Why the 'Realists' Are Wrong

Currently, one of the more influential foreign policy schools is the so-called realist school.  America's post-1989 administrations have been heavily influenced by it, implementing its recommendations in relations with China, Russia, Vietnam, and other countries.  Many members of the school have been appointed to successive U.S. governments (e.g., Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Robert Gates) or have served as advisers (e.g., Michael McFaul).

"Realists," as the press calls them, pursue a policy which is supposed to advance American interests...through appeasement of America's enemies and by disregarding human rights and democracy issues.  In reality, Kissingerian foreign policy is a dismal failure, as judged on the basis of its actual results rather than on promises, words, diplomatic niceties, and myths.  The perfect illustrative examples are three spectacular failures of "realist" foreign policy: the détente with the USSR, today's policy towards Russia, and appeasement towards China.

Détente (1969-1981)

The détente policy was instituted by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.  When Nixon became president, he and Kissinger wrongly concluded that the U.S. and the USSR could become partners and stop waging a Cold War and an arms race against each other.  Thus, the two politicians implemented a policy of appeasement which involved:

  • accepting whatever demands the Soviet Union made,
  • unilateral disarmament by the U.S.,
  • refusing to implement any policies that might damage the USSR or anger its leaders, and
  • lavishing subsidies to Moscow so that it could maintain its socialist economy.

America complied with the arms reduction treaties it signed (SALT I, SALT II, the ABM Treaty, etc.), but the USSR did not.  Its arsenals exceeded the limits of the SALT agreements (as reported by the Reagan Administration in 1983), even though SS-11 Sego missiles were exempted from SALT I and Tu-22M bombers were exempted from SALT II.

No American leader of the 1970s dared to criticize the USSR, and Gerald Ford even snubbed Alexander Solzenitsyn, the Soviet dissident exiled from the USSR and the author of The Gulag Archipelago.

This appeasement policy weakened the U.S. military, emboldened the USSR, provided lavish subsidies to Moscow to maintain its economy (thus delaying its collapse for as long as the money was provided), and permanently imprisoned 500 million people in the Soviet Empire.  Even after the USSR (emboldened by Washington's appeasement policy) invaded Afghanistan, the "realists" advocated the same appeasement policy.

Fortunately, in 1981, Ronald Reagan ended détente and began working on toppling the Soviet Union rather than appeasing it.  And because of him, the Soviet Union collapsed.  Had Reagan not been elected, the USSR would exist to this day, and we would owe that fact to the "unromantic, realist, pragmatic" foreign policy of the realist school.

Appeasement towards Putinist Russia

Unrepentant, Kissingerians decided to try their appeasement policy on another dictatorship in Moscow -- the Putin regime.

Believing that Russia was "needed" to solve the world's problems (it is actually Russia that needs the West, not vice-versa), the Bush and Obama administrations eagerly appeased Moscow, surrendering to it on numerous occassions.

In 2001, Bush signed yet another ludicrous arms reduction treaty benefiting Russia (the Moscow Treaty), which called for a reduction to 2,200 deployed nuclear warheads per side.  The treaty contains no verification mechanisms, so it's impossible to check whether Moscow has complied with it or not.  Bush, nonetheless, proceeded to dismantle America's strategic arsenal to insufficient levels: he dismantled all Peacekeeper ICBMs, reduced the bomber fleet, and ordered the dismantling of all AGM-129 missiles and 50% of nonstealthy ALCMs.  He also ordered a drastic reduction of the nuclear stockpile.

The Bush administration stood passively by, saying nothing, when Russia threatened America's European allies with preemptive war and even a preemptive nuclear attack, even though some of these countries agreed to host an American missile defense system.  The Bush administration likewise did nothing significant when Russia invaded Georgia.

True, that administration did decide to deploy a missile defense system in Europe.  But the administration appeased Moscow over this issue so thoroughly that in 2007, even Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted that this appeasement policy was "pathetic."

The Obama administration has since doubled down.  Obama has signed a disastrous New START which will result only in the reductions of America's strategic arsenal, not Russia's, and even gave Russia detailed information about the British arsenal.  Obama has given up plans for missile defense in Europe, thus leaving the U.S. and Europe defenseless against Iranian missiles. Obama has agreed to let Russia enter the WTO and to stop NATO enlargement.

