Scott Horton Interviews Stephen M. Walt

Scott Horton, August 20, 2011

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Stephen M. Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University and co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, discusses his article “When did the American empire start to decline;” locating the peak of US global dominance during the first Gulf War rout of Iraqi forces, following the Soviet collapse and “unipolar moment;” the big mistakes and missed opportunities that have degraded US power since then; the Clinton administration’s failed dual-containment policy on Iran and Iraq, intended to get Israel more interested in the Oslo Accords but instead creating blowback and eventually 9/11; Walt’s belief in the wise projection of power and self-inclusion in the foreign policy “realist” camp; and why a delayed Israel/Palestine resolution is bad for Arab states, the US and Israel.

MP3 here. (29:24)

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where he served as academic dean from 2002-2006. He previously taught at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as master of the social science collegiate division and deputy dean of social sciences.

He has been a resident associate of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, and he has also been a consultant for the Institute of Defense Analyses, the Center for Naval Analyses, and Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Professor Walt is the author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (W. W. Norton, 2005), and, with coauthor J.J. Mearsheimer, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007).

He presently serves as faculty chair of the international security program at the Belfer Center for Science and international affairs and as co-chair of the editorial board of the journal International Security. He is also a member of the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and co-editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. He was elected as a fellow in the American academy of arts and sciences in May 2005.

18 Responses to “Stephen M. Walt”

  1. Will someone please wake me when the nightmare of U.S. empire is over. Or at least tell me the time & date that I should set the snooze alarm to go off.

  2. Scott, this is a great interview as usual, but I think it would have been great — and would be great in a future interview — if you would put Mr. Walt on the spot a little bit and ask what it is about the Ron Paulian view of foreign policy that he disagrees with. I'm not asking to you be antagonistic; I realize that, on the whole, Walt and the realists are, relatively speaking, allies of ours. But I think it would nevertheless be instructive to ask one of the leading lights of the realist point of view questions like:

    Do you agree that American government's primary, overriding, dare I say exclusive obligation with respect to foreign policy, is to defend the American homeland? If not, why not? If so, how does any of our overseas empire contribute one iota to the defense of this country? Who is it that we need defending against? Who's going to attack a nation with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world several times over? What threats exist — true, existential threats — that cannot be dealt with through trade and diplomacy? Why is it America feels compelled to manage its foreign relations in such a brutal, ham-handed way, and yet nations from Switzerland to Singapore, from Costa Rica to Croatia seem to survive without so acting?

  3. "Foolish adventures"???

    "Evil adventures", would be more "realistic"

  4. The Militaro-industrial complex cannot be profitable if there are no wars. If you can't find an enemy to fight, create one and fight it. If not your investments in weapons development are lost. That's the reality that no one dares to say publicly.

  5. Best regards to Walt. He and John Mearsheimer did us an enormous service with their book "The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." It's the book the Israel-Firsters love to hate.

    The U.S. is on the way out. The U.S. Government's criminality both at home and abroad doesn't bode well for us. . . .

  6. Damn straight.

  7. From a coldly analytical standpoint, Iraq has been a modern example of siege warfare. Instead of a surrounded and cut off ancient city-state being pummeled with crude ballistic weapons, we have the modern nation-state; surrounded, cut off, and being pounded with crude ballistic weapons.

  8. IIRC, the 80's saw the acceleration of the diaspora of America's industries, and jobs. The war industries haven't even blinked since the Soviet Union collapsed. They metastasized and infected all kinds of new places. The war on "Drugs" has probably been their most profitable venture thus far. It dovetails so nicely with all the increased militarism that the new "Terrorist" threat has created, too. There's literally a new market for the war industry's' "goods and services" created every day. So they went back to making plows instead of swords after WWII, well when nobody bought their plows after a awhile (about as long as it takes to rebuild a fire and atom bombed industrial base…) they went right back to making swords and vowed to find someone to either sell them to, or stab them with.

  9. The 1991 Gulf War was a low point for US foreign policy..

    Remember that the 1990 situation was the result of a decade of unfortunate and downright evil policies. Beginning in Sept 1980 President Carter in his desperation to free the Tehran embassy hostages (probably) gave the Iraqis a 'green light' to invade Iran. Simultaneously the Reagan campaign was (undoubtedly) establishing with Knomeini a covert arms-for-oil relationship which continued until it was partially uncovered by the 1996 Iran-Contra investigations.

    Consequently came the end of the Iran-Iraq war – a true "high point" – after which Iraq was due some redressing of Iraq's historical problems – for example: its complete lack of a seaport.. But, as Milton Viorst's on the spot reporting from Iraq and the Gulf showed, General Norman Schwarzkopf and other US officials encouraged the Kuwaitis to provoke Iraq in three ways a cynical strategy of Bush I – who was simultaneously, desperately trying to cover-up his personal role in covert dealings with Iran by the Reaganites.

  10. Very interesting but does Mr. Walt seriously believe Osama bin Ladin took down Building Seven?

    Architects & Engineers – Solving the Mystery of WTC 7 – AE911Truth.org http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZEvA8BCoBw&fe…!

  11. It's highly unfair and misleading to claim that OWS isn't protesting against the government-corporate axis. In fact that is one of their main complaints.

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