THIS COLUMN was instituted as a regular feature of The National Interest some seven years ago, but more recently it has appeared only from time to time. As the new editor of the magazine, my first decision was to reinstate it as a predictable element of every issue. So in the future you can expect to find it right here, at the front of the magazine, whenever you pick it up.
The reason is that we believe a magazine should stand for something, should represent a foundation of beliefs, whether it’s a particular mode of cooking, a particular set of business imperatives or a particular political philosophy. Our own foundation of beliefs is what we call realism in U.S. international relations. That means we believe American foreign policy should be based upon real-world considerations—forces and pressures and passions that emanate from powerful factors of culture and geography—and not grandiose notions of national greatness or gauzy dreams of moral certitude conflating into historical inevitability.
Realists have nothing against either national greatness or humanitarian impulses. Indeed, as Henry Kissinger wrote recently, “Stable orders require elements of both power and morality.” But realists believe a foreign policy based too heavily on imperial design or moral zeal invariably encounters actual-world realities that prove problematic at best, ruinous at worst. Hence, any sound foreign policy must carefully weigh and deal with those realities.