Kevin P. Phillips
New York: Random House, 1982
285 pp., $14.50
By David Broyles
The title of Kevin Phillips's hew book, Post-Conservative America, points backward as well as forward. In his first book, The Emerging Republican Majority, Phillips claimed to understand the stuff of which a conservative America could be made. He promised to plot a winning electoral strategy for the Republicans based largely on an analysis of demographics and ethnic groups. This analysis revealed the remains of traditions stemming from a common pattern of religious and nationalistic roots-"tribalisms," he sometimes calls them-now secularized and economized. These remains, Phillips thought, might be marshalled into a national conservative ideology.
Phillips appeared as something previously unheard of, a "conservative populist," who pointed the way to underpinning a Republican presidency with a more conservative Congressional delegation. If it was not to be made up of a majority of Republicans, this Congress might at least be an expression of popular ideological commitment. This commitment would replace the interest group representation so favored by elites, especially in academia, which had served the Democratic party so well. The Republicans had been increasingly successful in capturing the Presidency after World War II. Phillips held that Congressmen who were "polarized" as liberals or conservatives would provide better material to work with for Republican presidential politics.
Whatever the merits of his analysis, Phillips's conservative program has never been completely accepted, and his populism has never been altogether clear. His analysis, moreover, raises doubts that he has any fixed principles, principles that could be recognized as conservative, or even as within the framework of American politics. Phillips himself encourages such doubts in this latest book. He describes his analysis of American politics as "rather populistic, a vaguely neo-Marxian brand of conservative analysis."
Phillips now sees America in danger. Post-Conservative America is designed to spearhead a war to save America's "post-conservative" identity. He approaches the problem not as a political partisan, but rather as one separated from society, and unattached to any of its politically important divisions. This puts him in the position of ministering to society with the esoteric skill of a lawyer turned social scientist. (Phillips is, in fact, a lawyer.) He describes America as a phenomenon whose essence has varied, determined anew in each instance by several critical electoral upheavals: 1832, 1860, 1896, 1932. Phillips marks out a 28-36 year cycle for America, although he argues that America's cycles are really epicycles. These epicycles are fixed on those greater curves which, when on the rise, mark Western civilization's progress through periods of economic inflation and political advance.
As a would-be guide to the post-conservative realignment, Phillips argues that his opportunity has not been preempted by a realignment in the recent past. He maintains that the 1980 election was a hollow victory, not a realization of the ambitions of delayed conservatism. The great opportunity-greater than most people realize-for his Emerging Majority project was lost because of the "Watergate Warp." A Nixon who truly represented an "articulate, populist-tinged conservatism" would have won with an even larger majority, which might have ensured control of Congress for the Republicans. He would then have had complete mastery, dominating a moribund Democratic party which had become unresponsive and oppressive. But the Watergate Warp caused the opportunity for a conservative alliance with populist antielitism to slip away during the 1970s.
When the 1980 election came, campaigners saw a deeply despairing and frustrated American voter. This frustration and despair was caused not just by Jimmy Carter's ineptitude, Phillips argues, but by a much more general disaffection that had grown up about America's institutions and government policies. This made almost inevitable a campaign strategy responding to forces which had been fermenting out of the new communications-based, postindustrial America since the 1960s. These were the "forces of cultural anomie, religious fundamentalism, economics (including economic apprehension), nationalism and even frustration." The Reagan campaign then made the matter even worse. It radicalized the middle class to the point where the 1980 campaign had many similarities to European, even Weimar German, politics.
By 1980, America was "Balkanized." It consisted of what Philips has always thought to be the worst material for politics-separate groups with distinctive prejudices, lacking any common ideology of national life. Balkanization means not just geographic conflicts such as the one for which Phillips's earlier analysis is famous-conflicts between sun belt and frost belt-but also those created by economic, political, ethnic, and even sexual differences. To these Phillips adds the divisions that are generated by government itself, by the separated powers of the Constitution. In short, America's unity of ideological outlook is sadly decayed. The real opportunity to capture a true conservative populism, Phillips believes, passed with the 1970s. Still, despite errors and lost opportunities, he finds in populism grounds for hope. Though Phillips's populism is ideological, he is not clear as to the basis for its program. It does not appear to be essentially economic, despite its emphasis on economic analysis. Nor does Phillips take religion seriously as a ground of populism. As it develops, Phillips is not really interested in populism itself. His real interest is in what he calls the "Gross National Psychology" of populism. He is not concerned with what is true, but with what people think is true. As in his other writings, Phillips is indifferent to the factual bases for the opinions of participants in political life. Thus the dissatisfactions Phillips recounts are merely epiphenomena for him; he concludes that those who voted for Reagan were motivated above all "by a desire for bold measures to be taken."
In Post-Conservative America Phillips makes a halfhearted effort at noneconomic analysis of America's Balkanized situation. He gives an account of popular dissatisfactions with the loss of empire and of religious/moral conviction, and concludes with a hackneyed complaint about our separation of powers. It is his judgement that something like parliamentary democracy is preferable, and it is dear that Phillips's populism exists only as a yearning for a Gross National Psychology mat is an almost medieval unity of belief.
Thus Phillips's path has led him from a promising early enthusiasm for the people, a conservative populism which challenged a stale paternalism, to his own nightmare vision of frustrated Balkanization. His attacks on the Constitution supply a final confirmation that his populism is little more man a wish for a bold march into a future of ideological unity. They show that he puts little value on what must be the essence of any sound populism, the people's right to consent to their government. This government, in turn, must have a firm basis in principles of natural right. Phillips's call to overthrow the Constitution aims only at weakening a stable structure and enthroning transitory majorities. His theme is old, not new. After all plebiscitary democracy was the theme of the radicals in the 1960s, and England was their Camelot. It is sobering to observe that the successors of those radicals are now loudest among those who admire the promise of a postconservative America.
Phillips may best serve the country he dearly loves by providing a target for his critics' fire. His populism, founded as it is upon a science of History, goes against the grain of American politics. The principles of human nature embodied in the Declaration of Independence, for example, are permanent, and not functions of a cycle of ideology. Further, the principles of the Constitution, as interpreted in Federalist 10, encourage precisely the kind of Balkanization Phillips laments. Others may object to Phillip's insistence that America is caught in a historically determined reaction to loss of empire.
The reader is thus led to hope that Post-Conservative America may serve its audience primarily by angering it. It is even possible mat Phillips himself will react against it, and that his next book may be a renewal of what was perhaps a more wholesome early direction. On the other hand, if the book is well received, the portent is ominous. Already it has been received favorably by those who see it as revealing the true and violent character of conservatism. Others see it as a good example of empirical social science. For these audiences, the sad truth will be that they accept without discomfort a work whose principal thesis confirms Solzhenitsyn's worst assessments of the West. Phillips is a scientist of history, whose description of our decline into a frustrated barbarism and nihilism is also an advocacy of our steadfast acceptance of nothing more than boldness. The fact of Phillips's respectability seems to verify Solzhenitsyn's observation: "There seems to be little doubt, as many now realize, that what is going on in the USSR is not simply happening in one country, but a foreboding of the future of man. . . ."
