What Pre-WWII France Can Tell Us About America in 2023 | Jonathan Kirshner
In Episode 298 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Boston College, Jonathan Kirshner. Dr. Kirshner belongs to the school of international relations known as “classical realism,” which places a unique emphasis on the role played by uncertainty and the need to grapple more seriously with the nuance of historical context, the governing ideologies and perspectives of different states, the quality of leadership, and the character and harmony of a nation’s people.
Demetri and Jonathan spend the first hour of their conversation applying the framework of analysis that Kirshner puts forward in his latest book “An Unwritten Future” toward three distinct historical conflicts: the Peloponnesian war, the war in Vietnam, and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. All three of these wars had ruinous consequences for the aggressor state. In the case of the Iraq war, the conflict badly damaged public perceptions of (and trust in) the competency of America’s foreign policy elite, the credibility of its press, and the state of its finances.
The legacy of the Iraq war, as well as the prolonged occupation of Afghanistan and the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, are the subjects of the episode’s second hour. In it, Demetri and Jonathan compare the divisions present within contemporary American society to those present within the Third French Republic in the years leading up to its stunning defeat and subsequent collaboration with Nazi Germany. What was it about French society that made it so susceptible to co-optation and what lessons can we draw from the French experience when devising public policy meant to serve the national interest?
The goal of today’s conversation is to help advance a framework that partially explains the divisions currently present in American society so that we can advocate more thoughtfully for solutions that heal our national wounds by bringing our citizens closer together rather than pushing each other further apart. Demetri believes strongly that this healing is necessary and that it will require putting the national interest ahead of our own more immediate material concerns.
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Episode Recorded on 02/13/2023