THE AMERICAN PITT
This is the first in a series of essays on the Bicentennial of the Constitution.
John Dickinson: Conservative Revolutionary
Milton E. Flower
Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1983
Xii + 338 pp., $27.50
Reviewed by Christopher Flannery
John Dickinson, according to Milton Flower, was, in the decade preceding the Declaration of Independence, "recognized as the chief spokesman for American rights and liberty." He won this distinction above all by a series of 12 letters written in response to the Townshend Acts (1767) and other acts of the British Parliament alleged to be in violation of the rights of the American colonists. Of the 23 newspapers published in the colonies in the winter of 1767-68, 19 printed all 12 of these Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. Pamphlet editions were immediately published in Boston, Philadelphia, Williamsburg, London, and Paris. Dickinson was called "The American Pitt." In Paris salons "the Farmer" was compared with Cicero. Not until Paine's Common Sense appeared in 1776 was any product of an American pen so acclaimed, on both sides of the Atlantic, as the Farmer's Letters.
Dickinson played a leading role in the successive continental assemblies that carried forward the American Revolution and Founding. He was a representative of Pennsylvania at the Stamp Act Congress in 1765, and was chief author of the "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" and the petition to the King adopted by that Congress. He was a member of the First Continental Congress, and again had a hand in drafting the official proclamations of that assembly, including the "Declarations and Resolves," whose list of grievances would be echoed in the Declaration of Independence. In the Second Continental Congress, Dickinson authored the famous "olive branch petition" to the King and, with Jefferson, the "Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms," intended to be read by the new Commander in Chief, George Washington, to his assembled troops in Cambridge.
Dickinson wrote the original draft of the Articles of Confederation, submitted to Congress on July 12, 1776. A decade later he was chosen president of the Annapolis Convention, which was the immediate catalyst of the Constitutional Convention convened in Philadelphia in May 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation. As a delegate from Delaware to the Constitutional Convention, Dickinson led the fight for equal representation of the states in the Senate.
Only a handful of the greatest Americans can be said to have evoked the spirit and molded the form of the American Revolution and Founding as tellingly as did John Dickinson, the Pennsylvania Farmer. And yet, what his contemporary, Ezra Stiles, prophesied of Dickinson in 1776 has-for some two centuries at least-largely proven true: "He now goes into oblivion or a dishonorable reminiscence with posterity." "Until the year of Independence," writes the Farmer's recent biographer, "John Dickinson, apart from Benjamin Franklin, was probably the American known to more colonists than any other." In the century following the year of American independence, more biographies were written of Benjamin Franklin than of any American statesman, including the Father of the Country, George Washington. In the same century John Dickinson was the subject of not one biography. Not until 1891 was a biography written of the illustrious Farmer. Following this, almost another century would expire before the appearance of a second biography.
In a brief recollection of the most historic moment in the deliberations of the Second Continental Congress, Thomas Jefferson reveals the cause of the relative "oblivion" into which the name of Dickinson would fall. Of that Congress, Jefferson recalled, the American Declaration of Independence was "signed by every member present except Mr. Dickinson."
In the eyes of his most recent biographer, Dickinson's opposition to the Declaration of Independence epitomized the "conservative stance" the Farmer took toward all the great issues of the Revolutionary and Founding periods. "His devotion to the rule of law and to the principles of liberty linked him to the radicals in the early days of the Revolution." His constitutional reluctance to cast off old traditions, institutions, and attachments caused him to be called a traitor by 1776. But it was changing times and circumstances that made Dickinson appear to his countrymen in such contrasting lights. "Dickinson never changed his principles." He was from beginning to end a "Conservative Revolutionary."
In so titling his book, Flower self-consciously subscribes to the established tradition. Dickinson's first and only other biographer, Charles Stillé, wrote of his subject as "always an intense conservative." James Truslow Adams, in the Dictionary of American Biography, describes Dickinson in almost exactly the same words, as "always intensely conservative." "By temperament and breeding Dickinson was a conservative," according to V. L. Parrington. More recently (1962), as editor of a new edition of the Farmer's Letters, Forrest McDonald repeats that "Dickinson's view is . . . conservative." But in subscribing to this firmly embedded tradition, Flower adds nothing to it. In fact, he obscures it.
Dickinson has traditionally been reviled or revered as a conservative for very specific reasons. Friend and foe alike have found the essence of Dickinson's conservatism in the Farmer's stance toward the central idea of the American Revolution: the idea of natural rights. Dickinson is praised by his first biographer for understanding that the rights and liberty of the American colonists "were built, not, as many afterwards contended, on some vague theory of natural rights, but upon a much firmer and surer foundation, immemorial custom. . . ." In contrast to those revolutionaries who claimed to "follow the light of nature," Dickinson was ever "guided by the lamp of experience." From first to last, Dickinson is said by Stills to have resisted the measures of the British ministry because these acts were "violations of English, not of natural, law." Parrington, with less admiration for Dickinson, nonetheless agrees wholeheartedly with Stille, that the Farmer's arguments were directed not only against the British ministry but against "the natural rights advocates." Dickinson's "appeal was to the law and the constitution; never to abstract principles." McDonald writes that "Dickinson's view is historical, pragmatic, and in the Burkean sense, conservative." "Throughout his life Dickinson explicitly rejected the rationalism of the 18th century," which held that "Men are born with certain rights, whether they are honored in a particular society or not."
All this is lost in Flower's biography. He calls Dickinson the chief spokesman for American rights and liberty in the decade leading to the Declaration of Independence. But he sheds no revealing light on the question which, above all others, must be answered in judging Dickinson's contribution to the American Cause: Upon what, in Dickinson's mind, were American rights and liberty founded?
Flower calls Dickinson a conservative. But in Flower's hands, Dickinson's conservatism becomes largely affective: Dickinson was cautious, analytic, intellectual, and not unemotional; he was slow, measured, legalistic. Flower does not seem to endorse-certainly he does not explain or vindicate-the meaning of the term "conservative" as applied specifically to Dickinson by generations of historians, including Dickinson's only other biographer.
In this, Flower does a disservice to the tradition which the title of his book seems intended to perpetuate. But by seeming to perpetuate that tradition, Flower does an even greater disservice to the memory of John Dickinson. A just biography of the Pennsylvania Farmer-which has still not been written-would overthrow this tradition.
John Dickinson would rather his name were consigned to oblivion than that he be remembered as a disbeliever in the natural rights of man. For the Pennsylvania Farmer, there could be no more "dishonorable reminiscence with posterity" than to be known as the enemy of the self-evident truths on which his country was founded. John Dickinson would have wished-as he deserved-to be remembered, as he was remembered by the author of the Declaration of Independence which he never signed:
Among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country . . . he continued to the last the orthodox advocate of the true principles of our new government. . . .
Thinking About National Security
Boulder: Westview Press, 1983
278 pp., $16.95
Power and Principle
New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983
600 pp., $22.50
New York: Bantam Books, 1983
640 pp., $22.50 (cloth), $9.95 (paper)
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982
320 pp., $17.95
By Patrick J. Garrity
On November 4, 1980, the American electorate exercised its periodic constitutional and God-given right to throw the rascals out: the rascals in this case being, collectively, James Earl Carter and his administration. Mr. Carter was challenged successfully by a Republican candidate pledged to restore America's greatness, both foreign and domestic, in the wake of the incumbent's alleged failures.
