Tag: Realism

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I read something a few weeks ago that has prompted me to ponder on this specific question quite a lot as well as on balance overall, which we pay a lot of lip service to. It was a part from Henry Nau in War on the Rocks/Texas National Security Review’s Policy Roundtable: The Future of […]

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The Spartan Regime: Its Character, Origins, and Grand Strategy


TheSpartanRegimeImageTwo hundred fifty years ago, Jean-Jacques Rousseau set out to compose a history of Sparta. In the introduction that he drafted, he observed:

The greatest inconvenience associated with my endeavor is that here one sees men who resemble us almost in nothing, who seem to us to be outside of nature — perhaps as much because we are in that state ourselves as because they are in fact there. Their crimes inspire in us horror. Sometimes their virtues themselves make us shiver. Because we are weak and pusillanimous in good times and in bad, everything that bears a certain character of force and vigor seems to us impossible. The incredulity that we parade is the work of our cowardice rather than that of our reason.

I quote this passage in part because I used it as the epigraph for my new book — The Spartan Regime: Its Character, Origins, and Grand Strategy, which will be released by Yale University Press on the 27th of September, but which Amazon has been shipping for a week.

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Mr. Tom Wolfe accompanied his first novel, The bonfire of the vanities, with a manifesto, Stalking the billion-footed beast. (Available in pdf here.) This is an unusual thing to do in a novelist, inasmuch as he wishes people to read the work rather than consider it as part of the social life of the country. […]

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Announcing the Publication of a Book


BookCoverFor the last six years, I have been working steadily – with increasing fervor – on a series of books focused on classical Lacedaemon and on the grand strategy that the Spartans articulated for the defense of that polity’s ruling order. The first of these volumes – The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta: The Persian Challenge – will formally be released by Yale University Press this coming Tuesday.

Amazon has been shipping copies now for something like three weeks, and yesterday the book received its first review in an online publication based in the United Arab Emirates, hitherto unknown to me, called The National. That review I found heartening – for it was not only accurate in its description of the work. It actually caught my drift. Maybe, just maybe, thought I, the book will find its intended audience.

When one writes a book one has high hopes, but it is good also to entertain low expectations. My aim in the series of works that I am writing is to counter what I consider the surrealism of the doctrine that calls itself Realism. The exponents of “Realism” presume that all political communities are essentially the same. They are “state actors” intent on maximizing power, and the conduct of these “state actors” can, so they suppose, easily be predicted. For they are, you see, “rational actors” as well.

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Since the death of Kenneth Waltz in 2013, John Mearsheimer has been probably the country’s foremost living academic proponent of the Realist school of international relations. The basic tenets of this school are that: 1) states are the principal actors on the international scene; 2) they are interested primarily in survival and power, which they conceive of mainly in military terms; and 3) the reasons for this have to do with the […]

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When Doves Cry: The Decline and Fall of the New Isolationists


shutterstock_259520312Like the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, American foreign policy isolationists have tinkered with a number of name changes over the years. Prince tried calling himself TAFKAP, The Artist, and “unpronounceable Love Symbol,” before finally resettling on “Prince.” Foreign policy isolationists – that is to say, those who favor dismantling U.S. strategic commitments worldwide – have tried calling themselves non-interventionist, anti-interventionist, and now, most improbably, “realist.” But none of it seems to be working.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Following years of U.S. warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, some leading venues on the right — including the Cato Institute, The American Conservative, and Reason magazine — made the case for a new U.S. policy of strict military disengagement overseas. As popular opposition to those wars grew, the argument seemed superficially plausible. Most Americans came to view the war in Iraq as a mistake. But this was never the sum of the New Isolationist position.

What many of the New Isolationists argued, quite explicitly, was not only that George W. Bush had erred in Iraq, but that the whole edifice of international U.S. alliance commitments built up since the 1940s needed to be brought down. (See for example the 2008/09 Cato Handbook for Policymakers, pages 201, 507, and 561.)

Why Did Anyone Believe That Power Politics Went Away?


Be sure to read this piece by Raphael Cohen and Gabriel Scheinmann, which serves to remind us that, even though it is not the 19th century, nation-states still play the Great Game. There is nothing particularly earth-shattering in this revelation, but it has to be emphasized nonetheless because the Obama administration—through the comments of Secretary Kerry—seems to have thought that international power politics were a thing of the past. The Administration ought to have known better than that, but, for a time, it seemed to pretend not to know. If that kind of naïveté doesn’t bother you, you are more laid back than I am.

The following excerpt is especially worth pondering:

John Mearsheimer is Sober, Level-Headed, and Clear-Thinking . . . Except When He Isn’t


I recommend to everyone this piece on the present and expected future interplay between China, Taiwan and the United States written by my former professor, John Mearsheimer. It is exceedingly well-written, very hard-headed, and reveals that Mearsheimer has done his homework when it comes to the history of China and Taiwan. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading if one is Taiwanese, American, or a member of any Asian country that seeks to offset or balance against Chinese hegemony in Asia, but, if anything, the unsettling nature of the piece makes it all the more important.

Speaking of well-written Mearsheimerian articles, check out this recent one on the crisis concerning Russia and Ukraine, and the state of American policymaking. Again, Mearsheimer lays out the facts persuasively, accurately gauges each side’s interests and bargaining power, and then offers policy prescriptions that demonstrate a realistic understanding of the situation at play.