The United States, in preparing for a multi-polar future, should embrace an updated, practical version of the liberal order created in the post Second World War environment. In an increased word of competition, non-state actors, and international challenges, it is better to have allies on point so we can govern our sphere in tandem and jointly. I should note the concept of this idea was first made by David Kilcullen in his book “The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West,” which he refers to as the Byzantium option, based on the long-lasting Byzantine Empire of CE 330-1453. As I am an American citizen and interested in international affairs, being a liberal internationalist comes naturally to me. We as Americans and as prominent members of the international community must help mitigate the worst and alleviate humanity from desperate situations.
By fostering cooperation, alliances and institutions over depraved amoral geopolitics the U.S. is working toward a better world. Now these concepts sound positive but what is the result of such continual progress? Mass vaccination campaigns, the overall decreasing frequency of inter and intra state violence, increasing women’s legal and educational rights across the developed world, developing shared international legal structures through treaties like the ICJ and ICC, and life expectancy to just name a few. Structures provide growth and require constant continual updates. Gains of the past cannot be lost due to disruptions at home. That is why I am proud to call myself a liberal internationalist; it is a calling to do the best for my fellow human being. COVID-19 is an excellent example where we could lead other states in a joint plan of action against a virus which does not care about the borders humans make. Building new international legal structures or treaties is hard but necessary work in a world where change seems to be the only constant.
We as an international community must adapt to fast technologies like cyber-space, evolving science-based question, trans-national crime (e.g., human and drug trafficking), intra-state development issues, which manifests into violence, and gender-based discrimination issues just to name a few. To paraphrase Hans J. Morgenthau, a country should never give up advantages and never do anything that would decrease their influence. So why would we relinquish control over a system which has benefited us? Of course, these issues are inherently disjointed, complex, and opaque. It is easy to understand why Americans are frustrated with U.S. foreign policy practitioners – years of missteps like the Iraq War and NATO expansion have led to lives lost and value prestige gone.
With the Byzantium option, domestic concerns and foreign concerns are not spared at each other’s expense. The United States can chew gum (needed domestic infrastructure) and walk (provide foreign aid programs) at the same time. These liberal institutions are set up so problems can be mitigated straight from the source, as Sec. Albright says “We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” As much as the cost might seem in continual involvement at a mitigated Byzantium level; the cost of no intervention far outweighs it, especially with the only alternative war as a realistic option when crisis reach a fever pitch. Best to send in the dedicated civil servants first before we set a course for calamity.