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Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos Paperback – January 7, 2003
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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In addition to listing chapter titles, Kaplan offers a brief summary of each which both extends the introduction of concepts and entices the reader to explore the connections among diverse leaders throughout time who have been successful in winning wars. This book is chocked full of perspectives ranging from Livy, Thucydides, Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli, and Churchill to Hobbes, Malthus, Kant, and E.H. Carr.
The overriding lessons I learned was that my idea of virtue was incomplete (if not incorrect); outcomes define it in the real world, not good intentions. Kaplan explains that it is derived from its Latin form of vir-tu (strong man); and delineates moral virtue from Christian virtue, courtesy of Niccolo Machiavelli. The author cites Yitzhak Rabin's order to break Palestinian bones, during his service as Israel's defense minister, as virtuous. His show of strength won respect and eventually the peace with Jordan, as well as the admiration from liberals who had previously opposed him. In contrast, Kaplan cites Clinton's removal of China's most-favored-nation trade status as lacking virtue because this policy "was sanctimonious, undertaken with little hope of practical results, merely to demonstrate what the administration assumed was its superior morality."
After reading this book, I wonder if my admiration for Zbignew Brzezinski has undeservedly crowded out any merits Henry Kissinger may have in the field of geopolitical relationships.
No one should be surprised since after all, they both were globetrotting War Correspondents who lived and wrote about (and from) the backwaters and alleyways of some of the world's most intense conflicts. Kaplan has even predicted correctly when some of them would occur, such as his having predicted in 2000 that the "Arab Spring" would occur, and in particular that the socio-economic and political conditions in both Egypt and Syria would lead to exactly what we see happening there today.
Both, as the saying goes "have been there; done that;" "bought the tee shirts" and "have done the research," and thus they have both earned the right to pontificate. And here what Kaplan pontificates about is about the art of how to fight and win "smart wars." Normally, such a qualification would be unnecessary, since no one ever sets out to fight a dumb war. However, today, with as many "dumb wars" being fought as smart ones, it is now a distinction that one has to make, and then that distinction does indeed become a distinction that makes a difference.
This is a subtle handbook, a mental guide book, as it were, not about what to think, but about how our "Warrior Politicians" are to think. Which is to say it is a guidebook for almost every decision maker known to man. It is simply organized into nine chapters, each addressing an object lesson about war, peace and the art of problem-solving as it is distilled from the best examples of problem-solving and philosophy by a select few of the most successful warriors/problem-solvers across the last three millennia of our history. It is so unsentimental and so sobering that it almost puts the fear of god in any "would be" warriors on the battlefield of today's problems.
What Kaplan has discovered can be distilled into a handful of timeless and unchanging maxims:
All problems that matter are equally complex; there are no easy answers and only a select subset of the old answers still work. The world is not getting better in fact it is getting increasingly worse because it is being run by the mechanisms of entropy, Hobbes and Machiavelli, narrow-mindedness, greed, corruption, crime and the ideology of self-interest. So far, no political or economic systems have been found that are resistance to any of these.
Enlightenment and even brilliance helps only on the margins. Fuzzy, pious and wishful thinking all lead to the same delusional cliff; sometimes all at once. It is simply uncanny how many famous men in history have committed suicide by like lemmings jumping off the very same delusional cliffs.
Creating democracies is an uneven process that takes a long time and then guarantee nothing; dictators cannot be defeated simply by removing them because they are the organic result of bad socio-economic conditions where bad government is the only other alternative; intractable cultural and historical problems often preclude stability and solutions no matter what is done; nothing can be taken for granted -- including Western intervention, ethnic reconciliation, idealist tampering, or the present configuration of the nation-state system.
We are rapidly moving towards a world divided by the ultra-rich and the poor; soon the ultra-rich will have no need for governments and will all be "playing on the house's money." Asymmetric warfare is the wave of the future, with bio-crime and cybercrime leading the pack, both being able to magnify greatly the intensity and barbarism with which targets can be hit.
Solution sets that we have known of since time immemorial, all run down the middle of the road of "level-headed skepticism and realism." The farther one gets away from the middle of the road of these two, the more muddled one's thinking is likely to become. More often than not there are no "right" or "correct answers," and sometimes there are no answers at all: all that remains is confusion and bad choices.
Invariably, the rubber meets the road at exactly the point where time "runs out" and uncertainty "sets in." Seasoned problem solvers are guided not by sentimentality, idealism or sympathy, but by necessity and self-interest.
Glory must be rooted in a morality of consequence: results valued over "good intentions." Without struggle there is decadence; sometimes a smaller sin must be committed to prevent the occurrence of a far greater wrong; morality is not a Judeo-Christian invention; it is the converse that is true.
Liberty has never been about idealism, but about powerful people acting in their own self interest; in an imperfect world good men bent on doing good must also know how to act bad; virtue has little to do with individual perfection and everything to do with getting results; one must believe in the "morality of results;" thus a good policy is measured by its effectiveness not by its purity; Machiavelli's values may not have been Christian, but they were moral. Piousness cannot be allowed to serve as a mask for self-interest because unarmed prophets usually fail, especially against armed ones; anxious foresight is always good.
So says the best decision makers since Sun Tzu, Livy, Thucydides, Homer, Hannibal, Pericles, Tiberius, and Churchill. Amen and ten stars