And what did the U.S. get for this appeasement?  Nothing.  Russia voted for meaningless U.N. sanctions against Iran, and that's it.  The Kremlin continues to back -- diplomatically and militarily -- America's enemies around the world, including Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba, because it believes that whatever is bad for America is good for Russia.

Appeasement towards China

Equally worrisome is appeasement towards China.  In 1989, President George H.W. Bush refused to implement any serious sanctions on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre.  In the 1990s, Clinton sold American missile secrets (and other confidential information) to China, sold rare earth mineral mining technology to China, closed American rare earth mineral mines, and appeased Beijing over Taiwan.  The Congress voted to admit China into the WTO and gave it MFN status.

Appeasement towards China became even more pathetic under Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama.  They completely ignored China's grave violations of human rights, removed China from the intel community's list of priorities, closed DOD programs oriented against China, and caused America's Asian allies to worry.  They even allowed Chinese communist leaders to visit the Pentagon and sensitive military installations, while the Chinese have shown them nothing important in return.  In 2009, Adm. Timothy Keating, then PACOM commander, offered to help China build their own aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the entire federal government, including the DOD under both Rumsfeld and Gates, continually designated China a crucial partner, refused to classify it as what it is (a potential enemy), and refused to draft any serious strategies to defend the U.S. against it.

The nadir of American appeasement of China was in 2008, when President Bush attended the Beijing Olympics (the Genocide Games) even though he was urged by congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, not to do so.

When Obama replaced Bush in 2009, the U.S. didn't respond to Chinese harassment of an unarmed American ship, the Treasury refused to name China a currency manipulator, and Hillary Clinton officially admitted that human rights would take the backseat in Sino-American relations.  Emboldened by these appeasers, in 2010, China even dared to launch an SLBM close to California.  "Realist" foreign policy failed abysmally again.

Given realists' dismal public record, voters should think twice before voting these people back into office.  America shouldn't pursue an idealist foreign policy, but neither should it embrace the prescriptions of Kissingerian "realists."  The right course for America is the middle road: a prudent defense of American national interests guided by strong moral principles.
Currently, one of the more influential foreign policy schools is the so-called realist school.  America's post-1989 administrations have been heavily influenced by it, implementing its recommendations in relations with China, Russia, Vietnam, and other countries.  Many members of the school have been appointed to successive U.S. governments (e.g., Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Robert Gates) or have served as advisers (e.g., Michael McFaul).

"Realists," as the press calls them, pursue a policy which is supposed to advance American interests...through appeasement of America's enemies and by disregarding human rights and democracy issues.  In reality, Kissingerian foreign policy is a dismal failure, as judged on the basis of its actual results rather than on promises, words, diplomatic niceties, and myths.  The perfect illustrative examples are three spectacular failures of "realist" foreign policy: the détente with the USSR, today's policy towards Russia, and appeasement towards China.

Détente (1969-1981)

The détente policy was instituted by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.  When Nixon became president, he and Kissinger wrongly concluded that the U.S. and the USSR could become partners and stop waging a Cold War and an arms race against each other.  Thus, the two politicians implemented a policy of appeasement which involved:

  • accepting whatever demands the Soviet Union made,
  • unilateral disarmament by the U.S.,
  • refusing to implement any policies that might damage the USSR or anger its leaders, and
  • lavishing subsidies to Moscow so that it could maintain its socialist economy.

America complied with the arms reduction treaties it signed (SALT I, SALT II, the ABM Treaty, etc.), but the USSR did not.  Its arsenals exceeded the limits of the SALT agreements (as reported by the Reagan Administration in 1983), even though SS-11 Sego missiles were exempted from SALT I and Tu-22M bombers were exempted from SALT II.

No American leader of the 1970s dared to criticize the USSR, and Gerald Ford even snubbed Alexander Solzenitsyn, the Soviet dissident exiled from the USSR and the author of The Gulag Archipelago.

This appeasement policy weakened the U.S. military, emboldened the USSR, provided lavish subsidies to Moscow to maintain its economy (thus delaying its collapse for as long as the money was provided), and permanently imprisoned 500 million people in the Soviet Empire.  Even after the USSR (emboldened by Washington's appeasement policy) invaded Afghanistan, the "realists" advocated the same appeasement policy.

