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Exit from HegemonyThe Unraveling of the American Global Order$

Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190916473

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190916473.001.0001

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The American Hegemonic System in Theoretical and Historical Perspective

The American Hegemonic System in Theoretical and Historical Perspective

(p.18) 2 The American Hegemonic System in Theoretical and Historical Perspective
Exit from Hegemony

Alexander Cooley

Daniel Nexon

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Nearly every recent National Security Strategy of the United States takes for granted that the United States is a hegemonic power, that it constructed a liberal international order after World War II, and that it expanded that order from the 1990s onward. This chapter looks closely at these assumptions. What is international liberalism? What is hegemony? What is international order? How does world history look through the lens of theories of hegemony and hegemonic ordering? We argue that international orders have architectures—norms, rules, and principles—and infrastructures—the interactions, practices, and relationships that undergird them. Overall, international order resembles a dynamic ecosystem, one that structures the behavior of the states and other actors that constitute it. This helps explain not only why post–Cold War liberal enlargement faltered but also how it created conditions for its own unraveling.

Keywords:   hegemony, hegemonic wars, great powers, liberal international order, American hegemony, the Bretton Woods System, United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, neoliberalism, international order

Some theories of world politics remain locked away in the ivory tower, isolated from policymaking and the larger public. This is emphatically not the case when it comes to theories of hegemony and hegemonic orders. They permeate American policy and public debates about international affairs, even though many editorials and essays invoke them indirectly, preferring to use less technical and more anodyne terms such as “leadership.” The same is true outside the United States, where theories of hegemony, especially when combined with ideas about liberal order, provide reference points for both critics and supporters of American power.

The idea that the United States is a hegemonic power that has been constructing and defending liberal international order since the end of the Second World War also routinely appears in official speeches and policy documents. Consider the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, which is supposedly the most important statement of official American strategic thought, one that signals to the world what values and policies America stands for. Nearly every recent National Security Strategy embraces the idea that America emerged from the Cold War as a global hegemon and that it has a duty to promote freedom, democracy, and open markets.

(p.19) For example, President Bill Clinton’s final National Security Strategy, written in 1999, emphasized that “the United States remains the world’s most powerful force for peace, prosperity and the universal values of democracy and freedom” and that America’s “central challenge—and our responsibility—is to sustain that role by seizing the opportunities of this new global era for the benefit of our own people and people around the world.”1 Even the 2017 National Security Strategy, crafted to make sense of Trump foreign policy, paints the post-1945 period as one in which the United States used its superior economic and military powers to construct a liberal international order; but it describes that order as outdated. It argues that other states have exploited liberal order to weaken American power and that the United States must change the way it relates to the world.2

This outlook explains why many critics of Trump foreign policy argue that his actions and rhetoric are undermining liberal order and, with it, American power (see Chapter 7). For instance, in January 2019, Stewart M. Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote, “Two years into his administration, Donald Trump’s war on the liberal international order is still gathering steam, and the costs are mounting. The United States is increasingly going it alone—when it is not going home. As America abdicates global leadership, traditional allies and partners are reeling, authoritarians are rejoicing, geopolitical rivals are emboldened, and the world drifts without clear direction.”3 Such criticisms echo long-standing concerns that without American leadership, liberal order cannot survive.

Proponents of liberal order identify a number of its features that they think make it an especially successful way of organizing international affairs. These include voice opportunities, largely in multilateral institutions like the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that give weaker states an unusual amount of input into the governance of a hegemonic order. They also contend that the United States, through a web of multilateral and bilateral agreements, engaged in an unusual degree of “self-binding”: of voluntarily restricting its freedom of action internationally. Both of these characteristics are lacking in more exclusively coercive hegemonic systems; their presence, the argument goes, generates support among weaker powers for liberal hegemonic orders.4

Moreover, supporters note that in promoting and upholding this liberal order, Washington committed itself to open economic arrangements and financial policies that—even when those practices disproportionately served the interests of the leading states—at least spread the wealth around. They (p.20) point to the success of Western Europe after the Second World War, and later East Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan, and still later countries such as China as evidence for the positive economic consequences of liberal order. Finally, while democratic waves have ebbed and flowed, the norms and values of liberal order emphasize human rights, equality, and self-determination—all of which make it relatively appealing to ordinary people.5

Is this argument right? Is there an American-led international order that, as a result of its liberal qualities, is particularly durable? Yes and no. It depends on the time and the place. Advocates of liberal international order often overstate their case—and then walk it back as they deal with anomalies. Critics correctly point out the tensions, contradictions, and inaccuracies in official rhetoric surrounding liberal order. But some dismiss the concept too easily, let alone how aspects of liberal ordering can prove very attractive to second-tier great powers and to weaker states. More important, we cannot understand key features of contemporary international order, as well as why some states and movements object to it, without reference to its liberal characteristics.

Discussions of international liberal order need to avoid conflating three different things: specific examples of US foreign policy; the regions and issue areas where the United States operates as a hegemonic power; and the broader international order within which US foreign policy and American hegemonic ordering takes place.6 There are plenty of examples of illiberal American foreign policy; the United States has supported dictators, overthrown democratic regimes, violated international law, used force unilaterally, meddled in foreign elections, and directly abused human rights.7 Many of these profoundly illiberal policies had long-term consequences in specific countries, regional politics, and even the overall international order (see Chapter 7).8 But international order encompasses more than the specific foreign-policy actions taken by the United States. As international-relations scholar Rohan Mukherjee notes, this is “evidenced by the fact that many aspects of the order have challenged U.S. interests or constrained its freedom of action.”9

In this chapter, we take a deeper dive into the concepts at play in so many official and media debates about American grand strategy. We begin with liberal international order. We then explore the concept of hegemony and the idea of hegemonic cycles. We next turn to elaborating the general notion of international order, which we argue is made up of architectures, (p.21) infrastructures, and ecologies. We then elaborate on the distinction between broader international order and the more specific American hegemonic system, and we discuss how they mutually influence one another. Finally, we use the analytical tools and ideas developed in this chapter to revisit the broader question of liberal international order and the convergence wager that drove US foreign policy for most of the post–Cold War period.

International Liberal Order

There is no such thing as “the liberal international order.” As we demonstrate later in this chapter, it never really makes sense to think about international orders as singular things. Nonetheless, it is true that liberal rules, norms, and arrangements suffuse (to varying degrees) contemporary regional and global orders. We ignore the liberal characteristics of both the American system and the broader international order at our peril. They help shape specific centripetal and centrifugal pressures in contemporary world politics, the ideologies of those who want to alter international order, and the terms by which states and political movements contest order.

But what, exactly, are these elements? We find it useful to think about three major dimensions of liberal international ordering. These can, and have, been combined in very different ways across history and in different regions and issue areas.10

Political Liberal Governance

Political liberal governance (or, simply, political liberalism) concerns one dimension of the content (or what we call “the architecture”) of international order. The architecture of international orders is politically liberal to the extent that it establishes the responsibility for governments to protect some minimal set of individual rights for their citizens, with more liberal orders favoring developed liberal-democratic governance among their members.

The current international order is dense with treaties, agreements, covenants, and infrastructure that bakes in politically liberal principles. The United Nations Charter (1945) itself, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (both (p.22) 1966) constitute just some of the numerous arrangements that enshrine human rights, basic human equality, political rights, and other broadly liberal political principles as part of international order.11 As such, they represent a potential threat to autocratic states and illiberal regimes. While the specific content, let alone the effectiveness, of this architecture has varied over time, it is simply impossible to ignore the fact that liberal rights are threaded throughout contemporary international order.

Economic Liberalism

Economic liberalism refers to the belief in, and commitment to, encouraging open economic exchange and flows among states. Different strains of economic liberalism have been more or less prevalent over the course of American hegemony. The immediate post–World War II economic order was characterized by “embedded liberalism.” States committed to liberalizing trade by defending a system of capital controls designed to shield individual economies from destabilizing financial flows and shocks.12 Many view the Nixon administration’s abandonment of the gold standard in 1973 as an important marker in the transition from embedded liberalism to neoliberalism, understood in terms of the increasing deregulation that gathered steam in the 1980s and 1990s.13

In the wake of the Soviet collapse, neoliberalism became institutionalized in the so-called Washington Consensus of championing free trade—including establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000—and financial liberalization. Both of these were rooted in the principles of major economic organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and even the European Union (EU).14 Indeed, the unwavering commitment to rules-based economic globalization in the 1990s and 2000s created a “democratic trilemma” for states, as governments are increasingly constrained in their domestic monetary and fiscal policies by adherence to international economic commitments, the threat of capital flight, and potentially punishing financial crises.15

Liberal Intergovernmentalism

Liberal intergovernmentalism concerns the means, or form, of international order. As a principle, liberal intergovernmentalism favors specific kinds of infrastructures: multilateral treaties and agreements, international (p.23) organizations, and institutions that make rules and norms, monitor compliance with those rules and norms, resolve disputes, and provide for public, private, and club goods. Liberal intergovernmentalism also manifests in bilateral agreements and institutions that reflect principles of juridical sovereign equality even when concluded by states that are significantly unequal in their power relations.

However, relations among states can take on the trappings of liberal intergovernmentalism without embodying its spirit. States can, for instance, create multilateral arrangements that hide, or just barely conceal, highly coercive and unequal relationships. But the very fact that great powers feel the need to obscure, say, de facto imperial relationships suggests that liberal principles of ordering have concrete effects on state behavior.

International Liberal Order Is a Matter of Degree and of Kind

Contemporary critics and proponents of the idea of liberal order sometimes treat all three elements—political, economic, and intergovernmental liberalism—as a package deal. For critics, doing so makes it easier to point to inconsistencies and hypocrisies. Liberal internationalists like the notion that these three dimensions, at least eventually, go together. But political, economic, and intergovernmentalism need not mutually reinforce one another, let alone appear together.

For example, although certain strands of liberalism have always rejected the legitimacy of empire, liberal principles can also serve as a justification for imperial control; a number of British officials and intellectuals of the later nineteenth century saw themselves as promoting liberal order through empire.16 Some supporters of the American-led occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq argued explicitly that the United States needed to embrace its status as a liberal empire and behave accordingly.17 Indeed, liberalism need not reject imperial projects in favor of multilateral cooperation among sovereign states. The fact that we tend to see empire as incompatible with liberal order reflects, in part, the ascendency of liberal intergovernmentalist principles at the expense of the legitimacy of formal imperialism.18

For its part, post-war American-led order has always been unevenly, or inconsistently, liberal with respect to all three of these dimensions.19 It took time for NATO to evolve into the more equitable alliance that exists today.20 The first wave of American basing and access agreements included terms (p.24) reminiscent of those we would expect to see between an imperial metropole and its provinces.21 Washington extracted nearly unrestricted basing rights in the Philippines and Cuba as a direct condition of granting them independence. It did the same after 1945 to its vanquished foes Germany, Japan, and Italy. The former Axis powers, excluding the eastern part of Germany, became hosts to some of the largest US military facilities in the world after the formal end of their American-led occupations.

In East Asia, the United States eschewed multilateralism and opted for bilateral alliances specifically to prevent its allies, most notably South Korea and Taiwan, from colluding to influence the security order.22 During the Cold War, Washington made frequent use of such wedge strategies in Latin America—as a way of maintaining American hegemony.23 G. John Ikenberry, the most prominent theorist of American liberal order, notes that such aspects of the American alliance system have more than a passing resemblance to informal empire.24 And it’s difficult to describe a lot of this behavior as “liberal empire.” Washington has supported dictators, subverted left-wing democratic governments, perpetuated and enabled human-rights abuses, and even run interference for mass violence.25

We discuss more illiberal facets of the American hegemonic system later in the book. But defenders of the idea of liberal order correctly note that it is simply unrealistic to suppose that any great power, no matter what its ideological disposition, will abandon its more parochial economic and security concerns. It makes no sense to think that hegemonic systems, or international orders more generally, will ever be free from violence and coercion: the “creation and maintenance of order involves violence and the suppression of certain interests in favor of others—on this count the post-1945 world order was no different from past versions.”26

Post–Cold War Liberal Ordering

Despite what some debates over American foreign policy imply, liberal elements of the American system overall became more pronounced since the end of the Cold War. It is easy to focus on major counterexamples, such as the so-called War on Terror, to note Washington’s continued support for dictatorial and illiberal regimes, or to point to the imperial character of the American occupation of Iraq. But the United States operated much more frequently as an informal empire during the Cold War. Washington was far more systematic in its support of authoritarian regimes, pursuit of covert (p.25) regime change, and efforts at election meddling when its leadership was driven by anti-Communism and the US-Soviet rivalry.27

As we discussed in the introduction, Washington’s post–Cold War approach to hegemonic ordering placed its bets on the wager that all three of these elements of liberal order would be mutually reinforcing. Over a decade and a half, the United States supervised the construction of new institutions. These included new international organizations where the United States, either by formal rules or tacit expectations, remained the dominant player. It consolidated its own security infrastructure by encouraging NATO enlargement and shoring up alliances and agreements for military bases. It promoted, but did not always practice, liberal principles such as democracy promotion, human rights, and the responsibility to protect.

The specific logic held that taking steps to integrate the states of the former Soviet bloc, as well as China, into liberal trading arrangements and liberal institutions would forward democratization and commitment to liberal norms.28 Of course, US policymakers regularly sought exceptions from being bound by these ordering architectures. They negotiated country-by-country exceptions against the provisions of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for American service personnel stationed abroad. Washington ran up domestic debts and deficits at the same time that US-controlled international bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were demanding strict economic conditionality by countries hit hard by financial shocks, such as the East Asian crisis of 1997. However, the international ecology of the 1990s, where the United States was not only dominant but had virtually no competitors, made such exceptionalism easy and did not appear to interfere overmuch with broader liberal ordering efforts.

Now things look a good deal different. Under President Xi Jinping, China has reversed its tentative steps toward a more open political environment and doubled-down on surveillance and political repression. Russia explicitly advocates for the end of the American-led liberal international order and a turn to a polycentric world of spheres of influence and more pragmatic governing arrangements. The great financial crisis of 2008 shook the global consensus about the benefits of unfettered liberalism and gave rise to new demands for trade protection and more interventionist domestic policies. As we noted in the introduction, a number of central and eastern European states have swung, to various degrees, toward electoral authoritarianism. With a few exceptions, the democratic wave of the 1990s seems to have faltered and reversed.29

(p.26) Hegemony and Hegemonic Cycles: A Primer

What happened? The most prominent explanation for the loss of the “unipolar moment” is simply that American power, like that of all great powers before it, has declined. End of story.

Indeed, a number of scholars see the history of world politics as driven by the rise and decline of leading powers. For them, the American “unipolar moment” of the 1990s and early 2000s provides only the most recent example of a larger pattern of recurrent bids for international dominance. Some of these bids succeed, leading to periods of international hegemony in which the leading power orders the international system according to its interests and values. Others fail, usually resulting in “multipolar” international systems where three or more great powers establish rough balances of power among them.

