At the beginning of the 1950s, Reinhold Niebuhr used the Christian concept of ‘irony’ to explain the difficult condition of the United States in the international system. In The Irony of American History the protestant theologian analyzed the ambiguity of American foreign policy during the first years of the Cold War. According to Niebuhr, the United States was involved in an ironic confutation of its sense of virtue, strength, security and wisdom. This confutation was due not only to its lack of (Christian) realism but also to its false claim to dominate history. After the Fall of the Berlin Wall, when America became the most powerful nation of the international system, the irony of its history did not disappear. Even in a totally different situation for structure and distribution of power, compared to the one of sixty years ago, the ambiguous situation the United States is dealing with, can be spelt out trough irony again. This article discusses the lasting validity of the concept of ‘irony’ used to explain American present and, perhaps, future.
- American Foreign Policy
- Cold War
- History of International Thought
- International Relations Theory
- Reinhold Niebuhr