Fortunately, in 1981, Ronald Reagan ended détente and began working on toppling the Soviet Union rather than appeasing it.  And because of him, the Soviet Union collapsed.  Had Reagan not been elected, the USSR would exist to this day, and we would owe that fact to the "unromantic, realist, pragmatic" foreign policy of the realist school.

Appeasement towards Putinist Russia

Unrepentant, Kissingerians decided to try their appeasement policy on another dictatorship in Moscow -- the Putin regime.

Believing that Russia was "needed" to solve the world's problems (it is actually Russia that needs the West, not vice-versa), the Bush and Obama administrations eagerly appeased Moscow, surrendering to it on numerous occassions.

In 2001, Bush signed yet another ludicrous arms reduction treaty benefiting Russia (the Moscow Treaty), which called for a reduction to 2,200 deployed nuclear warheads per side.  The treaty contains no verification mechanisms, so it's impossible to check whether Moscow has complied with it or not.  Bush, nonetheless, proceeded to dismantle America's strategic arsenal to insufficient levels: he dismantled all Peacekeeper ICBMs, reduced the bomber fleet, and ordered the dismantling of all AGM-129 missiles and 50% of nonstealthy ALCMs.  He also ordered a drastic reduction of the nuclear stockpile.

The Bush administration stood passively by, saying nothing, when Russia threatened America's European allies with preemptive war and even a preemptive nuclear attack, even though some of these countries agreed to host an American missile defense system.  The Bush administration likewise did nothing significant when Russia invaded Georgia.

True, that administration did decide to deploy a missile defense system in Europe.  But the administration appeased Moscow over this issue so thoroughly that in 2007, even Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted that this appeasement policy was "pathetic."

The Obama administration has since doubled down.  Obama has signed a disastrous New START which will result only in the reductions of America's strategic arsenal, not Russia's, and even gave Russia detailed information about the British arsenal.  Obama has given up plans for missile defense in Europe, thus leaving the U.S. and Europe defenseless against Iranian missiles. Obama has agreed to let Russia enter the WTO and to stop NATO enlargement.

And what did the U.S. get for this appeasement?  Nothing.  Russia voted for meaningless U.N. sanctions against Iran, and that's it.  The Kremlin continues to back -- diplomatically and militarily -- America's enemies around the world, including Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba, because it believes that whatever is bad for America is good for Russia.

Appeasement towards China

Equally worrisome is appeasement towards China.  In 1989, President George H.W. Bush refused to implement any serious sanctions on China after the Tiananmen Square massacre.  In the 1990s, Clinton sold American missile secrets (and other confidential information) to China, sold rare earth mineral mining technology to China, closed American rare earth mineral mines, and appeased Beijing over Taiwan.  The Congress voted to admit China into the WTO and gave it MFN status.

Appeasement towards China became even more pathetic under Presidents Bush Jr. and Obama.  They completely ignored China's grave violations of human rights, removed China from the intel community's list of priorities, closed DOD programs oriented against China, and caused America's Asian allies to worry.  They even allowed Chinese communist leaders to visit the Pentagon and sensitive military installations, while the Chinese have shown them nothing important in return.  In 2009, Adm. Timothy Keating, then PACOM commander, offered to help China build their own aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the entire federal government, including the DOD under both Rumsfeld and Gates, continually designated China a crucial partner, refused to classify it as what it is (a potential enemy), and refused to draft any serious strategies to defend the U.S. against it.

The nadir of American appeasement of China was in 2008, when President Bush attended the Beijing Olympics (the Genocide Games) even though he was urged by congressional leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, not to do so.

When Obama replaced Bush in 2009, the U.S. didn't respond to Chinese harassment of an unarmed American ship, the Treasury refused to name China a currency manipulator, and Hillary Clinton officially admitted that human rights would take the backseat in Sino-American relations.  Emboldened by these appeasers, in 2010, China even dared to launch an SLBM close to California.  "Realist" foreign policy failed abysmally again.

Given realists' dismal public record, voters should think twice before voting these people back into office.  America shouldn't pursue an idealist foreign policy, but neither should it embrace the prescriptions of Kissingerian "realists."  The right course for America is the middle road: a prudent defense of American national interests guided by strong moral principles.