You are on page 1of 27

Realistic Realism?

American Political
Realism, Clausewitz and Raymond Aron on
the Problem of Means and Ends in
International Politics

MURIELLE COZETTE

This article focuses on the relationship between means and ends in international
politics, which is one of the core issues that has been reected upon in international
relations. Political realism, usually regarded as the dominant paradigm in international
relations, provides a very specic understanding of this relationship: power and
survival are considered as the unique, given and xed ends of political action on the
international scene. Consequently, a theory of international relations only concentrates
on how states can make the most efcient use of the varied means the states dispose of
in order to achieve these ends. However, this article argues that this dominant
conception of international politics is surprisingly narrow. By focusing on other
prominent thinkers traditionally labelled as realists, like Clausewitz and Aron, the
article stresses the complexity of the relationship of means and ends and the place of
power within a realist theory of international relations.

Political realism has traditionally been regarded as the dominant paradigm of


international relations. Not surprisingly, most criticisms voiced in the eld
are directed against this school of thought. One of the most justied of these
stresses the uncertainty of the status of its central concept power within
realist theories, and the neglect of values. For the most prominent realists,
Hans Morgenthau and Kenneth Waltz, power and survival are the core ideas
used in their account of international relations. Even though differences are to
be found between the two scholars, both agree on the role played by power
and survival in their theory: these two concepts are presented as the rational
goal of international politics. Survival being the end, the struggle for power is
the essence of state relations. A theory of international relations therefore
aims at stressing the most effective use that can be made, by states, of means
or capabilities at their disposal in order to achieve this end.
This article argues that realism is too often only conceived as an Anglo-
American school of thought. Morgenthau and Waltz are certainly the most
quoted scholars in the tradition, but this obscures the fact that realism, dened
as a specic approach to international relations, also includes other, non-
American thinkers, who, while being part of that school, nevertheless have a

The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol.27, No.3, September 2004, pp.428 453
ISSN 0140-2390 print/1743-937X online
DOI: 10.1080/1362369042000282976 # 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 429

different understanding of some of the main issues in international relations.


As Stanley Hoffmann rightly stressed, international relations has always been
an American social science.1 This domination by Anglo-Saxon scholars
accounts for a very narrow understanding of the term realism itself. A
reappraisal of the works of some realists who are rarely considered in the
international relations literature would certainly highlight the richness of
realism and the subtlety of its insights.
Carl von Clausewitz, while often regarded as a realist thinker, nonetheless
holds specic views on the relationship between means and ends in the
military realm. These views are strikingly similar to Raymond Arons, even
though the latter broadened the scope of the analysis by focusing explicitly on
international relations as an academic discipline. Aron is usually regarded as
a mainstream realist who simply reformulated some key realist principles for
a French audience, which may be one of the reasons why his works are rarely
investigated in depth.2 Brian Paul Frost justly refers to him as a neglected
theorist in that sense.3 However, as this article demonstrates, he precisely
focused on the shortcomings and weaknesses of Anglo-American realism,
most notably regarding the relationship between means and ends, and
provided a different denition of what international politics is about. He
challenged some of the most basic realist premises, and offered a theoretical
framework to analyse international relations that could ultimately be regarded
as more realistic than the one proposed by both Morgenthau and Waltz.
Realism as a school of thought in international relations should certainly be
conceived in broader terms, as this would allow realism to provide a more
subtle view of international relations, which would in turn counter some
prominent criticisms. This article focuses on the relationship between means
and ends in order to highlight the necessity to rediscover the works of these
two among many others realists, and to show how they can affect the
potential reformulation of some of the most well-known realist principles in
international relations.
The article will rst examine the main realist tenets about international
politics and will concentrate on the denition of this expression and its
subsequent implications. It will then contrast this view with Clausewitzs
ideas on means and ends in politics. It will lastly emphasise Arons
conclusions on international politics. The article will conclude that the ideas
these two thinkers advocate should be regarded as a necessary complement to
any strict, Anglo-American realist analysis of international relations.

The Anglo-American Realist Assumptions


Political realism is mostly conceived of as a predominantly Anglo-
American school of thought, whose main proponents, Morgenthau and
430 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

Waltz, share some basic assumptions about the nature of international


relations. One of them is that the struggle for power is the main, dening
characteristic of relations among states, stemming from the initial premise
that they take place in a world of anarchy for Waltz, or that human nature
is necessarily driven by the lust for power for Morgenthau. The strict
Hobbesian account of international relations explains why survival is in any
case the chief and only concern of states on the international scene: as no
supreme authority can regulate their mutual relations, states can and will
use force whenever they decide that their national interest is at stake. The
loss or acquisition of power is central in this analysis, as it contains the
concept of balance of power, so dear to realists when it comes to explain
patterns of international relations. This almost obsessive concern with
power can, however, be questioned, as it stems from a very narrow
understanding of international politics in the rst place. This article focuses
on Morgenthau and to a lesser extent, Waltz taking then as exemplifying
the two broad tendencies of realism in international relations, namely
classical and structural or neo realism.
For Morgenthau, international politics is identical, in its essence, with
domestic politics, and is characterised by the struggle for power.
Morgenthaus starting point is man, as he is the main actor at both the
domestic and international level. His views on what drives human decisions
in the political sphere are clear: moral claims made to explain certain actions
are always to be regarded as hypocritical. They are only a posteriori
rationalisations of human acts, justications that are invariably provided ex
post, while the chief driving force that explains them is what he calls the
animus dominandi, the lust for power.4 Reason, far from being the ultimate
decision-maker, is actually used by passions and interest, and moves
whenever these passions and interests want to go: Reason is like a light
which by its own inner force can move nowhere. It must be carried in order to
move. It is carried by the irrational forces of interest and emotion to where
those forces want it to move, regardless of what the inner logic of abstract
reason would require.5
Reason therefore intervenes ex post to provide men with justications
which give human actions the appearance of rationality or morality. Herein
lies Morgenthaus denition of ideology: it is nothing but a process of
rationalisation of irrational, selsh motives lurking behind any human
decision in the sphere of politics.6 Ideology is understood as being a
necessary but instrumental justication of human acts, which would
otherwise appear for what they truly are, the manifestation of an irreducible
and nonetheless necessary selshness in the realm of politics.
The basic selshness of human beings and consequently of states is
necessary as it rst enables them to survive. In this sense, selshness is truly a
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 431

necessary law of behaviour as it ensures self-preservation. However, once


survival is achieved, the lust for power becomes the main driving force of
human action. Contrary to selshness, this desire for power is limitless, for it
is not concerned with survival, that is, a nite goal, but with power itself, the
will to dominate others.7 This in turn implies that in politics, man always
regards his fellow human beings as means rather than ends. In this sense,
politics is the exact contrary of Kantian ethics as Coffey stressed.8 Hence
Morgenthaus conclusion that international politics is necessarily evil, as it is
primarily concerned with power.9
The various denitions provided by Morgenthau of the concept of power
all stress the same, basic idea of domination or control of men over men,
characteristic of all politics.10 This narrow understanding of international
politics as being uniquely a ruthless struggle for power requires further
explanation.
To support the denition of international politics as being uniquely power
politics, Morgenthau draws a strict Hobbesian analogy between the domestic
and the international realms. His views on human nature help understand why
he naturally refers to the domestic sphere as exemplifying his assumptions:
man being primarily driven by the lust for power, and man being the primary
actor who, within a state, takes decisions, it logically follows that the essence
of international politics is identical with its domestic counterpart. Both
domestic and international politics are a struggle for power, modied only by
the different conditions under which this struggle takes place in the domestic
and international spheres.11 So certain is Morgenthau of the veracity of his
account of human nature in politics that he considers this parallel as the
decisive argument against sceptics who could put his denition of
international politics as a struggle for power into doubt.
This is certainly surprising, as this analogy can precisely be regarded as
demonstrating the fragility of this basic realist assumption. Indeed,
pacication is possible in domestic politics, and Morgenthau never
successfully explains why it is not at the international level. Hence Arons
puzzled remark: Everything looks as if Morgenthau wanted to convince his
reader that international politics is power politics by using the exact contrary
argument to the one used by all thinkers for centuries, that is, the strict
distinction between the domestic and the international realm.12
The implication of this is paramount as, theoretically speaking,
Morgenthau is unable to provide a distinctive feature of international
relations that would render theory both legitimate and desirable. Aron was
aware of this weakness: power is characteristic of all societies rather than of
all politics.13
Waltz precisely tried to remedy this problem by nding a distinctive
feature of the international realm. Unlike Morgenthau, he draws a radical
432 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

