TENSION BETWEEN OPPOSITES by Paul H. Nitze

TENSION BETWEEN OPPOSITES

Reflections on the Practice and Theory of Politics
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Reflective essays that, the author says, ``prick out a way of looking at political problems: ideas appropriate to the last decade of the century.'' Former top nuclear-arms negotiator Nitze (Diplomacy/Johns Hopkins; From Hiroshima to Glasnost, 1989) was assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the navy under JFK. Although Nitze's specialty is foreign policy, here he attempts to develop a comprehensive theory of both domestic and foreign politics, illumined by anecdotes drawn from classical and modern history, as well as from his vast diplomatic experience. ``It is by action,'' Nitze says, ``that theory can best be kept in touch with reality. The two are inseparable; theory and practice being complementary, they constitute harmonic aspects of one whole.'' Nitze argues that this ``tension between opposites'' can result in creative solutions to a wide variety of problems: ``the individual versus society, change versus continuing order, the East versus the West, power versus responsibility.'' The author contends that the key to resolving political problems is to consider the political structure and value system of the society in question, as well as the particular situation and viewpoints involved. He discusses each of these elements in turn--concentrating particularly on the possibility of developing an ethical framework that can distinguish among competing value systems in our period of multiple cultures and rapid change--and he explores them in the context of America's long rivalry with the Soviet Union. Nitze devotes much space to examining political virtue in the lives of modern American political craftsmen: Harry Truman, George Kennan, Dean Acheson, and George Shultz, et al. Finally, the author looks to the future, expressing confidence that his formula provides a starting point for handling the myriad problems faced by the next generation of American policy-makers. A thoughtful analysis by an old cold warrior of how to meet post-cold-war challenges.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-684-19628-X
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993