Exclusive interview with Professor Nader Entessar
Dr. Nader Entessar is Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, University of South Alabama. Below is the text of the exclusive interview of Asre Andisheh with Prof. Entessar:
Professor John Mearsheimer in his book “The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities” argued that liberal hegemony, the foreign policy pursued by the United States since the Cold War ended, is doomed to fail. If you agree with this, Why Did the U.S. pursued liberal hegemony after World War II? Which factors led the United States to pursue liberal hegemony?
Yes, I agree with the general thrust of Mearsheimer's thesis about the challenges facing liberal hegemony today. After the end of World War II, the United States was the only major Western country that had managed to survive the physical devastation of that war and was in a unique position to lead the reconstruction of the West and challenge the nascent challenge of the Soviet Union. Europe was not in a position to object to America's dominant political and economic role and thus accepted Washington's hegemony in the emerging Western pole. Liberal hegemony also provided America's allies in Europe and Asia the opportunity to rebuild their war-torn countries under the umbrella of Washington's hegemony. In short, the period following the end of World War II was the most opportune moment for the United States to promote its vision of liberal hegemony under the slogans of global peace, prosperity, and stability.
Mearsheimer also argue that was not possible in either a bipolar system, like we had during the Cold War, or in the multipolar world that we are now moving into liberal hegemony. Unipolarity, in short, enabled the United States to pursue liberal hegemony. In other words, he argues that after World War II, the U.S. should pursue realistic foreign policy. What is your assessment?
Although the Cold War era is generally described as a period when bipolarity was the norm, the bipolarity of the Cold War era was tilted in the direction of the West. That is, the Soviet Union was never able to construct a workable alternative to the American-led liberal global hegemony. Although the Soviet Union was able to develop a strong military counterpart to confront the West in many parts of the world, the Soviet-bloc remained economically weak throughout the period of the Cold War. As a consequence, some foreign policy thinkers and theorists in the West, especially in the United States, were of the opinion that the Soviet Union would ultimately implode and that a foreign policy based on liberal hegemony would hasten the demise of the Soviet Union and what was referred to as the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.
According to the liberal hegemony, international regimes such as NATO, IMF, World Bank, WTO and so on are essential for preserving the U.S. long-term national interest. What is your opinion?
The entire post-Cold War edifice of international order was based on establishing institutions that would sustain liberal i9nternational hegemony. The institutions that you mentioned were certainly among the leading institutions of the Western-led order of the Cold War era. Without such institutions, the hegemonic liberal order would not have been able to sustain itself. Although many of these institutions are still around, they are to some extent relics of a bygone era and are constantly trying to reinvent themselves and maintain their relevance in the post-Cold War period.
President Trump is against international regimes such as WTO, NATO, etc. If you agree with this, can we say that President Trump foreign policy is according to realism and not liberal hegemony?
Trump is not against the international institution per se. Trump wants to use these institutions to promote his vision of US interests. When he finds policies of international institutions not to his liking, then he opposes them. In other words, he views international institutions and existing international regimes as instruments for the furtherance of American foreign policy goals and nothing more.
According to Mearsheimer, liberalism as a political system and liberalism as a foreign policy are two different things. A foreign policy like liberal hegemony is bound to fail because it invariably runs up against nationalism and realism, which are much more powerful forces than liberalism. According to the rise of nationalism and right-wing parties in the EU, can we say that liberalism is at its end?
Liberalism and liberal ideals have certainly been challenged in many Western countries, including in the United States, in recent years. Forces of extremism, xenophobic nationalism and sociopolitical bigotry have been ascending at an alarming rate in countries that have traditionally upheld or paid lip service to liberal ideas and ideals. Empirical evidence supports the notion of the decline of liberalism but I do not believe liberalism has reached its end yet.
Some argue that the emergence of China and the reawakening of Russia will lead the United States to return to realism. What is your opinion?
Both China and Russia still play a secondary role in international relations. These two countries have not shown any serious desire to challenge the United States politically, militarily and economically. Of course, China, and to a lesser extent, Russia have been active in defending their national security interests in their respective geographic regions in recent years, but their reawakening has not resulted in creating a new international order.
Which school of International Relations theories is in the best position for describing recent era?
In the age of Trumpism, the theory of compellence is the most dominant theory of international relations. Compellence may not be the enduring face of international relations in the long run but it is enjoying its revival today in the United States. The problem with the discipline of international relations is that it has long been dominated by Western, especially American, thinking. Therefore, whichever theory becomes dominant in the American discourse on foreign policy, it translates itself into the prevailing theory of international relations.