distinction between the domestic and the international spheres that lies in the
structures of the two realms: anarchy becomes the central, dening feature of
the international structure. It is noticeable that this very much resembles
Morgenthaus phrasing when he mentions different conditions of actions at
the domestic and international levels. In sum, Waltz simply turned this rather
vague and scientically unsatisfactory expression into a highly scientic
concept, that of structure.14
In the international system, states are regarded as units, and as such, they
are inuenced by the very nature of the system they live in hierarchy or
anarchy. In Waltzs terms: Agents and agencies act, systems as a whole do
not. But the actions of agents and agencies are affected by the system
structure. In itself a structure does not directly lead to one outcome rather
than another. Structures affect behaviour within the system but do so
indirectly.15 States, as they are units acting within a system, are inuenced
by the structure of the system, but it cannot be said that this very structure
obliges states to act in a certain way. Waltz put it this way: Structures shape
and shove. They do not determine behaviors and outcomes, not only because
unit-level and structural causes interact, but also because the shaping and
shoving of structures may be successfully resisted.16
Having distinguished between the different structures of the two realms,
the exact role and place of power and survival remains problematic. The
fuzziness realists display when it comes to this issue is all the more puzzling
because power and survival have a central place in their theory. It would have
seemed logical that they devote a great deal of attention to their status within
their theory. Both Morgenthau and Waltz regard power and survival as the
essence of international politics, the elements for which states permanently
strive. For Morgenthau, power is the primary goal of politics. Not only is it a
primary goal, it is also often presented as the unique one. Herein lies one of
the most strikingly unrealistic aspect of realism.
Morgenthau was aware of the problems raised by this indeterminacy of the
place power has in international politics, especially as he readily admits that
human beings, even though they are driven by the lust for power, are also
keen to pursue other types of goals: Man is a political animal by nature, he is
a scientist by chance or choice, he is a moralist because he is a man.17
Having stated this specicity, Morgenthau then becomes less clear about its
implications.
On the one hand, he recalls his denition of international politics as being
necessarily and uniquely preoccupied by power, by stating, rather sweep-
ingly, that politics is a struggle for power over men, and whatever its
ultimate aim may be, power is its immediate goal.18 By doing so, he saved
the rationality of his account of international politics, as he retained the idea
of a given, rational end for political action. However, the weakness of the
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 433

argument is particularly clear in this assertion: by discerning between long


term and immediate aims, Morgenthau implicitly admits that power is not
always the ultimate end, and can be regarded as a means in order to achieve
other ends.19 He does not, however, go further than this assertion.
Waltz adopts the same attitude: he retains the idea that there is one end in
international politics survival and that power is a means to this end. What
remains constant is the type of account he provides of international relations:
there is one rational goal to achieve, and states possess different means in
order to do so. Like Morgenthau, however, Waltz understood the limits of
such a scheme: while stating that survival is the only goal of international
politics, he nevertheless ends up admitting that the assumption allows for the
fact that no states always act exclusively to ensure its survival.20 Again,
Waltz implicitly recognises that survival can be considered as a means to an
end. Like Morgenthau, however, he sticks to the idea of a rational end for
international politics, simply warning that the survival motive is taken as the
ground for action in a world where the security of states is not assured, rather
than a realistic description of the impulse that lies behind every act of
states.21 For Morgenthau and Waltz then, the scheme remains the same:
states have a given end survival and the maximisation or management of
power and international relations is about nding the best ways of adapting
means or capacities to this end.
Furthermore, to justify the classical realist denition of international
politics as being a struggle for power, Morgenthau also recalls his denition
of ideas and moral claims as instruments aimed at providing decision-makers
with moral comfort, as well at maximising the success of power politics.
Human nature being what it is, Morgenthau concedes that the appeal to
higher values is likely to be used, as the irreducible opposition between
Christian ethics and the evil nature of politics is hard to face, even for the
shrewdest politicians: No politician can accept the truth of this incompat-
ibility for it is exactly in the appearance of being moral while seeking power
that he nds both peace of mind and an element of power itself.22 The use of
moral claims atters the leaders self esteem, and he is also likely to be
appreciated by his electorate, and achieve his ultimate end, which remains
power.
Morgenthaus forceful warnings concerning the danger of using moral
claims in international politics have been stressed.23 However, he does not
advocate against the use of morality as such, but only against the actual place
of these moral claims in international politics. He emphasises that these
claims are necessary, especially in democratic countries, because of the role
and importance of public opinion: The simple philosophy of the moral
crusade is useful and even indispensable for the domestic task of marshalling
public opinion behind a given policy.24
434 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

Being realistic then, Morgenthau not only accepts the instrumental use of
morality, he also clearly advocates it, as moral claims are just a translation of
the real struggle that actually takes place, which is about power: The true
nature of the policy is concealed by ideological justications and
rationalizations.25 These claims perform the same role for a country as for
an individual: they rationalise the pretence to power by making it seemingly
moral, hence justifying it. This parallel between the individual and the state is
explicitly made by Morgenthau when he restates the domestic analogy to
explain further the nature of ideologies: it is a characteristic aspect of all
politics, domestic as well as international, that frequently, its basic
manifestations do not appear as what they actually are manifestation of a
struggle for power.26 In this sense, then, power remains the unique end of
international politics, and ideologies are truly power politics by other means.
What Morgenthau forcefully opposes is the false belief that ideologies do
have a force of their own, that is, distinct from the struggle for power. Indeed,
his chief concern was that these moral claims seemed to be taken at face
value by US politicians during the Cold War, while in his view, they should
be wise enough to recognise their true nature and purpose: rationalisation and
instruments of the struggle for power:

To conceive of the psychological task of democracy in the struggle


with bolshevism primarily in terms of the technological problem of
piercing the iron curtain and communicating the eternal verities of
democracy to all the world is in a large measure to miss the point.
Political warfare is but the reection, in the realm of ideas, of the
political and military policies it seeks to support [. . .] The call for
victory in the struggle for the minds of men, to be effective, must be
conceived primarily as a call for political and military policies that
have the makings of victory.27

