Kaplan and Mearsheimer: The Power of Realism

Kaplan and Mearsheimer: The Power of Realism

Robert Kaplan's new piece on John Mearsheimer is a testament to realism and a manifesto on lively political discourse.

Beyond that, it serves as a kind of manifesto on behalf of lively and wide-ranging discourse in the American polity. He lays on the table the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, then carefully scrapes away its less savory elements for discard and pulls out those worthy of attention. In doing so—in eschewing the tendency of others to reject the whole package as tainted and attack the authors as unseemly—he strikes a blow for measured and balanced thinking in the polemical world.

In sending his piece to friends and colleagues, Kaplan described it as “a measured defense of [Mearsheimer’s] life’s work” designed to foster an understanding of twenty-first-century American realism. But he notes that because of Mearsheimer’s views on Israel, “the piece may unleash a firestorm.” If a firestorm ensues, one would hope it would express itself in language as measured and carefully framed as the language of Kaplan’s article.

Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy.

Image: John Mearsheimer