Mr. Carter was unable to defend his tenure in the polls in 1980, but this year has seen a literary counterattack by the four principal foreign and defense policy figures of that administration: Carter himself, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Needless to say, these works (including Brown's, which does not really qualify as a memoir) do what conventional memoirs are supposed to-offer a defense, or at least an explanation, of policies that may have appeared indefensible or inexplicable at the time.
Brzezinski goes so far as to assert that "Despite the very major setbacks suffered in Iran and the continuing stalemate in U.S.-Soviet relations, in an overall sense Carter left the U.S. position in the world considerably better than what he inherited" (Power and Principle [PP], p. 517). Among the successes of President Carter, Brzezinski lists the "reidentification of America with certain basic ideals" (i.e., the human-rights policy); the Camp David Accords; the normalization of relations with China; the Panama Canal Treaties; American commitment to majority rule in Africa; "the revitalization and modernization of American strategic doctrine and military posture, including PD-59, the RDF [Rapid Deployment Force], and the MX"; the Carter Doctrine relating to the security of the Persian Gulf; sanctions against the Soviet Union after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and Salt II ("not ratified but mutually honored").
"The list speaks for itself," Brzezinski concludes. "And it guarantees that President Carter will be praised more generously by posterity than he was by the electorate in 1980" (PP, pp. 528-29).
Mr. Carter was not treated so kindly by the electorate in 1980, however, precisely because this list of accomplishments was judged insufficient, if not harmful, to American national interests. After all, Ronald Reagan campaigned as a critic of the Panama Canal and SALT II Treaties. A "continuing stalemate in U.S.-Soviet relations" hardly seemed an apt description of what Mr. Reagan characterized as the relentless drive of the Soviet Union toward military superiority and global hegemony. And Mr. Carter's human-rights policy had become by the end of his administration the same kind of political embarrassment that the term (but not the concept of) "detente" had been for the Ford-Kissinger Administration.
No matter how one would grade Mr. Carter's national security "report card," he clearly had the look of a loser during the last two years of his term. The books reviewed here barely dispute that point. Remarkably, the authors devote very little attention to the role that, say, Soviet misbehavior or Republican opportunism might have played in Mr. Carter's troubles. Instead, blame is laid at the doorstep of a chaotic, undisciplined, and contrary world that never quite gave itself over to the liberal realm of reason and good order. But even more at fault-and this point is made thoroughly, if implicitly-were the American people, who refused to resign themselves to being satisfied with less power, less wealth, and lower expectations. They supported instead a candidate who promised a better tomorrow, good times, and no more Irans. Mr. Carter could and would not compete with this optimistic vision because he and his advisers did not believe it to be possible any longer, and, unlike the American public, they had come to grips with their brave new world.
This pessimism is significant because it marks the severe decline, and quite possibly the demise, of the most vital force in 20th century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism.
In Keeping Faith, Carter explains that he read the inaugural addresses of the past Presidents in order to prepare his own. "I was touched most of all by Woodrow Wilson's. Like him, I felt I was taking office at a "time when Americans desired a return to first principles by their government" (KF, p. 19). The affinity between Wilson and Carter is deeper than the obvious fact that both were born in the South, gained their political experience in the office of governor, and placed a great deal of stress on Christianity. They also shared basic assumptions about the nature of political and human life-assumptions that have, in fact, dominated American politics and intellectual thought throughout this century.
Woodrow Wilson's foreign policy genius rested in his ability to create a synthesis between two previously antithetical American nationalisms: isolationism and interventionism. Wilson agreed with the isolationists that the existing international system, based on European imperialism, was fundamentally wrong and dangerous. However, he agreed with the interventionists (and disagreed with the isolationists) that American interests and honor required some degree of U.S. involvement abroad-including participation in a European war. Wilson's solution-liberal internationalism-was intended to identify the moral energy of the United States with its global interests. In a September 1919 address in St. Louis, Wilson remarked:
I have sometimes heard gentlemen discussing the questions that are now before us with a distinction drawn between nationalism and internationalism in these matters. It is very difficult for me to follow their distinction. The greatest nationalist is the man who wants his nation to be the greatest nation, and the greatest nation is the nation which penetrates to the heart of its duly and mission among the nations of the world. With every flash of insight into the great politics of mankind, the nation that has that vision is elevated to a place of influence and power which it cannot get by arms, which it cannot get by commercial rivalry, which it can get by no other way than by that spiritual leadership which comes from a profound understanding of the problems of humanity.
Wilson conceived the task of the statesman as recognizing the flow of history, identifying himself with its course, while maintaining an even keel. To go against the flow of history was hopeless and reactionary; to attempt radical alterations or an unwarranted acceleration of history was to court revolutionary chaos. Domestically, the flow of history was the tide of Progressivism; internationally, it was the desire for self-determination. Wilson believed that the United States had to wage war, and had to seek peace, with international self-determination ("the heart of its duty and mission among the nations of the world") as the objective.
By self-determination, Wilson in essence meant an extension of his New Freedom progressivism to the world (and specifically to Europe). Together with the interventionists, he argued that in the new age of steam and electricity, events overseas could threaten the well-being of the American regime. Wilson saw a link between the success of progressivism at home and self-determination abroad; to threaten the latter would eventually endanger the former.
Unlike the interventionists, however, Wilson and the isolationists did not regard the danger as coming from German aggression so much as from the old international system that resulted in such violence and oppression. That system, based on the balance of power and driven by competing nationalisms, had impeded the flow of self-determination and, by making conflict likely, had created a situation where violent reaction or revolution was inevitable.
Wilson's solution was a new international system, which was "not a balance of power, not one powerful group of nations set off against another, but a single, overwhelming, powerful group of nations who shall be the trustee of the peace of the world." Those nations would be led by the United States out of the darkness of Old World militarism and into the light of New (World) Freedom.
The liberal internationalism of Woodrow Wilson was defeated politically in 1919-1920 by a coalition of isolationists and interventionists. The isolationists rejected Wilson's contention that American democracy depended decisively on the growth of world democracy. The interventionists objected to Wilson's preference for universalism over specific American national interests. And so the American majority turned its back on Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Pure Wilsonian internationalism seemed dead.
Just as appeasement in Britain had been thoroughly discredited by Hitler's repeated aggressions, isolationism became politically untenable in the United States after Pearl Harbor. Thus, internationalism had been proven right after all. In the Presidential election of 1944, Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey were constantly pressured to outdo one another in support for the creation of a new international organization after the war. Four or eight years before, such a pledge would have been political suicide.
Since the end of World War II, the internationalist strain in American foreign policy has been dominant. Even though its basic assumptions remained those of Woodrow Wilson, there have been several discrete formulations of internationalism that resulted in quite different policies.
Franklin Roosevelt fought World War II to prevent German and Japanese domination of Eurasia, while building toward a new international system in which Soviet-American cooperation would be the cornerstone. He also sought the peaceful breakup of the European colonial empires so that the forces of nationalism in the "Third World" could be harnessed to democratic nation-building rather than to violent rebellion against their colonial masters.
