Realism depicts international politics as a competitive realm where states must provide security for themselves. In such a world, prudent states will worry a lot about relative power and try to avoid costly strategies that squander it. They will pass the buck when they can, balance when they must, and bandwagon only rarely. Yet realism also warns that extremely powerful states often lose sight of this logic and become over-committed, largely because they underestimate the costs and risks of an overly ambitious foreign policy. A realist perspective on U.S. grand strategy helps explain why the United States is now mired in several foolish wars, and it suggests that the U.S. national interest would be best served by returning to a strategy of “offshore balancing.”
Featuring Dr. Stephen Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, with commentary by Dr. Kenneth N. Waltz, Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.