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tv   John Mearsheimer The Great Delusion  CSPAN  November 17, 2018 6:23pm-7:02pm EST

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>> c-span, history unfolds daily. 1979, c-span was created as a public service. by america's cable television company. and today, we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress. the white house. the supreme court. and public policy events in washington d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> thank you so much for coming tonight. this is the series security about the book. i'm very pleased to have my friend and former colleague john
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m to talk about his great new book. "the great delusion". liberal dreams and international realities. it's a pretty stranding and my mind convincing critique of american foreign policy for the last few decades. john, thanks for coming. i will start out by asking you to tell us what the book is about. >> this is a book about american foreign policy in the post cold war. my principal goal was to try to explain why foreign-policy has been largely a failure. especially since 2001. my basic argument is that we pursued this foreign-policy which i call liberal hegemony. to understand liberal hegemony, you have to understand the relationship between liberalism, nationalism and realism. in a very important way, it's a book about the relationship between those three exams. the core argument is, nationalism and realism seek
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liberalism, hegemony at every turn. that explains why we are in so much trouble today. you need to explain what you mean by liberal germany. >> let me just be very clear. when i use the term liberal. i'm not talking about democrats as liberals and republicans as conservatives. i'm using the word liberalism in the sense of the term. in my story, both republicans and democrats are liberals. this is not to say there aren't differences between the two but there both roles. we live in a liberal democracy. in that sense, people from both parties are liberal. what is liberal hegemony? my argument is liberal germany is a policy, our policy that is designed to remake the world in
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a america's image. there are three elements involved. the first and most important, spread democracy all over the planet. this leads us to go around the world, toppling the leaders and trying to promote democracy. that's number one. number two, promote an open international economy. do everything we can to get countries all around the world, people in mesh in the open international economy. in the third goal, to also get countries all around the world deeply enmeshed in the international institution that week the united states, largely created after world war ii. those of the basic goals. the believe is, if you can make the world look like america, the
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end result will be, number one, you are eliminating human rights violations all around the world. as you well know, liberal democracies don't violate human rights or individual rights on a massive scale. if the world is complies with only liberal democracy, the problem is taken off the table. second, the was comprised of nothing but liberal democracies, you will get peace. liberal democracies don't fight each other. according to the liberal story. once you get peace, the terrorism problem is taken off the table. the information is taken off the table. the third benefit is, make the world safe tomography. as you know, inside any liberal state, you have elements that are unhappy with liberalism. they have become the cold war, what have you. those people who don't like liberalism, seek allies in other countries. communist looking for the soviet union to help them. the world is comprised of only
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liberal democracies so this an and -- disenchanted people inside the democracy have no for an ally. as soon as -- liberal hegemony is all about. it's a highlight. [laughter] >> i think there are three big highlights. the first is the books doctrine. the bush doctrine is all about spreading democracy in the middle east. iraq was the first stop on the report. syria, iran, and so on. course, there is catastrophic failure. it's hard to describe. second, nato expansion and you expansion. their efforts of -- to take those two institutions, nato and
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eu, march them up to russia's doorstep. create a giant zone of peace and western and eastern europe. this led to the crisis, most americans believe russians responsible to be -- the crisis. united states responsible for the crisis of the ukraine. we thought foolishly, we were thinking like liberals, not like realist that we could actually march in alliance there was a moral enemy of the soviet union right up to russia's steps. it blew up in their face. third grade policy failure is engagement with china. most of the proponents of that who thought that engaging china will turn into a democracy and would have loved from there on out. now it was a failure. what we did was help create that. before i get to questioning, one reason i think that is given wht
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work. it worked after world war ii. every element i think that you described we making the world and the american image and open economy, it was, maybe want to say it wasn't an era of hegemony because it was a bipolar situation. i'm wondering, how do you distinguishing with the united states did just after world war ii which seemed successful. if you are to conduct that to what happened after 89 or 2001. >> generally, we did have to -- after world war ii, until the end of the cold war was extremely successful. no question about that. >> it seems to have the liberalism as an element of foreign policy. why am i wrong about that? >> the key word is -- in the book, i argue that the only world in which you can have the
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united states pursuing liberal hegemony is a you know polar world. very important to emphasize this. in a unipolar world it's the only great power. it's the sole paul. it is free to sip -- it has to behave in a realistic fashion. if you are in a bipolar work, world like we were during the cold war, you have to act largely according to the dictates of realism. with regard to those three elements, spreading democracy and open international economy and international constitutions. first of all, there is no question that if we could turn a state like germany or japan into a democracy, we will do it. we -- which set it -- we were willing to live with some real folks. during the cold war. we were oftentimes willing to behave in very heavy handed manners.
