Thursday, May 29, 2014

RealClearWorld - Cardinal Richelieu's Unconventional Morality

Richelieu lacked universalist ideals, it is true. And thus he can be smugly denounced from the vantage point of the 21st century West, which has the luxury to focus on such ideals. But Richelieu, like most leaders, should be judged by the values and contingencies of his own time and not by ours. And the highest values of his time were about creating a political structure to replace the anarchy that had led to the Thirty Years' War. Writing of Friedrich Schiller's interpretation of Habsburg commander Albrecht von Wallenstein, Hill notes that "grand ideals" can be served by "immoral acts of statecraft." To wit, it may be provocative to listen to the vulgar language of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger on White House tapes, but the two men, in my opinion, should be judged by the truth of their geopolitical conceptions and their determined ability to carry them out.


As I read this I thought, he sounds like he talking about Kissinger, and sure enough, he is! I don't think this is really about the 17th century. I don't know what Cardinal R was like, beyond my mental picture of Charleton Heston in scarlet. But I doubt he was much like Kissinger either. Also, I am just so tired of these reason of state arguments. I pompously intone, And yet, when one considers the global econo-socio-politico-dialectical implications of his blah blah blah . . . No, no, no. Probably Cardinal R thought he was doing the right thing from where he stood, but many thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people died for his pet theory. He just didn't care about the little people, and neither evidently does Robert Kaplan.

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