Characteristically, Stanley Hoffmann assesses the challenges facing American foreign policy with the touch of a master: broad brush strokes set on an enormous canvas, with impressive attention to nuance. The stance adopted is neither critical nor apologetic, but rather magisterial: the detached scholar sensitive to complexity and human frailty, approaching the torments of the world with compassion, but also with a measure of irony, given the way states behave, especially the sole surviving superpower, and thus not expecting much to be forthcoming by way of innovation or commitment. I find myself in general agreement with Hoffmann on specifics, but disappointed by his accommodating tone and by the absence of a more radical line of critique that might contribute to the building of a post-Marxist, post-cold war consensus on foreign policy among progressives in the United States.
On tone, I find the reliance on Kissinger’s banal insistence that the United States must find a...
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