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“The international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm” writes Charles Hill in this powerful work on the practice of international relations “It is where the greatest issues of the human condition are played out”A distinguished lifelong diplomat and educator Hill aims to revive the ancient tradition of statecraft as practiced by humane and broadly educated men and women Through lucid and compelling discussions of classic literary works from Homer to Rushdie Grand Strategies represents a merger of literature and international relations inspired by the conviction that “a grand strategist needs to be immersed in classic texts from Sun Tzu to Thucydides to George Kennan to gain real world experience through internships in the realms of statecraft and to bring this learning and experience to bear on contemporary issues”This fascinating and engaging introduction to the basic concepts of the international order not only defines what it is to build a civil society through diplomacy justice and lawful governance but also describes how these ideas emerge from and reflect human nature


10 thoughts on “Grand Strategies

  1. says:

    The restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft has been the aim of this book This is the last line of Professordiplomat Charles Hill's rich robust and deeply enlightening book covering the classic Greeks to modern times and the role literature can and should play in inspiring and building civil society and credible international order amongst nations and states The breadth of Hill's knowledge and ability to interweave so many of the classics of literature with history is extraordinary This is not an easy to book to read I must admit But I read it in chunks and really enjoyed it and learned an great deal of the true meaning of literature throughout history Moreover it gave me new insights into the development of strategy whether diplomatic military or even corporate Strategy to be sucessful should never be sterile The narrative the context of history in which we live and work they all are important to achieving success An amazing work of literature in and of itself Highly recommend it


  2. says:

    This will be a difficult book to review There are a number of reasons for this but let me mention just a few 1 Academically eloquent The language though beautiful and a pleasure to experience lacked clarity and precision Which is strange because generally eloquence is a function of clarity However in this case this wasn't my experience 2Readings of the books were ones that I had generally come across in the past but told through the lenses of statecraft and diplomacy For myself there was nothing new in these so this was on numerous occasions tedious to the point of redundancy 3 I was hoping for some explanation as to how these 'great books' could be applied to real word situations and though I got this occasionally often than not I did notleast did not feel I did 4 Although the claim of the last sentence of the book was The restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft has been the aim of this book location 5715I do not feel this was or ever would be accomplished As argued in the book the computerinternetweb has put an end to this type of leisurely and challenging activity People are too pressed for time and lack a solid grounding in the classics of world literature philosophy and political science The complaint appears to be intellectually reactionaryinstead of thinking how the new technologies might be exploited to offer this grounding or how they might offer new avenues of thought to counter the loss of the 'classical' canon This issue needs to be addressed instead of bemoaning the loss of time and traditional literacy literature philosophy political science 5 The idea of literature being 'unbounded' was great Of all the arts and sciences only literature is substantially and methodologically unbounded Loc 163 His attempt to make literature including philosophy relevant after the textual obscenities of post structuralism is very compellingand I am grateful for the effortthough it does not quite succeed 6 The author's observations sprinkled through the book about diplomats statesmenwomen and ambassadors such as To be effective ambassadors do not merely execute “but frame and direct by their own advice and counsel the will of their master” They need leeway to distill classify clarify and shape the essence of their mission Loc 317 19are very astute and help the reader to understand their real job Though these observations might have been effective brought together in a single chapter 7 The general structure of the work appeared chronological than logical In the case of this book a logical argument I believe would have been effective But this may simply be an aesthetic gripe Did I enjoy the book? Was this read enlightening? Not quite For this reason I have only given this book 4 stars Perhaps considering my analysis it only deserves three but my feeling is that four is much honest an appraisal for this reviewerI would recommend this book to those that have not read any surveys of literature or philosophy As a work on the demands of the diplomat I feel it is lacking in clarity and could not recommend it on that level Though deeply learned the trees sometimes get in the way of the forest and make the experience problematic than it should have been


  3. says:

    I very good book I highly recommend the lessons from literature as they relate to strategy including modern day strategy are laid out very nicely by Charles Hill The book will most definitely get you to thinking in ways you had not beforeFred


