From 'Liberal War' to 'Liberal Militarism': United States security policy as the promotion of military modernity
242 - 261 (19)
Critical Military Studies
MetadataShow full item record
The connection between liberalism and war has been a persistent recent focus in security studies. A large critical literature on liberal war has developed, ranging from viewing such wars as predicated on expanding spaces of capitalist accumulation to seeing them as techniques of a global liberal governmentality. However, this critical literature needs to be complemented by an institutional approach to militarism that links liberal war with broader societal dynamics of warfare. The article argues that the concept of ‘liberal militarism’ provides a means to better historicize and institutionalize liberal war beyond the sharp edge of military interventions, connecting liberal war to broader institutional manifestations of war preparations and war making, which are also fundamentally linked to liberal approaches to modernization. The article uses the example of the United States during the Cold War and after to demonstrate that liberal approaches to modernization were explicitly formulated as key to US foreign and security policy, a form of ‘military modernity’. The article further analyses US foreign policy in terms of the military modernity of ‘security assistance’ in the Obama administration. Seeing liberal militarism through the lens of US-led modernization efforts draws on important insights from the critical literature on liberalism and war, but emphasizes the historical institutionalization of military power as central to understanding its durability.