tv John Mearsheimer The Great Delusion CSPAN January 5, 2019 4:20pm-5:00pm EST
programming at 11:00 with the talk between authors john grisham and james mcbride on books, publishing and the writing process. that all happens tonight on c-span2's booktv. television for serious readers. >> thank you so much for coming tonight. this is hoover series security by the book and i'm pleased to he my friend and former colleague at the university of chicago, john mere schumer to talk but "the great hill luigs, liberal dreams and international realities" a pretty scathing and to my mind conviction critique
of american foreign policy for at least the last few decades. john, thank you for coming. i tell us what the book is out. >> basically a book about american foreign policy in the post-cold war period and my principle goal was to try to explain why our foreign policy has been largely a failure, especially since 2001. and my basic argument that we have pursued this foreign policy, which i call liberal hegemony and to understand it, you have to understand the relationship between liberalism, nationalism, and realism. so in a very important way it's a book about the relationship between those three isms and the argument that nationalism and realism beast liberalism, i.e. liberal he second -- hedge
general any. >> explain who are yacht mean by electric rail hegemony, not republicans versus democrats. >> let me just be veer clear what i mean 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 lockean sense of the term and in my story, both republicans and democrats are liberals. this is not to say there aren't differences but they're both liberals. we live in a liberal democracy. and in that sense, people from both parties are liberal. what exactly is liberal hedge gem my? my argue it is it is a foreign policy that is designed to remake the world in america's image. there are three elements the
first is to spread democracy all over the planet. and this of course leads to us go around the world knocking off regimes, toppling authoritarian leaders and trying to promote democracy. that's number one. number twos i is to promote an open international economy and do everything we can to get countries all around the world deeply enmeshed in that open international economy. and then the third goal is to also get countries all around the world deeply enmeshed in the international institution that we, the united states, largely created after world war ii. so those are the basic goals. and the belief is that if you can make the world look like america, the end result will be, number one, you will eliminate human rights violations all around the world because as you all now, liberal democraties
don't violate human rights and i if the he world i accompliced of only liberal democracies it is taken over the table. if the world is pride over nothing but liberal democracies you'll get peace because they don't fight each other, according to the liberal story and once you get peace the terrorism problem is taken off the fable the proliferation problem taken off the table and thes the great seven fit is you make the world safe for democracy, inside any liberal state you have elements that-under inunhappy with liberalism, may be communist and those people who don't like liberalism seek allies in other countries, i.e. communist looking to the soviet union to help them. but if the worlds comprised of only liberal democracy, those disenchanted people inside your liberal democracy have no foreign ally, wood dre will son referred to this as making the world safe for democracy.
this is liberal hegemony. >> can you walk us through the failures of this exitment -- commitment. >> the first is the bush doctrine and the bush doctrine was all about spreading democracy in the middle east. iraq was just the first stop on the railroad line. they were going promote democracy in syria, iran, and so forth and so on. and of course that bass at catastrophic failure the amount of blood on 0 hands in the middle east is just hard to describe. second great failure is nato expansion and ou expansion and our effort to take those two institutions, that's to and eu, and match them up to russia's doorstep and create a giant zone of peace in western and eastern europe. this of course led to the crisis over ukraine and most americans believe that russia's
responsible for the ukraine crisis i. don't believe that for one second. the united states and the west european allies are responsible for the crisis over ukraine because we thought, foolishly because we talking like liberals we could actually march an alliance that was a mortal enemy of the soviet union, right up to russia's doorstep and it all blew up in our face, and then the third great policy fall our is engagement with china. most of the proponent thought engaging china would turn into it dem rays and we would have love, peace and dope, as milted was a failure and we helped create a behemoth. so before i get to questioning some elements of the the tis, one reason i think why this liberal hegemony strategy might work is that it worked of world war ii and every limit think you described, remaking the world in the american image, an open economy, commitment to international institutions,
was -- maybe you want to say that wasn't an era of international hedge gem my because there was bipolar situation with the soviet. your you do you distinguish what the united states did after world war ii which seemed relatively successful to what happened after. 9 or 2001. >> generally what we decided after world war ii up tell the end of the cold war was extremely successful. no question about that. >> seems to have the patina of liberalism as an element of foreign policy. so, why aim wrong. >> the key word pace teen -- patina. in the book i argue that the only world in the which you can have the united states pursuing liberal hedge gem my is the unipolar world. in the unipolar world where the united states by definition is the only great power, is the
