Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The top ten books on grand strategy

Will Inboden named his top 10 books on grand strategy for Foreign Policy.

One title on his list:
Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History.

The beginning of wisdom in approaching grand strategy is to appreciate the limits of power and human insight. Almost six decades since its writing, Niebuhr still speaks with prescience today:
"Modern man's confidence in his power over historical destiny prompted the rejection of every older conception of an overruling providence in history. Modern man's confidence in his virtue caused an equally unequivocal rejection of the Christian idea of the ambiguity of human virtue... We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimatized."
Perhaps nothing better illustrates Niebuhr's complexity than the fact that (in an irony he would no doubt appreciate) he is today both embraced and argued over by leading voices on the political left, right, and center.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue