Its been a while. Apologies to readers.
I’ve been busy lazing around in the Australian sun, and now returning to a much delayed project: a book on US Defence Intellectuals from Pearl Harbor to Iraq.
Unlike many works, its not a study of the core ‘insiders’, such as Kennan, Kissinger or Brzezinski. Its a study of figures more on the ‘edge’ of government, with a more complex relationship with the foreign policy establishment, and how they reacted to national security crises or dilemmas: starting with Walter Lippmann, it moves through Hans Morgenthau, Bernard Brodie, Edward Luttwak and finishing with Andrew Bacevich.
These figures are rich subjects in themselves, and they are powerful points of entry into a deeper study of the history of US self-criticism and pessimism. The book explores the ideology of pessimism in the realm of strategy, or the belief that America was peculiarly averse to statecraft. It does this through the ‘optic’ of prophecy, a subject much more studied in the fields of American literature, religion and politics, to examine how public intellectuals judged America, and the strengths and weaknesses of their visions.
The main argument is that these were Jeremiah figures – not cold technicians or detached ‘realists’, but prophets moved by a passionate ideology of their own that reworked European genealogies of skepticism about the American project. These are the figures we turn to repeatedly in crisis, so I thought a study of how their dissent and criticism ‘works’ and how they believed the republic could be re-educated in statecraft would be a nice little contribution to the growing literature on American strategic minds.
Like most work I’ve done, I’m not fully sure of why this subject ‘matters’ in terms of concrete problem-solving or the greater good, but I’m sure it has implications beyond writing purely fun intellectual history. We’ll see.