Hans J. Morgenthau and the Legacy of Political Realism Author(s): Peter Gellman Source: Review of International Studies, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Oct., 1988), pp. 247-266 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: Accessed: 12-08-2018 23:48 UTC

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Review of International Studies (1988), 14, 247-266 Printed in Great Britain

Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

Peter Gellman

It is over fifty years since a young scholar named Hans J. Morgenthau sought refuge in the United States, and forty years since the publication of his influential text,

Politics Among Nations. Morgenthau’s ‘theory’ of political realism figures prominently in the academic study of international relations during these years and shows no sign of disappearing. Many of those scholars who differ markedly from

Morgenthau regard it as worthwhile or at least necessary to respond to his arguments. If perhaps for no other reason than that it is an appealing target, Morgenthau’s political realism remains an important subject of evaluation for even its most serious and most severe critics. Why is there continuing interest in Morgenthau? The frankness with which he

spoke and wrote is part of the explanation. Part of the answer also can be found in Morgenthau’s unwillingness to sidestep the political controversies of his day. He opposed American policy in Indo-China long before it was fashionable, yet was a committed anti-communist who criticized Eisenhower for failing to try a nuclear bluff during the Hungarian uprising of 1956. A leading supporter of the Jackson Vanik amendment, which tied American trade to Soviet respect for human rights, Morgenthau was also an advocate of negotiations to regulate competition in nuclear arms. A thoroughly undoctrinaire record continues to elicit widely ranging and inconsistent indictments; recent accusations include both failing to support a spirited defence of Western interests, and serving (posthumously) as the intellectual guru to the allegedly dangerously belligerent foreign policy-makers of the Reagan adminis tration.1 Still, the greatest part of Hans Morgenthau’s reputation is bound up with his approach to the study of international relations. Robert Gilpin is representative in assigning Morgenthau a central place within a ‘rich tradition’ of political realism.21 intend in this article to examine those dimensions of Morgenthau’s political realism which form his legacy to this tradition, and more generally, which introduce important if occasionally neglected questions necessary to a sound investigation of international politics. Running through numerous assessments of Morgenthau’s political realism is a

pattern of misunderstanding and confusion. In the preface to the second edition of Politics Among Nations, Morgenthau complained about being criticized not only for ideas which he never expressed, but for arguments which he had sought to refute. Following Montesquieu’s plea at the beginning of The Spirit Of The Laws, Morgenthau asked that his readers ‘not judge by a few hours of reading of the labor of twenty years’.3 Some scholars do get the arguments wrong. However, there are ambiguities and paradoxes in Morgenthau’s writings which tend to confound. A fair reading of his approach requires attention to both.

If the occasional confusion about Morgenthau’s intention is itself a component of his realist legacy, so are five additional concerns which inform much of his writing. They are: first, his challenge to international idealism; second, realism’s claim to a

0260-2105/88/04/0247-20/S03.00 ? 1988 Review of International Studies

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248 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

status as a political theory of international relations; third, the place of ends or ideals in international politics; fourth, the moral dimension of the realist understanding; and fifth, Morgenthau’s appreciation for the limits of politics.

The challenge to idealism Political realism is most commonly known for that which it opposes. However, Hans Morgenthau regarded his scholarly efforts as serving a restorative purpose. In fact there is little self-consciously novel about political realism. Morgenthau disparaged novelty in theory, believing so-called innovation to be suspect prima facie. New and important ideas are introduced by philosophers, and philosophers are rare. Other new opinions are less likely to be worthy of serious consideration and often are not even new.4

Political realism, in contrast, is supposed to be the reiteration of an old argument. Morgenthau presents it as an old theory or at least one that acknowledges a trail blazed by earlier thinkers. He intended his argument as a restatement of a position that had been forgotten or rendered disreputable because it had been supplanted. Restoring political realism required questioning predominant opinion. The critical dimension of realism’s legacy lies principally in this challenge to popular scholarly thinking. Morgenthau made his case in opposition to what he termed political idealism. He was not alone in his criticism. In the twenty years that followed the coming of

World War Two, a large number of eminent scholars probed the failures of political idealism and their catastrophic consequences. E. H. Carr, Martin Wight, and

Herbert Butterfield in Britain; Raymond Aron in France; Henry Kissinger, Walter Lippmann, and Reinhold Niebuhr in the United States; these were some of the writers who, along with Morgenthau, sought to inter the Utopian political idealism of the interwar period.5 To the extent that a contemporary school of realism exists?and these are the men who would be counted among its leaders?it is an association based upon a common repudiation of unfounded hopes for a new world. Indeed, beyond this shared purpose, the diversity of theoretical priorities among ‘Realists’?from Butterfield’s Christian pessimism to Aron’s sociology of diplomatic-strategic behaviour to Kissinger’s philosophy of history?limits the utility of realism as a word that can either describe or enlighten. Morgenthau’s critique of political idealism addressed philosophic root as well as

international branch. His arguments are a denial of idealism’s denial of politics. Idealism tends to dismiss the necessity and hence centrality of political action because it regards politics not as a natural activity, but as an obstacle in the path of a more rational life. A rational being needs not, and a being without need will find no use for the political necessity of the rule of man by man.

Political idealism, as it emerged in the Enlightenment, promised to replace the quest for knowledge with knowledge proper. It claimed to have superceded Socrates and his apology for knowing of his ignorance with a system of knowing which made ignorance, in Morgenthau’s description, ‘a mere quantitative shortcoming’ which

might be ‘overcome in due course of time’.6 Hans Morgenthau tried to demonstrate that these were claims idealism did not and

could not honour. He was one of the first of the international relations scholars to recognize political idealism’s dependence on modern natural science, and to offer an account of the inadequacy of such a dependence. Political idealism tried to follow the course of modern natural science, a course of revolutionary attainment. But modern science makes men ‘the masters and owners of nature’ (Descartes) by removing the

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Peter Gellman 249

natural phenomena which it studies from nature. Morgenthau perceived that whatever benefit or progress such an approach provided in the natural world, it could do little with the perennial human questions in which politics figured so prominently.

Modern scientific investigation depends upon isolation and detachment, conditions not easily imposed upon the motion of human affairs. The complexity of political causation made the methods of natural science inadequate tools for an impossible task.

While the natural sciences have to do with isolated causes operating upon motionless objects, the social sciences deal with interminable chains of causes and effects, each of which, by being a reacting effect, is the cause of another reacting effect, and so forth ad infinitum. Furthermore, the links of such a chain are the junctions and crossing points of many other chains, supporting or counteracting each other. The scene of this intricate spectacle is what we call the ‘social world’.7

Morgenthau regarded idealism’s objective of establishing reason’s primacy as excessive because it ignored the boundaries of predictability. Planning always has been important in politics, but planning also aiways implied making provision for a variety of possibilities because it recognized and accepted the partial and therefore imperfect quality of knowledge from which judgements had to be drawn. Deciding

whether a rival state’s sabre-rattling portended imperialism or was merely a con cession to an excited domestic populace was for Morgenthau a very difficult, yet typical test of statesmanship. For political idealism, such a test was unnecessary because idealism emphasized not the caution which attends imperfect knowledge, but the confidence which accompanies the righting of a technical malfunction. Hans Morgenthau’s writings on international idealism follow closely from his

general objections. Morgenthau wrote extensively on the influence of utopianism in international affairs. He argued against most of the favourite idealist blueprints for international reform?from world law to collective security to intercultural communication. From his various analyses, it is possible to recognize three basic criticisms in Morgenthau’s treatment of the idealistic tradition in international affairs.

