In the late 1700s, the philosopher Immanuel Kant put forth a vision of universal peace in which nations would subordinate themselves to principles and entities that would make this possible. Many shared this vision, with good reason. It was believed to have “norms, rules and institutions” that were respected, creating a system that was stable, predictable and able to manage disagreements without creating conflict. Many believe we had achieved that order, which they called the liberal international order, and that it’s now dying. They mourn the loss.
The problem is that the liberal order never really existed. And their nostalgia is dangerous if what they pine for is a fiction.
Not that there weren’t attempts to create such an order. There were three tries in the past century. The first came after the end of World War I. Europe was horrified by what it had done to itself. The United States introduced the idea of a League of Nations that would manage international friction t
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