Classics of Strategy and Diplomacy is a website designed to encourage the study of those books, memoirs, essays, and speeches that best illuminate the nature of international politics and military affairs. We also explore forgotten, neglected and misunderstood classics; and identify contemporary writings that we expect to have lasting intellectual and political value. We pay particular attention to significant contributions by American writers and statesmen. The Classics website links an informal network of scholars and interested members of the public, under the auspices of the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs at Ashland University. The website includes:
- Featured Classics
- Annotated Electronic Bibliographies
- Essays on the Classics
- Forum for Discussion
- Links to Other Sites of Interest
By offering an interactive study of the classics, we want to facilitate intelligent conversation about such recognized standards as Thucydides, Sun Tzu, Vattel, Clausewitz, Mahan, and Churchill; and to draw from the learned discourse of writers and historians such William Robertson, J.A.R. Marriott, Harold Nicholson, William L. Langer, and Francis Parkman. We will reflect on the most important documents and speeches that define the American strategic tradition, from the Declaration of Independence, the Model Treaty, Washington's Farewell Address, and John Quincy Adams' July 1821 Address; to Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and the Truman Doctrine. The authorities do not agree with one another. Nor do they offer a grand unified field theory of strategy. But rightly understood, the classics challenge us to explore the dynamic relationship among the fundamental elements that shape the field, such as geography, culture, politics, economics, and technology. They cause us to take into account the possibilities and limitations of human foresight—"reflection and choice"—when confronted with necessity, accident and chance, as well as purpose and deception. Two overarching strategic questions guide our conversation about the strategic classics: What is the proper relationship between diplomacy and military power? (How) do regimes matter in the conduct of international politics?
By considering certain works as "classics," we presume the enduring quality of these questions and of the traditional range of answers to them. Some argue, however, that ancient verities of politics and strategy have been made obsolete by overriding modern dangers to human civilization, such as the proliferation of massively destructive technologies and environmental threats (climate change, pandemics, and the like). Humankind must turn the necessity of survival into a public virtue, by moving beyond its competitive strategic horizon and yielding to the imperative of global cooperation. We welcome the opportunity to discuss and debate these propositions, which are perhaps not quite as new as sometimes supposed. We suspect that different peoples will approach global problems differently, according to their own particular sense of history, interest and justice, just as they do with more customary challenges. If so, the old verities of strategy and diplomacy, for better or worse, will hardly be absent. Our goal is to help American strategic thought move towards the better end of the spectrum.
We do not aim for definitive solutions to current policy matters. We recognize that the practical application of strategy and diplomacy is the task of statesmen. Strategic classicists, as such, run the risk of becoming armchair generals or policy ideologues. John Quincy Adams—a bookish statesman if there ever was one—concluded that the study of the classics, to be fully realized must be accompanied by a natural aptitude for policy and real-world experience. We hope to contribute modestly to the first element of the prudential triumvirate.