Ram Madhav
May 4, 2020

The Lessons of Tragedy – Statecraft and World Order

Author - Hal Brands and Charles Edel

Interesting book passionately arguing for the US to reacquire ‘tragic sensibility’, meaning, it should be ready to lead the struggles for maintaining a peaceful, liberal and democratic international order irrespective of the costs involved.

In his inaugural address John F Kennady made a commitment that his generation of Americans, “tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, would pay a price, bear any burden”, in the service of a liberal world order.

But today, President Trump thinks otherwise. Where illiberal states and non-state actors alike are hankering after expanding their influence over ever greater land mass and peoples, the US, on the other hand, wishes to reduce its footprint and by consequence the influence over the larger world.

There was a time after the collapse of the Soviet regime when American scholars like Francis Fukuyama enthusiastically predicted the ‘end of history’, and end of conflict and perpetuance of peace and liberal order in the world. But then new conflicts arose, in the Middle East and in North Korea, reminding us of inevitability of continued conflict for saving peaceful international order.

This book advocates that the US cannot afford to lower its guard in collective amnesia of the history and the contemporary, and it should continue to have ‘tragic sensibility’ – lessons that tragedies in history teach us.

Interestingly the book begins with Greek history wherein tragedy had played a central role in public entertainment through plays, always reminding people of the value of struggles, sacrifices and even death in order to secure a peaceful world order.

Heavy reading, but certainly educative especially for Indian foreign policy enthusiasts.

Published by Ram Madhav

Member, Board of Governors, India Foundation

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