Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos
“The side that knows when to fight and when not will take the victory. There are roadways not to be traveled, armies not to be attacked, walled cities not to be assaulted.” —Sun-Tzu
We live in dangerous times, when a new kind of leadership is required. Visionary and ruthlessly strategic, Warrior Politics extracts the best of the wisdom of the ages for modern leaders who are faced with the complex life-and-death challenges of today’s world—and determined to win.
Sun-Tzu urges leaders to “plan and calculate like a hungry man.” Machiavelli defines a policy not by its excellence but by its outcome. Churchill derives his greatness from his imagination of history. Livy shows that the vigor to face down adversaries must ultimately come from pride in our own past achievements. “Never mind if they call your caution timidity, your wisdom sloth, your generosity weakness,” he writes. “It is better that a wise enemy should fear you than that foolish friends should praise.” “Men often oppose a thing merely because they have no agency in planning it,” Alexander Hamilton says, “or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.”
Replete with maxims, warnings, examples from history, and shrewd recommendations, Warrior Politics wrests from the past the lessons we need to arm ourselves for the present. It offers an invaluable template for any decision-maker—in foreign policy or in business—faced with high stakes and inadequate knowledge of a mine-filled terrain. As we gear ourselves up for a new kind of war, no book is more prescient, more shrewd, or more essential.
Years of reporting from combat zones in Bosnia, Uganda, the Sudan, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea have convinced Kaplan (Balkan Ghosts, The Coming Anarchy) that Thucydides and Sun-Tzu are still right on the money when they wrote that war is not an aberration and that civilization can repress barbarism but cannot eradicate it. Reminding readers that "The greater the disregard of history, the greater the delusions regarding the future," Kaplan conducts a brisk tour through the works of Machiavelli, Malthus and Hobbes, among others, to support his advocacy of foreign policy based on the morality of results rather than good intentions. From those classics, he extracts historical models and rationales for exploiting military might, stealth, cunning and what he dubs "anxious foresight" (which some may regard as pessimism based on disasters past) in order to lead, fight and bring adversaries to their knees should they challenge the prevailing balance of power. He also adapts this model to business, exploring the ways modern-day CEOs can benefit from history's lessons. Kaplan's discussion of the world's breeding grounds for rogue warriors out to disrupt daily life in bizarre new ways will strike a chord with most readers, as will his recounting of the brilliant statesmanship of Churchill and Roosevelt during World War II. Some readers, however, may take exception to the potshots Kaplan aims at (unnamed) media personalities and human rights advocates. This is a provocative, smart and polemical work that will stimulate lively discussion.