Sunday, September 16, 2012

QOTD: Political Science vs. Mythmaking, the Case of de Gaulle

. Sunday, September 16, 2012

One of the few persistent myths about de Gaulle that Hazareesingh leaves unexplored is how he managed to acquire his reputation as a grand strategist among today’s historians and policy-makers. “I believe that sooner or later the United States will have to develop some operational concept of the national interest. And when that happens, we will have to be, whether we like it or not, students of de Gaulle,” remarked Henry Kissinger in a breathless 1990 tribute. But any close inspection of de Gaulle’s policies reveals an implacably pragmatic politician who was as much constrained by domestic pressures as any leader of the period. De Gaulle never hesitated to delay his grand plans for Europe in order to satisfy more local concerns, as when he held the EEC hostage to the whims of French farmers. (De Gaulle threatened to leave the Common Market unless it included the massive subsidies he thought were necessary for the modernization of French agriculture.) That the political scientist Andrew Moravcsik was roundly dismissed by scholars across the spectrum for showing this more mundane side of de Gaulle is indicative of the reverence he still commands.
Source. This was a debate that I didn't know had existed. I'm on Moravcsik's side, of course, and am pleased to (therefore) find myself on the opposite side of Kissinger once again. Here is much much more, although note that the state of art in this debate seems to be captured by this earlier piece and this more recent one.


JR said...

Here's a 3rd, written in 2004:

LFC said...

Wow. Hadn't heard of Thomas Meaney before. That's what I get for not reading The Nation more faithfully. He can write. I don't know, though, whether on reflection I will end up agreeing w everything in this long DeGaulle piece.

Kindred Winecoff said...

JR, very interesting.

LFC, I know Meaney from The Utopian, one of the newish journals that I've found engaging (along w The Point). Meaney is an editor there.

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QOTD: Political Science vs. Mythmaking, the Case of de Gaulle
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