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Sunday, January 06, 2013

America's Enemies

This weekend, I'm spending some time preparing for my graduate seminar on international politics. As many IR scholars do, I typically begin with realism in order for the students to wrap their minds around some of the discipline's core ideas: states, interests, power, threats, security, etc.

Many IR theories position themselves vis-à-vis realism in order to critique, deconstruct, etc.

One obvious problem: realists tend to focus on great power competition and we seem to be in an age that lacks that feature of international politics. In any case, the American public certainly seems to think so. Last February, Mother Jones reported these interesting results of a recent Gallup survey:

Less than a quarter of respondents think that China is America's greatest enemy. The general public is not alone, of course, as John Mearsheimer, perhaps the most prominent academic realist, has long lamented the fact that policymakers fail to treat China as a serious foe.

I'm using the label "threat inflation" for this post because I'm far from convinced that the realists are correct. China and the US have some competing interests, but it also seems pretty clear that they also share many interests and are essentially partners in many endeavors.

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