Sunday, April 3, 2011

Power and idealism

In the New York Times Henry Kissinger reviews Bismarck by Jonathan Steinberg. The review will interest anyone convinced that the study of history is the only way to understand or predict. A couple of short quotations from the review:
.... Bismarck is often cited as the quintessential realist, relying on power at the expense of ideals. He was, in fact, far more complicated. Power, to be useful, must be understood in its components, including its limits. By the same token, ideals must be brought, at some point, into relationship with the circumstances the leader is seeking to affect. Ignoring that balance threatens policy with either veering toward belligerence from the advocates of power or toward crusades by the idealists. ....

Cynicism by itself produces a shallow opportunism. Any serious policy requires a fixed point from which to alter the world. .... [the review]
Book Review - Bismarck - By Jonathan Steinberg - NYTimes.com