Reviews

Inspiring

Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman have written a text, albeit a short 180 fairly small pages, that challenges much of the irrational, impracticable, and immoral tenants of American foreign policies. Of course, the first segment of the book introduces the concept of ethical realism. Wow!!! Two guys in Washington who write a book that is void of most political extremist beliefs. The authors, from polar opposites of the political spectrum, join together to introduce a new, viable, inspiring view of American foreign policy that rightfully places America as the responsible leader / super power it once was seen by the rest of the world just 65 years ago. The second half of the book examines the relationship between the United States and a selection of other states, Iran, Russia, China. You know, when I read a good book, I am saddened to turn the last page. I felt such disappointment reaching the conclusion in this book. Here we have two insightful writers offering exciting approaches and, before I knew it, they concluded. There were about 10 references that were cited frequently throughout the book – not much, but very well done! The logic, grammar, spelling were noteworthy for their absence of errors. I really could see and appreciate the careful logic the authors used in writing this book.

Robert, Amazon Customer

This book is an essential primer on what ought to be our foreign policy outlook for the Age of Obama. Well-written, brief, and prescriptive.

Rufio, Amazon Customer

I was very impressed with this book.

It took a liberal and conservative expert and found those concepts they could agree on. They present a review of the foreign policies that succeed and those that failed since WWII. They then present a view of how we should proceed in the future and concepts we should keep in mind as we try to determine how to react to events that occur. Although I did not agree with everything they said, I found their reasoning sound and it gave me a lot to think about. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in foreign policy, especially the candidates for president.

Cheryl, Amazon Customer

About the Author

Anatol Lieven is a professor in Georgetown University in Qatar. He is a visiting professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London, a senior fellow of the New America Foundation in Washington DC and a member of the academic board of the Valdai discussion club in Russia. He also serves on the advisory committee of the South Asia Department of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He holds a BA and PhD from Cambridge University in England.

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Description

The idea behind Ethical Realism was to bring together a liberal and a conservative thinker to bridge the partisan divide in the USA concerning foreign policy in the wake of the Iraq War. This was rather a popular idea at the time; the Stanley Foundation published a series of jointly-authored reports by Republican and Democratic figures. However, those reports reflected the thinking of what Ben Rhodes later dubbed “The Blob” – the bipartisan Washington foreign and security establishment. No new ideas were required, since after all – under the partisan shouting and theatrics – the Republican and Democratic establishments had in fact agreed on all the main policies of the past 15 years, from the expansion of NATO to the invasion of Iraq.

John Hulsman and I by contrast were brought together by our opposition to most of these policies and the Iraq War in particular. Our common position was based not on the common Republican-Democratic foreign policy ideas of the 2000s, but those of the 1950s (before the intervention in Vietnam wrecked everything): tough defence of the USA and the West against the Soviet threat, combined with generally prudent restraint in the exercise of American power and a willingness to use that power to prevent allies from pursuing reckless courses of their own, as in the case of Suez. In particular, John and I shared a common respect for Eisenhower. For the purposes of the book tour, I bought an old “I Like Ike” badge that I still wear on appropriate occasions. Of course, this does not mean that I approve of all Ike’s actions – most notably in the cases of the coups in Iran and Guatemala.

The first part of the book lays out the philosophical basis for ethical (or as Niebuhr proposed, “Christian”) Realism, based principally on the thought of Max Weber, Hans Morgenthau, Reinhold Niebuhr and George Kennan. As opposed to an ethic of good intentions (Gesinnungsethik, in Weber’s formulation) it sets out an ethic of responsibility for the consequences of your actions (Verantwortungsethik). The disastrous consequences of the invasion of Iraq – an act of aggression accompanied by great floods of idealistic rhetoric, with disastrous consequences – gave us ample ammunition in this regard. The utter failure of the Bush (and Blair) administrations to study Iraq and plan how to reconstruct it also gave us support for our presentation of Morgenthau’s principle that serious study of an adversary is a fundamental ethical duty of the statesman. We both felt horror and amazement that Daniel Ellsberg’s famous statement that at the time of the intervention in Vietnam, no Pentagon official could have passed a freshman exam in Vietnamese history or society had been replicated in the case of Iraq.

In our policy advice in the book, John and I can take credit for two notable bits of prescience. The first – in line with the Realist ethic of prudence and responsibility – was our statement that to offer NATO membership to countries for whom the USA and NATO were not in fact prepared to fight (and thereby provoke war with Russia) was not just a foolish and irresponsible act but a profoundly immoral one. This position was amply borne out by the wars in Georgia and Ukraine in 2008 and 2014, and the West’s failure to come to the defence of these countries.

The second was our statement – in line with Eisenhower’s thinking – that financial stability and fiscal security are just as important to national security as military strength, and are in fact the ultimate foundation of national strength. We warned in 2006 that despite the apparent economic boom, because of the immense burden of debt the US economy was in fact “dancing merrily along the edge of a precipice.” Two years later of course it fell over the edge. Neither John nor I are economists, but I think I can say without false modesty that we were a great deal more clear- sighted than the establishment economists of the time.