Niebuhr’s Warnings

I’m generally not fond of simply republishing something someone else wrote, but after listening to and then reading a recent lecture by Prof. Andrew Bacevich of Boston University, I’ve been rereading Reinhold Niebuhr’s 1952 book The Irony of American History. His comments on a certain naïve idealism he saw in the American foreign policies of his day seemed to offer some startling illumination for the policies of our own. He wrote in part that…
We might be tempted to bring the whole of modern history to a tragic conclusion by one final and mighty effort to overcome its frustrations. The political term for such an effort is “preventive war.” It is not an immediate temptation; but it could become so in the next decade or two. ….Nations find it even more difficult than individuals to preserve sanity when confronted with a resolute and unscrupulous foe. Hatred disturbs all residual serenity of spirit and vindictiveness muddies every pool of sanity. …Our foreign policy is thus threatened with a kind of apoplectic rigidity and inflexibility. Constant proof is required that the foe is hated with sufficient vigor. (Niebuhr, 146)

3 thoughts on “Niebuhr’s Warnings”

  1. Agreed Geezer – Recent events with references to WWIII and \”who is, who was, and who will be dangerous\” in our leader\’s esteemed opinion, is enough to send an ostrich out for sand!

Leave a Reply