“The Bravest of Leaders Now Have to be Moderates”

We live in a world without inhibition. The distance between President Eisenhower and his life experience and President Trump and his is vast. And it isn’t only American leadership that has deteriorated as we have traveled from the nuclear to the cyber age. So too have global institutions and leadership elsewhere among major Western countries. . . .

As digital technology accelerates, politics and memory degenerate. News cycles are more intense, even as they are more quickly forgotten. Consequently, the new generation of Western politicians is fundamentally without character.

The answer lies behind us. Nuclear apocalypse didn’t happen mainly because of the hard wisdom of our Cold War presidents, both Republican and Democrat. Throughout history, instilling virtue and character in leaders has been the only effective means of arresting decline, writes James Hankins in a new book, “Virtue Politics: Soulcraft and Statecraft in Renaissance Italy.” Mr. Hankins, a Harvard historian, painstakingly demonstrates that the greatest virtue in civic life—and the ultimate factor determining political stability—has always been principled moderation, whatever the epoch.

It’s that simple, that mundane and that difficult. In a digital age favoring extremists—the purveyors of rage and passion—the rarest and bravest of leaders will have to be moderates. Only they can tame the forces of technology. Only in their hands will humanity and markets be safe.

From “Why We Need Someone Like Ike,” by Robert D. Kaplan, in the Wall Street Journal. Kaplan is a managing director for global macro at Eurasia Group and author of “The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century.”

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