Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 12:45 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 12:45 | SYDNEY

The poverty of American IR theory


Sam Roggeveen


16 April 2010 15:01

Foreign Policy blogger Dan Drezner is debating whether President Obama is a foreign policy realist or an idealist. One of Drezner's commenters says:

...perhaps the difficulty of fitting Obama, G.W. Bush, Clinton, GHW Bush, etc. into either the realist or idealist camp tells us more about the poverty of the those conceptual categories than it does Obama's foreign policy.

Here, here. America's foreign policy theory debate could be helped along a great deal by recognising a third category, which the other day I referred to as the 'Grotian' school. ('English School' is an alternative name for this tradition of thought, though that probably wouldn't catch on in the States.)

It's not that all American scholars are either revolutionary idealists or hard-core Machiavellian realists. The vast majority fit somewhere in between these two extremes. But it seems they don't know what to call themselves. Some have tried 'soft realism' and others 'progressive realism', but it's really difficult to divorce realism from its emphasis on power and anarchy in international politics, whereas the Grotians prefer to talk about authority and order.