Phillip Stevens of FT had an excellent piece “How the west has lost the world“, dated October 13th, 2016.
It is an astute piece that highlights how the declining trust in Western institutions, as well as the relative decline in American power and European chaos is leading to a more anarchic world.
I agree with most of it.
There was, however, one paragraph, which, I’m afraid, doesn’t strictly do justice to a concept he attempted to describe and characterise. The para is where he mentions Realism as a sort of fatalism which means one should let the nations sort out their positions, and there will be an equilibrium by itself.

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That’s unfortunately, not what Realism means, predicts, or prescribes as policy.
Realism, both early on as a philosophical concept, as well as a political science research in modern times was the predominant international relations paradigm throughout history from Athens and Sparta to Rome and Carthage to Cold War, but got overruled conceptually post Soviet collapse, when values and norms and Liberal order started to be considered more important than amoral interest based great power balancing.
That led us, in this case, the West, to have what we call an imperial overreach, and overextend itself.
Realism, therefore, even though a systemic theory, never prescribes a fatalistic “do nothing” or isolationist policy. It has a few basic concepts, which I believe should be highlighted more. Realism, in all its forms and subdivisions, whether classical, structural, neo, neoclassical, offensive and defensive, therefore prescribes the following.
1. It encourages to understand and respect the limitations of spreading norms and values and social constructs through the use of force. Be respectful of the traditions and cultural and structural differences of different regions across the globe, and try to form policy based on interests and interests only. Interventionism of any sorts, whether it emphasises promotion of democracy (conservative) or humanitarian intervention (liberal), are both therefore critiqued.
2. It actively encourages “balancing”. Unlike Isolationism, which asks states to just pull back, Realism encourages states to build up and conserve their economic and military forces and actively look for block formations and contain and balance other rising powers.
3. It encourages states or blocks, to create and take advantage of rifts between rival states or blocks. For the West, that would be striking discord between Russia and China, or encouraging domestic forces or proxies to engage and destabilise the other rising powers and near peer rivals.
4. It divides world in zones, depending on which zones are more important for the existential survival and direct strategic interests for the west, and encourages the west to compromise on zones where other rival powers have interest.
Admittedly, this is a brief summary, and there are obviously a lot more detailed studies which are already done. Here are a few recent ones, in case anyone’s interested.
I believe it is necessary, given that Liberal/NeoCon Western policy and grand strategy has reached a dead end in the last quarter century, and I strongly believe a return to amoral Realism is what might get us out of the rut we are currently in. But that’s for policy makers to decide, and for academics and journalists to suggest.
UPDATE: Mr Stevens replied to my email, and this was his reply.
Many thanks for these interesting thoughts on the nature of realism….i was not though trying to say that realism and fatalism were the same thing….more that some characterise such a position as realism, some as fatalism…with regards….

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