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spreading democracy was not high-priority. was of the highest priority was balancing against the soviet union. international institutions, there is no way in a highly interdependent modern world you can get away without having institutions. so we created nato. nato was not a level institution. nato was created to fight the cold war. in fact, the institutions we created including the eu, were largely created for security reasons. this is not the same that they are not also liberal in a certain sense. in fact, institutions can be both realist and liberal at the time. the fact is, during the cold war, virtually everything we did was designed to deal with the soviet union. >> so those seemed like cases where it's hard to tell how much of strategy is being driven by realism and hegemony, one might
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say, i certainly disagree but purposes of argument, a lot of the 9/11 strategies you talk about, the response in afghanistan and the response in iraq have been misplaced, was driven not by the divider for democracy was kind of the trailing reason. we went to afghanistan really because it was a source and location of this massive attack on the homeland. we thought we had to clean it up. i'm wondering if -- how do you know i'm a how can you tell when these policies are driven by liberalism as opposed to some realist impulse? >> different people, different motives. >> also, afghanistan, iraq, more generally. >> there is no question that we went into iraq in large part
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because we wanted to deal with the terrorism problem and the political ration problem. you the bush administration thought that saddam was killing -- with terrorists and mike it weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. i agree completely. when you say that was the reason we went into iraq. we went into iraq with the thought in mind that we could solve that problem. by turning iraq and its neighbors into liberal democracy. that would create a giant's own of peace in the middle east. it would take the terrorism problem and the proliferation problem of the table. it's a liberal solution to some very nasty problems. the good realist like me, mainly concerned about the balance of power. and you start talking about invading countries like a rock, i say to myself, you really asking for big trouble. this is like going to be a non,
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with soviets going to afghanistan. i saw argue during the cold war, soviets went into afghanistan in 1979, virtually everybody in the national security establishment was gassed. this is the end of the world. i said, this is dead wrong. the soviets jumped into a giant fire patch. actually want to invite them to invade afghanistan. just like they should -- we went into vietnam. heist to tell the chinese when i first started going to china in early 2000, you should be thankful that the americans have invaded afghanistan and iraq. you should tell them they shouldn't stay in iraq and afghanistan until they win. wrecking their economy, running their military at the same time. how do you -- >> had to go back, we spent a lot of resources in the marshall plan, especially in italy and southern europe to try to make -- keep it the communist
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hands off it. we're trying to melt -- if he gets thing. the difference that the aim there was ultimately to balance against the soviet union in this realist even if pursuing these liberal tactics where as if in iraq, took on the life -- would that be the way to think about? >> let's go back to world war ii. the immediate aftermath. the united states quickly figured out, i say by december 19, 19 for 7. had to balance against the soviet union. the europeans were no position to do it. certainly, germany. we began to move and in a big way creating nato and 1949. everything we did was designed to deal with that soviet threat. part of the reason that we created democracy at the time, the cia was heavily involved in this, the alternative was communist. if you know, in the 1930s and
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during world war ii, it was the left that stood up to fascism. the left, therefore, had a lot of cachet in places like france and italy. we were very fearful that the left would win and the left, if it one in italy or france, what form an alliance of the second soviet union. promoting democracy had a very important strategic rationale. this is tonight tonight your point. if it's neatly with our worldview. again, what you want to remember, the basic aim of the bush stock, was to create a giant zone of peace by making the middle east look like a bunch of little americans. >> i have to say, i'm convinced by, especially when we move off, afghanistan is a good example. especially the strikes and
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libya, example for users. accepting all of your examples, there's a puzzle, why do we keep doing this. what grip does this add, does this have on the foreign-policy elite? it crosses political boundaries. where does it come from? why doesn't -- why don't we learn? >> it's a great question. just be fair clear, i believe the republicans and democrats are tweedledee and tweedledum. i hope that is clear. >> i meant to say that. >> there's no meaningful difference between the two parties. i think there are a number of