sole pole. it has to behave in a realist fashion. so if glory a bipolar world, like we were during the cold war you have to act largely according to the dictates of the realism. now, with regard to those three elements, spreading the democracy and open international economy and international institutions, first of all, there's no question that if we could turn a state like germany or japan into a democracy, we would do it. take a democracy over autocracy anytime. >> we spent resources trying to make that happen. >> not great resources resourcee willing to live will real thugs during the colored bar and often times willing to be have in very heavy-handed manner. so, spreading democracy was not a high priority. what was of the highest priority was balancing against the soviet
union. now, with regard to international institutions, there's no way in the highly interdependent moder world you can get away with without having unstews so we create nato. nato was not a liberal institution. nato was created to fight the cold bar and lots of the institutions we created including the eu, were largely created for security reasons. this is not to say they're not also liberal in a certain sense, and in fact, institutions can be both realists and liberal at the same time but the fact is during the cold war, virtually everything we did was designed to deal with the soviet union. >> and so those seem like cases where it's hard to tell how much of the strategy is being driven by realism and with a patina of liberal hedge gem my -- hegemony and one might said that
post-9/11 strategy say the response in afghanistan and the response in iraq, however misplaced, was driven not by a -- that the desire for democracy was kind of the trailing reason and that really we went to afghanistan because that was the source and the location of the massive attack on the homeland and we thought we had to clean its up. so i'm just wondering -- how do you know -- how can you tell when these policies are driven by this liberalism impulse as opposed to some realist impulse there's often mixed mosttives. >> let's talk but afghanistan and iraq. there's no question that we went into iraq in large part because we wanted to deal with the terrorism problem and the proliferation problem. the bush administration thought that saddam was joined at the hip with terrorists and might give weapons of mass destruction
to terrorists. i say agree completely with you when you say that was the reason we win into iraq but we went into iraq with the thought in mind that we could solve that problem by turning iraq and its neighbors into liberal democracies. that would create a giant zone of peace in the middle east, it would take the terrorism problem and the proliferation problem off the table. so, it's the liberal solution to some very nasty problems. the good realist, like me, mainly concern about the balance of power, and when you start talking about invading countries like iraq, i say to myself, you really asking for big trouble. this is like going into vietnam, the receive yets going in afghanistan. used to argue during the cold war, the soviets went into afghanistan in 1979, virtually everybody in the national security establishment was aghast and thought that's the
owned the world, the soviets on the march. said this is dead wrong the soviets just jumped into a giant briar patch. you want to inside them to invade afghanistan just like they ha she happy we went into vietnam when i cold the chinese, you should be very thankful that the americans if invadessed afghanistan and iraq and you should tell the americans should i say in iraq and afghanistan until they win because they'll be there forever, wrecking their economy some ruining their military at the same time. but. >> just to go back to world war ii analogy, it wasn't just germany and japan. he spent resources, area covert actions the marshall plan, in itly and then southern europe to try to keep this communist hands off of it and trying to propose something like a democracy there is the difference that the aim there was ultimately to balance against the soviet union and it had this realist justification
even if we were pursuing liberal tactics in a iraq it took on a life of its own? >> i let's go back to world war ii and the immediate aftermath think united states quickly figured out, i'd say by december 1947, that it had to balance against the soviet union. the europeans were no in no position to do it certainly germany. so we began to move in in a big way, creating nato in 1949. and everything we did was designed to deal with that soviet threat. now, part of the reason that we created democracies at the time and the cia of course was heavily involved in this -- was because the alternative to democracy was communism. as most of you know, in the 1930s and during world war ii, it was the left that stood up to fascism and the left had a lot
of could cache places lake france and italy and we we are fearful the left would win and if it won in italy or france would form an alliance with the soviet union so promoting democracy had a very important strategic rational. this not deny your wind chill that it fit very neatly with our liberal world view. >> but hat a different strategy yep rationale. >> you want to remember but the bush doctrine is that the basic aim of the bush doctrine was to create a giant zone of peace by making the middle east look like a bunch of little americas. >> so i have to say i'm convinces by when we move off -- even with the iraq as an example, afghanistan is a good example -- humanitarian intervention, especially the strikes in libya, i think were a great example, drivenly liberalism with disastrous results and accepting your examples there's a puzzle why do
