War and American Constitutional Order
Brandon, Mark E.
In their introduction to a fine new edition of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop claim that "[i]f the twentieth century has been an American century, it is because the work of America... has been to keep democracy strong where it is alive and to promote it where it is weak or nonexistent."1 By "democracy" they doubtless intend something akin to "constitutional democracy," "liberal democracy," or "republican government." I take each of these to be a rough proxy for a constitutionalist system that includes (1) institutions authorized by and accountable to the people (both in the making of the order and in the regular operation of government); (2) some notion of limited government (whether by the designation of purposes for governmental action, the specification of rights, or the allocation of authority among institutions); and (3) rule of law (which connotes the regularization of processes by which public norms are made and applied). Whatever the precise contours of the concept, the claim that the success and strength of the United States derive from a commitment to democracy (or, as I shall use it here, constitutionalism), has an almost intuitive appeal. It is my sense, however, that even a cursory look at the United States' record of diplomatic, military, and covert initiatives the regimes it has supported, opposed, or toppled, and how and why it has done so-would raise doubts about that commitment.