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Imperialists on the Left

I haven’t read much by the revisionist left-wing historian Eric Foner, but I’m led to believe he’s an honest academic, so I was interested to see this interview with him: the Evolution of Liberalism. In the interview, he recommends five books on the topic, including a work by revisionist William Appleman Williams (a historian I’ve been meaning to read). Foner also points out something that every intellectually-honest person on the left realizes but none on the political left admit (emphasis added):

Stretching back to Woodrow Wilson, people who believe in a strong state have been tempted by the idea of spreading the American way throughout the world. It’s not enough for the government to improve American society; they want to remake the world in our image. Liberals generally embrace this Wilsonian vision. Indeed, Obama is a good Wilsonian. Williams’s book remains important because it shows that foreign interventionism and free trade is deeply embedded in liberal history. Williams critiques American foreign policy as a foreign policy of good intentions. Liberals want to improve the world beyond our borders and broaden the rights of people overseas. The imperial temptation is something that liberals succumb to as much as conservatives.

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