In Morgenthaus conception of international politics, the struggle for power


shapes every other struggle, be it technological, ideological or economic. It is
in this sense that the invocation of moral principles for the support of
national policies is of necessity a pretense.28
For Morgenthau, the biggest mistake of US politicians is to forget the
instrumental nature of ideologies, and to regard them not for what they are
claims for power but as something that exists independently of the struggle
for power.29 This ideological approach to international politics is especially
dangerous in his view, as it is likely to obstruct the normal processes, notably
diplomacy, that channel the will for power and that prevent it from
materialising into military confrontations. Agreement is possible about
matters of national interest, as the national interest does not, for Morgenthau,
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 435

involve ideologies: it is rationally denable. If ideology comes into play in


the diplomatic process, the crusaders do not try to persuade each other that
they could nd common grounds for agreement, but want to persuade the
world, and especially their own nations that they are right and the other side
is wrong and that they are and will always remain staunch defenders of the
right.30 The only sensible way to proceed would then be to come back to a
diplomacy akin to the one practised in the nineteenth century, that is,
uniquely preoccupied with the national interest dened in terms of power.31
This does not preclude the use of moral claims directed to public opinion
before, during and after diplomatic talks, but decision-makers, when they
deal with each other in secrecy, should feel free from this sort of disguise.
This appears highly desirable for Morgenthau especially as he notes the
irremediable tendency of democratic leaders to yield to public opinion
preferences.32
Therefore, for Morgenthau, ideological claims about what is right are
irrelevant because of their instrumental nature. They all perform the same
function, to disguise a lust for power and to legitimate the political decisions
presented to the public as steps to implement these ideologies.33 In sum,
political realism does not differentiate between ideologies because of the
denition given of this concept. The content of ideologies is never
investigated as it is regarded as irrelevant: what matters is only their
common, instrumental nature, that is, justication of power politics, means to
an end. The logical conclusion that could be drawn is that Nazism and
liberalism are the same type of manifestation of the struggle for power,
fought by different countries in a given historical period. As Morgenthau
states:

The difference between liberal and non liberal aims in the international
eld does not lie in the fact that the former are ideological whereas the
latter are not. The ideological character is common to both, since men
will support only political aims which they are persuaded are justied
before reason and morality.34

The dismissal of the importance of ideologies in international politics is


linked with the realist neglect of political regimes: the type of regime
statesmen deal with does not matter. A democratic state can and must deal
with authoritarian states, as a common agreement about what their respective
national interest requires is by denition always possible and desirable to
maintain a balance of power.
Furthermore, in a given country, democratic or non-democratic govern-
ments have to face exactly the same constraints, structurally imposed by the
international system and by the limited resources at their disposal. Their
436 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

attitude concerning the national interest, rationally denable, will therefore


be similar: ideologies or values do not affect this denition. This allows
Morgenthau to assert the universality of his assumptions:

It is the assumption of universality of the national interest in time and


space which enables us to understand the foreign policies of
Demosthenes and Caesar, Kautilya and Henry VIII, of the contempor-
ary statesmen of Russia and China. Regardless of all the differences in
personality and environment, their thinking was predetermined when
they were faced with protecting the rational core of the national
interest.35

The distinction Morgenthau draws between rational and historical features


of the national interest merely acknowledges his awareness of the specic
requirements of each historical period. However, these variable requirements
do not challenge the continuity of the rational ones, which, by their very
nature, are constant. This rational core of the national interest is paramount
for Morgenthaus theory, as it:

. . .creates that astounding continuity in foreign policy which makes


American, British or Russian foreign policy appear as an intelligible,
rational continuum, by and large consistent within itself, regardless of
the different motives, preferences and intellectual and moral qualities
of successive statesmen.36

Like Morgenthau, Waltz regards political regimes and ideologies as entirely


irrelevant variables to the study of the international system: Denitions of
structure must leave aside or abstract from the characteristics of units, their
behavior and their interactions.37 As Linklater explains, Waltz argues that
systemic theory can ignore the domestic nature of the units because while
they are able to inuence the system they are powerless to change it.38 What
happens within states is regarded as not only irrelevant in an account of
international politics, but also unnecessary from the point of view of the
theoretical enterprise: as the focus is only on structures, there is no need for a
theory of the state as such. Furthermore, states, being dened as units, are
only differentiated by means at their disposal (capabilities in Waltzs words),
and not by the ends they pursue: States perform or try to perform tasks, most
of which are common to all of them; the ends they aspire to are similar.39
The end being given, then what remains to be studied is merely the means
that are used by states to achieve it, within a particular structure that imposes
similar constraints on all units. What matters is only the capabilities of each
state, that is, its power or potential gain of power within the system: we do
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 437

not ask whether states are revolutionary or legitimate, authoritarian or


democratic, ideological or pragmatic. We abstract from every attribute of
states except their capabilities.40
Political realism, as expressed by Morgenthau and Waltz, is therefore
extremely deterministic. Neither ideologies nor the type of regime have any
sort of impact upon the foreign policy decision-making of states.41
Consequently, they are permanently ignored in their account of international
relations.
In addition to being deterministic, neo-realism is furthermore unable to
explain particularities, as Waltz himself readily admits.42 However, what is
meant by particularity is nothing less than the reactions each state may have
when faced with a specic type of constraint. In other words, states do react
differently to the same threat, for example, or to a given situation. This
should not be the case if states were simply units striving for power, and only
differentiated by their respective capabilities. In this economic analogy,
under the same constraints, and with the same capabilities, the reaction of a
state should be constant. Again, this stems from the rationality of the unique
end, survival, and from the subsequent adaptation of means within a
particular conguration. Donelly perfectly points out this inherent weakness
of neo-realism: without knowing how states are expected to respond to the
pressures they face, what use of the theory? To abstract from all attributes of
states (other than capabilities) leaves a theory no predictive or explanatory
power.43 This leads Donelly to conclude that: Realism, if it is to serve as a
general theory of international relations, desperately needs a substantive
plausible and theoretically fruitful account of human nature or state
motivation. But neither biological realism nor structural realism in their
leading formulations provide one.44 Here the strangely apolitical nature of
political realism is most visible, as well as the shortcomings stemming from
it.
The case of Nazi Germany is possibly the best example of the weakness of
realist assumptions. It has been stressed that for classical realists, the content
of ideologies does not matter: only their common, instrumental nature.
Similarly, political regimes are not to be considered in an analysis of
international politics, which is uniquely concerned about the national interest
dened rationally in terms of power: a democracy or a dictatorship will
therefore have the same kind of foreign policy, as it is determined by given,
structural constraints. Intuitively, however, one may ask whether the foreign
policy of Hitler and that of Bismarck were truly of the same kind. Similarly,
the equation of Nazism and liberalism as just but two examples of the same
phenomenon, the struggle for power, is hard to endorse.45
It can be argued that Morgenthau understood this, as he afrms the
existence of supreme moral values that would ultimately transcend
438 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

relativism, and would not permit certain policies to be considered at all from
the point of view of expediency.46 What Morgenthau had in mind is the
Holocaust. However, this idea goes against his assertion that the national
interest is always rationally dened in terms of power. States decide what
their national interest consists of, and they also decide what they think to be
appropriate actions to protect it and to increase their power. Then it might be
the case that some states may regard genocide as an option, if the national
interest is dened in racial terms. This is precisely what happened in Nazi
Germany.47 Realism, clinging to the concept of rationality at the core of its
account of international relations, is unable to explain these situations, which
exemplify the basic fact that politics can often be an exercise in human
irrationality.48
The lack of concern displayed by realists for ideologies and regimes fosters
criticisms about the immoral character of realism, which in turn could not
be regarded as a proper guide for action in politics because of the neglect of
these features. The narrow denition they adopt of international politics gives
power and survival a central place, that of the given end of states actions.
International politics is therefore about using means in order to achieve this
end. It is noticeable that despite historical facts that would tend to contradict
realist tenets, neither Morgenthau nor Waltz put their assumptions into
question.
Political realism therefore ends up in a strangely apolitical account of
international relations, in the sense that it cannot account for some crucial
elements of these relations, most notably values and ideologies. However,
these elements are political ones par excellence. The narrow denition of
international politics as being uniquely about a struggle for power can
ultimately be labelled unrealistic.49
This weakness of realism has been repeatedly pointed out by scholars, and
in most cases, alternative approaches to realism are proposed. It is the
contention of this article that the best criticism of political realism can be
found within the school of thought itself, broadly understood in historical
terms as including Clausewitz, and also Aron.

