JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 6

Jay and Pinckney admitted to John Quincy they thought the proposed treaty was “far from being satisfactory,” even with improvements they still had in mind to propose. All that said, they told John Quincy they believed it was still preferable to war. Jay asked John Quincy for his opinion. John Quincy said he “suggested such ideas as occurred to me upon the subject. My observations were made with the diffidence which naturally arose from my situation; and were treated with all the attention, that I could expect or desire.”

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Kissinger and China

Ten years after publication of Kissinger's On China, the reader is invited to assess Kissinger’s judgment in light of such events as the unwinding of the global financial crisis and increased Chinese assertiveness, the shift in American foreign policy towards a great power competition framework, and Covid-19. His book appeared shortly before Graham Allison’s influential and controversial work on the Thucydides trap. I extrapolated from his argument at the time — perhaps inaccurately, but worthy of consideration — that Kissinger concluded the rise of China towards its historic position as the Middle Kingdom, if accommodated properly to a globalized world, is more or less inevitable and, rightly understood, desirable.

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The Maritime Classics and the New Eurasian Age

In another recent book and article, Geoffrey Gresh has addressed what he characterizes as the real competition that has emerged in recent years across maritime Eurasia between the continent’s main rivals—China, Russia, and India—as they vie to achieve great power status and to expand beyond their regional seas. He argues that the rising competition will dominate and shape the upcoming century as each power increases its geoeconomic, geopolitical, and naval embrace of maritime Eurasia from the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean Seas to the Indian Ocean, Pacific Asia, and the Arctic. In his introduction, he reviews the relevance of Mahan and Corbett to this discussion. But in Gresh's view, what Mahan and geographer Nicholas Spykman never imagined was the melting of the Arctic, the subsequent growing unification of maritime Eurasia’s disparate regions, and the emerging competition between Eurasia’s land powers at sea. That said, Gresh contends that the study of Mahan does have its utility in this context. None of the three Eurasian land powers he examined have achieved global maritime dominance similar to that of the United States today or Great Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, but the work of Mahan in his opus The Influence of Seapower upon History, 1660–1783 helps contextualize those characteristics that assist a great power in achieving global preeminence on the high seas.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 5

The passage to England was fast but precarious “considering the flimsy, crazy conditions of the old ship, her uncommon dullness of sailing, and the mistakes of our Captain.” On September 24, there was an extremely violent squall in the night and the Alfred was nearly run down by another ship. John Quincy was convinced that another heavy gale would have sent the ship straight to the bottom. He vowed never to sail on such an “eggshell” again.

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Mahan, Choke Points, and the Panama Canal

The recent blockage of the Suez Canal by the container ship Ever Given is a reminder of the importance of maritime choke points as they concern international commerce and national security. Choke points are primarily the effect of natural geography, which is one of the critical dimensions of strategy. In some cases, however, human agency, especially technology, can affect the strategic importance of natural geographic features and relationships. The shift from sail to steam, then from coal to oil-fired ships. From roads to railways. From horses to internal combustion engines. From the ground to the skies — aircraft to ballistic missiles, to drones, and hypersonic vehicles. Another human agency is the construction of canals in a way that significantly alters the geopolitical terrain.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 4

John Quincy Adams made last minute preparations to sail, and said goodbye to family and friends. “I once more wish you a prosperous Voyage and honourable Conduct and a happy Life,” John Adams wrote to his sons. “Remember your Characters as Men of Business as well as Men of Virtue, and always depend on the Affection and Friendship of your Father.” Abigail, for her part, undoubtedly warned her sons, especially the easily smitten Thomas, to avoid the charms of Dutch girls. She made it clear that she did not want either of them to drag a European wife back to America.

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Clausewitz’s Library

Ensconced within CSD's resource bank of Reading Lists we have an entry highlighting Clausewitz’s personal library, as recorded in his wife Marie's will. It may not be inclusive; and of course, he would have had access to the professional library at the Prussian Kriegsakademie. Military publications naturally constitute a significant number among the volumes, including Vauban’s treatises on fortifications and sieges; Johan von Ewald’s book on light infantry tactics; Henry Lloyd’s history of the Seven Years’ War; Montecucili’s memoirs; a study of Maurice de Saxe; Lazare Carnot’s textbook for engineers; George de Chambray’s account of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign in 1812; several of Georg Wilhelm von Valentini’s military works; Phillippe Henri de Grimoard’s treatise on general staff; and the field manual written by his mentor, Gerhard von Scharnhorst.

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Military Education and Mentorship: Fox Conner and Dwight Eisenhower

Mentoring future officers in the higher realms of strategy is a topic of much discussion within the military community, especially in terms of the applicability of the Classics, and literature more generally. A recently published collection of essays, Pershing's Lieutenants, catalogues important figures who served under General John J. Pershing in World War I, ranging from Marshall, Patton, and MacArthur to Captain Harry Truman. My initial impression is that the essay authors don’t always demonstrate the way in which the experience of the individuals in World War I affected their particular approach to and during World War II — which would have been of the most interest; however, this judgment is admittedly not based on a full read of the book. One of the figures featured in the volume drew my especial interest — General Fox Conner—because of his well-known role in mentoring younger officers, Dwight Eisenhower in particular.

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 3

John Quincy took a break from the necessary round of visits and dinners to write John Adams about his research into his father’s diplomatic dispatches during the Revolutionary War, particularly those of his time in France. John Quincy had been present as well but his impressions were those of a child; he could now consider them as an adult

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JQA, Chronicles of an American Diplomat: Dispatch 2

John Quincy’s introduction to Washington’s diplomacy came when the president invited him to a reception for a delegation of Chickasaw Indians. This was John Quincy’s first experience with the uneasy relations between the federal government and the various tribes along America’s frontier.

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