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jerryking : statesmen   26

What would Plato make of Boris Johnson?
June 22nd 2019 | the Economist | by Bagehot.

Classics (Literae Humaniores) is a wide-ranging degree devoted to the study of the literature, history, philosophy, languages and archaeology of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. It is one of the most interdisciplinary of all degrees, and offers the opportunity to study these two foundational ancient civilisations and their reception in modern times. The degree also permits students to take extensive options in modern philosophy......

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Mr Johnson’s failure to get a first continues to annoy him intensely—and to delight many of his rivals. But in truth it doesn’t matter a jot: the world is full of failures who got firsts, and successes who missed out. The really interesting question is not whether Mr Johnson’s results reveal some great intellectual weakness. It is what light the subject of his studies can throw on his qualifications to be prime minister. The classics corpus is full of meditations on the qualities that make for a good leader. And no classical author thought more profoundly about the subject than Plato, the philosopher who was put at the heart of Oxford’s classics syllabus by Balliol’s greatest master, Benjamin Jowett. What would Plato have made of the classicist who appears destined to be Balliol’s fourth prime minister since 1900?.....In “The Republic”, Plato argued that the most important qualities in a statesman were truthfulness and expertise. A good statesman will “never willingly tolerate an untruth”. (“Is it possible to combine in the same character a love of wisdom and a love of falsehood?” one of Plato’s characters asks. “Quite impossible,” comes the reply.) He will spend his life studying everything that he needs to make him a good captain of the ship of state—“the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds and other professional subjects”. .......By contrast, Plato argued, the surest signs of a bad leader are narcissism and self-indulgence. The poor statesman is an eloquent flatterer, who relies on his ability to entertain the masses with speeches and comic turns, but doesn’t bother to develop a coherent view of the world. Plato was particularly vitriolic about the scions of the upper classes who are offered the opportunity to study philosophy while young but don’t apply themselves, because they think they are so talented that they needn’t earn their place at the top table.......“The Republic” is haunted by the fear that democracies eventually degenerate into tyrannies. Democracy is the most alluring form of government: “the diversity of its characters, like the different colours in a patterned dress, make it look very attractive.” But it is inherently unstable. Citizens are so consumed by pleasure-seeking that they beggar the economy; so hostile to authority that they ignore the advice of experts; and so committed to liberty that they lose any common purpose......As democracies collapse under the pressure of their contradictions, panicked citizens look for salvation in a demagogue. These are men who love power, but cannot control their own desires for “holidays and dinners and parties and girlfriends and so on”. Plato calls them the “most wretched of men because of the disorder raging within them”. Citizens are so consumed by fear that they think these wretches have magical abilities to solve the country’s problems and restore proper order. Demagogues get their start by “taking over a particularly obedient mob”, before seizing control of the country. But the more power they acquire the worse things become, “for the doctor removes the poison and leaves the healthy elements in the body, while the tyrant does the opposite.”

The shadow on the wall
Democracies have proved more durable than Plato imagined. And his cure for the problems of democracy—the rule of philosopher-kings, who are expected to hold their wives and children in common—is eccentric to put it mildly. But he is right that character matters. Politicians can change their advisers or their policies, but character is sticky. He is also right that democracies can suddenly give way to populist authoritarianism...... The best way to prepare for a Johnson premiership is to re-read “The Republic”, hoping Plato is wrong but preparing for the fact that he may be right
Boris_Johnson  character_traits  contradictions  demagoguery  democracies  Greek  humanities  leaders  leadership  liberal_arts  opposing_actions  Oxford  pairs  philosophers  Plato  politicians  Romans  statesmen  truth-telling  United_Kingdom 
july 2019 by jerryking
Joe Clark is regarded as a failure. He deserves better
January 3, 2019 | The Globe and Mail | MICHAEL HEALEY.

Joe Clark was Canada’s prime minister for nine months, 39 years ago (1979). He was 39 years old when he won the job. The portrait, by Patrick Douglass Cox, excellently captures the essence of Mr. Clark at that age: He’s forthright, sincere, slightly goofy and not entirely comfortable in his own skin. That unemphatic hand betraying whatever argument he’s making to the House of Commons.......He quit in 1993, then came back in 1998 to take over as leader of a severely diminished PC Party for the second time. He was bent on resisting a merger with the Alliance Party. He lost that principled fight, too. By 2004, even though his party no longer existed, he still referred to himself as a Progressive Conservative.

