We need to get real about Russia and China—or risk being led into another disastrous war.
Realism, as a theory of foreign policy, has been linked in the popular mind of the west both to cynical Realpolitik—in the mould of Henry Kissinger—and to a propensity to wage war. The first charge has a superficial validity. The second is seriously wide of the mark as far as the United States is concerned. Over the past generation, it has been above all proponents of purportedly idealistic intervention who have advocated war, while Realists have urged prudence and restraint. Partly as a result, the US has been at war for two out of every three years since the Cold War ended—mostly to no good effect.