[Event] WHS with G. John Ikenberry on A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order

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Please join us for a Washington History Seminar Panel with G. John Ikenberry on A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order

Monday, October 5 at 4:00 pm EST

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Space in the Zoom webinar is available on a first-come first-serve basis and fills up very quickly, if you are unable to join the session or receive an error message you can still watch on the NHC's Facebook Page or the Wilson Center website.



For two hundred years, the grand project of liberal internationalism has been to build a world order that is open, loosely rules-based, and oriented toward progressive ideas. Today this project is in crisis, threatened from the outside by illiberal challengers and from the inside by nationalist-populist movements. A World Safe for Democracy offers the first full account of liberal internationalism’s long journey from its nineteenth-century roots, through the great upheavals of the 20th century and to today’s fractured political moment. Along the way, the book engages both realist and revisionist-left critics, from E.H. Carr and John Mearsheimer to critical theorists of liberalism and empire. Liberal internationalism has built its projects on both imperial and Westphalian foundations, and its project were carried into the 20th century on the backs of other grand forces – nationalism, capitalism, empire and imperialism, great power rivalry, and Anglo-American hegemony. This has been both its strength and weakness. No liberal state has ever acted in international affairs solely on the basis of liberal principles. But the spaces opened up within even a deeply flawed liberal international order create opportunities for political struggles that can bring the order closer to its founding ideals. The book goes on to talk about the post-1989 era and offers an explanation for what worked and what did not. Creating an international “space” for liberal democracy, preserving rights and protections within and between countries, and balancing conflicting values such as liberty and equality, openness and social solidarity, and sovereignty and interdependence—these are the guiding aims that have propelled liberal internationalism through the upheavals of the past two centuries. Ikenberry argues that in a twenty-first century marked by rising economic and security interdependence, liberal internationalism—reformed and reimagined—remains the most viable project to protect liberal democracy.


G. John Ikenberry, Princeton University

Robert Litwak, Woodrow Wilson Center

G. John Ikenberry is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University in the Department of Politics and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. He is also Co-Director of Princeton’s Center for International Security Studies. Ikenberry is also a Global Eminence Scholar at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Korea. In 2013-2014 Ikenberry was the 72nd Eastman Visiting Professor at Balliol College, Oxford. Professor Ikenberry is the author of seven books, including Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American System (Princeton, 2011). His book, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton, 2001), won the 2002 Schroeder-Jervis Award presented by the American Political Science Association for the best book in international history and politics. Ikenberry is also the editor or co-editor of fourteen books and has authored 130 journal articles, essays, and book chapters. Professor Ikenberry is the co-director of the Princeton Project on National Security. Among his many activities, Professor Ikenberry served as a member of the Policy Planning Staff in 1991-92, as a member of an advisory group at the State Department in 2003-04, and as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on U.S.-European relations, the so-called Kissinger-Summers commission.

Robert S. Litwak is senior vice president and director of international security studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is also a consultant to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Litwak served on the National Security Council staff as director for nonproliferation in the first Clinton administration. He was an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Oxford University. Dr. Litwak is author of Outlier States: American Strategies to Contain, Engage, or Change Regimes (2012), and most recently, Nuclear Crises with North Korea and Iran: From Transformational to Transactional Diplomacy (2019). He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and received his doctorate from the London School of Economics.

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