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Notes on Strategy & Statesmanship

The Hungarian Resolution

In the pantheon of significant presidential statements of American foreign policy—such as Washington's Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, Wilson's Fourteen Points, the Truman Doctrine, and the Reagan Doctrine—we lack an equivalent pronouncement by Abraham Lincoln. The Civi...

Shielding the Republic

During World War I, the New Republic's Walter Lippmann temporarily put aside his career in journalism and joined the Wilson Administration, where he participated in the "Inquiry," America's ill-fated effort at postwar planning. He soon became disillusioned with lib...

Kim's Great Game

Rudyard Kipling, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, is known today as the poet laureate of British imperialism and of the "White Man's Burden"—titles that are no longer much in fashion, although Kipling's literary reputation, which was on the wane even befor...

Defending the Rimland

American national security policy in the 21st century is conducted on the foundations of a global network of military bases and strategic alliances that first emerged during World War II and the early years of the Cold War. The American security network had many fathers, above all Franklin Roosev...

The Pacificus-Helvidius Debates

In April 1793 the United States was confronted with its most serious foreign policy crisis since the end of the American Revolution, when the Washington Administration learned that the recently-constituted French Republic had declared war on England and the Dutch Republic. France, with which the ...

The Pivot of Europe

Whenever a reviewer in The Guardian newspaper proclaims a book on history or strategy to be "right wing and wrong-headed," it is probably worth picking up a copy. The latest book so honored is Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present (Basic B...

Harold W. Rood and the German Problem

Great powers typically exhibit well-defined patterns of behavior despite apparent changes in political regimes. Certain "problems" or "questions" in international relations have persisted for decades and centuries. Identifying and understanding these problems permit the studen...

And the War Came

Allen C. Guelzo continues to amaze. In the past two years he has published what is probably the best single volume history of the Civil War since James McPherson's 2008 book, Battle Cry of Freedom(Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction), al...

Churchill and the World Crisis

Winston Churchill's five-volume The World Crisis (1923-31), part memoir, part history, of the Great War and its aftermath, does not receive the attention of some of his better known writings. This may have to do with Churchill's defense of his controversial role in the ...

The Fleet was Ready

In 1911, when Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty, he oversaw major revisions to the Admiralty's basic strategic concept for European war, and in the war plans associated with this concept. These changes were necessitated by a shift in the probable enemy of a future war (Germ...

A Difficult Dawn

If we based our understanding of history purely on popular culture—specifically that provided by Hollywood—we might think of World War II along the following lines: The war started when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (interrupting a number of love lives and little league games); t...

Of Wildcats and Whales

Rick Atkinson, a journalist and historian, has recently completed a three-volume series called theLiberation Trilogy. The series covers the role of the United States (largely the U.S. Army) in defeating Germany and its allies in the European theater of operations in World War II. The fir...

A Tough Third Act

With the publication in may of The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945,journalist and historian Rick Atkinson brings to a close his Liberation Trilogy, an account of the Allied victory in the Mediterranean and Western Europe in World War II. The fi...

War Liberals

With the exception of World War II and the early Cold War era, a significant component of the educated American elite has been more opposed to war compared to American non-elites, and still is today. In an important essay in the January-February issue of The American Interest, "...

China and Strategic Paradox

Edward Luttwak never writes a dull book. His most recent, The Rise of China vs. The Logic of Strategy, is no exception. It is a mixture of objective analysis, policy recommendations, and much railing at fools and strategic illiterates (of whom there seem to be many). It is often dif...

Classics Review: Imperial Diplomacy

During his tenure at Harvard University, Professor William L. Langer published a number of highly influential studies of diplomatic history and U.S. foreign policy, including an examination (with S. Everett Gleason) of U.S. isolationism and the domestic run-up to World War II. Langer also served ...

The Falklands Factor

"Don't go wobbly on us, George." For many Americans, these were the words that most readily jumped to mind when they heard of the death of Margaret (Baroness) Thatcher earlier this month.

