Finding a New Generation of Statesmen

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Finding a New Generation of Statesmen


Byline: William Murchison - Special to The Washington Times

TO MAKE AND KEEP PEACE -- AMONG OURSELVES AND WITH ALL NATIONSBy Angelo CodevillaHoover Institution Press, $24.95, 223 pages

Toward the end of 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that 53 percent of Americans see their country as "less important and powerful than 10 years ago." Seventy percent, said Pew, think "the United States is less respected than in the past," versus 56 percent a year earlier. Fifty-one percent say the United States "should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own."

That's without having read Angelo Codevilla's devastating take on American foreign-policy failures and miscalculations -- over the past decade and a half, especially -- and their resultant effects on national morale, not to mention America's superpower status.

Mr. Codevilla, a retired Boston University professor of international relations, now affiliated with the Hoover Institution and the Claremont Institute, has written a powerhouse of a book -- possibly the best explanation currently on the market for the nation's varied vexations, at home as well as abroad. Don't be put off by the soporific, seminar-roomy title. This is a terrific and eye-opening book.

Mr. Codevilla -- who inhabits none of the pigeonholes routinely assigned to foreign-policy "internationalists," "isolationists" and "realists" -- perches on a loftier aerie, from which he trains the eye of history on our perplexities. He looks at what works for this country's well-being and what doesn't. The part that doesn't can be equated with the outlook of our historically illiterate "ruling class" -- Mr. Codevilla's recurrent label for the political-media-intellectual establishment.

The ruling class, which comprises Republicans as well as Democrats, is all in when it comes to "nation building," foreign aid, and gestures that substitute for minimal understanding of the country's actual interests. Peace is an interest too infrequently served, Mr. Codevilla contends; peace permits normal life. Normal life is good.

War? It comes sometimes. When it does, you have to fight. Mr. Codevilla is no weepy pacifist. He simply thinks, as was common for pre-20th-century American leaders to think, that you don't kill thousands and elevate social tensions so as to raise your adversaries, and assorted bystanders, to your own civilizational level. (Do comparisons come to mind? Iraq? Afghanistan?) The Iraq war "did serve peace by placing the U.S. government in the position to warn Middle Eastern governments that they might expect the same fate as the Taliban, if any anti-U.S. terrorism" came from their shops. …

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