John Ikenberry

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Gilford John Ikenberry
G. John Ikenberry at the Miller Center Colloquium..jpg
Born October 5, 1954
Citizenship United States
Fields International relations
Institutions Georgetown University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania
Alma mater Manchester University (B.A.), University of Chicago (PhD)

Gilford John Ikenberry (October 5, 1954) is a theorist of international relations and United States foreign policy, and a professor of Politics and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


After receiving his BA from Manchester University, Indiana, and his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1985, Ikenberry became an assistant professor at Princeton, where he remained until 1992. He then moved to the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught from 1993 to 1999, serving as co-director of the Lauder Institute from 1994 to 1998. In 2001, he moved to Georgetown University, becoming the Peter F. Krogh Professor of Geopolitics and Global Justice in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.[1] He returned to Princeton in 2004, becoming the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs there.[2]

Ikenberry served on the State Department's Policy Planning staff from 1991 to 1992. He was a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1992 to 1993, a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars from 1998 to 1999, and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1997 to 2002. He has also worked for several projects of the Council on Foreign Relations.[3]

Criticism of U.S. policy[edit]

Ikenberry is known for vehement criticism of what he described as the "neoimperial grand strategy" of the United States under the Bush administration. His critique is primarily a pragmatic one, arguing not that the U.S. should eschew imperialism as a matter of principle, but rather, that it is not in a position to succeed at an imperial project.[4] He contends that such a strategy, rather than enabling a successful War on Terrorism and preserving international peace, will end up alienating American allies, weakening international institutions, and provoking violent blowback, including terrorism, internationally, as well as being politically unsustainable domestically.[5]


In After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, Ikenberry explores how the United States utilized its hegemony after both World Wars to shape future world order. In both cases, the U.S. attempted to institutionalize its power through the creation of a constitutional order, by which political order was organized around agreed-upon legal and political institutions that operate to allocate rights and limit the exercise of power. In the process, the United States agreed to "tame" its power by placing it within institutions and the set of rules and rights with which this came.[1] One of the advantages for the United States in doing so was locking itself into a guaranteed position for years to come. In the event that its power waned in the future, the institutional framework it created would nonetheless remain intact.

The Settlement of 1919[edit]

Following World War 1, the distribution of power was greatly skewed towards the United States. President Woodrow Wilson possessed the power to set the terms of peace, and the manner in which the post-war order was constructed. He sought to do so through a model based on upholding collective security and sparking a democratic revolution across the European continent based on American ideals. Great Britain and France were worried about America's preponderance of power, and sought to tie the United States to the continent. Both sides attempted to meet at a middle ground, with European nations gaining security and financial considerations while the United States would institutionalize its power through the League of Nations and maintain its presence on the continent for decades to come. Ultimately, Woodrow Wilson's envisioned order encountered major obstacles, including the failure of the United States to join the League of Nations. Furthermore, the imposition of war guilt and stiff penalties on Germany through the terms set by the Treaty of Versailles set in place conditions favorable for Hitler to rise to power.

The Settlement of 1945[edit]

Compared to the end of the first World War, the United States was even more powerful in 1945 following the conclusion of the second World War. The nation possessed a preponderance of military power and close to half of the world's wealth.[2] Once again, leaders from the United States attempted to leverage this powerful position and create a stable order that would serve to benefit their nation for decades to come. Political and economic openness was the centerpiece of this envisioned framework. It was believed that the closed economic regions which had existed before the war had led to worldwide depression and at least in part contributed to the start of the conflict. Reconstructing a stable Europe was also a priority, as safeguarding American interests was seen as being rooted in European stability. The region also became a staging ground for the Cold War, and building a strong West Germany was seen as an important step in balancing against the Soviet Union. In the end, the United States created its desired order through a series of security, economic, and financial multilateral institutions, including NATO and the Marshall Plan. In institutionalizing its power, the United States was willing to act as a "reluctant superpower," making concessions to weaker states in order to ensure their participation in their desired framework.[3]


Ikenberry is the author of:

  • The State, University of Minnesota Press, 1989
  • Reasons of State: Oil Politics and the Capacities of American Government, Cornell University Press, 1988
  • After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars, Princeton University Press, 2001
  • Liberal Order and Imperial Ambition: American Power and International Order, Polity Press, 2005
  • Liberal Leviathan: The Origins, Crisis, and Transformation of the American System, Princeton University Press, 2011

He has also co-authored or edited:

  • The State and American Foreign Economic Policy, Cornell University Press, 1988
  • New Thinking in International Relations, Westview Press, 1997
  • U.S. Democracy Promotion: Impulses, Strategies, and Impacts, Oxford University Press, 2000
  • State Power and the World Markets, W.W. Norton, 2002
  • America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power, Cornell University Press, 2002
  • International Relations Theory and the Asia-Pacific, Columbia University Press, 2003
  • The Nation State in Question, Princeton University Press, 2003
  • Forging A World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century (Final report of the Princeton Project on National Security ) 2006
  • The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-first Century, with Thomas J. Knock, Anne-Marie Slaughter & Tony Smith, Princeton University Press, 2008.

Ikenberry has published in a number of foreign policy and international relations journals, and writes regularly for Foreign Affairs.[6]


  1. ^ John Ikenberry (2001). After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton University Press. pp.29
  2. ^ John Ikenberry (2001). After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton University Press. pp.167
  3. ^ John Ikenberry (2001). After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars. Princeton University Press. pp.200

External links[edit]