Prime Minister Thatcher was addressing the elder President Bush shortly after Saddam ...

The Sage of Singapore

"Harry" Lee Kuan Yew is often referred to as "the Sage of Singapore." The Cambridge University-educated Lee was the founding father of that modern independent city-state. He served as its prime minister from 1959 to 1990, overseeing its rise as the first of the Southeast Asian...

Classics Review: Nazi Bureaucrats

After World War II, former German Foreign Office State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker defended German civil servants by distinguishing between service to the German nation and the Hitler regime: "As a civil servant, one does not serve a constitution, but the Fatherland. One serves which...

Engineers of Victory

Why do nations win wars? The most obvious answer is superior political and military leadership, the Masters and Commanders who dominate traditional historical accounts. In the case of World War II, for instance, one would give a decisive edge to the triumvirate of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin...

Uncle Sam's Web-Feet

Damn the torpedoes! full speed ahead!" A good many, students of strategy included, might wrack our brains if suddenly challenged to name the American naval commander who uttered this immortal command. John Paul Jones? Oliver Hazard Perry? George Dewey? Bull Halsey? Many of us would take the ...

Classics Review: The Building of a Navy

In March 1889, a hurricane destroyed or disabled three American warships in the Samoan harbor of Apia, where they had been deployed to support the United States in a political dispute with Britain and Germany over the status of the islands. The accident left the United States without any effectiv...

Iron Curtain: Rust or Rupture?

"I am profoundly concerned about the European situation," Winston Churchill cabled the new American president, Harry Truman, on May 12, 1945. The war with Germany had been declared over by the victorious allies just a few days previously, but now, Churchill warned, "an iron curtain...

Classics Review: America and the Revolutions of 1848

When the European revolutions of 1848 spead to Austria and the Habsburg lands, William H. Stiles, the American chargé d'affaires in Vienna, became both a participant and a chronicler of these watershed events. Stiles, an attorney from Savannah, Georgia, had been a on...

Supreme Command

In the spring of 2002, Eliot Cohen, a professor of Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, authored a widely discussed treatise on civil-military relations, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime. Coh...

Classics Review: The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

"The most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar." So Mark Twain judgedThe Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. Twain, to be sure, had a vested interest in offering such an endorsement. He was, after all, Grant's friend and publish...

Alternative Worlds

"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future." This quote, variously attributed to Niels Bohr and Yogi Berra, typically graces the introduction of power point presentations by experts who offer strategic forecasts. The gold standard for a number of years was the scenario p...

A New Look at the New Look

"Th[e] problem is not merely man against man or nation against nation. It is man against war." At first glance, this remark by Dwight Eisenhower in April 1956 appears to have been a strange thing for him to write. Eisenhower, after all, was a career military man who had commanded the gr...

Addendum to Eisenhower’s New Look

On March 1, 1955, Prime Minister Winston Churchill presented the 1955 Defence White Paper to the House of Commons. The document confirmed publicly the government's intention to proceed with the development of a thermonuclear weapon, or hydrogen bomb. In moving acceptance of the White Paper Ch...

Seward’s Folly or Farsightedness?

In the second essay of the Federalist, Publius (John Jay) observed with pleasure

that independent America was not composed of detached and distant territories, but that one connected, fertile, w...

Classics Review: William Gilpin's "Heartland" Thesis

William Gilpin, sometime U.S. army officer, Western explorer, Mexican War veteran, friend of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Hart Benton, land speculator, and governor of the Colorado Territory (1861-62), is sometimes accorded the title of America's first geopolitician. In a series of articles and ...

The Founding and the Law of Nations

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent ...

The Prolific John Keegan

"I have not been in a battle; not near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath." Thus John Keegan, later Sir John, began his landmark book, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, published in 1976. Despite this bit of caution K...

