Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Retired Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s second book, Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World, while mostly well researched and clearly argued, will not have the institutional significance of his first book Dereliction of Duty, written as a young Army major. If you heard little of Battlegrounds after its publication, that is to McMaster’s credit and our media’s continuing shame. General McMaster kept his honor clean, refusing to put himself out on the same corner Bill Kristol and John Bolton have been working. This is a work well worth your consideration. At the very least, take a look at the brief video summary of his central claim: American long-term failure in foreign policy comes from “strategic narcissism” and a lack of “strategic empathy.”*
“Strategic empathy” refers to the conscious effort to understand the viewpoint, the motivations, of others, rather than projecting assumptions and motives the observer prefers, for whatever reason. “Strategic empathy” is presented as the alternative to wishful thinking across administrations. McMaster is using “strategic empathy” as a term of art, limited to understanding/ taking the other’s position and claimed motivations seriously, not sympathizing. McMaster advances his vision for a more successful foreign policy through country case studies, most importantly addressing Russia, China, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea. In each case, he names names and cites failures across multiple administrations of both parties.
McMaster points to foreign policy scholars on the left and right arguing for a deterrence policy with a nuclear Iran. He says it is foolish to suggest that deterrence might work with a set of leaders and at least a significant population that deeply believes in the Shia emphasis on supernatural victory through their own blood. Iran’s religious-political leaders believe in “victory of blood over the sword.” This linked text points to official propaganda seriously asserting that America was defeated by killing the Iranian top terror master. His blood, being spilled, supernaturally created victory for the Iranian revolution. Take them seriously, rather than dismissing it as spin, and you see that under no condition can they possibly be allowed a nuclear weapon.