George Woodrow Wilson Bush
I’ve long noted the irony that neo-conservatism is the furthest thing from conservatism. In fact, it is the logical successor to Woodrow Wilson’s imperialistic vision.
John Ikenberry uses the just-past 150th anniversary of Wilson’s birth and impending 88th anniversary of his 14 Points speech to reflect on the legacy of the 28th President of the United States. He observes that,
George Bush is only the most recent president to simultaneously draw upon and push off against the Wilsonian vision. Depending on who you listen to, Bush is either a direct heir of Woodrow Wilson or the ultimate anti-Wilson. Bush’s neo-con advisors have been described as “Wilsonians in boots.” But the Bush administration has had no use for international law and collective security which is the heart of Wilsonianism.
Then again, as noted foreign policy expert Matthew Yglesias observes, “George W. Bush perfectly authentically represents the first, imperialistic version of Wilson and Wilsonianism.” Indeed, one suspects Wilson himself would have long since recognized the practical futility of international organizations affecting his international vision. As Ikenberry observes, “Wilson used military force in an attempt to teach [constitutional government to] Southern republics, intervening in Cuba, the Dominion Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.”
The impulse behind those interventions and the Iraq War are similar. They were theoretically and morally sound yet overly ambitious in practice. There’s simply no serious debate but that representative democracy is conducive to peaceful international relations and human rights. Historically, however, armed intervention by foreign powers has yet to prove an effective means of establishing it.
While most supporters of Wilson and Bush would quickly declaim any notion that their foreign policy vision are similar, it’s hard to discount the parallels.