MARGARET SANGER AND THE CULT OF RACISM
Margaret Sanger: Father of Modern Society
Coarsegold, CA: CUL Publications, 1980
By Kevin G. Long
Elasah Drogin has written a very unorthodox biography of an even more unorthodox woman: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. In spite of copious footnotes-88 in the first 23 pages-the author employs a decidedly unscholarly tone. Drogin does not write as an historian who dispassionately examines biographical details and ideological influences for an equally dispassionate audience. Instead, she hauls Sanger before the tribunal of humanity and decency in order to condemn her as an enemy of the human race.
The only time within living memory that such a tribunal has actually been in session was immediately following the Second World War at the Nuremberg trials. Civilized peoples still recoil with shock and outrage from the gruesome genocidal atrocities of Nazi Germany. Yet public opinion seems to have forgotten the intellectual roots of that hideous nightmare. Drogin reminds us that the war crimes of Hitler's regime were not spontaneous acts of madness, but the logical conclusion of the pseudo-scientific eugenics movement, developed in the early decades of this century and introduced in the United States by Margaret Sanger.
The fact that Drogin is Jewish would seem sufficient to account for her antipathy to Banger's eugenic program, yet she has other grounds as well. As a convert to Roman Catholicism, she opposes the eugenic practices of contraception, sterilization, artificial insemination, and abortion, against which her Church has taken a lonely and stoic stand. As a liberal democrat, she detests the imposition of such practices upon helpless minorities-blacks and Hispanics-by a wealthy, white, ruling elite.
The reader immediately discovers, however, that these three strands of thought are tightly interwoven throughout the brief biography. Drogin sees eugenics as the fruit of a large, racist, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish "bigot tree" that must be felled with one stroke. For this reason, her book will doubtless be unsettling for certain readers. Antisemitic Catholics and proabortion liberals will find themselves assailed with the same blade.
Sanger grew up in New York, one of 11 children of a poor Irish immigrant. With the help of two older sisters, she attended a private school in order to become a nurse. In 1912, after only three months of training, she married a wealthy architect, moved to the better part of town and settled down to raising a family of three children. After 10 years of the daily routine of a suburban housewife, she became bored and restless, and urged her husband to move to Greenwich Village where the intellectuals of the day gathered to discuss the latest ideas.
Sanger began to frequent the lectures of socialists like Eugene Debs and the early radical feminists like Emma Goldman and Ellen Key. Under the influence of the latter, Sanger began to reject the traditional role of women and the bourgeois concept of the family. Instead, she adopted the view that a woman's individual fulfillment required a degree of sexual satisfaction to which permanent marriage and motherhood were often obstacles. Sexual associations, with the option of motherhood, should be completely voluntary, unencumbered by either law or social custom. Birth control, she reasoned, could go a long way in the liberation of women.
The socialists taught Sanger that the poverty she had suffered as a child was caused by the exploitation of the worker by greedy capitalists. Sanger, however, departed from the classical Marxist line when she concluded that wages were low whenever labor was plentiful. The working class, in other words, had bred too many children for its own good. In Sanger's mind, birth control was also a tool in the class struggle for bettering the conditions of the poor.
In 1914 Sanger traveled to England where she met Dr. Havelock Ellis, a proponent of eugenics. Three years earlier Ellis had published a book advocating sterilization as a precondition for government relief to the poor. Ellis also proposed that the "random breeding" of traditional marriage be replaced by eugenic farms in which carefully selected and scientifically matched couples would breed genetically superior children. Although variations on this theme date back to Plato's Republic, Ellis's immediate model was the American Oneida Community, established by John Humphrey Noyes in 1848. Noyes explained his views in Bible Communism, published in the same year:
We are opposed to random procreation, which is unavoidable in the marriage system. But we are in favor of intelligent, well-ordered procreation. The physiologists say that the race cannot be raised from ruin until propagation is made a matter of science; but they point out no way of making it so. Procreation is controlled and reduced to a science in the case of valuable domestic brutes; but marriage and fashion forbid any such system among human beings. We believe the time will come when random propagation will cease, and when scientific combination will be applied to human generation as freely and successfully as it is to that of other animals. The way will be open for this when animativeness [sexual appetite] can have its proper gratification without drawing after it procreation as a necessary consequence. [Emphasis mine]
Thus Sanger learned a third use for contraception: the purification of the human race through the application of eugenic science. Needless to say, Ellis and Sanger got along famously. In fact, they had an affair.
By 1920, Sanger had abandoned all attempts to help the poor. It was not unjust social conditions which caused poverty, she concluded, but the genetic inferiority and indiscriminate breeding habit of the poor which perpetuated their misery. As a result, the superior and rightfully affluent Anglo-Saxons were well on their way to being outnumbered and overwhelmed by Slavs, Latins, Jews and blacks. Such a frightening scenario crushed whatever faith Sanger still had in popular government. Something had to be done.
Sanger's social philosophy had crystallized by 1922. In that year she published a 283 page manifesto called The Pivot of Civilization. Sanger argues that the I.Q. tests given to American servicemen during World War I gave "scientific" proof that blacks and Southern Europeans were near morons. Such individuals should submit to voluntary, or if necessary, involuntary sterilization. The American Birth Control League and Birth Control Review became the vehicles for Sanger's eugenic cause. In the April, 1932 issue of the Review, she laid out her "Plan for Peace" which included mandatory I.Q. requirements for immigrants, sterilization and segregation for the "feeble-minded," government work-camps for morons, illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and drug addicts.
Sanger often included Roman Catholics in her catalogue of undesirables, but curiously spoke of them as if they constituted a distinct race rather than a multiracial, supranational Church. Far from conceding the absurdity of her assertions, Sanger defended them in an article for her Review. The Roman Catholic Church, she observed, handpicks its priests and nuns from among the most intelligent (i.e., genetically superior) Catholics, and then imposes a vow of celibacy on them. At the same time, the Church forbids the inferior remnant to use contraceptives, and in fact encourages them to breed like rabbits: The result, she concludes, is predictable. (It is not clear whether Sanger would have the Church recruit morons for the religious life, or require priests and nuns to breed like rabbits.) During the 1920's, the eugenics movement gained increasing support, particularly in the upper strata of American society. Its success is illustrated by the 1927 Supreme Court decision Buck v. Bell, which upheld a Virginia sterilization law. Under the law, a young mother of an allegedly feeble-minded child had been sterilized when it was discovered that both she and her mother had scored under the mental age of ten on the Stanford-Binet I.Q. Test. "We have seen more than once," wrote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, "that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices. . . . Three generations of imbeciles are enough."
In spite of such encouragements, the American eugenics movement was not nearly as successful as its sister movement in Germany, which enjoyed the patronage of the Nazi Party and dictated the official agenda for social improvements. This turn of events gave the American eugenicists a chance to see their dreams become realities. For example, Harry Laughlin, contributor to the Birth Control Review, wrote a Model Eugenical Sterilization Law. Hitler adopted the law and, as a result, Laughlin received an honoary M.D. degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1936.
