Not a Superior Morality

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Castlereagh’s England and Metternich’s Austria held opposing positions on the Greek struggle for independence, because England could afford to be idealistic and Austria could not:

Castlereagh’s open-mindedness, Kissinger wrote, reflected not “a superior morality” but rather “the consciousness of safety conferred by an insular position.” Because Castlereagh’s England was surrounded by seas, it did not have to consider the implications of the breakup of Turkish rule in the Balkans — implications that a Continental power like Metternich’s Austria had no choice but to consider.

Without America’s insular position, guarded by two oceans and reinforced by plentiful natural resources, idealism might never have taken root here. Realism is in part the ability to see the truth behind moral pretensions. Our insular position also explains our failure to see war for what it is: an extension of politics.

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