Hobbes Lite

Some writers, by dint of hard work, luck, mock outrageousness, and an acute instinct for the acceptable limits of dissent, are able to rise to the prized status of Tellers of Truth.  Unlike Orwell—who was a bona fide secular prophet and, therefore, ignored—they are rewarded in their lifetimes with brisk-selling books, access to important media outlets, lucrative lectures, and buzz—lots and lots of buzz.  Of this phenomenon, Robert Kaplan could stand as Exhibit A.  His new book, Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, is blurbed by three titans of industry and finance, two former secretaries of state, a former national security advisor, Newt Gingrich, and John Gray of the London School of Economics.  The monumental fuss is over a very short essay on foreign policy that makes precious few concrete recommendations.  Without the bibliography, endnotes, and the like, it amounts to an anemic 155 pages.  In fact—and this may explain the businessmen’s enthusiasm—the table of contents contains executive summaries of each of the chapters, allowing the gist of the book to be absorbed in just under two minutes.  My late grandfather, a union man, would have called that not bad work, if you can get it.

Still, the meager literary merits of Warrior Politics by no means render the book worthless.  Rather, its warm reception tells...

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