Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mead on Just About Everything:
Waiting for a New Edition

I'm still noodling away  God and Gold. Walter Russell Mead's  everything-I-know-about everything summation of issues in Anglo-American foreign relations.  I put it it on my Kindle, oh, I can't remember how long ago, and I never seem to give up on, always expecting that the end must around the corner. Which is to say it is a vastly self-indulgent book, would have been much better a hundred or so pages shorter. Still, Mead is a shrewd and mostly balanced observer, wonderful at individual aperçu, and diverting at clever formulations of complex issues (I do think the Walrus and the Carpenter gets done to death though). It also excites a sense of giddy hilarity to read a foreign-policy commentator who is so unapologetic an apologist in the tradition of grand whiggery, someone still willing to base his analysis on such rocks as Alfred Thayer Mahan and Thomas Babington Macaulay. If we had to locate Mead anywhere in time, I'd nominate August 1, 1740, the occasion of a grand celebration of the accession of George II to the throne of Great Britain--itself the venue for the first performance of Rule, Britannia!  (cf. infra).

To be fair, Mead understands what he is up against here, and he strives to identify and respond to (the many?) important objections to an analysis rooted so deeply commitment to the Anglo-American tradition.  He is at once self-confident and forthright; you can see him struggling not to be dismissed as "breezy."  But there is a gorilla at this garden party.  Specifically, Mead published on October 9, 2007, when we were still able to ignore the storm clouds of the gathering financial storm, just about a year away from the collapse of Lehman and the Week that Changed Everything.    Breezy he may not be, but jaunty is out there on the verge.  It is hard to imagine anyone writing with the same kind of easy self-confidence today.

BTW if Mead is too given to the short-compass insight, it may be that his natural forum is the Blog.  Check him out here.

1 comment:

chrismealy said...

A while back I filed Mead under "old school racist" but I forget why. You're a fan. What's his deal?