Realism and Ipse Dixit

In a 3 July interview, judge Andrew Napolitano asked the University of Chicago political scientist, John Mearsheimer: “Why would the United States be putting missiles in the Philippines but to be provocative toward China?”

Mearsheimer: “I don’t think that the United States is trying to be provocative. I think what the United States is interested to do, doing is improving its deterrence capability in East Asia. The fact is that if you put the United States up against China in East Asia, and if you include the United States’ allies with the United States, right, you are up against a very formidable adversary. China is effectively a giant aircraft carrier. It has thousands and thousands of missiles, and the United States feels that it is at something of a disadvantage, and for that reason it is increasing its missile capability and other capabilities in Asia as well.”

If China were to put missiles in Cuba and Mexico, then that is not provocative? The US should have no problem because China is only improving its deterrence, yes? What is good for the goose is also good for the gander, no?

And why does Mearsheimer resort to using US government propaganda by referring to China as an “adversary”? Does China call the US an adversary? Is China looking for confrontation with the US?

If China is “effectively a giant aircraft carrier,” then is not the US also effectively a giant aircraft carrier? It is obvious that Mearsheimer is taking a page from the US propaganda booklet on the threat of China, in this case a militaristic threat. Mearsheimer, however, avoids referring to China as a “threat.”

From the FBI website: “Chinese Government Poses ‘Broad and Unrelenting’ Threat to U.S. Critical Infrastructure, FBI Director Says.” The drumbeat is effective. According to a 2023 Pew Research Center survey, half of Americans name China as the US’s greatest threat.

The question raised by Mearsheimer and left unanswered is whether China is a militaristic adversary? China, for its part, publicly eschews militarism and seeks peaceful relations.

Mearsheimer: “We pushed the Russians and the Chinese closer together which makes no sense at all.”

Even if there were no United States, it is extremely rational for Russia and China to form a friendly and close relationship. They are neighbors. They are well suited to be trade partners. It is a win-win relationship that China and Russia seek from trading partners. No push was needed from the US, although US belligerence assuredly was another point in favor of a deepening Russia-China rapprochement.

Mearsheimer: I am one of a number of people who would defend Taiwan if China attacked it because I think Taiwan is of great strategic importance.

Isn’t the US aircraft carrier known as Israel considered of great strategic importance because of its location amid the Middle Eastern oil patch? Yet Mearsheimer says there is no geopolitical benefit from US support of Israel. In fact, the professor says Israel is an albatross around the US neck. What, then, is the great strategic importance Mearsheimer sees in Taiwan? It hardly seems sufficient to just state that his view is realist. In Mearsheimer’s mind moralism does not factor in.

The US has signed on to the One China Policy. Ergo, realistically, Taiwan is de jure a province of one China.


When coming across analysis expressed by personalities, whether they be professors, news anchors, or lay persons consider how these persons support their views.

Ipse Dixit refers to the logical fallacy of making unsubstantiated assertions. It is arguably more difficult to substantiate one’s arguments in an interview, but to merely state that something is realist is hardly compelling, especially when that realism seems rooted in opinion. Question everything.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer. He can be emailed at: kimohp at Read other articles by Kim.