Customer Reviews for

The Irony of American History

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    A Must Read

    I picked this up as a requirement for a Foreign Policy class, and I could not be happier that it was assigned. Niebuhr provides an amazing insight into what makes America the country she is. He warns against the presupposition of assuming ourselves the champions of virtue and identifying our enemies as strictly evil. This is not to say that Niebuhr is anti-American; on the countrary he was a Cold Warrior who argued that communism was an immoral institution that had to be stopped. Rather, he warned that excessive hybris can lead to a deadly lack of self-awareness that can bring even the most righteuous individuals and nations crashing down. While America is not guilty of all the crimes the world thrusts on her, but she must be ever vigiliant against the evils that hide behind even the most well-intended virtue.

    To explain this ironic situation America- and man- is in, Niebuhr stresses the time tested truth of original sin. Evil is a very real part of any human soul. An idealistic yearning to be done away with evil does not make it so. Therefore we must always be on our guard, not only from our enemies, but from the temptations of power in ourselves. Niebuhr analysis Lincoln's second inaugural address to drive home the dual position we find ourselves in. While we cannot attempt to know the purposes of God, we must always be willing to do what is right, even at stagering costs. Yet the end does not eliminate the guilt of the means. Once we become more aware of this element in our actions, we will be better poised to carry out our righteuous intentions.

    On a side note, I am not a fan of the introduction. It seems to do exactly what Niebuhr warns against- a one sided view of our actions will lead us down a very dangerous path.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 29, 2009

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    Posted May 8, 2009

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