we keep doing is? what grip does this attitude or this have on really as you call it the foreign policy elite? it crosses political boundaries. where does it come from and why does is have this grip why don't we learn? >> there's a lot of learning to be had in reading you book but why didn't the government figure that out. >> a great question. used to be clear with answer jack's quirk believe the republicans and the democrats are tweedle-dee anded to tweedle-dum on foreign policy. no difference ten the two aparts they both embrace liberal hedge gem my. there are number of reasons. liberal jim is hard spired the american psyche. americans are just deeply committed to promoting liberalism around the world because it's just the way we
are. that's one thing. the -- >> is that because every nation tries to -- has a natural tendency to replicates its domestic structures something uniquely american. >> it is the former. the united states is a fundamentally liberal country at home, and it does try to export its foreign policy and makes perfect sense. i if you're an american, very proud of the fact you live in this great liberal democracy and you believe that america is exceptional and if you can make everybody else look like us, it would be a much better world. it's that mental at thatity thas drive little there are number of factors at play here. i think first of all, once you get into these conflicts, it's almost impossible to get out. look at afghanistan. the longest war in american history. we got out of iraq but then we got back in. this is one of the rains was so
opposed to going into iraq to begin with. i knew once we get in there we would never get out. so perpetuates servicer for that reason. think, it's basic giant jobs program for the elite here in washington. there's just all sorts of people in washington who i run around -- run into all the thyme want to run the world. and if you try to run the world, just creates a lots of jobs and opportunities so it is a jobs program. and the other thing is, we have no accountability in the american system. you can screw up big-time in foreign policy and you don't get fin pin issuedded for. i you to a think tank and then you're back in the government again after a few years. >> owl of these things are puzzling. why no accountability in the foreign policy establishment is? is thaw truitt across the board. >> something unique but the foreign policy establishment. that is the fact that this real distinction between the public
and the elites. and the fact is the united states is most secure great power the history of the world, and the public intuits this -- they understand that we're separated from the rest of the world by two giant modes. thousands of nuclear weapons and here we are in the unipolar moment where by definition the only great power on the planet. we have thousands of nuclear weapons and we're separated from the rest of the world by giant moats. does it get any better than this? so, when people say the american public really is not interested in foreign policy, they're correct. the person public is not that interested in foreign policy because it doesn't matter that much. this is a playground for the elites. and as i said before, a giant jobs program. and the end result is that as long as large 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're willing to let the wars good on. then my final point to you would be, the elites in this country is really brilliant at bamboozling the public into thinking it's necessary to spend all this money on defense and fight all these wars. threat inflation is our business nobody better at threat inflation than the american foreign policy establishment. >> i meant to ask you earlier, you define liberal hedge gem my as only been possession in a unipolar era. >> it correct. >> you focus -- there is a precursor to this? was the wilson era -- another period of american liberal hedge gem my or a recent -- really post 1989 or post 2001. >> my argue immigrant is that it's post '89 bus we have hat
unipolarity before. to pick up on your point about wilson, there's no question that given what a thoroughly liberal kuhn trithe united states is, that liberal impulse is always there. so even when you're in a bipolar world or multipolar world, the inclination to follow liberal policies is there. and occasionally you will pursue a liberal policy and my argue. is you'll get whacked on the snout bass we glove a world where wayism and nationalism are the two dominant forces and liberalism gets grow big trouble, especially in bipolarity and multio'layer. >> explain what you mean by realism and nationalism trump electric rail hedge gm any when they conflict and those are the real motivators. >> let me focus on nationalism. believe that nationalism is the
most powerful political ideology in the world. i believe it's no accident that we live in a world that is populated with nation states. i would add to you that -- i think that the united states is a thoroughly nationalist country, americans are very nationalistic. when you hear americans talk about american exceptionalism, american exceptionalism is american nationalism at play. when madeline al bright, who is a card-carrying liberal, says that we are the indispensable nation, we stand taller and see fewer their, just think about those words. we, we, as oppose told the other, we stand taller, we see further, that means we are superior to other -- they're the american exceptionalism.