First, he regarded much of idealist scholarship as fatally vague on some crucial considerations. One usually could find in idealist writings the hope for a more reasonable and more peaceful world, but this hope was rarely given the benefit of precise definition and seemed to drift with the currents of popular opinion. The burden of reform carried by idealism prevented it from fulfilling its highest obliga tion?the explanation of international politics. Idealism too often fell into the trap of

moralism, ‘in being more interested in the reform of international relations than in understanding or at least being able to separate these two tasks in theory and practice’ .8 Morgenthau’s targets were the arguments of men like Sir Alfred Zimmern, the first Montague Burton Professor of International Relations at the University of

Oxford, and a leading advocate of reforming idealism. Zimmern believed that science and its technological outgrowth had effected an unprecedented degree of unity in the modern world, a unity that made interdependence the rule of modern life; he also believed that the systematic investigation of international relations might solve the problems of this unprecedented ‘body politic of the world’.9

Interdependence is a requirement of political life, but not by itself adequate to sustain a body politic. Zimmern had nothing to say about the distance that the inter dependence of his day might have to travel to reach the stage of a supranational political community. Having begged the fundamental theoretical question, Zimmern

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250 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

and many of his idealist colleagues of the inter-war period were able to get on with the job of promoting the new political order.10 Idealists could and did assert for the League of Nations (and later the United Nations) a right to enforce the peace; but so long as their claim was not accompanied by a corresponding transfer of sovereignty, it could not be more than a wish. Morgenthau argued that international co-operation depended upon the common policies of the great powers, and while international institutions might host concerted action, they could not foster it. Order in an inter national system of many sovereigns would not exceed the sum of its parts, and that sum might be zero. Responding to the legalists, Morgenthau reiterated Hobbes’ point that without a sovereign there can be no law.11 And he reminded advocates of peace through culture that the histories of classical Athens, Renaissance Italy, and modern Germany show no necessary incompatibility between outstanding achievements in the arts and sciences and a taste for war.12 Worthy schemes entail adequate premises on which to build. International idealists failed to align the universal ‘why’ with the prudential ‘how’.

Undue preference for aspiration over diagnosis also posed problems for idealism’s method of international prescription, a second focus of Morgenthau’s challenge. International reform cum engineering meant repairing the causes of international dis harmony, causes whose nature was less than fully appreciated. If realist and idealist could agree that the problem of war was the foremost challenge of international politics, the idealist made a leap of faith by assuming that the causes of war were discrete and severable. This led in turn to the fallacy Morgenthau called the method of the single cause, that is, once the problem of interstate conflict was isolated, say, aristocratic regimes or imperial trade preferences or armaments rivalries, the proper corrective might be implemented.13 Morgenthau, moreover, asserted that the single cause led to a dangerous indis

criminateness brought on by consistency. Singular policy mistook a general principle for a universally valid law of politics, when, in fact, the reach of a principle always depended upon favourable environs. He compared Disraeli’s proclamation of ‘peace . . . with honour’ upon returning from the Congress of Berlin with the identical boast

made by Chamberlain on his return from Munich. The same principle might promote an enduring peace in one instance, and disadvantageous war in another.14 At the height of the cold war, when Morgenthau published his In Defense Of The National Interest, he reminded his readers that appeasement could find its issue as much in the virtue of magnanimity as in the vice of folly. In later years Morgenthau made the same case against unsituated principle when he argued that a foreign policy designed to contain communism was ill-equipped for a world of communisms, and contending ones at that.15

The deracinated character of idealism’s principles and the arbitrariness of its prescriptions left its theoretical worth, its capacity to explain, in doubt. Utopian scholarship in international relations lacks the apparent presence it once had, but its many (and often milder) reincarnations suggest the continuing relevance of Morgenthau’s concerns.16 They are much in evidence in Morgenthau’s discussions of ‘theorists’ of human rights and the New International Economic Order, a reminder that contemporary world order schemers might bear burdens similar to their intel lectual forebears.17

A political approach to international relations

For these reasons and against these perceived failings, Hans Morgenthau proposed a theoretical alternative. He sought to supplant idealism with a theory of international

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Peter Gellman 251

relations that was political. Politics is an autonomous sphere of action, one which Morgenthau argues must be understood in its own right and apart from the commit ments of spheres like economics and aesthetics. The study of international relations is above all the study of international politics, and the study of international politics needs to take place as part of a study of politics proper. In contrast to Zimmern’s definition of international relations as a ‘bundle of subjects . . . viewed from a common angle’, theory for Morgenthau seems to imply a consistent, directed, investigation, and not an interplay of several methods, each digging up the same ground. Despite a common object of study, different disciplines asked different questions of differing importance.

The economist asks: ‘How does this policy affect the wealth of society, or a segment of it?’ The lawyer asks: ‘Is this policy in accord with the rules of law?’ The moralist asks: ‘Is this policy in accord with moral principles?’ And the political realist asks: ‘How does this policy affect the power of the nation?’ (Or of the federal government, of Congress, of the party, of agri culture, as the case may be.)18

Morgenthau does argue for ‘the existence and relevance’ of intellectually autonomous spheres of economics, law, and art, etc., but appears to suggest that these autonomies are qualified. He also writes that the political realist ‘cannot but subordinate these other standards [economics, law, etc.] to those of politics’.19 The embrace of many standards of thought is unacceptable because other standards cannot replace adequately political criteria. Are the other spheres themselves deriva tive from, or governed by politics? Morgenthau’s scholarship is not conclusive on this point. He claims autonomous standards for art and religion within their respec tive domains, yet at the same time notes the intrusive influence of other criteria, an influence, presumably, which might exercise control. Moreover, he does not preclude the existence of other pursuits which have less to do with concrete action, but which none the less might be superior to the other spheres, including politics. This is the implication I believe Morgenthau is approaching (if not endorsing) when in Scientific

Man Versus Power Politics, he cites with approval Goethe’s remark that ‘He who acts is always unjust; nobody is just but the one who reflects’.20 Perhaps it is telling that a scholar often credited with helping to found a new ‘discipline’ seemed to anticipate severe limits upon what even a political science of international relations might accomplish for its own sake.

But how does Morgenthau make his case for a political theory of international relations? Crucial to Morgenthau’s position is the explanation of politics according to the concept of interest defined in terms of power. It is perhaps a contradiction and at least curious that a theory of politics which purports to take its bearings from, or to approximate, something above or beyond itself, should attempt to funnel all of politics through one notion. Given Morgenthau’s own distrust of oversized political concepts, it is important to investigate the breadth of the interest-power association and indeed to wonder whether the formulation is a fixed concept at all or rather like a category?a range of possibilities one might find subsumed under terms like prudence or moral virtue.

When Morgenthau explains what he means by power, it is evident that he is think ing of more than a concept. The definition seems straightforward: ‘. . . man’s control over the minds and actions of other men.’ As a corollary, political power is defined as ‘the mutual relations of control among the holders of public authority and between the latter and the people at large’.21 Similarly, political realism’s emphasis upon the struggle for power as the unity of politics (including international politics) is

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252 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

seemingly to the point. Yet an examination of Morgenthau’s writings reveals the con siderable complexity that these ideas involve, a difficulty caused in part by their connection to the most insatiable human appetites. According to Morgenthau, man’s longing for order, for control of his own fate, and for security against the unknown, death, and domination by his fellow, juxtapose his basic solitude with his essential sociability. The result is a struggle for power which is characteristic of both the means and (at the very least immediate) ends of human action.

The vastness of the struggle perhaps is nowhere clearer than in Morgenthau’s dis cussion of the relationship of love and power. To Morgenthau, the two elements are among the basic impulses of the human condition, and intimately tied through their common attempt to overcome imperfection.