In the years immediately preceding World War II, public opinion in the United States turned against eugenics when Americans saw the Nazis put Sanger's theories into practice. Sterilization, abortion, euthanasia, and ultimately the wholesale slaughter of the Jews, shocked American sensibilities-at least for the time being. Sanger's forces quickly changed their tactics, their rhetoric and their stationery. The American Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, coercive proposals became voluntary ones, and racial categories were replaced with demographic euphemisms. The move to legalize abortion was dropped and the spectre of widespread illegal abortion was used to promote contraceptives as the lesser of to evils.
The events of the last decade have proved Sanger's fabian strategy successful. Although she died at the brink of insanity in 1966, her movement has at last conquered American public opinion. Hardly one citizen in a hundred, or perhaps a thousand, would seriously question the desirability of contraceptives; and the majority of Americans now accepts abortion at least in the cases of rape and incest.
Furthermore, the racist element of Sanger's eugenics program remains intact, even if it is a closely guarded secret. Drogin documents the following statistics: a) Nonwhite women have more than twice as many abortions per capita as white women; b) Although only 22% of Maryland is nonwhite, 40% of abortions performed there in 1976 were on blacks; c) Nationally, while 13% of the population is nonwhite, 33% of all 1976 abortions were performed on nonwhites; d) On January 16,1978, the Los Angeles Times carried 10 column-inches of classified ads offering abortions. On the same day, the Los Angeles Opinion, the Spanish-language daily with a fraction of the circulation of the Times, carried 38 column-inches, nearly four times as many.
One entire chapter of Drogin's book is dedicated to Monsignor John Ryan who, until his death in 1945, was a constant thorn in Margaret Sanger's side. Describing himself as an "unrepentant liberal," he publicly condemned her as illiberal, and even debated her at a Congressional hearing in 1932. Ryan argued that the "law of nature and of nature's God," enshrined in both his Church's social teaching and in the political philosophy of the American Founding, guaranteed to all men the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The latter included, as Ryan understood it, the right to marriage and procreation, "ordained by God's authority from the beginning." In an article in Commonweal, Ryan stated: "Citizens can derive consolation and courage from the reflection that they are battling for fundamental democracy . . . against all the tyrannies that self-righteous and 'superior' sections of our population would impose upon their 'inferior' fellow citizens."
The final chapter of Drogin's book attacks Sanger's fundamental assumption that intelligence can be measured. Drogin labels the Stanford-Binet I.Q. Test a "tragic hoax" and "an absurdity on a par with astrology or palmistry." Curiously, however", she gives almost no evidence to support her view, even though many criticisms of intelligence testing have recently been published. There is, for example, an interesting treatment of the Stanford-Binet Test in The Mismeasure of Man by Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould. Not only was Binet doubtful that intelligence could be measured at all, he was certain that it could not be measured by a single number, like age or height. His testing procedure was intended solely to detect educational impediments among schoolchildren. Yet, his benevolent purposes seem to have been turned to mischief by American genetic determinists of the Sanger school.
Even if there were some objective standard for intelligence, there does not appear to be any conclusive evidence that intelligent parents invariably or even frequently produce equally intelligent offspring. Furthermore, even if they did, an abundance of geniuses could conceivably solve the problems of the world only if the world's problems were essentially technological rather than moral. And that is a proposition about which one can entertain reasonable doubt.
BECOMING AMERICAN: BECOMING HUMAN
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
Boston: David R. Godine, 1981
208 pp., $13.95 (cloth) $3.95 (paper)
By Ken Masugi
Why should a large readership find fascinating the autobiography of an assimilated, middle-class, ex-academic in his mid-thirties? This pleasant evening's reading is an "American story," describing a Mexican-American's coming to know himself as an American. Although "ethnic Americans" can enjoy this tale in a special way, it can edify all Americans, all those who wish to understand America, and hence all those who seek a purpose in human life. Rodriguez's account combines the universal significance of so-called ethnic literature such as Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, John Okada's No-no Boy, and Saul Bellow's novels with the reflectiveness of autobiographies such as The Americanization of Edward Bole and The Education of Henry Adams. Yet Rodriguez, writing with the reserve of Jane Austen, pretends to be neither a model Mexican-American nor a model human being simply. And if he is scarcely heroic, he is nonetheless admirable.
Rodriguez's six essays of "sad fuguelike repetition" focus on the significance of learning the English language for becoming, as he puts it, "a public man." After wrestling with the problem of language his entire conscious life, he halted his academic career just short of completing his doctoral dissertation in Renaissance English literature. He is now a writer living in San Francisco. Rodriquez's "movement away from the company of family and into the city" meant a life-long education involving questioning not only his family but also school, Catholicism, color, and university.
Rodriguez grew up in unusual circumstances: The family lived a comfortable, middle-class life, but as cultural and linguistic aliens in an otherwise all-gringo Sacramento neighborhood. The distinction children come to know between private, family life and public life became dramatized in Ricardo's need to learn English and his desire to play with his friends, tellingly known as los americanos. Once in school Ricardo became forever Richard, and home was never the same again. His caring parents insisted the children speak English as much as possible in the home. Unable to keep up, his father lapsed into long silences. When the son soon became a better speaker of English than his parents, Richard acquired a kind of contempt for them and, then, a shame of his contempt. He saw his manly father a helpless stammerer before a young gringo gas station attendant. Even his extraordinarily resourceful mother-all-ambitious for her son-fell in his estimation.
Despite the loss and the pain Rodriguez now declares "I celebrate the day I acquired my new name." And still the sounds of Spanish (as for others, Yiddish, Italian, or Japanese) produce a hunger for warm childhood memories-which quickly vanishes. Contrary, still, to those "middle-class ethnics" Rodriguez would deride as "filled with self-pity," his acquisition of a new language "discloses instead an essential myth of childhood-inevitable pain." If I rehearse here the changes in my private life after my Americanization, it is finally to emphasize the public gain." Of course Rodriguez is deadset against bilingual education and the naive wish of some contemporary intellectuals to inject the warmth of what is by nature private into public life. He concludes that "intimate utterance" cannot be preserved in American public life, which is to a great extent a "mass society," and that to try to preserve such intimacy is to deny oneself the benefits of public life.
Finally, Rodriguez's very writing of this book-a public act disclosing private feelings-denotes the distance he has put between himself and his family. "Why do you need to tell the gringos . . .?" his mother once wrote to him. But without rejecting his family the favored son left its joy and limitations to become part of a world that once seemed totally alien.
