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A nation must think before it acts.
Robert Strausz-Hupé was a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, NATO, Belgium, Sweden, and Sri Lanka, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, and the founder of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and its journal Orbis.
Born in Vienna under the rule of the Hapsburg Empire, Strausz-Hupé saw first-hand the destruction caused by World War I. In 1917, a 16-year-old Strausz-Hupé was bicycling near Munich when he witnessed the fitful birth of global Communism. “A rifle barked, a machine gun sputtered, and then the frenetic clatter and stealthy silences of streetfighting opened to me the era of global civil war,” he later recalled of that first communist uprising.
In 1923, he came to the United States. Serving as an advisor on foreign investment to American financial institutions, he watched the Depression spread political misery across America and Europe. After Nazi troops entered his native Vienna in 1938, Strausz-Hupé began writing and lecturing to American audiences on “the coming war.” After one such lecture in Philadelphia, he was invited to give a talk at the University of Pennsylvania, an event which led to his taking a position on the faculty in 1940.
Strausz-Hupé founded the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1955 and two years later published the first issue of Orbis, the quarterly journal that remains to this day the Institute’s flagship publication. “To meet the threat and to seize opportunities,” he wrote in the first issue of Orbis in April 1957, “requires that the best trained and experienced minds be brought to bear on the key international issues on which the nation’s long-range future hinges.”
Strausz-Hupé authored or co-authored several important books on international affairs. His first major work, Geopolitics: The Struggle for Space and Power, published just as the United States entered World War II, became a bestseller in its genre. His later works included Protracted Conflict and The Balance of Tomorrow.
In 1969, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka. He subsequently served as ambassador to Belgium (1972-74), Sweden (1974-76), NATO (1976-77), and Turkey (1981-89). In 1989, upon retirement after eight years as Ambassador to Turkey, Strausz-Hupé rejoined the Foreign Policy Research Institute as Distinguished Diplomat-in-Residence and President Emeritus.
In a speech in 1998 on the occasion of Strausz-Hupé’s 95th birthday, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Walter McDougall said of Strausz-Hupé: “He wrote about power politics … but in prose that was always humane and at times sublime. He did not retire from a contemptible world but engages it still in hopes of liberating humanity from the geopolitics that make men treat each other like insects.”
In a short article for the Spring 2002 issue of Orbis he wrote of the current war on terrorism: “I have lived long enough to see good repeatedly win over evil, although at a much higher cost than need have been paid. This time we have already paid the price of victory. It remains for us to win it.” Just a few weeks later, Strausz-Hupé died at his home in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, on Sunday, February 24, 2002 of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Former Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr. said of Strausz-Hupé: “Ambassador Strausz-Hupé was a brilliant geo-strategic thinker and writer. He was a realist whose legacy lives on not only in his writings but in the Foreign Policy Research Institute, which he founded. He was a valued friend and counselor, a true patriot, and statesman.”
Related Article: Robert Strausz-Hupé: His Life and Times by Harvey Sicherman