- Idealism is a terrible basis for foreign policy (and probably for life in general);
- It is possible to engage with countries and cultures with whom we have fundamental disagreements.
I'm not much of a Roger Cohen fan -- he strikes me as an ideological opportunist, a flag blowing first one way then the other -- but the dateline of this column attracted my attention, of course. The Quiet American is the best single piece of fiction about Vietnam you are likely to read (Tim O'Brien's stories in The Things they Carried come a close second only because they focus so closely on the war rather than the situation of the war), an exacting portrait of a murderous idealism. Cohen's column uses Graham Greene's novel to make a pair of important points: