WHAT IS HISTORY'S "GROUND"?
Hegel, Heidegger and the Ground of History
Michael Allen Gillespie
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984
xv + 217 pp., $22.00
By Jack Chapin
In this learned book Michael Allen Gillespie asks the question "What is history?" to which he suggests that there are two basic kinds of response, only one of which he thoroughly explores. The first answer, characteristic of the Greeks, is that history is an account of human events (historia rerum gestarum). It is a mode of inquiry, akin to philosophy and poetry, but due to its necessary relatedness to the contingent and actual, the least philosophic of the three. On the other hand, "modernity has come to the conclusion that it is the human actuality" itself (res gestae) (p. 24)-thus the objective reality to which the science of history must conform and the primary datum for the study of man. For modernity, then, it becomes a legitimate and pressing task to provide an explanation of history's "ground."
Now from the perspective of the ancients, modernity's approach to the question appears to be misguided from the start. History has no objective reality; it is not a "thing" or res. There is no meaning at all in the sum total of human events. Meaning belongs to the exceptional-a virtuous deed, the greatest war. These are the events that the mode of inquiry called history identifies and brings to light. But in spite of the fact that he harbors the suspicion that the modern historical approach may be a mistake, that the effort to grasp the meaning of the course of human events will never reach its goal and has been attended by the most disastrous practical effects, Gillespie does not pursue this line, of thought. He does not develop the suggestion that history may be nothing more and nothing less than the memorialization of memorable deeds, nor does he test the adequacy of this conception for the contemporary world. Gillespie abandons himself to the modern approach or writes entirely from this point of view. He wants the question "What is history?" to designate an inquiry into history's "ground."
Indeed, the most surprising feature of this book, posing the issue as Gillespie does, is that in its very mode of procedure it seems to assume what it aims to find out. Gillespie has chosen to explore the problem through the interrogation of Hegel and Heidegger, which is a reasonable enough way to start. Certainly these thinkers are two of the greatest modern philosophers for whom history is a central theme. And yet this is not exactly a confrontation of their work. For nowhere in his book does Gillespie conduct a systematic comparison, reconstruct a dialogue, or methodically show what unites and divides these thinkers on the historical theme, as their rather different philosophies of history, or conceptions of the history of philosophy, would appear to demand. The transition between his discussion of these two thinkers is in fact an account of European history, beginning with the story of how, following his death, Hegel's influence suddenly collapsed, thus necessitating the survey of developments, both spiritual and political, in the post-Hegelian world. It then leads into the discussion of Heidegger, which is the final part of the book and where only a few passing references to Hegel are made. In this book, too, Hegel's thought is left behind. It is almost as if the history of thought about history is itself supposed to be an historical res; in his introductory chapter likewise Gillespie writes a detailed survey account of how, in the various stages of Western history, "history" has been variously conceived. Thus the effort to explain this res-to discover history's "ground"-necessarily takes the form of a history of historical thought, with most attention, to be sure, going to the two figures studied here, whose efforts to explain history form the peaks of history as well.
How far this book, in fact, presupposes such a conception of history must remain a matter for conjecture. It seems likely, however, that these observations are prompted merely by Gillespie's employment of the common scholarly procedure of giving historical context to philosophical works, and which seems curious only in this book, which wants to place this procedure under the light. Fortunately, however, one need not demand an answer to these questions in order to acknowledge this study's value, which resides not in the whole nor in any unequivocal response to the questions it poses at the start, but rather in the solidity of its constituent parts. Each part of the book-on Hegel and on Heidegger-is capable of standing on its own as a valuable and provocative work. Here I can only indicate some of the conclusions Gillespie reached and some of the questions his book provokes.
It is in his study of Hegel, of course, that Gillespie is on the more proven ground. The investigation of Hegelian idealism, from root to branch, is by now a developed art. Particularly the origins of Hegel's system, in the problems initially posed by Rousseau, is by now a well-cultivated field. Accordingly, it is in his study of Hegel that Gillespie might be thought to have made his most important contributions of the type that will enter into the literature and win wide scholarly assent. This seems to me to be the case. In several important ways he has gone beyond contemporary scholarship and has advanced the current understanding of Hegel's texts. Particularly impressive in this respect is his analysis of the "Introduction" to the Phenomenology, the inner structure of which he seems to have been the first to discern. But in general his book's importance for Hegel scholars should be evident merely from its stated purpose: to show the basic unity of Hegel's work-the inner connection, specifically, between his philosophy of history and his logical and more speculative work. With a thorough command of the secondary literature, Gillespie then charts an independent course. This is a book that the Hegel specialist could read with profit; it probably should not be ignored.
