The Liberal International Order: A Dual Policy Crisis
America emerged from World War II an economic and military superpower. Decision makers in Washington used this unique moment in world history to construct the liberal international order: a system of institutions and norms conducive to democratic governance. Today, this international system faces a dual threat. China, an authoritarian state, is challenging American supremacy and shifting the global balance of power. In Western capitals, populists are assuming positions of influence and undermining centrist governing coalitions—the typical defenders of the liberal order. To preserve the international system, Washington must contend with this dual policy crisis. The following thesis explores both threats and offers two arguments: (1) populism has a distinct international origin and (2) America is in a state of relative decline amidst the world’s shifting balance of power. The final chapter of this thesis offers domestic and foreign policy recommendations designed to bolster the liberal order in light of these two arguments.