When the Truman Administration decided that Soviet hostility made significant U.S.-U.S.S.R. cooperation impossible, the decision was made to build an international order against the Soviet Union. This became known as the Cold War, and the international system was referred to as containment. Decolonization was still seen as an essential step toward international peace and justice, but the political and economic stability of Western Europe (and later, Japan) became the principal focus of American policy.
This anti-Soviet internationalism (the famous bipartisan consensus heard so much about these days) was subtly altered during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations. Now that Europe and Japan were presumably secure from Soviet nuclear or conventional attack, the new challenge for the United States was one of managing the inevitable revolutionary process in the Third World. The success of American policy was contingent on the ability to identify the United States with moderate, pro-democratic forces, in opposition to existing reactionary structures, and to extreme pro-Soviet or local Communist elements.
Despite their differences, all of these variations of internationalism were based on the synthesis created by Woodrow Wilson: the belief in an inevitable historical process; the assumption that the United States is and must be on the side of history, both at home and abroad; the preference for remaining in the placid center of the historical stream rather than risking the turbulence of either the right or left banks-to say nothing of foolishly swimming against the tide; the goal of creating a comprehensive world order that would actively preserve the peace and promote international justice.
For all its flaws, liberal internationalism brought the United States fully into world affairs. Under its principles, America fought and won two world wars, and then opposed Soviet expansionism after 1945. Taking everything into account, that is not a bad record.
Jimmy Carter came into office with traditional internationalism at a low ebb. Rightly or wrongly, it had been discredited during the Vietnam War. Henry Kissinger had unsuccessfully attempted to create an international order based on an entirely different understanding of the historical process. Traditional isolationism was no longer politically viable. In order to fill this foreign policy vacuum, Carter proposed to revive internationalism with his own peculiar agenda.
To be sure, the principal foreign policymakers in the Carter Administration were in full agreement with the general tenets of Wilsonian internationalism. Brzezinski argues for a fusion of power and principle as "the only way to ensure global stability and peace while we accommodate to the inevitable and necessary reality of global change and progress." Human rights "was the wave of the present. It was the 'central form in which mankind is expressing its new political awakening,' and it was essential for the United States to be identified with this."
"As President," Carter reflects, "I hoped and believed that the expansion of human rights might be the wave of the future throughout the world, and I wanted the United States to be on the crest of this movement." Carter understood human rights to be more than "democratic principles such as those expressed in the Bill of Rights." They also included "protection against discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or ethnic origin. . . . The right of a people to a job, food, shelter, medical care, and education. . . ." (KF, p. 144).
If this sounds very much like Carter's domestic program, it is further evidence that Wilsonian internationalism remained alive, if not well, between 1977 and 1981. Indeed, internationalism is based on the ultimate indivisibility of domestic and foreign concerns. Its proponents have believed that the rest of the world would and should become more like the New Freedom, the New Deal, the New Frontier, or the Great Society. For Carter, this meant applying something like the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s to the world at large. As Vance noted in a memorandum to Carter, "There can be no exclusively American solutions. There can only be international answers, or there will be no answers at all." This is precisely the point that separates American internationalism from traditional isolationism and interventionism.
But the global order that stems from the Carter Administration's view of internationalism is decisively different from its predecessors. Wilson, F.D.R., Kennedy, and Johnson were very much a part of the American Century, when the United States assumed itself to be ahead of the rest, to be the single most important instrument in creating a peaceful and democratic world order. The Carter Administration seemed overwhelmed, in Brzezinski's words, by "issues stemming from a complex process of global change. A concentrated foreign policy must give way to a complex foreign policy, no longer focused on a single, dramatic task-such as the defense of the West" (PP, p. 543).
The tasks that the Carter Administration set for itself went by the collective name of "the global issues." These included "human rights, economic development, energy, population growth, environmental damage, food, nuclear proliferation, and arms transfers . . . that array of complex problems that transcend bilateral and regional relations" (Hard Choices, [HC], p. 28). Brzezinski created a Global Issues cluster on the National Security Council Staff "to deal with human rights and the range of problems that cut across traditional foreign policy areas" (PP, p. 125). Or as Vance would have it, "Building on our own experience as a pluralistic nation, we must also learn to work effectively in an increasingly pluralistic world" (HC, p. 435).
A pluralistic world meant for the Carter Administration a decisive rejection of Cold War internationalism's bipolar world model. The United States, as Carter said in 1977, must overcome its inordinate fear of communism: ". . . I believed that too many of our international concerns were being defined almost exclusively by the chronic United States-Soviet confrontation mentality, which seemed to me shortsighted and counterproductive." Brzezinski, the geopolitician, argued that "The world had entered a new post-Eurocentric era; that concentration either on the Atlantic alliance or on the U.S.-Soviet competition would not suffice to assure both international peace and increasing global justice in a world that has become politically awakened and active" (PP, p. 515).
But why had the Soviet danger posited by the Cold War internationalists declined? Brzezinski, the "hard-liner" of the Carter Administration, responded by arguing that the real threat to American security was international disorder, and not the Red Army or Communism.
Yet this Soviet thrust toward global preeminence was less likely to lead to a Pax Sovietica than to international chaos. The Soviet Union might hope to displace America from its leading role in the international system, but it was too weak economically and too unappealing politically to itself assume that position. This, I argued, was the ultimately self-defeating element in the Soviet policy; it could exploit global anarchy, but was unlikely to be able to transform it to its own enduring advantage. The Soviet danger was of a different order than that usually stressed by staunch conservatives. And this is why I felt that the proper American response should not be a deliberate return to Cold War tensions, but a carefully calibrated policy of simultaneous competition and cooperation of its own, designed to promote a more comprehensive and more reciprocal detente - one which would engage the Soviet Union in a more constructive response to global problems. (PP, pp. 148)
In a memorandum to Carter early in the Administration, Brzezinski explained:
. . . my concern for the future is not that the Soviet Union will emerge as the dominant world power, imposing a 'pax Sovietica.' I fear something else: that the destructive nature of Soviet efforts will increasingly make it impossible for us to give order and stability to global change and thus prevent the appearance of a more cooperative and just international system. We will become more isolated and fearful and inward-looking. Eventually, the Soviet Union too will suffer, for it is vulnerable in many ways. The East Europeans are restless, non-Russian Soviet nations are becoming more assertive, the Chinese remain hostile. But that is small comfort if Soviet discomfiture is preceded by some decades by our own decline and withdrawal. (PP, p. 318)
Carter's internationalism, based on such a premise, ultimately decayed into a form of moralistic isolationism. As the Reagan Administration has discovered in Lebanon, it is difficult to sustain public support for simply maintaining international order. The American people need to be convinced that an action is both moral and in the national interest-whether justified in terms of rescuing American citizens or eliminating an advanced Soviet military base in the Caribbean. This inability to link morality with national interest proved to be the downfall of Carter as well as Wilson.
But Carter's internationalism was unique in that it was founded not on the assumption of American moral superiority, as was the case from Wilson to Johnson, but rather on American moral culpability. Guilt, not duty, was the imperative. America was not the answer, but the problem. Such a policy foundation did more than inhibit public support for an outward-looking policy, it logically demanded an American withdrawal from the corrupt international system that it had created.
