Clements Center
Clements Center
New World, Old Wisdom: Foreign Policy and the Classics with Bruce Thornton

New World, Old Wisdom: Foreign Policy and the Classics with Bruce Thornton

Sponsored by the Clements Center, Department of History, and the Thomas Jefferson Center
Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014   |   12:15 pm   |  Eastwoods Room, Texas Union

Until around 1800, states viewed foreign policy much as Thucydides did: as assuming a constant human nature driven by fear, self-interest, or honor. As such, war was considered a constant of human life, and peace “just a name,” as Plato says. The modern world rejected this realism, believing that human nature is perfectible, that states could be motivated by a “harmony of interests” that could be codified in international laws and covenants.

Under these international laws, conflict could be avoided or mitigated by diplomacy and other non-lethal mechanisms. Despite the failure of this ideal over the last 200 years, it maintains a powerful hold on Western states that in pursuit of peace end up appeasing and empowering an aggressor. From Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938, to John Kerry in Geneva in 2013, the continuing adherence to this dubious ideal has put the security and interests of the Western democracies at risk.

Bruce S. Thornton grew up on a cattle ranch in Fresno County, California. He received his BA in Latin from UCLA in 1975, and his PhD in Comparative Literature: Greek, Latin, and English, from UCLA in 1983. Thornton is currently Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University in Fresno, California. He is the author of nine books and over 400 essays, columns, and reviews on Greek culture and civilization and their influence on Western civilization, and on contemporary political and educational issues. He currently is a Research Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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