Imperial Evolution: Walter Lippmann and the Liberal Roots of American Hegemony
When Walter Lippmann became a founding editor of the New Republic in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, he began to advocate for heightened United States involvement in global affairs. Lippmann argued that the global power vacuum generated by the war presented the ideal opportunity for American values to spread to places like Eastern Europe and South America, the latter under the veil of “Pan-Americanism.” The Pan-American movement would disguise the U.S. as a “big-brother” to the Latin American nations creating a seemingly symbiotic relationship, when realistically it would seize the open markets caused by the war in Europe. Although historians have emphasized Walter Lippmann’s work in drafting the Fourteen Points in 1917 thereby advancing a global embrace of “national self-determination,” little attention has been given to the ways Lippmann maneuvered to advance American interests in the process. Lippmann serves as the lynchpin in the foreign policy transition from aggressive, militaristic assertion of “hard power” under Theodore Roosevelt, to the morally righteous “soft power” approach supported by Woodrow Wilson. Lippmann’s efforts are significant because he had a direct influence on public opinion through his writing in the New Republic and on the politicians he advised, including Woodrow Wilson. Drawing on the New Republic issues from 1914 through 1918, Lippmann’s personal papers, publications of other New Republic contributors, and documents from members of the secretive foreign policy think-tank titled “The Inquiry”, Lippmann’s important role in America’s rise to global power becomes clear. This paper will argue that Walter Lippmann was a crucial ally in supporting the U.S. emergence as a contender for world power by extending democratic ideals in a non-democratic fashion, through both military intervention and economic domination. When Walter Lippmann is viewed as an early advocate for American hegemonic expansion rather than an author or political commentator, it encourages us to think of the foundation of America’s active role in the world beginning during WWI rather than WWII, with one of the most read authors of the 20th century as a strong advocate.