When the ties to his family weakened, young Richard became a "scholarship boy," one who makes the primary focus of his life his classroom achievements. In grade school 'The docile, obedient student came home a shrill and precocious son who insisted on correcting and teaching his parents with the remark: 'My teacher told us. . . .'" All of us scholarship boys (and girls) can recognize ourselves in this and other obnoxious behavior Rodriguez reports, but for Richard the ethnic difference between himself and his teachers made him want all the more to idolize them; they could replace the past he had lost. One day he proudly informed his surprised parents that his teacher praised him for completely losing his Spanish accent. Early on, his parents could no longer help him with his homework: "I tightened my grip on pencil and books." "I wanted to be like my teachers, to possess their knowledge, to assume their authority, their confidence, even to assume a teacher's persona." Now it is true that in striving for recognition (All those extra-credit book reports!) the scholarship boy becomes an imitator, "a collector of thoughts, not a thinker. . . ." Yet even as such imitation takes place he realizes "that education requires radical self-reformation." Thus Rodriguez is no advocate of "creativity" and "originality"; schools today-especially those largely black or Hispanic-do not change students enough. After all, "education is a long, unglamorous, even demeaning process-a nurturing never natural to the person one was before one entered a classroom." In similar fashion did Socrates describe the journey out of the cave.
Rodriguez's education in religion recapitulates the four hundred year rise of Protestantism and secularization, though he remains Catholic to this day. "If God is dead I will cry into the void." Certainly his Catholic upbringing brought him closer to Protestant, mainstream America than does, for instance, Judaism or Buddhism for American believers in those religions. Distinctive even among Catholics was Rodriguez's communal, ceremonial Church with its extraordinarily sensuous, even sensual depictions of divinity: its Bach, Mozart, and incense, along with its Latin liturgy, confessions, and altar boy service. With formal education his Catholic practices became ideas about religion; he became "Protestantized," intellectualized, a liberal Catholic who follows conscience and mores rather than his priest. But Rodriguez has contempt for the new Church, with its pitiful attempts to create community through such quaint practices as rock masses, "Kumbaya" liturgy, and mechanical handshakes before communion, which merely betray its lack of faith. Yet, at the same time, he can never again be a part of his "grandparents' Church," a member of a community of believers. In "confessing" all of this Rodriguez acts quite self-consciously like a Protestant, a man alone in his faith, who realizes most of his readers are not religious. A major part of Rodriguez's education involved thinking through his status as a person of color in a predominantly white public realm. He calmly describes his frustrations without being maudlin or bitter. The boy Richard locked his bathroom door and attempted to scrape away the dark skin from his arms with his father's straight razor but merely managed to shave the hair off. His fair-skinned mother warned him not to be like them, los braceros, dark and physically imposing laborers. So she constantly chided him for allowing himself to tan: "Negrito!" A gentle scolding "Clean the graza off of your face!" detonated the taunt "Greaser!" in his mind. The scholarship boy sought to escape the stigma of color and his conviction that he was ugly by developing his mind against his body. After he won a scholastic award in sixth grade, his mother whispered to him words all ethnic minorities will warm to-he had "'shown' the gringos." The adolescent's shame of his body and his success with words led him to scorn athletics and dating: "I wanted to forget that I had a body because I had a brown body." (Now, having outgrown his shame, he has taken up, quite appropriately, the middle-class sport of long-distance running.) As an adult, he realizes how his dark skin makes him "Exotic in a tuxedo." Has he not just returned from a Caribbean vacation? When Rodriguez does travel he stays in the best hotels; "My complexion becomes a mark of my leisure. Yet no one would regard my complexion the same way if I entered such hotels through the service entrance." It is his character, his confidence arising from his education, not so much any financial success, that prevents him from being reduced to his skin color.
With his higher education at Stanford Rodriguez was stigmatized for the first time by the appellation "minority student." Though perplexed, Rodriguez permitted this onerous classification to reap for him a variety of benefits. The academy's protestations of guilt over its alleged past exclusion of Mexican-Americans and other "minorities" spawned affirmative action programs. Graduate school admissions, fellowships (including a prized Fulbright to England), and teaching assistantships all came easier to him by checking the right race box on the application form. But Rodriguez knew all along that he "was no longer a minority . . . because (he) had become a student." He realized that he benefited unfairly from a policy which would have been directed instead, he maintains, at helping Mexican-Americans and others who lived in a world as far from his as the gardeners on the Stanford campus.
As a teaching assistant and professor at Berkeley, Rodriguez saw affirmative action's destructive effects on minority undergraduate and graduate students. Admitted to programs in which they could not successfully participate, many had breakdowns or dropped out. Some professors who enthusiastically endorsed minority admissions were indifferent to the admitees' problems once they arrived, and other professors patronized them. Meanwhile, serape-draped Hispanics regarded him as "some comic Queequeg, holding close to (his) breast a reliquary containing the white powder of a dead European civilization. . . ." By his own account successful at teaching white middle class students, Rodriguez could not make minority students (or his white academic colleagues, who wanted him to be their special counselor) understand the fundamental distinction between the scholarship he wished to pursue and the ethnic studies courses "Third World" students thought would benefit them. (Incidentally, those who use Chicane indicate their own distance from Mexican-Americans in general, for it "was a term lower-class Mexican-Americans had long used to name themselves. It was a private word, slavish, even affectionately vulgar, and, when spoken by a stranger, insulting. . . .")
Moreover, Rodriguez came to a painful awareness of the corruption affirmative action had worked on his own character. Having acquired national prominence for his attacks on affirmative action, Berkeley graduate student Rodriguez had "a scholarship boy's dream come true. I enjoyed being-not being-a minority student, the featured speaker. I was invited to lecture at schools that only a few years before would have rejected my application for graduate study." Even with his doctoral dissertation incomplete, Rodriguez was deluged with generous offers of scarce teaching positions in English literature.
In some cases recruited like a star athlete, he was offered a position at Yale. A similarly qualified job-seeker, a colleague obliged to accept a much inferior position exploded: "Once there were quotas to keep my [Jewish] parents out of schools like Yale. Now there are quotas to get you in." Despite his short but glorious career denouncing affirmative action, Rodriguez now found himself blurting out a defense of his appointment. "It was all a lie." Realizing he could not in honesty continue his academic career, he declined the Yale offer along with all the others and left academia.
Rodriguez's revealing commentary on his education does not mitigate its fundamental deficiency, the failure of the universities to cultivate what family, church, and schools had planted. Consider his damnation of his uncompleted dissertation: "I felt drawn by professionalism to the edge of sterility, capable of no more than pedantic, lifeless, unassailable prose. . . . I grew to hate the growing pages of my dissertation on genre and Renaissance literature." So what became of the eager boy who asked his junior high school teachers "Give me the names of important books"?
The ultimate failure in Rodriguez's formal education and hence in his overall education, lay in not only the typical scholarship boy error of confusing recognition with true achievement, and the inability of his college professors to foster that achievement (he says virtually nothing about the content of his university education, and he invariably portrays his professors as fools). Rodriguez's critical error is his facile and false equation of American with public, modern man. For Rodriguez, becoming a public man means separation from family, secularization, achievement-orientation, absorption into mass society, or becoming "a citizen in a crowded city of words." But is not Rodriguez's city of words another version of that Thanatopsis Society, the republic of letters? And is not the republic of letters as promiscuous, as unprincipled in its composition, as a list of "the important books" a teacher today might name? For Rodriguez the various strands of his education lead him to modernity, that rootless condition in which men find themselves atomistic individuals. What he should have seen is that becoming American-as opposed to becoming modern-has at its basis a tradition of western civilization based in the cities of Jerusalem and Athens-not the modern, ungrounded "city of words" or republic of letters. Rodriguez does not consciously appreciate the ordering principle which creates public life from chaos, the American natural right principle of human equality, acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence. Only natural right-the objective measure of right and wrong-can enable him to make sense of his experiences. By holding "these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. . .," any human being-Mexicans, non-English speakers, people of color, or non-Christians-becomes American. A common human nature points men beyond their ethnic origins to their natural duties. This, in any case, is the promise of American public or political life.