According to these theories, the most common and most stable international systems have a clear hierarchy of power characterized by a single dominant political community. In contrast, systems maintained by balances of power—in which states form alliances to block the emergence of a hegemon—are unstable arrangements. The hegemonic orders that dominant powers establish generally involve creating rules of the game; supplying international goods, such as security guarantees, suppression of piracy, and economic assistance; and allocating status and prestige. Such hegemonic ordering, in turn, sets the stage for the next dance between the incumbent power and rising challengers. Most of the great wars of history—such as the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), the First World War (1914–1918), and the Second World War (1939–1945)—resulted when the declining hegemon and rising powers failed to reach peaceful accommodation over adjustments to international order. These wars sometimes swept away the old order, allowing the new hegemon to establish its own order—or giving the old one free rein to engage in a new round of hegemonic ordering.30

What Is Hegemony?

In his history of the concept, Perry Anderson notes that “the origins of the term hegemony are Greek” and, as “an abstract noun, hēgemonia first appears in Herodotus, to designate leadership of an alliance of city-states for a common military end, a position of honour accorded to Sparta in resistance to the Persian invasion of Greece.”31 A broadly similar idea appears (p.27) in ancient China to describe military leadership of city-state leagues: the “ruler of the dominant state was given the title of ‘senior’ or ‘hegemon’ (ba) by the Zhou king, who charged him to defend what was left of the Zhou realm. Formally these leagues were hierarchical groupings of independent states, bound together through treaties.”32

Most contemporary uses retain some of the spirit of hēgemonia and ba, but they expand the concept of hegemony well beyond the context of formal military alliances. Hegemons are usually states or other kinds of political communities—such as empires, confederations, and city-states—that use their superior economic and military capabilities to exercise leadership over weaker ones. In exercising that leadership, hegemons order relations among their subordinates. They establish rules and norms concerning warfare, economic exchange, and the allocation of status and prestige. This ordering may or may not result from conscious design—that is, it may not take the form of a deliberate “hegemonic project.” Even when it does, the resulting order usually winds up deviating from whatever plan politicians and rulers might have had in mind.

Scholars have long argued over the relationship between hegemony and empire. In traditional understandings, hegemony involves the control over the foreign policies of subordinates, while imperial rule extends to control over their domestic policies as well. This distinction often breaks down in the real world. Domination of foreign security and economic relations usually entails at least some degree of control over domestic policies. Thus, some argue for “informal empire” as an intermediate relationship, one in which the practice of hegemony blurs into that of empire.33

But even this formulation produces protracted and, quite frankly, inconclusive arguments about the point where hegemonic relations cross over into imperial ones. These debates do not even matter very much for theories of hegemonic cycles. The cases that scholars draw on have always included well-known empires, such as the Roman and the Spanish. Thus, we think it easier to treat empire—along with confederations, federations, and other logics of political organization—as one of a number of different ways that dominant actors may order relations among subordinates. In practice, hegemonic systems often include a mix of imperial relationships and non-imperial ones.34

Hegemonic-order theory claims to distill international history to its essential characteristics, namely, a cycle of hegemonic powers. But what does that actually look like? Here we present a stylized “history according to (p.28) hegemonic-order theory” that starts with the end of the Spanish Habsburg bid for European hegemony in the middle of the seventeenth century and concludes where Chapter 1 began: the period leading up to the end of the Cold War.

A Stylized History of Five Centuries of Hegemonic Cycles

In November 1659, Bourbon France and Habsburg Spain concluded the Treaty of the Pyrenees, which ended the last of the great-power conflicts that made up the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). France, allied with Stuart England since 1657, saw its victory confirmed by territorial concessions, chiefly at the expense of Catalonia and Flanders—both part of the Spanish composite monarchy. The peace marked the total collapse of the Spanish Habsburg bid for dominance in Europe, a struggle that began in the early sixteenth century when Charles V cobbled together a patchwork, composite empire that included Castile, Aragon-Catalonia, most of what is now the Netherlands and Belgium, Naples and Sicily, and traditional Habsburg lands in Central Europe.35

Soon France, under the “Sun King” Louis XIV, made its own bid for European dominance. Great Britain emerged as France’s principal antagonist, first in conflicts with Bourbon monarchs and then, after the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte. During the nineteenth century, fueled by the industrial revolution and wealth extracted principally from India, the United Kingdom emerged as a global hegemon. The British system became the largest sphere of hegemony in human history. At its peak, it included not only formal colonies and possessions stretching from North America to Southeast Asia but also a network of protectorates and dependent states. Britain promoted interstate trade and pegged the UK pound to a fixed amount of gold, thereby generating a global monetary order; London used a variety of carrots and sticks to open markets.36 In some reckonings, such international economic policies—combined with its elected parliament and the expansion of its domestic franchise—made Britain the first “liberal hegemon.”37

As the nineteenth century came to a close, however, Britain faced multiple challenges. At the most basic level, the industrial revolution spread to other states and therefore undermined Britain’s economic edge. Of particular importance was the rise of the United States in North America, and Germany (united by Prussia in 1871) in Europe. London ultimately opted for (p.29) a peaceful accommodation to American power, trusting that good relations would keep Canada safe and the Atlantic free from American challenge. This process was so successful that London stopped considering American naval power a potential threat to its maritime security.38 But Berlin and London failed to work out such an adjustment; after Wilhelm II replaced his father as kaiser, his Weltpolitik (“world politics”) foreign policy frequently collided with British imperial interests. The Anglo-German naval arms race exacerbated tensions between the two powers. When Germany invaded Belgium in 1914 as part of its war plan against France, Britain declared war.

Britain was one of the victors in World War I. But the conflict left it exhausted and facing nationalist pressures throughout its empire.39 London attempted to continue its role as manager of the global economy but lacked the resources to do so effectively. Washington, which might have been able to take up that role, failed to do so. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles established the League of Nations to prevent another great war, but the United States never joined.40

Perhaps because of America’s absence, or perhaps because of fundamental flaws, the Treaty of Versailles proved not the start of durable peace but an interregnum before Nazi Germany made its bid for European dominance while its ally, Japan, fought for supremacy in Asia. The leadership of both countries saw themselves as squeezed between the ongoing rise of the United States and the newer threat represented by the Soviet Union and transnational Communism. As historian Adam Tooze writes, “Hitler warned in 1928” that “the ‘threatened global hegemony of the North American continent’ would reduce” all of Europe “to the status of Switzerland or Holland.”41 Germany and Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact in 1936—and thus established the Axis powers—as a bulwark against international communism.

In 1939, Germany invaded Poland; Britain and France declared war on Germany. The series of conflicts that became collectively known as the Second World War had begun. The war proved the bloodiest conflict in human history, leaving well over 50 million people dead and almost all of the major military and economic powers of the time devastated. The United States was the only great power to emerge with its industrial base intact—in 1945 it accounted for at least a third of global economic output.42 American military forces were deployed in Europe and Asia, and wartime mobilization left it with significant ability to project power across the globe.

(p.30) The Post-War Order

This privileged position allowed Washington to take the lead in shaping the post-war order. American proponents of taking on that role outmaneuvered their opponents—whom they branded “isolationists”—by pointing to the interwar period and the experience of World War II. Historian Stephen Wertheim argues that at the outbreak of the war, American planners believed that the best way to secure American security was global primacy via joint US-UK hegemony. But they eventually decided that ordinary Americans would be unlikely to support such an arrangement. Instead, the most effective way to sell global engagement to the public was by reviving ideas associated with the League of Nations.43 This took hold and became integrated into American ordering efforts.

Washington’s primary aim, aside from building a foundation for American global leadership, was to create arrangements that would prevent another round of fascism and world war. Leading thinkers identified the root causes of these threats in the Great Depression, the spread of protectionism, and the failure of the League of Nations. Thus, the United Nations (UN) was not an entirely novel creation. It evolved from “existing ideas and institutions” and its designers paid careful attention to the “successes and failures” of those ideas in the interwar period, especially when it came to the League of Nations.44 The Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 pegged currencies to the price of gold and made the dollar a de facto global reserve currency. It established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)—the first of the development banks that would together become known as the World Bank. A few years later, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) rounded out the “Bretton Woods system” which aimed to facilitate open trade, economic development, and stability.45

That system came under strain in the 1960s. In 1971, President Richard Nixon suspended the gold standard. In 1973, the Bretton Woods System ended as such, but the IMF, World Bank, and GATT remained. It is no accident that the 1970s provoked a major wave of discussion of US decline. The collapse of the Bretton Woods System, the OPEC cartel’s oil shock and general shifts in the global economy, and the inglorious end to the Vietnam War all raised serious doubts about the longevity of American economic and military leadership over its hegemonic sphere. But the end of the Bretton Woods System mutated, rather than ended, American economic leadership. As international-relations scholar Carla Norrlof argues, (p.31) “Far from being ‘dethroned,’ the dollar’s resilience and unique position in the world economy would persist long after” the formal end of the Bretton Woods System.46

This takes us roughly to where we started Chapter 1. During the 1980s, many analysts looked at the Soviet Union and Japan and saw America as a declining hegemon. But the serious of events that ran from 1989 until 1991 propelled the United States into the position of dominant global economic and military power.

This history also highlights the fact that scholars built hegemonic-order theory largely from the experience of Europe and its immediate neighborhood, including the Greek city-state system and the rise and decline of the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, others adapt and apply the framework to many centuries of East Asian history, usually in the context of the rise and decline of different Chinese dynasties.47 We also find similar dynamics in South Asia, such as during the transition between the Moghul Empire and the British East India (EIC) company in the 1700s, as the EIC took advantage of Moghul decline and fragmentation to establish dominance on the subcontinent.48

Moreover, all of this underscores a basic theme of this chapter: hegemonic orders take many forms. Specific ones change over time and look different as we travel across them; whatever their shared superficial commonalities, the Roman Empire, British Empire, American System, and Ming China are characterized by vast differences in, on the one hand, their rules and norms and, on the other hand, the political and economic infrastructure that held them together.49 Accordingly, this brief overview of hegemonic-order theories leaves two crucial questions on the table: what is international order, and how does hegemonic ordering actually work? In the next two sections we address each in turn.

International Order

At heart, “international order” refers to relatively stable patterns of relations and practices in world politics.50 These patterns emerge from the behavior of states, international institutions, transnational movements, and other important actors in international politics. They also constrain, enable, and channel how those actors behave. States created the Bretton Woods System and the international political economy that emerged in its wake, (p.32) but once established, those systems profoundly shaped the states’ behavior.51 Because international orders are both cause and effect of the actions of many individuals and corporate actors, they can shift suddenly; the Persian Empire collapsed when Alexander the Great and his relatively small army conquered its center, and its ruler, Darius III, was killed by his own cousin. But they can also shift gradually through incremental alterations in economic, political, or military relations.52

In fact, it would probably be better to put an end to phrases like “the international order” and “international order” altogether. We use them because they serve as convenient shorthand, and because they play a big role in contemporary international affairs debates. But we do not use them without significant caveats.

Such phrases suffers from two major problems. First, they imply that international order is a stable “thing.” Because the phrase is more of a shorthand for relative stabilities in relations and practices among international actors, it would probably be better to think in terms of a verb rather than a noun: international ordering rather than international order.

Second, there is no single international order. International ordering varies across issue areas and specific relationships. Until the nineteenth century, it is difficult to even contemplate a global international order. Regions interacted. Trade often flowed over long distances. But in terms of ordering, the world was polycentric. During the Cold War, parts of the world divided between two great ordering projects, that of the United States and that of the Soviet Union, each composed of different regional orders. At the same time, elements of international order—arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, order associated with the United Nations—crossed Cold War divides. In short, to the extent that there is an overarching international order, it takes the form of an assemblage of many different orders at different scales.53

All of this helps explain why not everyone thinks that “international order” matters very much, especially when it comes to power politics—and why some don’t consider it a useful concept at all. We have to admit that “international order” does seem rather vague, and discussions often boil down to “I know it when I see it.”54 But at the very least, international orders shape how political communities pursue power and influence. The ideological content found within international orders also matters for challengers—whether great powers or political movements—because they tend to organize around alternative beliefs and values.55

(p.33) A few examples, focused mostly on features associated with liberal order, illustrate how changes in international ordering materially affect world politics. We now take for granted the existence of large numbers of intergovernmental organizations—complete with their own bureaucracies—that provide focal points for diplomacy, provide goods and services to member states, and play a key role in international legal regimes. But they did not really exist as part of international order until the later nineteenth century.56 The current international system includes over 200 of them, including the UN, the IMF, the EU, the African Union (AU), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). International organizations increasingly set the agenda for international politics, and they form policy networks with one another and with international nongovernmental organizations and other non-state actors.57

Similarly, we do not find much in the way of major multilateral diplomacy in Europe before the negotiations at Münster and Osnabrük that created the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. But in the current international order, multilateralism provides a fundamental tool for cooperation and a key site of contention. Still, the form and settings of multilateral diplomacy have shifted along with the international orders that it helps constitute. Calling a great-power “congress to address territorial conflict” was “a routine tool of statecraft in nineteenth-century politics.” There have been no such meetings, with the possible exception of allied conferences during World War II, in over a century.58

Even in the domains of international security and how states project power, the texture of international order can change significantly. Until the end of World War II, it was pretty unusual for militaries to maintain a peacetime presence on foreign territory.59 After World War II the pillars of the American security order involved highly institutionalized arrangements, such as NATO or the bilateral alliances and basing treaties with Japan and South Korea. These days, American power projection capability depends on a network of basing and access agreements that span the globe.60

In addition to new types of actors and practices, consequential changes in international order extend to the density of interactions among international actors. An important aspect of “globalization” involves extensive growth in economic and political interdependence across the globe. These interdependences almost certainly alter the calculations of governments as they consider, for example, whether to go to war or to borrow money. Significant economic activity in the industrialized world now depends on (p.34) globally distributed supply chains, such that multiple countries contribute to any particular finished product. This makes major wars even more disruptive to economies than under conditions of simple trade interdependence in goods produced entirely, or largely, within one country.61

The Components of International Order

Because “international order” covers so much ground (both literally and metaphorically), many scholars break it down into more manageable components. We find it useful to divide it into two different dimensions, which we call “architecture” and “infrastructure,” and to conceptualize international orders overall as ecosystems or in terms of ecologies (see Figure 2.1). We briefly discussed these at the start of the chapter, but here we develop them further. In particular, we identify two important sources of variation in the ecology of international orders: the density of their infrastructures and (p.35) the degree to which their architectures are harmonized or conflictual. As we show in subsequent chapters, this variation matters for understanding how hegemonic orders unravel.

