Kenneth Adelman

I got an email this morning from a colleague who’d organized a panel at the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America on uses of Shakespeare by the military. He’d asked me to present because I’ve published and lectured on the subject of Shakespeare’s anti-militarism. Also on the panel was Mr. Kenneth Adelman, who teaches Shakespeare at Georgetown University in his spare time, but who is widely known as one of the architects of our Iraq war policy.

My colleague’s email referred me to a new article in Vanity Fair, circulated on the web, which contains an interview with Adelman repudiating Bush and the war.

This was my reply:

I thought of us in Philadelphia when I read this on the web last night. These days, I’ve been heavily addicted to Truthout, Slate and that junkfood for liberals, Huffpost.

Notice Adelman’s signature self-congratulation for being invited to Rumsfeld’s house even as he betrays his host:

“I’ve worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I’ve been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I’m very, very fond of him, but I’m crushed by his performance.”


Part of my addiction are repeated Dantean fantasies of how these people will fare in hell.

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This is some of what I said on the panel with Mr. Adelman last April:

In his book, Shakespeare in Charge: The Bard’s Guide to Leading and Succeeding on the Business Stage, Kenneth Adelman reads Shakespeare’s account of the war against France as follows:

The family business has not been going well. Henry’s father, Henry IV had a woeful reign notable for rebellion …. His advice to his son was succinct: Go for an acquisition, even if it entails a hostile takeover. In fifteenth century England that meant finding someplace to attack—it didn’t much matter where—in order to ‘busy giddy minds’ at home ‘with foreign quarrels.’ Like any new and especially young executive, Henry longs to make his mark. War offers a great opportunity to do so—but only if he wins. (p.4)

The sinister strategy Shakespeare brings to light here is presented by Mr. Adelman as exemplary to those who benefit from war—the leaders and succeeders in charge today who regard the nation born in this city of brotherly love as their family business. The book’s co-author, Norman Augustine, is CEO of Lockheed Martin, one of the largest arms manufacturers and defense contractors in the world. And Mr. Adelman, among his many other leadership roles, sits on the Defense Policy Board, which traditionally served to strengthen ties between the private sector and the Pentagon, and which contributed significantly to our present administration’s disastrous middle-east foreign policy. Indeed, war provides “great opportunity” for these people–win or lose, and “it [doesn’t]… much matter where.”

Erasmus was recognized as the greatest scholar and thinker of early Renaissance Europe. He was given a seat at the tables of the Great, who were tutored by humanists and loved their culture. Erasmus tried to persuade the Movers and Shakers to give up their bellicose power games and to devote themselves to the protection and welfare of all their subjects. The policies that he championed—outlawing war, arbitrating international disputes, disbanding standing armies–never took hold. But his voice still speaks, along with Shakespeare’s, to guide and inspire those engaged in a battle of true worth.

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