TNSR_Vol_3_Issue_1_April_2020

The Foundation 6 product of power and national interest, and cannot be understood solely through an ethical lens, the choices of an individual, or the qualities of a par- ticular regime. Poland disappeared because of the brutal realities of great-power politics shaped by international anarchy. Whatever its merits, however, this kind of analy- sis can come at a cost. A singular focus on the bal- ance of military power, with an emphasis on sys- temic forces that drives toward an almost law-like equilibrium, often underplays the role of choices and individual statecraft and grand strategy. As Pe- ter Campbell and Richard Jordan remind us in their article in this issue, Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pol- lack argued in their seminal article, “Let Us Now Praise Great Men: Bringing the Statesman Back In,” that “political scientists most frequently have argued that they must set aside both fortuna and virtú, and instead focus only on impersonal forces as the causes of international events. … many po- litical scientists contend that individuals ultimately do not matter, or at least they count for little in the major events that shape international politics.” By- man and Pollack begin their article with the story of Frederick the Great’s Prussia, which nearly met a contemporaneous fate similar to that of Poland. It was saved only by the unexpected death of Cza- rina Elizabeth, who hated Prussia, and the (brief ) rise of Czar Peter III, who worshipped Frederick. Chance, character, regime dynamics, and grand strategic leadership provided Frederick with the reprieve he needed to save Prussia’s place in the world, changing forever the trajectory of Prussian, German, European, and, ultimately, world history. “Had it not been for the idiosyncrasies of one man and one woman, European history would look very, very different.” 4 Looking back, it is strange that this excellent ar- ticle, which generated a lot of attention when pub- lished in 2001, even needed to be written. What pol- icymaker or historian thinks one can understand world politics without assessing Napoleon, Hitler, or Mao? Imagine switching the vice presidents and presidents of the United States in 1954 and 1965: A President Richard Nixon in 1954 would have been more likely to use American military power in Southeast Asia than Dwight Eisenhower, just as a President Hubert Humphrey may have worked much harder to avoid Lyndon Johnson’s military escalation in Vietnam a decade later. Franklin D. Roosevelt was almost unable to replace Henry Wal- lace with Harry Truman as his vice president dur- ing the 1944 Democratic Party convention. Had he 4   Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack, “Let Us Now Praise Great Men: Bringing the Statesman Back In,” International Security 25, no. 4 (Spring 2001): 107, https://www.jstor.org/stable/3092135. failed, the world after 1945 would have been a much different place. While there has been a welcome renaissance of scholarship analyzing the role of individual lead- ers in international relations — I am thinking here of the recent work by Michael Horowitz, Elizabeth Saunders, and Keren Yarhi-Milo — there is much more to be done. The whole concept of grand strategy only makes sense if choices are available and actually matter. And choices can only be evaluated by comparing them to alternatives, or to choices not made. This is what James Steinberg does in his penetrating es- say, “What Went Wrong? U.S.-China Relations from Tiananmen to Trump.” While some scholars find counterfactuals controversial, we lack better meth- ods for evaluating the plausible ex ante options pol- icymakers had in the face of an unknowable future. Looking at the poor state of contemporary U.S.-Chi- nese relations, Steinberg explores the alternatives during three critical junctures: U.S. policy after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the debate over China’s entry into the World Trade Organiza- tion, and the Obama administration’s response to the Scarborough Shoal dispute. People may argue both with how he characterizes and evaluates the choices that were made and with whether different ones would have led to better or worse outcomes for the United States. However, it is hard to disagree with Steinberg’s claim that these decisions, taken without knowing the future, were difficult and con- sequential, and that any assessment of them must grapple with the roads not taken. What traits make for the kind of person who makes these choices well? In other words, what makes for a good grand strategist? The answer is not always obvious. Campbell and Jordan suggest that an excellent place to look is in the characters and narratives of great literature. As their analysis of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus demonstrates, good battlefield tacticians and strategists may be terri- ble at the larger, more complex task of statecraft. The qualities that make for a great military lead- er — fearlessness, iron will, indomitability — don’t easily translate into political success, where humil- ity, adaptability, and subtlety are often required. Read the article to discover the surprise character whose adaptability and cunning reveals the most impressive, if ultimately tragic, grand strategist in the play. Campbell and Jordan make a compelling case that immersing ourselves in great books, es- pecially Shakespeare, is ideal training for under- standing the tradeoffs and complexity that come

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