The American Hegemonic System in Theoretical and Historical Perspective

Figure 2.1 International Order: Architectures, Infrastructure, and Ecology


Most discussions of international orders center on their architectures: their guiding principles, norms, rules, and values.62 G. John Ikenberry, one of the preeminent theorists of liberal order, notes that “international order is manifest in the settled rules and arrangements between states that define and guide their interaction.”63 Such rules and arrangements include basic procedures for resolving disputes—such as those found in the long-standing system of arbitration found among the ancient Greek city-states or in the multilateral, rule of law–oriented institutions that proliferated after the Second World War.64 They also include specific norms and rules concerning, for example, the legitimate use of force,65 the conduct of trade and finance, and how governments should treat their citizens.66

Even in hegemonic orders, these rules, norms, and procedures are never entirely the result of a single architect, nor do they necessarily wind up precisely as anyone envisioned. Adding a norm here or a principle there can produce a composite order whose architecture, in practice, looks different from what its designers intended or expected. In this respect, international orders are a kind of bricolage, constructed over time through the addition of layers and pieces.67

As this suggests, the architecture of international orders is often more bumpy than smooth, patchwork rather than uniform.68 This creates room for states to violate some norms and rules while claiming to uphold others. For example, even though the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) refused to authorize the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, officials in the Bush administration maintained that existing UN resolutions provided sufficient legality for the operation. Administration officials also argued that the Iraqi regime’s systematic abuses of its citizens justified overriding norms of state sovereignty; that they made a war of American aggression, in effect, legitimate on humanitarian grounds.69 But such ambiguities and tensions in prevailing rules, norms, and principles do not render the architecture of international orders irrelevant—merely the ongoing product of many designers, builders, and suppliers.

(p.36) Infrastructure

International organizations, such as the UN and the IMF, embody rules and norms concerning diplomacy, the resolution of disputes, and the conduct of states. But they are also sites of contestation and negotiation over those rules. And they serve as providers of goods and services—such as peacekeeping operations and development assistance—that undergird international order. In other words, they are simultaneously part of the architecture of international order and its infrastructure: the ongoing, often everyday relations, flows, arrangements, and practices that serve as the sinews of international orders. Critically, they might even be arenas of competition among great powers about which rules and norms should prevail or orient the body. Hence, in Figure 2.1, we illustrate how they bridge the different dimensions.

The broader relationship between the architecture and infrastructure of international orders also runs in both directions. For example, the architecture of contemporary order, in effect, transfers some of the functions once carried out by coercive empires—such as the suppression of piracy and the containment of conflict—to alternative infrastructures, namely, multilateral and cooperative institutions. Those infrastructures reflect the illegitimacy of the formal empires of the past. They also shape the rules and norms that, in turn, make up the architecture of contemporary international order.

Of course, the infrastructures of imperial systems are also not terribly uniform. They vary a great deal, even within specific empires. The Spanish monarchy, for instance, was a hodgepodge of governance mechanisms, practices, and security arrangements spread across different kingdoms, counties, duchies, allies, followers, and subordinates.70 As we noted earlier, there was no such thing as “the British Empire.” There was a British system, constituted by a wide variety of different movements of people, trade flows, and military forces. Over time and in different places, governance practices and relationships within the British system might more resemble those of a colonial empire, a protectorate, a patron-client relationship, or a federation.71

The infrastructure of contemporary world politics is also composed of complex networks. These include, to list only a few elements, military alliances, partnerships, and basing and access agreements; embassies and consulates; trade and financial flows; and patterns of economic and development assistance. If we take a more granular look at the security (p.37) infrastructure of the American hegemonic system, we will find recurring joint exercises among militaries, long-standing officer exchange programs, routine bilateral meetings among defense officials, and everyday interactions at standing multilateral security institutions, such as NATO.72

In crucial ways, this security infrastructure is likewise an adaptation to liberal aspects of international architecture. As we alluded to earlier, states interested in projecting power well beyond their borders must now generally rely on military basing and access agreements, which imply consent by a host or transit country, rather than simply seizing territory and establishing an imperial garrison.73 Instead of mobilizing colonial armies,74 great powers acquire “auxiliaries” by forming close defense partnerships (based on different combinations of carrots and sticks) with other states.

The Ecologies of International Orders

The architecture and infrastructure combine to constitute an ecology of international order. Overall, international order resembles an ecosystem.75 Like ecosystems, international orders involve the distribution of resources—including not just security and economic goods but also, for example, cultural and environmental ones. Instead of different species, they include various kinds of actors, such as states, international organizations, transnational activist networks, and multinational corporations. Such actors, including different states, occupy various niches related to the tasks they perform. As we noted above, one interesting difference between contemporary and older international orders is that intergovernmental organizations and multilateral groupings of states have taken over some of the tasks once performed by empires.76

The ecology metaphor also calls attention to how the uneven character of international orders affects behavior. States and other actors are positioned in the ecosystem by geography, by the arrangement of international infrastructures,77 and by their compliance or rejection of prevailing aspects of international architecture.78 For example, international orders often entail standards of civilization, usually initially set by the powerful, that arrange political communities as more civilized or more barbaric. Political communities that can meet those standards often enjoy specific benefits, which can include better treatment in treaties or being spared from imperial conquest.79

(p.38) Similarly, variation in the contemporary infrastructure of telecommunications and finance empowers some while disempowering others. As Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman argue, “New flows of money, information and manufacturing components required the construction of a correspondingly vast infrastructure. Global finance relied on a complex system of institutions to clear transactions and facilitate messaging and communications between different financial institutions.” The “Internet was built on routing systems, physical ‘pipelines’ and redundant information storage facilities to move and house data. Complex supply chains needed equally complex networks that drew together a myriad of assemblers, suppliers and sub-suppliers.”

In practice, these developments “tended to channel global flows through a small number of central data cables and switch points.” This “did not just transform economies; it transformed international security. A global economy meant that states’ economies were interdependent with each other.” The ability of the United States to use the Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system—designed to facilitate international financial flows—to target terrorist financing and also to enforce sanctions on countries like Iran and Russia stemmed from its central position in global financial networks.80

Thus, the ecology of international orders can vary by issue area or region. The overall global international order is an ecosystem of ecosystems.81 East Asia during the Cold War had a significantly different ecology from what it had during the American unipolar moment in the 1990s. Then again, in the mid-2000s, when China’s rise added new infrastructure to the international ecology, the US-Japan relationship took on different ordering effects. For example, when in 2015 China led the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the United States and Japan remain the only two major states that refused to join. During the 1990s this solidarity might have constituted an exercise of hegemonic maintenance, but in the year 2015 it actually underscored not just American and Japanese miscalculation but also their relative decline as exclusive providers of development assistance, including in the form of physical infrastructure such as roads, ports, and mass transit.

Regardless of the level of analysis or the issue area, we can conceptualize variation across international orders along at least two dimensions: the relative density of ordering infrastructure and the degree that related architecture is conflictual or congruent (see Figure 2.2). Note that even though (p.39) we describe the extremes for illustrative purposes, real ecologies will always occupy more complex, intermediate points in the conceptual space.82

The American Hegemonic System in Theoretical and Historical Perspective

Figure 2.2 Variation in International Ecosystems

  • Conflictual–Congruent. At one extreme, existing ordering infrastructure may be highly integrated and harmonized. At the other extreme, we find rival infrastructures that directly clash over rules and norms. In between, we find coordinated infrastructures, which lack integration but generally work toward the same ordering ends, and uncoordinated ones, which can work at cross-purposes but in the absence of zero-sum conflict.83

  • Dense–Sparse. We can think of density in terms of the ratio of existing to potential infrastructure.84

In highly dense international ecologies, there are very few empty “niches” for new international infrastructure to fill, and we may find redundant or overlapping infrastructures—international organizations, bilateral treaties and partnerships, diplomatic flows, and the like—engaging in the same tasks.85 In highly sparse ecologies, we find lots of open space for new ordering infrastructure. In Chapters 4 and 5, we will see how Russia and China find their own order-building activities channeled toward states (p.40) and regions, such as Central Asia, Africa, and Southeast Asia, characterized by sparser American hegemonic infrastructure. This provides more open niches for Beijing and Moscow to fill when it comes to extending their influence.

Sparse ecologies where the ordering architectures are more conflictual (work at cross-purposes) may be ripe for geopolitical competition; such geopolitical competition may, in turn, drive the emergence of denser ecologies. At the extreme, it can bifurcate a region into two distinct, but dense and complementary, ecologies. In the 1970s and 1980s, during the era of Soviet domination and the Warsaw Pact and COMECON, the ecology of the Eastern European order was relatively homogenous and dense. But Europe overall was heterogeneous, with NATO and the European Economic Community forming part of a rival order that interacted with, but only barely overlapped with, its Eastern counterpart.

After the Communist collapse, which took its infrastructure with it, the American system—along with broader agents and infrastructure of liberal international order, including the EU—expanded across Eastern Europe. This process remained incomplete in most of the former Soviet Union, giving rise to a sparser and less complementary regional ecology, complete with both legacy infrastructure, and new Russia- and China-centric infrastructure. It is from this “periphery” that counter-order contention pushed back toward the European core in the 2010s.86

Ecologies with dense and complementary infrastructures, on the other hand, can be tough nuts to crack for rising powers positioned on the outside. This is the case for much of Europe, where NATO, the EU, and other arrangements saturate much of the security and economic ecology. Actors that want to directly contest such an order generally need to adopt “wedge” or “divide-and-conquer” strategies to break apart the cohesiveness of ordering infrastructure. We explore in Chapter 6 how Moscow has been trying to do just that by cultivating, and supporting, political movements on the basis of shared dislike for prevailing international rules and norms. It hopes that introducing such conflict will undermine major aspects of European ordering infrastructure.87

This provides just one way to analyze features of the ecologies of international orders. For example, international-relations scholar Stacie Goddard focuses solely on how rising powers are positioned within institutional ordering infrastructure. She argues that states that are embedded in core great-power institutional arrangements but lack outside options—potential (p.41) partners not closely tied to other great powers—are least likely to try to significantly alter the existing order. These states gain from their access to its infrastructure but they cannot leverage external partners and institutions against it. Great-power challengers that enjoy high “access” but also have outside options that they can leverage for influence behave differently. They engage in “rule-based revolution.” Thus, in the 1860s and early 1870s, Prussia seized territory from Austria-Hungary, Denmark, and France on its way to forming a united Germany. In doing so, it significantly shifted the existing balance of power in Europe. Yet it did not fundamentally challenge the architecture of the system.88

Regardless of how we parse it, variation in the ecology of international orders shapes power politics in profound ways. As we argue in the next section, this is as true for hegemons as it is for rising powers and weaker states.

Hegemonic Ordering and American Hegemony

Some influential theories see the existence of a hegemon as a necessary condition for stable international ordering. They contend that only a state or empire with overwhelming military and economic power can make and enforce rules in international politics, let alone provide public goods, such as open trade and a relatively peaceful system. It should be clear by now that we disagree. Great-power cartels can, and have, created and upheld international orders. The most famous example comes from after the Napoleonic Wars, when a combination of great power congresses and multilateral alliances helped manage the European order between 1815 and 1854.89 International orders may also emerge from processes independent of great-power orchestration: through the convergence of a broad group of states on general practices, norms, and rules. In other words, international orders develop and evolve through a variety of different pathways, and often many different processes contribute to their architecture and infrastructure.

We should therefore view hegemonic orders as a subcategory of international orders—ones profoundly shaped by the presence of a hegemonic power. Hegemonic ordering typically works through the use of carrots and sticks. The possession of preponderant wealth and military capabilities gives a hegemonic power outsized “market share” when it comes to offering (p.42) security guarantees, economic assistance, status and prestige, market access, and the like. Hegemons can also issue potent threats when it comes to the use of force, withdrawing of existing benefits, or excluding a state from those benefits in the first place. Leading powers deploy these tools to persuade and coerce others to support their preferred international architectures—whether in the context of specific hegemonic ordering projects or simply as they advance more pedestrian policy goals.

For example, British efforts to suppress the slave trade in the nineteenth century centered around signing treaties with a diverse group of actors, including sovereign states in Europe and Latin America, Hanseatic towns, African chiefs, and Muslim sultans. While some willingly signed the treaties, many had to be cajoled through threats and bribes.90 The United States, in effect, provided Japanese companies access to its markets in exchange for Tokyo to subordinate its security decision making to Washington.91 Washington has long used carrots and sticks to uphold the nonproliferation regime, such as when it compelled South Korea (in the 1970s) and Taiwan (in the 1980s) to abandon their nuclear programs.92

The Importance of Goods Provision to Hegemonic Ordering

As all of this suggests, one of the most important ways that hegemons order international politics is through the provision of some combination of economic, security, and cultural goods. These might include public goods, such as combating piracy or, in the classic formulation of Charles Kindleberger, maintaining an open market that can absorb the exports of countries experiencing crises.93 But hegemons much more frequently provide club goods, such as the collective security provided by NATO, to its member-states, and private goods, such as aid and trade arrangements specific to individual countries or bilateral alliances like the US-Japan defense agreement.94

But the provision of goods is more than a mechanism for making and enforcing order. The forms through which such goods are channeled could be strictly bilateral in character, but they might also involve broader international agreements, international organizations, and even designated or contracted third parties. Much of the infrastructure of international orders is formed via goods provision, and the manner and substance of those goods themselves shape and are shaped by international architecture. The mix of public-like, club, and private goods shapes the ecology of (p.43) international order.95 Much of the infrastructure of contemporary international order consists of institutions and practices associated with goods provision. For example, the infrastructure of the nonproliferation regime includes institutions such as the IAEA and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), and a host of relationships and practices involving bilateral and multilateral assistance for nuclear safeguards and nuclear security, as well as technical assistance for peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nuclear technology,

Hegemonic ordering also influences what particular goods matter for international status and prestige, from membership in international organizations, such as the Group of Seven (G7); to the performance of specific norms and values, such as having democratic institutions; to the possession of specific weapons systems, such as aircraft carriers. Not all of these are the result of deliberate policy. No one in the United States held “a meeting” and decided that possession of an aircraft carrier is a sign of great-power status. Rather, what mattered was “the long-standing role of aircraft carriers in” America’s “practices of power projection and its global presence.”96

Hegemons can also shape international order through persuasion and socialization, the halo effect created by their superior capabilities, and other mechanisms sometimes associated with “soft power.”97 We discuss the significance of these processes in greater detail in subsequent chapters, but here we stress two things. First, a good deal of what makes dominant powers attractive is their success—the fact that they are wealthy and powerful. Rome impressed outsiders in no small part because of its material prowess, and other hegemons are no different.98 Second, soft power is not something that descended from the sky upon the United States or is coded into its DNA. It took significant investments to build American soft power. Much of American hegemonic “socialization” occurs via its diplomatic, security, and economic infrastructure.

Hegemons Shape Order, but Order also Shapes Hegemons

Traditional hegemonic-order approaches tend to treat the great-power wars that give birth to new leading states as a kind of “big bang” that creates a “blank slate” on which hegemons write a new order. But slates in international politics are never truly blank, even after major wars; “hegemons emerge in preexisting” international orders; “they rarely, if ever, enjoy” (p.44) enough military and economic might to entirely overwrite existing aspects of international order. We lose important perspective on challenges to contemporary order and understanding how order might evolve if we neglect the effects of preexisting architecture and infrastructure shape.

