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A nation must think before it acts.
As summer descends upon Philadelphia, all of us at FPRI look forward to a season of relaxation, reading, and reflection. This month’s American Review hopes to inspire all three by offering contributions to ongoing intellectual discussion within the West—on the intersection of art and history, on contemporary international politics, and on the academic discipline of International Relations.
To start with a dispute at the crossroads of politics and the arts, Stephen Knott of the Naval War College offers his contribution to the suddenly current discussion of Alexander Hamilton’s historical reputation. Readers of the Review will remember that Hamilton’s historical reputation was a topic in our April issue, inspired by the runaway success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-Winning musical. The positive impression of Hamilton offered by that show has—inevitably, it seems—inspired a backlash from scholars who prefer the older narrative, where Hamilton is the nefarious agent of a nascent American plutocracy whose march to establish a monarchy was only stopped by the Party of Virtue led by Thomas Jefferson. Two Cornell professors offered a restatement of that position in a recent New York Times op-ed. Professor Knott, co-author of a book on the partnership between Washington and Hamilton, offers a response based on his own research. This debate has been raging ever since the Republic was founded, and is unlikely to be settled to everyone’s satisfaction any time soon. Nevertheless, the discussion is useful as it encourages those on both sides (and those who have never felt terribly strongly one way or the other) to reflect upon our national origins, what the positions of the Founders can tell us about how the United States became what it is today, and how their debates can help inform discussions about our common national future. As ever, our goal at the Review is less to resolve these disputes than to provide a forum for ongoing debate; further responses are welcome.
The second essay this month wades into a very hot current political debate. Your Humble Editor has been busy of late participating in the conversations about the future of British membership in the European Union. In advance of the referendum scheduled for 23 June, I participated in an online debate on the subject with an advocate of British withdrawal (“Brexit”), and also traveled to the University of Stirling, Scotland, for a panel discussion. That latter event, organized by friend of FPRI Andrew Glencross (who is a Lecturer in International Politics at Stirling) took place on 8 June as part of Dr. Glencross’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled “Remain or Leave?” Other participants in the panel included David Coburn, a Member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and Ms. Vonnie Sandlan, a Scottish student leader and Member of the Advisory Board of Scotland Stronger in Europe. A full audio of the event is planned for release in the future, but this issue of the Review includes an essay version of my opening remarks to a very lively and informative evening. The question of Brexit crosses many traditional ideological and political lines, and the larger issue of Europe’s future is likely to stay with us no matter what British voters decide on 23 June.
Finally, one of FPRI’s most prolific scholars, Jeremy Black, offers reflections on one of FPRI’s central concepts, Geopolitics. Building on his own recent book on the subject, Geopolitical and the Quest for Dominance (Indiana University Press, 2015), Professor Black considers the history and contested meanings of the term, and its usefulness for both scholarly and political discourse. Geopolitics builds on geography, which has a strong basis in concrete reality, but Black reminds us that such realities can look different to observers at different removes from the events in question. Awareness of the interplay between subjectivity and objectivity is important if we are to live up to FPRI’s injunction to understand “the realities of the mentalities of the localities.”
All of us at The American Review wish you a relaxing summer to come. We’ll be back next month, and, as ever, hope you will contact us with your thoughts on what we have done, failed to do, or should plan to do in the future.