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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

31 October 2005

Defending realism

Charles Krauthammer paints an unfair portrait of realism in his Sunday piece in the Washington Post (1). It is not that realism is adverse to freedom; rather, it is skeptical about relevance of freedom in crafting policy. To say that people want freedom is hardly useful—the Hungarians wanted freedom in 1956, the Czechoslovakians in 1968. But it took Mikhail Gorbachev to dismantle the Soviet Empire, even though opposition to the USSR was ever-present.

It is also not true that realists prize stability above everything else. Instead, they fear sudden change: to uproot a political order, it is necessary to unleash human passions that might be hard to control—to release energy whose direction cannot be forecasted. The realist recognizes that many crimes are tolerated for the sake of stability; but just as many are committed in the name of radical change by those who think they can revolutionize human nature and politics.

In other words, realists acknowledge the frailty of human nature; they understand than when order break downs, humans seek cover in familiarity: the nation, their religion. What realists exude is a sense of limitation and humility in affecting change—and that is a useful counter instinct to those who want to change the world.

References:
(1) Charles Krauthammer, “The realist who got it wrong,” Washington Post, 31 Oct 05 (link)

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