Forest on Lake and Ochmanek, 'The Real and the Ideal: Essays on International Relations in Honor of Richard H. Ullman'

Anthony Lake, David Ochmanek, eds.
James J. F. Forest

Anthony Lake, David Ochmanek, eds. The Real and the Ideal: Essays on International Relations in Honor of Richard H. Ullman. Lanham and Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001. x + 323 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-7425-1555-0.

Reviewed by James J. F. Forest (Department of Political Science, United States Military Academy, West Point) Published on H-Diplo (January, 2003)

A Scholarly Life Duly Celebrated

A Scholarly Life Duly Celebrated

In virtually all walks of life, it is not uncommon to find individuals in the twilight of their careers bemoaning what they consider to be a lack of meaning in what they have accomplished. One hears their soft-spoken, occasionally mournful reflection, "What impact on the world have I made with my life?" Having studied, surveyed and spoken with members of the academic profession throughout the world, I have begun to draw the conclusion that we professors have a distinct advantage over others when finding answers to this question, as the nature of our work brings so many opportunities to develop the minds of the young and old, and to advance the human condition. Indeed, when elderly faculty members are asked why they have not yet retired, many point to their teaching, research, and service-activities that impact their students and colleagues as well as lending constant meaning to their lives.

While most members of the global academic profession can lay claim to having made such an impact on the world, direct evidence to support their claim is all too often elusive, difficult to account for or qualify. Within this context, it is indeed a true pleasure to come upon a book of essays commissioned in honor of an influential professor, a publication which lays out as a core objective the public celebration of his life's work. The Real and the Ideal is a book of essays on international relations produced by students and colleagues of Richard H. Ullman, the David K. E. Bruce Professor of International Affairs at Princeton University. Through their contributions to this volume, several accomplished scholars and practitioners of international relations give tribute to this man's ideas and intellectual energy, a literary testament to his successful body of scholarship and teachings.

Through his life's work, Ullman has contributed a great deal of clarity and reasoning to the liberalist perspective that our place in the world should be defined by humanitarian motivations. Many of us from either side of the relativist/universalist debate have admired his well-supported arguments that our definitions of national interest should incorporate a real concern for preventing abuses of human dignity and securing for people of all nations the rights enjoyed by those of us in a healthy liberal democracy. In his honor, the chapters of this volume carry these ideas forward in a variety of useful dimensions.

The volume is edited by Anthony Lake, Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and David Ochmanek, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation--two of the most notably engaged intellectuals of the past half-decade, and former students of Ullman. They have assembled a selection of essays covering such key issues as universal values, ethics, policy processes, and the limits of strategic alliances. Several chapters also focus on state- or region-specific analyses in the study of international relations, including Kosovo, Germany, relations between the United States and Europe, and the strategic competition among China, Japan, and Taiwan.

In reading this volume of essays, one detects a cautious sense of optimism, a sense that the human condition should not forever be destined for war, famine, and terror. Perhaps this also is a reflection of Ullman's impact on his students and colleagues, as he is one of the most widely regarded humanists of the past half-century. Further, each of the thirteen chapters conveys a strong liberalist flavor, highlighting the various "beyond the black box" dimensions of international relations that are all too often neglected or dismissed by structural realists.

Michael O'Hanlon raises several key questions about intervention policy, suggesting that since "saving lives should hardly be a uniquely American interest" (p. 120), the hegemonic United States should pull back from its over-reaching engagements by compelling other countries and multinational regimes to do more in terms of power projection and providing humanitarian relief worldwide. Mac Destler illuminates the importance of understanding a citizenry's values in policy-making, and Thomas Weiss points to humanitarian values that have influenced American foreign policies. In their essays, Michael Doyle and Robert Sprinkle remind us not to neglect the important dimension of individual political ethics and ethical judgment in our approaches to international relations.

Edward Rhodes offers an insightful analysis of liberal isolationism and the ideas of Charles Evans Hughes. Ronald Krebs discusses the "unrealistic assumptions and contentions about the consequences of alliances" (p. 228) that have been part of policy discourse on both sides of the Atlantic, while Thomas Banchoff observes how "in the case of Germany, the institutions highlighted by liberalism now form a starting point for calculations of interest in Europe" (p. 281). John Duffield builds on a common theme in Ullman's scholarly interests with a chapter on competing theoretical perspectives that describe U.S.-European relations and relevant policy implications of emerging transformational imperatives. Overall, this collection of essays covers an admirable breadth of important liberalist ideals, and would prove useful for many scholars and graduate courses in the field of international relations.

While it is typical for book reviewers to emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of any volume, the unique nature of this book of essays warrants an exception to account for what this represents--an intellectual celebration in honor of Ullman. In that vein, a critique of the contributions would seem poor taste. Generally speaking, the essays are well written and the volume is well organized. With few exceptions, the authors of these chapters have not set out to argue for or against some grand theory, or present some groundbreaking new research through which our understanding of international relations will be forever changed. Rather, the essays generally make a concerted effort to build upon ideas and perspectives that Ullman holds dear, reinforcing and expanding our appreciation of the liberalist intellectual tradition.

In his foreword to the volume, Les Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, calls Ullman the father of "commonsense liberalism" (p. ix). Clearly, Ullman's intellectual leadership in the realm of liberalism has made a substantial contribution to our understanding of international relations. Ullman's ability to successfully probe some of the great intellectual puzzles of the foreign policy world, through his teaching, research, publications, and policy making, has supported the advancement of an entire intellectual tradition. As an engaged intellectual, Ullman exemplifies the best of what we can expect from our faculty. As a scholar, policymaker, mentor, and supportive colleague he has contributed to the development not only of thoughts and ideas, but of human lives. This volume represents a modest token of appreciation from a grateful assortment of his colleagues and students, and is certainly worthy of our close attention. As fellow members of the academic profession, seeking in our own way to make a positive impact on the world around us, we can only hope that each of us will someday produce a life's work that is as worthy of such celebration by our colleagues and friends.

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Citation: James J. F. Forest. Review of Lake, Anthony; Ochmanek, David, eds., The Real and the Ideal: Essays on International Relations in Honor of Richard H. Ullman. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. January, 2003. URL:

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