Email this review


Eban obviously enjoyed himself during the Castle Lectures at Yale (collected here), as he ranged like a well-trained bull through a china shop of political correctness. Eban, for many years foreign minister of Israel and the author of many books (including Personal Witness, 1992), may not have much to say about the problems of the next century, but he has a sharp eye for the follies of the last, including summitry (""no situation is so bad that a badly conceived summit meeting cannot make it worse""); the UN (the ""myth of a powerful international organization,"" he notes, is the second ""most spectacular fallacy"" of the post-WW II era); the revisionist view that the Soviet threat during the Cold War was never a real one; Ostpolitik, which he thinks was a Soviet victory, equivalent to the recognition of its military victories; and the US's reluctance to accord diplomatic recognition to countries of which it disapproves (on which he quotes Churchill that ""the reason for having diplomatic relations is not to confer a compliment, but to secure a convenience""). He is also tough on Israel, and in particular on the ""draconian punishments inflicted on the entire populations of the West Bank and Gaza"" in retaliation for the 1996 Jerusalem bombing. In all, or at least most, of these views he reflects the attitudes of professional diplomats, a group ""dominated by a sense of limitation proceeding from a somber view of human nature"" and pursuing ""relatively modest goals,"" but even here he has some sharp observations on the ""extraordinary record of strategic surprise"" in the last 60 years, a pattern of failure which may proceed from their training, which tends to discount ""the original, unpredictable, innovative factors in international conduct."" As sharp, shrewd, and candid an assessment of at least the current state of international relations as we are likely to get.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0300078609
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.