Taking Uncertainty Seriously: Classical Realism and National Security
European Journal of International Security
Cambridge University Press (CUP)
If we can’t reliably predict the future, how can we be wise when preparing for it? Examining the UK’s ‘Strategic Defence and Security Review’ of 2010, I demonstrate that though planners often rightly invoke uncertainty, they also imply a highly certain ideology about Western power and foresight. Modern ‘national security states’ describe the world as dangerously uncertain, yet fall prey to a misplaced confidence in their ability to anticipate and prevent threats. I argue that classical realism, especially that of Clausewitz and Morgenthau, is a valuable resource for handling uncertainty more reflexively. Classical realism counsels that governments should go beyond attempts to improve foresight. They should try to check against the fallibility of their assumptions, marshal their power more conservatively, insure against the likelihood of predictive failure by developing the intellectual capability to react to the unknown, and avoid misplaced confidence in their ability to bring order into chaos.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/eis.2016.4 Published online: 04 April 2016