Imposing law and order: intolerant idealism in British and American foreign policy Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Garagiola, Meredith Noël
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • One of the most dominant ideological trends of the past three centuries in the foreign policies of Western powers has been the paradox of intolerance motivated by idealism. Such policies have been known by many names, from “good governance” and “best political practices” during the nineteenth century to “democracy exportation” and “freedom promotion” in recent years. Yet no matter the nomenclature, the underlying principle of these policies remains the same: intolerance for modes of political expression that deviate from the normative bases of the dominant nation’s system. The historical record of course does not provide a clear-cut answer to the question of what a dominant nation should tolerate in the social and political systems of its colonial sub-states. In all cases of imperial expansion—both formal and informal—there exists the challenge of finding the correct balance between aspects of self-rule that should be tolerated and those that should not. This paper will examine some of these policies and the ideology underpinning them, both in the historical context of the British Empire and in their modern-day reincarnation as part of American grand strategic policies. First, we will outline the background and dominant principles of the Anglo-American imperial mindset, as well as their significance to the development of British and American political thought both historically and in the modern era. Second, we will consider the impact of intolerance in societal organization generally before examining it in the context of imperial control. Third, we will briefly discuss the rise of the British Empire and the development of the British imperial mindset in order to understand how the combination of intolerance, idealism, and the desire for imperial control motivated the development of the British Empire and the British national consciousness. Fourth, we will look to the example of the Sepoy Mutiny in India as a case study of the limits of intolerant idealism as a means of social control. Following this we will examine the modern American incorporation of the doctrine of intolerant idealism into American imperial activities abroad, and the extent to which this represents a continuation of the British tradition. Finally the conclusion will discuss the modern practice of Western-led international institutions’ encouragement of self-abnegation in the establishment of democratic regimes, and the implications this practice has for globalization and the future development of the international world order.
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  • Searing, Donald
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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