......The single unequivocal success he managed, in his nine months in power, was this: He brought 60,000 South Asian refugees, fleeing chaos in Vietnam and Cambodia, to the country. He did it in record time, and he had to invent the private-sponsorship model to do it. Sure, that was an initiative created by the previous (Liberal) government, but Mr. Clark didn’t care where a good idea came from........... He also managed something incredible – as minister responsible for constitutional affairs, he got two territorial leaders and 10 provincial premiers to agree to constitutional reform through the Charlottetown Accord. .....Sure, the Accord failed in a national referendum. But that had everything to do with Mr. Mulroney’s permeating unpopularity. Few people recognize the immensity of Mr. Clark’s feat because of how things turned out......These qualities: stubbornness, idealism, a willingness to subsume his ego to get things done, made him an effective statesman. Hence the strong poll numbers at the end of his career.
'70s  Brian_Mulroney  Canada  consensus  Joe_Clark  mass_migrations  Pierre_Trudeau  politicians  population_movements  Progressive_Conservatives  red_Tories  referenda  refugees  South_Asian  statesmen  Vietnam 
january 2019 by jerryking
Dean Acheson Was a First-Rate Statesman
Feb. 17, 2017 | - WSJ| Jeffrey Salmon.

"The record shows that he had the rare ability to combine a grasp of the broad historical circumstances in which the U.S. found itself in the postwar period with a practical understanding of how to construct and implement long-term policy—that is to say, he was a statesman. Every grand strategy of the Cold War period—containment, NATO, the postwar economic order, the Marshall Plan and more—bore his mark."
letters_to_the_editor  Peggy_Noonan  Dean_Acheson  Henry_Kissinger  statesmen  Cold_War  containment  NATO  Marshall_Plan  post-WWII  APNSA 
february 2017 by jerryking
What Comes After Acheson’s Creation? - WSJ
By PEGGY NOONAN
Feb. 9, 2017

The U.S. military needs to know what the U.S. government seeks from it. The White House need to communicate an overarching plan because if there’s no higher plan they, in turn, can’t make plans to meet the plan.....like tornado victims, those interested in foreign policy have been [shellshocked]—staring in shock at the wreckage of the post-War II international system.

But something has to be rebuilt. Everyone now has to be an architect, or a cement-pourer, or a master craftsman carpenter.

It’s been instructive the past week to reread a small classic of statecraft, “Present at the Creation” by Dean Acheson, published in 1969. As undersecretary and then secretary of state he was involved in the creation of the postwar order.

What is inspiring about Acheson’s first-rate second-rateness is that he’s like a lot of those we have developing foreign policy right now.

Acheson, though he did not present it this way, provides useful lessons for future diplomats in future crises.

• Everyone’s in the dark looking for the switch.
• Don’t mess things up at the beginning.
• Be able to see your work soberly. Keep notes so history will know what happened.
• Cheer up. Good things can come of bad times, great things from fiercely imperfect individuals.
• Even though you’ll wind up disappointed. All diplomats in the end feel frustrated over missed opportunities and achievements that slipped away. “Alas, that is life. We cannot live our dreams.”

Still to be answered: What is America’s strategy now—our overarching vision, our big theme and intent? What are the priorities? How, now, to navigate the world?

That soldier needs an answer to his question: What do you need from us? What’s the plan?
questions  U.S.foreign_policy  post-WWII  diplomacy  Dean_Acheson  Marshall_Plan  Peggy_Noonan  priorities  change  statecraft  books  Cold_War  international_system  rebuilding  dislocations  The_Establishment  crisis  crisis_management  Communicating_&_Connecting  grand_strategy  statesmen  imperfections  U.S._military  note_taking  missed_opportunities 
february 2017 by jerryking
It’s not too late for Harper to play the statesman - The Globe and Mail
LAWRENCE MARTIN
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Tuesday, Sep. 08, 2015

Why doesn’t Mr. Harper show some of the spirit of the Mandela occasion and appoint a blue-ribbon panel of former prime ministers to advise him on the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis? Given their experience, they could offer sound counsel. It would be an effective way of depoliticizing the issue. That’s what Canadians want. They’ve had their fill of overbearing political partisanship. In the face of a humanitarian crisis, they don’t need more of it.