madeline albright is saying we as a nation stayed, they the right and the responsible and the power to run around the world and reorder the politics in different countries in a liberal way. but that's very nationalistic thinking. very important to understand that. now, why do i believe that nationalism is more powerful than liberalism? for one very simple reason. having to do with human nature. you have to decide when you think about human beings, whether you think they're social animals at their core who carve out space for their individualism, or you think they're individuals who form social contracts. that's the $64,000 question you have to ask yourself. liberalism assumes that we are individuals at our core who form social contracts. nationalism assumes we are
tribal from the get-go. we are born into nations, we are born into social groups, borne into tribes and we carve out space for our individualism. liberalism is wrong and nationalism is right. we are tribal animals. we belong to groups and we have tremendous loyalty to those groups. this is not say we can't carve out resume for our individualism. but we're social animals. so, when you get the united states of america going into a country like iraq or vietnam or the s.o.f.a. yets going into -- soviets going into afghanistan, nationalism will couple to the forein the country you insayed because people will say we're a sovereign nation state. we believe in self-determination. we do not want the united states coming in and tell is what to do. and think about how we react to the soviet -- the russians
interfering in our election. they do not have any right, we believe to interfere in an american election. it's a violation our our sovereignty. that's nationalism at play. nationalism dominates liberalism. >> okay. and good. just to follow through, what is -- how does this play out? how does that idea play out in sort of american foreign policy failures? when we try to invade others these principles its doesn't work because we can't go in there and impose this form of government because the impulse of nationalism resists that is? that the point? >> look. american foreign policy, as i said before, american foreign policy in the area of liberal hedge gem my has three goal buts the principle goal is to knock f
foreign author taryn yaregimes and turn them into democracy so that me that's ounce of america goes to interfere with she sovereignty of other countries will cause problem in the middle east with the iraqs and the irans and the saudi arraignies, it's go egg to -- saudi arabia's and going to cause problem with the russians and the chinese. i if you go do russia or china today and you talk to them about whether they think it's a good idea that america is promoting democracy in either russia or china, they will tell you in no uncertain terms this is categorically unacceptable. they recoil at the idea of us interfere, in their politics as much as we recoil at the idea of them interfering in our politics. this is nationalism. >> this point about the russians recoiling to us interfering in their politics as much as we
recoil to them enter nearing ours, i think is a fundamental point. this is for me when i read realism literature versus liberalism literature,'llism has two foundational elements. one is it tends to assess situations in an amoral way, not make normative judgment, and, two, what you just said, you make this point over and over again bet the moving nato east and the impact that had and if we had just imagined as many people argue that the -- going to have this devastating impact on russia and cause it to react in a very harsh way, realist tend to think in those -- in terms of seeing through the eyes of the enemy and they can a that seriousfully a kind e cold and amoral way and the sense is liberal internationalists don't do that as much. i don't know if this is fair.
they tend not to think how is this going to be seen from the other side and tend just to do what they think is right is that fair characterization. >> i aggrieve with everything and give you the logic i see behind it. realists basically treat states as black boxes. they're no good guys or bad guys in the realist story, and realists assume that states, even your own set to, often has to do terrible things because the principal goal is survival and survival requires you sometimes do immoral things for purposes of maximizing your chances of -- no good guys and bad guys in he realist story. therefore it's quite easy for a realist 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. most of you in this room share that view.
you believe that liberal democracies are on the guys and authoritarian states her to bad guys and when you have that world view, and you're in a liberal state and you're dealing with the authoritarian state, it's shortly impossible to put yourself in the shoes of that authoritarian state and in fact think you're a benign hegemon. i've talked to mike mcfall the american ambassador to moscow from 2012 to 12014 and he was shocked by what happened in february 2014 when the ukraine crisis blew up because he told putin and put's lieutenants on numerous occasion when he was the ambassador, they really had nothing to fear from nato expansion because the united states was a benign hegemon. ed had benign motive is believe mike believed that completely. but from the russian point of view, the united states did not
look like benign hegemon his he united states was talking about regime change in russia but is was impossible for mike to understand that because he such a thorough going lib rail because for realists like mitt is makes sense and all the realists say they'd nato expansion will lead to disaster because they could put themselves in the showers the russians. >> you talkty end of the look but a the case for -- the realist prescription for american foreign policy is restrained. could you outline that. >> well, just imagine what the world would have looked like from, let's say, 1990 up to the present if i had been the president of the united states. and had been in charge of american foreign policy. don't worry. never going to happen. we would have had no nato
expansion. and we would today have much better relations with the russians. the situation in the middle east would be much more stable. we would not have innovated iraq. we would not have helped kill colonel cad cad in libya. -- connell gadhafi in libya and i think the result is fewer people would have died, fewer americans would have died. we would he spent much less money and i would have pulled all our troop outside of europe when the cold war ended. i find it unacceptable that we spend all this money defending europeans who are perfectly capable of defends themselves when we have such great needs in this country. you go to airports likely laguard ya and lax, they're basically third world airports. you go around the world and people have first world airports. the amount of money we have
poured into the wears remarkable so much more restained foreign policy based on the fact that we respected the power of nationalism and we're mainly concern with the balance of power. >> how do you -- i tend to agree but they depend on counterfactual assessments and i think that ace it's easier to make the counterfactual assess the middle east because we create such mess, but it just seems to be harder to know dish agree that expanding nato eastward seemed to invite trouble and seemed to threaten the russian but the combination of not expanding nate tout by disbanding it. how do you know that wouldn't haven't to russian aggression. >> russia wag a complete basket case any 1990s. even today, there's virtually no chance that russia is going to conquer eastern europe. they've been there done that. it did not work out very well. they got out of town and the last thing they want to do is go back . in furthermore russia
is a declining great power, largely for demographic reasons also for economic reasons. but let's assume i'm wrong. let's assume that they have some formidable military power. why can't the europeans defend themselves in they have many more people tom the russians, much more wealth and they expend loot more on defense. despite the fact that they don't spend that much on defense. why are we defending them? i agree with barack obama when he said we should have concentrated on nation building at home, not spend all this money on wars that, number one, never end, and, number two we lose. >> so, that's a lot of what you said today send sowards like thing thursday president trump alleged very indicated for on the campaign trail. you don't talk much but president trump. he was very much against elitessist control of u.s. foreign policy. he is very skeptical of nato.
