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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Tocqueville on Foreign Policy

The Lawrence/Mayer version of Tocqueville's Democracy in America offers some wisdom about current foreign policy issues:
Now, it is this clear perception of the future, based on judgment and experience, which must often be lacking in a democracy. The people feel more strongly than they reason; and if present ills are great, it is to be feared that they will forget the greater evils that perhaps await them in case of defeat (p. 223). 
The American fights against natural obstacles; the Russian is at grips with men. The former combats the wilderness and barbarism; the latter, civilization with all its arms. America’s conquests are made with the plowshare, Russia’s with the sword.  To attain their aims, the former relies on personal interest and gives free scope to the unguided strength and common sense of individuals. The latter in a sense concentrates the whole power of society in one man. One has freedom as the principal means of action; the other has servitude. Their point of departure is different and their paths diverse; nevertheless, each seems called by some secret desire of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world (p. 413, h/t JG)