In This Review

Incorrigible Optimist: A Political Memoir
Incorrigible Optimist: A Political Memoir
By Gareth Evans
Melbourne University Press, 2017, 277 pp

For decades, Evans has cut a striking figure on the global stage. As a scholar, activist, politician, and Australia’s minister for foreign affairs from 1988 to 1996, Evans has been a charismatic and indefatigable presence, rallying the forces of internationalism to work toward genocide prevention, conflict resolution, social justice, and nuclear disarmament. In this revealing, even heartwarming memoir, Evans looks back and reflects on the great issues that shaped his passions and defined his career. As foreign minister, Evans came to understand that Australian foreign policy was best advanced when tied to “good international citizenship.” As a “middle power,” Australia could advance its interests only in concert with others, building coalitions and finding ways to shape the global agenda. Working with the Canadian government, Evans helped conceive of the principle of “the responsibility to protect” civilian populations from genocide and crimes against humanity—a singular achievement. A blend of idealism and pragmatism gave Evans confidence in the idea that people can sometimes act on their enlightened interests and work toward the global good.