Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Abstract of the day

(That's a variation on Quote of the Day, in case you were wondering)

Sebastian Rosato and John Schuessler, "A Realist Foreign Policy for the United States," Perspectives on Politics (Dec. 2011). I haven't read the article, but here's the abstract:
What kind of policy can the United States pursue that ensures its security while minimizing the likelihood of war? We describe and defend a realist theory of foreign policy to guide American decision makers. Briefly, the theory says that if they want to ensure their security, great powers such as the United States should balance against other great powers. They should also take a relaxed view toward developments involving minor powers and, at most, should balance against hostile minor powers that inhabit strategically important regions of the world. We then show that had the great powers followed our theory's prescriptions, some of the most important wars of the past century might have been averted. Specifically, the world wars might not have occurred, and the United States might not have gone to war in either Vietnam or Iraq. In other words, realism as we conceive it offers the prospect of security without war. At the same time, we also argue that if the United States adopts an alternative liberal foreign policy, this is likely to result in more, rather than fewer, wars. We conclude by offering some theoretically-based proposals about how US decision makers should deal with China and Iran.
Stop the presses!! Did you know that if the great powers had balanced against Nazi Germany before '39, WW2 might have been averted?! Film at 11!! (or maybe that should be: Newsreel at 11!)

Ok, I'm sorry (sort of) for the sarcasm, but there were reasons -- very understandable ones in the historical context -- that there wasn't more balancing in the '30s. (Maybe the authors make that point and there wasn't space to put it in the abstract.) And I know, it's unfair to dump on an article solely on the basis of the abstract. (Blogging means having to say you're sorry ... again and again...)

The question at the beginning is, to be serious, a good one: "
What kind of policy can the United States pursue that ensures its security while minimizing the likelihood of war?"

Here is, arguably, a better question: "In a world in which the likelihood of great-power war is vanishingly small, how should the U.S. reorient its foreign and defense policy to: (1) take account of that reality, (2) stop acting as if it's 1947 instead of 2011, and (3) generally come to its senses?"

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