  4. says:

    Midway through his monumental flyover of Western Civilization Charles Hill informs his readers that the first principle of grand strategy is to understand what is happening in the world Action follows knowledge Yet knowledge as opposed to information is difficult to attain “Those who are living through great historical events can rarely even glimpse the significance of what is going on all around them” Taken out of context it’s a rather anodyne pronouncement but halfway through Grand Strategies the reader will already well understand how the greatest works of literary art throw open the floodgates allowing knowledge to pour forthCharles Hill’s Grand Strategies is a text about texts seventy nine of them to be exact From Homer’s Iliad to Calasso’s The Ruins of Kasch Hill reveals himself as a first rate reader able to distill the lessons of history from the heights of literature Yet his expertise is not from reading alone Though his resume includes time at Brown Penn Harvard and now Yale he’s not a lifelong academic Instead he made a career out of exactly that about which he writes—as a practitioner of diplomacy a close observer of statecraft and a sentry of world orderSome of the most interesting observations contained within Grand Strategies therefore come not from other texts but instead from Hill’s own experiences He observes the vaunted cold warrior Paul Nitze reading Shakespeare late into the night on long transatlantic flights and listens to the laments of Abba Eban the legendary Israeli statesmen as the two sipped orange juice overlooking the Mediterranean while Hill was posted to Israel as a junior State Department officer Even aside from the personal reminiscences it’s clear that Hill’s experiences inform his understanding of what he readsHe is particularly strong with the ancients After a close reading of Homer’s Iliad specifically The Embassy to Achilles Hill recognizes that Odysseus has violated two fundamental precepts of diplomacy he has failed to follow the instructions of his principal the Greek King Agamemnon and he has failed to report back an accurate accounting of his meeting with the wayward Greek warrior Achilles Yet Hill counsels his readers not to be fooled for this is diplomacy He understands through personal experience that Ambassadors must be able to in the words of Montaigne which Hill perfectly employs “frame and direct by their own advice and counsel the will of their master”It’s in the discussion of another ancient text the Orestia that the reader will glean not only the origins of civilization but perhaps also the underpinnings of Hill’s conservative minded outlook on the world The Orestia documents a series of interfamilial killings all prompted by the curse of an earlier generation After sacrificing his daughter so the Greek fleet can sail to Troy Agamemnon upon returning victoriously from Troy is murdered in revenge by his wife Queen Clymnestra In turn she is murdered by her son Orestes After a dramatic trial Orestes is acquitted a decision in which the goddess Athena elevates the sanctity of the contract the marriage in this case above kinship ties transfers power from the family to the state and ultimately signals that justice as administered by the state will be the only legitimate form of violence Thus argues Hill buttressing Locke “the death penalty is the foundation stone of civilization”With civilization comes the state but not until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 would it become the basic unit of governance and over the subsequent three centuries render empire obsolete Hill’s articulation of how the Thirty Years War shaped the modern world order is impressive in scope and detail Further it elucidates just how profound an impact that literature from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels to Schiller’s The Wallenstein Trilogy shapes our contemporary understanding of the governance of states Sources of Modern World Order than any other chapter in Grand Strategies generously unpacks historical events in an orderly way an especially useful exercise for many who will be unfamiliar with the period and its seminal importance to Western CivilizationThroughout Grand Strategies Hill counts himself a staunch defender of the state and therefore the status quo Though as he notes defending an institution of governance that includes among its ranks Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union can be a thankless task While the state itself continues to be the subject of contemporary rhetorical attacks from both the right and the left it’s revolutionary ideology in action