Gillespie's discussion of Heidegger, on the other hand, while lacking the authoritativeness possible in a more cultivated scholarly field, at least has the advantage of opening up a series of questions and problems by which advances toward authoritativeness might be made. His discussion has three clearly delineated parts. He begins with Heidegger's critique of modernity, which amounts to a critique of subjectivity, the self-assertion of modern man such that he is now fulfilling the task prophesied for him at the start: the attempt to master and subdue all beings. Gillespie's explication of this critique is the clearest part of this chapter of the book. One problem with Heidegger's account of technology is that, although the phenomenon is plain, Heidegger's writings are somewhat obscure. With less mystification than Heidegger, Gillespie accurately retraces his account. Particularly noteworthy is his discussion of how, in Heidegger's view, politics is subjective self-assertion as well; hence, for Heidegger, the moral distinctions between regimes are erased; Americanism, Communism, and Nazism are all forms of subjectivity, all forms of self-assertion, and thus-superficial differences notwithstanding-all essentially alike. The only flaw in Gillespie's treatment is his failure to question this view, which does not seem to be wholly true.
Then Gillespie presents Heidegger's account of the source of this condition which may be said to be modernity's extreme forgetfulness of Being. Only under the sway of this forgetfulness could humanity be driven so incessantly and totally to the endeavor to master and subdue all beings. Note the difference between "Being" and "beings"; this is the "ontological difference" that Heidegger made his one and only thought. And it is of this difference that Gillespie offers an interpretation that almost combines opposites by being both provocative and clear enough to summarize in a few lines. The forgetfulness, first, is in fact quite old and occurred at the latest shortly after philosophy arose among the Greeks. This point, however, is easy enough to gather from Heidegger's published work. What really distinguishes Gillespie's interpretation is the conceptual scheme that he superimposes on the ontological difference and that effectively brings it into the light. The difference between Being and beings, Gillespie repeatedly insists, is precisely analogous to the relation between questions and answers. Being is the question. Its original coming-to-light, among the ancient Greeks, was the appearance of the primordial question that has animated, so to speak, all philosophical thinking since. And since a question as question indicates a want or a lack, one could say that in its presence Being is also absent. On the other hand, Being's subsequent withdrawal, at a little later point, was what redirected philosophy. Henceforth it gave priority to answers over questions. For Heidegger, the absence of absence yields presence, beings or answers alone. This withdrawal of Being, Gillespie shows, has finally reached a point where beings or answers alone appear. Hence we have modernity and its preoccupation with present answers and ultimately the endeavor to master and subdue all things.
But if what characterizes modernity is the complete withdrawal of Being, its total separation from beings, or the return of Being into itself, then does not modernity conceal within itself a possibility unavailable even to the Greeks: an experience of "Being itself in its unity and purity" (p. 150)? This is Gillespie's final point in his chapter on Heidegger. Here Gillespie attempts to develop Heidegger's hints to the effect that the nihilism of modernity is merely the dark side of humanity's hopes. I found this discussion very obscure. Only experience, it would seem, would entitle one to participate in this discussion.
Experience of Being as such, however, is precisely what modernity lacks. Fortunately Gillespie identifies a touchstone by which we can test our understanding and perhaps even the basic intelligibility of what Heidegger says about the experience of Being. And yet fully considered, I believe this touchstone speaks against our understanding and probably even against Gillespie's interpretation of the texts.
Politics is the touchstone, within ordinary capacities to grasp, by which we can test our understanding, for the question of Being has political implications. In some sense Gillespie is correct. Heidegger never understood his question as a theoretical abstraction or as a matter for merely speculative thought; it is real and tangible, with practical implications; in the words of Being and Time: "of all questions the most basic and concrete" (Sein und Zeit, p. 9). Moreover, Heidegger several times attempted to tie the original appearance of Being together with a peculiar political creation: the rise and full flowering of the polis of the Greeks. Gillespie emphasizes these points with special clarity and force. The original appearance of Being, he argues, "opened up a new world, brought new gods, a new ethics, a new politics . . ." (p. 135). All phenomena in this world bore the stamp of the appearance of Being. Hence the philosophy, poetry, and politics of the Greeks belonged together in a synthetic unity. Each activity was a response, unique only in type, to the same primordial appearance of Being.