Because Rodriguez failed to see the connection between his public or political being and the moral and political principle of equality he did not fully understand what was at stake in affirmative action, probably not even after that fellow graduate student (an equally uprooted Jew?) confronted him. He did not realize how affirmative action would eviscerate his character. He should have seen, however, that the relationship between equality of rights and human dignity, and his public identity of American citizen, established by the founding principle of equality, is intimately related to that notion of human dignity. He would then have concluded that affirmative action and equality of rights (or opportunity) are contradictions in terms, for the former denies objective merit, as the latter promotes it. Rodriguez's dignity as a public being would then require his criticism of affirmative action, for it undermines his claim to be part of the public by denying equality of rights.*
With the knowledge that human equality is at the basis of American public life, Rodriguez could also have better understood how far from becoming and being American are college students who label themselves as "Third World." How could any sensible American wish to identify himself with lands ruled by dictators and thugs? But this is precisely what the label "Third World" connotes-the subordination of the notion of human equality to primitive tribalism, if not savagery. Hence, Americans of color must turn not to skin color or dubious sociological categories but to human equality and the western tradition underlying it if they are to come to terms with America and discover the meaning of being American.
Thus would I presume to further Rodriguez's education by informing him of the philosophic basis of his public life, which can in turn provide a focus for his private life. A superior student of the language of Shakespeare and Lincoln, he has yet to learn the core of their greatness, the idea of natural right. Yet, despite this shortcoming, Rodriguez's education has qualified him to be a marvelous teacher who arouses wonder (in its old sense) in his readers, and thus encourages them to know themselves better, both as private and public (that is, American) men.
*Of course the affront of affirmative action continues. When faced with forms requesting identification of race, I usually write in across the boxes: "Human." I was foiled when a University of California employment form stated that the applicant could decline supplying this information, but that one's supervisor would be asked to supply it "through visual observation or other factors"!
CRIME AND RESPONSIBILITY
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946
154 pp., $1.65
By Jack Riley
The problem with understanding Albert Camus' books has always been Albert Camus. As an almost larger than life figure, his stormy career seems to overshadow his work. Very few authors' private lives have come under the scrutiny that Camus' did; indeed, very few authors have so completely flung themselves before the public's gaze. Thus most critics and biographers have attempted to interpret the work through the man.
The recent Camus revival taking place in this country-evidenced by not fewer than two biographies and a myriad of scholarly studies, journal articles and reviews-is no exception. For example H.J. Kaplan, in his article Brother Camus (Commentary, February 1983), admits "it's not the writer I've been looking for, but the man." Judging the man to be incomplete, Kaplan concludes the same for his work. He states that Camus "as an artist, quite visibly, . . . became a sleepwalker." Therefore Camus' life and work were "frauds." Were Kaplan and the other critics and biographers less concerned with dredging up sordid details from Camus' life, they might well have seen his work as something more than "illogical" and "incoherent."
It is fitting, with the recent passing of the 40th anniversary of Camus' first and most famous novel, The Stranger, that the work rather than the man be commemorated. This means that we shall refrain from psychoanalysis of the author. Undignified immersion into Camus' private life can tell us little else than that he underwent great spiritual turmoil; it tells us nothing about The Stranger. For this method attempts to understand an author better than he understood himself. Instead we shall treat The Stranger on its merits alone. In this manner, Camus can, perhaps, be rescued from the oblivion of second-rate existentialism where his critics have cast him.
The Stranger contains the elements of a modern tragedy. The main character, Meursault, lives a quiet, commonplace life in Algiers. The novel opens with Meursault making preparations for the funeral of his mother, whom he had placed in a home for the aged. After an account of the funeral and the events of the subsequent days, our protagonist meets and befriends a certain Raymond Sintes. This chance relationship, which includes collaboration with Sintes to avenge himself on an unfaithful Arab girlfriend, eventually builds to a beach excursion. On the beach, in the aftermath of wine-drinking and a brawl with the brother of Sintes' girlfriend, Meursault murders him. The core of the book is Meursault's reflection on the meaning of life and death during his trial and imprisonment. To all appearances, we see a rather ordinary man swept up and destroyed by a necessitous chain of events over which he has no control.
As the title of the novel suggests, Meursault is a man estranged. It is no small part of Camus' art that the main character, who narrates the whole book, remains something of a stranger throughout. But "stranger" does not exhaust the meaning of "l'etranger." For it may also be defined as "foreigner" or even "alien." Thus it is no accident that we never find Meursault immersed in life. He remains a mysterious, detached observer oddly unaffected by everything around him. That Camus originally intended the novel to be entitled L'indifferent reveals much about Meursault.
A clinical coldness and a quizzical wonder characterize Meursault's view of his mother's funeral. Though he claims that "never had I seen anyone so dearly as I saw those people" during the nightlong vigil over the casket, nevertheless "it was hard to believe that they really existed." This outlook carries over to all aspects of his life. The account of the time spent with Marie (the day after the funeral), far from being routine, is something more akin to the dispassionate description of a scientific experiment. Meursault's detached indifference is made most clear by the way he spends "a typical Sunday afternoon." He studies "the movement . . . in the streets" while perched on his balcony. He observes: "What few people were about were in an absurd hurry." In the wake of his mother's death and after a day with Marie (whom he later agrees to marry), Meursault concludes: "Really, nothing in my life had changed."
Meursault has been described by one commentator as "an ordinary man . . . helpless in life's grip." Through the art of the author the unsuspecting reader comes to have some sympathy for Meursault. But the sympathetic presentation is merely a device employed by Camus. (He uses this device to even greater effect in The Fall. The main character, Jean-Baptiste Qamence, occupies his life with showing people (in a bar called Mexico City on the Amsterdam waterfront) that "they are vile." The action of the novel is the conversation Jean-Baptiste has with an unnamed interlocutor. In it he reveals the most private details of a sordid life. Yet one finds at the end of the book that the account is nothing but a lie designed to gain the complicity of the reader. "I adapt my words to my listener and lead him to go me one better. . . . I construct a portrait which is the image of all and no one.") By spinning out a very "ordinary" series of events-and by recreating such a vivid picture of life in Algiers-Camus quietly lulls us into indifference. For example, Camus' ability to illustrate the desert heat in the funeral scene overpowers the reader's sensibilities.