For example, recall that the United States drew upon interwar rules and norms—concerning international law, multilateralism, and the use of force—as well as infrastructure (such as the League of Nations and the Permanent Court of International Justice) in constructing the post-war order. Spain and France both bid for hegemony in a Europe where most states were ruled by dynastic lines and where patterns of marriage and inheritance shaped territorial claims and thus avenues for expansion within Europe. The War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714) centered on Louis XIV’s efforts to secure his grandson’s rule over Spain, to which the Austrian branch of the Habsburg dynasty also had a plausible claim.99 Neither Spain nor France at the peak of their power could alter the architecture of the international order to dispense with dynastic norms and rules—in no small measure because the legitimacy of their own rulers depended upon them.100

The combined effects of existing international order with interstate contestation over the nature and terms of international order can profoundly affect the trajectory of hegemonic ordering. As we have noted before, when the United States emerged from World War II in a position of hegemony it confronted a world structured not only by that war but also by rising anti-colonial sentiment. It is possible that the United States could have—in collaboration with France and the United Kingdom—sunk significant military and economic resources into resisting the demands of imperial subjects for independence and national self-determination. But Washington feared the consequences of Moscow becoming the sole champion of national liberation. It saw its bid for global leadership as best served by playing up America’s history as the product of a successful rebellion against a colonial empire. Thus, the United States generally supported decolonization and helped, both passively and actively, to dismember the empires of its own military allies.101

These developments also meant that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union would seek to control its allies and clients as formal imperial provinces.102 Of course, Washington clearly set the parameters of security policy for countries like Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and West Germany.103 In Latin America, Washington often exercised stronger influence, including dictating aspects of domestic policy to local officials. Most (p.45) scholars accurately characterize the Warsaw Pact as an unofficial Soviet imperial system. The Soviet Union led invasions of two of the pact’s member-states, Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), in order to enforce Communist rule and prevent exit from the alliance system.104

But in all of these cases, subordinates remained—in legal terms, sovereign states with their own independent governments and presence in international organizations.105 In general, even when the relationship was one of informal empire, client states enjoyed greater autonomy than, say, Gaul in the Roman Empire, India in the British Empire, or, for that matter, New York and Texas in the federal republic that is the United States.106

Thus, critically, hegemons don’t just “make” international orders. They must also “take” international order. Leading powers are affected by both the international orders that they inherit and those that they help create.107 Their alliances structure future commitments, interests, and even how they conceptualize their own identities—such as how NATO has reinforced the notion of the West as a broader political community that includes the United States.108 Over time, their clients and partners learn how to manipulate and influence them.109 Moreover, this interactive relationship between international order and hegemony extends into domestic politics. For instance, the United States promoted successive waves of globalization, but, in turn, unleashed economic forces that also reshaped the American political economy, shrinking and weakening trade unions and manufacturing sectors while empowering industries and businesses that benefited from cheap imports, globalized supply chains, and capital mobility.110

The United States, like other hegemonic powers, is part of the ecology of international order and does not stand outside of it. We see it in the opportunities and constraints faced by the United States as a rising power. We see it in the ways in which its international ordering has reshaped its domestic economy and politics. And we also see it in terms of how much its position in the international hierarchy of power has come to depend on its relationships with a broad range of powers and allies.

The American Hegemonic System in Practice

The United States has been engaged in international ordering pretty much since its beginnings. The example set by the American Revolution encouraged others; Americans spent much of the nineteenth century engaged in hegemonic projects in the Western Hemisphere, chiefly through (p.46) imperial expansion westward and warfare, most of which took place against Native American political communities. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the United States turned to overseas imperial expansion. It acquired a number of colonies from the Spanish after the Spanish-American War (1898), including the Philippines and Puerto Rico. It was also on its way to establishing hegemony over the Americas, a process helped along by London’s decision not to contest rising American power in the region.111

Many associate the period between World War I and World War II with the American rejection of Woodrow Wilson’s international ordering project. Some refer to the 1920s and 1930s as a period of isolationism, but what that really meant was absence from the League of Nations and the lack of military commitments to Europe.112 Still, after 1945 the United States has clearly, often with assistance from other countries, engaged in broader hegemonic projects—and either directly or indirectly helped played a key role in ordering world politics writ large. But global international order is not synonymous with American hegemony. This was true during the supposed peaks of American relative power: immediately after World War II and in the wake of the Cold War. It is certainly true today.

Instead, within broader international order we find an American hegemonic system (or simply American system), within which the United States most directly orders and takes leadership of economic, security, and political relations. Of course, like the British system before it, the American system is really a number of overlapping orders. It contains a variety of different bilateral and multilateral arrangements, formal alliances and informal partnerships, and a host of different trade and economic relationships.

The core of the American system is the United States itself—which international-relations scholars sometimes forget is not a standard nation-state but a federal republic complete with a number of remnant imperial territories, such as Guam and Puerto Rico. In terms of security, the greater core extends to its immediate neighbors, especially Mexico and Canada. Some overseas countries, such as Japan and most NATO member states, form semi-cores—not quite peripheries but not really part of the core either. The exact forms of this infrastructure, as we have seen, vary across regions and issue areas. But in nearly every region of the world the United States maintains a handful of close security relationships that serve as local hubs or anchors for the American security system.113

(p.47) This ordering infrastructure is absolutely crucial to American global influence. As we have already noted, it plays a key role in the ability of the United States to project military power abroad. The existence of a wide number of security partners magnifies American relative military capabilities, as well as providing the everyday basis “for negotiation and coordination of security affairs” while creating settings for “socialization and influence among militaries and military personnel.”114 Beyond the sheer breadth and depth of this network, it includes a number of the wealthiest, most technological advanced countries in the world—including Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Italy.

As long as the infrastructure remains intact, the United States retains a significant geopolitical advantage. Great-power challengers, such as Russia and China, face an ecosystem already dense with American-centered alliance networks and political associations. It makes sense, then, that Russia doubled down on keeping its allies in power during the Syrian civil war—Syria is home to the only overseas Russian military base not on former Soviet territory, and Moscow is now constructing additional facilities there. But to truly compete, Russia will need to break down or fragment existing American security relationships. As discussed earlier, this should be easier in the context of states and regions with more conflictual architectures. China also faces limits on where it can secure client states or pursue basing agreements—although its wealth gives it far more options than Russia—and these limits create constraints, but also opportunities, for China’s growing efforts to build power-projection capability.

American security commitments almost certainly depress military spending by its major allies.115 This is a perennial source of friction—one that Trump routinely complains about, for example. But it also means most of the major players in the First and Second World Wars, including Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan, are not engaged in great-power rivalries with one another, or with the United States. Instead, they are all part of an American-centric security system that has removed many of their incentives, as well as their ability, to become military challengers to the United States.116

Historian Hal Brands nicely summarizes the advantages that derive from American security infrastructure:

The protection that Washington has afforded its allies has equally afforded the United States great sway over those allies’ policies. (p.48) During the Cold War and after, for instance, the United States has used the influence provided by its security posture to veto allies’ pursuit of nuclear weapons, to obtain more advantageous terms in financial and trade agreements, and even to affect the composition of allied nations’ governments. More broadly, it has used its alliances as vehicles for shaping political, security, and economic agendas in key regions and bilateral relationships, thus giving the United States an outsized voice on a range of important issues. To be clear, this influence has never been as pervasive as U.S. officials might like, or as some observers might imagine. But by any reasonable standard of comparison, it has nonetheless been remarkable.117

Moreover, even hegemonic ordering within the American system creates spillover effects—that is, shapes broader international order. NATO’s existence shapes the global security ecology in general, and that of its neighbors, such as Russia, in particular. States and non-state actors, whether they like it or not, adjust their own security policies in light of American alliance commitments, counterterrorism and counter-proliferation efforts, direct military training and aid, and overseas basing agreements.118 Nonetheless, this system does not exhaust the overall security ecosystem: many states stand more or less outside of direct American security governance, and there are security orders where the United States is a peripheral or external player.119

Despite the gravitational pull it exercises on the policies of other states, the American security system is easier to isolate from broader international order than the economic dimensions of American hegemonic ordering. This is, in no small measure, because the United States pushed along economic globalization. But it is also because some of the major institutions of the international economy, such as the IMF and the WTO, are broadly inclusive of other states. Still, as we revisit in Chapter 7, this could change if regional trading blocs, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), continue to proceed without US involvement, or if other markets “route around” the United States, as in the case of the free-trade agreement between the EU and Japan.

A number of scholars have chronicled the infrastructural advantages that the United States, both deliberately and inadvertently, engineered over the last eight decades in the international economy. We emphasized some of those in the stylized history presented earlier: embedding the dollar as the unit of exchange in global trading regimes, such as the oil (p.49) market, to ensure its status as a reserve currency; weighting the system of decision making in major international financial institutions to represent US interests; protecting US intellectual property within the pillars of the global trading regimes; and so on.120 In fact, between 2000 and 2010, the network structure of the global banking system became significantly more interdependent; “the increase in cross-national bank holdings has been highly skewed towards the US and the UK,” making both, but particularly the US, “more central to the system.”121 This augmented Washington’s ability to leverage financial instruments—often in the form of sanctions—as tools of statecraft.

Underlying American domestic wealth and national military power is necessary, but not sufficient, for maintaining this hegemonic infrastructure. It depends on ongoing interactions, often boring diplomatic activities, and the management of a large number of very different relationships with states, international organizations, and other international actors. We have stressed how it does crucial work in underpinning American hegemony and leadership. Indeed, the American “unipolar moment” was only possible because second-tier powers such as Germany, France, and Japan did not behave like traditional great powers and build militaries geared for competition with one another and the United States. In this sense, military unipolarity does not explain hegemony; hegemony explains military unipolarity.122

Revisiting the Convergence Wager and the Transformation of the Post–Cold War Ecology of International Order

This American international leadership, understood as the degree of overlap between the American hegemonic system and international order writ large, and broader liberal international ordering, appears to have reached its zenith around 2004. In that year, NATO and the EU both admitted ten new members each, mostly post-Communist states. It was also the year in which the US military was conducting two major overseas military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan that required extensive cooperation from allies and security partners, including NATO member states. And the year 2005 was also the last year before the world began backsliding into authoritarianism. According to the democracy watchdog Freedom House, 2006 marked the (p.50) first time during the post–Cold War era that the number of states with declining democracy scores outnumbered the number of improved country scores by 33 to 18.123

If we look solely at American military capabilities, wealth cannot account for 2004 as an inflection point. Between 2001 and 2010, for example, US military spending continued to steadily increase (as a result of the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns), and from 2005 to 2010 so did US military spending as a percentage of the world total. Moreover, even the decline in military spending after 2010 was actually reversed in the 2018 and 2019 budgets of the Trump administration.

The Great Recession of 2008 certainly has contributed to current contention within the advanced industrialized democracies. It eroded American financial power and shifted geo-economic power toward China and emerging countries. But although it triggered a debt crisis in the Eurozone—and the real possibility of Greece’s exit from the single European currency—the United States had recovered by June 2009. It has to date enjoyed 10 years of uninterrupted growth. Indeed, the United States held all the advantages of a hegemon using a monetary and fiscal toolkit to weather the shock; as Dan Drezner shows, the American-led economic “system worked” by facilitating the necessary international cooperation and coordination to prevent the financial crisis from producing a worldwide depression comparable to the one before World War II.124

As we discuss more in Chapter 7, the combination of the debacle of the Iraq War and the effects of the 2008 Great Recession have clearly undermined support for liberal international architecture and eroded some of the infrastructure of the American system. But what’s remarkable, in retrospect, is confidence in the convergence wager both before and after these challenges—whether in Washington or in allied capitals. After 2004, Washington continued to push for the expansion of its hegemonic infrastructure and to support the growth of broader liberal infrastructure, including NATO and the EU expanding into Eastern European and the Balkans, increasing WTO membership, greater IMF and World Bank jurisdiction, and supporting US-based democracy monitors and human rights watchdogs. Even the George W. Bush administration, much derided for its unilateralism and antipathy toward international institutions, worked through international organizations in a variety of different policy arenas. It staunchly supported NATO expansion into new countries bordering Russia, including Georgia and Ukraine. Agreements such as the Obama (p.51) administration’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and “pivot to Asia” sought to lock in even greater levels of economic and security cooperation across Asia and the Pacific.

So What’s the Problem?

First, there are deep and real tensions between political, economic, and intergovernmental liberalism. We can see these tensions clearly in terms of liberal intergovernmentalism. Intergovernmentalism can promote liberal domestic governance under some conditions, but it also often creates barriers to the spread of political and economic liberalism. To the extent that it privileges sovereign equality, it makes it difficult to pressure illiberal states to reform. Moreover, it restricts the ability of states to impose liberal governance unilaterally, including through force.

These tensions have long been the subject of debate in American foreign policy circles. During the 2000s, neoconservatives routinely expressed frustration with the ways in which the UN and other international institutions can empower autocratic states and provide them with a mechanism to constrain Washington’s ability to promote liberal democratic principles.125 As we see in Chapter 7, some liberal and most progressive internationalists see this as a virtue. They consider aggressive democracy promotion, whether militarized or not, as dangerous and self-defeating. More hawkish liberal internationalists split the difference, generally affirming the intrinsic importance of liberal intergovernmentalism but also—like the neoconservatives—being more willing to bypass it, or attempt to harness it for aggressive liberal enlargement.126

Moreover, liberalism is also compatible with different positions on political identity. Some associate the architecture of contemporary international order with transnational dimensions of identity, which a number of people on the right derisively label “globalism.”127 But national self-determination—the claim that every nation deserves a state and every state should be a nation—was a major liberal principle of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many liberals in that period were nationalists. They supported movements for national self-determination of various kinds. The architecture of contemporary liberal order includes both nationalist and transnationalist principles.128 This tension within liberalism has also emerged as sites of contestation in the current moment.

(p.52) Second, convergence presented a threat to a number of illiberal regimes. For them, pressure to respect political and civil rights opens them to domestic political challenges. Leaders in countries like Russia and China noted American and European material and symbolic support for “Color Revolutions” and other mobilizations of civil society against illiberal regimes in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. Moscow increasingly viewed the EU as a threat to its sphere of influence and, to the extent that it succeeded in post-Communist states, the legitimacy of its regime. The 2010 Arab Spring—which saw American and European support for some uprisings—and the 2014 collapse of the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine—during which the United States and the European Union strongly backed anti-regime forces—further exacerbated such fears.129

The combination of these two problems matters a great deal. Convergence meant that the United States, as well as the EU, expanded liberal ordering infrastructure with the assumption that congruence around liberal norms, values, and principles would follow. In some cases, policymakers believed that newly incorporated states and regions would be “locked into” liberal architecture by acceding to the requirements of joining international institutions or through subsequent socialization pressures. But this hasn’t always turned out to be the case. Backsliding within the European Union by countries like Hungary and Poland has allowed increasingly illiberal governments to coopt EU funds to entrench their regimes and to form blocks to insulate themselves from EU pressure.

The uneven expansion of both infrastructure and architecture shaped international ecology in other ways. It generated a series of reactions, countervailing strategies, and, eventually alternative-order building efforts using liberal intergovernmental modes of cooperation but without commitments to political liberalism. In organizations such as the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), intergovernmentalism is used explicitly to support norms deemed in opposition or at least in tension with liberalism, including sovereignty and non-interference, regime security, civilizational diversity, and “traditional values.” Moreover, regimes such as Moscow and Beijing figured out ways to target weak spots and challenge the ecology of the order in regions like Africa, the Middle East, the post-Communist space, Southeast Asia, and even within the West itself.

