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Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order Hardcover – June 22, 2010
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“Grand Strategies concerns statesmanship and strategy: the uses of power, the fate of alliances, war and peace. It also, happily, provides a tour through the Great Books, giving special attention to nation-states and their vexed relations.”--William Anthony Hay, Wall Street Journal
"Charles Hill's Grand Strategies is a gem that combines long and valuable practical experience with the wisdom that comes from a broad and deep knowledge of history, literature and philosophy to produce a wisdom badly needed by statesmen and diplomats."―Donald Kagan, Yale University
"Charles Hill's Grand Strategies transcends the tired categories of realism and idealism in the study of politics. Drawing from such as Aristotle and Homer, he spans centuries and circles the globe, always gazing from the standpoint of greatness. A sage and powerful book."―Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University
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1. Academically eloquent. The language, though beautiful and a pleasure to experience, lacked clarity and precision. Which is strange because, generally, eloquence is a function of clarity. However, in this case, this wasn't my experience.
2.Readings of the books were ones that I had generally come across in the past but told through the lenses of statecraft and diplomacy. For myself there was nothing new in these so this was, on numerous occasions, tedious to the point of redundancy.
3. I was hoping for some explanation as to how these 'great books' could be applied to real word situations and though I got this occasionally more often than not I did not...least did not feel I did.
4. Although the claim of the last sentence of the book was: The restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft has been the aim of this book (location - 5715)...I do not feel this was or ever would be accomplished. As argued in the book, the computer/internet/web has put an end to this type of leisurely and challenging activity. People are too pressed for time and lack a solid grounding in the classics of world literature, philosophy, and political science. The complaint appears to be intellectually reactionary...instead of thinking how the new technologies might be exploited to offer this grounding or how they might offer new avenues of thought to counter the loss of the 'classical' canon. This issue needs to be addressed instead of bemoaning the loss of time and traditional literacy (literature, philosophy, political science).
5. The idea of literature being 'unbounded' was great. [Of all the arts and sciences, only literature is substantially and methodologically unbounded - Loc. 163]. His attempt to make literature (including philosophy) relevant after the textual obscenities of post-structuralism is very compelling...and I am grateful for the effort....though it does not quite succeed.
6. The author's observations, sprinkled through the book, about diplomats, statesmen/women, and ambassadors (such as: To be effective, ambassadors do not merely execute, "but frame and direct by their own advice and counsel, the will of their master." They need leeway to distill, classify, clarify, and shape the essence of their mission - Loc. 317-19)are very astute and help the reader to understand their real job. Though these observations might have been more effective brought together in a single chapter.
7. The general structure of the work appeared more chronological than logical. In the case of this book a logical argument, I believe, would have been more effective. But this may simply be an aesthetic gripe.
Did I enjoy the book? Was this read enlightening? Not quite. For this reason I have only given this book 4 stars. Perhaps, considering my analysis, it only deserves three but my feeling is that four is much more honest an appraisal for this reviewer.
I would recommend this book to those that have not read any surveys of literature or philosophy. As a work on the demands of the diplomat I feel it is lacking in clarity and could not recommend it on that level. Though deeply learned the trees sometimes get in the way of the forest and make the experience more problematic than it should have been.