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"What Would a Realist World Have Looked Like?"

Op-Ed, Foreign Policy

January 8, 2016

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

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security


From Iraq and WMDs to Israel and Palestine to Syria and Russia, how the United States could've avoided some of its biggest mistakes.


Here's a puzzle for all you students of U.S. foreign policy: Why is a distinguished and well-known approach to foreign policy confined to the margins of public discourse, especially in the pages of our leading newspapers, when its recent track record is arguably superior to the main alternatives?

I refer, of course, to realism. I'm not suggesting that realism and realists are completely marginalized these days — after all, you're reading a realist right now — but the public visibility and policy influence of the realist perspective is disproportionately small when compared either to liberal internationalism (among Democrats) or neoconservatism (in the GOP).

This situation is surprising insofar as realism is a well-established tradition in the study of foreign affairs, and realists like George Kennan, Hans Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebuhr, Walter Lippmann, and others said many smart things about U.S. foreign policy in the past....

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For Academic Citation:

Walt, Stephen M. "What Would a Realist World Have Looked Like?." Foreign Policy, January 8, 2016.

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