For the Conservatives, a non-partisan approach makes perfect sense. Humanitarian issues are hardly their forte. They connote soft power. They fit the progressives’ playbook. The Liberals and New Democrats stand to gain.

But thus far, the government has reacted with its customary combative mentality.
Stephen_Harper  Lawrence_Martin  partisanship  Federal_Election_2015  leaders  leadership  statesmen  political_polarization  partisan_warfare  Syrian  refugee  crisis  playbooks 
september 2015 by jerryking
Can-Do Lee Kuan Yew - NYTimes.com
MARCH 23, 2015
Continue reading the main story

Roger Cohen

The measure of that achievement is that the ingredients of disaster abounded in Singapore, a country that is “not supposed to exist and cannot exist,” as Lee said in a 2007 interview with The New York Times. “We don’t have the ingredients of a nation,” he noted, “the elementary factors: a homogeneous population, common language, common culture and common destiny.” Instead, it had a combustible ethnic and religious hodgepodge of Chinese, Malays and Indians gathered in a city-state of no natural resources....The fact that the elements for cataclysm exist does not mean that cataclysm is inevitable. Lee demonstrated this in an age where the general cacophony, and the need to manage and spin every political minute, makes statesmanship ever more elusive. The determining factor is leadership. What defines leadership above all is conviction, discipline in the pursuit of a goal, adaptability in the interest of the general good, and far-sightedness.

Lee’s only religion was pragmatism, of which religion (as generally understood) is the enemy, because, to some adherents, it offers revealed truths that are fact-resistant. Any ideology that abhors facts is problematic. (If you believe land is yours because it was deeded to you in the Bible, for example, but other people live there and have for centuries, you have an issue pregnant with violence.) Lee had one basic yardstick for policy: Does it work? It was the criterion of a forward-looking man for whom history was instructive but not imprisoning. He abhorred victimhood (an excuse for sloppy thinking and nationalist delusion) and corruption. He prized opportunity, meritocracy, the work ethic of the immigrant and education.
authoritarianism  city-states  far-sightedness  leaders  leadership  Lee_Kuan_Yew  nation_builders  obituaries  Roger_Cohen  Singapore  Southeast_Asia  statesmen  tributes  victimhood  work_ethic 
march 2015 by jerryking
Fareed Zakaria: China’s cyberespionage presents a 21st-century challenge -
May 22, 2014 | The Washington Post | By Fareed Zakaria.
...Vladimir Putin might be a 19th-century statesman, using old-fashioned muscle to get his way, but it has become clear that Chinese President Xi Jinping goes one step further, comfortably embracing both 19th- and 21st-century tactics....it’s also worth studying Xi’s speech in Shanghai, given the same day the deal was struck. The meeting was a gathering of an obscure Asian regional group, one that includes Turkey, Iran and Russia but not the United States. His message was that Asians should take care of their own security. ...

...Cyberattacks are part of a new, messy, chaotic world, fueled by globalization and the information revolution. In a wired, networked world, it is much harder to shut down activity that blurs the lines between governments and private citizens, national and international realms, theft and warfare. And it certainly will not be possible to do so using traditional mechanisms of national security. Notice that Washington is using a legal mechanism (which will be ineffective and largely symbolic) for what is really a national security issue.

The Sino-Russian gas deal reminds us that traditional geopolitics is alive and well. Washington knows how to work its way in that world with its own alliances and initiatives. But cyberespionage represents a new frontier, and no one really has the ideas, tools or strategies to properly address this challenge.
Fareed_Zakaria  challenges  cyber_security  cyber_warfare  espionage  Vladimir_Putin  Russia  China  geopolitics  security_&_intelligence  natural_gas  21st._century  industrial_espionage  petro-politics  realpolitik  Asia  Xi_Jinping  statesmen  cyberattacks  cyberespionage 
may 2014 by jerryking
A Statesman's Friendly Advice - WSJ.com
April 4, 2013 | WSJ | Peggy Noonan

Noonan: A Statesman's Friendly Advice, Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew on what makes America great—and what threatens its greatness. "Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master's Insights on China, the United States and the World," a gathering of Mr. Lee's interviews, speeches and writings.

