restricted access Preserving the Unipolar Moment: Realist Theories and U.S. Grand Strategy after the Cold War
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Realist Theories and U.S. Grand Strategy after the Cold War IRealism is now both the dominant paradigm in the study of international relations and the most challenged. During the 1970s,critics turned to bureaucratic politics and cognitive process models to question realism’s emphasis on the unitary rational state, and to interdependence modeIs to challenge its acceptance of the utility and fungibility of military power.’ The beginning of the 1990s brought a renewed wave of criticism, as realists were faulted with failing to predict or anticipate the end of the Cold War and the peaceful transition to a new era.’ In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the dark expectation of some realists of renewed security conflict among major powers has not yet been realized, leading critics to the conclusion that realism’s days are numbered and that it is more sensible to place bets on domestic politics, international institutions , or constructivism to explain state behavior in the international arena.3 Michael Mastanduno is Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Economic Containment: CoCom and the Politics of East-West Trade (Cornell University Press, 2992), and co-editor of Beyond Westphalia?State Sovereignty and International Intervention (lohns Hopkins Unizwsity Press, 1995),and Realism and International Relations After the Cold War (forthcoming). This paper was originally prepared for the project on “Realism and International Relations After the Cold War,” sponsored by the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Harvard University. I would also like to acknowledge the Center for Global Partnership and the SocialScienceResearch Council for financial support in the form of an Abe Fellowshp. For comments and suggestions, I am grateful to Robert Art, Mlada Bukovansky, Dan Deudney, John Ikenberry, Iain Johnston, Ethan Kapstein, Jon Kirshner, Michael Loriaux, and Randy Schweller. 1. Graham Allison, Essence of Decision (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971);and Robert 0.Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Transnational Relations and World Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972). 2. Charles W. Kegley, Jr., “The Neoidealist Moment in International Studies? Realist Myths and the New International Realities,”Znternational Studies Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 2 (June1993),pp. 131146 ; and Richard Ned Lebow and Thomas Risse-Kappen,eds., International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995). 3. Prominent realists have responded by pointing out the conceptual and empirical flaws in competing theoretical frameworks. See John Mearsheimer, ”The False Promise of International Institutions,” International Security, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Winter 1994/95),pp. 5-49; and Joseph M. Grieco, ”Anarchy and the Limitsof Cooperation: A RealistCritique of the Newest LiberalInstitutionalism,” Znternational Organization, Vol. 42, No. 3 (Summer 19881,pp. 485-507. The ”paradigm war” between realists and their critics has been played out in David Baldwin, ed., Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993);Charles W. Kegley, Jr., ed., International Security, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Spring 19971, pp. 49-88 0 1997 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 49 International Security 22:4 1 50 Is that conclusion warranted? This article takes seriously the challengeof the critics and assesses whether realism is useful in explaining U.S. foreign policy after the Cold War. The Cold War’s passing provides an ideal opportunity to examine the impact of international structural change-a variable of central importance to realism-on state behavior. I focus on the United States because realism’s traditional emphasis has been on the great powers, and after the Cold War the United Stateshas been the dominant power in the international system. It is critical to stress at the outset that there is no single “theory of realism” and that realism per se cannot be tested, confirmed, or refuted. Realism is a research program that contains a core set of assumptions from which a variety of theories and explanations can be de~eloped.~ Progress within the research program requires the elaboration and testing of specific realist theories, not only against non-realist alternatives but also, in the case of competing realist theories, against each other.5 Below I focus on two prominent realist theories that offer competing predictions for U.S. behavior after...