To Make a People: Strategic Rhetoric and the Declaration of Independence

To get to July 4, 1776, required no small amount of strategic thinking, of prudent statesmanship, of expert melding together of situational awareness, rhetorical prowess, alliance-leveraging, and political maneuverings. Jefferson was acutely aware that among the American colonial politicians of his day, there was an “inequality of pace with which [they] moved” towards the end goal of political independence from Great Britain, and that therefore a great “prudence [was] required to keep front and rear together,” for them ever to hope to be successful in the undertaking. How Jefferson and the more zealous members of his set built up to the Declaration of Independence is arguably a masterclass in statecraft, with publication of Jefferson’s Summary View as their opening move.

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To Make a People: Strategic Rhetoric and the Declaration of Independence

To get to July 4, 1776, required no small amount of strategic thinking, of prudent statesmanship, of expert melding together of situational awareness, rhetorical prowess, alliance-leveraging, and political maneuverings. Jefferson was acutely aware that among the American colonial politicians of his day, there was an “inequality of pace with which [they] moved” towards the end goal of political independence from Great Britain, and that therefore a great “prudence [was] required to keep front and rear together,” for them ever to hope to be successful in the undertaking. How Jefferson and the more zealous members of his set built up to the Declaration of Independence is arguably a masterclass in statecraft, with publication of Jefferson’s Summary View as their opening move.

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The Fleet was Ready

When Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, he oversaw major revisions to the Admiralty’s basic strategic concept for European war, and in the suite of war plans associated with this concept. A shift in the probable enemy of a future war—to Germany from France, for instance—necessitated these changes and, hence, necessitated a change in the strategic naval front, from the South to the East Coast, and from the Channel to the North Sea.  

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The Fleet was Ready

When Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1911, he oversaw major revisions to the Admiralty’s basic strategic concept for European war, and in the suite of war plans associated with this concept. A shift in the probable enemy of a future war—to Germany from France, for instance—necessitated these changes and, hence, necessitated a change in the strategic naval front, from the South to the East Coast, and from the Channel to the North Sea.  

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Churchill and the World Crisis

Churchill believes that, in trying retrospectively to untangle the complex knot of causation, it is critical to appreciate one primary, dynamic element – the deeply engrained Franco-German antagonism, a polarity that forced other nations, out of fear, opportunism, or both, to choose sides.  Britain was the last and most reluctant great European power to do so, and even at the last moment it was not clear, to outsiders at least, whether her choice would hold. 

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Churchill and the World Crisis

Churchill believes that, in trying retrospectively to untangle the complex knot of causation, it is critical to appreciate one primary, dynamic element – the deeply engrained Franco-German antagonism, a polarity that forced other nations, out of fear, opportunism, or both, to choose sides.  Britain was the last and most reluctant great European power to do so, and even at the last moment it was not clear, to outsiders at least, whether her choice would hold. 

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Cicero on Justice, Empire, and the Exceptional Republic

Cicero played no significant commanding role in the civil wars that marked the end of the Roman Republic. Nor could he boast of a distinguished military or diplomatic carreer prior to that chaotic period. Cicero had risen from an obscure family to the height of consular power in Rome, through his forensic and rhetorical ability and by forging a link between Rome’s old aristocracy and the equestrian class. Cicero could claim neither conquest of Gaul, nor subjugation of a foreign enemy like Carthage as grounds for posterity considering him an authority on grand strategy. Despite this, we find in Cicero’s moral and philosophic works a powerful theoretical framework for understanding (and justifying) the strategy and policy of an imperial republic such as Rome. Within this framework are serious thoughts about the relationship between power, interest, and the values of a republican polity. Not only are these thoughts profound and worthy of consideration in their own right, but they proved deeply influential to later thinkers. Importantly, these ideas would ultimately inform the ideological self-image of the Roman Empire.

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Cicero on Justice, Empire, and the Exceptional Republic

Cicero played no significant commanding role in the civil wars that marked the end of the Roman Republic. Nor could he boast of a distinguished military or diplomatic carreer prior to that chaotic period. Cicero had risen from an obscure family to the height of consular power in Rome, through his forensic and rhetorical ability and by forging a link between Rome’s old aristocracy and the equestrian class. Cicero could claim neither conquest of Gaul, nor subjugation of a foreign enemy like Carthage as grounds for posterity considering him an authority on grand strategy. Despite this, we find in Cicero’s moral and philosophic works a powerful theoretical framework for understanding (and justifying) the strategy and policy of an imperial republic such as Rome. Within this framework are serious thoughts about the relationship between power, interest, and the values of a republican polity. Not only are these thoughts profound and worthy of consideration in their own right, but they proved deeply influential to later thinkers. Importantly, these ideas would ultimately inform the ideological self-image of the Roman Empire.

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Commentary on Books and Other Works Useful in the Study of International Relations

International relations is an arena where politics is exercised by nations and other entities to accomplish goals and secure interests. The study of politics in that arena is a study of history: what has happened, how it came to happen with its consequences and therefore a guide to what can happen. The twentieth century so recently passed, provides vivid illustrations and experience of the exercise of politics whose consequences were monumental and painful and sometimes so decisive as to seem irreversible, or nearly so. Yet the great clashes of will that characterized the twentieth century did not originate the day before the century began but years and centuries before. What happened yesterday, is happening now and is about to happen can be better understood through the study of history.

