Jeremy Black is the author of Geopolitics and the Quest for Dominance. I have read other works of his and like him as a centrist modern thinker who has not swallowed the entire Neoconservative egg but does taste of its sulfurous substance.
It is very important for crackpots like myself to read as much by essentially unaligned historians who are focused on the mechanics of history and can explain the abstract rules.
First, he expresses the opinion that “A great man is one who does not think he is great.”
He is not one who thinks highly of the demagogic type like JFK and Hitler.
The concept that he brings up a few times, which really struck a chord with this viewer, was his estimation that Eisenhower, “Wasn’t an imperial president,” thereby suggesting that America, in his estimation, sometimes functions as an imperial polity, which is a hug admission for an establishment historian.
He describes with some measure of admiration the prudence of the men who lead the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War for avoiding the possibly apocalyptic hot war that could have been started so easily, as JFK demonstrated when he danced on the edge of the Nuclear Abyss in his tryst with the beetle-browed Soviet premier. His focus is on how a head of state responsibly decides what can and cannot be accomplished through war. His discussion of the China Question in American Soviet relations, and today in American Russian relations, is clearheaded beyond anything I’ve seen from other commentators. Of special interest is his analysis of Vietnam and Egypt as Cold War lynchpins.
Black’s lack of passion for a side; his cold uncaring for the protagonist nations, but rather his assessment of the means by which they are steered either to ruin, triumph or dissipation makes his work extremely valuable. For instance, he says, “Always look at military plans” when assessing the worldview of national protagonists. He gave as an example the fact that U.S. war planners in the 1950s had blueprints for an amphibious invasion of Wales! Such things, he points out, indicate that someone in power thought that there was a possibility of a general European debacle in which the Soviet Union took down Western Europe. Likewise such statements as, “You need to do it quickly. If you want to overthrow a government that is the rule,” and his disparagement of leaders as diverse as Woodrow Wilson, JFK [who he calls a “war monger”] and Hitler indicate that he examines leaders as managers rather than personalities.
His best response to questioning was his pointing out that Civil Rights concessions were primarily made in the U.S. in the 40s and 50s, not the 60s, and that this had nothing to do with “nice people making nice” but with “hardheaded men” making hard decisions about national sustainability, placing the so called Civil Rights victories of the Baby Boomer Brats in the lap of the same men who designed the Interstate Highway System for moving military equipment.
Jeremy Black gives an excellent lecture, and despite my antipathy for Gotham and what it stands for, I must rate the questions by the members of the audience that advanced them as much better than expected.