Why Liberal Internationalism Is Still Indispensable—and Fixable

Why Liberal Internationalism Is Still Indispensable—and Fixable

G. John Ikenberry’s new book traces what went wrong. And Biden is listening.

Joe Biden will enter office as America’s 46th president next month in a spirit of confidence for the future—but also with an almost confessional sense of humility about the past. Because Biden and his top advisors seem acutely aware of just how badly they botched things the last time they were in power.

One of their chief manifestos for change, as some of the incoming Bidenites have already privately conceded, will be G. John Ikenberry’s new book, A World Safe for Democracy. It is in some ways the crowning achievement of the Princeton University’s scholar’s decadeslong work explaining and defending the liberal international order.

Ikenberry’s research traces the origins of the liberal internationalist project—the idea of building a community of nations based on democracy, cooperation, and the rule of law—going back 200 years. He chronicles it from its inception in the Age of Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions to its near-dissolution in the post-Cold War period under the neonationalist banner of its worst nemesis, President Donald Trump.