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Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (September 26, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424458
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424458
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,085,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lieven and Hulsman, partisan think-tank researchers from opposing ends of the political spectrum, unite to provide an alternative to current U.S. foreign policy, based on "the core teachings of ethical realism-prudence, patriotism, responsibility, study, humility, and 'a decent respect' to views and interests of other nations." This "new strategic vision" presents a foundation for "a consensual and stable international order" along the lines of old-fashioned American neighborliness. Their arguments are rooted in lessons from the founders of ethical realism, Reinhold Niebuhr, Hans Morgenthau and George Kennan; the Christian intellectual tradition of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine; and successful international policy implemented by leaders like Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. The authors emphasize the need to qualify national interests against universal ethics, and for statesman who "act in ways that will serve the good as far as possible, and to observe certain strict limits as to what they are prepared to do on behalf of their states. "Though they make some sweeping statements that beg critical examination, and their heavy-handed criticism of the Bush Administration's foreign policy-calling the war in Iraq a failure "not just of strategy ...but of the whole American way of looking at the world"-can be alienating, this refreshing, ambitious work proposes some practical and much-needed solutions for America's compromised reputation abroad.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“One does not need to agree with all recommendations included in Ethical Realism to fully share the authors’ appeal for honestly and pragmatically defining U.S. foreign policy priorities. The book makes a powerful case that the United States needs a foreign policy based on hard facts and what we can achieve with our available resources, in order not to retreat from a U.S. world role, but, on the contrary, ‘to live up to its glorious national promise.’”
General Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser

“A profoundly necessary alternative to the arrogance of preemptive warfare. In an age of ideological polarization, an international policy of ethical realism put forward by authors with roots in both progressive idealism and conservative realism has been desperately needed. Ethical Realism is characterized by prudence, humility, understanding, responsibility, and genuine patriotism, and is deeply rooted in the best of America’s history.”
Senator Gary Hart

“A superb and courageous analysis of U.S. foreign policy challenges and options. The authors’ call for a ‘revolutionary shift in U.S. structures and priorities’ is on target for the United States to be able to exercise effective global leadership. The study demonstrates why messianic pretensions shared by some on the right and the left alike are neither realistic nor ethical and only endanger America without promoting true national interests.”
Dmitri K. Simes, president of The Nixon Center and publisher of The National Interest

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Customer Reviews

Anyone hoping for a real foreign policy debate should buy this book.
Doug Bandow
The views presented in the book are designed to work with the Westphalian system of states.
John Matlock
I really could see and appreciate the careful logic the authors used in writing this book.
Robert W. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Doug Bandow on October 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
George W. Bush has made a hash of American foreign policy, but alternative visions seem in short supply. Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman offer a glimmer of hope, proposing a philosophy of "ethical realism."

They suggest several sensible preconditions for a successful foreign policy, preconditions completely lacking in the administration's philosophy of neoconservative imperialism. One is prudence, which was sadly absent at almost every stage of the Iraq disaster.

Another requirement is "national humility, and the tolerance and patience that stem from it." We haven't seen much of that over the last five years. The authors also cite the willingness to study and learn.

Moreover, write Lieven and Hulsman, "neither in statecraft nor in common sense can good intentions be a valid excuse if--as in the decision to go to war in Iraq--they are accompanied by gross recklessness, carelessness, and indifference to the range of possible consequences." Finally, the authors suggest patriotism, in contrast to mindless, destructive nationalism.

These principles are good starting point for any foreign policy. Ethical Realism is a refreshing read, an inciteful analysis that simultaneously critiques the mess that passes for American foreign policy today and offers a solid alternative. Anyone hoping for a real foreign policy debate should buy this book.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Heather E. Price on December 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Messrs. Hulsman and Lieven have delivered a learned and principled gem for readers seeking an alternative to the reigning U.S. foreign policy of throwing hundreds of lives and billions of dollars down a wishing well vaguely dedicated to democracy. Ethical Realism is a lantern out of the morass, a book that offers a readable, sensible and practical vision to combat the international ills of today and shape tomorrow's solutions.

The authors present a foreign policy prescription grounded in history and ethics rather than ego or vendetta. The book's strength comes from its completeness, giving lessons from the past with applications for the future and a commonsense theory accompanied by realistic action. Clear writing highlights their clear thinking and the straightforward style is a refreshing change from numerous policy tomes that cloak threadbare ideas in overdressed prose.

Hulsman and Lieven themselves differ in their political affiliations and open the book by tracing the history of the Truman-Eisenhower moment when opposing parties shared a foreign policy that led to the containment of the Soviet Union and ultimately, the defeat of Communism and America's rise to the world's dominant power. The authors cogently discuss the pitfalls of the preventive war, the likes of which have led to an American death toll in Iraq rivaling that of 9/11 while the ostensible raison de guerre, Osama bin Laden, is watching Love Boat reruns in Balukastan. They also explore the so-called thinking - from neoconservatives on the right and liberal hawks on the left - that paved the way into Iraq without mapping a way out. The authors' bipartisan voice and broad-reaching scholarship will appeal to Democrats, Republicans, and those fed up with both parties.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on July 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Should we let facts get in the way of our daydreams?

This is a question posed by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman early in this book. And, of course, their answer is yes. Not surprisingly, I agree. Let's see if they are willing to do that themselves.

Well, Iraq is a big mess right now. And the authors do say that some folks overrated our attempts to introduce democracy there. That's fair. They also say that in addition to criticism, we need effective counterproposals. That's fair as well.

There's a good discussion of the Marshall Plan. I agree that this plan was both moral and realistic.

And there is a discussion of the Bush administration record in reacting to the events of 9/11/2001. Is our security better now? Actually, not much. We have also increased our budget and undermined (via the Iraq war) our "ability to intervene or even threaten anywhere else." These are good points.

What about "pre-emptive" war. As the authors explain, Harry Truman said that all such wars prevent is peace. But perhaps that quote is overrated. There may indeed be a time and place where pre-emptive wars make sense. On the other hand, I agree with the authors that its recent use has been of dubious merit at best.

Could America become a garrison state? Could we lose our values? Yes. That is one of the threats we face. And the authors explain that there still are threats of direct attacks on the United States, and that our most important statecraft task is to reduce that risk. I think that is an exaggeration, as appeasement is a risk as well, and we need to be careful about engaging in it just to try to reduce the risk of an immediate attack.

The authors want peace in the Levant.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Avid reader on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after seeing the authors in a panel discussion on CSPAN. I was impressed with their insights and spirited defense of their point of view, and the book adds depth and detail to their thesis. It's unusual for two people from opposite poles of the political spectrum to come together on policy - but they do here, and we can learn a lot from them. This book should provoke a much-needed debate on recent U.S. foreign policy failures - and how we can avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
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