Grand Strategy Celebrates One Year!
5 November 2009
One year ago, on Wednesday 05 November 2008, I began this blog with the post Opening Reflection. In that opening reflection I announced my intention to see contemporary events through the prism of geopolitics, and geopolitics in turn through the prism of ideas. While I have attempted to do this, and have on occasion successfully tied these together, I also made no rigorous effort to contain myself within self-imposed boundaries.
Like an intellectual Epicurean, I have followed my tastes and inclinations quite to the exclusion of any systematic program of comment, sampling whatever fare attracted me. I gravitate to the ideas I most enjoy, for it is with the ideas that I most enjoy that I feel most free and can write spontaneously. Most of the pieces I have posted have been more or less spontaneous productions of the day. A few I labored over for several days, but that was the exception. Sufficient unto the day has been the inspiration thereof.
It is only recently that I have learned of a wonderful quote from Fernand Braudel, the great French historian of the longue durée and representative of the Annales School of historiography:
Events are the ephemera of history; they pass across its stage like fireflies, hardly glimpsed before they settle back into darkness and as often as not into oblivion.
Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume 2, Part Three: Event, Politics and People, p. 901
While this passage does not appear in the abridged version, the abridged version does include much that reflects this point of view. Braudel returns time and again, in detail and in general overview, to his structuralist orientation. There is a sense in which Braudel’s approach to history is something genuinely new, a novel way to understand human experience. Braudel is no less a methodological naturalist than Thucydides, but his method is nevertheless profoundly distinct from that of Thucydides, though not in a sense in which he seeks to confront and overturn the tradition.
This passage from Braudel also reflects, more and more, my own point of view on history. The political events of the day, upon which I had primarily intended to comment in this forum, seem to me to progressively embody the ephemera of history. I was always committed to understanding the world in terms of the big picture, in terms of the longue durée; the experience of writing this blog has only confirmed me in this prejudice. The passing events of the day are as meaningless as the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave unless they are understood to be shadows of Forms that can be apprehended only by turning away from the fleeting shadows and looking into the blinding light of the ideal.
While I have had very few readers compared to those blogs that are sufficiently popular to have become news in and of themselves, I have nevertheless had more viewers than I expected; far more people have read something here than have ever picked up a copy of one of my books. And while most people who visit probably don’t read much, or in great detail, I do know that I have had a few visitors who have read me quite carefully, as I have received some perceptive comments (and criticism) over the past year. To all who have visited this forum, thank you.
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