Wherever I looked I saw the same sun-drenched countryside, and the sky was so dazzling I dared not raise my eyes. Presently we struck a patch of freshly tarred road. A shimmer of heat played over it and one's feet squelched at every step, leaving bright black gashes. In front, the coachman's glossy black hat looked like a lump of the same sticky substance, poised above the hearse. It gave one a queer, dream-like impression, that blue-white glare overhead and all this blackness around one: the sleek black of the hearse, the dull black of the man's clothes, and the silvery black gashes in the road. And then there were the smells, smells of hot leather and horse dung from the hearse, veined with whiffs of incense smoke. What with these and the hangover from the poor night's sleep, I found my eyes and my thoughts growing blurred.
Meursault's own assessment of the drama accurately describes Camus' art in the scene: "After that everything went with a rush; and also with such precision and matter-of-factness that I hardly remember any details." We are so dazed by the clarity and minuteness of the account that we almost forget this is his mother's funeral. We begin to commiserate with him. Camus subtly compels the reader to see something of Meursault in himself.
Yet we should not be deceived by Meursault. We must see that Camus' intention is to deflect the reader's gaze away from Meursault. For he desires in the first part of The Stranger to engage the reader in the drama. Camus, by means of Meursault's narration of the novel, gains our secret consent to Meursault's thoughts and actions. But we must take note also that the drama is wholly narrated by Meursault; indeed, we see the world only through his eyes. Thus it is of crucial importance that we not mistake Meursault's indifference for an objective presentation of things-least of all himself. The device of the powerful, detailed description of the physical circumstances is repeated in the murder scene. Again Camus immerses the reader in sensuality. We feel the dreamy torpor of a morning on the beach, the effect of wine-drinking, and heat.
There was the same red glare as far as the eye could reach, and small waves were lapping the hot sand in little flurried gasps. As I slowly walked toward the boulders at the end of the beach I could feel my temples swelling under the impact of the light. . . . It pressed on me, trying to check my progress. And each time I felt a hot blast strike my forehead, I gritted my teeth, I clenched my fists in my trouser pockets and keyed up every nerve end to fend off the sun and the dark befuddlement it was pouring into me.
Camus attempts to gain the reader's complicity in the act of murder-to demonstrate again that there is something in us which is sympathetic to Meursault. Camus compels the reader to participate in the deed in order that judgment be reserved. For he wishes that we not judge Meursault according to an abstract standard of justice. This is possible insofar as the author's craft is able to engage the unconscious participation of the reader; to judge Meursault is to judge oneself. Thus Camus is able to place the reader in Meursault's dilemma: "And just then it crossed my mind that one might fire or not fire-and it would come to the same thing." The drama of the scene raises the following question: Is Meursault responsible for his crime? Or is he simply at the mercy of his "physical condition"? Put differently the question reads: Is there a connection between Meursault's indifference and his crime?
In the second half of The Stranger Camus reexamines these questions regarding crime and responsibility from another perspective. Meursault is brought before the law-the chief magistrate. After asserting that "the Code is all that could be desired," the chief magistrate concerns himself with the suspect's soul. He is confused and horrified that Meursault neither repents his sin nor believes in God. The chief magistrate is as much dominated by a concern with Meursault's sins as with his crime. The nexus of law and religion in the chief magistrate illustrates the problem with which Camus dealt throughout his life-ideology. Indeed, Camus' teaching may be most clearly seen in his assault on ideology, or, as he puts it in The Rebel, "historical absolutes."
To indicate Camus' teaching we should first attempt to understand his notion of the "absurd." According to The Myth of Sysiphus, the absurd is "the confrontation of the wild and irrational longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart" with a world that "in itself is not reasonable." Simply put, the absurd is the desire for meaning in a world that has been systematically drained of meaning by modern thought. As Camus put it in The Rebel, the creation of metaphysical systems was an attempt "to construct a purely terrestrial kingdom" where men became "rivals of the Creator." Through this reconstructing of "creation according to their own concepts" men effectively kill God: hence, the absurdity of the world. Far from a theoretical postulate Camus thought that this "concrete reality" was the fundamental fact of the modern world: "The absurd . . . is all I can discern clearly in the measureless universe."
The crisis of modernity, according to Camus, is the desire of modern man to create metaphysical "systems." As he puts it in The Rebel, this passion is "a blind impulse" that demands "order in the midst of chaos, and unity in the very heart of the ephemeral." The very worst examples are nihilism and existentialism. (It is interesting to note that, contrary to unlearned opinion, Camus was not an existentialist. In fact he vehemently denied being either an existentialist or a nihilist throughout his life. All of his work, particularly The Myth of Sysiphus and The Rebel, must be read as an attack on both of these positions to be understood properly.) The political form that this abstract and theoretical edification took, totalitarian ideology, Camus thought, had so transformed consciousness as to make immersion in human life almost impossible. The only recourse for modern man is continuous "rebellion" by the "absurd hero" against historical absolutes. The consciousness of the absurd character of modern life-that is, the consciousness of the irrational expectations that ideology had imposed on human life-would reconcile man to the limits of human things. This, Camus believed, would provide the means whereby an authentic existence might at some point be possible again.
We may, then, restate the problem of crime and responsibility in the context of ideology. Ideology is that all-encompassing account of the universe, both physical and spiritual, that provides no room for disagreement or deviation. The ideologist-in the case of The Stranger the chief magistrate-is the antithesis of the absurd hero. For the ideologist lacks the intellectual honesty to confront the disproportion between the desire for clarity and the mind's limits. He attributes a finality to his position at all costs. The ideologist is l'indifferent par excellence; he refuses to find the reason for his existence in human life itself.
Camus makes it clear that all of the characters in the novel (with the possible exception of Marie) suffer the modern malady of indifference. All seek to absolve themselves of responsibility for their actions. The reasoning that underlies the guilty verdict in Meursault's trial also implicates the chief prosecutor. It is not for the murder alone that Meursault is convicted; he is also "morally guilty of his mother's death." This is arrived at "psychologically."
After immersing the reader in the action of the first half of the novel, Camus intends that one see the disproportion between the deed itself and the meaning imposed on it by the prosecutor. But this is not to absolve Meursault of responsibility. For even he finally becomes aware of his guilt; he remarks in amazement: "For the first time I understood that I was guilty." Camus understands that Meursault is guilty for his indifference-for the nihilistic rationalization of his murder. In the same manner the chief prosecutor can judge the suspect only according to an unseen intention, an intention that must be imposed by the scientific method. We find that there is a cause and effect relationship attributed to Meursault's behavior at the funeral and the murder that does not actually exist. For Camus this is ultimately a rationalization of the murder-and such reasoning, he thought, might absolve as well as condemn.
Both the chief prosecutor and Meursault are guilty of the loss of a sense of limits in human things. On the most profound level, Meursault's indifference made the murder a necessity. For it is but a very short leap to conclude from the premise "one life was as good as another" that life and death are a matter of indifference. (It is certainly no accident that Camus chose to name his main character Meursault, which may be loosely translated "death-leap.") Moreover, when the prosecutor asserts that "it was never in his [Meursault's] power to acquire . . . decent instincts," he frees Meursault of guilt at the same time that he finds him to be "a menace to society." In the last analysis, the prosecutor and the suspect are in agreement-Meursault is not responsible for the crime.