Through love, man seeks another human being like himself, the Platonic other half of the soul, to form a union which will make him whole. Through power, man seeks to impose his will upon another man, so that the will of the object of his power mirrors his own. What love seeks to discover in another man as a gift of nature, power must create through the artifice of psycho logical manipulation.22

Political power as explained by political realism is pervasive. It is in essence a psychological relationship, played out among human minds and wills. In the study of international relations, the psychological emphasis can be seen in the divergence of political realism from other approaches to international politics in explaining the relationship of political power and the resort to force by states. The distinction between threat and actual use of force is central to the realist argument. While force is being threatened, it remains political, since threats are things to be reasoned. Yet where force is used, Morgenthau argues that it represents the replacement of political power by compulsion. Thus a psychological competition is supplanted by a contest of physical or material considerations.

Political realism’s differentiation between psychological and physical conflicts becomes more evident when compared with the discussions of politics and force in the writings of other scholars. Raymond Aron, for example, begins with a notion of diplomatic-strategic behaviour that is distinct from domestic political conduct. Aron ascribes a much greater importance to physical force.23 Each state’s primary objective is security, and it can be achieved either through the weakness or indif ference of other states, or through its own strength. Force is both potential and actual. Power for Aron, therefore, is a question of capabilities or resources. Morgenthau’s understanding of power sets him apart not only from writers who

see in military force the key feature of international behaviour, but from any explanation of power that assigns priority to material factors. Morgenthau’s realism stands at odds with Marxist-Leninist arguments, but also with those which claim that contemporary international interdependence has an ameliorative quality (inter dependence seeing a decline in the utility of force only in relation to the increasing importance of other capabilities). Morgenthau’s argument is also incompatible with those of the so-called structural or neo-realists?scholars whose emphasis upon analogues to economic behaviour and outcomes, functional power enhancement, and systemic determinants of state behaviour reveal a far greater commitment to the material aspects of international relations as well as an ambitious confidence in the potential of political calculus.24

If there is a common objection to Morgenthau’s notion of power among many of these writers, it is an objection to its unlimited expansiveness. A great precision of definition is desired. These criticisms, however, tend to overlook Morgenthau’s

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Peter Gellman 253

fundamental concern: the origin of the struggle for power among states. In this crucial respect, Morgenthau comes remarkably close to Thucydides in arguing that the struggle between nations for freedom from, and domination over, each other is located essentially in human nature, and only then in the conditions of international affairs.25 Morgenthau’s definition of power must by implication pertain to all of political life, and not solely to the international sphere. As a consequence of these origins, the task of appraising the power of a state at any given moment is distorted mutatis mutandis by the indeterminate possibilities of human nature. Morgenthau regarded these ambiguities as inherent to theorizing about international relations, and his rejection of force as the heart of political power anticipates his practical concern with prudential limitations to foreign policy?even under circumstances of military and economic advantage.

A small digression at this point may be helpful. It is sometimes said of Morgenthau that his notion of power is too heavily preoccupied with military force and coercion while neglecting the influences that affect the system of states. Consider the arguments of Keohane and Nye in Power and Interdependence. In one instance, they ascribe to realists (and by strong implication Morgenthau) the view that ‘using or threatening force is the most effective means of wielding power’.26 When one remembers the effort Morgenthau makes to distinguish between the psychological and hence powerful effect of military potential and the abandonment of political power implied in military use, it is necessary to ask whether the easy mixing of use and threat by Keohane and Nye doesn’t render their criticism problematic. The suggestion that Morgenthau understands power as an instrument to be ‘wielded’, a set of means to be employed for unspecified ends should not survive a reading of the first fifty pages of Politics Among Nations. But survive it does. Similarly, a leading international relations textbook of the behavioural persuasion, published in 1985, describes Morgenthau’s view of power as ‘characterized by the use and manipulation of military resources’.27 For whatever reasons, many writers tend to overlook the psyche, or soul that informs Morgenthau’s version of power.

Morgenthau believed the struggle for power to be as essential to the human condition as the longing for love and beauty and truth. When Morgenthau speaks of power in the international sphere, that is, when he discusses national power, he often draws the attention of his reader to the importance of those elements which are without a tangible basis. For example, in an evaluation of the concept of the balance of power, Morgenthau argues that national character, the morale of a people, and the quality of its government ‘are the most important, but also the most elusive, components of national power’. ‘It is impossible,’ he writes,

for the observer of the contemporary scene or the explorer of future trends to assess with even approximate accuracy the relative contributions these elements may make to the power of different nations. Furthermore, the quality of these contributions is subject to incessant change, unnoticeable at the moment the change actually takes place and revealed only in the actual test of crisis and war. Rational calculation of the relative strength of several nations, which is the very lifeblood of the balance of power, becomes a series of guesses the correctness of which can be ascertained only in retrospect.28

Morgenthau’s stress on the permanence of power is intended to provide much of the content for interest in the formulation of interest defined in terms of power. He says as much when he writes: ‘The idea of interest is indeed the essence of politics and is unaffected by the circumstances of time and place.’ The problem is that he doesn’t say much more. Although one can discover elaborate dissertations on the character

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254 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

of power in many of Morgenthau’s books and essays, the discussions of interest (in contrast to its subset, national interest) are sparse. At points he presents the testimony of Thucydides, Hamilton, Disraeli, and even Woodrow Wilson to the effect that states act according to national interest. It is of course possible that Morgenthau failed to give an adequate account of interest, but his discussions of national interest do seem to suggest a connection between interest and the necessity of politics. He also acknowledges the ‘elusiveness’ of national interest and its openness to a wide range of interpretations.29 Here Morgenthau is on dangerous ground, for a concept of national interest without content, and sufficiently malleable to accom modate both imperialism and neutralism, differs little from the formalistic cant of political idealism which he criticized so harshly.

Morgenthau’s solution is to treat national interest as composed of two parts. The first part he calls the ‘hard core’ of national interest. Sovereign states are entities endowed with lasting attributes of politics, geography, and character and the preservation of these attributes is a likely aim of states?faced as they are with the incompatible designs of their rivals. Survival is the irreducible interest of every state. The national interest is understood as permanent in terms of its environment, that is, in the constancy of the war possibility, as well as the continuity in the quality of threat

which a particular country might face?for example the strategic difficulty posed for the defence of the Russian land mass by the Central European plains, or for the security of both Japan and China by the Korean peninsula.

The relative permanency of interest and threat is surpassed by the virtual immutability of the configurations through which the reason of man transforms the abstract concept of the national interest into foreign policy. Faced with the necessity to protect the hard core of the national interest, that is, to preserve the identity of the nation, all governments throughout history have resorted to certain basic policies, such as competitive armaments, the balance of power, alliances, and subversion, intended to make of the abstract concept of the national interest a viable reality. Governments might have been wise or unwise in their choice of policies, successful or unsuc cessful in their execution; they could not have escaped the rational necessity of selecting one of a limited number of avenues through which to bring the power of their nation to bear upon the power of other nations on behalf of the national interest.30

The second component of the national interest, the element that shifts according to changes in circumstances, includes within it the recognition that no political order is permanent. This is another instance where some of Morgenthau’s critics misread him. Occasionally, it is argued that political realism is ‘state-centric’, that it is pre occupied with the alleged dominant influence of states in international politics and pays insufficient attention to other non-state actors whose presence in the inter national system of the late twentieth century has substantially modified the relations of states. Morgenthau did believe that as long as the world was organized along the lines of state sovereignty, the state would be ‘the last word’. On this point he is at one with such scholars as Bull, Aron, and Wolfers. But the last word is a contingent word, and allegations of state-centrism notwithstanding, Morgenthau also argued that the notion of national interest was as transitory as the sovereign state that made use of it. ‘The national state itself is obviously a product of history and as such is destined to yield in time to different modes of political organization.’31 What, then, does interest defined as power mean for international politics? It

doesn’t mean a hard and fixed concept. It is rather a disposition that accepts survival

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Peter Gellman 255

as the interest held in common by all states, but allows that beyond necessity the ends of foreign policy ‘can run the whole gamut of meanings which are logically com patible with it’.32 Perhaps it is easier to ascertain what Morgenthau’s political approach entails by briefly mentioning what it isn’t. One alternative is a sociological theory of international relations. Raymond Aron’s Peace and War sets out a ‘theory’ which sees in relations among states a category of behaviour distinct from all other domains of social relations. It is behaviour that spans the antinomies of war and peace, and is symbolized by the soldier and the diplomat, the representatives of the community in each type of action. Aron argues that in the absence of a world state there is an ‘essential difference between internal politics and foreign polities’.