(p.53) At the risk of repetition, the convergence wager produced practices of liberal ordering. These practices, in turn, have structured contemporary international ecology in ways that empowered its very antagonists, including illiberal states and political movements. It did so while also providing them with reasons to oppose various aspects of liberal ordering. It turns out that some of the liberal aspects of international economic ordering can also be “weaponized” against American leadership or turned against other aspects of liberalism, such as when states use intergovernmentalist principles to strip mechanisms supporting political liberalism from international institutions.

Our conclusion—that a good deal of contemporary international architecture and infrastructure reflects liberal beliefs—does not necessarily imply that, for example, the American system and broader international order are either good or benign. Liberal ideology has played a role in many American interventions—whether in terms of protecting the putative property rights of American multinationals, combating communism, or notionally spreading democracy.130 What it does mean is that we cannot ignore that liberalism if we want to understand the subject of the next chapter: the unraveling of hegemonic orders in general, and American hegemony in particular.


(1.) United States, National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington, DC: President of the US, December 1999), iii.

(2.) United States, National Security Strategy of the United States (Washington, DC: President of the US, December 2017), 2, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf.

(3.) Stewart M. Patrick, “Can the Liberal World Order Survive Two More Years of Trump?,” World Politics Review, January 15, 2019, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/insights/27192/the-liberal-world-order-is-dying-what-comes-next.

(4.) See G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001); G. John Ikenberry, Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011).

(5.) Daniel Deudney and G. John Ikenberry, “The Nature and Sources of Liberal International Order,” Review of International Studies 25, no. 2 (April 1999): 179–96; G. John Ikenberry, “Why the Liberal World Order Will Survive,” Ethics and International Affairs 32, no. 1 (2018): 17–29, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0892679418000072; Paul Miller, American Power and Liberal Order: A Conservative Internationalist Grand Strategy (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016), http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1ffjnqs. Crucially, liberal internationalists stress that precisely those features of liberal order that make American hegemony comparatively durable are the ones that Trump is challenging. As Schake argues: “Beginning in the wreckage of World War II, America established a set of global norms that solidified its position atop a rules-based international system. These included promoting democracy, making enduring commitments to countries that share its values, protecting allies, advancing free trade and building institutions and patterns of behavior that legitimize American power by giving less powerful countries a say.” Trump, however, “seems bent on destroying the friendships and respect that bind America and its allies. If he succeeds, America will be seen as—and may even (p.208) become—no different from Russia and China, and countries will have no reason to assist America’s efforts rather than theirs.” Kori Schake, “The Trump Doctrine Is Winning and the World Is Losing,” New York Times, June 15, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/opinion/sunday/trump-china-america-first.html.

(6.) Rohan Mukherjee, “Two Cheers for the Liberal World Order: The International Order and Rising Powers in a Trumpian World,” H-Diplo | ISSF, February 22, 2019, https://issforum.org/roundtables/policy/1-5bo-two-cheers.

(7.) See, for example, Andrew Bacevich, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Tarak Barkawi and Mark Laffey, “The Imperial Peace: Democracy, Force and Globalization,” European Journal of International Relations 5, no. 4 (December 1999): 403–34; James Fowler, “The United States and South Korean Democratization,” Political Science Quarterly 114, no. 2 (1999): 265–88; Maria Höhn and Seungsook Moon, Over There: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to the Present (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010); Chalmers A. Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000); Dov H. Levin, “When the Great Power Gets a Vote: The Effects of Great Power Electoral Interventions on Election Results,” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 2 (June 2016): 189–202, https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqv016; J. Patrice McSherry, “Death Squads as Parallel Forces: Uruguay, Operation Condor, and the United States,” Journal of Global South Studies 24, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 13; Patrick Porter, A World Imagined: Nostalgia and Liberal Order (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, June 5, 2018), https://www.cato.org/publications/policy-analysis/world-imagined-nostalgia-liberal-order; Barbara Zanchetta, “Between Cold War Imperatives and State-Sponsored Terrorism: The United States and ‘Operation Condor,’” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 39, no. 12 (2016): 1084–102.

(8.) See, for example, Bacevich, American Empire; Barkawi and Laffey, “The Imperial Peace: Democracy, Force and Globalization”; Fowler, “The United States and South Korean Democratization”; Höhn and Moon, Over There; Johnson, Blowback; McSherry, “Death Squads as Parallel Forces”; Porter, “World Imagined”; Levin, “When the Great Power Gets a Vote”; Zanchetta, “Between Cold War Imperatives and State-Sponsored Terrorism.”

(9.) Mukherjee, “Two Cheers.”

(10.) This tripartite distinction resembles Anne L. Clunan’s discussion of “charter liberalism” (intergovernmentalism), “liberal humanism” (political liberal governance), and “economic neoliberalism” (one variant of economic liberalism). Notably, she argues that Russia is fine with the first but not the other two. See Anne L. Clunan, “Russia and the Liberal World Order,” Ethics and International Affairs 32, no. 1 (2018): 46.This discussion derives from Paul Musgrave and Daniel Nexon, “American Liberalism and the Imperial Temptation,” in Empire and International Order, ed. Noel Parker (London: Routledge, 2013), 131–48. More broadly, see Deudney and Ikenberry, “Liberal International Order”; Michael W. Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 12, no. 3 (Summer 1983): 205–35; Michael W. Doyle, “Kant, Liberal Legacies, and Foreign Affairs, Part 2,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 12, no. 4 (Fall 1983): 323–53; Andrew Hurrell, “Kant and the Kantian Paradigm in International Relations,” Review of International Studies 16, no. 3 (1990): 183–205; Ikenberry, Leviathan; Beate Jahn, Liberal Internationalism: Theory, History, Practice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); Immanuel Kant, Political Writings, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).

(11.) The relevant literature is too voluminous to cite with any justice. But for examples that cover some of the debate about effectiveness and the scope of international rights law, see Emilie M. Hafner-Burton and Kiyoteru Tsutsui, “Justice Lost! The Failure of International Human Rights Law to Matter Where Needed Most,” Journal of Peace Research 44, no. 4 (July 2007): 407–25, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022343307078942; Emilie M. Hafner-Burton, “Sticks and Stones: Naming and Shaming the Human Rights Enforcement Problem,” International Organization 62, no. 4 (October 2008): 689–716, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818308080247; Emilie Hafner-Burton, Making Human Rights a Reality (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013); Linda Camp Keith, “The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: Does It Make a Difference in Human Rights Behavior?,” Journal of Peace Research 36, no. 1 (January 1999): 95–118, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022343399036001006; Mona Lena Krook and Jacqui True, “Rethinking the Life Cycles of International Norms: The United Nations and the Global Promotion of Gender Equality,” European Journal of International Relations 18, no. 1 (March 2012): 103–27, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066110380963; Amanda M. Murdie and David R. Davis, “Shaming and Blaming: Using Events Data to Assess the Impact of Human Rights INGOs,” International Studies Quarterly 56, no. 1 (March 2012): 1–16, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00694.x; Eric Neumayer, “Do International Human Rights Treaties Improve Respect for Human Rights?,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 49, no. 6 (December 2005): 925–53, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002705281667; Beth A. Simmons, Mobilizing for Human Rights: International Law in Domestic Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Jana von Stein, “Making Promises, Keeping Promises: Democracy, Ratification and Compliance in International Human Rights Law,” British Journal of Political Science 46, no. 3 (July 2016): 655–79, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007123414000489; Susanne Zwingel, “How Do Norms Travel? Theorizing International Women’s Rights in Transnational Perspective,” International Studies Quarterly 56, no. 1 (March 2012): 115–29, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2478.2011.00701.x.

(12.) John Gerard Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order,” International Organization 36, no. 2 (1982): 379–415.

(13.) Mark M. Blyth, Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

(14.) Rawi Abdelal, Capital Rules: The Construction of Global Finance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).

(15.) Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012).

(16.) Duncan S. A. Bell, “Empire and International Relations in Victorian Political Thought,” Historical Journal 49, no. 1 (2006): 281–98; Jennifer Pitts, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006).

(17.) See Niall Ferguson, “A Victorian Idealist in the White House,” New Statesman, February 17, 2003; Niall Ferguson, Colossus: The Price of America’s Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004); Michael Ignatieff, “The Challenges of American Imperial Power,” Naval War College Review 56, no. 2 (Spring 2003): 53–63; Michael Ignatieff, “The American Empire: The Burden,” New York Times Magazine, January 5, 2003; Robert D. Kaplan, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground (New York: Random House, 2005); for discussions, see Paul K. MacDonald, “Those Who Forget (p.210) Historiography Are Doomed to Republish It: Empire, Imperialism and Contemporary Debates about American Power,” Review of International Studies 35, no. 1 (2009): 45–67; Alexander J. Motyl, “Is Everything Empire? Is Empire Everything?,” Comparative Politics 38, no. 2 (January 2006): 229–49; Daniel H. Nexon and Thomas Wright, “What’s at Stake in the American Empire Debate,” American Political Science Review 101, no. 2 (May 2007): 253–71.

(18.) See, for example, Neta Crawford, Argument and Change in World Politics, Cambridge Studies in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Julian Go, “Global Fields and Imperial Forms: Field Theory and the British and American Empires,” Sociological Theory 26, no. 3 (2008): 201–27; Julian Go, Patterns of Empire: The British and American Empires, 1688 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); Paul Musgrave and Daniel Nexon, “States of Empire: Liberal Ordering and Imperial Relations,” in Liberal World Orders, ed. Tim Dunne and Trine Flockhart (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 211–30; Meghan McConaughey, Paul Musgrave, and Daniel H. Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy: Logics of Political Organization, Hierarchy, and International Structure,” International Theory 10, no. 2 (2018): 181–218.

(19.) No spare account of the architecture of any real-world hegemonic or international order would meet the criteria of coherency and consistency demanded by those who see liberal order as a myth or reject the significance of liberal aspects of international order. The idea that they would is only plausible to the typical international-relations analysts because of their comparative familiarity with post-war and post-Cold War order. When one’s knowledge of past international systems largely comes from extremely simplified, stylized accounts, one tends to think of them as simpler and more coherent than they actually were.

(20.) David A. Lake, Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in Its Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), chap. 5.

(21.) Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon, “‘The Empire Will Compensate You’: The Structural Dynamics of the U.S. Overseas Basing Network,” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 4 (2013): 1036–37.

(22.) Victor D. Cha, “Powerplay: Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia,” International Security 34, no. 3 (2010): 158–96, https://doi.org/10.1162/isec.2010.34.3.158.

(23.) Glenn Dorn, “Perón’s Gambit: The United States and the Argentine Challenge to the Inter-American Order, 1946–1948,” Diplomatic History 16, no. 1 (Winter 2002): 1–20.

(24.) Ikenberry, Leviathan, 100–102; G. John Ikenberry, “Liberalism and Empire: Logics of Order in the American Unipolar Age,” Review of International Studies 30, no. 4 (October 2004): 609–30.

(25.) See, for example, Gary J. Bass, The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide (New York: Knopf Doubleday, 2013); Kevin C. Dunn, Imagining the Congo: The International Relations of Identity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), chap. 3; Jeane Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” Commentary 68, no. 5 (1979): 34; William M. Leogrande, “From Reagan to Bush: The Transition in US Policy towards Central America,” Journal of Latin American Studies 22, no. 3 (October 1990): 595–621, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022216X00020976; J. Patrice McSherry, “Tracking the Origins of a State Terror Network: Operation Condor,” Latin American Perspectives 29, no. 1 (2002): 38–60; McSherry, “Death Squads as Parallel Forces: Uruguay, Operation Condor, and the United States”; Stephen Rabe, Eisenhower and Latin America: The Foreign Policy of Anticommunism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

(26.) Mukherjee, “Two Cheers”; indeed, the fact that United States exhibits hypocrisy or employs double-standards, perhaps paradoxically, may help to sustain the very principles that it violates. Otherwise, Washington would simply have to abandon even its situational and inconsistent commitments to liberal norms. As Martha Finnemore and Henry Farrell write, “This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning.” Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore, “The End of Hypocrisy: American Foreign Policy in the Age of Leaks,” Foreign Affairs 92, no. 6 (2013): 34; see also Martha Finnemore, “Legitimacy, Hypocrisy, and the Social Structure of Unipolarity: Why Being a Unipole Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be,” World Politics 61, no. 1 (January 2009): 58–85; for broader discussions of the role of hypocrisy in sustaining norms, see Nils Brunsson, The Organization of Hypocrisy: Talk, Decisions and Actions in Organizations, trans. Nancy Adler (New York: John Wiley, 1989); Stephen D. Krasner, Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

(27.) Nexon and Wright, “American Empire Debate”; on electoral interference in particular, see Levin, “When the Great Power Gets a Vote”; Dov H. Levin, “Partisan Electoral Interventions by the Great Powers: Introducing the PEIG Dataset,” Conflict Management and Peace Science 36, no. 1 (January 1, 2019): 88–106, https://doi.org/10.1177/0738894216661190.

(28.) Thomas Wright, All Measures Short of War: The Contest for the Twenty-First Century and the Future of American Power (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017), chap. 1.

(29.) See Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, and Christopher Walker, eds., Authoritarianism Goes Global (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016); Anna Lührmann and Staffan I. Lindberg, “A Third Wave of Autocratization Is Here: What Is New about It?,” Democratization 26, no. 7, published ahead of print (2019): 1–19, https://doi.org/10.1080/13510347.2019.1582029.

(30.) Scholars debate, sometimes rather vociferously, whether the story told by hegemonic-order theories actually makes sense. Some dispute the theoretical logic, others the interpretations of history. Many believe that both are fatally flawed. We think that the argument works better in some cases than in others. See, for example, Margit Bussmann and John R. Oneal, “Do Hegemons Distribute Private Goods? A Test of Power-Transition Theory,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51, no. 1 (February 1, 2007): 88–111, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002706296178; Jonathan M. DiCicco and Jack S. Levy, “Power Shift and Problem Shifts: The Evolution of the Power Transition Research Program,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 43, no. 6 (December 1999): 675–704; Andrew Q. Greve and Jack S. Levy, “Power Transitions, Status Dissatisfaction, and War: The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895,” Security Studies 27, no. 1 (January 2, 2018): 148–78, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2017.1360078; Isabelle Grunberg, “Exploring the ‘Myth’ of Hegemonic Stability,” International Organization 44, no. 4 (Autumn 1990): 431–77; David A. Lake, “Leadership, Hegemony, and the International Economy: Naked Emperor or Tattered Monarch?,” International Studies Quarterly 37, no. 4 (December 1993): 459–89; Douglas Lemke, Regions of War and Peace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Douglas Lemke, “Great Powers in the Post-Cold War World: A Power Transition Perspective,” in Balance of Power: Theory and Practice in the 21st Century, ed. T. V. Paul, James J. Wirtz, and Michel Fortmann (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 52–75; Richard Ned Lebow and Benjamin Valentino, “Lost in Transition: A Critical Analysis of Power Transition Theory,” International Relations 23, no. 3 (September 1, 2009): 389–410, https://doi.org/10.1177/0047117809340481; Duncan Snidal, “The (p.212) Limits of Hegemonic Stability Theory,” International Organization 39, no. 4 (Autumn 1985): 579–614; A. F. K. Organski, World Politics (New York: Knopf, 1968); Steven Ward, Status and the Challenge of Rising Powers (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

(31.) Perry Anderson, The H-Word: The Peripeteia of Hegemony (New York: Verso Books, 2017), 1.

