Author Biography

Leo Blanken is an Associate Professor in the Defense Analysis Department at the Naval Postgraduate School. He has published articles on the utility of special operations, irregular warfare, strategic competition, and defense economics. He is the author of Rational Empires: Institutional incentives and Imperial Expansion (University of Chicago Press) and co-editor of Assessing War: The Challenge of Measuring Success and Failure (Georgetown University Press). He also collects and DJs rare soul and funk records from the 1960s.

Justin Overbaugh is a Colonel in the United States Army with experience in Special Operations, Intelligence, and Talent Acquisition and Development. He has led operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and across Europe.



Subject Area Keywords

Democracy and democatization, Economics, Foreign policy, National security


We use the concepts of “principled beliefs” and “causal beliefs” to critically interrogate American foreign policy during the Post-Cold War era (1990-2016). This period was characterized by an American push to establish a globalized Liberal order that conflated principled beliefs (beliefs about what is normatively right and wrong) with causal beliefs (beliefs about the way the word objectively works) with pernicious consequences. We examine the sources of this conflation and offer recommendations to rectify this problem moving forward.


The views expressed here do not represent those of the Department of Defense, or any part of the U.S. government.