. . . Politics, insofar as it concerns the internal organization of collectivities, has for its immanent goal the subordination of men to the rule of law. Politics, insofar as it concerns the relations among states, seems to signify in both ideal and objective terms?simply the survival of states confronting the potential threat created by the existence of other states. Hence the common opposition of classical philosophy: the art of politics teaches men to live within collectivities, while it teaches collectivities to live in either peace or war.33

Aron’s approach to international relations is by way of his ‘historical sociology’, by the examination of ’causes, internal or external to diplomatic relations, which determine the formation, the transformation, and the disappearance of international systems . . ,’.34 Aron’s science stresses the unique international state of nature, without which there would be no international theory, while Morgenthau searches for the international manifestations of universal political tendencies growing from a single nature. A political theory of international relations is also essentially different from a

theory of international relations whose unity is society. Hedley Bull in his essay ‘Society and Anarchy in International Relations’, as well as in his book The

Anarchical Society, seeks to establish the autonomy of international relations and the operation of a society within that autonomous sphere.35 In discussing the order necessary to a society, Bull makes use of what he calls Augustine’s ‘purposive’ definition of order, ‘a good disposition of discrepant parts, each in its fittest place’.36 However, Bull must dispense with this definition if he is to make an argument for the existence of an international society, because to see our world in the light of the competing conceptions of the ‘fittest’, is to recognize a world ‘split apart’. The focus of Bull’s enquiry cannot be order in its entirety, but the common and scarce ground of conflicting orders.

A political theory of international relations cannot accept a definition which refers to matters like protection from physical violence and respect for property, but not the question of purpose or the right to secure one’s liberty. Purpose and not the formal inclusion or exclusion of states is for political realism a crucial consideration in separating a system of states, bound together by fate, from a society, whose commonness is derived from a commonness in the aims of each state. Herein lies the origin of the disagreement between Hedley Bull and Hans Morgenthau regarding the existence of an international society.37

The ends of political realism

Morgenthau’s aim was a political theory of international relations, and it is fair to ask whether Morgenthau finished the task he set for himself, namely, whether he

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256 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

identified an end or ends for the pursuit of power. Morgenthau’s attitude towards power has been reproached for being too accept

ing. Many scholars, among them Robert Rothstein, Aron, and the young Robert W. Tucker, have suggested Morgenthau’s analysis confers upon the struggle for power a respect of which it is undeserving.38 Upon examination, however, Hans

Morgenthau’s arguments reflect an abiding conviction in the indispensable place of ideals in political life. (Indeed Morgenthau’s ‘Realist’ espousal of ideals is a useful reminder of the limits of labels in political analysis.)

The unity of political realism is interest defined as power. Less apparent but still meaningful is the connection between this theoretical unity and the existence of universal ideals, ideals Morgenthau often called purpose. Morgenthau’s scholarship, consequently, pays attention to the issue of national purpose. Morgenthau dis tinguished between national purpose and nationalism. The purpose of a state was

more than an ideology, more than a means employed by a state to justify or disguise its policy. National purpose also differed from successful policy. What made ancient

Athens, Rome, and Israel great was not longevity, but their distinction as great civilizations, as communities which had excelled in human achievement and that were exemplary by virtue of those achievements. National purpose looked beyond. It infused political action with the claim to eternity. Morgenthau saw it in Thucydides’ report of Pericles’ funeral oration, an oration which claimed for Athens the title of teacher of Hellas, and for Athenian power the mantle of nobility (though

Morgenthau, following the dominant opinion of nineteenth century German classical scholarship, neglected the troublesome celebration of Athenian tyranny also evident in Thucydides’ account); in the republicanism of Rome; in Isaiah’s prophecy of Israel as a light unto the nations. The modern civilizations of Britain, France, Russia, China and Israel could find in their respective pasts a vitality that might become the foundation for the future. But national purpose was a rare blessing?most states were the outgrowth of accident or convenience and wholly without a larger purpose.

Morgenthau regarded the relationship between power and purpose as symbiotic. There is power in the professed attachment to higher principles, and there needs to be a governing purpose to power. The power of purpose establishes the important place ideals have in political realism. Much in Morgenthau’s evaluation of the cold war ultimately turned on his diagnosis of Soviet and American ideals.

For Morgenthau, the most exceptional source of American power was the nation’s beginning. Not only did the United States possess a purpose, but it was a purpose that gave rise to the United States. Historically, national purpose always had followed the establishment of the political order; except the United States. The United States was founded on an explicit appeal to reason and to the right of revolution, and upon that appeal was built the American national purpose of equality in freedom. Equality in freedom meant that the American ‘is free to rise within the nation as high as merit and opportunity will carry him’.39 For this reason, Morgenthau believed that the promise of the United States did not stop at the shores of the republic. The American founders made their appeal to nature and nature’s God. The self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence were available to ‘All men’, not just the rebellious colonists. He concurred in Lincoln’s observation that there was in the Declaration an ‘electric cord . . . that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.’40

In the post-war era, Morgenthau believed America’s exemplary purpose was under great challenge, but that it none the less retained its significance. The freedom invited by the endless American frontier of nineteenth century expansion was gone, but in its

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stead stood a global frontier and a historic opportunity for the United States ‘to become the spearhead of a free association of nations committed to the achievement of equality in freedom’.41 The quality and integrity of American national purpose were for Morgenthau crucial influences upon the strength of its foreign policy. He believed that survival required moving beyond the system of states, and he saw in the American purpose the only just foundation for a viable world order.

National purpose was also a crucial factor in his interpretation of Soviet foreign policy. Morgenthau’s writing on Soviet foreign policy accentuated the historical con tinuities of Russian and Soviet interests?though, in later years, this interpretation

was altered by an increasing attention to the difficulties of Soviet national purpose. It is also the most notable instance of the influence of Max Weber upon Morgenthau’s account of international politics. Morgenthau deeply admired Weber?despite the latter’s teaching on the separation of factual and value judgements, a division at the heart of much of which Morgenthau sought to challenge. Nevertheless, his examina tion of the relationship between Soviet power and Soviet purpose owes an important debt to Weber and Weber’s analysis of charismatic legitimacy. Morgenthau regarded the legitimacy of a Marxist-Leninist Soviet Union as charismatic in origin?that is, a claim to authority based on the possession of ‘a special endowment of wisdom, virtue, and power’. Marxism-Leninism found its charismatic appeal in its claim to rule by virtue of a true knowledge of history. Morgenthau saw three consequences of a claim to know (and act upon) the comprehensive truth. First, despite the ostensibly scientific basis of Marxist-Leninist thought and the anonymous objectivity asso ciated with that idea, the identification of the monopoly of truth with a particular leader was an invariable result of Soviet politics, indeed of all communist regimes.