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Commentary on Books and Other Works Useful in the Study of International Relations

International relations is an arena where politics is exercised by nations and other entities to accomplish goals and secure interests. The study of politics in that arena is a study of history: what has happened, how it came to happen with its consequences and therefore a guide to what can happen. The twentieth century so recently passed, provides vivid illustrations and experience of the exercise of politics whose consequences were monumental and painful and sometimes so decisive as to seem irreversible, or nearly so. Yet the great clashes of will that characterized the twentieth century did not originate the day before the century began but years and centuries before. What happened yesterday, is happening now and is about to happen can be better understood through the study of history.

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Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War Memoir and Strategy

It might be said that Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir killed him. The Civil War General and former President of the United States had no intention of writing a memoir. In a life so full of personal and professional crises, one final personal crisis compelled

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Ulysses S. Grant’s Civil War Memoir and Strategy

It might be said that Ulysses S. Grant’s memoir killed him. The Civil War General and former President of the United States had no intention of writing a memoir. In a life so full of personal and professional crises, one final personal crisis compelled

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Learning International Relations from Harold W. Rood

Dr. Rood’s special interest, within the rubrics of history and military history, was the growth of empires. He had intimate knowledge of the wars of German unification, and the two world wars, and Berlin’s parts in them. The expansion of Russia, succeeded by the expansion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Warsaw Pact and its overseas alliances, absorbed him emotionally and intellectually. 

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Learning International Relations from Harold W. Rood

Dr. Rood’s special interest, within the rubrics of history and military history, was the growth of empires. He had intimate knowledge of the wars of German unification, and the two world wars, and Berlin’s parts in them. The expansion of Russia, succeeded by the expansion of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Warsaw Pact and its overseas alliances, absorbed him emotionally and intellectually. 

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Paul Rahe on Spartan Grand Strategy

The grand strategy the Spartans embraced had serious consequences for Lacedaemon’s posture in the international sphere as well. Their perch was precarious.  The Lacedaemonians understood from early on what history would eventually confirm: that it took but a single major defeat in warfare on land to endanger the city’s very survival. Even when their population was at its height, as it was in the late archaic period, there were never more than ten thousand Spartiates, if that; and the territory they ruled was comparatively vast. The underlings they exploited were numerous and apt to be rebellious. In Messenia, if not also in Laconia, the helots saw themselves as a people in bondage, and geography did not favor the haughty men who kept them in that condition.

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Paul Rahe on Spartan Grand Strategy

The grand strategy the Spartans embraced had serious consequences for Lacedaemon’s posture in the international sphere as well. Their perch was precarious.  The Lacedaemonians understood from early on what history would eventually confirm: that it took but a single major defeat in warfare on land to endanger the city’s very survival. Even when their population was at its height, as it was in the late archaic period, there were never more than ten thousand Spartiates, if that; and the territory they ruled was comparatively vast. The underlings they exploited were numerous and apt to be rebellious. In Messenia, if not also in Laconia, the helots saw themselves as a people in bondage, and geography did not favor the haughty men who kept them in that condition.

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Henry Kissinger, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822 (1957)

A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problem of Peace, 1812-1822, Kissinger's first book, was written in the early 1950s while Kissinger was a young doctoral student at Harvard. The book was initially not as famous or as influential as his later books. Its focus on diplomatic negotiations following the fall of Napoleon was seen by his peers as esoteric and out of tune with the times. In a world featuring nuclear weapons, why dissect the diplomatic wrangling of the 19th century? This view may have characterized the dissertation turned book at the time of its writing, but today Restored is widely regarded as essential reading for the student of strategy and diplomacy.

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Henry Kissinger, A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-1822 (1957)

A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problem of Peace, 1812-1822, Kissinger's first book, was written in the early 1950s while Kissinger was a young doctoral student at Harvard. The book was initially not as famous or as influential as his later books. Its focus on diplomatic negotiations following the fall of Napoleon was seen by his peers as esoteric and out of tune with the times. In a world featuring nuclear weapons, why dissect the diplomatic wrangling of the 19th century? This view may have characterized the dissertation turned book at the time of its writing, but today Restored is widely regarded as essential reading for the student of strategy and diplomacy.

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Bhagavad Gita (3rd Century BC- 3rd Century AD)

Great works of literature, including religious literature, often have a major influence on the strategic culture and outlook of civilizations and nations. The Bible and Homer are certainly prime exhibits.  Yet such literature does not always generate a single strand of thought about war and peace, but often competing strands, or ideas that metamorphose under different circumstances. In a New York Review of Books essay, Wendy Doniger asks: How did Indian tradition transform the Bhagavad Gita (the “Song of God”) into a bible for pacifism, when it began life, sometime between the third century BC and the third century CE, as an epic argument persuading a warrior to engage in a battle, indeed, a particularly brutal, lawless, internecine war?

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Bhagavad Gita (3rd Century BC- 3rd Century AD)

Great works of literature, including religious literature, often have a major influence on the strategic culture and outlook of civilizations and nations. The Bible and Homer are certainly prime exhibits.  Yet such literature does not always generate a single strand of thought about war and peace, but often competing strands, or ideas that metamorphose under different circumstances. In a New York Review of Books essay, Wendy Doniger asks: How did Indian tradition transform the Bhagavad Gita (the “Song of God”) into a bible for pacifism, when it began life, sometime between the third century BC and the third century CE, as an epic argument persuading a warrior to engage in a battle, indeed, a particularly brutal, lawless, internecine war?

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