To be sure, there is much celebration of American morality in these memoirs. But behind this lurks the guilt over Vietnam, the CIA in Chile, multinational corporate conspiracy. It is implicit in Cyrus Vance's decision to resign over the use of force in the Iran hostage crisis. It is present in Zbigniew Brzezinski's incredible remark that Central America was "a region which we never understood too well and which we occasionally dominated the way that the Soviets dominated Eastern Europe" (PP, p. 139). It is evident in Jimmy Carter's observation that the strengthening of America's defenses would have to be undertaken "without alarming our own people or our allies" (KF, p. 223).
Vance is undoubtedly sincere when he attempts to place the Carter Administration in the "centrist mainstream" of American foreign policy since World War II; i.e., liberal internationalism. But the "lessons" of the Vietnam War were so strong as to skew the moderate historicist approach of internationalism far to the left. One Administration official became famous for referring to the Ayatollah Khomeini as a saint, and Cuban intervention in Africa as a stabilizing factor. But by the light of the new internationalism, Andrew Young was entirely correct. The "wave of the future" was revolution, not moderate change-whether in Nicaragua or Iran. It is probable that Carter and Vance, caught uneasily between their Kennedyesque optimism and the Vietnam experience, never understood fully where "the flow of history" was taking them. Rather than simply abandon the internationalist standard of progressive change of the status quo, Carter was willing to surrender America's claim to omnipotence as well as to moral purity. The world was in trouble because that was how the new reality worked, not because of a failure of (his) American policy. In his memoirs, Carter recalls that during his Inaugural Address he
broached a concept that was to prove painfully prescient and politically unpopular: limits. We simply could not afford everything people might want. Americans were not accustomed to limits - on natural resources or on the power of our country to influence others or to control international events.
He then quotes from his address:
We have learned that "more" is not necessarily "better," that even our great nation has its recognized limits, and that we can neither answer all questions nor solve all problems . . . we must simply do our best. (KF, p. 21)
Whether true or not, this argument certainly undermines the internationalist tradition from which Carter's foreign policy is drawn. (Henry Kissinger made the same point as part of his realist critique of internationalism.) As a result, by radicalizing internationalism, Carter succeeded only in discrediting it even further.
Is there any longer a decent basis for the moral and self-interested participation of the United States in world affairs? Some Democrats such as Max Kampelman, the U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe talks in Madrid, believe that it is possible to re-create a moderate bipartisan internationalist consensus. President Reagan himself, after a brief but intriguing fling with semi-unilateralist interventionism, seems to be backing toward the presumed center on these questions. These are not necessarily bad moves; indeed, they are probably quite prudent. But this really begs the question: Is internationalism, even rightly understood, a sound doctrine? Who is truly the black sheep in the internationalist flock, Jimmy Carter or Harry Truman?
This is the first in a series of reviews of college catalogues focusing on the problems of contemporary education.
The School of Theology at Claremont Catalog, 1984-85
Dean Joseph C. Hough, Jr., et al.
Edited by George C. Whipple
Reviewed by Stephen Hayward
A recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education carried a light-hearted treatment of "The College Catalogue as a Work of Art." Poking fun at the bland uniformity of catalogue style, the writer aptly observed that college catalogues seek to inspire and cajole us with happy visual images and titillating but vague academic course descriptions. Partly due to this combination of blandness and cuteness, and ultimately attributable to the aimlessness within the academy today, it is difficult to discern any overriding educational principles from most college catalogues.
A rare departure from this general rule is the 1984-85 catalogue for the School of Theology at Claremont. On the surface it seems like any other catalogue; its cover features a color picture of the S. S. Kresge Memorial Chapel, and interspersed throughout are the typical pictures of contented students lounging around in their Nikes. But as one reads closely the descriptions of the curriculum and individual courses, it becomes clear that the School of Theology at Claremont strongly embraces left-wing politics and modern philosophy in its most radical forms.
"The faculty," the catalogue tells us, "is convinced that it is necessary for the ministers of the church to see their ministry in a global context." But the pregnant phrase "global context" means much more than the Apostle Matthew meant by the Great Commission:
By ministry in a global context we mean more than simply worldwide Christianity. We mean a perspective on ministry which sees each ministry in partnership with ministries around the world in the interest of justice for all the world's people. Global ministry is also inclusive ministry which will not yield to nationalism, racism, or sexism: . . . The Basic Studies of the curriculum are courses designed to introduce the students to the essential foundations for a global ministry.
The "essential foundations" are the focus of RC302, "Ministry in the Global Church," a required course. "Attention is given," the catalogue explains, "to forming a consciousness of the cultural realities and global issues that impact [sic] the church's life and mission. Several perspectives on the church and world are examined, including those of Black, Feminist, Asian, and Latin American liberation theologies." This team-taught class is led by Professor Dean Freudenberger, whom the catalogue lists as "Visiting Professor of International Development Studies and Missions." Does this mean that Professor Freudenberger has training in economics? A check of the reading list reveals that the one economic document required is a World-Watch Institute Paper by Lester Brown, "Population Policies for a New Economic Era." "New Economic Era" is, of course, a euphemism of the doom and gloom, no-growth redistributionists, of whom Lester Brown has long been a leading figure. This paper is the same old problematic Club of Rome argument, with downward-sloping graphs pointing ostensibly to oblivion. Nowhere, apparently, does this course consider the contrary evidence amassed by Julian Simon and others, or the moral arguments of P. T. Bauer that attitudes such as Brown's significantly impede economic progress in the "Third World."
The STC curriculum gives indications, both subtle and jarring, of the pervasive influence of radical modern philosophy. The goals of the Ethics curriculum include learning "the critical use of the social sciences in social ethics and the ethical criticism of social, economic, and political institutions and processes." The course descriptions belie no recognition of the question once considered the preeminent concern of ethics: How should one live? Instead, the courses all stress "social ethics" and "ethical dimensions of global responsibility." The Sermon on the Mount is studied for the "relevance" of its "absolutistic aspects" to "political goals." The Ecumenics courses are designed "to help [students] avoid provincialism in their understanding of world Christianity." The Ecumenics curriculum consists of two courses on Jewish history, two courses on liberation theology, and a course called "International Development and the World Mission of the Church."
That STC is in the avant-garde of modern theology is readily evident from the theology curriculum. Rather than seeking to serve as a conservator of church heritage, of historical theological continuity, the STC Theology curriculum seeks to "encourage students to move to the point of developing positions of their own and to think critically about their own faith in the years ahead." Curiously, required coursework begins with Calvin's Institutes. Augustine and Aquinas are relegated to an elective course under Church History. (Even for a nominally Protestant seminary, this is surprising.) Most Theology course offerings, moreover, are entirely contemporary in focus. The second required course (RC312, 'Theological Perspectives") is wholly taken up with 20th century trends of feminist theology, black theology, liberation theology, and process theology.