Thus the Stalinist cult of personality, denounced and excused by Khrushchev as an aberration, was in fact a permanent possibility. Second, Morgenthau perceived that the standard for political legitimacy would never exceed that of holding the levers of authority. He saw a close connection between the Soviet leadership’s claim to complete understanding, and the equation of dissent with mental illness?a Soviet formula which culminated in the practice of committing dissidents to psychiatric institutions. Third, the appeal of Marxism-Leninism?from the failure of a world revolution to materialize, to a socialist state that would not wither?was hobbled by the unfulfilled expectations of its own science.

The challenges of first Yugoslavia and then China to Soviet leadership of the communist world, as well as the repressive methods used to maintain its empire evident in the military interventions in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan, gravely weakened the Soviet Union’s status as a revolutionary power.42 Most important, Morgenthau in his later years became convinced that the Soviet Union’s internal brutality raised serious questions about the viability of its membership in any society of states.

… I ask myself, not in political but in general psychological terms: What kind of people are we dealing with, who, on the one hand can do to the Panovs, for instance, and to many others, what they have done; and, on the other hand, claim detente and friendship and so forth for the rest of the world?

I think you cannot divide the moral character of a man, statesman or private citizen, in two entirely disconnected halves, one brutal, devoid of all moral restraints, and the other trustworthy and friendly.

I must frankly say, if I may be personal for a moment, I used to think in the late forties and in the fifties that if we were to come up with a negotiated

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settlement with the Soviet Union, we ought to have detente then, and I wrote and spoke about it. I discussed the matter personally and in correspondence with Dean Acheson, and Dean Acheson said it is impossible, and he gave me the reasons why. I was not convinced.

I have had many dealings in the meantime with Russians, high-placed Russians, political and academic, and I have now come to the conclusion urged on me 25 years ago: That the totalitarian regime is an extremely brutal and destructive regime, extinguishing all freedom of thought and conscience; it has created a kind of moral and intellectual deformation in the minds of all its servants, which is an enormous impediment to normal relations?in a sense, makes normal relations quite impossible.43

Political realism and political morality

Hans Morgenthau’s concern with political purpose also reflected a broader concern, that of moral judgement in politics. Ideals were not only important because they affected power; they were important because they were good. Morgenthau’s legacy includes a defence of the moral character of human life and

perforce of politics. His warning against overrating the potential of ethical restraints on a state’s external conduct is well known. Less readily appreciated, but equally present in his political realism, is a caution against underestimating the ameliorating force that morality can be in the relations of states.

. . .there is the misconception, usually associated with the general deprecia tion and moral condemnation of power politics, . . . that international politics is so thoroughly evil that it is no use looking for moral limitations of the aspirations for power on the international scene. Yet, if we ask ourselves what statesmen and diplomats are capable of doing to further the power objectives of their respective nations and what they actually do, we realize that they do less than they probably could and less than they actually did in other periods of history. They refuse to consider certain ends and to use certain means, either altogether or under certain conditions, not because in the light of expediency they appear impractical or unwise but because certain

moral rules interpose an absolute barrier. Moral rules do not permit certain policies to be considered at all from the point of view of expediency. Certain things are not being done on moral grounds, even though it would be expedient to do them.44

Morgenthau referred to republican Venice and its involvement over the course of a century in some 200 plots to assassinate political officials as part of its foreign policy, but pointed out that although the considerations which commended political assassination had not changed, that is, although it was ‘not a matter of indifference for the nations engaged in the competition for power whether or not their competitor can avail itself of the services of outstanding military and political leaders,’ the influence of public opinion rendered assassination morally reprehensible in demo cratic societies, and, to an unprecedented extent, impolitic. Thus, revelations of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement in conspiracies to kill foreign officials met with overwhelming disapproval. Moral principles could and did limit the total subordination of foreign policy to advantage.45 Morgenthau has been reproached for his inadequate concern with morality, so it is

worth mentioning one instance in which Morgenthau responded directly to that charge. Martin Wight, writing in the journal International Affairs, accused

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Morgenthau of ‘endorsing Hobbes’ doctrine that outside the state there is neither morality nor law’.46

Wight was referring to the following passage of Morgenthau’s book, In Defense of the National Interest:

There is a profound and neglected truth hidden in Hobbes’ extreme dictum that the state creates morality as well as law and that there is neither morality nor law outside the state. Universal moral principles, such as justice or equality, are capable of guiding political action only to the extent that they have been given concrete content and have been related to political situations by society.47

Morgenthau replied as follows:

To say that a truth is ‘hidden’ in an ‘extreme’ dictum can hardly be called an endorsement of the dictum. To call a position ‘extreme’ is not to identify oneself with the position but to disassociate oneself from it. In the quoted passage I was trying to establish the point, in contrast to Hobbes’s, that moral principles are universal and, hence, are not created by the state. I was also trying to establish the point, I think in accord with Hobbes, that moral principles, as applied to political issues, receive their concrete meaning from the political situation within which they are called upon to operate. Thus, far from endorsing Hobbes, I was really saying that his statement is in error because it is ‘extreme’, but that it contains a ‘hidden’ element of truth.48

Morgenthau learned from Pascal that ‘man is neither angel nor beast and his misery is that he who would act the angel acts the brute’.49 To see the evil dimension of politics was the first step in acting morally. Prudence and principle thus co-exist in tension, and the relative emphasis of each varies with circumstances. Hence,

Morgenthau assigned prudence a greater value than principle in defending national interest against the charge of selfishness made by advocates of world community. It is permissible for the individual to incur personal sacrifice in pursuit of higher ideals. A statesman, however, entrusted with the welfare of those in whose behalf he governs, cannot commit his state to a comparable altruism. In the absence of a global and moral order that would make meaningful the radical compromise of national aims, the demand that a state renounce its selfishness is an invitation to calamity. Conversely, on the matters of d?tente with, and human rights within, the Soviet Union, Morgenthau reiterated the importance of maintaining principles. The Soviet regime had removed itself and its people from contact with the outside world. So long as it refused to relax its repression, it effectively refused to become part of ‘a system of arts and laws and manners’?the words which Gibbon used to describe the inter national society of his day. ‘But,’ Morgenthau wrote, ‘as long as the Soviet Union remains outside such a system, at best indifferent and at worst hostile to it, the rest of the world has a vital interest in the character of the Soviet government and of its domestic policies.’ Interest in the Soviet Union’s totalitarian excesses was not the meddling of reformers, but the obligation of those who perceived the connection between the moral basis of d?tente and adequate national security.50

Foreign policy and its limitations

Morgenthau’s legacy of political realism also accentuates the limitations of foreign policy. If power amounts to controlling the minds and actions of other men, one con sequence must be its incompleteness, since the successful exercise of power depends

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upon the rational compliance of those subject to it. Compliance can be bought with promises of benefit, or coercive threats, or it may be freely given, but it is in essence provisional. For Morgenthau ‘the actor on the political stage is always at the same time a prospective master over others, and a prospective object of the power of others’ [sic].51 The more a relationship of power is based upon threats or promises (and the less it depends upon the unprompted consent of the inferior), the more unsettled and inconclusive it is likely to be. Morgenthau’s work suggests that international relations is perhaps the most

extreme classroom of provisionality. The manner in which a political regime best cultivates allegiance within its borders is an important and difficult issue in the history of political thought. As a matter of international politics, the unconsidered allegiance of one state to another is unheard of. Here relations are precarious and the limits of state power correspondingly and keenly felt. Here the pace and challenge of political change exerts extraordinary pressures against the keeping of agreements. Only in the law among states does attention to repudiating prior obligations (rebus sic stantibus) rival the obligations themselves (pacta sunt servando). Disagreement on the most important issues are taken for granted, and statesmen must look low for common ground. Indeed, Morgenthau’s caution against political chauvinism rests on precisely this fundamental principle, namely, that a nation’s power is ephemeral and can be squandered. Political realism’s most important practical lesson consists in the wisdom of a nation in avoiding excessive and therefore vicious ambition.