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reasons. first of all, liberalism is hardwired into the american psyche. americans are deeply committed to promoting liberalism around the world. it's the way we are. that's one thing. not because every nation tries to has the natural tendency to, it's better uniquely america. >> it's the former. united states a fundamentally liberal country at home and it doesn't try to export its foreign policy. makes perfect sense. if you are an american, you're proud of the fact that you live in this democracy. you believe that america is exceptional and if you make everybody else look like us, it would be a much better world. it's that mentality that's driving us. good to your question, it's a great question, i think there are number of factors at play here. first of all, once you get into
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these conflicts, feels almost impossible to get out. look at afghanistan. the longest war in american history. we got out of iraq but got back in. was one of the reasons i was so opposed to going into iraq to begin with. i knew once we got in there, we would never get out. i do get perpetuates itself for that reason. second, i think it's basic joi joint. jobs program. the elites here in washington. also to people in washington who run around, i run into overtime. they want to run the world. if you try to run the world, it creates lots of jobs and opportunities. the other thing is, we have no accountability an american system. you can scrub the time and foreign-policy and you really don't get for punished work. you could way think take, stay there for a couple of years and then you are back in the government again. why is that? >> all of these things are puzzling. why is there no conned ability
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and foreign-policy? that true across the board in the government? >> something unique about the foreign policy establishment. >> that is the fact that, there is a distinction between the public and the elites. the fact is, the united states is the most secure braid power in the history of the world. the public, they understand. we are separated from the rest of the world by two giant modes. we have thousands of nuclear weapons and here we are, we are by definition, the only great power on the planet. think about this. we're the only great power on the planet, thousands of nuclear weapons we are separated from the rest of the world by giant mulch. does it get any better than this? so when people think the american public really is not interested in following foreign-policy, they are correct. the public is not that interested in foreign-policy but has it does matter that much. it's a playground for the elite. as i said, the giant jobs
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program. the end result is that as long as our numbers of americans are not being killed, and as long as people don't think they now have to pay a lot of money to fight these wars, they are willing to let the words go on. my final point to be, the elite in this country, is brilliant at bamboozling the public. into thinking it's necessary to spend on this money on this defense to fight these wars. trend inflation is our business. there is nobody better at thread inflation the american foreign policy establishment. >> going back to the question earlier, you define liberal hegemony as only been possible in an error. you focus on post 2001 in the book. his are a precursor to this? with the wilson era? presented another period of time
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or was this recent? >> my argument is posting -- post. we never had it before. you pick up on your point about wilson, there is no question that given what their country of the united states is, that liberal impulse is always there. even when you are in a bipolar world or multipolar world, the inclination to follow liberal policies is there. occasionally, you'll pursue a liquid policy. my argument is that you will get wax in the sound because we live in a world where realism and nationalism are the two dominant forces. the realism get to the trouble. especially by clarity and multiplayer a. >> what you mean when you say realism and nationalism? liberal hegemony when they ca can -- those are the real motivators.
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>> i believe that nationalism is the most powerful political ideology in the world. i believe there is no accident that we live in a world that's populated with nations states. i would add that i think that the united states is federally nationalist concrete. americans are very nationalist nationalistic. you hear americans talk about american exceptionalism. american exceptionalism is american nationalism at play. when madeleine albright who is a card-carrying liberal, says that we are the indispensable nation, we stand taller, see further. think about those words.