(32.) Mark Edward Lewis, “The City-State in Spring-and-Autumn China,” in A Comparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures, ed. Mogens Herman Hansen (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzals Forlag, 2000), 77n49.

(33.) Michael Doyle, Empires (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986), 11; David A. Lake, “Beyond Anarchy: The Importance of Security Institutions,” International Security 26, no. 1 (Summer 2001): 56, 61; David A. Lake, “Anarchy, Hierarchy and the Variety of International Relations,” International Organization 50, no. 1 (Winter 1996): 9; Nexon and Wright, “American Empire Debate.”

(34.) See John Darwin, The Empire Project: The Rise and Fall of the British World-System, 1830–1970 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009); MacDonald, “Those Who Forget”; for theoretical elaborations, see McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy”; G. John Ikenberry and Daniel H. Nexon, “Hegemony Studies 3.0: The Dynamics of Hegemonic Orders,” Security Studies 3, no. 28 (2019): 395–421.

(35.) Wim Blockmans, Emperor Charles V, 1500–1558 (London: Arnold, 2002); Geoffrey Parker, The Grand Strategy of Phillip II (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998); Daniel H. Nexon, The Struggle for Power in Early Modern Europe: Religious Conflict, Dynastic Empires, and International Change (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009); Richard Bonney, The Thirty Years’ War, 1618–1648, Essential Histories (Oxford: Osprey, 2002); Peter H. Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire, 1495–1806 (London: Macmillan, 1999); Peter H. Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009).

(36.) On the “British system,” see Darwin, The Empire Project.

(37.) Ruggie, “Embedded Liberalism,” 381; see also G. John Ikenberry and Charles Kupchan, “Socialization and Hegemonic Power,” International Organization 44, no. 3 (Summer 1990): 283–315.

(38.) For a detailed account of this adjustment, see Kori N. Schake, Safe Passage: The Transition from British to American Hegemony (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017); see also Charles Kupchan, How Enemies Become Friends (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), chap. 3.

(39.) Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times, new ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 73–74, 79–86.

(40.) Among other things, Versailles also changed the landscape of Europe, largely by dissolving Austria-Hungary into constituent parts and creating new states—Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia—out of them.

(41.) Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916–1931 (New York: Penguin Books, 2015), 6.

(42.) Bruce Russett, “The Mysterious Case of Vanishing Hegemony; or, Is Mark Twain Really Dead?,” International Organization 39, no. 2 (1985): 213, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300026953.

(43.) Stephen Wertheim, “Instrumental Internationalism: The American Origins of the United Nations, 1940–3,” Journal of Contemporary History 54, no. 2 (April 2019): 265–83, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022009419826661. For a contemporaneous criticism of this kind of proposal, see Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy in World Politics: The (p.213) United States and the Balance of Power (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2008), 459–60.

(44.) Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 17.

(45.) Robert A. Pollard, “Economic Security and the Origins of the Cold War: Bretton Woods, the Marshall Plan, and American Rearmament, 1944–50,” Diplomatic History 9, no. 3 (July 1985): 271–89, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.1985.tb00536.x.

(46.) Carla Norrlof, America’s Global Advantage: US Hegemony and International Cooperation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 161.

(47.) In fact, contemporary Chinese international-relations scholars draw an indigenous tradition to articulate a similar theory that posits two millennia from Chinese hegemonic management in East Asia. Some even turn the tables on European scholars, parsing the American system in terms of Chinese precedents. See, for example, Zhang Feng, “Rethinking the ‘Tribute System’: Broadening the Conceptual Horizon of Historical East Asian Politics,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 2, no. 4 (2009): 545–74, https://doi.org/10.1093/cjip/pop010; David Kang, “Hierarchy, Balancing, and Empirical Puzzles in Asian International Relations,” International Security 28, no. 3 (Winter 2003–2004): 165–85; Yuen Foong Khong, “The American Tributary System,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 6, no. 1 (2013): 1–47, http://cjip.oxfordjournals.org/content/6/1/1.short; Ji-Young Lee, “Diplomatic Ritual as a Power Resource: The Politics of Asymmetry in Early Modern Chinese-Korean Relations,” Journal of East Asian Studies 13, no. 2 (August 2013): 309–36, https://doi.org/10.5555/1598-2408-13.2.309; Ji-Young Lee, “Hegemonic Authority and Domestic Legitimation: Japan and Korea under Chinese Hegemonic Order in Early Modern East Asia,” Security Studies 25, no. 2 (2016): 320–52, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2016.1171970; Ji-Young Lee, China’s Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016); Yuan-kang Wang, “Managing Regional Hegemony in Historical Asia: The Case of Early Ming China,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 5, no. 2 (2012): 129–53, https://doi.org/10.1093/cjip/pos006; Feng Zhang, Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2015); Yongjin Zhang and Barry Buzan, “The Tributary System as International Society in Theory and Practice,” Chinese Journal of International Politics 5, no. 1 (2012): 3–36, https://doi.org/10.1093/cjip/pos001. Khong, “Tributary”; Feng, “Rethinking the ‘Tribute System’ ”; Yaqing Qin, “A Relational Theory of World Politics,” International Studies Review 18, no. 1 (March 2016): 33–47, https://doi.org/10.1093/isr/viv031; Zhang and Buzan, “The Tributary System as International Society in Theory and Practice.”

(48.) Paul K. MacDonald, Networks of Domination: The Social Foundations of Peripheral Conquest in International Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); Andrew Phillips and J. C. Sharman, “Explaining Durable Diversity in International Systems: State, Company, and Empire in the Indian Ocean,” International Studies Quarterly 59, no. 3 (September 2015): 436–48, https://doi.org/10.1111/isqu.12197; Andrew Phillips and J. C. Sharman, International Order in Diversity: War, Trade and Rule in the Indian Ocean (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

(49.) See Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); Stacie E. Goddard, “Embedded Revisionism: Networks, Institutions, and Challenges to World Order,” International Organization 72, no. 4 (2018): 763–97, https://doi.org/doi.org/10.1017/S0020818318000206; Go, Patterns; Charles A. Kupchan, “The Normative Foundations (p.214) of Hegemony and the Coming Challenge to Pax Americana,” Security Studies 23, no. 2 (2014): 219–57; Andrew Phillips, “Contesting the Confucian Peace: Civilization, Barbarism and International Hierarchy in East Asia,” European Journal of International Relations, no. 4 (2018), 740–64, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066117716265.

(50.) Compare Bentley B. Allan, Srdjan Vucetic, and Ted Hopf, “The Distribution of Identity and the Future of International Order: China’s Hegemonic Prospects,” International Organization 72, no. 4 (2018): 5, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818318000267; Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (London: Macmillan, 1977), 8. For theoretically informed discussions of the nature of practices in world politics, see Emanuel Adler and Vincent Pouliot, “International Practices,” International Theory 3, no. 1 (2011): 1–36, https://doi.org/10.1017/S175297191000031X; Rebecca Adler-Nissen and Vincent Pouliot, “Power in Practice: Negotiating the International Intervention in Libya,” European Journal of International Relations 20, no. 4 (2014): 889–911, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066113512702; Christian Bueger and Frank Gadinger, “The Play of International Practice,” International Studies Quarterly 59, no. 3 (September 2015): 449–60, https://doi.org/10.1111/isqu.12202; Vincent Pouliot, “The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of the Practice of Security Communities,” International Organization 62, no. 1 (2008): 257–88.

(51.) Academics will recognize this phrasing as virtually identical to that found in the “agent-structure problem”: the notion that society and culture often appear as objective conditions that enable and constrain individuals, yet only exist by virtue of the beliefs and actions of those individuals. And, yes, this means that “international order” is just another way of talking about aspects of international structure. In international-relations theory, order is the new structure. And we’ll probably eventually have the same debates about order that we had about structure. For theoretical discussions, see Margaret Archer, Culture and Agency (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Walter Carlsnaes, “The Agent-Structure Problem in Foreign Policy Analysis,” International Studies Quarterly 36, no. 3 (1992): 245–70; David Dessler, “What’s at Stake in the Agent-Structure Debate,” International Organization 43, no. 3 (1989): 441–73; Martha Finnemore, National Interests in International Society (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996); Mlada Bukovansky, Legitimacy and Power Politics: The American and French Revolutions in International Political Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002); Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Daniel H. Nexon, “Relations before States: Substance, Process, and the Study of World Politics,” European Journal of International Relations 5, no. 3 (1999): 291–332; Alexander Wendt, “The Agent-Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International Organization 41, no. 3 (1987): 335–70; Colin Wight, Agents, Structures and International Relations: Politics as Ontology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(52.) In his discussion of the “lliberal international order,” Charles Glaser complains that the concept is wooly (we agree!) because it is frequently treated as a means and an end. The same is true, of course, of the balance of power. He thus argues that “whether an order is a means or a constraint thus depends partly on the phase of its evolution. During its creation, an order is essentially a means to an end; once established, it can be at least partly a constraint. In the longer term, a sufficiently powerful state may be able to revise the order; therefore, in this time frame, the order is primarily a means.” This is true to some degree, but we shouldn’t let it obscure the fact that even those apparently well-institutionalized orders are sustained by dynamic patterns of practices and relations. See Charles L. Glaser, “A Flawed Framework: Why the Liberal International Order (p.215) Concept Is Misguided,” International Security 43, no. 4 (April 1, 2019): 55–57, https://doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00343.

(53.) On assemblages, see Michele Acuto and Simon Curtis, Reassembling International Theory: Assemblage Thinking and International Relations (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013); McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy”; Saskia Sassen, Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(54.) One venerable school of thought, realism, sees anarchy as the fundamental ordering principle of international politics. That is, states lack a common authority, let alone a world government, to make and enforce rules. Organizations like the United Nations don’t count as a common authority because they lack their own armies to enforce their decisions. They therefore need the support of the great powers and depend on the convergence of their member-states’ interests. What about UN peacekeeping forces, you might ask? Realists point out that these forces are provided by nation-states, which can withdraw them whenever they choose. Realists recognize important differences between modern international politics and those of past international systems. They just don’t think those differences affect the basic patterns of world politics, which they see as marked by a timeless struggle for power and security among states. See Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York: Addison-Wesley, 1979); Kenneth N. Waltz, “Reflections on Theory of International Politics: A Response to My Critics,” in Neorealism and Its Critics, ed. Robert O. Keohane (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 322–46. Realists differ about the implications of anarchy. Some believe that it inclines states to adopt expansionist foreign policies. John Mearsheimer is the best-known contemporary advocate of this “offensive realist” position. See John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001). Others think that anarchy favors prudent states that prioritize their security. In this view, some regimes may, for domestic or ideological reasons, pursue hegemonic domination. But a state that tries to maximize its power provokes other states to check its aggressive actions. Faced with an unfavorable shift in the balance of power, other states may respond by building up their own military capabilities or forming defensive security partnerships and alliances. Because domination-seekers trigger counterbalancing by other states, they wind up less secure than if they had never tried to expand in the first place. Realists in this camp point to the collapse of bids for hegemony by the Spanish Habsburgs, Bourbon France, Napoleon, and Nazi Germany as evidence that overly expansionist policies tend to backfire. Those outside of the realist camp also emphasize the short-lived character of most bids for system-wide hegemony. See Lebow and Valentino, “Lost in Transition,” 405. For realist variations, see Christopher Layne, “The Unipolar Illusion: Why New Great Powers Will Arise,” International Security 17, no. 4 (Winter 1993): 5–51; Jeffrey W. Taliaferro, “Security Seeking under Anarchy: Defensive Realism Revisited,” International Security 25, no. 3 (Winter 2000): 128–61. Some bids for hegemony clearly fail, and fail disastrously. But Rome conquered the Mediterranean system and held it for centuries; East Asia saw multiple periods of hegemony under powerful Chinese dynasties; by the early twentieth century, the United States had established hegemony over much of the Western Hemisphere. The historical record suggests that both rough balances of power and hegemonic orders are common outcomes in world politics. Scholars of hegemony, some of whom belong to the realist school, disagree about the importance of anarchy as an ordering principle of world politics. They all agree that hegemons establish political orders of some kind, and that those orders influence the behavior and interests of (p.216) weaker states. But some think that hegemonic orders operate in the shadow of anarchy; for them, this “background anarchy” explains, among other things, why the decline of hegemons risks triggering great-power wars, and why particular international orders rarely outlast a transfer of hegemony. Others think that hegemonic orders, because they involve a preeminent power exercising governance over other political communities, are more hierarchical than anarchical. See Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 230; Ikenberry, Leviathan, chaps. 1–2; Lemke, Regions of War and Peace, chap. 2; Stuart Kauffman, Richard Little, and William Wohlforth, “Introduction: Balance and Hierarchy in International Systems,” in The Balance of Power in World History, ed. Stuart Kauffman, Richard Little, and William Wohlforth (New York: Palgrave, 2007), 1–21; William C. Wohlforth, “Gilpinian Realism and International Relations,” International Relations 25, no. 4 (December 1, 2011): 499–511, https://doi.org/10.1177/0047117811411742. In our view, it really doesn’t matter very much whether we think hegemonic systems operate within some broader condition of anarchy. The anarchical character of world politics may or may not account for basic features of international relations, but anarchy is not the alpha and omega of international order. To the extent that it does matter, we don’t think that anarchy describes very much about world politics. Most contemporary international relations occur in a web of governance arrangements and asymmetric relations between states. We simply do not need to posit the shadow of anarchy to explain the persistence of power politics across time and space; we can also derive it from overlapping and inconsistent hierarchies—what Jack Donnelly refers to as “heterarchy.” When it comes to hegemonic-order theories, it makes little sense to infer anarchy from what happens when hegemonic orders are contested or go into decline. That’s like saying that Tsarist Russia was anarchical because prior to the Russian Revolution it experienced a civil war. See Jack Donnelly, “The Discourse of Anarchy in IR,” International Theory 7, no. 3 (2015): 393–425; David A. Lake, Hierarchy in International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009); Janice Bially Mattern and Ayşe Zarakol, “Hierarchies in World Politics,” International Organization 70, no. 3 (007 2016): 623–54, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818316000126; Nexon, Religious Conflict, chap. 2; McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy”; Ayşe Zarakol, ed., Hierarchies in World Politics, Cambridge Studies in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108241588.

(55.) See Goddard, “Embedded Revisionism”; Martha Finnemore, The Purpose of Intervention: Changing Beliefs about the Use of Force (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Stacie E. Goddard, When Right Makes Might: Rising Powers and World Order (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018); Rodney Bruce Hall, National Collective Identity: Social Constructs and International Systems (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999); John M. Owen, The Clash of Ideas in World Politics: Transnational Networks, States, and Regime Change, 1510–2010 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012); Christian Reus-Smit, “Constructing Anarchy: The Constitutional Structure of International Society and the Nature of Fundamental Institutions,” International Organization 51, no. 4 (Autumn 1997): 555–89.

(56.) With a few possible exceptions, such as the Holy Roman Empire. The Catholic Church was a lot like an international organization, and even, in some respects, an intergovernmental one.

