Quotations about   foreign affairs

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They know of no solutions to the paradoxes of the Middle East and Europe, the Far East and Africa except the landing of Marines. Being baffled, and also being very tired of being baffled, they have come to believe that there is no way out — except war — which would remove all the bewildering paradoxes of their tedious and now misguided attempts to construct peace. In place of these paradoxes they prefer the bright, clear problems of war — as they used to be. For they still believe that “winning” means something, although they never tell us what.

C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) American sociologist, academic, author [Charles Wright Mills]
The Causes of World War Three (1958)
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Added on 22-Feb-21 | Last updated 22-Feb-21
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For arms are of little value in the field unless there is wise counsel at home.

[Parvi enim sunt foris arma, nisi est consilium domi.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Officiis [On Duties; On Moral Duty; The Offices], Book 1, ch. 22 / sec. 76 (44 BC) [tr. Miller (1913)]
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Original Latin. Peabody comments, "A verse, quoted probably from some lost comedy, the measure being one employed by the comic poets." None of the other translators call this out or show the text as separate except Peabody. Alternative translations:

  • "For armies can signify but little abroad, unless there be counsel and wise management at home." [tr. Cockman (1699)]
  • "Armies abroad avail little, unless there be wisdom at home." [tr. McCartney (1798)]
  • "An army abroad is but of small service unless there be a wise administration at home." [tr. Edmonds (1865)]
  • "Valor abroad is naught, unless at home be wisdom." [tr. Peabody (1883)]
Added on 15-Feb-21 | Last updated 15-Feb-21
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The dread of being duped by other nations — the notion that foreign heads are more able, though at the same time foreign hearts are less honest than our own, has always been one of our prevailing weaknesses.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) English jurist and philosopher
Principles of International Law, Essay 4 “A Plan for Universal and Perpetual Peace” (1796-89)
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Added on 8-Feb-21 | Last updated 8-Feb-21
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Better perish than hate and fear, and twice rather perish than make oneself hated and feared — this must someday become the highest maxim for every single commonwealth.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
The Wanderer and His Shadow (1880)
Added on 3-Nov-15 | Last updated 3-Nov-15
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Physicists and astronomers see their own implications in the world being round, but to me it means that only one-third of the world is asleep at any given time and the other two-thirds is up to something.

Dean Rusk (1909-1994) American politician and diplomat
Speech, American Bar Assoc., Atlanta (22 Oct 1964)
Added on 20-Oct-15 | Last updated 20-Oct-15
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He failed to realized that the public is bored by foreign affairs until a crisis arises; and that then it is guided by feelings rather than thoughts.

Harold Nicolson (1886-1968) English diplomat, author, diarist, politician
The Evolution of Diplomacy, 4.3 (1954)
Added on 13-Oct-15 | Last updated 13-Oct-15
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We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow.

Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) British statesman, Prime Minister (1855-58, 1859-65) [Lord Palmerston]
Speech, House of Commons (1 Mar 1848)
Added on 6-Oct-15 | Last updated 6-Oct-15
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There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Farewell Address (17 Sep 1796) [with A. Hamilton]
Added on 29-Sep-15 | Last updated 29-Sep-15
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International relations are governed by interests, and not by moral principles.

B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) English soldier, military historian (Basil Henry Liddell Hart)
“The Illusion of Treaties,” Why Don’t We Learn from History? (1944)
Added on 25-Aug-15 | Last updated 25-Aug-15
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There is — in world affairs — a steady course to be followed between an assertion of strength that is truculent and a confession of helplessness that is cowardly.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
State of the Union Address (2 Feb 1953)
Added on 7-May-15 | Last updated 7-May-15
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We must show by our behavior that we believe in equality and justice and that our religion teaches faith and love and charity to our fellow men. Here is where each of us has a job to do that must be done at home, because we can lose the battle on the soil of the United States just as surely as we can lose it in any one of the countries of the world.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
India and the Awakening East (1953)
Added on 25-Mar-15 | Last updated 6-Jun-15
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The question [is] asked, “Is it common for a nation to obtain a redress of wrongs by war?” The answer to this question you will of course draw from history. In the meantime, reason will answer it on grounds of probability, that where the wrong has been done by a weaker nation, the stronger one has generally been able to enforce redress; but where by a stronger nation, redress by war has been neither obtained nor expected by the weaker. On the contrary, the loss has been increased by the expenses of the war in blood and treasure. Yet it may have obtained another object equally securing itself from future wrong. It may have retaliated on the aggressor losses of blood and treasure far beyond the value to him of the wrong he had committed, and thus have made the advantage of that too dear a purchase to leave him in a disposition to renew the wrong in future. In this way the loss by the war may have secured the weaker nation from loss by future wrong.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Noah Worcester (1816) [ME 14:415]
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 17-Mar-15
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But to those who expect us to calculate whether a compliance with unjust demands will not cost us less than a war we must leave as a question of calculation for them also whether to retire from unjust demands will not cost them less than a war. We can do to each other very sensible injuries by war, but mutual advantages of peace make that the best interest of both.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
State of the Union Message (8 Nov 1804) [ME 3:369]
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Added on 10-Mar-15 | Last updated 10-Mar-15
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Saints can be pure but statesmen must be responsible. As trustees for others, they must defend interests and compromise principles. In politics, practical and prudential judgment must have priority over moral verdicts.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
“The Necessary Amorality of Foreign Affairs,” Harper’s (Aug 1971)
Added on 16-Jul-14 | Last updated 16-Jul-14
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So let us begin anew — remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961)
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Added on 12-Sep-07 | Last updated 27-May-16
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