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we as opposed to the other, we stand taller, we see further, that means we are superior to others. albright is saying we americans, we the nation has the right, the responsibility and the power to run around the world and reorder the politics in different countries. in a liberal way. that's very nationalistic thinking. >> -- why do i believe that nationalism is more powerful? one very simple reason. having to do with human nature. you have to decide, when you think about human beings, whether you think their social animals at their core, who carved out space to their individualism or you think they're individuals who form social contracts. that's the $64000 question. liberalism, assumes that we are
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individuals in their core form social contracts. nationalism assumes we are tribal from the get-go. we are born into nations, into social groups, into tribes and we carve out space for our individualism. liberalism is wrong and nationalism is right. we are tribal animal. we long to groups and we have tremendous loyalty. it's not to say that we can't carve our rooms for individual was him. we are social animals. when you get, the united states of america going into a country like iraq, or vietnam or soviet
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going into afghanistan, nationalism is automatically going to come to the for the country you have invaded. those people are going to say we are a sovereign nation state. we believe in self-determination. we do not want the united states coming in and telling us what to do. think about how we react for the soviet, to the russian, interfering in our election. they do not have any right, we believe to interfere in an american election. it's a violation of our sovereignty. that's nationalism in play. nationalism dominates liberalist. [laughter] >> i want to be, to follow through. how does this play out? in american policy barriers? when we try to invade on these principles, i've often doesn't work. we can't go in there and impose this sort of government. the impulse nationalism, resist that. is that the point? >> american foreign policy, and
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the era of liberal hegemony has a principal goal. three goals but the principal goal is to promote liberal democracy around the world. it's to not the authoritarian regimes and drum them into democracy. united states of america is going to interfere with the sovereignty of other countries. this is going to cause problems not only in the middle east with the iraq's and the iran's and the saudi arabians, it's going to cause problems with the russians, and with the chinese. if you go to russia or china today and you talk to them about whether they think it's a good idea, america is promoting democracy. in russia or china. they will tell you no uncertain terms. this is categorically unacceptable. they recoil at the idea of policy interfering in their politics as much as we recoil at
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the idea of them interviewing in our politics. this is nationalism. >> on this.about the russians recoiling, it makes us recoil. i think it's a fundamental point. for me, when i read realism researcher versus liberalism literature, realism for me, has two foundational elements. one is, it tends to assess situations in a moral way. just trying to understand it. two, what you just said, you make this point over and over again about the moving nato east in the impact that had. if we imagined that people argued, people have the devastating impact on russia and cause it to react in a harsh way. we list, tell me if this is accurate, tend to think in tho those, in terms of seeing through the eyes of the enemy. taking that seriously and i kind
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of, a moral way. my sense is that liberal internationalist don't do that. i don't of this is fair or not, they tend not to think, how will this be seen from the other side? they think they do what they do what is right. what would you disagree with? >> i agree with everything. i'll give you the logic that sits behind it. realists, basically three states as black boxes. they are no good guys or bad guys in the real story. realists assume that states, even your own state, often does terrible things. the possible cause is survival and survival requires you to sometimes do a moral things. for purposes of maximizing your chances of survival. there are no good guys and bad
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guys. therefore, it's quite easy for realists to put him or herself in the shoes of the other side. liberals on the other hand, divide the world into good guys and bad guys. i'm sure that most of you in this room share that view. you believe that liberal democracies of the good guys and a foreign terry in states are bad guy. when you have that worldview, and you are in a liberal state in dealing with the authoritarian state, it's virtually impossible for you to put yourself in the shoes of the authoritarian state. you think that your benign -- i talked to mike who is the american -- 2012 to deals and 14. he was shocked by what happened in several -- every 2014 when the ukraine crisis blew up. he told putin and his intendants on his numerous occasions, they had nothing to fear from nato expansion. the united states was a benign.
