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Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos

by Robert D. Kaplan

Vintage, 155 pp., $12

With American troops poised to attack Iraq and the whiff of imperialism in the air, this thought-provoking essay couldn't be more timely. Esteemed political journalist Robert Kaplan, whose prescient book The Coming Anarchy sounded an alarm well before September 11, contends here that, despite the universality of advanced technologies, there is no "modern" world, but rather a continuation of ancient times with today's leaders facing the same issues of war and peace that confronted historical civilizations. By studying the most influential theorists of yore, we can learn how best to address the intricate and dangerous global dilemmas facing us today. You can't read this book without viewing it through the prism of the impending war with Iraq. It's not hard to determine where Kaplan stands based upon the thinkers he chooses to examine: Sun Tzu, Kant, Machiavelli, and Churchill, among others. He would seem to side with American foreign policy as it reflects Livy's Hannibal-era notion of "patriotic virtue," Thucydides' "pragmatism" derived from the Peloponnesian War, and Hobbes' 17th-century concept of the Leviathan. But that's not to say that he doesn't provide fodder between the lines for less bellicose viewpoints. Sun Tzu's The Art of War tells of the warrior's honor being so great in the political sphere that war is avoided altogether. Thomas Malthus advised in the late 18th century that ignoring environmental concerns could have devastating human and political consequences. And Machiavelli warned how inflexible moral arguments often lead to war and civil conflict. Kaplan's predictions for the future are particularly interesting. He foresees war becoming increasingly unconventional and undeclared, not unlike the current war on terrorism. They will be fought within states rather than between them and in highly complex urban terrains. He sees globalization leading to the rise of large, politically influential city-states and to the emergence of a loosely formed universal society. Regardless of your political viewpoint, there is plenty of cause for thought here, especially as our leaders prepare for war.

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Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, Robert Kaplan, Vintage

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