Clausewitzs Ideas on Means and Ends


Clausewitz is often referred to as a realist, mainly because of his famous
dictum that war is the continuation of politics by other means.50 War is
therefore regarded as a necessary and legitimate feature of interstate
relations. Therefore, it is not surprising that Anglo-American realists
consider this statement as a perfect formulation of their own assumptions
about international politics being power politics. However, this is a grave
misunderstanding of Clausewitzs views on politics. Indeed, unlike
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 439

Morgenthau or Waltz, Clausewitz was acutely aware of the diversity of


political ends, and never attempted to subsume them under a unique concept
or direction.
The relation between means and ends is central in Clausewitzs analysis of
the nature of war. Aron justly stresses that Clausewitz actually reasons in
terms of Zweckrationalitat, in a Weberian terminology, when he deals with
politics and war.51 Clausewitzs dictum explicitly denes war as an
instrument politics can use in order to achieve its ends. This is not to say
that war is entirely rational: war is, by its very nature, a phenomenon that
includes passion and emotion. However, it also deals with rationality, that is,
the adaptation of means to given military ends in the case of tactics and
strategy. Above all, politics decides what it wants to achieve by war. In this
sense then, war is not an act of senseless passion but is controlled by its
political object; the value of this object must determine the sacrices to be
made for it in magnitude and also in duration.52
It is this understanding of the relation between means and ends in terms of
Zweckrationalitat that allows Clausewitz to dene war as an instrument to
achieve political ends. Consequently, war is constantly inuenced by the
political end. This relation between means and ends therefore postulates that
ends direct means. In other words, politics decides for war not because of its
military capacities to wage it victoriously, but because it seeks something
other than military victory. Military victory is itself a means to achieve the
political end. This political end was not really investigated in depths by
Clausewitz because his chief concern was with the instrument, war.53
This may also be explained by Clausewitzs awareness of the limits of
theoretical formulations that are posed by the very object of the study: human
phenomena, that, for him, do not allow what he calls a positive doctrine, a
manual for action.54
On the contrary, Clausewitz argues that this type of theory is bound to
failure in the sense that it can never coincide with the reality it attempts to
describe.55 It is so as war includes crucial elements like courage and genius,
which the scientist cannot disregard: they are inherent to war itself.56
Clausewitz therefore elevates moral forces at the level of theoretical
parameters.57 This is dictated by realism dened as an understanding of the
phenomenon studied that actually corresponds to what it is. This inclusion of
moral elements in turn prevents any kind of prediction concerning the
outcome of the war. It also prevents his theory from being contradicted by
reality itself, as it acknowledges its unpredictable elements.
Rationality, or the adaptation of means to a given end, is retained because
of the nature of war itself as an instrument of politics. It is not concerned with
the essence of war, violence, nor with the political end itself, which is never
clearly dened by Clausewitz as being intrinsically rational. Politics is
440 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

rational insofar as it decides to use a means war to achieve its ends. What
is rational is this choice, not the goal pursued.
What is possible then, according to Clausewitz, is an analytical
investigation leading to a close acquaintance with the subject; applied to
experience [. . .] it leads to thorough familiarity with it.58 It is in this sense
that Clausewitz argues that theory must not accompany the military chief on
the battleeld.59 Its only purpose is to educate his judgement, which by
denition remains particular, specic to his own genius. Morgenthau and
Waltz did exactly the contrary: they refused to deal with immaterial features,
like ideologies or political regimes. As a result, their theories are contradicted
by their very object of study, as it is inherently composed of these irrational
elements they explicitly leave aside in their analysis.
Asserting that war is the continuation of politics by other means says
nothing about what the political ends are. It certainly does not presuppose that
power is the ultimate political objective pursued by states in history. On the
contrary, Clausewitz stresses that political ends vary over time. This diversity
is precisely what explains the different characters war may take, even though
its instrumental nature remains constant. The more grandiose the political
ends, the closer war gets to its absolute nature.60 Clausewitz therefore does
not assert that politics has only one, primary, goal, that is, survival or the
acquisition of power. Furthermore, for Clausewitz, war is an instrument
among others that politics decides or decides not to use, and politics is at the
same time the force that will prevent the escalation of the war, and keep it
within certain bounds. That means that international politics is not equated
with war alone, or violence. As Aron remarks, the fact that Clausewitz retains
violence as the essence of war implies he could not argue that war was a
permanent feature of international politics: politics may aim at the same ends
in peace as in war; it cannot be the continuation of war by other means, as
war is only characterised by the specicity of its means, violence.61
Peace, understood as the absence of violence, is by denition a different
stage in international relations. In other words, conict does not continue
after war. As Aron noted, it is not true that inter state relations as such or that
the essential inter state relation implies a struggle to death. War does not
continue when war falls silent.62 This goes against a realist assumption that
states are in a permanent conict or competition for power and survival, even
in times of peace peace being dened as war by other means.
Furthermore, once war is over, politics returns to the other means it has at
its disposal to deal with other states. That is to say that the primary goal of
politics can be said to be peace, not power or survival. In his commentaries of
Clausewitz, Aron emphasises that political ends are diverse, but cannot be
reduced to the will for power. On the contrary, politics determines the end,
that is not reduced to power and which would consist much more of a
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 441

peaceful coexistence of nations, each of them independent, each free to


express its self.63 As he remarks, for Clausewitz, international relations are
not characterised by a struggle for survival. On the contrary, the underlying
assumption is that the very existence of states is never threatened in times of
war.64
It could be argued that Clausewitz remained a man of his time, and that he
could not foresee the Cold War and its concept of MAD (Mutually Assured
Destruction), possibly the best example of the realist assumption about
survival as the unique, or at least ultimate end of politics.65 If it is obvious
that Clausewitzs understanding of international relations is historically
dated, what is not is his prescience that politics was concerned with much
more than mere survival or acquisition of power. Aron remarks that,
signicantly, Clausewitz does not use the word power extensively, and when
he does, it is only to compare the power of the belligerents.66 That is to say
that power is clearly understood as a capacity or a means used by politics in
order to achieve specic ends it alone denes, and that deals with a wide
range of considerations: the interests of the internal administration, those of
humanity, the tendency to equilibrium in Europe, the common interest of the
system of states, all these exclude the reduction of the states will to a will for
power.67
In sum, Clausewitz can effectively be regarded as a realist because of his
conception of war as a legitimate instrument in the hands of politics, but he
strikingly differs from Morgenthau and Waltz in two ways.
First, he does not assume that international politics has a unique end,
power or survival. On the contrary, he puts the stress on the diversity of
political goals that shape wars in history.
Second, he explicitly includes moral features in his analysis of war, and
this he presents as realistic as these are inherent to war itself. Aron devoted
a great deal of time to the study of Clausewitz, and his own account of
international politics echoes that of the Prussian thinker. It can be argued that
he translated the most important of Clausewitzs ndings on the phenomenon
of war into his theory of international relations.