One should not ignore the fame of the School of Theology at Claremont as the home of process theology and of its two leading theorists, John Cobb and David Ray Griffin. Process theology can be described as the natural philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead warmed over lightly with a Christian gloss. In process thought, God is not the Creator, nor is He understood as the Supreme Being, or even the "prime mover" of Aristotle. (Neither is He to be understood as a "He," if one is to avoid "sexism.") Instead, all actual beings or entities, including God, are the outcome of "creative processes" that are continuously synthesizing and resynthesizing new "unities." Though this process has no discernible end, process theology speaks confidently of the "evolution" and "progress" of man toward perfection and unity with God. This naturally entails a wholesale reordering of the historic doctrines of Christology, redemption, and eschatology. Is it surprising that process theology is known in some circles as John Cobb's con job?
But radical politics is the most conspicuous feature of the STC curriculum. The radical political bias of the STC curriculum is demonstrated by two courses in particular TH442, "Christianity and Marxism," and WR331, "Liberation Theologies: North and South." "Christianity and Marxism" is described as "an inquiry into the questions whether and how Christian theology can critically appropriate insights of Marx and some Marxist philosophers," adding with no surprise that "Whitehead's philosophy will figure considerably into this project." There has been in recent years an increasing amount of literature on the so-called "Christian-Marxist dialogue" and on the hybrid "Christian Marxism" (which, as one pundit remarked, makes about as much sense as Jewish Naziism). That Christians can seriously and earnestly "dialogue" with Marxists is indicative of the vacuousness of much of contemporary Christianity; the resulting "Christian Marxism" is indicative of the capitulation of Christianity to radical modern philosophy.
Liberation theology, is the most popular form of Christian radicalism today, and its foremost spokesman is Gustavo Gutierrez. At Claremont it is usually referred to as "Latin American liberation theology," but the first thing to be observed is that it is certainly not Latin American in origin. As Father James Schall has pointed out, liberation theology is merely Christian terminology superimposed on Marxist ideas of European origin; liberation theology is, as it were, Marxism with salsa. In Gutierrez's book, A Theology of Liberation, such historic Christian concepts of sin, redemption, and eschatology are systematically reinterpreted along Marxist lines. Citing Sartre, Gutierrez declares that "Marxism, as the formal framework of all contemporary philosophical thought, cannot be superseded." Thus, violent revolution is the sanctified means of spiritual redemption. "Sin," according to Gutierrez, "demands a radical liberation, which in turn implies a political liberation."
Moreover, liberation theology figures in at least a half-dozen courses listed in the STC catalogue, but the title of the primary liberation course reveals much: "Liberation Theologies: North and South." In his narrative history of the World Council of Churches (In Search of a Responsible World Society), Paul Bock reports that in the 1960s the WCC shifted its focus from the "East-West conflict" to the "North-South conflict." By the 1975 WCC assembly in Nairobi, liberation theology and the "North-South" vocabulary became the reigning orthodoxy guiding WCC resolutions on "oppression" by Western white-dominated consumer societies. Not surprisingly, resolutions critical of "alleged" denials of human rights in the Soviet bloc were defeated. Why is liberation theology not applicable to the oppressed in the East? Why is there no course on liberation theology East and West? Why, in fact, are there no Polish or Russian liberation theologians? Is it simply that, as Solzhenitsyn insists, historic orthodoxy is sufficient for the spiritual needs of Eastern populations?
The School of Theology at Claremont is an official seminary of the United Methodist Church which, surveys indicate, is suffering from a precipitous decline in membership. After a look at the curriculum at STC, one reason for diminishing congregations becomes readily evident. "When the political and social ideas used by Christians today are identified and analyzed," Edward Norman has written, "it becomes clear that they are derived from the secular values of the time." But when the church takes its bearings primarily from the secular agenda, it no longer brings anything specifically Christian or transcendental to the world. Thus our seminaries are rapidly becoming cemeteries for the historic faith. It is the genius of Christianity, as Whittaker Chambers once observed, to whisper to the lowliest nun that he could, by the act of his own soul, burst the iron bonds of Fate which seemed to encase him. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest," the Founder of Christianity declares. "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace." This Man is a Marxist revolutionary?
HOMAGE TO VENUS
Sex and Sacredness
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982
219 pp., $17.95
By Kevin G. Long
Christopher Derrick, who had the privilege of studying at Oxford under the tutelage of C. S. Lewis, has been described by Russell Kirk as "a bold man who writes charmingly." Indeed, Derrick's boldness and charm pervade the present volume as thoroughly as they do two previous titles which are recommended without qualification: Escape from Skepticism, which bears the intriguing subtitle "Liberal Education as if Truth Mattered," and a brief reflection on his mentor's religious thought, C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome.
At first it would appear that Derrick, ever the ardent controversialist, has chalked out for himself in Sex and Sacredness a debater's paradise: a position so disputable as to invite quarrels from every conceivable quarter. In the course of the book, he throws down the gauntlet to Victorians for their hypocritical prudishness and to D. H. Lawrence for his fraudulent candor; to the Playboy philosophy for advocating sexual indulgences and to its modern secular critics who would restrain sexual license for all the wrong reasons. Nor do any of Derrick's coreligionists appear safe from his barbs. We find St. Jerome criticized for his misogyny and irrationally negative attitude toward sex, and contemporary theologians scurrilized for trivializing sexual mores and categorically equalizing the sexes.
Yet, as much as Derrick may delight in the thrust and parry of debate, his quarrels are not merely contentious. His thesis is that all of these seemingly opposed views on sexuality are but various manifestations of the same metaphysical error and theological heresy known as Manicheanism. This view of the world attempts to see everything in terms of a dualistic polarity of true and false, good and evil, sacred and profane. Such a conceptual framework, in a more moderate form, is perhaps justifiable for moral questions involving virtue and vice, which are, in some ways at least, symmetrical. However, once the discussion takes into account religion, in the broadest pagan sense of the term, the bipolar concept must be abandoned in favor of a tripolar one. "We shall need to speak not simply of the good and the bad, but of the sacred and the daemonic and the profane" (p. 96).
In order to develop his thesis, Derrick attempts to revive in the mind of his reader some appreciation for the pagan cult of Venus in both her sacred and daemonic aspects. We must understand why Venus was simultaneously the goddess of erotic love (philommedes), the goddess of laughter (philommeides), and lover of Mars, the god of war. Only then can we appreciate the perverse shallowness and sacrilegious impiety (in the pagan rather than the Christian sense) of understanding sex in primarily profane or even moralistic terms. On this point, Derrick cites Wilhelm Reich with guarded approval: "When sexual and religious feelings become separated from one another, that which is sexual was forced to become the bad, the infernal, the diabolic."
The feminist movement, which Derrick regards as a rather mixed blessing, is a case in point. "It includes an element of negativism about sex itself, and at two levels: a tendency to trivialize Venus by reducing the area within which sex is to be deemed important, and a further tendency, expressed with varying degrees of frankness, according to which Venus becomes daemonic and not merely profane" (p. 175). The reproductive system is evil and nasty and "must be kept rigidly apart from the purer, higher organs of mind and sensibility," not because sex is itself wicked, "but because the reproductive system is a horrid reminder of the fundamental differences between man and woman" (p.178).
