Less is More: Minimal Realism in East Asia

Historically, in both practical and theoretical debates about American foreign policy, the great divide has been between proponents of liberal internationalism--sometimes called Wilsonianism--and realism.

Issue: Spring 1996

Historically, in both practical and theoretical debates about American foreign policy, the great divide has been between proponents of liberal internationalism--sometimes called Wilsonianism--and realism. But today, although more or less pristine strands of
neo-Wilsonian liberal internationalism survive in the foreign policy discourse, the more important intellectual debate is taking place
within the realist camp itself. Today's realists are split into "maximalists" and "minimalists", with the latter often caricatured as
neo-isolationists. While both camps share fundamental assumptions about the forces that shape world politics, once it comes to
specifics the two generate very different views as to what U.S. grand strategy ought to be. One can therefore no longer speak meaningfully about a realist critique of liberal internationalism, for realism today does not offer a unified alternative to liberal internationalist policies.

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