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The Politics of Good Intentions:
History, Fear and Hypocrisy in the New World Order
David Runciman

Hardcover | 2006 | $55.00 | £45.95 | ISBN: 9780691125664
224 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4
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Tony Blair has often said that he wishes history to judge the great political controversies of the early twenty-first century--above all, the actions he has undertaken in alliance with George W. Bush. This book is the first attempt to fulfill that wish, using the long history of the modern state to put the events of recent years--the war on terror, the war in Iraq, the falling out between Europe and the United States--in their proper perspective. It also dissects the way that politicians like Blair and Bush have used and abused history to justify the new world order they are creating.

Many books about international politics since 9/11 contend that either everything changed or nothing changed on that fateful day. This book identifies what is new about contemporary politics but also how what is new has been exploited in ways that are all too familiar. It compares recent political events with other crises in the history of modern politics--political and intellectual, ranging from seventeenth-century England to Weimar Germany--to argue that the risks of the present crisis have been exaggerated, manipulated, and misunderstood.

David Runciman argues that there are three kinds of time at work in contemporary politics: news time, election time, and historical time. It is all too easy to get caught up in news time and election time, he writes. This book is about viewing the threats and challenges we face in real historical time.


"Mr. Runciman is a keen observer of contemporary political life whose sophisticated sense of history both tempers and enlivens his often thrilling polemics. Over the course of the collection, Mr. Runciman compares the political fallout from Iraq to the Suez crisis, uses the model of Weimar Germany to explore the possibilities of Iraqi reconstruction and democracy, and borrows from thinkers like Max Weber to shed light on contemporary politics. The results are never pedantic and almost always deeply revealing."--Jason Moring, New York Observer

"Runciman concludes, there is little new about the new world order. Whatever difficulties it throws up are best dealt with by going back to political basics--having strong parties, muscular parliaments, balanced constitutions, an alert judiciary and a watchful public. It is a measure of how far we have traveled from the liberal democratic norm that this comes across as a radical cry."--Alison Rowat, The Herald

"The proximate cause of Tony Blair's decline is self-evident: the Iraq war and its sequel. However, as David Runciman shows in this mordant study of political hypocrisy and the misuse of history in our time, the inability to distinguish make-believe from facts, the contempt for due process and the almost willful ignorance of history that were the hallmarks of Blai''s Iraq adventure could, and should, have been detected well before it."--David Marquand, New Statesman

"David Runciman provides a brilliant analysis of the contemporary politics of fear by situating the post-9/11 world within a layering of temporal periods and using the broad historical time in juxtaposition with 'election time' and 'news time'. Through such a prism the fear generated and hypocrisy of much current political discourse and justification for the pursuit of war in Iraq is dissected."--David Ryan, International Affairs

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Table of Contents:

Preface ix
CHAPTER ONE: Introduction: September 11 and the New World Order 1
PART ONE: Tony Blair, History and Risk
CHAPTER TWO: Tony Blair and the Politics of Good Intentions 31
CHAPTER THREE: Taking a Chance on War: The Worst-Case Scenarios 55
CHAPTER FOUR: Taking a Chance on War: Suez and Iraq 67
CHAPTER FIVE: Who Knows Best? 81
CHAPTER SIX: Weimar Iraq 103
PART TWO: Britain, Europe and the United States
CHAPTER SEVEN: A Bear Armed with a Gun 123
CHAPTER EIGHT: The Garden, the Park, the Meadow 135
CHAPTER NINE: Two Revolutions, One Revolutionary 155
CHAPTER TEN: Epilogue: Virtual Politics 175
Notes 191
Index 207

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