Raymond Arons Theory of International Relations


Arons theory of international relations, although rarely investigated in depth
by international relations scholars, nevertheless provides a complementary
approach to Anglo-American realism by the stress he puts on the importance
of ideologies and values, and the central assertion of the plurality of political
ends.
Arons primary concern in his study of international relations is to grasp
what constitutes its originality.68 Like Clausewitz, he rst aims at dening
442 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

the essence of the phenomenon he deals with. His answer is that inter states
relations present an original feature, which distinguishes them from all social
relations: they take place under the shadow of war, they imply by essence the
alternative between peace and war.69 The shadow of war stems from the fact
that the use of force by states is recognised as both legal and legitimate. This
is what constitutes the very specicity of international relations compared to
other social relations: force is an acceptable, and sometimes necessary means
states can use. It leads Aron to recall the Hobbesian state of nature to describe
the international realm: states have not left, in their mutual relations, the
state of nature. There would be no theory of International Relations if they
had left it.70
However, Arons understanding of this expression differs from that of
Morgenthau or Waltz that is, a state of war of all against all. Indeed, he
stresses that throughout history, states, despite engaging regularly in war,
nevertheless acknowledge the existence of rules, explicit or implicit, that
restrain their conduct. These rules may have changed over time, but the fact
that they have always been an integral part of international relations cannot
be disregarded: realism omits the basic fact that even in relations among
states, the respect of ideas, the aspiration to values, the concern for
obligations have been manifested. Rarely have the communities behaved as if
they were not obliged to anything towards one another.71
On this, Aron is close to the proponents of the English school and their
notion of international society. However, Aron does not regard these
common rules to be binding for states, especially in the case of a major threat
to their own security: Never [. . .] did values or common interests command
the conduct of actors in great circumstances.72 This is a reminder of the
essence of international relations that always implies the risk of war. The key
point is that if states do live in a state of nature, it does not follow that war is
the permanent feature of their relations. Only the risk of war is.
Stating that international relations take place in the shadow of war says
nothing about the ends politics may have. It simply posits the necessity of
calculations for statesmen stemming from the risk of war.73 It certainly does
not imply that power is always the ultimate or even immediate aim states
strive for. It does not assume that there is one driving force explaining the
conduct of states, what Clausewitz would call a positive doctrine. What it
does assert is the necessity, for the decision-makers, to be constantly aware of
the risk of war. This falls far from afrming that international politics is of
necessity power politics. Most importantly, it does not even assume that
survival is the permanent or supreme concern for states.
As Aron remarks, at the individual level, security understood as mere
survival is not regarded as the highest of all ends: men are willing to die in
specic circumstances, they do not attach a supreme value to survival:
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 443

survival is not a primary objective or a criterion of choice. What is a life that


does not serve a higher purpose?.74 To exemplify his point, Aron mentions
what he calls the rationality of honour, a scheme in which the value
attached to the end pursued is dened by the actor, and regarded by him as
absolute, even though this may seem irrational to an observer: compared to
this end, life itself does not matter.75 The same is true at the international
level: just as human beings do not regard security as a primary goal, states do
not necessarily regard survival as their ultimate aim.
Survival cannot be taken as the unique, ultimate end of international
politics. The realist account of the relation between means and ends in
international relations is therefore awed in this respect.
Furthermore, the stress realists put on the struggle for power as the unique
end of international politics is also misleading. The chief question that needs
to be asked is: power for what? This is the question Aron tries to address.
Historically, it is obvious that states did pursue diverse political ends as
Clausewitz emphasised. The very adjective political as opposed to
military indicates that power cannot be a sufcient criterion to account for
all of them. As Aron states:

. . .the political actor is always ambitious, he wants power because the


political action implies by essence, as an inter human relation, an
element of power. But the great political actor does not want power for
itself, but because he wants to implement an idea. Similarly, a
community does not want power for itself, but in order to reach another
goal, peace, glory, in order to inuence the fate of humanity, or for
pride.76

There is therefore an inescapable plurality of political ends on the


international scene, because politics is not only about power; it is also, and
perhaps above all, about ideas. What matters is not so much the acquisition or
loss of power, but rather the use politics wants to make of this power. This
use cannot be strictly accounted for by theory, as there is no goal that can be
regarded as supreme, not even survival. It may be true that in specic
circumstances, power can be the ultimate end pursued. This is likely to
happen when military victory becomes the end in itself, and leads to forget
the political objective.77 However, this is the exception rather than the rule,
and the role of politics is precisely to prevent military concerns to overcome
the ultimate, political end, as Clausewitz forcefully argues. Aside from this
then, the objectives pursued by states in their mutual relations cannot
realistically be described as being power or survival only.
Furthermore, contra Waltz who asserts that states are constrained by their
capabilities, which in turn determine their actions on the international scene,
444 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

Aron stressed that there is no necessary relationship between political


objectives and states power.78 A small or weak state can still decide to have
grandiose political aims. The best example may be Nazi Germany in the
1930s, which was not a great power, but which nevertheless implemented a
policy aimed at achieving this status. This cannot be explained by its specic
capabilities or by its place in the international system only. The political aim
was not power as such, but power to implement an idea, the Third Reich,
dened in racial terms. Power was possibly the immediate aim, in the sense
of a German domination of Europe, but to know this is of little value if one
does not know the use politics wants to make of this power: a goal is nothing
but a step towards an ulterior objective. Even if power was, in politics, the
unique goal, there would still be the need to precise the sort of power the
ambitious strives for.79
Morgenthaus statement regarding the astounding continuity that can be
found in the foreign policy of states with the concept of national interest
dened in terms of power is another example of the ultimate failure of
realism to grasp the equivocal nature of ends in international politics. This
could ultimately lead one to assert that Germanys foreign policy has been
constant from Bismarck to Hitler. As Aron remarks: Not understanding the
originality of Hitlerian Germany compared to Wilhemian Germany, is it
realism, or misunderstanding of reality?.80 Indeed, the explanation of
international politics in terms of the national interest is useless as long as this
concept is not properly dened.
To understand what the national interest of a state consists of, a study of its
specic ideology is required, as it alone can provide indication about the use
it wants to make of its power, about the idea it wants to implement: the
national interest ceases to be denable, for the majority of states, if one
abstracts from ideological preferences.81 Consequently, Aron takes the
reverse view from that of Morgenthau and Waltz, by stressing that:

. . .the true realism today consists in acknowledging the action of


ideologies upon the strategic diplomatic conduct. No one can under-
stand the diplomacy strategy of a state if one does not know its
regime, if one has not studied the philosophy of those who govern it. It
is the true realism, the one which takes the whole reality into account,
which dictates the diplomatic strategic conduct adapted not to a
retouched portrait of what international politics would be if statesmen
were wise in their egotism, but to what it is with the passions, follies,
ideas and violences of the century.82

The focus on ideas, values and passions prevents the scholar from relying on
an idealistic rationality in order to explain states behaviour, and in turn
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 445

ensure that his understanding of international politics includes constitutive


features of this specic realm.
The necessity of taking ideology into account in an analysis of international
relations stems from the denition Aron gives of this concept. Brushing aside
the simplistic equation of ideology with whichever justication is provided by
the actors, Aron focuses on a narrower understanding: an interpretation more
or less systematic of society and history, regarded by militants as the supreme
truth.83 This enables him to elaborate the concept of secular religions, in
reference to Nazism and Marxism.
Ideologies understood in this sense are total representations specic to each
society that substitute themselves for religion, and whose main functions are
to provide guidance and hope to a community, and to promote its specic
values. In other words, ideologies are expressions of universalist claims from
particular entities. They cannot be equated with the struggle for power. They
may be part of it, but remain nevertheless distinct in the sense that they are
more than that: through the intermediary of the psychology of those
responsible and of the masses, by the effect of the inevitable shock between
regimes claiming opposed principles, ideology becomes a real force in
international relations.84
The reason why ideology matters so much for Aron stems from his
conception of what a theory of international relations should ultimately
aim at: To think about politics is to think about the actors, therefore to
analyse their decisions, their goals, their means, their mental universe.85
Ideologies matter rst because they have a direct impact on actors, and
inuence the way they think about the world, and by extension, about
their relations with other states. This Weltanschauung is as important as
the structural constraints statesmen are faced with, which Aron acknowl-
edges when he mentions fundamental imperatives [that] survive the
alternance of regimes.86 The eternal objectives of foreign policy include
security, but Aron generalises them into a trilogy that deals with space,
men, souls.87 The last indicates that international politics, far from being
uniquely about power, is also concerned with ideas and strives for
implementing them and for the wider possible recognition of their
legitimacy. Aside from these eternal elements, statesmen have historical
objectives that vary over time. What determines this evolution are
precisely historical ideas that preside over the organisation and
government of communities.88 Aron insists that the knowledge of
ideologies is crucial in explaining the decisions of states, and can prevent
the statesman from not grasping the specicity of the USSR, for example,
compared with tsarist Russia.89 This awareness should in turn reduce the
possibilities of misjudgements without, however, ruling them out
absolutely, as politics remains a human activity.90
446 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

