The centenary of World War I has drawn surprisingly little attention. And this is unfortunate because the Great War offers many opportunities for reflection on statesmanship, the losses of war, and the strategies and tactics of military leaders. One event in 1917 merits particular attention as an occasion to reflect upon the costs of war and national strategy.
The lessons of Vietnam long ago became a cliché in American political debate. It provided a shorthand for mistakes to avoid or overcome. Successfully driving Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991, at minimal cost in lives and money, appeared to lift the United States from the shadow of Vietnam. After the disappointed hopes of more recent Middle Eastern conflicts, however, the shadow returned. Ken Burns’ recent documentary series, The Vietnam War, revives the debate over what lessons that war provides. Rather than the usual approach of drawing analogies that show what policies to adopt or avoid, learning from Vietnam involves…
Journalists often claim to write the first draft of history, but that statement raises the question when a story turns from current events into history. The Vietnam War now stands closer to World War II than 2017. A formative experience for the baby boom generation, those who came of age after 1990 see Vietnam as an episode in history. Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns captures the immediacy of the conflict in the ten episode series The Vietnam War airing on PBS. The series also raises larger questions about American foreign policy that resonate today.
A populist backlash against globalization during 2016 brought a series of events culminating with Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the U.S. presidential election. The results marked a sharp break with a muscular form of liberal internationalism committed to spreading democracy and promoting human rights that guided policy since the 1990s.
A specter haunts the global economy, with the lingering prospect of another crisis that might throw the U.S. economy and others back into recession. Central banks and governments have worked to exorcise the specter, but their efforts have not eased anxieties. Nor have they addressed deeper systemic problems that make these economies vulnerable to banking sector risk. Uncertainty, heightened by a turbulent political year in America, casts a long shadow over the prospects for recovery. Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England, who led that institution through the financial crisis of late 2007 to 2009, addresses what went wrong…
During the 1990s, victory in the Cold War seemed more than just a triumph over the Soviet Union.
Realpolitik is a term more often invoked within the English-speaking world than explained or understood. The word provides a condensed symbol that expresses different meanings depending upon who employs it. Sometimes it signals a practical approach focused on the concrete particulars that shape international relations or an effort to cut through naivety and utopianism. More often, however, it conjures a very different image of cynically pursuing advantage by deploying power without moral restraint. As “an unwelcome import from the dark heart of Mitteleuropa,” in John Bew’s telling phrase, realpolitik marks a disturbing counterpoint to Anglo-Saxon conceptions of fair play and liberty under law.
Almost exactly 200 years ago, the British House of Commons rejected a peacetime income tax. Henry Brougham, a Whig member of Parliament, mobilized public opinion against the tax, and after a raucous debate in the Commons, his side won by 37 votes. This revolt against the government that had led Britain to victory over Napoleon barely a year before, and the government’s response, marked an important turning point.
Henry Kissinger has drawn on his experience of statecraft to explore the contradictions of world order, and elucidate how statesmen keep international relations from becoming an anarchic struggle. Pithy observations punctuate his latest analysis, World Order, an engaging book informed by a wide appreciation of history and culture.