September 10, 2008

HARRISONBURG—In the current issue of the international affairs journal American Foreign Policy Interests, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, reviews Realism Reconsidered: The Legacy of Hans Morgenthau in International Relations, edited by Michael C. Williams, which was published late last year by Oxford University Press.

According to Dr. Pham, the volume, despite several shortcomings which he notes—including an imbalance among the contributors, all but one of whom is based at European institutions; a tendency to favor scholarly debate over practical implications; and the almost four years which transpired between when the studies were written and their publication—is “nonetheless a valuable anthology that deserves a place…in any collection of recent scholarship on the most influential realist of modern times.”

Observing that “nothing could be more appropriate than the reconsideration of Morgenthau’s legacy at the present historical moment,” Dr. Pham writes:

Undoubtedly the Morgenthau who warned against a nation pursuing “objectives which are not only unnecessary for its survival but tends to jeopardize it” and inveighed against “great powers which dream of remaking the world in their own image and embark upon world-wide crusades, thus straining their resources to exhaustion” would look skeptically on the dream embraced by many neoconservatives that the terrorist threat to American national security could be ended by reshaping the Middle East, a transformation which was to begin with an attack on Saddam Hussein whose Ba‘ath regime was in violation of its obligations under a decade’s worth of United Nations Security Council resolutions. But it is also highly unlikely that the same Morgenthau would have much use for slogans about “change we can believe in” because, quite simply, he did not believe change was necessarily desirable, observing in his monumental Politics Among Nations that “novelty is not necessarily a virtue in political theory, nor is old age a defect.”

American Foreign Policy Interests is a bimonthly journal published by Taylor & Francis for the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, a New York-based organization founded in 1974 by the late Dr. Hans J. Morgenthau and dedicated to identifying, articulating, and helping to advance the national interests of the United States from a nonpartisan perspective within the framework of political realism. Dr. Pham has served as a member of the National Committee’s Board of Advisors since January 2006.

For the text of the review, click here.