It is precisely the failure of the modern mind to apprehend either the sacred or daemonic aspects of Venus that renders incomprehensible the traditional Christian view of sexuality, as understood by C. S. Lewis or Pope John Paul II. By insisting that sex is essentially sacred, traditional Christianity has more in common with paganism than with modernity, even in its Christian manifestations. "For pity's sake!" cried out one Catholic priest of the latter persuasion, "Let's keep the Church out of the bedroom!" In other words, observes Derrick, he was explicitly denying Venus her divinity and relegating to the status of profane all that goes on under her aegis within the nuptial chamber.
In place of the traditional view we now have a desacralized "new sexual ethic" which, under a thin veneer of vaguely religious terminology, has been put forward as avant-garde Christianity. Derrick is at his sardonic best in lampooning its "excruciatingly flatulent jargon":
The important thing, we read, is for "relations" to be "deepened" so that people can be "more able to become whole": sexuality has its "expression," and this relates to "deepening or preserving relationships." What Christians must find and maintain is "a truly human and personal holding-point," and what they must value is "human wholeness," in the pursuit of which they must "involve" and "interact". . . . By means of their caring and compassionate love-lives, people are to "fulfill their potential" and so become "truly persons" and more fully "human" and of course "mature," while the dreaded specter of "meaningful" haunts the murky scene. (pp. 149-50)
The "absurdly ethereal" character of such "abuse of language" is undeniably Manichean, particularly when one reflects upon the fundamentally physical and biological nature of the activity under consideration. "I grew up on a farm," recalls Derrick, "and had sharp, inquisitive eyes when young. Those too-earnest, too-lofty idioms make me remember the spectacle of a stallion embarking upon deeply meaningful communication with a mare, or a bull expressing a mature and fully bovine relationship with his chosen cow, thus fulfilling the potential and expanding the consciousness of both" (p. 152). The point of all this is that once Venus is stripped of her divinity, the sane and healthy, yet delicate, equilibrium between her physical and spiritual aspects is lost.
Although the "desacralization" of Venus forms the principal theme of the book, it is only one aspect of the gradual desacralization which has taken place in Western Civilization since the dawn of history. Derrick's observations on this development, especially in the chapter entitled "The Profane City," will doubtless be of some interest to students of religion and civil society, particularly those familiar with The Ancient City by Fustel de Coulanges:
Many have welcomed [this desacralization] in the name of science and progress. But it has aroused various kinds of alarm and regret, sometimes in unexpected quarters. . . . If we heard a sad cry of "All that is holy is profaned!" we might suppose ourselves to be hearing some churchman's lament over the infidelity of the day. In fact, those are the words of Marx and Engels, writing in the original Communist Manifesto and lamenting the sterilizing and desacralizing effect which they attributed to bourgeois society. (p. 108)
Derrick notes the curious paradox that, despite the general trend, vestiges of the ancient piety linger even among us otherwise desacralized Americans. He recalls an incident from World War II in which some mechanical parts were transferred from a British to an American vessel. The Americans were "shocked, horrified, and appalled" to discover that the parts had been wrapped in the oily and tattered remains of the Union Jack. They could not believe that their allies could have committed such an atrocity. Derrick explains the incident as follows:
In America-which is the name of a country, but also the name of an ideology and almost a religion-the national flag is treated with quite exceptional seriousness. It is very much a Sacred Object, and its handling is therefore governed by a strict code of para-liturgical behavior called Flag Etiquette. It provides, among other things, a kind of funeral rite for the disposal of Old Glory, once the individual flag has worn out. (p. 114)
Belief in God is at the heart of the American political orthodoxy. While theism is not essential for denying the subjective character of all "value judgments," notes Derrick, it does nonetheless make a code of private and public morality considerably easier to accept as unimpeachably true. Contrariwise, the outright denial of a Supreme Being renders acceptance of "the laws of Nature and of Nature's God" a near impossibility. The prevalence of atheism, in other words, bodes ill for the regime.
The sacred word "law" comes to mean only "the arbitrary will of the powerful," a conclusion toward which we have already moved too far. Things are bad enough under any tyranny. . . . But when the dominant philosophy is such as to rule out the obligation of any higher law, any spark of hope must die. (p. 196)
It is rather unlikely that John Adams and Thomas Paine could have roused an embryonic commercial society to throw off the yoke of British imperialism on economic grounds alone, without a more forceful appeal to transcendent notions of justice and liberty. Yet in our own times, as Derrick notes with legitimate apprehension, the extent to which the sacred ground of the American Founding has been reduced to a mere vestigial piety leaves us vulnerable to moral decay from within and "defenseless against the Hitlers and Stalins of the world" without (p. 196).
Derrick reminds us that the rejection of our primitive and primordial instincts of piety and the religious awe which we take to be so liberal and cosmopolitan is, on the contrary, rather narrow and parochial in the grand scheme of things: "We still belong to the same species as the Bushmen of the Kalahari, or the aborigines of Arnham Land," a point, we often forget, that is enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. "So far as the great basics are concerned-birth, life, sex, sin, suffering, death, and God-we stand where humanity always stood and are not so special. . . . When it comes to those great basics, we should listen to what simpler peoples have said and grant them a vote equal to our own" (p. 185).
Derrick indeed leaves us with much to think about and provides some rather unorthodox perspectives from which to begin our meditations. Perhaps few readers will arrive at the conclusions offered in the book. Perhaps that is the author's intention. After all, the most fruitful dialogues are those begun by having someone around to ask the right questions.
THE SOVIET THREAT
The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine
New York: Random House, 1983
338 pp., $16.95
Inside the Army
New York: Macmillan, 1982
296 pp., $14.95
The Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union
Edward N. Luttwak
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983
242 pp., $14.95
Reviewed by Terry O'Rourke
In evaluating the Soviet military threat, it is important to remember an old and wise diplomatic saying: "Russia is never as strong as she looks. Russia is never as weak as she looks." Misled by Stalin's purge of the Soviet high command and the bungled Finnish campaign, Hitler launched his disastrous 1941 invasion of Russia. Hitler was not alone in disparaging Soviet capabilities: the British and French general staffs rated Russia's expected performance below Poland's, and U.S. military experts predicted Russia's defeat in six to eight weeks.
Within weeks the initial German onslaught captured and killed over three million Russian soldiers, eliminated the Soviet air force, and destroyed more than half of Russia's industrial capacity. But within a few months the Germans encountered hardened resistance, soon followed by offensives manned by previously unidentified units. These offensives were preceded by massive artillery barrages and spearheaded by thousands of T-34 tanks, unknown to the Germans before the invasion and rated the best tank of World War II. By early 1942 Soviet production rebounded, and four times as many tanks were being produced as before the invasion; and by the end of the year Russia was producing twice as many aircraft as Germany and more than four times as many tanks. Contrary to universal expectations in the West, Russia prevailed over Germany, giving rise to a postwar belief in Soviet strength, sometimes as exaggerated as the prewar contempt that it supplanted.
Competent military analysts know all too well that many aspects of the Soviet military threat are exaggerated, just as many aspects are undervalued or simply unknown. But military capabilities cannot be measured piecemeal; they must be taken as a whole, under probable battlefield conditions involving real opponents. Three recent books dealing with the Soviet threat illustrate both the pitfalls and the difficulties in assessing Soviet strength. The books are written from distinct perspectives: Cockburn is a journalist; "Suvorov" is the pseudonym of a defector from the Soviet army sentenced to death in absentia; and Luttwak is a highly regarded analyst, and consultant to the U.S. Defense Department.
