Every nation has a victimology and every victimology has a nationalism and every nationalism has the capacity for genocide.
John Mearsheimer’s classic work, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, also applies to the Passover.
In contrast to liberals, realists are pessimists when it comes to international politics. Realists agree that creating a peaceful world would be desirable, but they see no easy way to escape the harsh world of security competition and war. Creating a peaceful world is surely an attractive idea, but it is not a practical one. “Realism,” as Carr notes, “tends to emphasize the irresistible strength of existing forces and the inevitable character of existing tendencies, and to insist that the highest wisdom lies in accepting, and adapting oneself to these forces and these tendencies.”26
This gloomy view of international relations is based on three core beliefs. First, realists, like liberals, treat states as the principal actors in world politics. Realists focus mainly on great
powers, however, because these states dominate and shape international politics and they also cause the deadliest wars. Second, realists believe that the behavior of great powers is influenced mainly by their external environment, not by their internal characteristics. The structure of the international system, which all states must deal with, largely shapes their foreign policies. Realists tend not to draw sharp distinctions between “good” and “bad” states, because all great powers act according to the same logic regardless of their culture, political system, or who runs the government.27 It is therefore difficult to discriminate among states, save for differences in relative power. In essence, great powers are like billiard balls that vary only in
Third, realists hold that calculations about power dominate states’ thinking, and that states compete for power among themselves. That competition sometimes necessitates going to war, which is considered an acceptable instrument of statecraft. To quote Carl von Clausewitz, the nineteenth-century military strategist, war is a continuation of politics by other means.29 Finally, a zero-sum quality characterizes that competition, sometimes making it intense and unforgiving.
States may cooperate with each other on occasion, but at root they have conflicting interests. Although there are many realist theories dealing with different aspects of power, two of them
stand above the others: human nature realism, which is laid out in Morgenthau’s Politics among Nations, and defensive realism, which is presented mainly in Waltz’s Theory of International Politics. What sets these works apart from those of other realists and makes them both important and controversial is that they provide answers to the two foundational questions described above. Specifically, they explain why states pursue power—that is, they have a story
to tell about the causes of security competition—and each offers an argument about how much power a state is likely to want.
Some other famous realist thinkers concentrate on making the case that great powers care deeply about power, but they do not attempt to explain why states compete for power or what level of power states deem satisfactory. In essence, they provide a general defense of the realist approach, but they do not offer their own theory of international politics. The works of Carr and American diplomat George Kennan fit this description. In his seminal realist tract, The Twenty Years’ Crisis, Carr criticizes liberalism at length and argues that states are motivated principally by power considerations. Nevertheless, he says little about why states care about power or how much power they want.30 Bluntly put, there is no theory in his book. The same basic pattern obtains in Kennan’s well-known book American Diplomacy, 1900-1950. 31
Morgenthau and Waltz, on the other hand, offer their own theories of international relations, which is why they have dominated the discourse about world politics for the past fifty years.
Human nature realism, which is sometimes called “classical realism,” dominated the study of international relations from the late 1940s, when Morgenthau’s writings began attracting a large
audience, until the early 1970s.32 It is based on the simple assumption that states are led by human beings who have a “will to power” hardwired into them at birth.33 That is, states have an
insatiable appetite for power, or what Morgenthau calls “a limitless lust for power,” which means that they constantly look for opportunities to take the offensive and dominate other states.34 All states come with an “animus dominandi,” so there is no basis for discriminating among more aggressive and less aggressive states, and there certainly should be no room in the theory for status quo states.35 Human nature realists recognize that international anarchy—the absence of a governing authority over the great powers—causes states to worry about the balance of
power. But that structural constraint is treated as a second-order cause of state behavior. The principal driving force in international politics is the will to power inherent in every state in the system, and it pushes each of them to strive for supremacy.
Anarchy and the struggle for power
Mearsheimer posits that states are always searching for opportunities to gain power over their rivals. He argues that states pursue power because of the anarchic system in which they operate. In international politics, there is no hierarchy, no “night watchman” to turn to when one state attacks another so states are forced to rely only on themselves for security. Thus, states seek to expand their power both militarily, geographically and economically in order to increase their security.
Primacy of land power
A state’s power in international politics, Mearsheimer argues, derives from the strength of its military for two reasons: because land force is the dominant military power in the modern era, and because large bodies of water limit the power projection capabilities of land armies.