Although Morgenthau stressed the importance of the distribution or balance of power in his analysis of foreign policy, he argued that the mechanical quality of the balance of power idea was misleading. The intrinsic uncertainties that accompanied any effort to calculate the power of a state rendered the balance of power an ‘unreality’ in the world of political practice. What promoted order and stability in international politics was not an institution called the balance of power, but the sentiments, opinions, and attachments which lay beneath the surface. ‘Before the balance of power could impose its restraints . . . through the mechanical interplay of opposing forces, the competing nations had first to restrain themselves by accepting the system of the balance of power as the common framework of their endeavors.’52 In making his case for morally-induced national self-restraint as the true origin of a stable balance of power system, Morgenthau saw himself restating an old argument?one that had been made by Vattel and Fenelon. To the degree that a common international morality did not exist, even the most cleverly devised policies of balancing army, economy, and alliance against army, economy, and alliance were intrinsically uncertain. Hence in the ideologically repulsed states system of the twentieth century, respect for political limits became even more important.

Concern with the limits of power probably helped to push Hans Morgenthau into his avocation as American foreign policy critic. Much of this effort was devoted to demonstrating that which foreign policy could not alter. He became a public figure through his opposition to what he believed was an overcommitted American policy in Indo-China. His critique of American nuclear strategy reflected a similar worry, and for these purposes, the latter serves as a useful illustration.

For a man suspicious of newfangled theory and respectful of traditional thought, Morgenthau saw the nuclear age as revolutionary. So long as nuclear retaliation could answer nuclear attack, there existed unprecedented constraints on a nuclear state’s political power. The unique destructiveness of the technology transformed the psychology of military threat which was so crucial to national power. Like the strategist Bernard Brodie, he argued that the distinction which Clausewitz drew between destroying the enemy’s forces and compelling a defeated enemy to do the

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victor’s bidding could no longer be maintained. Nuclear destruction left no enemy to be compelled. Nuclear knowledge, according to Morgenthau, altered the human condition, and curtailed the reach of power in consequence.

Morgenthau believed that the nuclear era changed the meaning of death and by implication the essence of life. He described life as a journey through which men attempted to deny the apparent result of dying: the end of existence. In the modern world, the denial of this finality through the attainment of immortality had been transformed. An understanding common to the traditions of Athens and Jerusalem located immortality in the soul and hence beyond the creative or destructive capacity of the man-made world. Thus, the end of physical existence?indeed the end of the world?was not something that could have been wholly feared. Modernity’s abandonment of the soul forced immortality to reside in ‘civilization’, that is, in the living memory of succeeding generations. Nuclear weapons, Morgenthau argued, could destroy civilization and man, and with it the foundation without which modern immortality could not exist. After nuclear war, nothing might be memorable.53

Nuclear knowledge, asserted Morgenthau, imposed limits upon political action. The United States had neither the power to escape nor the power to use. Exemplary was his critique of counterforce doctrine. First announced by the Kennedy adminis tration in 1962, counterforce contemplated the targeting of enemy strategic nuclear forces while leaving intact centres of civilian population?thereby escaping the nasty world of mutually assured destruction. Counterforce, however, was a new strategy that needed a new world to go with it, a strategic battery in search of an as yet uninvented political gadget. One could have counterforce, but Morgenthau observed that first it would be necessary to achieve such precision as to attack military and associated industrial targets without killing millions of people in the process?and the record of total war in the twentieth century was not promising. One could have counterforce, but first the Soviet Union would have to scrap a strategic nuclear force that relied on heavy payload. One could have counterforce, but its association of nuclear war with traditional notions of winning and losing logically implied the advantage of hitting first, leaving the enemy with a reduced number of warheads (‘hardened’ silos and mobile missiles in submarines, bombers, and land vehicles), to aim at the still fully intact arsenal of its adversary. This, Morgenthau contended, would promote ‘not the desire to prevent a nuclear war, but rather a competition for starting one’.54 Finally one could have counterforce, but one would need the assurance that after an initial exchange, neither side would in desperation revert to the targeting of population centres. Counterforce was silent on the matter of securing prior assurances from the future desperate.

Political realism asserts that the foremost consideration in the appraisal of national power is the necessary facts. And the facts of nuclear weapons were the use lessness of use and the value of non-use. Whether these are still the facts, in an era of increasing accuracy, smaller, ‘cleaner’ payloads, and new technologies of missile defence, is a matter of controversy. Beyond dispute is the reality that some of these conditions necessary to counterforce strategy, if not yet actual, will be. Desperate retaliation is a problem for which counterforce argument may never find an adequate answer, but neither is it attractive as the potentially final refuge of balance of terror deterrence. Though Morgenthau makes a persuasive case for nuclear armaments’ novel limitations upon the effectiveness of war, he none the less may have dis regarded his usual suspicions of novelty in minimizing the traditional possibilities of victory and defeat. In short, Morgenthau may have succeeded in showing how the nuclear revolution eroded the basis of modern strategy, but perhaps did not prove that the perennial strategic imperatives had weakened in consequence.

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262 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

The unsettled legacy of political realism

Morgenthau composed a strong brief for the propositions that power and foreign policy are subject to limitation, but he ran into trouble when he ascribed to these limitations (as he did with nuclear weapons) to great a dominance over other tradi tional (and traditionally contending) elements of international politics. As a political activist, he sometimes ignored the principles of his scholarship.55 Indeed, these are not the only problematic aspects of the Morgenthau record. Though critics have reproached him for opinions he never expressed, there are difficulties which he left unsettled, and, left unresolved, challenge the coherence of his argument.

For one, there is a problem of clarity. Morgenthau’s writings are home to many contradictions. One can find within the study of international relations writers who have taken Morgenthau to task on this count and have done so effectively. Aron’s critique of Morgenthau in Peace and War and Claude’s dissection of Morgenthau’s balance of power arguments are two examples where Morgenthau is rightly reproached for confusions created by conflicting assertions. Although it is sometimes possible to sort out these conflicts by referring to the context, there is something to the objection that Morgenthau is not always as careful as he might be in presenting his arguments.56

He also had a tendency to borrow freely from a variety of philosophical and theo retical arguments. It is a common fault among scholars of international relations, but this is no defence against the difficulties his eclecticism sometimes posed. Relying on

Weber to explain Soviet legitimacy but Lincoln in seeking the significance of the American national purpose in foreign policy, suggests that further clarification is required as to whether charisma or civic religion governs; whether it is regime or state or holder of authority that is the proper object of enquiry. There also is no question of Morgenthau’s belief in the existence of immutable standards by which one could take the measure of politics, but there are numerous references also to the historical conditions which conduced to the development of particular philosophies. In The Purpose of American Politics and his discussions of the Van Doren?Columbia Uni versity cheating scandal, Morgenthau makes the case for standards of moral law that govern throughout the ages.57 But in his celebration of Edmund Burke, and most unmistakably in his explanation of human rights, one finds the argument that principles are not merely reflected in a historical situation, but are derived from it.58 If human rights can vary according to time and place, so might human nature. This tension between eternal standards and the organic or evolutionary change implied in historical development is a grave problem for many of Morgenthau’s arguments and indeed is of prime importance to all who easily profess a sympathy for the ostensibly ‘classical approach’ to international relations. There is also a problem of two ‘realisms’, one belonging to men like Thucydides

and Swift, the other belonging to other writers like Hamilton and Vattel. Both versions are evident in Morgenthau’s political realism. On one side, there is the recog nition of the recurrent: the struggle for power and the longing for justice that will colour politics as long as there are men and nations. On the other, one discerns a hopefulness?no less significant for its remarkably low opinion of human nature: the promise of cleverly designed checks and balances and a shrewdly exercised prudence reveal a limited but genuine faith in the possibility of international progress. The tension between these two realisms, if carefully considered, might give us pause before we accept Morgenthau’s mainly unqualified support for the worthiness of replacing the international system with a world state.59 The discussion of the American presidency in The Federalist 70 expresses Hamilton’s hope that the

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Framers of the American Constitution had solved the tension that existed between a government that possessed enough ‘energy’ to govern effectively and the peril of tyranny such an energy might normally imply.60 In general, Morgenthau was at least openly less sanguine than Hamilton on this score, but this concern seemed to disappear when he argued for the importance of transcending the nation state.

