Walter A. McDougall

Walter A. McDougal is a professor of history and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and author of many books, most recently The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest (Yale University Press, 2016).

Art of the Doge?

Doge And Lion Venice

A few years ago, my beloved wife finally persuaded me to accompany her on a trip to Italy. It proved to be so sublime that tears come to my eyes whenever I reminisce about the history, culture, art, scenery, cuisine, wine, and very mood I experienced there. Italy was like a hint of heaven or a pilgrimage to the cradle of our civilization.

Perhaps what amazed me most was how eerily familiar I found one place in particular: the Most Serene Republic of Venice. For in the distant mirror of that medieval commercial republic I discerned unmistakable reflections of the values, institutions, and civil religion of modern Americans. From its founding in the 8th century to its abolition (by wicked Napoleon) a thousand years later, the Venetian Republic was officially Catholic. But its real religion was a prosperity gospel under the patronage of St. Mark, the Winged Lion who blessed the fleets and commerce of the maritime empire and sustained its power and wealth.

The cathedral of San Marco, font of spiritual authority, and the palace of the doge, font of civilian authority, are literally joined at the hip in Venice. The republic was governed by its business elites through an elaborate array of councils, but at the top stood the doge, who was elected for life. He served as high priest of the civil religion and established the template or operational code of Venetian administration, trade, diplomacy, and war.

Did Americans choose a sort of a doge in 2016?

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American Heresies and the Betrayal of the National Interest: A Conversation with Walter McDougall

tragedyWhat is American civil religion? And has it been distorted to the extent that it has undermined our nation's foreign policy? The eminent historian and scholar Walter McDougall, author of the new book, The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy, joins this edition of Liberty Law Talk to discuss these questions.

Finding Fault in Our National Insecurity

Angelo Codevilla has been a legend in our house since the 1980s when my wife and I first encountered this Renaissance force of nature radiating virtú. Somehow Angelo manages a vineyard in California, a horse ranch in Wyoming, a large, loving family, a prolific academic career, and world travel without strain, indeed with unfailing ebullience. We always joked that if he were attending a Hawaiian luau, Angelo would insist on donning a feathered loincloth and spearing the wild boar himself. He is now 71, but age has not slowed him down in the least. Nor have two heart transplant operations.…

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A Trenchant Yet Flawed Analysis of American Foreign Policy

Angelo Codevilla’s analysis of the many problems associated with U.S. foreign policy provides an abundance of important insights. He is devastatingly on the mark when he contends that since the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. officials have transformed the Founders’ emphasis on shielding the American people against external dangers into an arrogant, unattainable objective…

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Principle and Prudence in American Foreign Policy

There is much with which to agree in Angelo Codevilla’s thoughtful essay. To the extent that he and I differ, it is with regard to means and not ends. We both agree that U.S. foreign policy is in shambles, characterized by drift and incoherence. It is at best a-strategic at worst anti-strategic, lacking any concept…

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Benevolent Hegemon, Illiberal, or Too Far Gone Already?

Walter McDougall writes: “Congress and the American people…want to believe their ‘indispensable nation’ can be a ‘benevolent hegemon’ doing good on the cheap and doing well by doing good.” As a description of how Americans view our role among nations, this is arguable. But it is a fair summation of our foreign policy establishment‘s view…

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