I listen to a lot of podcasts, but many are forgettable, and even the good ones can be hard to share, since they get their point across slowly and gradually. But on the latest Conversations with Tyler, I found foreign policy thinker Walter Russell Mead to be eminently quotable. Some highlights:
Kennan’s goal for Germany was to have a united, neutral, disarmed Germany at the heart of Europe. In some ways, [laughs] Kennan’s goal looks, maybe, closer than ever.
China’s development plan, much more than its Taiwan policy or its human rights, is a gun pointed at the head of German business
Over the last 40 years, there’s been an enormous increase in the number of PhD grads engaged in the formation of American foreign policy. There’s also been an extraordinary decline in the effectiveness of American foreign policy. We really ought to take that to heart.
The American academy is actually a terrible place for coming to understand how world politics works.
One of the teachers at Groton used to take aside some of the boys — it was an all-boys school at the time — and explain to them how their family fortune was made. He might say, “Well, George, we’ve been reading a lot about war profiteers in World War I. You need to know that your grandfather . . .”
I think neoconservatism reflected a sense of people who’ve never been wrong and never been beaten, at least in their own minds
On the Middle East:
In the Arab world, the Middle East, Islamism, and jihad — just call it jihadi ideology more broadly — is seen to have failed. Like socialism, like Arab nationalism, it’s one more in a long list of failed ideological movements. Not that there still aren’t terrorists, or for that matter, Arab socialists, but it’s not the same.
Nobody really thought, in 2008, as George W. Bush left office, that you could possibly mess up the Middle East worse than the Bush administration. But President Obama proved that that was wrong and that you could actually take the Middle East at the end of 2008 and make it almost infinitely worse, both for American interests and for the safety and happiness of the people in the region
The message, actually the totality of the message that we sent to Putin [through the intelligence we released] is, “You are going to win if you do this”.
I read Mead’s book Special Providence in college and enjoyed it then, but have’t kept up with his work since. The book’s title comes from another great quote, this time attributed to Otto von Bismarck:
God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America.