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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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That's all really just a long way of saying that in reading Charles Hill's "Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order" I constantly found myself adding new books to some real or imagined book list that I may, or may not, ever get a chance to read. Every chapter of Grand Strategies was full of new books that sounded interesting and fascinating. Some-like Mark Twain`s "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Salmon Rushdie`s "Satanic Verses," or Thucydides's "The Peloponnesian War"-I had read and could quickly relate. Others-Xenophon's "The Persian Expedition" or Marcel Proust`s "In Search of Lost Time"-were new, at least to me. Worse, especially for my book list, Hill manages to craft his dialogue about each in such a way as to bestow meaning and insight beyond a cursory reading of the text.
For example, though I've often heard it referenced and cited as powerful piece of poetry, never had I seen John Milton's "Paradise Lost" as a commentary on war and the modern polity. And yet, perhaps it is.
"But far beyond the politics of the day `Paradise Lost' is Milton's comprehensive commentary on modern warfare, revolution, founding a polity; on strategy, leadership, intelligence, individual choice under conditions of modern statecraft; and on the justification of God's ways to men."
Suddenly, the war in heaven, through Milton's eyes, becomes a proxy for competing views of the world worked out during the Oliver Cromwell English Civil War.
In Hill's eye, fiction is more than just a story. In literature, we see the great ideas and forces that move history worked out, argued, and recorded. The "international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm," he argues. "[I]t is where the greatest issues of the human condition are played out." Nothing may come closer to a thesis for his opus. He continues:
"A sacral nature must infuse world order if it is to be legitimate. that order is not to be identified with a particular social system, but to legitimate, the system must hint at the underlying divinely founded order. The modern Westphalian system was conceived when such was the case, but with the Enlightenment's addition of secularism, science, reason, and democracy, the system increasingly spurned , then forgot, its legitimizing sources of authority.[...] Revolutionary ideology radicalized secularism, science and reason into the task of erasing original sin, o perfecting humanity-all requiring terror to create "the New Man." Modern efforts to create a sovereignty potent enough to fill the void produced the statist monstrosities of Stalin and Hitler. America became an empire but never gained the understanding to go with it. China is now on its own misguided course."
Thought provoking, insightful, and, of course, full of literature to read when you finish it (including a bibliography of primary and secondary sources that will keep you busy for several years), and reread, Hill's "Grand Strategies" is a worthy addition to your bed-stand stack. Just make sure you put it on top.
I plan to read many of the books cited by the author and revisit this book again.
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