Imorgon, världen

Mats Björkenfeldt

Den amerikanske historikern Stephen Wertheims nya bok Tomorrow, the world . The birth of U.S. global supremacy (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020) är värd att uppmärksammas.

Amerikaner hävdade tidigt att deras nation var exceptionell därför att man inte sökte militär överhöghet över den resterande världen. Många skulle ifrågasätta detta, då Amerikas förenta stater 1898, efter ett krig med Spanien, kom att hålla Filippinerna och Porto Rico som kolonier. Härigenom bröts ett mönster, då man tidigare endast haft begär efter land i närheten. Men USA sökte alliansfrihet och var inte intresserat av europeiskt intrigspel; ”they promoted international law as an alternative to rivalry and conflict”, framhåller Wertheim.

Förvisso gick USA in i första världskriget 1917, “but in order to defend its legal rights as a neutral state rather than reconfigure the European balance of power”. Samtidigt önskade många amerikaner att en världsorganisation bildades, som kunde garantera den kommande freden.

I mitten av 1940-talet kom en väsentlig förändring i amerikanernas syn på sin roll i världen. President Truman deklarerade: “We must relentlessly preserve our superiority on land and sea and in the air.” Sovjetunionen sågs som ett hot. Det kalla kriget hade startat. Och efter Sovjets upplösning 1991, minskade inte aptiten: “Instead of declaring victory and bringing its troops home, the United States persisted in its pursuit of dominance and in fact resolved to seek greater supremacy than ever before.”

Till exempel president Gerald Ford förklarade politiken med “the leadership role that has been thrust upon us by fate”. Och han fortsatte: “the fact is the United States of America is today the world’s best and perhaps its only hope of peace with freedom.” För Wertheim har ödet ingen roll här, utan det är fråga om val. Och boken visar ”how global supremacy first became imaginable and desirable as U.S. elites lost faith in ideas of internationalism”.

Boken är indelad i följande kapitel:

Introduction. The Decision for Dominance

1   Internationalism before “Isolationism,” 1776–1940

2   World War for World Order, May–December 1940

3   The Americo-British New Order of 1941

4   Instrumental Internationalism, 1941–1943

5   The Debate That Wasn’t, 1942–1945

Conclusion.A Distinctly American Internationalism.


En viktig person i boken är Quincy Wright (1890 –1970), en av de mest berömda amerikanska folkrättsjuristerna. År 1945, som många kallade “the triumph of internationalism”, talade inte Quincy Wright “triumphantly”. “Yet when the U.N. Charter came into being, Wright was sober. In his judgment, the U.N. was better than isolationism but by no means realized Woodrow Wilson’s vision of creating an ‘opinion, permeating the public of every important nation, prepared to subordinate immediate national interests to world law.’ Power politics, produced by clashing interests of separate states, was not about to be replaced by a superior organization animated by the good of the whole. Instead, Wright admitted, ‘power politics is today the basis of the world’s political organization.’ The new institution did incorporate several different kinds of bodies, but the most important one, the Security Council, constituted a ‘world empire’ run by the most powerful nations. Wright still refused to reduce internationalism to the projection of American power. But if he illustrated how prewar internationalists had sought something other than U.S. global supremacy, he leveled no criticisms of the new world role adopted by his colleagues. Rather than confront American power, Wright emphasized world opinion.

The way forward, he wrote, was to begin again to cultivate a global public disposed to put the welfare of humankind first. The United Nations could evolve into a world state only on the foundation of a ‘world state of mind’ however long that took. Until then, states could not trust their security to international law and organization, so they had to look out for themselves. Placing faith in a ‘still inchoate world opinion not yet aware of itself,’ Wright divorced his residual prewar internationalism from his prescriptions for U.S. foreign policy. In the late 1940s, as he helped to pen the Preliminary Draft of a World Constitution, Wright supported the Truman Doctrine, a landmark in the advent of the Cold War that pledged U.S. support for nations resisting communism. ‘It is regrettable,’ he wrote, ‘that we must play the game of power politics until the United Nations is strong enough.’ Little separated Wright’s outlook from that of Hans Morgenthau and other first-generation ‘realists’ who created the academic field of international relations and championed power politics until the distant day when world federation might arrive. In 1966, four years before his death, Wright saw American B-52s over Vietnam and no world constitution on the horizon. He was ready to reckon with U.S. supremacy. He wrote to Walter Lippmann, himself dismayed by the indiscriminate use of American power, that ‘the trouble with the American people is that they do not recognize the difference between ‘imperialism’ and ‘internationalism.’

In the 1940s the country ‘jumped from ‘isolationism’ to ‘imperialism,’ ‘acquiring a taste for unilateral intervention everywhere in order to remake the world in the image of the United States. Wright recognized the same impulse in the imperialism of Rudyard Kipling’s Britain. No longer willing to assume the best of U.S. policymakers, he specified exactly what they needed to do: ‘We should renounce unilateral intervention in both Europe and Asia’; accept Ho Chi Minh’s victory in a unified Vietnam; and bring both Germanys, both Koreas, and Communist China into the United Nations. ‘Such are the policies,’ after all, ‘to which we committed ourselves in the San Francisco Charter.’ Were they? Although newly critical of American supremacy, Wright continued to think within the ideology that underpinned it. In World War II, Americans told themselves they were casting off isolationism and committing, through the U.N. Charter, to build a just and durable order. Far from openly espousing imperialism, imperialism, foreign policy elites generated a surfeit of terms to evoke the scale of imperial power while sidestepping its moral undertones: the American Century, Pax Democratica, the Grand Area, world leadership. Their favorite formula called on Americans to graduate from isolationism into precisely the internationalism in which Wright still invested his hopes. The American people did not necessarily fail to appreciate what this kind of internationalism meant. It was Wright who misunderstood. He did not see that so long as the phantom of isolationism is held to be the most grievous sin, all is permitted.” Så avslutas boken.

Professor Stephen M. Walt, ofta uppmärksammad på denna sajt, skriver i en recension av boken: ”Americans now believe global leadership is their birthright; this splendid book uncovers the origins of that conviction. Wertheim’s detailed analysis of strategic planning before and during World War II shows that the pursuit of global primacy was a conscious choice, made by a foreign policy elite that equated ‘internationalism’ with the active creation of a world order based on U.S. military preponderance. Myths about the seductive dangers of ‘isolationism’ helped marginalize alternative perspectives, leaving armed dominance and military interventionism as the default settings for U.S. foreign policy. A carefully researched and beautifully written account, Tomorrow, the World sheds new light on a critical period in U.S. history and reminds us that internationalism can take many different forms.”

Undertecknad är böjd att instämma i dessa ord.