U.S. Foreign Policy in the Trump Era: The Future of Great Power Politics

John J. Mearsheimer says: “Realism is a theory of great power politics… Realists believe that minor power don’t matter much and the idea of fighting in the developing world or areas outside of Europe, East Asia and the Persian Gulf makes no sense at all. It’s no accident that virtually every realist except Henry Kissinger opposed the Vietnam War. Hans Morgenthau and Walter Lipmann were two of the biggest thorns in the side of LBJ. Ken Walz was an adamant opponent of the war. Virtually all of the realists opposed the Iraq War in 2003. Stay out of the Third World. One, strategically, it doesn’t matter. Two, you get into a lot of trouble. You jump into quagmires.”

“Realism has not held much sway since 1989 since the United States is the sole power. You should have had an enormous amount of restraint but that’s not what happened because the United States has liberal imperialism wired into its DNA. The realists and the restrainers were on the same side of the debate to limit the crusader state.”

“When the Soviets went into Afghanistan in 1979, everyone in the National Security community was aghast. They thought this was the end of the world. My view was that this was the best thing that could happen to the United States. If you want to go into Afghanistan, be my guest. It ends up with no good.”

Question from the National Interest magazine: “Do you think it is in play that China will not be that powerful in 2050 and the United States will be more powerful than it is today?”

John: “You would be amazed how often you hear Chinese people talk about [China’s problems]… The best piece you could read was an article in International Security by Michael Beckley. He has a book coming out. His argument that all these people who argue that China is burying the United States are wrong and that when you look at the indicators, we’re in good shape over the long term. I don’t have an opinion.”

“Often times when I go to China, I pose to this question to people: ‘Starting in the 1980s, you began integrating yourself into this liberal international order that the United States created, and as a consequence, you’ve done incredibly well. You’ve become rich. Why don’t you just accept that we run the world, sit back and relax, and let us pay all the military costs of keeping the order, and there will be no security competition, and we’ll all live happily ever after.’ I’ve never met a Chinese who accepts that proposition… They want to throw their weight around to rewrite the rules to increase their influence. If I were in Beijing, I’d want to extend our influence.”

On November 3, 2017, The American Conservative convened leading scholars, journalists, and policy experts to explore the outlook for realism and restraint in the Trump Era. Panelists include:

John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago
Paul Kennedy, Yale University
Christopher Preble, Cato Institute
Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame
Moderator: Daniel McCarthy, Fund for American Studies

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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