Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What Bush reads

CNN has an oily piece on Bush’s reading habits. It mentions that sometimes he meets with authors he is reading (e.g., Natan Sharansky, Bernard Lewis, John Lewis Gaddis). Gaddis says that he was surprised that Bush was reading something that is critical of him, but it didn’t seem to bother him. Gaddis has an essay in the current Foreign Affairs, called Grand Strategy in the Second Term, which is worth reading. Note the emphasis on Bismarck, "The most skillful practitioner of shock and awe" who, Gaddis notes, didn’t "assume that the pieces would simply fall into place as he wished them to: he made sure that they did through the careful, patient construction of a new European order that offered benefits to all who were included within it. Bismarck’s system survived for almost half a century." I note in passing that I have been re-reading into Woodrow Wilson for a class I’m teaching and came across his essay on Bismarck written in 1877, while he was an undergraduate (he graduated Princeton in 1879). He praises Bismarck, "now the foremost figure in Europe" for his "uncommon wisdom in action," for his "genius and force of character," for being a "master-statesman, and for his will. Wilson: "In Bismarck are united the moral force of Cromwell and the political shrewdness of Richelieu; the comprehensive intellect of Burke, without his learning, and the diplomatic ability of Tallyrand, without his coldness." Wilson’s essay is not avaliable on line, it is in the first volume of The Papers of Woodrow Wilson.

Discussions - 1 Comment

As I’ve said before, I don’t get why Gaddis thinks Bismarck is so great. The international (European) system that Bismarck put together was inherently highly frangible, and when it reached the failure point, World War I was the upshot. To follow Gaddis’s analogy, success for W would be to buy us a few decades of relative peace, followed by a series of global holocausts--w/ the added difference that back in the days of Otto von and Kaiser Bill, there were no nuclear weapons. Again, what is so normative about Bismarck? Or am I missing something here?

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