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"The Neocons vs. The Realists"

A U.S. Army soldier stands guard, during a joint Iraqi police and U.S. military operation searching for wanted suspects from the Mahdi Army militia, in the Fudailya area next to Sadr City, in Baghdad, Aug. 29, 2008.
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"The Neocons vs. The Realists"

Magazine or Newspaper Article, The National Interest

September 2, 2008

Authors: Joshua Muravchik, Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs; Faculty Chair, International Security Program

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security


"A must-read debate about our foreign-policy future. Does realism offer the best solutions to today’s threats? Or will neoconservatism be responsible for our policy triumphs? The choice is clear after eight years of failed Bush policies, says Walt, but Muravchik thinks the House of Kristol may well be vindicated." — National Interest


The Shattered Kristol Ball

"TO WHOM should the next president turn for advice on foreign policy: realists or neoconservatives?

Given the disastrous results that neoconservative policies have produced since 2001, the answer seems obvious. Yet despite their repeated failures, prominent neoconservatives are now advising GOP candidate John McCain, and they remain a ubiquitous presence on op-ed pages and TV talk shows and in journals of opinion (along with their close cousins, the liberal interventionists). By contrast, realists have become an endangered species inside the Beltway and a muted voice in contemporary policy debates.

This situation would make sense if neoconservatives had proven to be reliable guides to foreign policy and if realists had been consistently wrong. But the truth is the opposite: neoconservatism has been a road map to disaster while realism’s policy insights remain impressive. If the next president wants to avoid the blunders of the past eight years, he must understand why neoconservatism failed, steer clear of its dubious counsel and rediscover the virtues of realism. To see why, one need only examine the core principles and track record of each perspective...."

Read the full debate, including Stephen Walt's response to Joshua Muravchik's essay, "The Future is Neocon" here.


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

Full text of this publication is available at:

For Academic Citation:

Muravchik , Joshua and Stephen M. Walt. "The Neocons vs. The Realists." The National Interest, September 2, 2008.

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