Tag Archives: stephen walt

Make Pyongyang Sweat

3 Oct

Kirk Bansalt offers a synopsis of the main arguments and counter-arguments for what looks like the most provocative and well-devised strategy for dealing with the DPRK.

The Cato Institute’s Ted Galen Carpenter believes we should, and his reasoning is clever. In a September 30 briefing, Carpenter and Doug Bandow argued that while there are no good options, the best chance of persuading North Korea to adopt policies acceptable to the United States (i.e. denuclearization) is through coordinated effort with China.

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Don’t Sweat the Small Wars

21 Jan

I just offer this argument for quiet contemplation – don’t blow a fuse! It surely seems counter-intuitive.

Obama is becoming President at a moment of relative peace and stability world-wide. This claim may seem surprising when we think of the past six years in Iraq and Afghanistan or the bad news from Darfur, Gaza, Pakistan, and elsewhere, but the reality is that overall level of global violence has declined sharply since the end of the Cold War. Even more importantly, the risk of major-power conflict is probably lower now than at any time in the past century. According to the Human Security Project at Simon Fraser University, the number of armed conflicts dropped dramatically from 1993 to 2006, and the average lethality of both state-based and non-state based conflicts (measured as number of fatalities per year) has also decreased steadily in recent decades. Although certain regions (e.g., Central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa) have seen upticks in violence, the overall global trend is encouraging. The conflicts that are still underway are tragic and will require attention, but most of them do not pose a threat to vital U.S. interests.

…in the past, prolonged economic depressions have been fertile breeding grounds for hyper-nationalism, fascism, anti-Semitism, and other social and political pathologies. If similar movements were to re-emerge today, the comparatively low level of global violence that exists now — especially among the major powers — would be jeopardized. It follows that getting the U.S. and world economy back on track is a key national security priority, as important as any specific diplomatic initiative.

President Obama just spoke yesterday, and already some people are thinking more clearly!

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A “Real” Realist

6 Jan

I’m almost in love!

Stephen M. Walt rescues realism from the Kaplan-Cheney-Kissinger Axis.

Although realism is a distinguished intellectual tradition with an impressive track record of policy insights, realists have become something of an endangered species over the past sixteen years. Given the results that liberal internationalists and neoconservatives have produced during this period, bringing a bit of realism back into contemporary discourse seems overdue.

What is a “realist perspective?” Realists believe that foreign policy should deal with the world as it really is, instead of being based on wishful thinking or ideological pipedreams (see under “Clinton administration”). Realists know that international politics can be a brutal business and states cannot afford to be too trusting, but we also know that states get into serious trouble by exaggerating threats or engaging in foolish foreign adventures (see under “Bush Doctrine”). Realists respect the power of nationalism and understand that other societies will resist outside interference and defend their own interests vigorously. Accordingly, realists believe successful diplomacy requires give-and-take and that advancing one’s own interests sometimes requires cooperating with regimes whose values or practices are objectionable if not repellent.

Realists appreciate the importance of military power, but they also know that it is a blunt instrument whose effects are sometimes unpredictable. Realists are therefore wary of grandiose plans for social engineering in other countries and believe that force should be used only when vital interests are at stake. Realists recognize that global institutions can be useful tools of statecraft, but they also believe that institutions require great power support to work effectively and are not a default solution for all global problems.

Finally, realists are skeptical of the propaganda that states invariably deploy to justify self-interested policies, and they know that fear, greed or stupidity sometimes lead even well-intentioned democracies to do foolish or cruel things (see under “Iraq”). Realists aren’t moral relativists and don’t think all great powers are morally equivalent, but they know better than to take any country’s idealistic rhetoric at face value.

Foreign Policy‘s revamp was a complete shocker. I had allotted myself just one new subscription or one renewal. Of the The New Republic and The Atlantic, the former seemed the only good option. No more – and I’m sure FP is happy to hear that! I supported TNR through its revamp, but the Beauchamp scandal, Marty Peretz’s continued tenure, and its inconsistency annoy me. Now, I’m thinking FP deserves another chance. It’s not just this blog, but also that a publication would take this chance and get this sort of talent.

I just hope Walt et al don’t all leave once the publication passes a quarter or two in the black, or before my subscription ends.

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