Stanley Hoffmann

Stanley Hoffmann is the Paul and Catherine Buttenwieser University
Professor at Harvard University.

Recent Articles

The High and the Mighty

E very nation sees itself as being in some way exceptional. Only the United States, though, has tried to develop foreign policies that reflect its exceptionalism. While other countries are content -- or obliged -- to practice a balance-of-power politics in the world, from the beginning most American leaders have argued that the United States, by dint of its unique geography and the superiority -- indeed, the universality -- of its democratic values, can and should pursue a loftier policy. This sense of special mission has always left ample room for contradiction. It never, for instance, stopped the United States from pursuing national advantage just as fiercely as any other country did. And it drove American policy in two different directions at once. One, which became less tenable as the United States' might grew, was toward isolationism. The other, more crusading impulse was toward making the world safe for democracy, which entailed working in concert with other nations, though not...

America Alone in the World

T he horrors of September 11 confronted the United States with an extraordinary challenge and an extraordinary opportunity. The challenge was to increase our "homeland security" by measures that might have averted disaster, had they been implemented before the attacks, and that would minimize the risk of similar assaults in the future. The opportunity was to build on the sympathy and shock of other nations in order to construct a broad coalition against the sort of terrorism the United States had suffered. Alas, it cannot be said that the year was well used. As the great Oxford and Yale historian of war Sir Michael Howard predicted, the notion of a "war" on terrorism proved a pernicious one. The very word "war" suggests military measures and, of course, victory -- rather than the difficult, slow and partly clandestine operations that fighting terrorism entails. So, too, does war allow for suspending or violating citizens' liberties, holding foreigners without due process and resorting...

Why Don't They Like Us?

I t wasn't its innocence that the United States lost on September 11, 2001. It was its naïveté. Americans have tended to believe that in the eyes of others the United States has lived up to the boastful clichés propagated during the Cold War (especially under Ronald Reagan) and during the Clinton administration. We were seen, we thought, as the champions of freedom against fascism and communism, as the advocates of decolonization, economic development, and social progress, as the technical innovators whose mastery of technology, science, and advanced education was going to unify the world. Some officials and academics explained that U.S. hegemony was the best thing for a troubled world and unlike past hegemonies would last--not only because there were no challengers strong enough to steal the crown but, above all, because we were benign rulers who threatened no one. But we have avoided looking at the hegemon's clay feet, at what might neutralize our vaunted soft power and undermine...

Yesterday's Realism

Of course America needs a foreign policy! The title of Henry Kissinger's new book suggests that it hasn't had one recently--a thesis supported by his many criticisms of President Bill Clinton's diplomacy as well as by the statement, early in the book, that "in the face of perhaps the most profound and widespread upheavals the world has ever seen," the United States has "failed to develop concepts relevant to the emerging realities." The problem with Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, however, is that the foreign policy Kissinger proposes is flawed. It is so deeply rooted in the past of world politics and in his own conservative conception of Realpolitik that it is only partly relevant to the realities of today. Kissinger has no peers as a geopolitical thinker. His skill in getting to the heart of issues is particularly evident in his chapter on the Middle East. Describing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he writes that negotiations have to deal with both "the stuff of diplomacy"--...