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i believe that he believed that completely. from the russian point view. united states did not look like a benign. especially since the united states was talking ultimately about regime change in russia. it was a, i believe almost impossible for him to understand that. he's such a thorough going liberal. for this like me, it makes sense. nato expansion is going to lead to disaster. they could put themselves in the shoes of the russians. >> you talk at the end of the book about the case where i think the realistic description for american foreign policy because of a restraining foreign policy, can you outline that? >> just imagine what the world would look like from 1990 up to the present. if i had been the president of
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the united states. don't worry, that was never going to happen. we would've had no nato expansion. we would today, have much better relations with the russians. situations in the middle east would be much more stable. who not have invaded iraq. we would not have helped kill colonel qaddafi. we would not have gotten deeply involved in syria. i think and result is that many people would have died, many americans would have died. we would have spent much less. i also would have pulled all our troops out of europe with the cold war. i find it unacceptable that we spend all this money defending europeans, we are perfectly capable of descending them themselves. you are to airports like
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laguardia, and lax, they are basically third world airports. you go all the way around the world, people are first world airports. the amount of money we put into them, is remarkable. would've had a much more restrained policy based in the fact that we respected the power of nationalism and we are mainly concerned with the balance of power. >> how do you depend on -- i think it's easier to make the assessment in middle east because we seem to agree in this. it is harder to know, i agree with you that expanding nato to invite travel and threaten the russians in a way that maybe have been unnecessary but the combination of not just expanding nato but disbanding it, how do you know in this world, it wouldn't have led to russian aggression? >> russia was a complete basketcase in the 1990s. even today, there is virtually no chance that russia is going
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to conquer eastern europe. they had been there, done that. it did not work out very well. they've got out of town last thing they want to do is go back in. russia is a declining great power. largely for demographic reasons but also economic reason. let's assume that i am on. let's assume that they have some formal military power. i can europeans depend themselves? there many more people. they have much more wealth. they spend a lot more on defense. despite the fact that they don't spend that much on defense. why are we descending -- defending them? i agree about obama, he should concentrate on home. we spend money on these words that we were never in, that we lose. >> a lot of what you said today, sounds like some of the things
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president trump advocated for on the campaign trial. you don't talk much about president trump. he was first of all, very much against the latest control of the u.s. foreign policy. he is very skeptical of nato. he's skeptical in attitude about international engagement even though he engaged. i wonder what the relationship is between the trump foreign-policy if you can state with that is. it's hard to tell. how do you assess the trump foreign-policy? >> a lot of questions. for any of the things -- >> i answer what you don't -- >> first, president trump, when he was candidate jump, he ran against liberal hegemony. there were three elements. democracy all over the world, he
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made it clear, you're getting that in the business of doing that. never two, purveying a open international economic order. he made it very clear that he likes tariffs and he was interested in countering this open international economic order which you heard of. ... . >> by the end of his term he
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admitted he felt burned by it. >> no question. and that captures that. >> with any resistance. >> so what you have now is committed to liberal hegemony and you have a handful who are up against the establishment. so the question is who will win? remember this was the situation with obama and he lost. maybe not as much agency as donald trump if there is anybody that can be back liberal hegemony it is him but i would make the argument that i think liberal hegemony is done for anyway. and not because of donald trump but with the rise of
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china because remember, my argument is you can only have liberal hegemony in the unipolar world with the rise of russian power we now live in a multipolar world. >> so what does that mean? for the role of human rights rhetoric obama dropped it to a surprising degree. does that mean human rights element goes by the wayside it's not a driver of policies. >> my argument is that liberalism will always be
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there to describe that foreign-policy and i often say during the cold war the united states and to disguise that with liberal rhetoric. that will always be there the argument i am making is that we behave in a liberal fashion but those days are gone but there are two real-world problems but it is so clear now the policy has failed that donald trump is in the white house that punch has finished it off. thank you. [applause]
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. >> he will not take questions but he's happy to sign books and to chat. >> thank you for coming.

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