An implicit alliance has emerged in Washington since the Cold War's end between avowedly "Wilsonian" liberals, anxious to extend American influence and federate the democracies, and unilateralist neoconservative believers in U.S. power projection, who call for American world leadership, aggressively imposed, for world society's own good.

This spirit has underlain the activism and unilateralism evident in much recent U.S. policy, despite the criticism made of it by some commentators and scholars. It is behind aggressively unilateralist congressional approaches to foreign relations, which also express the older American isolationist impulse: Unilateralism and isolationism being two expressions of the same parochial sensibility.

It was responsible for the Clinton administration's program to enlarge NATO's membership and extend alliance operations. That essentially unilateralist initiative reflected a larger conception of extended U.S. influence that has become the principal theme in Washington's post-Cold War policy thinking. Some envisage NATO's eventual extension into the former Soviet states, possibly including Russia itself, and on to Central Asia, toward the frontiers of another U.S.-led Pacific strategic system and military alliance. This reflects not only deliberate policy choice but the inherent expansionism of bureaucracies and the emotional power of the idea of a political counterpart to America's economic globalization.