In this chapter I examine realism as a critique of liberal internationalism, at the level of both IR theory and US foreign policy. As an attempt to understand international relations as an autonomous domain of activity governed by the dynamics of the balance of power, realism is a failure. As a critique of liberal internationalism, however, it is indispensable. Realism is particularly valuable when liberal internationalism mutates into a form of liberal ideology (such as neoliberalism or neoconservatism) that dismisses the contradictions between the three ‘engines of progress’ explored in the three previous chapters, or which focuses exclusively on the allegedly benign consequences of only one of them (see Gilpin 2005). Understood in this way, however, realism and liberal internationalism are certainly not incommensurable.
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