The stopping power of water
Mearsheimer argues that the presence of oceans in the world prevents any state from reaching world hegemony. He posits that large bodies of water limit the power projection abilities of militaries and thus naturally divide up powers in the globe.
He uses the example of the isolation provided to Britain by the English Channel, which allowed it to act as an offshore balancer on mainland Europe. Britain, he argues, never had ambitions to control or dominate continental Europe. Instead it aimed only to maintain the balance of power and ensure that no state could become so powerful as to achieve regional hegemony on the continent. For much of the 19th century, Britain had an industrial capacity that would have allowed it to easily invade and dominate much of Europe.
However, Britain chose not to attempt domination of the continent, in part because it calculated that its aims of achieving security could be more cheaply achieved if the European powers could be played off against each other. By doing so, it would be occupied on the European continent and unable to challenge Britain across the English Channel or interfere with Britain’s economic interests in Asia and Africa.
Therefore, the central aim of American foreign policy is to be the hegemon in the Western Hemisphere only, and to prevent the rise of a similar hegemon in the Eastern Hemisphere. In turn, the proper role for the United States is as an offshore balancer, balancing against the rise of a Eurasian hegemon and going to war only as a last resort to thwart it.
State strategies for survival
Objective 1 – Regional hegemony
In addition to their principal goal, which is survival, great powers seek to achieve three main objectives. Their highest aim is to achieve regional hegemony. Mearsheimer argues although achieving global hegemony would provide maximum security to a state, it is not feasible because the world has too many oceans which inhibit the projection of military power. Thus, the difficulty of projecting military power across large bodies of water makes it impossible for great powers to dominate the world. Regional hegemons try strongly to prevent other states from achieving regional hegemony.
Instead, they try to maintain an even balance among of power in regions and act to ensure the existence of multiple powers so as to keep those multiple powers occupied among themselves rather than being able to challenge the regional hegemon’s interests, which they would be free to do if they were not occupied by their neighboring competitors. Mearsheimer uses the example of the United States, which achieved regional hegemony in the late 1800s and then sought to intervene wherever it looked as though another state might achieve hegemony in a region:
Imperial Germany during World War I
Nazi Germany during World War II
Imperial Japan during World War II
Soviet Union during the Cold War
Objective 2 – Maximum wealth
Great powers seek to maximize their share of the world’s wealth because economic strength is the foundation of military strength. Great powers seek to prevent rival powers from dominating wealth-producing regions of the world. The United States, for example, sought to prevent the Soviet Union from dominating Western Europe and the Middle East. Had the Soviets gained control of these areas, the balance of power would have been altered significantly against the United States.
Objective 3 – Nuclear superiority
Mearsheimer asserts that great powers seek nuclear superiority over their rivals. Great powers exist in a world of multiple nuclear powers with the assured capacity to destroy their enemies called mutually assured destruction (MAD). Mearsheimer disagrees with the assertions that states are content to live in a MAD world and that they would avoid developing defenses against nuclear weapons. Instead, he argues that great powers would not be content to live in a MAD world and would try to search for ways to gain superiority over their nuclear rivals.
Rise of American power; 1800–1900
The United States was a strongly expansionist power in the Americas. Mearsheimer points to the comment made by Henry Cabot Lodge that the United States had a “record of conquest, colonization and territorial expansion unequaled by any people in the 19th century.” In the 1840s, Europeans began speaking about the need to preserve a balance of power in America and contain further American expansion.
By 1900, however, the United States had achieved regional hegemony and in 1895 its Secretary of State Richard Olney told Britain’s Lord Salisbury that “today the U.S. is practically sovereign on this continent and its fiat is law upon the subjects within its interposition…its infinite resources and isolated position render it master of the situation and practically invulnerable against all other powers.”
Future of American power
On the penultimate page of Tragedy, Mearsheimer warns:
Neither Wilhelmine Germany, nor imperial Japan, nor Nazi Germany, nor the Soviet Union had nearly as much latent power as the United States had during their confrontations … But if China were to become a giant Hong Kong, it would probably have somewhere on the order of four times as much latent power as the United States does, allowing China to gain a decisive military advantage over the United States.