By being aware of the diversity of political ends that can be pursued, the
statesman will aim at understanding each of them in relation to the military
capabilities of states. This in turn would allow him to make a truly political
judgement on the specic situation he faces. This is where Aron distinguishes
between a false realism uniquely concerned with balance of power and
military capabilities, and what he calls the true realism, that is, a much
broader understanding of the nature of relations among states, including a
knowledge of the competing ideologies.91 This true realism is also concerned
with people and morality, and not only with the struggle for power.92
Against Morgenthau, who states that right and wrong are not discernible on
the international scene, Aron argues that a moral judgement is required in
order to truly understand it.93 Unlike Weber, then, he argues for the necessity
to judge the ideologies of states.94 This does not mean, however, that it must
lead to military action in order to enforce ones idea of the just or the good.
Like Morgenthau, Aron stresses the danger of moral crusades, which he
regards as the most murderous conicts.95 However, following Reinhold-
Niebhur, Aron is concerned to prevent realism from being too prudent, that
is, to end up not so much in amorality, but in immorality.96
Trying to overcome the Weberian opposition between ethics of conviction
and ethics of responsibility, Aron advocates what he calls the morality of
wisdom, which he denes as an attitude that:

Tries no only to consider each case in its concrete particularities, but


also not to misjudge any of the arguments of principles and
opportunity, not to forget neither the power relations nor the wills of
peoples. Because it is complex, the judgement of wisdom is never
incontestable and it does fully satisfy neither the moralists, nor the
vulgar disciples of Machiavelli.97

The morality of wisdom is by denition casuistic, which may be regarded as a


weakness by Anglo-American realists as it does not allow for generalisation.
It closely follows Clausewitzs idea that the very object investigated by the
scientist poses limits about what it is possible to do in the theoretical realm.
The actor, be he a commander-in-chief or a statesman, remains the ultimate
judge when it comes to decide, and his choice is complex, as it includes
concerns for security and ideals. To state that he is or should be uniquely
preoccupied with the latter is to deny politics what makes its very grandeur,
that is, to stand for ideas, however imperfectly.98 As Aron repeatedly stresses,
politics, national and international, is dened above all by the search for the
legitimate power, for the best regime. Men have never thought of politics as
being exclusively dened by the struggle for power.99 Anglo-American
realism, by holding a utilitarian view of human activity in terms of choosing
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 447

the best means to achieve a given end or to maximise a particular resource


(power), fails to grasp the essential political element in international
relations: The determination of values is indispensable to the comprehension
of human conduct, because it is never strictly utilitarian. The rational
calculation of speculators characterises an activity, more or less important
depending of the civilisations, that is always limited by a conception of the
good life.100
In sum, power is more often conceived as a means rather than an end by
politics. The ultimate objectives pursued are necessarily plural, as politics is
by essence a human activity. The conclusion is logical: if the diplomatic
conduct is never determined by the sole relation between forces, if power is
not the end of diplomacy, as utility is for economics, then there is no general
theory of international relations comparable to the general theory of
economic.101 This impossibility stems from the very object of study, human
relations. As recalled by Clausewitz, a positive doctrine for action that would
single out the best means to achieve one end is not what is required in this
case. This impossibility should not be regarded as a failure by the scholar.
Acknowledging the limits imposed on him by his object of study is necessary
for the scientist: it is the condition required to achieve a real scientic
character. The plurality of political ends demonstrates the innite and
inexhaustible richness of human reality, which cannot be encapsulated within
a single theory, even less so when this theory ultimately relies on mono-
causal explanations and leaves aside crucial features of the phenomena it
pretends to study. As Aron stresses: the science of diplomatic action afrms
itself as scientic by recognising its own limits. One does not speak of a
strategy of peace because there is no science of war and peace that is
operational in the sense of a mastery of the relations among states.102
Power cannot be legitimately regarded as the unique criterion to account
for international relations. The scholar should not simplify international
relations to the point where they become unintelligible from a political point
of view. To state that the eternal laws of international relations demonstrate
the primacy of the struggle for power is misleading and idealistic: it depicts
an international system stripped of some of its most important features and
disregards the paramount question that should ultimately be asked about the
use that is made of power.
What then remains possible for an international relations scholar? On this,
Aron once again sides with Clausewitz: just as On War should not be taken
by the commander-in-chief on the battleeld, but should rather be used as a
guide to becoming familiar with the subject and to help him judge the
phenomena he deals with, Aron proposes a theoretical framework that aims at
providing the statesman with a sound understanding of the issues he faces.
This guide can be regarded as a necessary complement to a strong, realist
448 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

analysis. It includes classical realist concerns about power and conict, but it
also considers the ideological side of relations among states within a
particular system. In other words, it recognises the power and inuence of
ideas in international politics, and as such can provide a more realistic
account of international relations.
Aron proposes six questions that should preside over the analysis of any
particular diplomatic constellation. The rst three are classical, realist ones:
What is the diplomatic eld? What is the conguration of relations of power
within this eld? What is the technique of war to which governments refer
more or less explicitly in order to estimate the signicance of positions of
relations?.103 These echo the realist preoccupations with the balance of
power as well as the stress on security. They recall Arons assertion about the
essence of international relations, the risk of war. Aron then adds three other
questions he dened as ideological political: To what extent do the states
involved mutually recognise each other so that frontiers only, and not the
very existence of these states, constitute the stake of conict? What is the
relation between the game of internal politics and the statesmens decisions?
What meaning do they give to peace, war, to relations among states?.104
Here, the emphasis is on the importance of ideologies and perceptions of
decision-makers: Aron focuses on the understanding they have of their
relations with other states, as well as on the interaction between domestic and
international politics. What matters is the meaning given by the actors to their
relations or, in Arons words, their specic historical perception, as well as
the particular idea they want to promote. This ideological prism inuences
their decisions at the international level. In order to understand it, a study of
ideologies is necessarily required, as it indicates the use that is likely to be
made by each state of its power. This does not provides statesmen with
eternal rules of states conduct, but with a sound general understanding of
international relations as a specic realm of action with its own
characteristics (permanent risk of war and legitimacy of the use of force),
as well as an awareness of the particularities of the historical international
system in which they act (knowledge of ideologies of other states, hence
better understanding of their perception of international relations).
In conclusion, it has been argued that political realism is too often
conceived as a uniquely Anglo-American school of thought. Morgenthau and
Waltz provide similar accounts of the relation between means and ends in
international relations. Rationality being the key notion, they retain the idea of
a univocal goal for action in international politics, survival often equated with
power. This simplistic denition of international politics is, however,
contradicted by the facts themselves: politics is, more often than not,
characterised by irrationality, and the univocal relation posited between means
and ends singularly impoverishes the understanding of international relations.
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 449

The realist argument about the uniqueness of ends in international relations


prevents from thinking politically, as it disregards some crucial political
features, most notably ideologies and regimes. Clausewitz, although he did not
directly reect upon international relations as such, nevertheless provides a
more subtle understanding of means and ends in politics: the diversity of the
former prevents highly formalised theories. Violence and conicts, far from
being constitutive of international politics, are actually mitigated by it.
Political goals are much broader than a struggle for power. Aron operates a
synthesis of Clausewitzs main ideas at the theoretical level in his own works
on international relations. He departs from core realist assumptions about the
nature of international politics. His claim that a general theory of international
relations remains impossible due to the equivocal nature of political ends is a
useful reminder of the complexities of international politics that cannot be
subsumed under a mono-causal explanation. The plurality of political ends
stems from the different ideologies and regimes of states. This, in turn,
inuences their decisions on the international scene. To think of international
politics uniquely in terms of survival and struggle for power as political
realism does is neither realistic, nor political.