that keeps Hill awake at night His take on the Paris Commune of 1871 is deeply pessimistic a notable departure from the way it is often depicted romantically in literature He also notes that the German philosopher Nietzsche the French poet Rimbaud and the Russian author Dostoevsky were all on hand their understanding of the world shaped by that monumental moment of European historyThe bottom line Hill concludes is that “the state and the Westphalian international system of which it is the basic entity remain the only working mechanism for world order” This rather unimaginative outlook were it not the conclusion of such an erudite assemblage of text analysis and experience would be understandably frustrating In certain instances such as Hill’s sympathetic analysis of Israel’s appearance on the international stage one can sense ideological creep encroaching upon the less impassioned tone that characterizes much of the book Even his selection of Spark’s The Mandelbaum Gate seems inserted as the basis for a charged discussion of history rather than because the text itself belongs among the classics of statecraftAnother such instance is plainly visible in Hill’s discounting of the New Left and its criticism of the American War in Vietnam done not through a text in this case but instead via the personage of Lee Kuan Yew the founder of modern Singapore at a 1970 dinner with Harvard faculty Hill present at the dinner and having just served a tour at the American Embassy in Saigon would have been well versed in the potential negative implications of a communist victory in South Vietnam a sentiment that Prime Minister Lee also trying to prevent a communist takeover of his nascent state shared When the Prime Minister vociferously defended the American war as buying time for other Southeastern Asian states to consolidate their independence Hill appears to accept the statement uncriticallyYet just as the reader will begin to question if Grand Strategies has reached the limit of dispassioned analysis Hill turns to the East demonstrating a familiarity with a selection of both ancient and modern Chinese texts His section on China and its continuing evolution from empire deserving of tribute to insecure state within the world system is another high point of the book As opposed to the Thirty Years War period where contemporaneous literature would later shape our modern understandings modern Chinese texts appear to be profoundly out of sync with the direction of the modern Chinese state Contemporary Chinese works of literary merit harken back to ancient texts both Chinese and Western a phenomena that would seem to explain the contemporary Chinese fascination with the American political philosopher Leo StraussIn fact though his readings are essentially conservative Hill’s conservatism is aesthetically Straussian in nature borne with an eye to the classic texts of Greek civilization Because of that the reader will be disappointed to find no mention of Strauss’s analysis of Plato or the other ancients including the Hebrews one can only imagine with delight the exchange of ideas on statecraft between two such learned scholars of the state as Strauss and Hill Despite his essentially conservative bent Hill’s scholarship is so neatly ordered his logic chains so artfully constructed that even the most partisan of readers will be captivated by the analysis behind Grand StrategiesAt the same time this book is a goldmine for someone both a bibliophile and a student of international affairs The most thrilling of Hill’s personal reminiscences contained within Grand Strategies took place on a cold January night in 1986 Hill then serving as a Senior Aide to Secretary of State George Shultz accompanied his boss to a meeting of the PEN Society the literary world’s foremost promoter of free expression held at the New York Public Library Shultz maligned as a member of the Reagan administration was roundly condemned by much of the gathered audience even by the likes of Grace Paley and Norman Mailer Yet his speech and the rousing defense of the freedom of expression that he made stand as a model for the good state Hill understandably proud to be among the representatives of a state that protects the freedom of the writer to create even works antithetical to the state itself and ensconced within “the only civilization in history whose major artists and intellects have radically questioned or rejected its core values” has strongly made through this immensely learned contribution to the scholarship of statecraft the same case his boss made than a quarter century earlier © Jeffrey L Otto September 8 2013


