Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Realism ... Defining Terms
We all know the drill--the realists idolize "stability" above all else, and really they must be "un-American" because they dislike freedom and democracy, preferring the company of autocrats and dictators. Every time the neo-Wilsonians want to castigate any realist concerns about policy, they trot out good old Prince Metternich as their straw man.
[For a slice of this ongoing debate, see the piece I co-authored with Dimitri Simes, "John F. Kennedy Equivocated" ]
This ignores the emergence of American streams of realism that do understand the importance of values and aspirations as a component in shaping foreign policy--a point even Henry Kissinger, the "uber-realist" lightning rod for both the left and the neo-conservative right in the United States--acknowledges. "Ethical Realism"--the viewpoint propounded by Hans Morgenthau and Rienhold Niebuhr--is well described by John Hulsman and Anatol Lieven in the Summer 2005 issue of The National Interest. [For a more in-depth discussion of all of this, visit a past discussion at Steve Clemon's "The Washington Note", at http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/000813.html]
There is a great deal of diversity among those who call themselves realists, as I noted in a piece for the Winter/Spring 2005 issue of SAIS Review . But realists of all camps--liberal, ethical, democratic, hard, communitarian, etc--adhere to two "organizing principles": The first is a skepticism about utopian projects, no matter how noble in inspiration. The second is an appreciation for the limits as well as the uses of power; that lacking unlimited energy or resources, power must be used selectively. In keeping with this realization, a country's interests must be prioritized--with the greatest effort reserved for averting threats that first and foremost affect a country's very survival.
Many young individuals now utilize a large amount of various cards that identify them and allow them to pay bills with little fanfare. However, there is a big price to pay. We spend our lives filing away our most personal data, shredding our financial records, striving to find ways to protect our personal assets, and all this time our daily jones for a good cup of java may be doing us in.(More)