Classics Review: Grading Madison's Examination

On January 16, 1806, Massachusetts Senator John Quincy Adams, upon entering the Senate chamber, found that copies of a pamphlet had been placed on the members' desks. The document, An Examination of the British Doctrine, Which Subjects to Capture a Neutral Trade, Not Open in Time of ...

The Iron Revolutionary

"If there is to be revolution, we would rather make it, than suffer it." Thus Otto von Bismarck, minister-president of Prussia, in the midst of his campaign to bring about the unification of Germany. But what sort of revolutionary, exactly, was the man who became known as the Iron Chanc...

Eisenhower the Political General

"Political General." At first glance this title seems to be a contradiction in terms, certainly not something worthy of praise. It brings to mind Courtney Massengale, the self-promoting careerist in the Vietnam War-era novel, Once an Eagle, or, at a darker level of fiction...

Rise and Fall of Venice

By the end of the 13th century, the maritime empire created by the Italian city-state of Venice had arguably become the greatest Mediterranean power since Rome. Venice dominated trade between Europe and Asia. Its influence extended from the city proper, at the western edge of the old Byzantine Em...

Classics Review: Churchill on Afghanistan

It has frequently been noted that a very large dog has not barked during the 2012 presidential campaign—the war in Afghanistan. Neither President Obama nor his challenger, Mitt Romney, have said much about this decade-long conflict, the first military front opened by the United States in wh...

The Tribe of the Eagle

The young Abraham Lincoln once reflected on the nature of ancient conquerors like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and their modern counterpart, Napoleon. He described them as being members of "the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle." Such men, he noted, could not be sat...

First in War, First in Peace

Frederick the Great of Prussia, who knew a thing or two about generalship, judged that the Christmas campaign of 1776-1777 by the American Continental Army, marked by the battles of Trenton and Princeton, was "the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievements."

The Great Warpath

Eliot Cohen, professor of Strategic Studies and director of the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), always provides a good read of the subject at hand, with stimulating insights into larger matters that should have occu...

Debating the Monroe Doctrine

Must foreign policy doctrines be doctrinaire? Many scholars and practitioners decry so-called doctrines because they put policymakers into the straightjacket of a one-size-fits all strategy that is not always appropriate to a varied and changeable world. If however policymakers deviate from doctr...

Strategic Pivots and Priorities

"The wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong timeand with the wrong enemy." This judgment was famously rendered by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Omar Bradley, while testifying before Congress in May 1951. The specific question at hand was whether...

Is Geography Destiny?

Is geography destiny? Robert D. Kaplan thinks that this is so, or at least that this assumption is close enough for government work. He likes to quote the British geographer Halford J. Mackinder: "Man and not nature initiates, but nature in large measure controls." Kaplan has a book com...

The Parameters of Victory

One of the key concepts of Carl von Clausewitz's On War (1832) is that of "the culminating point of victory," when one side has achieved the maximum possible military advantage relative to the available resources and feasible political aims. Beyond that, battlefie...

Classics of the Crimean War

It would be something of a stretch to say that the Crimean War (1854-1856) constituted the first modern war, but elements of the conflict clearly foreshadowed military developments that characterized the following century and beyond (most immediately the American Civil War). These elements includ...

Iron Fist, Velvet Glove

At the summit, Winston Churchill tells us, true politics and strategy are one. But how exactly are politics and strategy brought together, even assuming that is possible? Can one leader, or a government, formally articulate and execute a grand strategy? Some skeptics argue that "grand strate...

Russian War Guilt

The causes of war—or, differently put, the reasons that nations or peoples choose to go to war—is one of the main areas of study in classical and contemporary strategic literature, beginning with Thucydides' concise formulation of fear, honor, and interest. No conflict has been ex...

Balancing Act

The Winter 2011/12 issue of the journal International Security contains an essay by David Ekbladh, an assistant professor of History at Tufts, &qu...

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