* This hardheaded book about international relations contains no comforting bromides about “peace dividends” or “the family of nations.” Instead, University of Chicago professor John J. Mearsheimer posits an almost Darwinian state of affairs: “The great powers seek to maximize their share of world power” because “having dominant power is the best means to ensure one’s own survival.” Mearsheimer comes from the realist school of statecraft–he calls his own brand of thinking “offensive realism”–and he warns repeatedly against putting too much faith in the goodwill of other countries. “The sad fact is that international politics has always been a ruthless and dangerous business,” he writes. Much of the book is an attempt to show how the diplomatic and military history of the last two centuries supports his ideas. Toward the end of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, he applies his theories to the current scene: “I believe that the existing power structures in Europe in Northeast Asia are not sustainable through 2020.” Mearsheimer is especially critical of America’s policy of engagement with China; he thinks that trying to make China wealthy and democratic will only make it a stronger rival. This is a controversial idea, but it is ably argued and difficult to ignore.
* The central tenet of the political theory called “offensive realism” is that each state seeks to ensure its survival by maximizing its share of world power. Mearsheimer, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, sets out to explain, defend and validate offensive realism as the only theory to account for how states actually behave. He proceeds by laying out the theory and its assumptions, then extensively tests the theory against the historical record since the Age of Napoleon. He finds plenty of evidence of what the theory predicts that states seek regional dominance through military strength. Further, whenever a condition of “unbalanced multipolarity” exists (i.e., when three or more states compete in a region, and one of them has the potential to dominate the others), the likelihood of war rises dramatically. If history validates offensive realism, then the theory should yield predictions about the future of world politics and the chances of renewed global conflict. Here Mearsheimer ventures into controversial terrain. Far from seeing the end of the Cold War as ushering in an age of peace and cooperation, the author believes the next 20 years have a high potential for war. China emerges as the most destabilizing force, and the author urges the U.S. to do all it can to retard China’s economic growth. Since offensive realism is an academic movement, readers will expect some jargon (“buckpassing,” “hegemon”), but the terms are defined and the language is accessible. This book will appeal to all devotees of political science, and especially to partisans of the “tough-minded” (in William James’s sense) approach to history.
* I am working Step One in one of my 12-step programs dealing with emotional addiction.
My work starts with reading the beginning of AA’s Big Book:
* “phenomenon of craving” aka thirsty aka beyond our control. Instincts out of whack.
* We do things because we like their effect.
* We are restless, irritable and discontented until we can experience the temporary ease of our addictions.
* Cycle: craving, spree, remorse
* Without a psychic change, there is little hope of recovery.
* Once a psychic change occurs, we can effortlessly handle our cravings.
* Something more than human power is needed. We need God.
* Many addicts do not recover from the normal psychological approach.
* Addicts have this symptom in common: We cannot start on our addiction without craving.
* Feeling part of life at last, after previously feeling isolated and apart from others. When lonely, we turn to our addictions. A coping mechanism for dealing with our loneliness is fantasy, particularly fantasy that we are grand. We wanted to prove to the world that we were important. This leads to us falling out with people, idea deflection, and isolating.
Our addiction begins as a coping mechanism for loneliness and then becomes maladaptive aka a necessity that isolates us more deeply.
* Our resolve is inadequate to the task of managing our life.
* As an addict, our will can be strong in some areas and weak in others.
* Addictions tend to be progressive and fatal. My addiction wants to kill me but it will settle for making me miserable.
* Where human will has failed, God has done for people what they could not do for themselves.
* In the hospital, Bill had a vital spiritual experience and did not drink again.
* Without enlarging my spiritual life and working with others, I won’t be able to stay sober.
* Powerlessness: “If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or you have little control over the amount you take…”
Honesty: “Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Honestly also includes being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere”
Admittance: “admission of guilt. n. a statement by someone accused of a crime that he/she committed the offense.”
Unmanagability: “Difficult or impossible to manage or control: unmanageable traffic congestion. 2. Difficult to carry or maneuver; unwieldy: unmanageable bundles.”
Surrender: “to stop resisting”
Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
…insanity is a legal term pertaining to a defendant’s ability to determine right from wrong when a crimeis committed. Here’s the first sentence of law.com’s lengthy definition:
Insanity. n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.
Insanity is a concept discussed in court to help distinguish guilt from innocence. It’s informed by mental health professionals, but the term today is primarily legal, not psychological. There’s no “insane” diagnosis listed in the DSM. There’s no “nervous breakdown” either, but that’s another blog.
* Unfinished business from previous Torah talks.