This hardheaded book about international relations contains no comforting bromides about "peace dividends" or "the family of nations." Instead, University of Chicago professor John J. Mearsheimer posits an almost Darwinian state of affairs: "The great powers seek to maximize their share of world power" because "having dominant power is the best means to ensure one's own survival." Mearsheimer comes from the realist school of statecraft--he calls his own brand of thinking "offensive realism"--and he warns repeatedly against putting too much faith in the goodwill of other countries. "The sad fact is that international politics has always been a ruthless and dangerous business," he writes. Much of the book is an attempt to show how the diplomatic and military history of the last two centuries supports his ideas. Toward the end of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
, he applies his theories to the current scene: "I believe that the existing power structures in Europe in Northeast Asia are not sustainable through 2020." Mearsheimer is especially critical of America's policy of engagement with China; he thinks that trying to make China wealthy and democratic will only make it a stronger rival. This is a controversial idea, but it is ably argued and difficult to ignore. --John Miller
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"Backed by an impressive historical review and a refreshingly systematic analysis of power...[S]ure to provoke debate among scholars...An ambitious undertaking." -- Patricia Cohen "Mearsheimer provides an admirable mixture of conceptual clarity and detailed historical observation...He is an excellent critic of rival perspectives, exposing their weaknesses with real forensic flair. Admirably, he seems to be happiest when swimming against the prevailing tide of academic opinion." -- Adam Roberts "A signal triumph." -- Robert D. Kaplan