  5. says:

    I'm always on the look out for new books to read but what I really need is time Suggestions from friends mentors reviewers blogs and references in other books send me off on an endless cycle hear about a book find it on or the library purchase or check out said book bring it home put it on my bed stand with great anticipation read ten pages to a reference of another book andrepeat The result is a two stack five books per stack pile up next to my bed that has resulted in a reading bottle neck And believe me you it's a bottleneck that affords me enjoyable hours than I've ever passed in trafficThat's all really just a long way of saying that in reading Charles Hill's Grand Strategies Literature Statecraft and World Order I constantly found myself adding new books to some real or imagined book list that I may or may not ever get a chance to read Every chapter of Grand Strategies was full of new books that sounded interesting and fascinating Some like Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Salmon Rushdie's Satanic Verses or Thucydides's The Peloponnesian War I had read and could quickly relate Others Xenophon's The Persian Expedition or Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time were new at least to me Worse especially for my book list Hill manages to craft his dialogue about each in such a way as to bestow meaning and insight beyond a cursory reading of the text For example though I've often heard it referenced and cited as powerful piece of poetry never had I seen John Milton's Paradise Lost as a commentary on war and the modern polity And yet perhaps it isBut far beyond the politics of the day 'Paradise Lost' is Milton's comprehensive commentary on modern warfare revolution founding a polity on strategy leadership intelligence individual choice under conditions of modern statecraft and on the justification of God's ways to men Suddenly the war in heaven through Milton's eyes becomes a proxy for competing views of the world worked out during the Oliver Cromwell English Civil WarIn Hill's eye fiction is than just a story In literature we see the great ideas and forces that move history worked out argued and recorded The international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm he argues It is where the greatest issues of the human condition are played out Nothing may come closer to a thesis for his opus He continuesA sacral nature must infuse world order if it is to be legitimate that order is not to be identified with a particular social system but to legitimate the system must hint at the underlying divinely founded order The modern Westphalian system was conceived when such was the case but with the Enlightenment's addition of secularism science reason and democracy the system increasingly spurned then forgot its legitimizing sources of authority Revolutionary ideology radicalized secularism science and reason into the task of erasing original sin o perfecting humanity all requiring terror to create the New Man Modern efforts to create a sovereignty potent enough to fill the void produced the statist monstrosities of Stalin and Hitler America became an empire but never gained the understanding to go with it China is now on its own misguided courseThought provoking insightful and of course full of literature to read when you finish it including a bibliography of primary and secondary sources that will keep you busy for several years and reread Hill's Grand Strategies is a worthy addition to your bed stand stack Just make sure you put it on top


  6. says:

    A fascinating and engrossing book that makes you regret not having read systematically when you were younger Makes you want to read Virgil Milton and Proust all at the same time Melding together the great texts of Western literature into a tour d'horizon of global diplomacy this book is one of those classics you wish someone had given to you for your 21st birthday


  7. says:

    Splendid exploration of the junction between writing statecraft and strategy and how being a good reader can help you gain the imagination needed to navigate the uncertainties of diplomacy


  8. says:

    Brilliantly erudite A spectacular achievement of literary scholarship and statesmanship


  9. says:

    I've been reading this book by scholar and diplomat Charles Hill for a year and taking notes on it which I've lost I've also been stopping along the way and reading or re reading some of literature cited for illustrative purposes in his discussion of statecraft and world order eg Dante Thucycides Shakespeare Grimmelshausen Gunther Grass Dickens Life of Bismarck Kafka Dostoevsky even George MacDonald Fraser So I have been slowly reading it as a reference or springboard to the reading of other writingsI agree with the review Through lucid and compelling discussions of classic literary works from Homer to Rushdie Grand Strategies represents a merger of literature and international relations inspired by the conviction that “a grand strategist needs to be immersed in classic texts from Sun Tzu to Thucydides to George Kennan to gain real world experience through internships in the realms of statecraft and to bring this learning and experience to bear on contemporary issues” This fascinating and engaging introduction to the concepts of international order not only defines what it is to build a civil society through diplomacy justice and lawful governance but also describes how these ideas emerge from human conflict and reflect human nature


  10. says:

    I could probably put this book on a half dozen different Goodreads bookshelves Statecraft particularly in international relations is viewed through the lens of great literature Until I read Grand Strategies it had never occurred to me how much about statecraft international relations politics political philosophy even warcraft could be learned from reading great literature beyond Shakespeare's historical plays If I ruled the world I'd require every national executive ie President Prime Minister Chancellor and every national foreign policy leader ie Secretary of State Foreign Minister to read Grand Strategies then pass an oral and written examination on it before being allowed to touch the wheel of the ship of state It's that good