Author: Franz-Stefan Gady

“You have chosen poorly!” The Problem with Historical Analogies and U.S. Policy

Indiana Jones, despite being chased by Nazi thugs through Europe and the Middle East, manages to select the one Holy Grail among hundreds in a cave chapel in the dramatic finale of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. His ominous adversary, an American businessman who has allied himself with the SS, predictably fails in his selection and meets his untimely death after which the grail guardian—a wise, gray, bearded old knight—utters the admonition, “He chose poorly.” Unfortunately in the policy world, we do not have a Grail Knight reproaching foreign policy makers for their choices, especially when they invoke...

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H.G. Wells And Defending the “Restoration Doctrine”

Michael Singh’s parochial critique in Foreign Policy Magazine entitled “‘Restoration’ is Not an Option: Why America Can’t Afford to Lead From Behind,”[1] attacks Richard N. Haass’s idea of a “Restoration Doctrine”, which in essence is “a U.S. foreign policy based on restoring this country’s strength and replenishing its resources—economic, human and physical.”[2] Singh’s reproach is reminiscent of Winston Churchill’s response to an H.G. Wells’ article penned in 1923, in which he argues for an end of the British Empire and a system of world federal government. A staunch defender of the political status quo, Churchill dismissively replied to the...

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The Slaughter Benches of History: Hegel and Radical Extremists

The correlational dichotomy between words and deeds is as old as history itself, ranging from Alexander the Great reading the Iliad, which supposedly inspired him to conquer the world, to the disturbing image of Nietzsche’s writings inspiring Hitler’s crazed fantasies of a new Aryan age. A more positive example is Abraham Lincoln seeking inspiration in the King James Bible and in Shakespeare to understand the nature of politics. Political men in this context should be read as men of action (including radicals). Leo Strauss, in his work, Introduction to Political Philosophy, summarizes the predicament succinctly by stating that every political writer bears some responsibility for political actions just as the political actor––as an individual––bears responsibility for his deeds: In a sense, all political use of Nietzsche is a perversion of his teaching. Nevertheless, what he said was read by political men and inspired them.  He is as little responsible for fascism as Rousseau is responsible for Jacobinism. This means, however, that he is as much responsible for fascism as Rousseau was for Jacobinism. The crucial question is, of course, the interpretation of words. Political radicals do not need to pore over thousands of pages of philosophical text to come to a conclusion on any perceived political malaise; their narrow extremism fosters the amputation of a single word or phrase––preferably taken out of context––that can be inserted into their perverted...

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Pakistan: Why Lying Seldom Pays in International Politics

“There may be honor among thieves, but there is none among politicians!” a disgusted Peter O’Toole, playing T. E. Lawrence in the 1960 motion picture Lawrence of Arabia, blurts to Claude Rains upon discovering the terms of the secret Sykes-Picot agreement between Great Britain and France, which outlines a plan for carving up the Ottoman empire rather than handing parts of it, as promised, over to the Arabs. While everyone can share T. E. Lawrence’s sentiment on a personal level, lying seems to be a permanent feature of international diplomacy. “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie...

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Semantics and the German “Nein” in Libya

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, are under increased attack from all sides for their refusal to participate militarily in the UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya. Although the Merkel government promises additional AWAC surveillance flights over Afghanistan, Germany’s traditional European allies––most importantly France––feel slighted by what they perceive as a refusal of Germany to share the necessary risks and costs of the coalition’s actions in Libya. After all, Westerwelle was one of the first politicians to call for support of the rebels and EU-wide sanctions against the Gaddafi regime. In a recent interview, he again stated, “Gaddafi has to go, no question about it!” Despite the fact that Germany’s current diplomatic dilemma is a product of unforeseen circumstances (e.g., the United States voting for UN resolution 1973) and domestic political considerations (e.g., state elections in Baden Wuerttemberg), outside observers cannot grasp that even more than 70 years after the end of the Second World War, Germans are still largely opposed to military action to advance its foreign policy interests. World-wary Germans, scarred by their tragic aggression in two world wars, need convincing evidence of a vital national interest to justify any military adventure. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the perception of Western vulnerability led Germany to join in the U.S. led intervention in Afghanistan in 2001.  However, former defense minister, Theodor...

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The Cyber Fortress Mentality

Most people imagine that historical battles were fought between opposing armies charging and countercharging over open fields. On the North American continent, however, the fortress played the pivotal role in deciding the outcome of wars rather than traditional open battle—for example, in the siege of Quebec in 1759 or in the Battle of Vicksburg in 1863. As a result, the fortress has shaped the outlook of American foreign policy makers and its military brass ever since the creation of the United States. Even today, dealing with the 21st century challenge of cybersecurity, policy makers still think in 18th century...

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