The Debate over the Influence and Extent of “Realism”

 Kudos to Dan Trombly of Fear, Honor and Interest. Why?

First, for drawing attention to the debate between Dan Drezner and Anne-Marie Slaughter over, hmm, “Real-world Realism” in American foreign policy:

Dan DreznerMeet the new foreign policy frontier…. same as the old foreign policy frontier

….Well, this is… this is… I’m sorry, I got lost among the ridiculously tall strawmen populating these paragraphs.   I’ll go out on a limb and posit that not even Henry Kissinger thinks of the world the way Slaughter describes it.  Just a quick glance at, say, Hillary Clinton’s recent speech in Hong Kong suggests that actual great power foreign policies bear no resemblance whatsoever to that description of “traditional foreign policy.” 

Slaughter knows this very well, given that she was Clinton’s first director of policy planning.  She also knows this because much of her writing in international relations is about the ways in which traditional governments are becoming more networked and adaptive to emergent foreign policy concerns.  

Rebuttal time…..

Anne-Marie SlaughterThe Debate Is On! A Response to Dan Drezner

….I’ll take that bet. I think it’s exactly how Henry Kissinger still thinks of the world. Indeed, he has just published a book on China — of course, because from the traditional realist perspective China is by far the most important foreign policy issue in the 20th century, as it is the only possible military and economic competitor to the United States. Hence, as realists/traditionalists never tire of repeating, the U.S.-China relationship is the most important global relationship of the 21st century: what matters most is ensuring that as both nations pursue their power-based interests they do not collide catastrophically. Never mind that an avian flu virus that is both fatal and aerosol-borne arising anywhere in Asia could do far more damage to global security and the economy than China ever could — just see the forthcoming movie Contagion.

The second reason for giving Mr. Trombly props is that his excellent post in response to the above was a lot more interesting and substantive than their pleasantly jocular and Friedmanesque exchange:

Old School realism and the problem of society

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