Stanley Hoffmann (1928-2015) was the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor at Harvard. His most recent books are Chaos and Violence: What Globalization, Failed States, and Terrorism Mean for US Foreign Policy and Rousseau and Freedom, coedited with Christie McDonald.


A Cure for a Sick Country?

Thomas Friedman speaking at the Swiss Economic Forum, Thun, Switzerland, May 14, 2009
The subtitle of this important and eminently readable book, by a prolific journalist and a distinguished political scientist, is “How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back.” Their criticism of the current condition of the United States is trenchant, but incomplete. In the …

The Foreign Policy the US Needs

America is now being widely criticized as a new empire. Already toward the end of World War II De Gaulle wrote about FDR’s will to power, a will that soon took the form of an American-controlled network of unequal alliances, military bases abroad, and economic dominance. The harshest criticisms …

Out of Iraq

The war in Iraq has become a costly trap from which the United States should extricate itself soon. With the election only a few weeks away, the Republican administration insists on “staying the course,” on denouncing all the different insurgents as desperadoes, and on reassuring the public that things are …

America Goes Backward

Less than two and a half years after it came to power, the Bush administration, elected by fewer than half of the voters, has an impressive but depressing record. It has, in self-defense, declared one war—the war on terrorism—that has no end in sight. It has started, and won, two …

On the War

As soon as the shock of the terror attacks on New York and Washington was felt, commentators began saying that September 11, 2001, marked the beginning of a new era in world affairs. It is a misleading interpretation of a horrible event. What was new was the demonstration that a …

What Is to Be Done?

It is depressingly familiar: as in the case of America’s China policy after 1945, as in Vietnam, ambitious but fuzzy aims are being sought by inadequate means. If the purpose of NATO’s bombing of Serbia has been to deter the Serbs from inflicting more harm on the Kosovar Albanians, the …

Look Back in Anger

The repudiation of Jacques Chirac’s right-wing government by a majority of French voters only two years after he was elected president was not just the result of a fateful miscalculation on his part. It expressed a mood of national dissatisfaction and self-doubt comparable to the mood that hung over France …

Dreams of a Just World

John Rawls is the only prominent contemporary philosopher I know of who is trying to construct a theory of international affairs. Moral and political philosophy, on the whole, has had little to say about the subject. Rousseau and Kant wrote that we would never be truly free beings as long …

The New France?

Between the elections to the European Parliament in June 1994 and the election of Jacques Chirac to the Presidency of the Fifth Republic on May 7, 1995, the French appeared to be living both in memory and in a mood of evasion. The painful end of François Mitterrand’s second presidential …

France: Keeping the Demons at Bay

Few nations have been so successful at advertising their troubles, at turning their difficulties into dramas and fears into phobias, as the French. In a country where much has changed over the past half-century, the habit of loud self-examination survives intact. The French have turned the post–World War II years …

Goodbye to a United Europe?

When the leaders of the twelve members of the European Community signed the Treaty on Monetary and Political Union in Maastricht in December 1991, the project of a United Europe, which began in 1950 under the inspiration of Jean Monnet, seemed to be making spectacular progress. A single currency, a …

An Appeal

To our Governments and to the Secretary-General of the United Nations The world must take action to bring the war in former Yugoslavia to an end. Two and a half million people have been driven from their homes in a program of “ethnic cleansing.” Thousands of civilians have been massacred.

Bush Abroad

The economic preoccupations of American voters have led all the presidential candidates to concentrate on domestic issues, and even less has been said about foreign affairs than during the election four years ago. However, Bush remains widely seen as having an advantage over Clinton when it comes to foreign policy.

France Self-Destructs

Writers on France are used to stressing French distinctiveness. Indeed, the two features that the French and American political traditions have been alleged to share are a belief in each country’s being an “exception,” and the claim that each is a blend of races and peoples, a melting pot. What …

Delusions of World Order

How states create and maintain order in a world of sovereign powers has been the fundamental and so far insoluble problem of international relations. During the cold war, the super-powers, driven by the fear of nuclear war, devised, by trial and error, a network of rules and restraints aimed at …

The Price of War

Thanks to the end of the cold war, the society of states finds itself in the condition that had been mistakenly expected by the drafters of the United Nations Charter. For forty-five years, the paralysis of the Security Council prevented the Charter provisions on collective security from being carried out.

A Plan for The New Europe

Only seven months ago, at an international gathering of scientists, a distinguished West German editor gave a rosy speech describing Europe as he wished it to be in the year 2000—a Europe with relaxed and manifold contacts between its two halves. Someone pointed out to him that he had failed …

The Perfect In-and-Outer

Paul Nitze’s life should be an interesting subject. To the extent that there is an “establishment” in America and a “national security community” in Washington, Paul Nitze has long been prominent in both. A former vice-president of the Dillon, Read investment firm on Wall Street, he has had much to …

Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?

McGeorge Bundy has written an exceptionally important book. When, in 1969, he left the presidency of the Ford Foundation in order to teach history at New York University, he decided to combine his lifelong academic interest in the study of American foreign policy and his experience both on the edges …

The Election and the Future: A Symposium

C. Vann Woodward It was President Reagan himself who suggested that the recent presidential election might be regarded as a referendum on his own presidency. There is much to support his view. “I feel a little like I’m on the ballot myself,” he said, and he campaigned that way. The …

The Big Muddle in France

Between April 24 and June 12, the French voted four times—twice, on April 24 and May 8, for the election of the president of the republic, twice, on June 5 and 12, for a new National Assembly. The results confounded all advance predictions, and interpreting them has become an industry: …

Neither Hope nor Glory

Many film directors have used memories from their past in films that were nevertheless mainly works of fiction: Bergman in Fanny and Alexander, Chaplin in several of his masterpieces. In Au revoir les enfants, however, Louis Malle has made a movie out of one experience he hasn’t been able either …

Coming Down from the Summit

The third summit meeting between President Reagan and Secretary General Gorbachev was very different from the two previous ones.[^1] In Geneva in 1985, nothing concrete was achieved; Reykjavík ended in failure after an unexpected trip to utopia. The Washington meeting was much more carefully prepared for. The treaty eliminating intermediate …

The ‘War for Washington’

The Israeli connection remains one of the mysteries of the Iran-contra affair. The Tower Commission report mentioned the importance of Israeli initiatives aimed at pushing the American government, by means of arms sales, toward a better relationship with Iran. The report said that David Kimche, the director-general of Israel’s Foreign …

The Great Pretender

The Tower Commission report deals rather gently with the President’s performance in the Iran-contra affair.[^1] It does not speculate about what he knew concerning the supply of weapons to the contras during the period when Congress had cut off military assistance—even though the appendixes suggest he realized that efforts were …

Reagan’s Underworld

The most telling parts of the Tower Commission’s report are not to be found in the report itself—which leaves many questions open—but in the appendixes. These quote abundantly from interviews held by the special review board, from documents written by the White House staff, and from the messages Colonel Oliver …