Gulliver's Troubles; Or, the Setting of American Foreign Policy

Gulliver's Troubles; Or, the Setting of American Foreign Policy

Gulliver's Troubles; Or, the Setting of American Foreign Policy

Gulliver's Troubles; Or, the Setting of American Foreign Policy

Excerpt

In Albert Camus' most striking play, Caligula discovered that however much he wanted the moon, he could not get it; he also discovered that the nihilistic use of absolute power was suicidal. This book will try to determine what the United States, with its enormous power, can attempt and expect to achieve in the Atlantic area, what ends and purposes it is realistic to have in mind, and what means it will be wise to use in order to achieve them. I am interested in establishing what the United States can or cannot do, given the kind of nation it is, in the kind of world we have. Purposes that go against the grain of a nation's deepest beliefs or habits, or against the grain of the world in which it is trying to fulfill such purposes, are not sound. Power at a nation's disposal ought to be used in full awareness of the external conditions that define which uses are productive and which are not, as well as of the domestic predispositions and institutions that channel national energies in certain directions or inhibit the country from applying them in other ways.

The lectures on which this book is based, delivered at the Council on Foreign Relations in April-May 1965, were entitled "Restraints on American Policy." But I realized in the course of later discussions that the word "restraint" or "constraint" was too restrictive and constricting--not only because I was also concerned with analyzing the choices open to American policy, but because one normally associates constraint with external pressure, not with internal reflexes or imperatives or inhibitions. We are not used to calling a person's heredity or temper or habits "restraints" on his personality; indeed, they define his identity. Yet, one's character is at the same time the source of one's acts and the limit of one's possibilities; it explains the courses of action one takes, while excluding others. The term "environment" is better able to designate both the domestic conditions that affect how statesmen move and the external milieu that they try to affect, but it also gives the misleading impression . . .

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