Tuesday, March 25, 2003

A Humble Triumph?

If a Wilsonian/Gladstonian/liberal interventionist/call-it-what-you-will foreign policy isn't to be a disaster, humilty and triumph must go together. Sounds difficult, and it is; but it has been done. David Remnick, in an excellent piece which I have only a few quibbles with (he lets the U.N. off without enough criticism, in my opinion), points to the historical example of Eisenhower, and expresses his hopes for the contemporary example of Blair. Here are a couple of excerpts, but read the whole thing:

"On June 12, 1945, a month after V-E Day, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower, received an ancient honor, the 'freedom' of the City of London. In his address that day, at Guildhall, General Eisenhower said:

"'Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in blood of his followers and sacrifices of his friends. Conceivably a commander may have been professionally superior. He may have given everything of his heart and mind to meet the spiritual and physical needs of his comrades. He may have written a chapter that will glow forever in the pages of military history. Still, even such a man—if he existed—would sadly face the fact that his honors cannot hide in his memories the crosses marking the resting places of the dead. They cannot soothe the anguish of the widow or the orphan whose husband or father will not return. The only attitude in which a commander may with satisfaction receive the tributes of his friends is in the humble acknowledgment that no matter how unworthy he may be, his position is the symbol of great human forces that have labored arduously and successfully for a righteous cause.'

"Last Tuesday, in the House of Commons, under tremendous pressure from the British public and his own party, Tony Blair set out the case for action against Saddam Hussein with infinitely more detail, intelligence, and clarity than anyone in the Bush Administration has seen fit to do. His thoughts, however, were not only on the resort to arms but also on the day after. This moment in history is no mere incident, he made clear; rather, 'it will determine the pattern of international politics for the next generation.' Blair, like Eisenhower, has all along grasped the gulf between triumph and triumphalism. The first combines humility with strength; the latter, if the White House indulges it, augurs isolation and disaster."