Reading through Henry Nau’s Conservative Internationalism, I found that one of the main problems with the book is its completely arbitrary and bizarre definition of internationalism. Nau writes:
Internationalist in the American case thus refers to a commitment to spread freedom abroad and move beyond the balance of power to a world of democracies. It does not mean simply a change in the balance of power among democracies, which realists may favor, or a transformation of international institutions, which liberal internationalists envision. It means an increase in the number of domestic regimes that become free. (p. 23)
There are internationalists that think this should be one foreign policy goal among many, but this is not what makes them internationalists. To define internationalism in this way is to exclude the vast majority of Americans that identify as internationalist in one way or another. Except for Wilsonians, internationalists do not necessarily endorse a “commitment to spread freedom abroad.” Nau takes for granted that this is “the goal of foreign policy” for all internationalists. According to the recent Pew survey, most Americans and most members of the Council on Foreign Relations don’t consider the promotion of human rights or democracy to be a top U.S. foreign policy priority, much less the goal of foreign policy. In fact, CFR members are now less likely than the general public to identify either of these as a top priority of U.S. foreign policy:
If we took Nau’s definition seriously, we would have to conclude that internationalists are a distinct minority in America, but this is obviously not the case.