Interview with the Author

Courtesy Reuters

Foreign Affairs: Your article is about the likelihood of great-power competition in Europe and Northeast Asia over the next 10 years or so. Should the United States withdraw the forces it has maintained in those regions for more than fifty years, especially since you argue that they have had a pacifying effect in each region? Also, you argue that Europe is bipolar now with Russia and the United States as the reigning great powers, but that if the United States withdraws Europe is likely to become multipolar with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia as the great powers. Indeed, you argue that Germany would be a "potential hegemon" in a multipolar Europe. Is multipolarity always unstable? And what characterizes a "potential hegemon"?

John J. Mearsheimer: I argue that U.S. troops will and should remain in Europe and Northeast Asia only if there is a potential hegemon in those regions that the local great powers cannot contain by themselves. I do not believe that the United States will maintain a military presence in those regions 1) if there is a potential hegemon that can be contained by other states, or 2) for the purpose of keeping peace among the great powers. There are a number of reasons why the present alliance structures in Europe and Northeast Asia are likely to fall apart over time. But the main reason is costs-both the financial costs to the United States of maintaining huge military establishments in those regions and, more importantly, the potential human costs that come with putting American men and women in harm's way.

Like virtually all other peoples, Americans are only willing to fight and die when vital interests are at stake. Although it is certainly in America's national interest to contain a potential peer competitor, it will prefer that other states assume that burden, if it is possible to pass the buck to them. To put it bluntly, why should the United States defend countries that are capable of defending themselves? While preserving

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