GOPnafter losing to the ultraliberals in thenDemocratic Party and who are at presentnthe major spokesmen for the foreignnpolicy of a Republican administration.nToday, globalism is in highnfashion: so dominant is this sophistrynAPRIL 1990/39n