THE PRIMACY OF DOMESTIC POLICY
⚜️Today in the magazine: Classicist Paul Rahe assesses Realism in International Relations theory.
In the magazine today, Dr. Paul Rahe writes about—what else?—international relations theory:
Nearly three quarters of a century ago, in 1948, a German Jewish emigre named Hans J. Morgenthau, recently arrived at the University of Chicago, published a weighty tome, entitled Politics Among Nations, that took the American academy by storm. In the first twenty years after its initial appearance, it went through four editions and was reprinted twenty-one times; and, though not revised since 1985, it remains in print and is still employed. For many years, it was the standard textbook for political science courses in international relations. To this day, it defines the field.
It is not difficult to see why Morgenthau’s magnum opus was so popular and had so great an impact. It is crisply written and provocative; it is replete with astute observations; and, when it first appeared, it must have seemed to Americans like a breath of fresh air. The United States had always been party to power politics, and, in the Americas, in particular, it had never been averse to throwing its weight around. But prior to 1917, very few Americans, apart from the handful who determined the country’s foreign policy, had paid much attention to the rivalry between nations. What George Washington once termed America’s “distant and detached situation” had left the country’s citizens comparatively free from such concerns and inclined to suppose that they were, as Americans, above dirty business of that sort. In keeping with the naivete that this attitude fostered, Americans were told, upon the country’s entrance into the First World War, that the struggle they were about to engage in was a moral crusade: “a war to end all wars.” When this slogan turned out to be a snare and a delusion, the citizens of the United States rallied in bitter disappointment behind those who insisted that they could and should return to the “distant and detached situation” they had abandoned in 1917. …