NOTES
1. Stanley Hoffmann, An American Social Science: International Relations, Daedalus, CVI
(Summer 1977); See also Alfred Grosser, Letude des relations internationales: specialite
americaine?, Revue Francaise de Science Politique III (1956); Knud Erik Jorgensen,
Continental International Relations Theory: The Best Kept Secret, European Journal of
International Relations 6/1 (March 2000); Ekkehart Krippendorf, The Dominance of
American Approaches in International Relations, Millenium 16 /(2) (Summer 1987).
2. This is not to argue that Arons ideas in international relations are never investigated at all
of course. See notably Brian Anderson, Raymond Aron, the Recovery of the Political (NY,
Oxford: Rowman and Littleeld 1997); Robert Colquhoun, Raymond Aron, volume I: The
Philosopher in History (London: Sage 1986), Raymond Aron, volume II: The Sociologist in
Society 19551983 (London: Sage 1986); Brian Paul Frost, Resurrecting a Neglected
Theorist: Philosophical Foundations of Raymond Arons Theory of International
Relations, Review of International Studies 23/2 (April 1997); Stanley Hoffmann,
Raymond Aron et la theorie des relations internationales, Politique Etrange`re 4 (Winter
1983); Daniel Mahoney, The Liberal Political Science of Raymond Aron: a Critical
Introduction (Lanham: Rowman and Littleeld 1992); David Thompson, The Three
Worlds of Raymond Aron, International Affairs 38/1 (1963); Oran R. Young, Aron and
the Whale A Jonah in Theory in Klaus Knorr and James N. Rosenau (eds), Contending
Approaches to International Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1969).
3. Frost (note 2).
4. Hans Morgenthau, Scientic Man Versus Power Politics (Chicago, IL: Chicago University
Press 1946) p.192.
5. Ibid. p.155.
6. Ibid. p.155.
7. Ibid. p.14: The desire for power [. . .] concerns itself not with the individuals survival but
with his position among his fellows once his survival has been secure. Consequently, the
selshness of man has limits; his will to power has none.
450 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

8. John Coffey, Political Realism in American Thought (London: Associated Press University
1977) p.135.
9. It must be stressed, however, that while Morgenthau denes politics as being necessarily
evil, he is also acutely sensitive to the tension between political actions and moral demands,
which can never be resolved. This is precisely because Morgenthau was very aware of the
importance of moral demands for man, alongside the animus dominandi that is the driving
force for action in the political sphere. This awareness in turn explains Morgenthaus
denition of international politics as the realm of tragedy, where competing demands can
never be accommodated, and where requirements of the national interest always take
precedence over moral demands. See Robert M.A.Crawford, Idealism and Realism in
International Relations (NY: Routledge, 2000), pp. 4041. Peter Gellman also emphasises
the contradictions to be found in Morgenthaus theory, and stresses that Morgenthau
regarded the relationship between power and purpose as symbiotic. There is power in the
professional attachment to higher principles and there needs to be a governing purpose to
power, Hans J Morgenthau and the Legacy of Political Realism, Review of International
Studies 14 (1988), p.256.
10. Morgenthau, quoted in Coffey (note 8) p.131: A universal force inherent in human nature
and necessarily seeking power over other men ; Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations
The Struggle for Power and Peace (NY: Alfred A. Knopf 1985) p.32: Mans control over
the minds and actions other men [. . .] the mutual relations of control among the holders of
public authority and between the latter and the people at large; Hans Morgenthau, The
Restoration of American Politics (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press 1962) p.11: A
psychological relationship in which one man controls certain actions of another man
through the inuence he exerts over the latters will. That inuence derives from three
sources: the expectations of benets, the fear of disadvantages, the respect or love for men
and institutions.
11. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (note 10) p.39.
12. Raymond Aron, Etudes Politiques (Paris: Gallimard 1972) p.184.
13. Ibid. p.183.
14. For a survey of the similarities to be found between Morgenthau and Waltz, see Crawford,
Idealism and Realism in International Relations (note 9) pp.11415.
15. Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (NY: McGraw-Hill 1979) p.74.
16. Quoted in Barry Buzan, Charles Jones and Richard Little, The Logic of Anarchy:
Neorealism to Structural Realism (NY: Columbia University Press 1993) p.23.
17. Morgenthau, Scientic Man Versus Power Politics (note 4) p.168.
18. Ibid. p.195. See also Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (note 10) p. 31: International
Politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power. Whatever the ultimate aims of international
politics, power is always the immediate aim.
19. See, for example, Crawford, Idealism and Realism in International Relations (note 9) p.60:
Morgenthaus oft-quoted and sometimes blunt assertions that international politics is a
continual struggle for power presupposes that the goal of each state is to maximise its
power, either as an end in itself or as a means to an end. This ambiguity is also pointed out
by Stanley Hoffmann, see Notes on the Limits of Realism, Social Research (Winter 1981)
p.655; see also Peter Gellman, Hans J. Morgenthau and the Legacy of Political Realism,
Review of International Studies 14 (1988) p.252.
20. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (note 15) p.92.
21. Ibid. p.92.
22. Morgenthau, The Restoration of American Politics (note 10) p.15.
23. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (note 10) p.13: Political realism refuses to identify
the moral inspiration of a particular nation with the moral law that governs the universe
24. Ibid. p.358.
25. Ibid. p.101.
26. Ibid. p.101.
27. Ibid p.358.
28. Morgenthau, quoted in Greg Russel, Hans J. Morgenthau and the Ethics of American
Statescraft (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisianna University Press 1990) p.226.
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 451
29. Hans Morgenthau, Postcript Interview, in K. Thompson and R. Myers (eds), Truth and
Tragedy A Tribute to Hans Morgenthau (New Brunswick and London: Transaction Books
1984) p.379: I was taken aback at the time by the emotional approach to the Soviet Union
on the part of all groups. I tried to warn against this kind of uncritical approach to the Soviet
Union on ideological grounds. However, as many noted, Morgenthau was ambiguous at
time in his presentation of the Cold War, sometimes dening it as an ideological struggle.
On Morgenthaus inconsistencies on this point, see Michael Joseph Smith, Hans
Morgenthau and the American National Interest in the Early Cold War, Social Research
(Winter 1981) pp.7745. See also Robert Tucker, Professor Morgenthaus Theory of
Political Realism, The American Political Science Review XLVI/1 (March 1952) p.217.
30. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (note 10) p.578.
31. Ibid. p.586.
32. Ibid.
33. Morgenthau therefore urges students and practitioners not to be blinded by words See
Crawford, Idealism and Realism in International Relations (note 9) pp.489
34. Morgenthau, Scientic Man Versus Power Politics (note 4) p.72.
35. Morgenthau, quoted in Russel, Morgenthau and the Ethics of American Statecraft (note 28)
p.105.
36. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations (note 10) p.5.
37. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (note 15) p.79.
38. Andrew Linklater, Neo Realism in Theory and Practice, in Ken Booth and Steve Smith
(eds), International Relations Theory Today (Cambridge: Polity Press 1995) p.252. See also
Buzan et al., The Logic of Anarchy (note 16) p.24: [. . .] as Waltzs primary purpose in
establishing the unit-system boundary was to elaborate theory at the system level, he
naturally paid little attention to unit factors once he had banished them beyond the realm of
his structural denition. See also John M. Hobson, The State and International Relations
(Cambridge: CUP 2000) p.23.
39. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (note 15) p.96.
40. Ibid. p.99. See also p.98, where Waltz states why he dismisses ideologies and regimes as
irrelevant for a theory of international politics: One may wonder why only capability is
included in the third part of the denition, and not such characteristics as ideology, form of
government, peacefulness, bellicosity or whatever. The answer is: Power is estimated by
comparing the capabilities of a number of units.
41. Martin Hollis and Steve Smith, Explaining and Understanding International Relations
(London: Clarendon Press 1991) p.97.
42. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (note 15) p.118: Theory, as a general explanatory
system, cannot account for particularities.
43. Jack Donelly, Realism in International Relations (Cambridge: CUP 2000) p.52.
44. Ibid. p.65.
45. Crawford points out the limits of empirical theory as dened by Waltz: as a neutral and
scientic enterprise, empirical theory is not concerned with the morality of foreign policy,
and thus the theorist cannot, qua theorist, comment on the morality of the policies and
outcomes which he is trying to explain, Idealism and Realism in International Relations
(note 9) p.99.
46. Morgenthau, quoted in Russel, Morgenthau and the Ethics of American Statescraft (note
28) p.230. See also p.209, where Russel explains that Morgenthau believed in a moral
order which God directs, the content of which we can guess, and afrmed his faith in a
higher power.
47. Jan Willem Honig, in his article Totalitarianism and Realism: Hans Morgenthaus German
Years in Benjamin Frankel (ed.), Roots of Realism (London: Frank Cass 1996), stresses
another problem with Morgenthaus realism in relation with Nazi Germany: while
advocating the preservation of the national interest dened in terms of power, Morgenthau
did not investigate the consequences of this claim upon domestic politics. As Honig pointed
out, while other realist thinkers draw the conclusion that the inevitability of total war
necessitated the construction of a total state (p.306), Morgenthau did not really address the
issue. Even more strikingly, Honig shows that when it comes to assess the reason why the
452 THE JOURNAL OF STRATEGIC STUDIES

