From Hedge­hogs to Foxes and Back

Global Asia - - BOOK REVIEWS - Re­viewed by John Nils­son-wright.

In a world ever more threat­ened by the re­vival of na­tional ri­valry and great-power con­flict, a fresh anal­y­sis of the na­ture of strate­gic think­ing seems timely. John Gad­dis, Amer­ica’s pre-em­i­nent Cold

War his­to­rian, de­parts from his tra­di­tional fo­cus on con­tem­po­rary his­tory to of­fer a wide-rang­ing anal­y­sis of leadership and strate­gic think­ing from

5th cen­tury BCE Greece to the present.

In­spired by Ox­ford in­tel­lec­tual his­to­rian Isa­iah Ber­lin, Gad­dis uses the sim­pli­fy­ing dis­tinc­tion be­tween lead­ers as “hedge­hogs” (mo­ti­vated by a sin­gle, cen­tral vi­sion) and “foxes” (em­brac­ing mul­ti­ple and of­ten con­tra­dic­tory ends) to present a view of strat­egy that en­com­passes both gen­eral prin­ci­ples and the pe­cu­liar­i­ties of per­son­al­ity, chance and unique con­di­tions. Con­trast­ing the strate­gic strengths and weak­nesses of a di­verse group of his­tor­i­cal fig­ures (mil­i­tary com­man­ders, po­lit­i­cal philoso­phers, monar­chs, politi­cians and pres­i­dents), Gad­dis takes the reader on a fas­ci­nat­ing bi­o­graph­i­cal ex­cur­sion en­com­pass­ing, in part, Xerxes, Per­i­cles, Sun Tzu, Au­gus­tus, Au­gus­tine, Machi­avelli, Eliz­a­beth I, Philip II of Spain, the Found­ing Fathers of the US, Abra­ham Lin­coln and Franklin Roo­sevelt.

Imag­i­na­tively in­cor­po­rat­ing von Clause­witz and Tol­stoy, Gad­dis high­lights the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween artists and strate­gic thinkers: The im­por­tance of orig­i­nal­ity and in­ge­nu­ity, the value of ex­pe­ri­ence in adapt­ing to both reg­u­lar­i­ties and unique­ness in com­plex sit­u­a­tions, and the abil­ity to tol­er­ate in­con­sis­ten­cies while ap­ply­ing com­mon sense in the face of dif­fer­ences of scale, space, and time.

On Grand Strat­egy By John Lewis Gad­dis Pen­guin Press, 2018, 384 pages, $20.80 (Hard­cover)

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