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Book Review: Warrior Politics

September 14, 2017

The original sin of any writer is to see the world only from his or her point of view.

- Robert D. Kaplan

 

I've recently finished Warrior Politics by Robert D. Kaplan, in a bid to boost my understanding of foreign policy and statesmanship. Political thinking doesn't come easy for me, but Kaplan has written something that I can easily use as a reference in the future. At 155 pages, it is not a long read, but its contents require thoughtful consideration after you shut the covers.

 

The central idea of the book is that statesmen and rulers should look to the past in order to govern the future, because people remain consistently human in their urges and motivations; there is a pervasive pessimism in that we as a species have yet to outgrow our territorial and aggressive instincts. Of course, looking at the world as it is in 2017, it is hard to dispute that particular perspective. 

 

Kaplan writes from the perspective of an American, and hence the focus of the book's conclusion is on how America can become the next great empire, by using its overwhelming power (military, economic and cultural) to create an international government. However, from my point of view, that is an unwelcoming thought. For every conquering nation, there are many conquered states. The notion of an American-led Leviathan is as unpalatable as a resurgent Chinese empire or a Russian hegemony.

 

On the whole, Warrior Politics was a fascinating read. Even though this was first published in 2002, much of it is relevant today. After all, as Kaplan states, there is no modern or postmodern world, "only a continuation of the ancient".

Some statements that I found particularly illuminating:

 

Conflict and community are both inherent in the human condition.

 

The greater the disregard of history, the greater the delusions regarding the future.

 

We must be careful not to return to [the otherworldly absolutism of the medieval church], for if there is such a thing as progress in politics, it has been the evolution from religious virtue to secular self-interest.

 

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