Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
CGS Banner

G. John Ikenberry

America's Liberal Grand Strategy: World Order After The Cold War

G. John Ikenberry is the Peter F. Krogh Professor of Global Justice at Georgetown University, with an appointment in both the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Government Department. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania and held posts at the State Department (Policy Planning) and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Senior Associate). He is also a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institutions in Washington, D.C. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1985.

During 1998-99, Professor Ikenberry was an international scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., which is part of the Smithsonian Institution. During 1997-98, Professor Ikenberry was an Hitachi International Affairs Fellow, awarded by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and spent the year affiliated with the Institute for International Policy Studies in Tokyo. Ikenberry has recently been awarded major grants (in collaboration with Professor Takashi Inoguchi of the University of Tokyo) by the U.S.-Japan Foundation and the Committee for Global Partnership for a multi-year project on "United States and Japanese Collaboration on Regional Security and Governance." He is also the reviewer of books on political and legal affairs for Foreign Affairs.

Professor Ikenberry recently completed a book about the politics of order formation after major wars, titled After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars (Princeton, 2001). This book explores the politics of major historical postwar settlements and develops an institutional theory of order formation in world politics. He is working on a book for the Brookings Institution on the liberal tradition and American foreign policy entitled, Strategies of Engagement: The Liberal Tradition and American Foreign Policy. Professor Ikenberry is also completing a book with Professor Joseph Grieco on State Power and the World Economy, which will be published next year by Norton Press

Professor Ikenberry is also the author of Reasons of State: Oil Politics and the Capacities of American Government (Cornell, 1988); and The State, with John A. Hall (Minnesota, 1989) which has been translated into several languages, including French, Spanish, and Japanese. He is author and co-editor of The State and American Foreign Economic Policy, with Michael Mastanduno and David Lake (Cornell, 1988). He has also edited a volume, with Michael Doyle, on New Thinking in International Relations (Westview, 1997). A new book, co-edited with Michael Cox and Takashi Inoguchi, U.S. Democracy Promotion: Impulses, Strategies, and Impacts (Oxford, 2000) has just been published. Professor Ikenberry is also co-editor of the forthcoming book, The Emerging International Relations of the Asia-Pacific Region. This volume assesses the relevance of Western theories of international relations for understanding the emerging relations between Japan, China, and the United States. He has also just finished edited a book entitled American Unipolarity and the Future of the Balance of Power. He has published in all the major academic journals of international relations and written widely in policy journals.

Among many activities, Professor Ikenberry chaired a study group on "Democracy and Discontent" at the Council on Foreign Relations in 1993-94, served as a senior staff member on the 1992 Carnegie Commission on the Reorganization of Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy (the "Holbrooke Commission"), and co-authored Atlantic Frontiers: A New Agenda for U.S.-EC Relations, (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1993). He has lectured throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
America's Liberal Grand Strategy:  World Order After the Cold War

The following was extracted from a speech given by G. John Ikenberry at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, on April 26, 2001.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union, in December of 1991, and the consequent end of the Cold War was one of the great formative events of our time. Yet the reaction in the United States was not celebration over its apparent victory, but anxiety over the future. What would become of world order now that the bipolar balance, maintained by the two superpowers for nearly fifty years, had been upset? Throughout the 1990's speculation abounded. Would NATO disband? Would there be a return to power politics with Japan and Germany rearming themselves and world order reverting to its pre-World War II form? Would the nations of the world dissolve into regional blocks such as the EU, ASEAN, or NAFTA, pitting the "three capitalisms" espoused by Europe, Asia and the United States against one another?

The challenge for the United States was to find how to use its newly acquired power to create a balanced world order in spite of the great imbalance in world power. The problem was unprecedented; the United States is the most powerful nation in history in terms of military and economic might. Never before has there been such a gap between the most powerful and second most powerful nations on Earth, inspiring the term "hyperpower" and becoming the cause of much concern on the part of allies and foes alike. The problem accompanying U.S. hegemony is that the great economic, political and military power of the United States is, within itself, destabilizing. The United States holds the power to single-handedly strengthen or derail major international agreements, creating an odd situation in which the world needs U.S. support to make its endeavors viable more than the United States needs the world for its own successes.

The answer to the United States' challenge of promoting a stable world order lay in the global and regional institutions it had been building for decades. Multilateral endeavors such as the 1933 Sterling Bloc had laid the groundwork for the future. Efforts and institutions such as the Marshall Plan and Bretton Woods Act had been constructive for more than keeping Soviet power in check, contributing to the prevention of radical shifts in power following the Cold War through providing incentives for cooperation and alliances. The multilateral institutions of today govern everything from trade, to aid, to arms control, creating and enforcing international norms to which it is in the best interest of nations, large and small, to adhere. Institution- building has been a way of investing in the future, employing democracy and capitalism to shape a new type of global order, and opening dialogue between the nations of the world.

The key, for great nations, to building order is to be able to signal to smaller states that they are not a threat, but a stabilizer, and that the legitimacy they seek is not to usurp further power, but to shape the times. And, while the United States has been successful in doing this, there has been a paradox in its leadership style; the United States is simultaneously one of the biggest violators of international agreements and one of the greatest supporters of international law. The United States has aggravated the world with its stubborn enforcement of the Helms-Burton Act; its refusal to pay UN dues or to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; and its abandonment of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, it has been the backbone of NATO and the WTO, and has made major investments in global nonproliferation.

The strength of today's world order has been the binding agreement on which it is based. The United States' method of building order has been to empower global institutions through creating member alliances with the purpose of attaining shared objectives, making it to the strategic advantage of other nations to negotiate differences and join the U.S. in laying the path to the future, rather than opposing the U.S. in the present. Thus, nations, in combining forces with the United States, gain the superpower as an ally, reducing the likelihood of it becoming a threat, and, simultaneously, acquiring access to the United States, whether it be to its markets or political influence. Democracy is a necessary component for this binding of power because stability and the agreement of partner nations and their populations is needed to legitimize accords and render international institutions viable. Also, it is in the interest of the United States to take a leadership role in building the future, and not only because of the fact that if it fails to fill this role other governments, such as that of Russia or the European Union, will. It is because although losing a degree of autonomy in creating international rules and norms, the United States gains the ability to steer countries toward desired policy orientations, and to strengthen and enlarge the community of democratic and market-oriented states. In other words, by combining forces, the United States loses some of its independence, but allies become a de-facto extension of its own power, using their energies and resources to pursue like objectives and laying the framework for a common future, turning rivals and enemies into partners.

The challenge for the Bush administration, in looking toward the future, is to successfully continue along the path of institution-building in order to further empower the United States to attain its objective of establishing a stable world order.

Center for Global Security

Topics of Interest