Ethical Realism

A Vision for America’s Role in the World

book | January 01, 2006

    Anatol Lieven John Hulsman

book cover

"Ethical Realism" is passionately argued and bristlingly accusatory.... It reminds us that we once knew how to confront an adversary without sacrificing something essential of ourselves.

America today faces a world more complicated than ever before, but both political parties have failed to envision a foreign policy that addresses our greatest threats. As a result, the United States risks lurching from crisis to crisis. The Bush administration's foreign policy strategy is bankrupt, but the Democrats are not providing any real alternatives.

Ethical Realism presents such an alternative, including both a new philosophical basis and a coherent set of detailed, practical and courageous policy recommendations. Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, two distinguished policy experts from different political camps, have joined forces to write an impassioned manifesto that illuminates a new way forward.

Rather than blindly asserting a mixture of American power and the transformative effects of democracy, the authors call for a foreign policy that recognizes America’s real strengths and weaknesses, and those of other nations. They explain how the United States can successfully combine genuine morality with tough and practical common sense.

Lieven and Hulsman emphasize the core principles of the American tradition of ethical realism, as set out by Reinhold Niebuhr, Hans Morgenthau, and George Kennan: prudence, patriotism, responsibility, humility, and a deep understanding of other nations. They show how this spirit informed the strategies of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower in the early years of the Cold War and how these presidents were able to contain Soviet expansionism while rejecting the pressure for disastrous preventive wars a threat that has returned since 9/11.

Drawing on this philosophy and these historical lessons, Lieven and Hulsman provide a set of concrete proposals for tackling the problems we face today, including the terrorist threat, Iran, Russia, the Middle East, and China. Their arguments are intended to establish American global power on a more limited but much firmer basis, with greater international support.

Both morally stirring and deeply practical, Ethical Realism shows us how to strengthen our national security, pursue our national interests, and restore American leadership in the world. It provides a concrete and effective foreign policy platform for candidates for the presidency in 2008 -- from either party -- who are willing to challenge establishment orthodoxies and embrace radically new and effective strategies.


Ethical Realism is passionately argued and bristlingly accusatory...It reminds us that we once knew how to confront an adversary without sacrificing something essential of ourselves.

BY: James Traub, The New York Times Read the Full Review

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  • Photo of Anatol Lieven

    Anatol Lieven

  • Photo of John Hulsman

    John Hulsman