US Power and the Construction of International Order

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For a long time, the US was extraordinarily reluctant to involve itself in international affairs. Even many of the founding fathers of the United States, most prominently George Washington, warned against having intensive involvements in the international system. Through the beginning of the 21st century, however, the US has shrugged that notion to use it's preponderance of power to construct an international order. Two grand strategies work to explain this order: a realist paradigm and a neoliberal paradigm.


The relative peace that the world has known for the last few decades, as seen through the eyes of realist philosophy, is a tenuous one. Realism holds that containment and deterrents play a major role in this peace. The global balance of power has settled into a point of equilibrium. New variables like the potential for nuclear war make conflicts between states more and more irrational. All of these components yield a hard, long, bitter peace.

The US has been at the forefront of many of these components. Institutions and partnerships, championed and grounded by the US, create order, which has value in maintaining the peace. Organizations like NATO provide venues for consultation, and agreements can be reached and differences can be resolved without conflict within these frameworks. US Statecraft and an effort to maintain the balance of power has helped keep the peace.


In the neoliberal mind, institutional political relations in a broader construct of open economies has been the major motivating factor in a peaceful international system. These political relations have helped avoid a return to trade barriers and conflicts; hindrances to peace hearkening back to the 1930's. A focus on trade and international institutions has led to a rule based international order.

Here, the US has used its power to promote congeniality. By helping to construct such institutions as the World Bank and the Bretton Woods system, a binding matrix of networked institutions has held firm and fast. This progressive vision of alliances and mutual self interest tempers the anarchical international framework that so often creates conflict.