Mearsheimer’s World Notes

Mearsheimer’s World Notes - Mearsheimer's...

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Mearsheimer’s World Notes 13:39 Great powers try to expand only when opportunities arise. They will do so only when the benefits clearly exceed the risks and costs. They will desist from expansion when blocked and wait for a "more propitious moment" (p. 37). In a 1990 article, Mearsheimer stated that one reason hegemony was rare was that "costs of expansion usually outrun the benefits before domination is achieved." Where Mearsheimer departs from Waltz is in his assertion that the search for power and security  is insatiable, whereas Waltz says that it has limits. Thus he disagrees with Waltz on the question  of "how much power states want." Mearsheimer makes the point succinctly: "For defensive  realists, the international structure provides states with little incentive to seek additional  increments of power; instead it pushes them to maintain the existing balance of power. Preserving  power, rather than increasing it, is the main goal of states. Offensive realists, on the other hand,  believe that status quo powers are rarely found in world politics, because the international system creates powerful incentives for states to  look for opportunities to gain power at the expense of rivals, and to take advantage of those  situations when the benefits outweigh the costs. A state's ultimate goal is to be the hegemon in  the system" (p. 21). Waltz confirms the disagreement: "In anarchy, security is the highest end. Only if survival is  assured can states safely seek such other goals as tranquility, profit and power. The first concern  of states is not to maximize power but to maintain their positions in the system."8 Clearly, Waltz  believes that "survival" (i.e., sufficient security) can be assured with power well short of the  "he gemonic" amount postulated by Mearsheimer. The term "expansion" appears to mean, although it is never explicitly stated, increased power through increased control of territory.
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