Cockburn's book The Threat attempts to shatter the myth of Soviet military invincibility. His theme is a simple one: Soviet military power has been vastly exaggerated and inflated by the Pentagon in order to justify new and unnecessary U.S. weapons. Cockburn has obviously conducted wide research and presents many useful and valid snippets of information, but his selective presentation suggests that he embraced his theme before reviewing the evidence. One glaring example adequately conveys the flavor of Cockburn's approach. He claims that through satellite photographs, U.S. analysts are able to monitor new cruiser construction in Leningrad "almost rivet by rivet." Notwithstanding Cockburn's confidence in its capabilities, U.S. intelligence failed to detect construction of the first Oscar-class attack submarine at Leningrad for the simple reason that the work was covered by a shed; due to the size of the shed, U.S. analysts postulated that an aircraft carrier was under construction. Like its sister class, the Alpha, the Oscar utilizes a revolutionary double-hulled titanium construction, allowing it to operate at depths and speeds greatly in excess of U.S. nuclear submarines. According to some reports, these new submarines can outrun U.S. torpedoes. But the reader need not fear that Cockburn totally ignores such developments. Despite their overwhelming superiority, the new submarines have one defect shared by all Soviet nuclear submarines, which the author eagerly imparts: They are exceedingly noisy.
Cockburn contends that Soviet conventional weapons suffer from crippling defects. For example, tanks are poorly designed and underpowered, break down frequently, and their smooth-bore cannons are inaccurate. His conclusions are largely based upon examinations of Soviet weapons captured by the Israelis in Mideast wars. But as Suvorov observes, the Soviets manufacture two variants of equipment: the standard model and the stripped-down "monkey" model for export, which is sold abroad as "latest" equipment. In the case of the BMP-1 infantry combat vehicle, Suvorov counted 63 missing features in the "monkey" model. These include the automatic-round selection and loading features of the 73mm cannon, the electric-powered turret rotation system, the lead internal-wall lining to protect the crew from direct hits and radiation, and the automatic rocket target guidance system.
Even though Soviet equipment, on the whole, is not as bad as Cockburn claims, some weapons are inferior to U.S. counterparts, especially under testground conditions. These deficiencies are well known to both Soviet and U.S. planners. As Suvorov points out, the Soviets strive for simple systems that can be readily manufactured and repaired under wartime conditions. Although a manual tank transmission may be inferior, it can be repaired or replaced quicker than an automatic transmission. A smooth-bore cannon barrel may not be as accurate as a rifled barrel, but it can be manufactured for one-tenth the cost in one-tenth the time. And the Soviets prefer to have ten cannons, rather than one. This is the major point missed by Cockburn. The United States attempts to build superior weapons not simply to counter "overrated" weapons on an individual basis, but to counter the sheer weight and number of Soviet weapons. In faulting U.S. planners for exaggerating the capabilities of the T-72 tank to justify procurement of the M-l tank, Cockburn ignores the fact that the 5,000 tanks in the U.S. inventory are outnumbered by 50,000 Soviet tanks. Moreover, Cockburn's abstract approach ignores actual wartime conditions, especially the impact of surprise attack: Contrary to prevalent myths, the French army defeated by the Germans in 1940 enjoyed superiority both in quality and quantity of tanks.
Cockburn belittles the Soviet fighting man as much as his equipment. Based largely upon interviews with émigrés, he portrays an army divided by hatred between officers and enlisted men, and prejudice among nationalities. Soldiers are poorly trained, educated, fed, and housed; and alcoholism is endemic. Only readers ignorant of the conditions and proclivities of Soviet soldiers in World War II will join Cockburn in pondering whether these qualities destroy the fighting efficiency of the Soviet army. In seeking to demolish the myth of Soviet military invincibility, Cockburn breeds an equally exaggerated and dangerous myth of Soviet weakness.
As a former Soviet army officer, Suvorov knows the shortcomings of the Soviet army firsthand, which he sets out in graphic detail. Unlike Cockburn, however, he contends that the Soviet army is an underestimated and deadly opponent with hidden strengths offsetting apparent weaknesses. Suvorov argues that its key strength is simple design, making weapons easier to repair and maintain, and above all, to train soldiers in their use. Many of these weapons have no counterparts in the West. For example, Soviet heavy mortars give small units unmatched firepower. The largest U.S. mortar is the 106.7mm; the smallest Soviet mortar is the 120mm. Suvorov warns that the newest and most effective weapons are closely guarded secrets unknown to the West, just as the T-34 tank was hidden from the Germans. The latest equipment is issued to Russian frontier military districts; only after five to seven years is it issued to Soviet forces abroad, including front-line forces in East Germany. The Soviets allow the West to see only what they want to be seen. All army units receive constantly updated schedules showing the precise times when U.S. reconnaissance satellites will overfly their areas, so that advanced equipment can be hidden and normal transmitters and signals can be shut down, and deception transmitters and radars used.
Suvorov fears that the most underestimated and least understood aspect of the Soviet army is its mobilization capability. Key officers in Soviet divisions have "understudies." When the Soviet army mobilizes and moves forward, these "understudies" are left behind in divisional depots to organize, train, and lead arriving reserves. The Soviet army does not throw away old weapons; they are carefully stored and maintained in divisional depots for use by reserves. These "invisible" divisions are admittedly old-fashioned, but as Suvorov observes, the arrival of ISO old-fashioned divisions several weeks after the outbreak of war, to join 150 divisions armed with the latest equipment, will throw off the calculations of any enemy. This is precisely what happened to the Germans in 1941.
Luttwak's title recalls his penetrating earlier study, The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. The present book, however, contains only a 118-page essay by him, accompanied by two commonplace appendices on the Soviet economy, and the evolution of Soviet military power. In the context of his sketch of a theory of Soviet empire, he illuminates Soviet military capacity.
Luttwak is unmoved by claims that the West can take comfort in the inferiority of Soviet weapons. Unlike Cockburn, he believes that the once wide disparities in quality between Soviet and Western weapons, with the exception of air combat weapons, has diminished to the point that they are of slight military significance. To the extent that disparities still exist, Luttwak contends that superior numbers, combined with a military doctrine that recognizes technical inferiority and seeks to circumvent it, can easily erase large differences in the quality of weapons. For example, 1960's vintage Soviet battle tanks can fight well by the dozen against outnumbered, superior Western tanks by closing rapidly to eliminate the advantage of range, and by firing en masse to nullify the higher rate of engagement of Western tanks.
Luttwak is far more concerned with improved Soviet operational skills than with improved weapons. He notes that the Russian army, capable of retreating and rebuilding within the vast depths of the Russian land mass, has traditionally possessed respectable defensive capabilities. But offensive operations call for different skills: advanced planning, logistical organizations, hundreds of skilled managers and organizers, and tactical flexibility. To the extent that these operational skills are lacking, the military threat posed by the Soviet Union is circumscribed. Although the Soviets conducted cumbersome, yet successful, offensives in World War II, Luttwak argues that until recent years the Soviets lacked confidence in their ability to carry out swift interventions or surprise aggressions. He believes that the attitude of the Soviet leadership toward their own military power has undergone a crucial change, marked by the Soviet intervention in Ethiopia in 1977 and in Afghanistan in 1979, both operations being characterized by bold, swift self-confident execution of the sort not previously associated with the Soviet style of warfare.
