Should liberal states promote their values abroad? Is force a legitimate tool in advancing these goals?

Essay by sukhvalhallaUniversity, Bachelor'sB, April 2008

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Since the post-World War 1 period, Liberalism has been actively advanced by Western (or 'first-world') states as a desirable system of political theory. According to Dunne (in Baylis & Smith 2001, pp. 163), the basis for its appeal stems from the fact that Liberalism is viewed as inherently 'optimistic', making it a natural counter-theory to the Realist theories advanced by practitioners of realpolitik in the past (feudalism, dictatorships etc.). What makes Liberalism 'optimistic' in a sense is that, as an ideology, it is fundamentally anchored around the liberty of the individual, and furthermore, strives for global peace. Considering the rampant destruction and bloodshed experienced by many of the states involved in both the World Wars, it would logically follow that states would find it in their best interests to have a political system in place which would provide them with the tools necessary to avoid military conflict as far as possible.

But as history has shown us, the advancement of liberal values has not always been done through peaceful means, and indeed, one only has to look at the disaster that was the Vietnam War and the current war in Iraq to notice the forceful strategies utilised in an attempt to advance those very goals. And at a recent war protest in the US, Justin Cliburn, an ex-army veteran, was quoted as saying that "We're occupying a people who do not want us there" (Barakat 2007, 'More than 190 Arrested at Iraq Protest', The Guardian). Cliburn had served in Iraq and knew first-hand the attitudes of the Iraqi people, and from his experiences, saw that not everyone embraced the glowing torch of liberty. It thus begs the question: should liberal states be actively trying to promote and instil their values abroad? And if so, is force - a tool apparently...