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on 21 December 2003
Veteran journalist Kaplan not only refutes the insanity and self destructive nature of pacifism, but explains the very nature and burden of leadership and why it can't be approached in an idealistic manner. Using various historical examples Kaplan explains why many policies that liberals would vehemently castigate have been necessary for the preservation of our nations and our ideals. Rather than being simply a Machiavellian discourse, this provides a compelling distintion between method and nobleness, and explains why the preferred outcome was achieved. Recomended for anyone disheartened with the suicidal nature of liberal thinking.
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on 10 September 2002
This is good popular journalism not great scholarship or philosophy. If you don`t know much about Thucydides or Tacitus or Machiavelli then this is a good place to start. But what is really interesting about it is that here is an American who frankly admits that yes, the USA is an imperial power, does have an empire, and if it wants to keep it, needs to learn everything there is to learn about how the Athenians / Romans / British won / ran / lost theirs. Such honesty is refreshing. Too many Americans write things like "what they hate about us is our freedom or our democracy". Kaplan says "what they hate about us is our power over them". Read it alongside Negri and Hardt`s EMPIRE. Empire
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Usually books are valuable because they explain an important point of view that everyone will agree with, as soon as the point is understood. The views expressed in Warrior Politics, however, will probably turn out to be different from your own views about what U.S. foreign policy should be. Warrior Politics is valuable to you in that it will provide a context for good discussions and thinking about what the role of power politics and U.S. idealism should be in pursuing our foreign policy.
Warrior Politics draws on the point of view that "ancient history . . . is the surest guide . . . in the early decades of the twenty-first century." Mr. Kaplan argues for following the "ancient tradition of skepticism and contentious realism."
Some of the lessons Mr. Kaplan cites are that even "moral" states vary in morality. The Athenians treated the Melians horribly, simply because they could.
Many of Mr. Kaplan's points will outrage at least some readers. For example, he goes to some lengths to argue that Tiberius (usually thought of as a cruel tyrant who did little good) strengthened the Roman state in such a way that it survived longer than it otherwise would have against the "barbarians." He also speaks positively about being very tough on disorder in poor countries which have little effective government. Mr. Kaplan also argues that Judeo-Christian beliefs in proper behavior are "personal virtues" that should not have a primary role in creating foreign policy. If the U.S. has power it can project and those beliefs can be effectively acted on, Mr. Kaplan then feels that the U.S. should move when it is in its self interest.
One of the most interesting questions in the book is what differentiated Neville Chamberlain from Winston Churchill in addressing Hitler. Mr. Kaplan argues that it was Churchill's "historical imagination" that made all of the difference. By this, Mr. Kaplan means that seeing a current situation in terms of historical analogies allows a leader to know when to dig in and when to fold. Which course worked best in similar situations? Think of this as the "best practice" approach to foreign policy. In making this point, Mr. Kaplan likens Osama bin Laden to the Mahdi whom the British moved against in the Sudan after "Chinese" Gordon and his men were wiped out.
On the other hand, Mr. Kaplan is more idealistic than this sounds, which will offend extreme pragmatists. He sees the U.S. military as a model for the sort of multi-ethnic forces that can operate under a "loose world governance" to root out the worst threats to safety and progress, such as weapons of mass destruction in the hands of high-tech terrorists.
Personally, I think that modern successes are more important than Mr. Kaplan gives credit for. Our experiences in conducting the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, in keeping Iraq peaceful since then, and in pursuing al-Queda with broad cooperation from other nations provide important lessons and possible directions for the future. I agree that the handling of Yugoslavia's disintegration can be compared to many older examples of poorly designed policies that did not work.
Ultimately, it seems to me that U.S. foreign policy works best when it combines plenty of pragmatism, persistence, and idealism which others would agree with combined with strong leadership. "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."
Does the world lack a consensus that health, happiness, peace, and prosperity are desirable for all? I don't think so. Reasonable people can and will disagree about how to get there. We don't know many of the answers. We often don't even know the right questions yet. But without the United States playing a role in building practical actions to make progress in that direction, much less will be accomplished.
Although Mr. Kaplan is willing to admit that ideas are important (and cites Jesus and the development of Christianity), he fails to explore the examples of what leadership did in South Africa and India to make more peaceful changes in political power occur. Some researchers report that radio broadcasts into Eastern Europe played a large role in developing public opinion in favor of political change towards democracy. In this book, such important examples are largely ignored in favor of the traditional definitions of power politics. Surely, we can increasingly grow the power of ideas by demonstrating what the ideas can do.
How can you address the challenges of today's world? How can our country play a more effective, constructive role?
A better future begins with our questions, ideas and acts of today.
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on 21 November 2009
A well rounded book with good information on political and strategic thinkers throughout history.

A thoroughly good read. Informative and interesting.
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on 14 August 2002
This books "teaches" you about the "old Philosophers". Well, not really, all it does is give a pop account of all the usual suspects from Sun Tzu to (suprisingly, but then he does seem to be quite popular nowadays) Churchill. Though to be fair the best bit is the bit about Churchill.
His style reminds me of self-help books or if his style were not so condescending of the Bluffer's Guides. Telling us how "the old Philosopher" would have seen thinks. And how they can help us today (Though all filtered through his shallow interpretation).
But as the original sources are interesting and as they do have something to tell us today it is a good pointer.
So if you have only 30 min to spare pick up this book otherwise get the original or get a good undergrad. philosophy text-book.
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