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HomeIn-Depth AnalysisWoke Imperium: The Coming Confluence Between Social Justice and Neoconservatism

Woke Imperium: The Coming Confluence Between Social Justice and Neoconservatism

By Christopher Mott

Key Findings

  • The advocates of American primacy within the United States foreign policy establishment historically rely on prevailing ideological trends of the time to justify interventionism abroad. The new ‘woke’ face of American hegemony and projects of empire is designed to project the U.S. as an international moral police rather than a conventional great power—and the result is neo-imperialism with a moral face.
  • This is an iterative and systemic process with an internal logic, not one controlled by a global cabal: when the older rationalizations for primacy, hegemony, and interventionism appear antiquated or are no longer persuasive, a new rationale that better reflects the ruling class norms of the era is adopted as a substitute. This is because the new schema is useful for the maintenance of the existing system of power.
  • The rise of a ‘woke’ activist-driven, social justice-oriented politics—particularly among the members of academia, media, and the professional managerial class—has provided the latest ideological justification for interventionism, and it has become readily adopted by the U.S. foreign policy establishment. These groups now have an even greater level of symbiotic relationship with state actors.
  • Professional selection and advancement under these conditions require elite signaling of loyalty to ‘progressive’ universalism as the trending state-sanctioned ideology, which further fuels the push towards interventionism. This combination of factors encourages a new institutional and elite consensus around trending shibboleths.
  • The emerging hegemonic posture and its moral imperialism are at odds with a sober and realistic appraisal of U.S. interests on the world stage, as they create untenable, maximalist, and utopian goals that clash with the concrete realities on which U.S. grand strategy must be based.
  • The liberal Atlanticist tendency to push moralism and social engineering globally has immense potential to create backlash in foreign, especially non-Western, societies that will come to identify the West as a whole with niche, late-modern progressive ideals—thus motivating new forms of anti-Westernism.

Read the full paper at the download link.


Executive Summary

The primacist, interventionist wing of the United States foreign policy establishment—’the Blob’—has a long history of using prevailing moralist trends to serve as ideological justifications for expansionist and hawkish policies. From Presidents William McKinley and Woodrow Wilson on through the militant democracy promotion of the George W. Bush administration, this process often mutated to accommodate the de jour proclivities and entrenched biases of the policy-making class. The newest iteration of this process is the adoption of social justice causes and rhetoric as the explicit goals of the United States’ foreign policy. Such use and weaponization of the language of justice to advance the foreign policy objectives of the liberal Atlanticist Blob is particularly evident against regions and countries the West believes actively challenge the Liberal International Order (LIO) status quo or where it seeks to justify military and economic interventions on normative grounds.

Rather than a coordinated conspiracy directed from a central organization or even a conscious desire on the part of the participants however, this process of adopting, incorporating, and cultivating new rationales to sustain what is an idealist and internationalist strategic culture in the United States has become routinized. This entrenchment of systemic moralism in the American national security apparatus has been facilitated, and is at least partly driven, by a highly competitive professional class vying to secure their position in the system by using virtue signaling to demonstrate class solidarity to their higher ranks. This mimetic mechanism incentivizes pushing the envelope and chasing trending causes (normative mimicry)—but always in service of the imperial needs of the state where expansionism and primacy are viewed as the triumph of a universalized American conception of virtue over those forces which are viewed as being on ‘the wrong side of history’. Under such moralistic conditions, prudence, moderation, and narrower conceptions of interest—provisos of realism—could be effectively vilified as enabling oppression and injustice.

The current Wokeist incarnation of American globalist evangelism seeks not only to change the governments of other nations, but engineer their very cultures according to the Western progressive model. Its universalist framing of human values could be readily applied to violate or undermine the sovereignty of alternate political or cultural systems and justify those interventions for the domestic Western audiences in the name of ‘moral responsibility’.

This white paper seeks to elucidate the often hidden processes and mechanisms that have led to the consolidation of this “woke imperium” of moralistic cosmopolitanism: its historical roots, present day trends, and possible future evolution. It is also intended as a guide for advocates of realism and restraint: to help realists understand the nature of the resistance they are likely to encounter from certain sectors of the foreign policy establishment and their sympathizers as they try to realign U.S. foreign policy goals with more limited and concrete national interests.


Dr. Christopher Mott (@chrisdmottis a Research Fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy and a former researcher and desk officer at the U.S. Department of State.

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Panel 4: Pathways to Manage Non-Proliferation in the Middle East (4:30 PM - 5:45 PM ET)

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This panel will discuss how Western powers and multilateral institutions, such as the IAEA, can play a more effective role in managing non-proliferation efforts in the Middle East.  

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Peggy Mason: Canada’s former Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament

Mark Fitzpatrick: Associate Fellow & Former Executive Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)

Ali Vaez: Iran Project Director, International Crisis Group

Negar Mortazavi: Journalist and Political Analyst, Host of Iran Podcast

David Albright: Founder and President of the Institute for Science and International Security

 

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Hon. Sergio Marchi: Canada’s Former Minister of International Trade

Scott Jolliffe: Chairperson, Canada Arab Business Council

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj: Founder and Publisher of Bourse & Bazaar

Nizar Ghanem: Director of Research and Co-founder at Triangle

Nicki Siamaki: Researcher at Control Risks

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Luciano Zaccara: Assistant Professor, Qatar University

Dania Thafer: Executive Director, Gulf International Forum

Kayhan Barzegar: Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of Azad University

Barbara Slavin: Director of Iran Initiative, Atlantic Council

Sanam Shantyaei: Senior Journalist at France24 & host of Middle East Matters

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Abdullah Baabood: Academic Researcher and Former Director of the Centre for Gulf Studies, Qatar University

Trita Parsi: Executive Vice-President, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

Ebtesam Al-Ketbi: President, Emirates Policy Centre​

Jon Allen: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Israel

Elizabeth Hagedorn: Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor

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Panelists:

Erica Di Ruggiero: Director of Centre for Global Health, University of Toronto

Reyhana Patel: Head of Communications & Government Relations, Islamic Relief Canada

Amir Barmaki: Former Head of UN OCHA in Iran

Catherine Gribbin: Senior Legal Advisor for International and Humanitarian Law, Canadian Red Cross

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Ferry de Kerckhove: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Egypt

Dennis Horak: Canada’s Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Chris Kilford: Former Canadian Defence Attaché in Turkey, member of the national board of the Canadian International Council (CIC)

David Dewitt: University Professor Emeritus, York University

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Dmitri Trenin: Director of Carnegie Moscow Center

Joost R. Hiltermann: Director of MENA Programme, International Crisis Group

Roxane Farmanfarmaian: Affiliated Lecturer in International Relations of the Middle East and North Africa, University of Cambridge

Andrew A. Michta: Dean of the College of International and Security Studies at Marshall Center

Kelley Vlahos: Senior Advisor, Quincy Institute

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Sanam Vakil: Deputy Director of MENA Programme at Chatham House

Denise Natali: Acting Director, Institute for National Strategic Studies & Director of the Center for Strategic Research, National Defense University

Hassan Ahmadian: Professor of the Middle East and North Africa Studies, University of Tehran

Abdulaziz Sagar: Chairman, Gulf Research Center

Andrew Parasiliti: President, Al-Monitor