Luttwak properly observes that military power is relative: Soviet power and confidence have been enhanced by a lack of will in the West to recognize and counter growing Soviet power with increased defense expenditures. To a certain extent, this tendency has ebbed since 1981, and the Soviets can no longer assume that they will continue to enjoy unchallenged superiority and to dominate the field abandoned by post-Vietnam America. While still enjoying superiority and some degree of operational freedom provided by Western lassitude, the Soviets, Luttwak argues, will be tempted to further expansion in order to enhance their security. The appropriate question is not "whether" but "where?" Luttwak believes that the Soviets have concluded that China is the main enemy and that its thinly populated border fringes are a likely target of Soviet aggression.
The prospect of war, even one that is neither Western nor nuclear, is alarming. If Soviet power is allowed to continue to grow in relation to that of the United States and its allies, and if the Soviets come to believe that Western Europe and Japan will respond to nothing short of a direct attack-thereby undermining the inclination and capacity of an American response-then one can only agree with Luttwak that the Soviet Union will be set on the road to war.
GOD AND MAN AT HARVARD
Moral Education at Seventeenth-Century Harvard: A Discipline in Transition
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981
323 pp., $24.00
By Thomas G. West
An accurate assessment of 17th-century Puritan thought may help us to understand better why America turned out as well as it did. If it is true, as I think, that our Founders tempered their embrace of John Locke's prosaic modernism with a nobler concern for the promotion of human excellence, the Puritans deserve part of the credit.
Since Perry Miller published The New England Mind: The Seventeenth Century (1939), scholars have been aware of "the extent and depth of Puritan rationalism" (Fiering, p. 248). Nevertheless, most Americans continue to associate Puritanism with an intense religiosity to the point of superstition and an intellectual life of sectarian narrowness. Although it was not the main purpose of his book to do so, Fiering confirms and in some ways sharpens Miller's thesis, through his careful review of the way moral philosophy was taught at Harvard during the 17th century.
For all its elegance and erudition, Miller's work suffers from the historicist bias of its author: that there is a single New England "mind" that agrees on all fundamentals. Norman Fiering's book, by contrast, documents that two leading positions regarding morality-the "intellectualist" and the "voluntarist"-contended more or less openly at Harvard, the center of the life of the mind in New England. The "intellectualist" view, which tended to predominate, maintained that "The end of moral philosophy is human happiness; i.e., the sort of state as perfect as possible for man, prescribed by correct natural reason for his life on earth among men" (p. 63, quoting Burgersdyck, a prominent author read at Harvard). This position stems from Artisotle's Nicomachean Ethics, especially as the teaching of that book was domesticated within Christianity by Thomas Aquinas. The "voluntarist" view, on the other hand, argues that man's excellence consists in his will or passions attaching themselves to their proper object-namely, God. Christian voluntarism tends to deny to unassisted human reason the capacity to discover in nature and to follow true principles of right conduct (the natural law), and it thereby makes revelation and divine grace all-important, not only for the life to come, but even "on earth among men."
American Puritans were never quite willing thus to secure piety at the expense of the intellect, and so an Aristotelian rationalism coexisted (sometimes uneasily) with Calvinist suspicion of a human nature corrupted by the Fall. Although Cotton Mather, for example, regarded "the employing of so much Time upon Ethicks in our Colledges" as "A Vile Peece of Paganism"-he would have preferred that future ministers "Study no other Ethics, but what is in the Bible"- his view remained in the minority among the educated (p. 40). Nevertheless, Mather's worry was understandable, for the intellectualist might be tempted to "give out, as if saving Grace and Morality [based on human reason] were the same"-a view that was widespread by 1674, if we are to believe Mather's father Increase (p. 40).
All this is brought out well by Fiering, although his own leading concern lies elsewhere. The principal thesis of his book is that Protestant voluntarism, as expressed by such English writers as Henry More and Theophilus Gale, helped prepare the way for the "sentimentalist" school of eighteenth-century British ethics, represented especially by the Scottish moralist Francis Hutcheson. "The sentimentalists argue that the source of moral judgments and of moral conduct is in special feelings or affections, rather than in reason or intellect, and that man is naturally endowed with such moral affections" (p. 5). Fiering does show convincingly that the theories of the will and the passions developed by More, Gale, and their Protestant predecessors possess "an inner affinity" with sentimentalism-except for their overriding religiosity. But this means there remains an unbridgeable difference. Like the medieval Mutakallimun complained of by Maimonides, these Protestants "considered how being ought to be in order that it should furnish a proof for the correctness of a particular opinion [namely, Christian faith], or at least not refute it" (Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, I, 71). Fiering himself says of More that "his writing was suffused with pietistic warmth, even an evangelical strain" (p. 240). The sentimentalist school, on the other hand, begins from a strictly philosophical attempt, completely separate from the convictions of faith, to understand morality and the passions on the basis of the teachings of Descartes and his successors.
Fiering probably overrates the connection between Puritan voluntarism and modern sentimentalism because of his historicist bias, which he accepts "as a matter of faith" (p. 4): that the thought of human beings is to be explained by the concept of a "history of ideas," according to which ideas are caused by previous ideas or by "preexisting cultural conditions involving society, politics, and economics." Such a scheme reduces faith and reason to a common level that implicitly denies dignity to both, for faith claims to come from God, while reason claims independent insight into the things themselves. Neither, in its own self-understanding, can be understood by reference to history.
In spite of this important reservation, Fiering has written a very useful book. His painstakingly conscientious-sometimes tedious-study of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Puritan writings enables his reader to see the issues that the early Americans wrestled with. Because he presents such detailed exegeses of a variety of texts, the reader is given a more reliable picture of Puritan thought than that dispensed in sweeping surveys like Perry Miller's. Further, Fiering helpfully places the writings he examines into the larger picture of developments in European philosophy and theology, so that their rank and uniqueness may better be assessed.
A proper appreciation of the course of early American moral and political thought is complicated by the rise of the distinctively modern approach in such authors as Machiavelli, Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza. At first this approach had its strongest effect in Europe, but since America looked to Europe for almost all of its reading matter and many of its professors, the modernist influence soon made itself felt in America. We may judge something of the temper of that influence from this description by an observer of Leiden University in Holland during the 1670s: "No one speaks to [our youth] any more of Religion or of the Catechism. One begins and ends with a Cartesian seminar where one must doubt of all things, even of whether there is a God. If by chance the Bible is spoken of, this is greeted with a laugh; as a book full of errors, not to be put on a level with the light of nature" (quoted by Fiering, p. 98). One wonders how much of the free-thinking spirit secretly insinuated itself into New England at this time.
Although modern authors were widely read and celebrated in the period leading up to the American Revolution, they were read partly in light of the tradition of classical rationalism that had already taken firm root in Puritan New England (and elsewhere in the colonies). Fiering's book bolsters the case of those, such as Harry V. Jaffa, who maintain that America's version of Lockeanism was shaped by the spirit of classical political philosophy, which had an important place in the education of the Founders.