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By Reinhold Niebuhr

“[Niebuhr] is one in every of my favourite philosophers. I remove [from his works] the compelling concept that there’s critical evil on the earth, and worry and ache. And we should always be humble and modest in our trust we will get rid of these issues. yet we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and state of no activity. I remove . . . the feel we need to make those efforts realizing they're hard.”—President Barack Obama
 
Forged in the course of the tumultuous yet successful postwar years whilst the USA got here of age as an international energy, The Irony of yank History is extra suitable now than ever earlier than. pointed out via politicians as various as Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Niebuhr’s masterpiece at the incongruity among own beliefs and political fact is either an indictment of yankee ethical complacency and a caution opposed to the boldness of advantage. Impassioned, eloquent, and deeply perceptive, Niebuhr’s knowledge will reason readers to reconsider their assumptions approximately correct and flawed, battle and peace.
 “The splendid American theologian of the 20th century.”—Arthur Schlesinger Jr., New York Times
“Niebuhr is critical for the left at the present time accurately simply because he warned approximately America’s tendency—including the left’s tendency—to do undesirable issues within the identify of idealism. His concept deals a stronger figuring out of the place the Bush management went incorrect in Iraq.”—Kevin Mattson, The stable Society
 
Irony presents the grasp key to knowing the myths and delusions that underpin American statecraft. . . . crucial booklet ever written on US overseas policy.”—Andrew J. Bacevich, from the Introduction

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We have been, after all, no longer resistant to the temptation of believing that the common validity of what we held in belief justified our use of strength to set up it. therefore within the debate at the annexation of Oregon, during which the imperial impulse of a younger state expressed itself, a Congressman may perhaps thunder: "If ours is to be the house of the oppressed, we needs to expand our territory in range and longitude to the call for of the thousands that are to stick with us; as sixty nine THE grasp OF future good for our personal posterity as should you are invited to our peaceable shorelines to partake in our republican associations. " typically, despite the fact that, the legitimization of energy was once now not the aim of our Messianic realization. We felt that through instance and through unexplained forces in heritage our dream may turn into the regnant fact of historical past. we've famous in one other connection that during either the Calvinist and the Jeffersonian inspiration of our nationwide future the emphasis lay first and foremost upon windfall instead of human energy. Jefferson had proposed for the seal of the U.S. an image of "the little ones of Israel, led through a cloud by way of day and a pillar of fireplace via evening. " Washington declared in his first inaugural that "the protection of the sacred fireplace of liberty and the future of the republican version of presidency are justly thought of, possibly as deeply, as eventually staked at the test intrusted to the arms of the yank humans. " most vital was once the reassurance that we have been performing as surrogates, as trustees for mankind. As Dr. Priestley placed it in 1802: "It is very unlikely to not be good that we're performing for aU mankind. " this idea of the US because the darling of divine windfall didn't after all exclude the assumption of pleasurable its future by means of activities which might assist in the common recognition of the democratic excellent of society. The Puritans, as we've seen, progressively shifted from their emphasis upon a divine choose to the state, to an emphasis upon the advantage which the state had bought through divine prefer. Even a truly early Puritan used to be definite that "God had sifted an entire state that he may perhaps ship selection 70 THE grasp OF future grain into the barren region" (William Stoughton, 1668). President Johnson in his message to Congress in 1868 expressed the preferred kind of our Messianic dream. "The conviction is quickly gaining flooring within the American mind," he declared, "that with elevated amenities for inter-communication among all parts of the earth the foundations of unfastened govt as embraced in our structure ... may turn out adequate power and breadth to appreciate inside of their sphere and impression the civilized international locations of the realm. " other than in moments of aberration we don't give some thought to ourselves because the strength masters, yet as tutors of mankind in its pilgrimage to perfection. Such Messianic goals, notwithstanding thankfully now not corrupted through the lust of strength, are in fact now not freed from the ethical satisfaction which creates a risk to their consciousness. "God has no longer been getting ready the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples," declared Senator Beveridge of Indiana, "for one thousand years for not anything yet useless and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration.

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