Guiding quotations

Here are some of our guiding quotations…

[*] “For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread… But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty… All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort.” - Robert F. Kennedy, 1966

[*] “My conviction that we owe those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice our best efforts to apply lessons of wars past to avoid unnecessary wars sending future generations to premature graves… The long peace the world has enjoyed since World War II is history’s exception – not the rule.” - Graham Allison

[*] “A comment I’ll never forget from Colin Powell. There was a question of whether or not we should declare war [with Afghanistan]. Whether or not we should give the Taliban an opportunity – 72 hours – to turn over Al-Qaeda. And there were those who said ‘No, we should just attack’. Colin Powell said: ‘Decent countries don’t do that.’ And he did use Pearl Harbor as an example of an ‘indecent attack’ – because it was not a declaration of war from Imperial Japan.” - Condoleezza Rice on Colin Powell

[*] “It is worth remembering that some of Washington’s greatest foreign policy achievements – the Marshall Plan, the Bretton Woods system, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, and the peaceful reunification of Germany – were diplomatic victories, not battlefield ones.” - Stephen Walt

[*] There can be a place for intervention:

“Unfortunately, this is the way countries learn from history: patchily. So scarred is the nation by what has come to be perceived as failure in Iraq (and, before that, in Vietnam) that successful interventions have been forgotten. No one now recalls that it was the US that ended the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Bosnia and Kosovo, for example, and brought Slobodan Milosevic to justice. No one today discusses the invasion of Panama in 1989, which terminated the reign of a criminal despot who had much in common with Maduro, General Manuel Noriega.” - Niall Ferguson

We are not pacifists.

[*] “Holbrooke was sent to the Balkans to try to negotiate a peace. Here, you really see him at his best. He’s in full gear. He brings all this energy and force, but also: persuasive power. People exaggerate the ‘bullying’ side of him – which is there, when he needed it. But he had it under control with Milosevic. It was also his patience and persistence, and his ability to read these Balkan leaders and know what they wanted. And know their weak spots. He finally, with the help of NATO bombs, got them all to Dayton – which was his idea. And it was kind of a genius idea to go to Dayton. It was not obvious, and everyone in the administration was against it… After three weeks, Holbrooke, and others, forced a very dissatisfying but real peace on that war… Name me an American diplomatic achievement since, say, Camp David, that exceeds it.” - George Packer on Richard Holbrooke brokering the Dayton Accords (1995), ending the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina

[*] “You and he were adversaries, but you were allied in a determination that the world should not be blown up.” - Jacqueline Kennedy writing to Khrushchev

[*] “In the final analysis, we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal… [while] not being blind to our differences, let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.” - JFK, 1963

[*] “We could only solve our problems by cooperating with other countries. It would have been paradoxical not to cooperate. And therefore we needed to put an end to the Iron Curtain, to change the nature of international relations, to rid them of ideological confrontation, and particularly to end the arms race.” - Mikhail Gorbachev

[*] “In 1972, when Nixon and Kissinger opened relations with China, the differences between the United States and China over Taiwan were certainly irreconcilable. But statesmen demonstrated that irreconcilable did not mean unmanageable. They created a framework of strategic ambiguity that has provided five decades in which citizens on both sides of the straits have seen greater increases in their incomes, health, and well-being than in any equivalent period in their long histories.” - Graham Allison

[*] “Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” - J. K. Galbraith, letter to JFK, 1962

[*] “Diplomacy is listening to what the other guy needs. Preserving your own position but listening to the other guy. You have to develop relationships with other people so when the tough times come, you can work together.” - Colin Powell

[*] “Americans are often tempted to believe that the world revolves around us, our problems and our analysis… As I learned the hard way, other people and other societies have their own realities, which are not always hospitable to ours. That does not mean that we have to accept or indulge those perspectives, but understanding them is the starting point for sensible diplomacy.” - William Burns, 2019

[*] “Long an outspoken critic of US cultural ignorance of Asia, especially of Japan, which he felt was of central importance to the West, [Edwin] Reischauer produced scholarly works and conducted educational seminars that were directed at improving US cultural understanding of Japan. This failure to understand Asian affairs, he contended, led directly to US political failures in the area.” - Encyclopedia Britannica

[*] “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” - George Shultz

[*] “…he [George Marshall] summoned George Kennan, the diplomat whose telegrams from Moscow he had read over the prior year. Marshall wanted Kennan to head up a new State Department strategy outfit, the Policy Planning Staff, and make European assistance its first task. When Kennan received the charge and requested instructions, Marshall offered just one: ‘avoid trivia’.” - Dan Kurtz-Phelan, The China Mission

[*] “People bought into a narrative that I think is actually a false narrative: the narrative of ‘endless war’. Afghanistan was an example of ‘forward deployment’. We are forward-deployed today in Germany and Japan because we believe that’s the best way for Germany and Japan to be protected. We are forward-deployed in Korea – in a war that actually never ended. The Korean War is an armistice. It was a stalemate. But we’re deployed there because we don’t believe that the 500,000-man, highly sophisticated South Korean army is enough to deter a radical regime to its north. And so we have 28,500 troops deployed to Korea, and have for 70 years. So this narrative that we had to ‘end the war and get out’ I think was a false narrative. And it coloured the way that people thought about the potential for a few thousand American forces staying in Afghanistan… Not understanding that what you were doing is forward-deploying so that they didn’t fight here. If you go to Afghanistan – because the 9/11 attacks came out of Afghanistan – and you say ‘We’re just going to fight this war and get out’, the failed state that you leave behind, that’s actually where terrorism breeds. I don’t think this was at all Vietnam. I think this could have been Korea. Korea was a stalemate, that we then remained in to keep the place stable and to keep the North Koreans from attacking the South. That’s how we should have thought about Afghanistan. Many people may have thought of it as the Vietnam analogy. I would have said it was the wrong analogy, and it got us what we got. The analogy should have been Korea.” - A persuasive argument from Condoleezza Rice

We are not anti-use of military, but anti-avoidable conflict.

[*] “Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realise that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseen and uncontrollable events.” - Churchill

[*] “So others may live.” - Creed of many rescue teams

[*] “War is too important to be left to the generals.” - Georges Clémenceau

[*] “This job of international leadership is not the kind of assignment one ever finishes. Old dangers rarely go away completely, and new ones appear as regularly as dawn. Dealing with them effectively has never been a matter of just money and might. Countries and people must join forces, and that doesn’t happen naturally. Though the United States has made many mistakes in its eventful history, it has retained the ability to mobilize others because of its commitment to lead in the direction most want to go – toward liberty, justice, and peace.” - Madeleine Albright

[*] “I don’t think America has permanent allies, and I don’t think America has permanent enemies. You think about who our strong allies are today, be it in Germany, or in Japan. Go back 80 years and my grandparents were being slaughtered by the Germans. Anything could change, and you have to have that hope.” - Jared Kushner

[*] “I am not entitled to have an opinion on this subject unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who are supporting it. Only when I’ve reached that state am I qualified to speak.” - Charlie Munger’s iron prescription

[*] “We all have to make our compromises with the devil and have our dealings with him.” - George Kennan


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