Nazis were eventually defeated, Morgenthau expressed the belief that in the end, the power
of morality overcomes all (p.307), that is, he did not explain the defeat in classical realist
terms. In other words, Morgenthau still relied on his pre-war, idealist ideas in some ways.
48. Michael Nicholson, Realism and Utopianism Revisited in Timothy Dunne, Robert Cox
and Ken Booth (eds), The Eighty Years Crisis (Cambridge: CUP 1998) p.81. A realist reply
to this argument could be that political leaders can occasionally be blinded by passions, and
therefore lose sight of the national interest.
49. Crawford stresses the unrealistic side of Morgenthaus assumptions and their shortcomings
which stem from his narrow denition of ideologies as merely a disguise of the struggle for
power. He focuses on the example of the Soviet Union and argues that Morgenthau offers
no criteria as to how one can evaluate Soviet goals, and therefore deal with Moscow in a
realistic manner, Idealism and Realism in International Relations (note 9) pp.623.
Crawfords concludes that Realism, as expressed by Morgenthau, is idealistic in the sense
that it assumes that political man can be abstracted from real man to provide a realistic
view of international politics which reies one part of human nature (p.66). Similarly,
Hoffmann argues that Politics, divorced from economics, law or ethics becomes a kind of
pure game that is played by nobody, for the simple reason that it would be a game without
either cards or stakes, Notes on the Limits of Realism (note 19) p.656.
50. Carl Van Clausewitz, On War, edited and translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1976) p.87.
51. Raymond Aron, Sur Clausewitz (Bruxelles: Editions Complexe, 1987) p.54.
52. Clausewitz, On War (note 50) p.92.
53. Aron, Sur Clausewitz (note 51) p.157.
54. Clausewitz, On War (note 50) p.141.
55. Ibid. p.140.
56. Ibid. pp.1378.
57. Aron, Sur Clausewitz (note 51) p.36.
58. Clausewitz, On War (note 50) p.141.
59. Ibid. p.141.
60. Clausewitz, On War (note 50) pp.878.
61. Aron, Sur Clausewitz (note 51) p.119.
62. Rayond Aron, Penser la guerre, Clausewitz, Tome 2 Lage planetaire (Paris: Gallimard
1976) p.258.
63. Aron, Sur Clausewitz (note 51) p.68.
64. Ibid. p.101.
65. Ibid. p.143.
66. Ibid. p.67.
67. Aron, Sur Clausewitz (note 51) p.67.
68. Aron, Etudes Politiques (note 12) p.362.
69. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (Paris: Calmann-Levy 1962) p.17.
70. Ibid. p.19.
71. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.596.
72. Ibid. p.719.
73. Ibid. p.28.
74. Ibid. p.585.
75. Aron, Lecons sur lhistoire (Paris: Editions de Fallois 1989) p.400.
76. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.99.
77. Ibid. p.83. See also Robert Gilpin, No One Loves a Political Realist, in Benjamin Frankel
(ed), Realism: Restatements and Renewal (London: Frank Cass 1996) p.6, where Gilpin
argues along the same lines: Morgenthau for example believed that human beings were
driven by a lust of power; other realists including myself, while acknowledging that power
can become the primary goal of a Hitler or Stalin, regard power as essentially instrumental
to and necessary for the achievements of other goals such as security and even liberal
ideals.
78. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.100.
79. Raymond Aron, Lopium des intellectuels (Paris: Calmann-Levy 1955) p.197.
AMERICAN POLITICAL REALISM 453
80. Aron, Etudes Politiques (note 12) p.477.
81. Ibid. p.474.
82. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.587.
83. Raymond Aron, Les desillusions du progres Essai sur la dialectique de la modernite,
(Paris: Calmann-Levy 1969) p.309. See also Memoires 50 ans de reexion politiaue
(Paris: Julliard 1993) p.411: A global representation of society and its past, a representation
proclaiming salvation and prescribing freeing actions
84. Aron, Etudes Politiques (note 12) p.389.
85. Aron, Memoires (note 83) p.79.
86. Aron, Lopium des intellectuels (note 79) p.149.
87. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.84.
88. Ibid. p.92.
89. Ibid. p.287. See also Aron, Etudes Politiques (note 12) p.422 It took us a long time to grasp
the decisive fact and some pseudo realists still refuse to see it that the Soviet leaders
perceive the world, think about their action and history in conceptual frameworks that stem
from a certain philosophy, and p.423: The interest of the USSR is confounded with the
interest of the worldwide revolution.
90. Aron, Etudes Politiques (note 12) p.424.
91. Ibid. p.471. Aron criticises Morgenthau, and classical, Anglo-American realism in general,
for turning into an ideology because of the tendency to rely on a mono-causal type of
explanation, and because of the desire of the main proponents to argue against idealism.
Hence Arons description of Morgenthau as a crusader.
92. Ibid. p.461.
93. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.592: Ethical judgement is not separable
from historical judgement upon the goals of the actors and the consequences of their
successes or failures.
94. Ibid. p.589.
95. Ibid. p.82.
96. Ibid. p.582.
97. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.596.
98. See Aron, Memoires (note 83) p.604, on the inescapable dilemma of political actions: a
democracy cannot and must not ignore the internal regime of states with whom it deals ; but
it cannot and must not either lead a crusade to spread its own institutions.
99. Raymond Aron, Democratie et totalitarisme (Paris: Gallimard 1965) p.53.
100. Aron, Lopium des intellectuels (note 79) p.197.
101. Aron, Paix et guerre entre les nations (note 69) p.102.
102. Aron, Lecons sur lhistoire (note 75) p.547.
103. Aron, Memoires (note 83) p.300.
104. Ibid. p.301.