A Policy of Unlimited Objectives

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

Kissinger’s A World Restored, ostensibly about the end of the Napoleonic era, indirectly confronts the 1938 debacle at Munich, Robert Kaplan says, in which Chamberlain allowed Hitler to seize the Sudetenland. Here is what Kissinger wrote:

Those ages which in retrospect seem most peaceful were least in search of peace…. Whenever peace — conceived as the avoidance of war — has been the primary objective of a power or a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of the most ruthless member of the international community.

Kaplan continues:

Kissinger declared, “It is a mistake to assume that diplomacy can always settle international disputes if there is ‘good faith’ and ‘willingness to come to an agreement’”; in a revolutionary situation “each power will seem to its opponent to lack precisely these qualities.” In such circumstances many will see the early demands of a revolutionary power as “merely tactical” and will delude themselves that the revolutionary power would actually accept the status quo with a few modifications. Meanwhile, “Those who warn against the danger in time are considered alarmists.”

“‘Appeasement,’” Kissinger concluded, “is the result of an inability to come to grips with a policy of unlimited objectives.”

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