Stephen Walt’s article in Foreign Policy magazine – “What if realists were in charge of U.S. foreign policy” – is leading to some lively discussion, both for and against, such as this one:
Realists are for the things that turned out well and against things that didn’t. This article encapsulates perfectly why “realists” are better as scholars of international relations rather than practitioners of it. Foreign policy happens in real time with constituencies other than academic journals and historic tomes.
Here’s one of Walt’s ideas:
#2: No “Global War on Terror.” If realists had been in charge after 9/11, they would have launched a focused effort to destroy al Qaeda. Realists backed the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and a realist approach to the post-9/11 threat environment would have focused laser-like on al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that were a direct threat to the United States. But realists would have treated them like criminals rather than as “enemy combatants” and would not have identified all terrorist groups as enemies of the United States. And as noted above, realists would not have included “rogue states” like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea (the infamous “axis of evil”) in the broader “war on terror.” Needless to say, with realists in charge, the infamous 2002 National Security Strategy calling for preventive war would never have been written.