The teaching of The Stranger reduces itself to the proposition that human beings must be responsible for their actions. We come to learn this when Meursault finds that there are limits to a human existence. Initially he believes that human beings are adaptable to everything. "I've often thought that had I been compelled to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but gaze up at the patch of sky just overhead, I'd have got used to it by degrees." But even he "couldn't stomach this brutal certitude" of what remained of life after the sentence. Meursault reveals the stark character of modern life:
For really, when one came to think of it, there was a disproportion on which it (the determination of his guilt) was based and the unalterable sequence of events starting from the moment when that judgement was delivered.
The finitude of his life and the irreversible certainty of his death-over which he has no control-cause Meursault to rebel. Life and death are no longer matters of indifference. The inevitability of death with "no hope" makes clear the fundamental difference between subsistence in a tree trunk and a human existence. Meursault is struck by the cold "certainty" and "efficiency" of the system. "I came to the conclusion that what was wrong about the guillotine was that the condemned man had no chance at all, absolutely none." In the face of death it is human freedom, the limited control of one's destiny, that constitutes a human life.
Camus teaches that an absolute freedom of the sort that Meursault demands for himself is the obverse of the absolute justice of his sentence. The two are inseparable. For the radically "free" man, Meursault, all questions are closed-just as they are for the ideologist. Final understanding of the universe accompanies his absolute freedom-even though this understanding takes the form of an assertion of the meaninglessness of the universe. For nihilism understands itself to be the final and irrefutable truth. All questions regarding a standard according to which human life orders itself are answered; the only guide for action is historical expediency. The absolute indifference of Meursault is merely one more form of a "historical absolute,"; in Camus' mind one finality replaces another.
Thus Meursault concludes that the circumstance in which he finds himself must lead to acquiescence.
Death had been ordained irrevocably. . . . So it came to this-against the grain, no doubt-the condemned man had to hope that the apparatus is in good working order. . . . It came to this; the man under sentence was obliged to collaborate mentally, it was in his interest that all should go off without a hitch.
Yet even though "this business of dying must be got through inevitably," Meursault cannot quite reconcile himself to it, but he is unable also to reconcile himself to an immersion in life. While he does rebel, he never does become the absurd hero. This, the highest and noblest of Camus' characters, does not appear in The Stranger. Meursault is a fundamentally flawed figure.
We see this clearly in the decisive confrontation between Meursault and the chaplain that terminates the work. The chaplain recognizes that Meursault's case is the human condition writ small-that "every man on earth is under the sentence of death." It is only at this point-when he is "sure of [himself], sure . . . of the death that was coming"-that Meursault is able to understand the joy of life and consider the possibility of an afterlife. But he desires an afterlife in which he "remembers this life on earth." At the precise instant that Meursault turns toward life, he is forever denied it.
In The Stranger the young Camus does no more than indicate the problem of human life in the modern world. Meursault's rebellion requires him to recognize the absurdity of modern existence; it requires him to see the disproportion between historical absolutes and the meaninglessness of the universe upon which they rest. But while his rebellion leads him toward an affirmation of participation in life, which fills him with a "sudden rush of joy," it does at the same time prevent that participation. For the realization of the joy of life takes place in the most inhuman of environments-in a dark and cramped prison cell under an irreversible sentence of death. Meursault understands the necessity of participating in life from a standpoint that is radically outside life. While he "felt ready to start life all over again," he also lays his "heart open to the benign indifference of the universe." From this standpoint an affirmation of life can only be a neutrality toward life.
The problem of absurdity-the problem of a longing for meaning in the human soul in a world drained of meaning by modern science and ideology-consumed Camus for the rest of his life, clearly he never solved the problem; but only a rash man would say that anyone has solved the problem or, more properly, answered the questions that he raised. Camus understood himself to be posing problems and raising questions that could only be solved and answered in the future. He despaired of a political solution in his lifetime, because he felt that any recovery of meaningful politics-even from the ancient world that he loved and admired so much-would be achieved from a detached and indifferent position outside of political life itself. Totalitarian ideology and its twin, nihilism, displayed to him the almost insurmountable difficulty of such an undertaking.
We may, perhaps, prefer to blink at the circumstance of modern man made clear by Camus. But this would not in any way refute his assessment of the historical situation. Anyone who is a friend of mankind should be thankful for the clarity with which Camus saw the modern predicament. Though he did despair of an easy solution, political or otherwise, Camus displayed his great strength of character and courage by never losing his faith in mankind. Until history brought about more amenable circumstances for man, Camus' hope for humankind, which he himself realized was as unrealistic as it was unreasonable, was the "absurd hero": a man who, while recognizing the true character of the modern world, does not acquiesce to it. The words Camus places in the mouth of Dr. Rieux in The Plague, the very noblest of his literary characters, describes this modern hero well:
You know, I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with the saints. Heroism and sanctity don't appeal to me, I imagine. What interests me is being a man.
TOGETHER WITH THE OPPRESSED
The Real War
Richard M. Nixon
New York: Warner Books, 1980
366 pp., $12.50 (cloth) $3.95 (paper)
By Sanderson Schaub
Nixon's book is a self-proclaimed "cri de coeur," meant to awaken the opinion leaders of America and the "sleeping giant" itself to the extremity of the dangers posed by the power and aggression of the Soviet Union (pp. 2, 5, 265). The Real War carries on the tradition both of Winston Churchill's pre-World War II speeches, later collected into the volume entitled While England Slept, and of the young John F. Kennedy's sequel to that work, Why England Slept. For Nixon not only addresses the peril from abroad, the largest peacetime military buildup since Hitler's Germany (p. 171; cf. pp. 334-5), but also the peril from within, the failure of American nerve encouraged by the shortsightedness and softness that pervades its moral and intellectual leadership (pp. 259, 263, 265).
This is a polemical work directed against the thrusts of Soviet imperialism. Those at the head of "the most powerfully armed expansionist nation the world has ever known . . . want the world." There is "no mystery" about that (pp. 2-3). To Soviet apologists who claim that the goal of the Russian communists is merely security, Nixon responds that "the Russian appetite for 'security' is insatiable. The more the Soviets acquire, the more they have to protect; and they define 'security' only as domination, whether at home or abroad" (pp. 22-23).
To support his contentions, Nixon provides a lengthy historical account of Russian imperialism and a masterful analysis of the profound transformation in the balance of world power in favor of the USSR since World War II. The Kremlin leaders of today, he concludes, have become the new Tsars. "Robert Conquest . . . estimates that executions during the first fifty years of Soviet rule-under Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev-'were at least fifty times as numerous as over the last half century of Tsarist rule.'" Such figures fail to account for the many deaths among the millions held in forced labor camps (p. 67). Though their methods are the same, what distinguishes the new Tsars from the old is that "an ideological fervor" has been "grafted onto the roots of Tsarist expansionism and Tsarist despotism" (p. 69). Partly as a result, "the West is retreating" throughout the world. With the help of Soviet might, communism has taken hold since World War II "not only in Eastern Europe, but also in China, North Korea, all of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Angola, Mozambique, and Cuba."
