Stephen Walt
Prof. of Intl. Affairs, Harvard University

U.S. Foreign Policy

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American military power, says Stephen Walt, should be first and foremost defensive.

Stephen Walt

Stephen Walt is the Robert and Rene Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was previously on the faculties of Princeton University and the University of Chicago, where he served as Deputy Dean of Social Sciences. He is the author of books including The Origins of Alliances, Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy. He is a frequent contributor to journals including Foreign Policy and International Security. He was educated at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

He presently serves on the editorial boards of Foreign Policy, Security Studies, International Relations, and Journal of Cold War Studies, and he also serves as Co-Editor of the Cornell Studies in Security Affairs, published by Cornell University Press. Additionally, he was elected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in May 2005.


Question: How should America use its power?

Stephen Walt: I think that, you know, the United States should use the power it has at its disposal to first of all protect itself and its interests. But then to the extent that we can, try to create a more stable and more orderly world. The problem is there’s not very much we can do on that front. I think what separates me from, you know, many other people who work in the field of American foreign policy is I think there are real limits to our capacity to shape other societies; that it’s not our business or within our capacity to dictate how other societies are gonna run. I think that’s their job. And we’re . . . If we try to do it, we’re gonna screw it up far more often than we’re gonna succeed.

Recorded on: 10/8/07