Foreign Relations & International Law

The Lawfare Podcast: How States Think

Jack Goldsmith, John Mearsheimer, Sebastian Rosato
Friday, September 22, 2023, 8:00 AM
 John Mearsheimer and Sebastian Rosato join to discuss their theory of state rationality. 

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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It is commonplace for American leaders to describe their fiercest foreign adversaries as irrational, crazy, delusional, or illogical. In their new book, “How States Think: The Rationality of Foreign Policy,” political scientists John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Sebastian Rosato of the University of Notre Dame argue that these claims and many similar ones are often wrong because they're based on a flawed understanding of state rationality in international affairs.

Jack Goldsmith questioned Mearsheimer and Rosato about why they think most states act rationally most of the time in developing grand strategy and managing crises. Among other topics, they discussed how their theory of state rationality differs from rational choice theorists and political psychologists, why understanding state rationality is important to success in international affairs, and why Mearsheimer, a harsh critic of U.S. expansion of NATO and of the U.S. choice to pursue liberal hegemony after the Cold War, nonetheless argues in this book that those decisions were rational. 

Jack Goldsmith is the Learned Hand Professor at Harvard Law School, co-founder of Lawfare, and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Before coming to Harvard, Professor Goldsmith served as Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel from 2003-2004, and Special Counsel to the Department of Defense from 2002-2003.
John Mearsheimer is a political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of thought. He is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.
Sebastian Rosato is associate professor of political science and associate director of the International Security Center at the University of Notre Dame,

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