Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. In 2019-2021, he served as the Director of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, executive secretary of the department's Commission on Unalienable Rights, and senior adviser to the...
Why did communism fail and liberal democracy prosper?
Do the neoconservatives know how to win the war on terror? Much has been made of the influence within the Bush administration of neoconservatives—those who tend to take a hard line in the war on terror and who favored the war in Iraq. Recently two men close to the Bush administration, Richard Perle and David Frum, wrote a book laying out the neoconservative agenda for winning the war on terror and making America safe. Their agenda is bold and ambitious. Critics would say it is reckless and dangerous. Who's right?
Peter Berkowitz on Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life by Anthony T. Kronman
Did Ronald Reagan win the cold war? It's been a dozen years since its end—time enough to look back on the era with some historical perspective. And one question that historians continue to argue about is the role that Ronald Reagan, the man and his policies, played in bringing the cold war to an end. To what extent did Reagan's cold war strategy build on efforts of previous administrations and to what extent was it new? Did the Soviet Union collapse as a result of external pressure or internal weakness?
What is the proper role of the intellectual in public life? Plato believed that philosophers should govern society. He founded his famous Academy with the hope of creating such "philosopher kings." Another philosopher, Immanuel Kant, however, believed that "the possession of power unavoidably spoils the free use of reason." Therefore, he argued that intellectuals should keep a proper distance from the political realm. Who is right, Kant or Plato?
The spread of democracy around the world was one of the most significant developments of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the last century, democracy was limited to a handful of Western nations, while today perhaps 120 nations have some form of democratic government. Yet among Muslim countries, democracy is rare, and among Arab states, essentially nonexistent. Why? Is the Islamic faith compatible with the essential features of a democratic society—separation of church and state, freedom of expression, and women's rights, to name a few—or not? Just what is the future of democracy in the Arab world?
Conservative: favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change. But is the definition of a conservative changing in twentieth-century America? Today conservatives seem to be divided into two groups, the neoconservatives and those who view themselves as traditional conservatives—sometimes derisively called the "paleoconservatives." Are the neoconservatives, including many in the Bush administration, actually, as some charge, radicals in conservative clothing? Or have the paleoconservatives become too hidebound for their own good?
For nearly a thousand years after the death of the prophet Muhammad, the Islamic world was powerful, creative, and self-confident. In science, in trade, and in the arts, Muslim civilization rivaled and often surpassed the best achievements of the European world. But beginning sometime around the seventeenth century, Islamic power and dynamism began to wane, to be eclipsed by the West. Today, by nearly every measure of social and economic development, Islamic nations fall far short of Western nations. Why? Did the historical rise and decline of Islam result from processes internal to the Muslim world or from its interaction with the West? What can and should be done to revive Islamic civilization?
In 1946, in the wake of two world wars that left the continent devastated, Winston Churchill famously declared, "We must build a kind of United States of Europe." But for a continent of 500 million people and several dozen nation-states with singular histories, cultures, and identities, how complete and how inclusive can unification be? With the end of the cold war, what is the motivation for continuing on the path toward union? If we are on the threshold of an actual "United States of Europe," what role will, and should, the United States of America have in this new Europe?
William H. Rehnquist has served as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court for nineteen years, the longest tenure of a chief justice in a century. How has the Rehnquist Court responded to the key constitutional issues of our times? What will be the philosophical legacy of the man himself? And who will miss him more, liberals or conservatives? Peter Robinson speaks with Kathleen Sullivan and John Yoo.
In a 2002 Gallup poll conducted in ten Muslim nations, only 22 percent of the people questioned viewed the United States favorably. Why does the United States foster such hatred in the Islamic world in particular? Is it our foreign policy—our support of Israel and of repressive Arab regimes in the Middle East? Or is it our culture? Does globalization spread American values that are simply antithetical, thus disruptive, to the traditional Islamic view of society? Just what should we do to win this struggle for the hearts and minds of those who despise us around the world?
Is America a divided nation? Sharp regional voting patterns were evident in the 2000 presidential election: rural, Midwestern, and southern voters went for Bush; urban and coastal voters went for Gore. These regional voting patterns have led some to describe America as one nation with two cultures. Is this an accurate way of looking at American society? Or is America divided along economic rather than cultural lines? Just how fundamental are these differences, and what impact will they have on the American political landscape?
The Prussian military historian Carl von Clausewitz famously observed that "war is merely a continuation of politics by other means." These "other" (violent) means have been used on countless occasions throughout human history to settle conflicts over land, resources, and political rule. But what is the utility of war in the modern world? In a world with weapons of mass destruction, have the means of war delegitimized its use? In a world of expanding democracy, and cultural and economic interdependence, has the use of force become outdated?
Can America become an "empire for liberty"? British historian Paul Johnson believes that it can and should. The United States, he argues, is uniquely suited, as a result of both its principles and its current power, to bring about benevolent change throughout the world. But does empire suit the United States? We ask Johnson just how and why America can be this "empire for liberty" and to place American imperialism in its historical context.
George Orwell was one of the great journalists and political writers of the twentieth century. His writings on the great political struggles of that century—imperialism, fascism, Stalinism—in books such as Homage to Catalonia, Animal Farm, and 1984, are revered. But is Orwell relevant to the main political and cultural issues of our present day? Or should we read Orwell merely out of an appreciation for language and history?
The Supreme Court has the final authority on all matters of law under the U.S. Constitution. But what legal philosophy should the Supreme Court use to reach its decisions? Should the Court merely hand down rules based on the text of a fixed, or "dead," Constitution? Or should the Court apply standards that are based on interpretations of a "living" Constitution that evolves as our society changes? These fundamentally different approaches to constitutional law have created a rift with the current Supreme Court. How serious is this rift? Who's right? And to what extent are these competing arguments merely covers for ideological positions?
Audio recording of “Out for a Constitutional” (26:48)
To what extent are government leaders personally responsible for the outcomes of foreign policy and war? We review the career of Henry Kissinger, one of the most colorful statesmen of the twentieth century. Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kissinger served as national security adviser and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford during two pivotal events in American history, the cold war and the Vietnam War. Is Kissinger guilty, as some have charged, of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his conduct during that era? Or should he be regarded as a bold defender of American freedom during a time of crisis?
Govern moderately, or the governed will turn against you. Clinton learned it. Will Obama? By Peter Berkowitz.
John McCain has spent a lifetime in the service of his country, including twenty-two years as a naval aviator, two terms in the House of Representatives, and service in the U.S. Senate since 1986. Following his 2000 presidential campaign and the hard-fought passage of his campaign finance bill, John McCain reflects on a life in politics in his recent memoir Worth the Fighting for. A lifelong Republican, Senator McCain has broken with his party's mainstream on a number of issues in recent years. Does John McCain still consider himself a conservative? And why does McCain so often play the maverick?
In the modern democratic era, it's not uncommon for elected leaders to have little or no military training or experience. It has become an accepted notion that political leaders should therefore leave battle plans and campaign decisions to the military commanders and avoid "micromanaging" war. But is that notion correct? Or was Clemenceau right when he said that "war is too important to be left to the generals"? What lessons can we learn from studying the greatest wartime leaders, such as Lincoln, Churchill, and FDR?