Mr. Larison has clarified his comments on the “incoherence” of missionary foreign policy. He was not observing a simple contradiction between ends and means, as I had speculated, but was making a more sophisticated point based on something of a theme in his writing:
Democratization tends to make other states more assertive in defending and securing their own interests, which make them poor clients. Hegemonists routinely assume that democratic regimes in other states will make those states less resistant to their preferred policies, but democratization often yields the opposite result.
The predicament, which superficially resembles that of a parent whose child unfortunately really has learned to make her own decisions, must be expected always to arise on some level even after completely successful democratization operations abroad: Just by virtue of occupying a different spot on the globe; of possessing a different culture, history, economy; and simply of being in the position of client, the newly democratized and liberalized state would naturally develop differences with its American sponsor.
From the old imperialist perspective, recognition of this inescapable fact would introduce certain simple pragmatic considerations. Some potentially valuable clients or territories would have to be ruled directly to prevent them from straying too far. Others would be deemed impractical for any form of conquest, but might need to be neutralized or denied to competitors.
The ideology of the neo-imperialist or liberal-democratic hegemonist transforms all such calculations – at least in the missionary’s own mind.