The Unrealistic Realism of Classical Realists

Robert G. Kaufman

in In Defense of the Bush Doctrine

Published by University Press of Kentucky

Published in print May 2007 | ISBN: 9780813124346
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780813134987 | DOI:
The Unrealistic Realism of Classical Realists

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Proponents of classical realism believe that the absence of a monopoly on the use of violence in the world of international politics not only highlights the worst aspects of man's flawed nature but imposes stark limits on the degree of limited cooperation states can achieve, although they differ in their view on certain issues, such as the regime type, the comparative importance of ideology, and the degree of their pessimism about human nature. They tend to underestimate man's flawed but still significant residual capacity for justice and devotion to a greater good, failing to recognize that it is completely unrealistic to dissociate ideals and transcendent morality from the conceptions of national interest. Former National Security Advisor and classical realist Brent Scowcroft, with his myopic view of the importance of ideology and regime type in international relations, committed some serious foreign policy errors and has yet grasped the essence of the war on terror.

Keywords: classical realism; foreign policy; international relations; national interest; ideology; regime type; moral relativity

Chapter.  4701 words. 

Subjects: US Politics

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