The ancient Greeks hard‑wired a tragic sensibility into their culture. By looking disaster squarely in the face, by understanding just how badly things could spiral out of control, they sought to create a communal sense of responsibility and courage—to spur citizens and their leaders to take the difficult actions necessary to avert such a fate. Today, after more than seventy years of great‑power peace and a quarter‑century of unrivaled global leadership, Americans have lost their sense of tragedy. They have forgotten that the descent into violence and war has been all too common throughout human history. This amnesia has become most pronounced just as Americans and the global order they created are coming under graver threat than at any time in decades. In a forceful argument that brims with historical sensibility and policy insights, two distinguished historians argue that a tragic sensibility is necessary if America and its allies are to address the dangers that menace the international order today. Tragedy may be commonplace, Brands and Edel argue, but it is not inevitable—so long as we regain an appreciation of the world’s tragic nature before it is too late.
Charles Edel is a senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre. Previously, he was associate professor of strategy and policy at the US Naval War College, and served on the US Secretary of State's policy planning staff from 2015 to 2017. In that role, he advised Secretary of State John Kerry on political and security issues in the Asia Pacific region. Edel worked at Peking University's Center for International and Strategic Studies as a Henry Luce Scholar and was also awarded the Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship. He is the author of Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic. In addition to his scholarly publications, his writings have appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, and various other outlets. Edel holds a PhD in history from Yale University, and received a BA in classics from Yale College. During his time at the USSC, Edel will focus on American foreign policy, strategic issues, and security issues in the Asia Pacific region.
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