Finally, one sees the paradox if not contradiction in Morgenthau’s decision to fight so many of the important battles on his opponents’ territory. In attempting to ‘con ceptualize’ his approach through the formula of interest defined as power,

Morgenthau did succeed in exposing serious weaknesses in many of the conceptual alternatives. Yet his understanding of power seems to cover politics in its entirety, and it is fair to ask whether such an expansive view, if sound, could be well served by a device of modern social science. Similarly, Morgenthau’s willingness to pursue a theory of international relations cut him adrift from many of those thinkers whose arguments he intended to restore. Despite his determination to adopt a political approach, Morgenthau accepted the premise, unknown before Kant, that a science of international politics was possible. As K. J. Holsti has noted, Morgenthau’s effort to treat the subject systematically initiated a flood of scholarly efforts whose directions

Morgenthau could not, and did not, approve.61 These are political realism’s unwanted children.

These are serious problems, and their extended examination are necessary to the kind of investigation Morgenthau intended (but didn’t always fulfil) for the study of international relations. Yet, despite these considerable failings, Hans Morgenthau’s contribution leads the student of international relations to an appreciation of limits: the limits of power that confound the statesman, and the limits of theory which impair our ability to understand. These obstacles will be troubling when one considers simultaneously the deep rifts that beset contemporary international politics. But these limitations also suggest that the greatest opportunities for human improvement may exist beyond politics, and that the best foreign policy can achieve is to assist in providing the conditions that make this improvement possible. The greatest contribution of Hans Morgenthau’s political realism may be its tendency to remind us that foreign policy must never lose sight of the ends it ought to serve.

References and notes

1. David Gress, ‘A Turn Toward Utopia’, Commentary, lxxxiv (July 1987), pp. 70-72; Naomi Black, review of V. Mastny (ed.), Power and Policy in Transition, International Journal, xlii (1987), pp. 395-8.

2. Robert Gilpin, The Richness of the Tradition of Political Realism’, International Organization, xxxviii (1984), pp. 287-305.

3. Reprinted in Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, fifth edition (revised) (New York, 1973) (henceforth Politics Among Nations), p. xvii. In the third edition, pub lished six years later, Morgenthau recalled his appeal, and lamented the fact that he still was being taken to task for opinions to which he had never subscribed. It seems that he resigned himself to his ‘fate’, since the third edition marks the end of the published complaints.

4. Ibid., pp. 3-25; Morgenthau, Scientific Man Versus Power Politics (Chicago, 1946), pp. 37-40; 75-121 ; 204-23; The Nature and Limits of a Theory of International Relations’, in William T. R. Fox (ed.), Theoretical Aspects of International Politics (Notre Dame, 1959), pp. 15-28; ‘Common Sense and Theories’, in Morgenthau, Truth and Power: Essays of a Decade, 1960-1970 (New York, 1970), pp. 241-8.

5. E. H. Carr, The Twenty Years Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (London, 1939); Martin Wight, Power Politics (London, 1946); Herbert Butterfield, Christianity, Diplomacy, and War (London, 1953); Raymond Aron, Peace and War (Garden City, 1966); Henry A. Kissinger, A World Restored?Europe After Napoleon: The Politics of Conservatism in a Revolutionary Age (New York, 1964); Walter Lippmann, U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the

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264 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

Republic (Boston, 1943); Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society (New York, 1947). That Morgenthau’s thinking was influenced (as were Aron’s and Kissinger’s) by his experience as a Jewish refugee from the Nazis and as an observer of the disastrous efforts of the European democracies to appease Hitler is evident in late as well as early writings. See his * Fragment of an Intellectual Autobiography: 1904-1932′, in Kenneth W. Thompson and Robert J. Myers (eds.), Truth and Tragedy: A Tribute to Hans J. Morgenthau (Washington, DC, 1977), pp. 1-17.

6. Morgenthau, Scientific Man Versus Power Politics, op. cit., pp. 122-3. 7. Ibid., pp. 129-30. 8. Morgenthau and Kenneth W. Thompson (eds.), Principles and Problems of International Politics

(New York, 1950), p. 3. 9. Sir Alfred Zimmern, The Study of International Relations (Oxford, 1931), passim.; see also D. J.

Markwell, ‘Sir Alfred Zimmern Revisited: Fifty Years On’, Review of International Studies, xii (1986), pp. 279-92.

10. Sir Alfred Zimmern, The League of Nations and the Rule of Law (London, 1936), passim; see also Martin Ceadel, Pacificism in Britain, 1914-1945: The Defining of a Faith (Oxford, 1980), pp. 147-92.

11. Morgenthau, ‘International Law and International Politics: An Uneasy Partnership’, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law (1974), p. 333.

12. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 511. 13. Morgenthau, Scientific Man Versus Power Politics, op. cit., pp. 95-105. 14. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 559. An elaborated argument can be found in

‘Remarks on the Validity of Historical Analogies’, Social Research, xxxix (1972), pp. 360-4. 15. Morgenthau’s writings objecting to the fallacy of monolithic communism are numerous. Exemplary

are: In Defense of the National Interest (New York, 1951), pp. 201-20; Vietnam and the United States (Washington, 1965), passim ;A Ne w Foreign Policy for the United States (New York, 1969), pp. 23-9.

16. The scholarly interest in international ‘regimes’ as well as norms of, and games involving, cooperation in conditions of international anarchy often reflects a considerable hopefulness in the degree to which competition among states might be managed, if not tamed. See International Organization, xxxvi (1982), a special issue devoted to regimes, but especially Donald Puchala and Raymond Hopkins, ‘International Regimes: Lessons from Inductive Analysis’, pp. 245-76, and Oran Young, ‘Regime

Dynamics: The Rise and Fall of International Regimes’, pp. 277-97. See also Janice Gross Stein, ‘Detection and Defection: ‘Security Regimes’ and the Management of International Conflict’, Inter national Journal, xl (1985), pp. 599-627; Robert Axelrod and Robert O. Keohane, ‘Achieving Cooperation under Anarchy: Strategies and Institutions’, World Politics, xxxviii (1985), pp. 226-54; Robert Axelrod, ‘An Evolutionary Approach to Norms’, American Political Science Review, lxxx (1986), p. 1110.

17. See Morgenthau, ‘Human Rights and Foreign Policy’, Council on Religion in International Affairs Distinguished Lecture (New York, 1979); ‘The Pathology of American Power’, International Securuty, i (1977), pp. 3-20. These arguments are incorporated in the sixth edition of Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York, 1985), edited by Kenneth W. Thompson.

18. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 12. 19. Ibid. 20. Morgenthau, Scientific Man Versus Power Politics, op. cit., p. 189. See also Morgenthau, The Evil of

Power’, Review of Metaphysics, iii (1950), pp. 507-17. 21. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 30. 22. Morgenthau, ‘Love and Power’, Commentary, xxxiii (1962), p. 248. 23. Raymond Aron, Peace and War, op. cit., pp. 47-71. 24. See Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, 1979), chapters five and six;

Stephen D. Krasner, ‘Structural Causes and Regime Consequences: Regimes as Intervening Variables’, International Organization, xxxvi (1982), pp. 185-6, 197; Robert Gilpin, op. cit., p. 290; and Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics (New York, 1981), pp. 13-14, 30-4. That these and other new realists have repudiated an important dimension of Morgenthau’s argument was recognized by Richard Ashley, though the implications he draws from his insight are open to dispute. See his The Poverty of Neorealism’, International Organization, xxxviii (1984), pp. 225-87.

25. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (London, 1969), Book VI, chapters 53.3-60.5; cf. III. 61.1-68.2. See also Steven Forde, Thucydides on the Causes of Athenian Imperialism’, American Political Science Review, lxxx (1986), pp. 433-48.

26. Robert O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Power and Interdependence (Boston, 1977), pp. 23-4. 27. Bruce Russett and Harvey Starr, World Politics: The Menu for Choice (New York, 1985), p. 129. 28. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 211. 29. Morgenthau, ‘The Problem of the National Interest’, in Politics in the Twentieth Century (Chicago,

1962), vol. one, p. 90. 30. Ibid., pp. 91-2.

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31. Ibid., p. 93. 32. Ibid., p. 90. 33. Raymond Aron, Peace and War, op. cit., pp. 6-7. 34. Ibid., p. 178. 35. Bull, ‘Society and Anarchy in International Relations’, in Herbert Butterfield and Martin Wight

(eds.), Diplomatic Investigations (London, 1967); and Bull, The Anarchical Society (New York, 1977), especially part one.

36. Ibid., p. 4. 37. On the difficulties posed by conflicting aims, see Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit.,

pp. 221-48, 248-63, and 337-47; Morgenthau, The Danger of Detente’, New Leader, lvi (October 1973), pp. 5-7; The Tragedy of German-Jewish Liberalism’, in Morgenthau, Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., vol. one, pp. 247-56.

38. Robert L. Rothstein, ‘On the Costs of Realism’, Political Science Quarterly, lxxxvii (1972), pp. 347-62; Robert W. Tucker, ‘Professor Morgenthau’s Theory of Political ‘Realism’ ‘, American Political Science Review, xlvi (1952), pp. 214-24. See also Carey B. Joynt and Percy E. Corbett, Theory and Reality in World Politics (London, 1978), pp. 8-9.

39. Morgenthau, The Purpose of American Politics (New York, 1960), p. 22. 40. Morgenthau, The Mind of Abraham Lincoln’, in Morgenthau and David Hein, Essays on Lincoln’s

Faith and Politics, Kenneth W. Thompson (ed.) (Lanham, 1983), p. 84. 41. Morgenthau, The Purpose of American Politics, op. cit., p. 309. Inis L. Claude, Jr., makes a strong

case for Morgenthau’s ambivalence towards the notion of great power responsibility to other states, arguing that in Morgenthau’s view, ‘concerns such as global peace and security and the general welfare of humanity were distinctly secondary to national interests and were not to be pursued at the expense of the latter’. Still, Morgenthau’s accentuation of national purpose in formulating American foreign policy introduces?albeit in a discussion restricted to the United States?much of the concern which Claude argues ‘Realists’ are unwilling to admit. In Morgenthau’s words: Thus it will be as it was at the beginning: what America does for itself it does for mankind, and political experimentation on a world wide scale in order to save mankind will be in direct line of succession to the political experiment as which at its inception America offered itself to the world’ (ibid., p. 310). Compare Claude, The Common Defence and Great-Power Responsibilities’, Political Science Quarterly, ci (1986), pp. 719-22, and Morgenthau, The Purpose of American Politics, op. cit., pp. 177-89; 307-11.

42. See Morgenthau, A New Foreign Policy for the United States, op. cit., pp. 32-56; 73-6; and The Fortieth Anniversary of the Bolshevist Revolution’, in Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., vol. two, pp. 139-51.

43. Morgenthau made this statement as part of congressional testimony. See Hearings before the Sub committee on Europe of the House of Representatives, Ninety-Third Congress, Second Session, June 10, 1974, p. 147. Val?ry Panov, the lead dancer for the Kirov Ballet, sought permission to emigrate fo Israel, and was dismissed. His wife, also a dancer, lost her job as well. Two years later, Panov was given a visa conditional on leaving his pregnant wife behind. After considerable international criticism, the Soviet government relented, and allowed both to leave.

44. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 237; see also pp. 236-44. 45. Ibid., p.. 238. 46. ‘Review of Dilemmas of Polities’, International Affairs, xxxv (1959), pp. 199-200. 47. Morgenthau, In Defense of the National Interest, op. cit., p. 34. 48. Morgenthau, letter of 22 April 1959, Morgenthau Papers (Alderman Library, University of Virginia). 49. Cited in Morgenthau, Scientific Man Versus Power Politics, op. cit., p. 202. 50. See Morgenthau, ‘Danger of Detente’, op. cit., p. 7. 51. Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., vol. three, p. 11. 52. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 226. 53. See Morgenthau, ‘Death in the Nuclear Age’, Commentary, xxxiii (1962), pp. 231-4. 54. Morgenthau, A New Foreign Policy for the United States, op. cit., p. 225. These arguments are

elaborated in Morgenthau, The Four Paradoxes of Nuclear Strategy’, American Political Science Review, lviii (1964), pp. 23-35.

55. At the height of the war in Indo-China, Morgenthau’s zeal in criticizing American policy led him into conflict with his own arguments. See for example his remarkably generous treatment of cold war revisionism in ‘Historical Justice and the Cold War’, New York Review of Books, xiii (10 July 1969), pp. 10-17. That these and other polemics probably represent contradictions rather than a change of course is strongly suggested by contemporaneous publications in which Morgenthau maintained long established positions. See Morgenthau, A New Foreign Policy for the United States, op. cit., passim; Morgenthau, et al., The Origins of the Cold War (Waltham, 1970), pp. 79-102 and ‘Mr Nixon’s Foreign Policy’, The New Republic, clxii (21 March 1970), pp. 23-5.

56. See Raymond Aron, Peace and War, op. cit., pp. 591-600; Inis L. Claude, Jr., Power and Inter

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266 Hans J. Morgenthau and the legacy of political realism

national Relations (New York, 1962), pp. 25-37. 57. Morgenthau, The Purpose of American Politics, op. cit., pp. 8-9; and ‘Epistle to the Columbians

on the Meaning of Morality’, in ibid., pp. 351-9. 58. Morgenthau, “The Intellectual and Political Functions of a Theory of International Relations’,

Politics in the Twentieth Century, op. cit., pp. 72-3; ‘Human Rights and Foreign Policy’, op. cit., passim.

59. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, op. cit., p. 560. 60. The Federalist Papers, Clinton Rossiter (ed.) (New York, 1961), p. 423. 61. K. J. Holsti, ‘Along the Road to International Theory’, International Journal, xxxix (1984), p. 341.

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  • Contents
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  • Issue Table of Contents
    • Review of International Studies, Vol. 14, No. 4 (Oct., 1988), pp. i-ii, 247-324
      • Front Matter
      • Hans J. Morgenthau and the Legacy of Political Realism [pp. 247-266]
      • The Myth of the Special Case in International Relations [pp. 267-274]
      • The Foreign Office and Political Intelligence 1918-1920 [pp. 275-288]
      • Discussions
        • The Financing of the United Nations [pp. 289-295]
        • China and International Relations [pp. 297-302]
      • Review Articles
        • Review: Making Sense of Sovereignty [pp. 303-307]
        • Review: New Insights on International Crises [pp. 309-316]
        • Review: Arms Control: Back to the Future? [pp. 317-324