John Mearsheimer: World War is on our doorstep

John Mearsheimer: World War is on our doorstep

John Mearsheimer

April 1, 2023

No introduction is needed. Professor Mearsheimer is a leading scholar of the realist school and, with his texts and lectures, has made himself a major source of an enlightened understanding of the conflicts that blew up in the proxy war now being fought out so tragically and cynically in Ukraine.

Indeed, he is also a brilliant pedagogical lecturer who needs neither manuscript nor notes. The quality of content and form, therefore, speaks volumes about what a good intellectual is – contrasting the de-intellectualised field of international politics and much of the study of it.

Jan Oberg, editor

The author

Click on his name above, and you get to his rich personal homepage.

3 Responses to "John Mearsheimer: World War is on our doorstep"

  1. F Jahanpour   April 2, 2023 at 9:34 am

    I agree completely. I believe that, under the present circumstances, we are very lucky that some eminent US scholars, such as Prof Mearsheimer, Prof Walt, Prof Sachs, and many others have the courage to see the world more realistically and call for changes in US attitude.
    However, the problem is that the whole world is in trouble at the moment and the direction of travel is one that will result, by design or by accident, in a nuclear Armageddon.
    We had a period of bipolar peace (imperfect, but at least working) after the Second World War. That period ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a unipolar world led by the United States. During the past few years (especially since the war in Ukraine), we have been witnessing the collapse of the unipolar hegemony and the shift to a multipolar world. As the result of the rise of countries such as China, soon to be followed by India, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, the Middle East, etc., the unipolar world and the “American century” and the period of “full spectrum dominance” has ended, but many American politicians (and scholars) find it difficult to adjust to modern realities.
    A multipolar world in a state of conflict is not ideal either and, as you rightly point out, we have to move to a new understanding of the world and a completely new structure to deal with the new international realities, but that is a different issue, something that you have devoted a great deal of time and thought to.

  2. F Jahanpour   April 1, 2023 at 10:56 am

    I have a great deal of respect for Professor Miersheimer. He is one of the most eloquent and clear-sighted scholars on a number of issues, including Russia and the war in Ukraine. However, I find his views on China to be still influenced by the belief in maintaining US hegemony across the globe.
    In the following interview with UnHerd, he adopted a very hawkish stance towards China. He said that he views China quite differently from the way he views Russia. Speaking about the possibility of Chinese hegemony in the Far East he said (from minute 52 onward): “The United States should not want China to dominate Asia the way we dominate Western hemisphere.” His argument is that the United States should remain a global hegemon without any peer-competitors.
    He even said that the United States should have allied with Russia against China. He keeps saying that Russia is by far the weakest superpower. It is true as far as the Russian economy is concerned, but Russia possesses the second or even the first most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world and poses the greatest danger if a hot war is started between Russia and the West.
    He speaks about the importance of preventing Taiwan being united with China. The United States’ official policy has been and still is One-China policy, yet she behaves in a way that it is never permissible for Taiwan to be united with China. When East and West Germany were united the world did not come to an end. I believe that while the United States is still in the driving seat she must allow the unification of Taiwan with China or at least greater collaboration between the two in a peaceful way, without starting a Third World War. The hope should be that we reach a point that there are no hegemons anywhere in the world and all countries will be treated equally under a reformed and strengthened United Nations.

    • JO   April 1, 2023 at 10:02 pm

      Dear Farhang – thanks a lot for your, as usual, very thoughtful criticism of John Mearsheimer. You will hardly be surprised that I agree with your criticism. The problem is that we are both arguing that the Realist school should be something other than what it is – simply a chessboard-like view of the world. Mechanical, obsessed with power, hegemony and, thus, unipolarity – and devoid of idealism, values, thoughts/judgements on what is good and bad, morally right and wrong. And then he is an American! When it comes to China, he makes – in my view and probably yours too – the fatal mistake to believe that the Chinese think and will think like the US, that his own Western theory fits China too – and neither in this lecture nor in the long discussion at Unherd – thanks for referring to it – does he raise the possibility that we could, instead, be facing a macro-historical world order change and the decline of the West, the US/NATO in particular. It also does not occur to him that Taiwan is hellishly more complicated than he presents it – and doesn’t even mention the Chou-Enlai/Nixon Agreements from 1972 which should make it impossible for the US to do what it so wrongly does these years concerning that issue.
      But that is exactly what to expect of an American international policy scholar, isn’t it? What I find interesting – anyhow – is that his take on Ukraine (and that is what I mention above) is brilliant, that it is remarkable that exactly this Realpolitik viewpoint/theory has not been listened to in the slightest by decisionmakers in Bruxelles and Washington whom you and I would, at least historically, have believe would listen to a man like him – like they have not listened to Kissinger (earlier), former US ambassadors to Moscow from George Kennan and onwards to Matlock, Stephen Cohen not listened to their own predecessors who promised Gorbachev – exactly from a Realist viewpoint – to not humiliate and ignore Russia by expanding NATO by as much as one inch.
      In my view, this (and Mearsheimer) vividly displays the utter, unforgivable foolishness (to be diplomatic) and anti-intellectual attitudes of today’s decision-makers. Precisely because Mearsheimer is not a ‘peacenik’ but a Realist who should have been listened to in the halls of security decision-makers if they had the slightest intellectual awareness, we are where we are today. In addition, I think he is worth listening to for his views about the risks of nuclear weapons being used at some point – again, mainly because of the stupid “Ukraine and we must win this war and Russia must lose” – instead of having found what he calls some kind of modus vivendi.
      Does my way of reasoning here make sense to you, dear Farhang? If not, please come back and tell where I am going astray.


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