he is skeptical in sat you've excess cyst u.s. national engagement inher to be intercede twice in syria. i wonder what the relationship is betweens you thesis and the trump foreign policy if you can state what that it is. it's kind of hard to tell and how do you assess the trump foreign policy from the perspective of, it is committed to liberal hegemony or something else. >> a lot of questions. >> i know. answer them all, please. answer the. >> i answer one and you can come back. first thing to say but president trump is when he was candidate trump, he ran against liberal hegemony. said there were three elements to liberal hegemony, spreading democracy over the world he made it clear we were getting out of the business of doing that. number two, purveying an open international economic order. he made it very clear that he
likes tariffs and he was interested in countering the open international economic order which he thought hurt it and with regard to institutions he does not like nato, does now like the eeu does know like the wto, on and on, i. one of the first thinges when he became was to throw the tpm in the garbage hitch doesn't like institutions. i often say issue think as candidates go he was the most radical foreign policy candidate in american history. he ran against the establishment. by the way, have you ever asked yourself why did he sunshine he won because large chunk's the american people understand our foreign policy is bankrupts and barack obama ran against liberal hegemony as well. >> but by the end of this term he admit in after libya he felt burned by it. >> he felt burned by it no question and the famous
interview with jeffrey goldberg captures that. >> re resists the impulses. >> right. so, what you have here now, given that almost everyone in washington is committed to liberal hegemony, you have trump and maybe a handful of others up against the establishment, and the question is who is going to win? this was the situation that obtained with even obama lost. nobody was much agency as donald trump and i think if there's anybody who can beat back liberal hegemony its him but the argument i make is i think liberal hegemony is done for its anyway and not because of donald trump. it's done for it because of the rise of china. you want to remember, my argument is you can only have liberal hegemony in a unipolar world and we are, i would argue we already have, moved out of
eunipolar world with the rise of china and the resurrection of russian powerrum know live a multipolar world so wore going back to real policy. >> what does that mean, we live what does that mean concretesly for the role that human rights, rhetoric plays in our foreign policy, obama kind of dropped it actually to a surprising degree. trump isn't mentioning it. do you think that mean this human rights element of our foreign policy going back to carter goes by the way sunrise certainly not a driver of policy. >> my argue up is that -- argument is that liberalism which is includes an emphasis on human rights -- i minnesota that as an element of liberalism. >> will always be there to describe our foreign policy no matter. often say that during the cold war the united states acted in a
real politi i.q. way and disguised witness with liberal rhetoric. the rhetoric will always be there. the argument i'm make is we behaved in a liberal fashion during most cold wore world but those days are gone. one could argue there or two real problems the the raise our china and the rex of russian power and the policy is failed and the fact that donald trump in the house has bun pounding liberal hegemony, that one-two punch has in a very important way finish its it off. >> thank you much. a great discussion. i appreciate it. >> thank you. [applause] wiring here to announce the death nell of liberal hegemony. >> we don't take questions but john is happy to sign books and
chat. >> sure. >> thank you all for coming. [inaudible conversations] >> here's a look at awe thor recently featured on book therefore lazy "after words" our weekly author interview program that features best selling nonfinks books and guest interviewers. citizens united david bossy and former trump campaign manager corey loon dow city argue that washington bureaucrats are seeking to undermine the presidency of donald trump. a reflection on the work with blay "black lives matter" and how to advance 0 social justice movement. and a economist stephen moor discusses the economic policies of the trump administration in the coming weeks on "after words," an examination of whether the american dream is attainable today. and this weekend, louise shellie
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