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Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos

Robert D. Kaplan

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Format: Paperback , 224pp.
ISBN: 9780375726279
Publisher: Vintage
Pub. Date: January 7, 2003

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Description and Reviews
From The Publisher:

“The side that knows when to fight and when not will take the victory. There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked, walled cities not to be assaulted.”

We live in dangerous times, when a new kind of leadership is required. Visionary and ruthlessly strategic, Warrior Politics extracts the best of the wisdom of the ages for modern leaders who are faced with the complex life-and-death challenges of today’s world—and determined to win. Sun-Tzu urges leaders to “plan and calculate like a hungry man.” Machiavelli defines a policy not by its excellence but by its outcome. Churchill derives his greatness from his imagination of history. Livy shows that the vigor to face down adversaries must ultimately come from pride in our own past achievements. “Never mind if they call your caution timidity, your wisdom sloth, your generosity weakness,” he writes. “It is better that a wise enemy should fear you than that foolish friends should praise.” “Men often oppose a thing merely because they have no agency in planning it,” Alexander Hamilton says, “or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.”

Replete with maxims, warnings, examples from history, and shrewd recommendations, Warrior Politics wrests from the past the lessons we need to arm ourselves for the present. It offers an invaluable template for any decision-maker—in foreign policy or in business—faced with high stakes and inadequate knowledge of a mine-filled terrain. As we gear ourselves up for a new kind of war, no book is more prescient, more shrewd, or more essential.


"One of the most thought-provoking and profound books that I have recently read. As readable as it is stimulating."
—Henry Kissinger

"WARRIOR POLITICS is a masterpiece expressing the simple but elusive truth of the relevance of ancient lessons to modern circumstances in the most lucid and persuasive prose I've ever read. New Presidents seldom reach the White House with deep convictions regarding how best to advance our foreign interests. Most are torn between sympathies for Wilsonian moralism and more focused concern with our physical safety and economic welfare. In this brilliant book Robert Kaplan draws from Thucidides, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Madison and Marshall to assert timeless and penetrating lessons. A must-read for all who aspire to govern effectively."
—Robert McFarlane


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About the Author

Robert D. Kaplan is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and the bestselling author of seven previous books on travel and foreign affairs, translated into many languages, including Balkan Ghosts, The Arabists, The Ends of the Earth, and The Coming Anarchy. He is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He lives with his wife and son in western Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

1There Is No "Modern" World3
2Churhcill's River War17
3Livy's Punic War28
4Sun-Tzu and Thucydides38
5Machiavellian Virtue52
6Fate and Intervention65
7The Great Disturbers: Hobbes and Malthus78
8The Holocaust, Realism, and Kant96
9The World of Achilles: Ancient Soldiers, Modern Warriors116
10Warring States China and Global Governance134
Selected Bibliography157

Customer Reviews
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Useful Wisdom of Warriors April 24, 2003
Reviewer: David W. Landrum from Grand Rapids, Michigan United States

This book is a breath of fresh air. It proposes that when it comes to international politics, the main ethic to be considered is national interest. In a world where clergy, peace activists, and idealists of all stripes cry out against every military intervention and hobble very necessary agressive endeavors (like the wars in Iraq and Afganistan) with denunications, Kaplan's book sets out the plain, reasonable truth. The preservation of national interest--security, prosperity, free expression--should guide our foreign policy. This, he argues, will result in peace and security--not only for the United States but for the world. Adaptation of the ancient warrior ethic of the Romans and Greeks, and the ancient Chinese, is the most viable means for preserving order in an increasingly fragmented, dangerous world.

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