Ikenberry

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America's Imperial Ambition Author(s): G. John Ikenberry Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 81, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 2002), pp. 44-60 Published by: Council on Foreign Relations Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20033268 . Accessed: 05/04/2011 22:17
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America's

Imperial G.

Ambition

fohn Ikenberry

THE

LURES

OFPREEMPTION

war IN THE SHADOWS theBush administration's on terrorism, of and new ideasarecirculating about U.S. grandstrategy the sweeping Americanunilateral restructuring oftoday's unipolar world.They callfor andpreemptive, evenpreventive, of force,facilitated possibleby use if coalitionsof the by willing-but ultimatelyunconstrained the rules At andnorms ofthe international community. theextreme,these notions form a neoimperialvision inwhich theUnited States arrogatesto determiningthreats, using itself theglobal roleof setting standards,
which sovereignty becomes force, andmeting out justice. It is a vision in

more absolute forAmerica even as it becomesmore conditional of and for countriesthatchallenge Washington's standards internal
external behavior. It is a vision made necessary-atleast in the eyes of its advocates-by the new and apocalyptic character of contemporary

terrorist threatsand by America'sunprecedented global dominance. and couldtransform world ideas impulses today's These radical strategic
order in away that the end of theCold War, strangely enough, did not.

in of The exigencies fightingterrorism Afghanistanand thedebate over interveningin Iraqobscure theprofundityof thisgeopolitical
challenge. Blueprints have not been produced, andYalta-style summits have not been convened, but actions are afoot to dramatically alter the political order that theUnited States has built with its partners since

of the 1940s. The twinnew realities our age-catastrophic terrorism
G. JOHN IKENBERRYis Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Global JusticeatGeorgetown University and a regularbook reviewer for Foreign Affairs. His most recent book is After Victory: Institutions, Major Wars. StrategicRestraint, and theRebuilding of Order.After

[44]

Americas ImperialAmbition
and American unipolar power-do necessitate a rethinking of the

order. America and the other organizingprinciplesof international
major states do need a new consensus onterrorist threats,weapons of mass destruction (WMD),the use of force, and the global rules of the game. This imperative requires a better appreciation of the ideas coming out of the administration. But in turn, the administration should understand the virtues of the old order that itwishes to displace. America's nascent neoimperial grand strategy threatens to rend the fabric of the international...
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