Mr. Lee, of course, is the founder and inventor of modern Singapore. He made it a dynamo. He pushed it beyond its ethnic divisions and placed a bet that, though it is the smallest nation in southeast Asia has few natural resources, its people, if organized and unleashed within a system of economic incentive, would come to constitute the only resource that mattered. He was right. When he took office as prime minister, in 1959, per capita income was about $400 a year. Last year it was more than $50,000.

By PEGGY NOONAN
Peggy_Noonan  Singapore  America_in_Decline?  books  ethnic_divisions  competitiveness_of_nations  city-states  leaders  statesmen  Lee_Kuan_Yew 
april 2013 by jerryking
Henry Kissinger talks to Simon Schama
May 20 2011 | FT.com / FT Magazine | By Simon Schama. What
Kissinger took from Elliott was that without grasping the long arc of
time, any account of politics and government would be shallow and
self-defeating....And you get the feeling that Kissinger believes that
it would do them no harm if they did. Instead he laments that
“contemporary politicians have very little sense of history. For them
the Vietnam war is unimaginably far behind us, the Korean war has no
relevance any more,” even though that conflict is very far from over and
at any minute has the capability of going from cold to hot. “This [the
United States of Amnesia as Gore Vidal likes to call it],” he sighs, “is
a tremendous handicap … when I talk to policy­makers and I cite some
historical analogy they think, ‘There he goes again with his history.’”

Look too at `A World Restored', “ The Brothers Karamazov.”
Simon_Schama  Henry_Kissinger  Kissinger_Associates  recency_bias  statesmen  historical_amnesia  history  diplomacy  books  analogies  self-defeating  ignorance  APNSA 
may 2011 by jerryking
Book Review - Bismarck - By Jonathan Steinberg - NYTimes.com
By HENRY A. KISSINGER
Published: March 31, 2011

BISMARCK

A Life

By Jonathan Steinberg

Illustrated. 577 pp. Oxford University Press. $34.95
Henry_Kissinger  Prussian  diplomacy  excerpts  statesmen  Germany  book_reviews  APNSA 
april 2011 by jerryking
The lessons of Richard Holbrooke | Chrystia Freeland | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters.com
Chrystia Freeland
» See all analysis and opinion
The lessons of Richard Holbrooke
Dec 17, 2010 09:24 EST
Richard_Holbrooke  obituaries  diplomacy  Chrystia_Freeland  statesmen 
march 2011 by jerryking
The Saturday Profile - Days of Reflection for the Man Who Defined Singapore - Biography - NYTimes.com
September 10, 2010 | New York Times | By SETH MYDANS. The
stress of his wife’s illness is constant, he said, harder on him than
stresses he faced for years in the political arena. But repeatedly, in
looking back over his life, he returns to his moment of greatest
anguish, the expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, when he wept
in public.

That trauma presented him with the challenge that has defined his life,
the creation and development of a stable and prosperous nation, always
on guard against conflict within its mixed population of Chinese, Malays
and Indians.

“We don’t have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors,” he
said three years ago in an interview with the International Herald
Tribune, “a homogeneous population, common language, common culture and
common destiny.”
Singapore  Lee_Kuan_Yew  leaders  aging  Southeast_Asia  city-states  statesmen 
september 2010 by jerryking
Where are the Kissingers for the 21st century?
Feb. 26. 2010 | The Globe & Mail | by Jeremi Suri. At
its core, leadership is about connections and calculated risk-taking.
Mr. Kissinger excelled at both. He was a big-picture thinker who drew
actively on the work of people with diverse areas of expertise. Mr.
Kissinger might not have done the original research, but he knew how to
identify and exploit valuable new knowledge. In the decades after the
Second World War, Mr. Kissinger guided policy-makers in their responses
to the challenges of postwar reconstruction, communist containment, the
nuclear arms race, limited warfare, Third World revolutions and détente.
Henry_Kissinger  career_paths  leadership  risk-taking  the_big_picture  Communicating_&_Connecting  humanities  realpolitik  21st._century  statesmen  diplomacy  strategic_thinking  grand_strategy  APNSA 
march 2010 by jerryking

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