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La Logica Di Potenza. L'America, Le Guerre, Il Controllo Del Mondo (2001)

La logica di potenza. L'America, le guerre, il controllo del mondo (2001)

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3.81 of 5 Votes: 4
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8883500415 (ISBN13: 9788883500411)
Università Bocconi

About book La Logica Di Potenza. L'America, Le Guerre, Il Controllo Del Mondo (2001)

[Disclaimer: This is a snapshot of my thoughts on this book after just reading it. This is not meant to serve as a summary of main/supporting points or a critique – only as some words on how I engaged with this book for the purposes of building a theoretical framework on strategy.]Mearsheimer, clearly a student of history, presents what I view as a Jominian theory of international politics. He distinguishes his “offensive realism” as a more applicable theory than Waltz’s structural realism, or as Mearsheimer calls it, “defensive realism.” The author ultimately perceives that a great power’s strength lies in its ability to project land-based force to acquire strength toward becoming and then maintaining regional hegemony – at the expense of other great powers. In an effort to convince his readers that his theory is predictive, he uses historical examples to “test” offensive realism. Without fail, he is able to use history to defend his proposition. The author does admit that structural theories “are at best crude predictors of when security competition leads to war” (335).Mearsheimer agrees with Waltz that bipolarity provides the most stable structure for the rest of the world. Multipolarity increases the number of variables in international politics, thereby increasing the chances strategic miscalculation. As with Waltz, Mearsheimer writes wishfully for the old days of the Cold War when the US only had the USSR to balance against. However, if offensive realism was how the US waged war against the USSR, it is more than likely we would have ended up in nuclear exchange. Mearsheimer’s solution to nuclear deterrence is nuclear superiority – with the superior state exercising the option to use nuclear weapons against any state challenging that superiority (128). Mearsheimer does not arrive at this conclusion that I have proposed; however, this is the logical outcome of a pursuit of nuclear superiority with limited resources and a militarily-offensive strategy for maintaining hegemony.I see the author’s primary weakness as his use of the term “great power.” He does not provide an operational definition for this term, and only identifies nations as great powers when they fit his theoretical premises. His first two of three causes of fear have flaws as well: “1) the absence of a central authority that sits above states and can protect them from each other, 2) the fact that states always have some offensive military capability, and 3) the fact that states can never be certain about other states’ intentions” (3). If bipolarity provides stability, then bipolarity can substitute as a central authority. All states do not have offensive military capability, and in fact rely on other instruments of national power to gain influence with other states.I agree with the idea that Mearsheimer that offensive realism is the way a hegemon maintains is relative position in its region, as well as its influence in other regions. I disagree that it is solely based on military capability. Other instruments of national power should be considered in his formula as well, and his theoretical approach should consider how modern warfare requires great powers to make corrections for any destruction it has caused in another state. War does indeed have an associated long-term cost, both economically and politically. The author is dismissive of morality as a factor in power; but I view morality as having some impact on political capital. There is a cost associated with acting within a moral lens, as well as a cost for acting against an international moral norm. Morality is a concern for realism as well – state survival is the moral imperative. Accumulation of power beyond a defensive survival posture is then shaped by a cost-benefit analysis, which ought to include not only economics, but political capital and impact to other instruments of national power.The author spent two years in the Army, so it is understandable that he sees air and seapower as supporting components to landpower. Nevertheless, his argument that air and seapower cannot win war alone is entirely valid. What is invalid is his support of landpower as the primary warfighting element – he is not able to recognize that landpower also cannot win wars on its own (see Slessor); however, landpower may be the only component that can occupy for the sake of conquest. This seems to be Mearsheimer’s true intent throughout his book. Another change I would make to this book is to change military “capability” to military “capacity.” I am convinced, despite Mearsheimer’s insistence, that a nation’s economy should be the first priority (see Kennedy). A nation’s economy is the foundation for military capacity, and does not necessarily have to translate into capability until it is necessary to do so. Additionally, a nation should have the flexibility to demobilize its military and shift back to a focus on economic prosperity to increase its “latent power” (Mearsheimer). This may be more difficult in application than in theory; however, Mearsheimer’s theory assumes unlimited resources, especially with regard to nuclear superiority. One cannot choose military capability over economic prosperity – one is dependent on the other, but which must come first? This question must be answered dynamically. Mearsheimer ends his book with a very useful conclusion that offers solutions to how to manage the placement of forces worldwide to ensure US influence and a relative balance of conflict. He admits that while threats do not currently exist in many of the places where US forces are deployed, the withdrawal of those forces may change the balance and create opportunities for defensive states to become offensive.I wanted to like this book. I believe myself to be sort of an offensive realist, but with a willingness to consider other instruments of national power to work in concert with military force. Mearsheimer’s support seems flimsy at best and contrived at worst. This is my humble opinion, and I certainly have a long way to go in my own journey in strategy development. This is a restatement and working out of the Realist school of international relations, which dictates that military power and security competition dictates all relations between states, and that power logic determines everything. It's a good explanation of both the theory itself and the consequences thereof, though the historical examples are a little tiresome in places. It is not however a good defense of the basic assumptions of realism; they're taken as given, and rely on the last 200 years of Western history for proof, but that's a really small sample size from which to dictate *all* international relations and laws thereof.The end of the book also contains a warning about the US policy towards China encouraging economic growth is a bad idea, and we should try to retard economic growth in China to avoid a multipolar world. It's odd, because few things would be more likely to produce the sort of power competition he says is inevitable, and the assumption is that the poverty of their millions is worth our power. Of course I violently disagree and question that, but this book didn't provide me enough backing besides historical example to begin a debate with the author in my head. So as an explanation of realism and a manual for thinking like a realist, it works, but as a defense of the same, not so much.

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Dear John (Mearsheimer):Of all the realists, you suck the least.

Influential, on me at least. This dude was my thesis advisor.

Huge IR nerd book, the authority on realism.

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