I guess this was inevitable.
After the debate about Obama being a Realist, (he’s ofcourse not) it was inevitable the Neorealist tag would be on Donald Trump after his interminable dross for New York Times. It is an incoherent mess, with talking points which will make, Hayek to Say to Ricardo to Morgenthau to Waltz, all cringe in shame, but it had some interesting moments.
But not as interesting as this debate which started right after.
If you click on the above images, you will get the crux of the argument. Is Trump a Neorealist or not? The argument for, is that he wants Japan and South Korea to have independent deterrence, and rid United States of carrying the security burden in Asia. The counter argument is, well…he is insane.
Here’re my points.
- No realist worth his salt, would plan to start a trade war, with another near peer rival, knowing that it will cripple United States economy.
- He doesn’t understand the basic threat from revisionist powers in Europe, powers which are revanchist and probing NATO/US resolve since 1999, and has read no literature on balance of threat and alliance structures.
- Yes, Neorealists on the whole, say that nuclear weapons increase stability and peace. Kenneth Waltz said that in 1981, as well as regarding the Iranian nuclear deals, as did John Mearsheimer with regards to Ukraine. However, here’re two significant difference. Nuclear weapons increase stability, when there is rivalry, between two adversarial powers, and the threat of destruction brings stability. Japan, on the other hand, is an ally, with a “unique” history, in a sphere, which United States traditionally consider as her own sphere of influence since 1823. It is not in US interest, if an ally and junior partner with significant but dormant ultra-right sentiments, suddenly have nuclear weapons. It might or might not challenge US hegemony, or even Chinese hegemony, but it might be bold enough to stir up trouble, which might affect the posture of China, India, and other regional powers. In short, a hegemon usually tries to keep things calm, when stability is already achieved. Neorealists don’t go out of their way to seek trouble.
- Which brings us to the final point, as Micah Zenko pointed out earlier. The entire transcript is completely incoherent. To ascribe a definite theoretical framework to this mess, is to legitimise this gibberish.
As I mentioned in the Obama article above, it is perhaps a bit back in fashion these days, with growing isolationist tendencies across both sides of the Atlantic, to use talking points of indifferent stoic state interest. While superficially it might sound realist, it is not, and it lacks theoretical rigor and coherence. Realists have opposed Trump previously, alongside others. And although I don’t speak on behalf of the entire Realist school of FP here, it is safe to presume, they will oppose any delusional lunatic again, and everytime.