A Scholar and a Gentleman by Eliot Cohen

Eliot Cohen, "A Scholar and a Gentleman," Weekly Standard, January 19, 2009.


As the obituary notices will tell you, Samuel Huntington was a controversial figure. They lead, normally, with a reference to “Clash of Civilizations?” his 1993 Foreign Affairs article, which outraged many readers by predicting that the end of the Cold War would usher in, not an era of good feelings and international cooperation, but rather antipathies more deeply rooted than the tensions between states. It was vintage Sam–tough-minded and lucid, bringing scholarship to illuminate the problems of the political world. Reasonable critics confessed themselves unsettled by it, and some have even ruefully conceded that Sam got it more nearly right than they did.

If the journalists do a bit more investigating, they discover that Sam was the greatest political scientist of his generation. They might note, for example, that in 1957 he published The Soldier and the State, a landmark work on civil-military relations with which the rest of us interested in the subject still wrestle. Not many 30-year-old assistant professors write books that live half a century later. Some mention Political Order in Changing Societies (1968), an equally monumental work in a completely different field, political development, or his writings on American politics and foreign policy.

Sam’s numerous books and no less important articles (I still assign a 1962 essay, “Patterns of Violence in World Politics,” in one of my courses) are a staggering corpus of work. But they represent only a portion of his legacy. For Sam has left behind him a vast array of students, in government, journalism, and business, who are what they are in part because of him. Some of them followed his path to academe–they include professors at Columbia, Princeton, Harvard, and many other institutions–because they were inspired by an academic ideal that he embodied. I know, because I am one of them.

Weekly Standard