(57.) Tana Johnson, Organizational Progeny: Why Governments Are Losing Control over the Proliferating Structures of Global Governance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, (p.217) 2014); see also Michael Barnett and Martha Finnemore, Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004); Reus-Smit, “Constructing Anarchy.”

(58.) Stacie E. Goddard, Paul K. MacDonald, and Daniel H. Nexon, “Repertoires of Statecraft: Instruments and Logics of Power Politics,” International Relations 33, no. 2 (2019): 308.

(59.) Sebastian Schmidt, “Foreign Military Presence and the Changing Practice of Sovereignty: A Pragmatist Explanation of Norm Change,” American Political Science Review 108, no. 4 (November 2014): 817–29, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055414000434.

(60.) Alexander Cooley, Base Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008); Cooley and Nexon, “Structural Dynamics”; Barry Posen, “Command of the Commons,” International Security 28, no. 1 (2003): 16, 21; C. T. Sandars, America’s Overseas Garrisons: The Leasehold Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

(61.) Stephen Brooks, “The Globalization of Production and the Changing Benefits of Conquest,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 43, no. 5 (October 1999): 646–70; Stephen G. Brooks, Producing Security: Multinational Corporations, Globalization, and the Changing Calculus of Conflict, Princeton Studies in International History and Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), http://library.georgetown.edu/search/i?=0691121516.

(62.) See Kalevi Holsti, Peace and War: Armed Conflicts and International Order 1648–1989 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 22; Rebecca Friedman Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “The Liberal Order Is More Than a Myth,” Foreign Affairs, July 31, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-07-31/liberal-order-more-myth; Andrew Phillips, War, Religion, and Empire: The Transformation of International Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 331.

(63.) Ikenberry, Leviathan, 14–15.

(64.) Eric Grynaviski and Amy Hsieh, “Hierarchy and Judicial Institutions: Arbitration and Ideology in the Hellenistic World,” International Organization 69, no. 3 (Summer 2015): 697–729, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818315000090; Reus-Smit, “Constructing Anarchy.”

(65.) We need to stress that the existence of international order does not, in any way, imply either general peace or peace among the great powers. The settled rules and arrangements of many international orders treat war as a normal, and even desirable, means of achieving power, wealth, and glory. For example, as historian Michael Howard argues of late medieval Europe, the ruling aristocracy regarded “peace . . . as a brief interval between wars” that they filled with activities “to keep them fit for the next serious conflict.” And “if European culture in the sixteenth century was becoming secularized, it nonetheless remained bellicose. Indeed, the entire apparatus of the state primarily came into being to enable princes to wage war. With few exceptions, these princes still saw themselves, and were seen by their subjects, essentially as warrior leaders, and they took every opportunity to extend their power.” Michael Howard, The Invention of Peace: Reflections on War and International Order (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 12, 15.

(66.) Major variants of constructivist theory focus on the role of “intersubjective norms” in structuring international politics. We find it interesting that, despite the general decline of this flavor of norm constructivism, their understanding of how world politics is put together has come back in through the literature on hegemony and international order. See Finnemore, Intervention; R. Charli Carpenter, “Women and Children First: Gender (p.218) Norms and Humanitarian Interventions in the Balkans,” International Organization 57, no. 4 (2003): 661–94; Jeffrey T. Checkel, “The Constructivist Turn in International Relations Theory,” World Politics 50, no. 2 (1998): 324–48; Andrew P. Cortell and James W. Davis Jr., “When Norms Clash: International Norms, Domestic Practices, and Japan’s Internalisation of the GATT/WTO,” Review of International Studies 31, no. 1 (January 2005): 3–25; Audie Klotz, “Norms Reconstituting Interests: Global Racial Equality and the U.S. Sanctions against South Africa,” International Organization 39, no. 3 (1995): 451–78; Jeffrey W. Legro, “Which Norms Matter? Revisiting the ‘Failure’ of Internationalism,” International Organization 51, no. 1 (1997): 31–63; Katheryn Sikkink, The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

(67.) Thus, international orders are just like many domestic political systems, which evolve and mutate as new institutions and practices get layered onto older ones. If one looks solely at its founding documents, the political order of the United States has undergone only a limited number of truly major shifts, such as from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution, and in the Civil War amendments that ended slavery and expanded federal power. But through legal interpretation, political compromise, alterations in the role of political parties, the New Deal, wartime mobilization in the 1940s, and expansion of the national-security states during the Cold War, the American political order looks radically different from the way it did in the 1790s. See Daniel H. Deudney, “The Philadelphian System: Sovereignty, Arms Control, and Balance of Power in the American States-Union, circa 1787–1861,” International Organization 49, no. 2 (1995): 191–228, https://doi.org/10.1017/S002081830002837X; Orfeo Fioretos, “Historical Institutionalism in International Relations,” International Organization 65, no. 02 (2011): 367–99, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818311000002; Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, “The New Politics of Interdependence: Cross-National Layering in Trans-Atlantic Regulatory Disputes,” Comparative Political Studies 48, no. 4 (March 1, 2015): 497–526, https://doi.org/10.1177/0010414014542330; Ira Katznelson, Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013); Paul Musgrave, “Federation of Liberty: International Society and Hierarchy among the United States,” Working Paper, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, January 28, 2019; McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy,” 198, 202; Kathleen Thielen, “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics,” Annual Review of Political Science 2, no. 1 (June 1999): 369–404.

(68.) When analysts characterize hegemonic orders in terms of their architectures, they sometimes look specifically at the intentional designs of dominant powers. Other times, they focus on foundational documents, such as the UN charter, or agreements, such as the Peace of Westphalia. See Daniel Philpott, Revolutions in Sovereignty: How Ideas Shaped Modern International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001). Still other times they look at the language used by states and international organizations, their practices, or other more dynamic evidence. Most often, they use a variety of different indicators. But generally, everyone is consciously simplifying the complexity of international orders by imputing to them some basic rules, norms, and procedures. There is nothing wrong with this. We do it ourselves. But those discussing international order need to keep in mind that international norms, rules, and procedures are often contradictory and contested. See Amitav Acharya, “How Ideas Spread: Whose Norms Matter? Norm Localization and Institutional Change in Asian Regionalism,” International Organization 58, no. 2 (2004): 239–75; Nicola P. Contessi, (p.219) “Multilateralism, Intervention and Norm Contestation: China’s Stance on Darfur in the UN Security Council,” Security Dialogue 41, no. 3 (2010): 323–44, https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010610370228; Antje Wiener, “Contested Meanings of Norms: A Research Framework,” Comparative European Politics 5, no. 1 (2007): 1–17; Lisbeth Zimmermann, “More for Less: The Interactive Translation of Global Norms in Postconflict Guatemala,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 4 (2017): 774–85.

(69.) See Alex J. Bellamy, “International Law and the War with Iraq,” Melbourne Journal of International Law 4, no. 2 (2003): 497–520; Adams Roberts, “The Law and the Use of Force after Iraq,” Survival 45, no. 2 (June 1, 2003): 31–56, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.2003.100716061; Miriam Sapiro, “Iraq: The Shifting Sands of Preemptive Self-Defense,” American Journal of International Law 97, no. 3 (July 2003): 599–607, https://doi.org/10.2307/3109845; John Yoo, “International Law and the War in Iraq,” American Journal of International Law 97, no. 3 (July 2003): 563–76, https://doi.org/10.2307/3109841.

(70.) See Blockmans, Emperor Charles V, 1500–1558; J. H. Elliott, Spain and Its World 1500–1700 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989); J. H. Elliott, Imperial Spain, 1469–1716 (London: Penguin, 1963); J. H. Elliott, “A Europe of Composite Monarchies,” Past and Present, no. 137 (1992): 48–71; H. G. Koenigsberger, The Practice of Empire, emended ed. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969); H. G. Koenigsberger, The Habsburgs and Europe, 1516–1660 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1971); A. W. Lovett, Early Habsburg Spain, 1517–1598 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986); Nexon, Religious Conflict.

(71.) Darwin, The Empire Project; see also Peter Cain and Tony Hopkins, British Imperialism, 1688–2000, 2nd ed. (London: Longman, 2001); H. S. Ferns, “Britain’s Informal Empire in Argentina, 1806–1914,” Past and Present, no. 4 (1953): 60–75; Michael Fisher, “Indirect Rule in the British Empire: The Foundations of the Residency System in India (1764–1858),” Modern Asian Studies 18, no. 3 (1984): 393–428; McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy.”

(72.) See Hal Brands, “Fools Rush Out? The Flawed Logic of Offshore Balancing,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 2 (2015): 9, https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2015.1064705; Miriam Kreiger, Shannon L. C. Souma, and Daniel Nexon, “US Military Diplomacy in Practice,” in Diplomacy and the Making of World Politics, ed. Ole Jacob Sending, Vincent Pouliot, and Iver B. Neumann Cambridge University Press, 2015), 220–55; Frédéric Mérand, “Pierre Bourdieu and the Birth of European Defense,” Security Studies 19, no. 2 (2010): 360, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636411003795780.

(73.) Cooley, Base; Cooley and Nexon, “Structural Dynamics”; Schmidt, “Foreign Military Presence and the Changing Practice of Sovereignty.”

(74.) For discussions of the British Indian Army, see Tarak Barkawi, Globalization and War (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005); Tarak Barkawi, Soldiers of Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017).

(75.) Ikenberry, “Why the Liberal World Order Will Survive,” 24.

(76.) We owe many of the ideas in this section to Herman Schwartz, “Down the Wrong Path: Path Dependence, Increasing Returns, and Historical Institutionalism” (unpublished manuscript, 2014), http://www.people.virginia.edu/~hms2f/Path.pdf.

(77.) Benjamin Fordham and Paul Poast, “All Alliances Are Multilateral,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 60, no. 5 (2016): 840–65, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002714553108; Emilie M. Hafner-Burton and Alexander H. Montgomery, “Power Positions: International Organizations, Social Networks, and Conflict,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 50, no. 1 (p.220) (2006): 3–27; Brandon J. Kinne, “Dependent Diplomacy: Signaling, Strategy, and Prestige in the Diplomatic Network,” International Studies Quarterly 58, no. 2 (June 2014): 247–59, https://doi.org/10.1111/isqu.12047; Zeev Maoz et al., “Structural Equivalence and International Conflict: A Social Networks Analysis,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 50, no. 5 (2006): 664–89, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002706291053.

(78.) On the last, see Rebecca Adler-Nissen, “Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms, and Order in International Society,” International Organization 68, no. 1 (2014): 143–76, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818313000337; Mattern and Zarakol, “Hierarchies in World Politics”; Daniel H. Nexon and Iver B. Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory: A Field-Theoretic Account,” European Journal of International Relations 24, no. 3 (2018): 662–86, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066117716524; Shogo Suzuki, “Seeking ‘Legitimate’ Great Power Status in Post-Cold War International Society: China’s and Japan’s Participation in UNPKO,” International Relations 22, no. 1 (2008): 45–63, https://doi.org/10.1177/0047117807087242; Ayşe Zarakol, After Defeat: How the East Learned to Live with the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

(79.) Adler-Nissen, “Stigma Management in International Relations: Transgressive Identities, Norms, and Order in International Society”; Ian Clark, The Hierarchy of States: Reform and Resistance in the International Order, rev. ed., Cambridge Studies in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Edward Keene, “A Case Study of the Construction of International Hierarchy: British Treaty-Making against the Slave Trade in the Early Nineteenth Century,” International Organization 61, no. 2 (2007): 311–39; Edward Keene, “The Standard of ‘Civilisation,’ the Expansion Thesis and the 19th-Century International Social Space,” Millennium—Journal of International Studies 42, no. 3 (2014): 651–73, https://doi.org/10.1177/0305829814541319; Lee, “Diplomatic Ritual as a Power Resource: The Politics of Asymmetry in Early Modern Chinese-Korean Relations”; Phillips, “Contesting the Confucian Peace”; David Strang, “Anomaly and Commonplace in European Political Expansion: Realist and Institutional Accounts,” International Organization 45, no. 2 (1991): 143–62; Steven Ward, “Race, Status, and Japanese Revisionism in the Early 1930s,” Security Studies 22, no. 4 (2013): 607–39; Robert Vitalis, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2015); Shogo Suzuki, “Japan’s Socialization into Janus-Faced European International Society,” European Journal of International Relations 11, no. 1 (2005): 137–64, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066105050139; Suzuki, “Seeking ‘Legitimate’ Great Power Status in Post-Cold War International Society”; Shogo Suzuki, Civilization and Empire: China and Japan’s Encounter with European International Society (London: Routledge, 2009), https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203880456; Ann Towns, “The Status of Women as a Standard of ‘Civilization,’” European Journal of International Relations 15, no. 4 (2009): 681–706, https://doi.org/10.1177/1354066109345053; Zarakol, After Defeat.

(80.) Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman, “America’s Misuse of Its Financial Infrastructure,” National Interest, April 15, 2019, https://nationalinterest.org/print/feature/america%E2%80%99s-misuse-its-financial-infrastructure-52707; see also Barry E. Carter and Ryan M. Farha, “Overview and Operation of U.S. Financial Sanctions, including the Example of Iran,” Georgetown Journal of International Law 44 (2013: 903–14; Viljar Veebel and Raul Markus, “At the Dawn of a New Era of Sanctions: Russian-Ukrainian Crisis and Sanctions,” Orbis 60, no. 1 (January 1, 2016): 128–39, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.orbis.2015.12.001.

(81.) Compare Nexon, Religious Conflict, chap. 2.

(82.) Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations: Philosophy of Science and Its Implications for the Study of World Politics (London: Routledge, 2011), 145–55.

(83.) For an illustration of variation along this dimension from US-French ordering in Francophone Africa, see Peter J. Schraeder, “Cold War to Cold Peace: Explaining US-French Competition in Francophone Africa,” Political Science Quarterly 115, no. 3 (2000): 395–419.

(84.) Compare Mustafa Emirbayer and Jeffrey Goodwin, “Network Analysis, Culture, and the Problem of Agency,” American Journal of Sociology 99, no. 6 (1994): 1481; Barry Wellman, “Network Analysis: Some Basic Principles,” Sociological Theory 1 (1983): 155–62; Harrison C. White, Scott A. Boorman, and Robert L. Breiger, “Social Structure from Multiple Networks. I. Blockmodels of Roles and Positions,” American Journal of Sociology 81, no. 4 (1976): 733–34.

(85.) See Karen J. Alter and Sophie Meunier, “The Politics of International Regime Complexity,” Perspectives on Politics 7, no. 1 (2009): 13–24, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592709090033; Marc L. Busch, “Overlapping Institutions, Forum Shopping, and Dispute Settlement in International Trade,” International Organization, no. 4 (2007): 735–61; Daniel W. Drezner, “The Power and Peril of International Regime Complexity,” Perspectives on Politics 7, no. 1 (2009): 65–70, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592709090100; Laura Gómez-Mera, “International Regime Complexity and Regional Governance: Evidence from the Americas,” Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations 21, no. 1 (2015): 19–42, https://doi.org/10.5555/1075-2846-21.1.19; Robert O. Keohane and David G. Victor, “The Regime Complex for Climate Change,” Perspectives on Politics 9, no. 1 (2011): 7–23, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592710004068.

(86.) Alexander Cooley, “Ordering Eurasia: The Rise and Decline of Liberal Internationalism in the Post-Communist Space,” Security Studies, 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 588–613.

(87.) Stacie E. Goddard and Daniel H. Nexon, “The Dynamics of Global Power Politics: A Framework for Analysis,” Journal of Global Security Studies 1, no. 1 (2016): 4–18, https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogv007; on wedging strategies more generally, see Timothy W. Crawford, “Wedge Strategy, Balancing, and the Deviant Case of Spain, 1940–1941,” Security Studies 17, no. 1 (2008): 1–38; Timothy W. Crawford, “Preventing Enemy Coalitions: How Wedge Strategies Shape Power Politics,” International Security 35, no. 4 (Spring 2011): 155–89, https://doi.org/10.1162/ISEC_a_00036; Victoria Tin-bor Hui, War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005); Yasuhiro Izumikawa, “Binding Strategies in Alliance Politics: The Soviet-Japanese-US Diplomatic Tug of War in the Mid-1950s,” International Studies Quarterly 62, no. 1 (March 2018): 108–20; Cooley and Nexon, “Structural Dynamics.”

(88.) Goddard, “Embedded Revisionism”; see also Stacie E. Goddard, “When Right Makes Might.”

(89.) Robert Jervis, “A Political Science Perspective on the Balance of Power and the Concert,” American Historical Review 97, no. 3 (1992): 58; for different perspectives, see Korina Kagan, “The Myth of the European Concert: The Realist‐institutionalist Debate and Great Power Behavior in the Eastern Question, 1821–41,” Security Studies 7, no. 2 (1997): 1–57; Jennifer Mitzen, “Reading Habermas in Anarchy: Multilateral Diplomacy (p.222) and Global Public Spheres,” American Political Science Review 99, no. 3 (2005): 401–17; Jennifer Mitzen, Power in Concert: The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Global Governance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013); Matthew Rendall, “Russia, the Concert of Europe, and Greece, 1821–29: A Test of Hypotheses about the Vienna System,” Security Studies 9, no. 4 (2000): 55–96; Paul W. Schroeder, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763–1848 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994).

(90.) Keene, “A Case Study of the Construction of International Hierarchy.”

(91.) For an example of how Washington used carrots and sticks to keep Japan firmly within its orbit during the Cold War, see Izumikawa, “Binding Strategies.”

(92.) See Jeff D. Colgan and Nicholas L. Miller, “Rival Hierarchies and the Origins of Nuclear Technology Sharing,” International Studies Quarterly 63, no. 2 (June 2019): 310–21; Eliza Gheorghe, “Proliferation and the Logic of the Nuclear Market,” International Security 43, no. 4 (2019): 88–127, https://doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00344; Rebecca Davis Gibbons, American Hegemony and the Politics of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime (PhD dissertation, Georgetown University, 2016); Rebecca K. C. Hersman and Robert Peters, “Nuclear U-Turns,” Nonproliferation Review 13, no. 3 (2006): 539–53, https://doi.org/10.1080/10736700601071629; Nicholas L. Miller, “The Secret Success of Nonproliferation Sanctions,” International Organization 68, no. 4 (2014): 913–44.

(93.) Charles Kindleberger, The World in Depression 1929–1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).

(94.) Goods vary in terms of whether they are, on the one hand, rivalrous or non-rivalrous or, on the other hand, excludible or non-excludible. These combine, in ideal-typical terms, to produce private goods (rival and excludable), such as “cars, clothes, food”; club goods (non-rival and excludable), such as “cable television”; public goods (non-rival and non-excludable), such as “air, public parks, national defense”; and common goods (rival and non-excludable), such as “water, fisheries.” Hella Engerer, “Security as a Public, Private, or Club Good: Some Fundamental Considerations,” Defence and Peace Economics 22, no. 2 (2011): 136–37, https://doi.org/10.1080/10242694.2011.542333; Elke Krahmann, “Security: Collective Good or Commodity?,” European Journal of International Relations 14, no. 3 (2008): 379–404.

(95.) See Norrlof, Global Advantage; Carla Norrlof, “Dollar Hegemony: A Power Analysis,” Review of International Political Economy 21, no. 5 (2014): 1042–70, https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2014.895773; Ruggie, “Embedded Liberalism.”

(96.) Nexon and Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory,” 673; see also Dana P. Eyre and Mark C. Suchman, “Status, Norms, and the Proliferation of Conventional Weapons: An Institutional Theory Approach,” in The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, ed. Peter J. Katzenstein (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 79–113; Michelle Murray, The Struggle for Recognition in International Relations: Status, Revisionism, and Rising Powers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), chap. 8.

(97.) See Janice Bially Mattern, “Why Soft Power Isn’t so Soft: Representational Force and the Sociolinguistic Construction of Attraction in World Politics,” Millennium 33, no. 3 (2005): 583–612; Joseph S. Nye Jr., Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power (New York: Basic Books, 1990); Ikenberry and Kupchan, “Socialization”; Nexon and Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory.”

(98.) See, in general, Seva Gunitsky, Aftershocks: Great Powers and Domestic Reforms in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017); see also Nexon and Neumann, “Hegemonic-Order Theory,” 665ff.

(99.) Both Louis XIV (a member of the Bourbon dynasty) and Emperor Leopold (of the Habsburg dynasty) married, and had children by, sisters of Charles II of Spain, whose death without a direct heir triggered the conflict. John A. Lynn, The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667–1714 (Essex, MA: Addison Wesley Longman, 1999), 105–6.

(100.) Nexon, Religious Conflict, 32, 94–95; see, generally, Richard Bonney, The European Dynastic States: 1494–1660 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991).

(101.) See Go, “Global Fields and Imperial Forms”; Go, Patterns; Robert P. Hager Jr. and David A. Lake, “Balancing Empires: Competitive Decolonization in International Politics,” Security Studies 9, no. 3 (2000): 108–48.

(102.) Go, “Global Fields and Imperial Forms”; Go, Patterns; Nexon and Wright, “American Empire Debate.”

(103.) At the height of the Cold War, Washington did covertly intervene in Italy to prevent a Communist electoral victory. This is only one example that complicates the more “benign” view of American leadership in Western Europe. See Levin, “When the Great Power Gets a Vote”; Michael Poznansky, “Stasis or Decay? Reconciling Covert War and the Democratic Peace,” International Studies Quarterly 59, no. 4 (December 2015): 815–26, https://doi.org/10.1111/isqu.12193.

(104.) Valerie Bunce, “The Empire Strikes Back: The Evolution of the Eastern Bloc from a Soviet Asset to a Soviet Liability,” International Organization 39, no. 1 (1985): 1–46; Lake, Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in Its Century, 10; Lake, “Beyond Anarchy: The Importance of Security Institutions,” 139; Alexander Wendt and Daniel Friedheim, “Hierarchy under Anarchy: Informal Empire and the East German State,” International Organization 49, no. 4 (1995): 689–721.

(105.) Note that some of the Republics in the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine, had seats at the United Nations. The International Postal Union, established in 1874, originally had seats designated for colonies, protectorates, and the like. So even the standard of “international personality” turns out to be rather complicated. See F. H. Williamson, “The International Postal Service and the Universal Postal Union,” Journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs 9, no. 1 (1930): 68–78.

(106.) The unofficial character of modern informal empires applies not only to interstate informal empires, such as the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, but also to sovereign states that govern at least some of their territory through imperial logics and techniques. Both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China currently organize at least some of their domestic politics along imperial lines. Beijing has long engaged in settler colonialism—a conscious policy of shifting the ethnic composition of regions in favor of Han Chinese—in Tibet and Xinjiang. The Republic of Chechnya—a constituent political unit of the Russian Federation—is currently ruled by a local potentate, Ramzan Kadyrov, installed by Moscow and given wide latitude so long as he keeps it quiescent. Moreover, a number of sovereign states retain control of imperial dependencies. Consider the relationship between Guam and the United States or the British Overseas Territories, such as the Turks and Caicos Islands. See Charles King, “Crisis in the Caucasus: A New Look at Russia’s Chechen Impasse,” Foreign Affairs 82, no. 2 (March 2003): 134–39; Musgrave and Nexon, “States of Empire”; McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon, “Beyond Anarchy”; Ross Terrill, The New Chinese Empire: And What It Means for the United States (New York: Basic Books, 2004).

(107.) Paul Musgrave and Daniel Nexon, “Defending Hierarchy from the Moon to the Indian Ocean: Symbolic Capital and Political Dominance in Early Modern China and the Cold War,” International Organization 72, no. 3 (2018): 662.

(108.) Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, “Defending the West: Occidentalism and the Formation of NATO,” Journal of Political Philosophy 11, no. 3 (2003): 223–52; Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, Civilizing the Enemy: German Reconstruction and the Invention of the West (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006).

(109.) Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon, “Interpersonal Networks and International Security,” in The New Power Politics: Networks and Transnational Security Governance, ed. Deborah D. Avant and Oliver Westerwinter (New York: Oxford University Press 2016), 74–102; Kreiger, Souma, and Nexon, “US Military Diplomacy”; Tom Long, Latin America Confronts the United States: Asymmetry and Influence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

(110.) See Nikhil Kalyanpur, “Hegemony, Inequality, and the Quest for Primacy,” Journal of Global Security Studies 3, no. 3 (2018): 371–84, https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogy009; Carla Norrlof, “Hegemony and Inequality: Trump and the Liberal Playbook,” International Affairs 94, no. 1 (2018): 63–88.

(111.) See Go, Patterns; Anders Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right (New York: Hill and Wang, 1995).

(112.) See Stephen Wertheim, “Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy in World War II” (PhD dissertation, Columbia University, 2015); Wertheim, “Instrumental Internationalism.”

(113.) Michael Mastanduno, “Partner Politics: Russia, China, and the Challenge of Extending U.S. Hegemony after the Cold War,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (2019): 479–50.

(114.) Kreiger, Souma, and Nexon, “US Military Diplomacy,” 229. Marina Henke shows that “diplomatic embeddedness”—“the sum of bilateral and multilateral institutional ties that link the United States to a third party”—gives Washington significant advantages when figuring out how to craft incentives for other states to join its military coalitions. Marina E. Henke, “The Politics of Diplomacy: How the United States Builds Multilateral Military Coalitions,” International Studies Quarterly 61, no. 2 (June 2017): 410–11, https://doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqx017. On how American ordering activities build social capital, see Ikenberry, Leviathan, 353.

(115.) Lake, Hierarchy.

(116.) Abraham Newman and Daniel H. Nexon, “Trump Says American Allies Should Spend More on Defense. Here’s Why He’s Wrong,” Vox, February 16, 2017, https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/2/16/14635204/burden-sharing-allies-nato-trump.

(117.) Brands, “Fools Rush Out?,” 19; see also Norrlof, Global Advantage; Norrlof, “Dollar Hegemony.”

(118.) Cooley and Nexon, “Interpersonal.”

(119.) US foreign policy, the American system, and international order not only interact with and shape one another, but the boundaries among them shift over time. Moreover, international order is always a shorthand for a kind of amalgam of multiple regional and issue-specific orders; “liberal order” itself is often a blunt way of talking about liberal characteristics that can be found, to varying degrees, in each of the three.

(120.) See Daniel W. Drezner, “Counter-Hegemonic Strategies in the Global Economy,” Security Studies 28, no. 3 (June–July 2019): 505–31, https://doi.org/10.1080/09636412.2019.1604985; Barry Eichengreen, Exorbitant Privilege: The Rise and Fall of the Dollar and the Future of the International Monetary System (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Norrlof, Global Advantage; Norrlof, “Dollar Hegemony”; Carla Norrlof and William C. Wohlforth, “Is US Grand Strategy Self-Defeating? Deep Engagement, Military Spending and Sovereign Debt,” Conflict Management and Peace (p.225) Science 36, no. 3 (2019), 21, https://doi.org/10.1177/0738894216674953; Herman Mark Schwartz, “American Hegemony: Intellectual Property Rights, Dollar Centrality, and Infrastructural Power,” Review of International Political Economy 26, no. 3 (2019): 490–519, https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2019.1597754; Susan Strange, “The Persistent Myth of Lost Hegemony,” International Organization 41, no. 4 (1987): 551–74, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300027600; Susan Strange, States and Markets, (London: Bloomsbury, 2015).

(121.) Thomas Oatley et al., “The Political Economy of Global Finance: A Network Model,” Perspectives on Politics 11, no. 1 (2013): 140–41, https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592712003593.

(122.) Compare John Mearsheimer, “Back to the Future: Instability in Europe after the Cold War,” International Security 15, no. 1 (Summer 1990): 5–56; Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. In nominal terms, all of these countries had larger economies than Russia in 2014, the year that Moscow intervened in Ukraine.

(123.) Freedom House, “Freedom in the World 2007,” https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2007, accessed July 29, 2019.

(124.) Daniel W Drezner, The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(125.) Ikenberry, After Victory; G. John Ikenberry, “America’s Imperial Ambition,” Foreign Affairs 81, no. 5 (September 2002): 44–60; Ikenberry, Leviathan.

(126.) See Daniel H. Nexon, “Toward a Neo-Progressive Foreign Policy,” Foreign Affairs, September 4, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2018-09-04/toward-neo-progressive-foreign-policy.

(127.) The term has strongly anti-semitic overtones. See Rachel Barenblatt, “Yes, Ranting against ‘Globalism’ Is Anti-Semitic,” The Forward, October 24, 2018, https://forward.com/scribe/412627/yes-ranting-against-globalism-is-anti-semitic/; Talia Lavin, “Conspiracy Theories about Soros Aren’t Just False. They’re Anti-Semitic,” Washington Post, October 24, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/10/24/conspiracy-theories-about-soros-arent-just-false-theyre-anti-semitic/; Daniel H. Nexon, “Why the Right-Wing War on George Soros Matters,” Lawyers, Guns & Money (blog), August 6, 2017, http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/08/right-wing-war-george-soros-matters.

(128.) Although US President Woodrow Wilson is often associated with liberal variants of national self-determination, his position on the matter was more complicated. For discussions, see Allen Lynch, “Woodrow Wilson and the Principle of ‘National Self-Determination’: A Reconsideration,” Review of International Studies 28, no. 2 (2002), 419–36 https://doi.org/10.1017/S0260210502004199; Trygve Throntveit, “The Fable of the Fourteen Points: Woodrow Wilson and National Self-Determination,” Diplomatic History 35, no. 3 (2011): 445–81, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.2011.00959.x.

(129.) Wright, All Measures Short of War, 16–29.

(130.) See Michael Desch, “America’s Liberal Illiberalism: The Ideological Origins of Overreaction in U.S. Foreign Policy,” International Security 32, no. 3 (Winter 2007/2008): 7–43; Jahn, Liberal Internationalism; Jonathan Monten, “The Roots of the Bush Doctrine: Power, Nationalism, and Democracy Promotion in U.S. Strategy,” International Security 29, no. 4 (Spring 2005): 112–56; Musgrave and Nexon, “States of Empire”; Mukherjee, “Two Cheers”; Musgrave and Nexon, “American Liberalism and the Imperial Temptation”; Stephanson, Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right.