Spring 2011] REALISTS AGAINST THE NATION-STATE 69
In light of the ubiquitous assessment of Realism as both institutionally
conservative and normatively numb, should Barack Obama’s apparent
intellectual affinity for Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971), probably the most
important U.S. theoretician of Realism, worry those of us who hope to
strengthen international law and ultimately advance far-reaching global
reform?10 Should we expect little more from President Obama than a “soft” or
simply more genteel version of the rather uninspiring foreign policies of self-
described Realists like Kissinger and Rice?
Perhaps not. Fortunately, Realist International Theory—especially as
represented by its most notable mid-20th Century theoretical representatives
(e.g., Niebuhr, E.H. Carr (1892–1982), John Herz (1908–2006), Hans J.
Morgenthau (1904–1980), Frederick Schuman (1904–1981), and Georg
Schwarzenberger (1908–1991))—is intellectually richer and more politically
multifaceted than critics typically acknowledge.11 To be sure, mid-Century
Realism, like any significant theoretical current, was always a complex and
unwieldy intellectual creature. Realism was largely influential in the United
States from the late 1930s well into the 1960s; its ranks included theologians
(like Niebuhr), active as well as former international lawyers (such as Herz,
Morgenthau, and Schwarzenberger), and historically conscious political
analysts of a radical political bent (e.g., Carr, Schuman). The theoretical
influences on them were no less wide-ranging. Niebuhr, for example, was
intellectually and politically linked to the socialist German émigré theologian
Paul Tillich,12 as he struggled in the 1930s and 1940s to synthesize a
fundamentally Augustinian Christian system of ethics with radical currents
in social thought. Carr was a great admirer of the work of Karl Mannheim.13
Morgenthau drew on a diverse collection of voices, including his Realist ally
Niebuhr, Hans Kelsen, Carl Schmitt, Max Weber, and especially the left-wing
Weimar legal sociologist and labor lawyer, Hugo Sinzheimer.14 Herz was a
doctoral student of Kelsen’s and initially a devotee of his teacher’s “pure
theory of law,” while Schwarzenberger worked with Gustav Radbruch before,
enmity to international law, see DANILO ZOLO, VICTOR’S JUSTICE: FROM NUREMBERG TO
10 In 2007, during a widely reported interview with conservative New York Times columni st
David Brooks, then-Senator Obama report edly told him that Niebuhr was his “favorite
philosopher.” A recent reissue by the University of Chicago Press of Niebuhr’s Irony of American
History includes an appreciative cover blurb from the President. See Obama’s Theologian: David
Brooks and E.J. D ionne on Reinhold Niebuhr, Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett, NAT’L
PUBLIC RADIO (Fe b. 19, 2009), http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2009/obamas-theologian/
[hereinafter Obama’s Theologian].
11 DONNELLY supra note 1; HASLAM supra note 1; SMITH supra note 7.
12 PAUL MERKLEY, REINHOLD NIEBUHR: A POLITICAL ACCOUNT 77–85 (1975) (discussing the
nexus between Tillich and Niebuhr).
13 CHARLES JONES, E.H. CARR: A DUTY TO LIE 121–43 (1998) (discussing Carr and Mannheim).
14 WILLIAM E. SCHEUERMAN, MORGENTHAU: REALISM AND BEYOND 11–39 (2009) [hereinafter
SCHEUERMAN, MORGENTHAU: REALISM AND BEYOND] (discussing Morgenthau and Weimar