Magazine April 20, 2020, Issue

Conservatives and Geopolitical Change

From the cover of Metternich: Strategist and Visionary (Belknap Press)
Metternich: Strategist and Visionary, by Wolfram Siemann, translated by Daniel Steuer (Belknap Press, 928 pp., $39.95)

‘What is the conservative to do,” Henry Kissinger asked in an essay in 1954, “in a revolutionary situation?” In a stable order, conservatism is in a sense unnecessary, Kissinger wrote, because society’s cohesion makes a revolutionary challenge unthinkable. But once a viable alternative to the prevailing order appears, conservatism’s role becomes at once necessary and difficult — necessary because without it there is nothing to curb the destructive effects of precipitous change; difficult because, in the course of defending what was formerly assumed to be permanent, “the conservative position comes to be dominated by its reactionary — that is, counter-revolutionary

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A. Wess Mitchell — Mr. Mitchell is a principal at the Marathon Initiative and formerly served as the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. His most recent book is The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire.

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