I’m visiting home for a week. Here are some quotes I’ve been reading, mostly from this collection of essays from Foreign Affairs.
From a 1935 essay by H. G. Wells, “Civilization on Trail”:
I continually try to see whether there is not a way of dealing with the civilized man in Germany and getting past that extraordinarily ugly Nazi mark which he has to wear because the alternative to the wearing of it would have meant submission to some foreign influence as dishonoring and even more humiliating.
George F. Kennan in “The Sources of Soviet Conduct”, 1947:
It is an undeniable privilege of every man to prove himself right in the thesis that the world is his enemy; for if he reiterates it frequently enough and makes it the background of his conduct he is bound eventually to be right.
It’s funny…Kennan is talking about the Bolsheviks, but it reads like an attack on neoconservatives.
Edward Gibbon from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776:
From enthusiasm to imposture the step is perilous and slippery; the demon of Socrates affords a memorable instance how a wise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., 1978:
Little has done more harm to human affairs than illusions on the part of leaders and of nations of their infallibility. Reinhold Niebuhr has warned of “a deep layer of Messianic consciousness in the mind of America” and of “the depth of evil to which individuals and communities may sink particularly when they try to play the role of God in history.”
Kissinger in an interview with the Financial Times this past week:
It is imperative to realize that we cannot do in China in the 21st century what others thought to do in the 19th, prescribe their institutions for them and seek to organize Asia. The Chinese peole have undergone huge changes since 1971. The China of 2008 is totally different from the one I first visited. The Communist party is different and though we need not agree with every action taken by Chinese leaders, we cannot simply set ourselves up as their critics.