At the end of World War II, we held an "absolute monopoly of nuclear weapons," but by 1973 we were only "approximately equal" to the Soviets in strategic and theater nuclear capability. Since 1973, the Soviets have been "spending three times as much as the United States on strategic weapons alone" (p. 13). In conventional forces the Soviets hold "an enormous advantage." They have "more than twice as many men under arms" and "four times the number of artillery pieces." We produce "40 heavy and medium tanks a month" while "they produce 50 a week" (p. 14, 171-2). While we reduced the number of our ships "from 976 in 1968 to 453 in 1978," the Soviets "are prepared to maintain at least a 775-ship navy." "Perhaps the most telling sign of Soviet intentions is the vast expansion of their shipyards. Only half of their shipyard capacity is now being utilized, which leaves room for huge increases in shipbuilding in the future" (pp. 210-12). The Soviets are well on their way to creating, if they have not already created, a blue-water navy. Nothing prior to World War I made clearer to the British the expansionism of Imperial Germany-like the USSR, "primarily a land power, with two fronts to defend"-than its naval buildup. Without drastic strengthening of U.S. military might, "the Soviet Union by 1985 will have unquestioned nuclear superiority, overwhelming superiority on the ground, and at least equality at sea" (p. 14).
The Real War is a polemical work also in that it charges the so-called best and the brightest with a significant part of the responsibility for America's recent decline. For the West's retreat has been due not only to Soviet advances. Those who led us into the war in Vietnam and could not win the war themselves "automatically assumed that nobody could. Arrogant even in defeat, with their guilt-ridden carping they poisoned an already disillusioned American public and frustrated all the military and political efforts we made in Vietnam to win the war. Now, shocked by the bloodbath in Cambodia and the tragic plight of the boat people fleeing from 'liberated' South Vietnam, they frantically thrash about trying to find someone to blame. All they have to do is to look in the mirror" (p. 125). In a trenchant analysis of our mistakes in Vietnam, Nixon shows why the "real effects" of that war "are still to come" (pp. 105,135-6).
Nixon raises a serious question as to whether America can recover its willpower (pp. 7-13). Can we win the contest in which we are engaged, "a test of will and determination between ourselves and the most powerfully armed aggressive power the world has ever known" (p. 258)? Nixon maintains that the West is suffering from "a decline in courage, particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society" (p. 265). But he is certain that America retains a hard core among labor leaders, small businessmen, and "middle America" who stood by him when "the chips were down, when America's future was on the line and [he] needed support for the really tough decisions. . . ." He is convinced that the American people are going to fight when faced "with the stark choice between war and slavery" (pp. 257, 267). The great need, the occasion of this book, is a public awakening: the great danger is "an unwillingness to face reality." For Nixon also maintains that "no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of will power" (pp. 265-6).
Yet "today's intellectual and media elite . . . swims merrily in a sea of fantasy," while television, which builds "essentially a fantasy world," merely secures the grasp of that elite on the American mind. All of this holds "frightening implications for the future" (p. 264). Since Nixon believes that America's leadership class will not be replaced, but will remain "pretty much the same" during the next two critical decades, the task he envisions is to awaken "those who exercise leadership to the responsibilities of leadership" (p. 8). The war in Vietnam was lost by the nation's leaders in Congress, in business, in the foundations, in the media, and in the universities. "The class that provided the strong leadership" in World Wars I and II "failed America" in Vietnam. But now the wretched results in Vietnam and Cambodia "have torn at the consciences of many." Now these same Americans "have both an obligation and an opportunity to help restore the strength of America's leadership, and thus to ensure that such tragedies are not repeated on an even larger scale" (p. 266).
Such sober talk is bitter medicine, though not of a sort as bitter as Nixon himself has tasted. It surely brings the questions into focus: Can America's moral and intellectual leaders re-educate themselves almost overnight? Can they find a new will in themselves and therewith set out in a new direction almost overnight? Can Richard Nixon, of all people, encourage this new direction through his record and his teaching? Nixon's discussion of America's future is valuable for its clarity. There is little doubt that Nixon's latest effort will become an important work in the attempt to formulate a broad strategy for America and to educate the public in that policy
Never before has an American president proposed such a comprehensive and detailed foreign policy for America's future. We mention here only a few of its leading elements. First and foremost is the crucial need to check Soviet ambitions with respect to the mineral resources of central and southern Africa and the oil resources of the Persian Gulf. Nixon explains that the Soviet and Cuban advances in Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen and above all Afghanistan are essential to the Soviet drive to capture those vital resources (pp. 25-36, 97-99). He also argues that we must defend the freedom of Israel and of Taiwan even while he stresses the importance of a Middle East settlement and of friendship with the mainland Chinese (pp. 101-2, 158-9). He discusses Eisenhower's "tragic mistake" in the Suez crisis; the subsequent vacuum left by the British has encouraged the Soviets to move into the Indian Ocean and into Afghanistan. Nixon concludes that these Soviet advances are grave threats to the West (pp. 82-83, 86-93, 213).
An awareness of the dangers is only the first step in formulating a grand strategy. Nixon freely admits his own errors in domestic policy, arguing, for example, in favor of a reinstitution of the peacetime draft (p. 218). He also argues against the imposition of wage and price controls, which are harmful to one of our most potent weapons-our economic power (pp. 238-9). He even accepts a large part of the blame for the visionary expectations that have grown out of his policy of detente (pp. 289-90). (While emphasizing the need for a strong intelligence service, he points out that for 11 years the CIA severely underestimated the magnitude of the Soviet buildup. Nixon leaves us to wonder how much an errant CIA was responsible for the miscalculations surrounding detente [pp. 283-4].) Above all, he calls for a rapid acceleration of our defense buildup to alleviate the problems riddling our nuclear and conventional military forces (pp. 191, 201, 212). Nixon's proposals outline a "strategy for victory" in the "real world war III" that the Soviets have been waging against the West for decades (pp. 17, 19, 180, 323).
Yet Nixon's grand strategy leaves several questions unanswered. He is unclear whether military parity or superiority is necessary for the West. Given a condition of military parity, according to Nixon, a nation's will power is of crucial importance. He believes that the West will be put through a school of adversity which may bring about a reinvigoration of its will. But how realistic is this? For what does it mean that "democracies are not well equipped to fight long wars" (p. 115), if not that they tend to vacillate in their will and commitment? Does not detente, for example, weaken the will of democracy by giving rise to false hopes? How then can we retain a "long term optimism" in what will certainly be a long and difficult struggle? Nixon suggests that parity and containment are not enough. Both military superiority and reinvigoration of the nation's will, Nixon seems to believe, are indispensable for victory in. the "real war."
When and where, if we are to win this real war, ought we to begin? We should henceforth, Nixon says, "consider ourselves free to forage on the Soviet side" (pp. 14-15, 325). Indeed there would be "grounds for acute pessimism" about our chances for success if one of our major strengths were not the sympathy of the peoples now living under communist rule. Nixon trumpets the words of Solzhenitsyn:
All oppressed peoples are on the side of the West. . . . Only by relying on this alliance can the West's strategy succeed. Only together with the oppressed will the West constitute the decisive force on earth. [pp. 329-330]