Freedom fries with that
The dream of the nineties is dead in Artsakh
As readers know, this substack has been on a quasi-hiatus for the past several weeks as I address other, paying work. Mostly, that’s been teaching, but I also wrote several longer pieces for other venues, including The Washington Post, Slate, and Cato Unbound.
The last of those pieces is now up for your enjoyment at Foreign Policy. It’s a reflection about how popular versions of international relations theory, especially those marketed by Tom Friedman, contributed to the hype cycle of American foreign policy:
Back when Bill Clinton was still president, President Donald Trump a punchline, and the Twin Towers standing, I was a college freshman taking a course on American foreign policy. Our textbook was The Lexus and the Olive Tree, a 1999 bestseller by the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Friedman’s claim was simple: The benefits of economic integration reduce the policy choices open to governments, making war—which disrupts that integration—so unattractive as to be practically unthinkable. If that sounds like the theory of the capitalist peace as understood by Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and Richard Cobden, well, it pretty much was.
The book formed part of the glut of glib globalization cheerleading that defined the true unipolar moment—that period between the mid-1990s and the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. That optimism reflected a hard turn from the anxieties those same classes had embraced in the unsettled, immediate post-Cold War world. In 1990, John Mearsheimer mused in The Atlantic that Americans would soon miss the Cold War as the world collapsed into anarchy. Samuel Huntington’s 1993 essay in Foreign Affairs, “The Clash of Civilizations?”, suggested that the future would feature civilizational bloodbaths. Both Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy wrote thrillers in which the United States was threatened with humiliation by the rising Asian economic power, Japan. For a while, a new era of great-power competition beckoned.