Thomas Meaney and Stephen Wertheim in The Nation:
In 1909 a group of men met on an estate in Wales to save Western civilization. Troubled by the erosion of British world power, they believed the decline could be reversed if statesmen turned away from the mundane tasks of modern diplomacy and channeled the wisdom of ancient Greece instead. The Greeks, in reconciling rulership with freedom, had made the West great, and supplied a model for their Anglo-Saxon heirs. No longer should the empire run itself; members of the group, including Lloyd George and Lord Milner, would train men of penetrating insight to direct imperial affairs more self-consciously than ever before. Drawing protégés from Oxbridge, the Round Table, as the group called itself, aimed to impart the lessons of enlightened leadership to a new generation. They produced countless articles and monographs. Chapters of the society flourished all over the empire. Ten years later, they had disappeared: nationalism had swept away their plans to knit the colonies closer together. British ascendancy ended sooner than any of them could have imagined.
The mantle of world leadership soon passed to the United States, and it’s here, where the ruling class is now experiencing its own crisis of confidence, that the Round Table is having something of a second act. Anxiety about America’s place in the world intensified after 9/11 but first became acute in the late 1990s, when the ills of the post–cold war world no longer appeared transient and seemed to demand concerted US leadership in response. This was the moment when liberal interventionism and neoconservatism ascended to the political mainstream and the grand narrative of “globalization” entered into wide circulation. In New Haven, historians John Lewis Gaddis and Paul Kennedy put forth a different response. Opposed to the Clinton administration’s ad hoc policy-making, they conceived a series of “grand strategy” seminars at Yale that aspired to train the next generation of leaders.