George F. Kennan: An American Life By John Lewis Gaddis (Penguin, 784 pp., $39.95) I. George F. Keenan, who was born in 1904 and died in 2005, and served under presidents from Calvin Coolidge to John F. Kennedy, left as deep an imprint on American geopolitics as any intellectual of the twentieth century. But the exact nature of his achievement continues to elude full or even coherent description. One reason is that most of his very long life was spent in comparative obscurity.
Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.
Today the European Union finds itself with two new top leaders--Herman Van Rompuy, the EU’s first president, and Catherine Ashton, the new high representative of foreign policy. If the names are unfamiliar, you’re not alone.
Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy by Susan Neiman (Princeton University Press, 343 pp., $29.95) It is not a good thing for philosophy to find it everywhere. Most of experience, and even most of thought, is decidedly not philosophical--which is precisely what makes philosophizing so valuable. Yet Susan Neiman's book errs in just this way. It treats a phenomenon that is, unfortunately, ubiquitous; but it then falls into the trap of believing that serious reflection on this phenomenon is similarly ubiquitous. As a result, Neiman's interesting book winds up making philo
I Excuse me for noticing, but haven't we been commemorating Columbus's quincentennial in the wrong year? I know that dates and math aren't America's strong suit right now, but it doesn't take advanced calculus to figure that 1492 plus 500 equals 1992. What is it about Columbus that makes for botched commemoration? The Quatercentennial Columbian Exposition opened a year late, in 1893, delayed by the enormous scale of the show and by the protesting groups (yes, even then) who saw themselves more as victims than as beneficiaries of 1492.