Glimmer of a New Leviathan: Total War in the Realism of Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Waltz; The Gravest Danger: Nuclear Weapons

In This Review

Glimmer of a New Leviathan: Total War in the Realism of Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Waltz

By Campbell Craig
Columbia University Press, 2003
216 pp. $34.50

The Gravest Danger: Nuclear Weapons

By Sidney D. Drell and James E. Goodby
Hoover Institution Press, 2003
134 pp. $15.00

In his elegant contribution to the study of realist theory, Craig demonstrates just how difficult it has been to stay true to the logic of realism in the face of nuclear weapons. The two key midcentury realists, Reinhold Niebuhr and Hans Morgenthau, challenged those who insisted that U.S. policy must seek to "avoid war at all costs" with their reflections on human nature and the international system. Their general claims provided justification for a robust response to the challenges posed by Nazism and Stalinism, but Craig suggests that they failed to develop their analytical frameworks to take into account the impact of nuclear strategy -- which made avoiding war at all costs, since it could turn nuclear, a reasonable position. Kenneth Waltz, in contrast, took an approach that was less normative and more rigorous to explain superpower behavior. But he too, in making a case for the benign role of nuclear weapons and the stability of a bipolar system, could not help but stray into normative theory. Craig acknowledges the relationship between the writings of Niebuhr and Morgenthau and the Democratic policy debates of the 1950s, although he could have explored those connections more. Still, this book serves as the most compelling account to date of how realism gave way to neorealism in the face of a nuclearized world.

In The Gravest Danger, two veterans of nuclear policy debates, the physicist Drell and the diplomat Goodby, take on the continuing challenge posed by nuclear war, reflecting their conviction that its avoidance and the gradual reduction of "the potential for nuclear devastation" are "the most compelling imperatives of our time." They systematically explore various ways of pursuing these goals, suggesting that the United States has a special leadership role that requires diplomacy backed by force. The measures examined range from preemption to the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program with the countries of the former Soviet Union and other specific policies for known proliferators. It is all very sensible and well informed -- but very U.S.-centric and lacking in the sort of theorizing that Craig explores.

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