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Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos Hardcover – December 26, 2001

3.6 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Robert Kaplan's Warrior Politics is an extended, willfully provocative essay arguing that the bedrock of sound foreign policy should be "comprehensive pragmatism" rather than "utopian hopes." Kaplan calls for a reestablishment of American (primarily) realpolitik, one distanced from Judeo-Christian (or private) virtue and closer to a "pagan" (public) one. He aligns himself with America's Founding Fathers, who, he says, believed good government emerged only from a "sly understanding of men's passions." His book is a mix of aphoristic pronouncements, brief contemporary political analyses, rapid-fire parallels between conflicts ancient and current, and copious quotes from historians and thinkers through the ages (Livy, Thucydides, Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli, and Thomas Hobbes among them). Though its historical gleanings are often too summary and suspiciously convenient, Warrior Politics promises to generate controversy among students of global politics--just as it was designed to do. --H. O'Billovitch

From Publishers Weekly

Years of reporting from combat zones in Bosnia, Uganda, the Sudan, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea have convinced Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts, The Coming Anarchy) that Thucydides and Sun-Tzu are still right on the money when they wrote that war is not an aberration and that civilization can repress barbarism but cannot eradicate it. Reminding readers that "The greater the disregard of history, the greater the delusions regarding the future," Kaplan conducts a brisk tour through the works of Machiavelli, Malthus and Hobbes, among others, to support his advocacy of foreign policy based on the morality of results rather than good intentions. From those classics, he extracts historical models and rationales for exploiting military might, stealth, cunning and what he dubs "anxious foresight" (which some may regard as pessimism based on disasters past) in order to lead, fight and bring adversaries to their knees should they challenge the prevailing balance of power. He also adapts this model to business, exploring the ways modern-day CEOs can benefit from history's lessons. Kaplan's discussion of the world's breeding grounds for rogue warriors out to disrupt daily life in bizarre new ways will strike a chord with most readers, as will his recounting of the brilliant statesmanship of Churchill and Roosevelt during World War II. Some readers, however, may take exception to the potshots Kaplan aims at (unnamed) media personalities and human rights advocates. This is a provocative, smart and polemical work that will stimulate lively discussion. Agents, Brandt and Brandt. (Jan.)Forecast: Kaplan's credentials, combined with his call for a strong and unambiguous foreign policy, should draw attention. Blurbs from Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry will help.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (December 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505638
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #569,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Anyone wishing to see what is to be must consider what has been; all the things of this world in every era have their counterparts in ancient times
- Machiavelli
In Warrior Politics, Kaplan explores the wisdom of the ages for answers for today's leaders. While the modern world may seem more complex and dangerous than ever before, Kaplan writes from a deeper historical perspective to reveal how little things actually change. Indeed, as Kaplan shows us, we can look to history's most influential thinkers, who would have understood and known how to navigate today's dangerous political waters.

Drawing on the work of Sun Tzu, Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, among others, Kaplan argues that in a world of unstable states and an uncertain future, it is increasingly imperative to wrest from the past what we need to arm ourselves for the road ahead
Kaplan says about Western foreign policy pretty much what one wag once said of Queen Victoria: we have pursued goodness to the point of self-indulgence. The result has too often been bloody chaos. Take East Timor, for example. Before the UN insisted on conducting an independence referendum in the region, two things were clear. First, the people would vote for independence from Indonesia. Second, Indonesian partisans would exact revenge violently, unless a foreign security force was placed on the ground to keep the peace. The UN, or rather its members, would not provide such a force, but the do-gooders of the world nonetheless insisted on the international norm of self-determination. The result was disaster.
Particularly since the end of the Cold War, the West in general and the U.S. in particular have been guilty of many such exercises of catastrophic good intentions.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Kaplan has written an interesting long essay, for that is what this book is. It reflects Kaplan's attempt to move away from the political travel genre, and into the seminar room. (Whether it is the philosophical or the International Relations or the history seminar room is not clear, and indeed it does not really matter, for the strength of Kaplan's work is that it blurs the borders between these disciplines, something perhaps only an outsider can afford to do.)
This work extends some of his thoughts first outlined in Atlantic Monthly and in "The Coming Anarchy", the work (essay and later book) he is perhaps best known for, after "Balkan Ghosts". The difference is that Kaplan is now providing himself with intellectual forebears or allies (Livy, Machiavelli, Thucydides, Sun Tzu, to name the most prominent, though Kaplan is still somewhat journalistic in comparison to these luminaries). This helps to place his own ruminations in a kind of trajectory that might best be called thoughtful pessimism. Kaplan is often described, even by himself, as a kind of realist, but I don't think this ill-defined term is useful here. (Almost everyone sensible wants to be realistic, or to be a realist about certain matters. The same, of course, goes for pragmatism.) There are many realisms and besides it isn't clear that Kaplan is concerned about defining this notion, which would take him far away from his chosen task in this book.
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