Hence the reappearance of Being which Heidegger divines in the contemporary world will likewise open up a new world. Along the analogy of the Greeks, Gillespie several times refers to an "authentic ethics and politics" which, in replacement of modernity's nihilism, Being is about to dispense. Whether this is so-i.e., whether politics does indeed have a place in Heidegger's own incipient experience of Being-does not seem to me evident from the texts. Granting Gillespie's reading, however, the point still fails to convince, for political phenomena are collective phenomena-widely shared and understood-not the private experience of a single man. And there is no general experience of what Gillespie calls "authentic ethics and politics" anywhere in the world. (For that matter, even Heidegger's interpretation of Greek politics seems tenuous and forced.) At this level, then, Heidegger cannot be understood.
I can think of only one place, in fact, in all of Heidegger's work where these questions can be properly explored. That would be his brief commitment to Hitler and the Nazis. Although it is acknowledged that Heidegger later turned his back on the Nazis and regarded them with contempt, for a brief time he gave them his support. To discover the grounds of that support by articulating what Heidegger thought the Nazis were accordingly becomes a legitimate and pressing task. It is the closest thing we have to a concrete check on the discussion of the political implications of the question of Being.
It is curious, therefore, that Gillespie fails to perform this task-given his concern with Heidegger's politics or the political implications of his work. His allusions to Heidegger's commitment are confined to occasional footnotes and to summaries of what other scholars have said. The special value of his discussion therefore, apart from its persistent seriousness and the many important insights he throws out along the way, is that he does insist that Heidegger's politics has to be understood. He thus invites a further exploration of the texts. It only seems likely that when the task is accomplished, this book, along with a good deal of the literature on Heidegger, will have to be partly reworked.
A Defense that Defends: Blocking Nuclear Attack
Gregory A. Fossedal and Daniel O. Graham
Old Greenwich, Connecticut: Devin-Adair Publishers, 1983
158 pp., $17.50
How to Make Nuclear Weapons Obsolete
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1985
175 pp., $25.95
By Steven A. Maaranen
The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) is President Reagan's program to develop a system which could defend the United States and its allies against a nuclear attack. The two books under consideration are the best-known public writings of those who believe that such a system is strategically desirable and technologically feasible. With these books, dissimilar as they are, we find the strongest advocacy for the replacement of current nuclear strategy, oriented toward offensive forces, by a radical alternative which would rely heavily on defenses. The information they provide about the technologies that might be used for strategic defense, and the strategies which these technologies might make possible, is welcome and badly needed, for the idea of shifting our security to a greater reliance on defenses, as Reagan's March 1983 speech suggested, would mark a major break with past and present strategic policy. It would probably necessitate a major movement of military assets, and potentially military action, into space. And although there are major differences of opinion on the point, the new reliance on defense would probably be contingent on new, still unproven technologies which are little known and understood outside the community of defense technologists.
What would be the benefits and risks of emphasizing defense in our defense strategy? The President's speech that called for the creation of the SDI program did not discuss these questions in detail; indeed, very little strategic analysis was done before the speech. The President merely presented his vision of a better policy and called for a program to explore the technical feasibility of that policy. Since the speech, many of the key issues relating to SDI strategy and technology have been identified and explored. Some argue that SDI is a technologically impossible dream that would be extremely dangerous if it were possible. Others believe that limited deployments of defenses could help support a strategy which would still rely strongly on offensive forces, and that such limited defenses are technologically feasible. Still others (Fossedal, Graham, and Jastrow among them) agree that highly effective defenses are technologically feasible, and if deployed would create a safer, more secure world for the United States. But even these supporters of SDI differ from each other on many important points.
Fossedal and Graham contend that the United States faces a choice between two diverging paths which are not just strategic policies but different orientations toward the future. One path is a continuation of present strategy, based on offensive nuclear weapons and imprecisely characterized as Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD). According to this strategy, the U.S. attempts to deter Soviet attack by threatening a devastating nuclear response to any attack. This is unacceptable, Fossedal and Graham argue, because it makes no attempt to protect U.S. citizens if deterrence fails. We must live in constant fear that some conflict will get out of hand, or some accident will occur, setting off a chain of events that leads to a massive nuclear war. This fear paralyzes us, preventing us from taking many actions called for by our political and moral principles. Fearful acquiescence in evil leads to the moral degeneration of the American body politic and to infirmity of purpose in U.S. foreign policy. As Fossedal and Graham put it: "MAD suggests that no one dare even think about power. He who uses it may do some good, but he may also err; he who declines to act need not accept responsibility" (p. 25). According to the authors, Mutual Assured Destruction is part and parcel of a set of policies which has led to U.S. decay and decline, and which must be rejected. The other path, they contend, is strategic defense. This offers not only a superior strategy for the security of the United States and its allies but also means to restore superior power to America-a power which could regenerate U.S. moral purpose and lead to a positive new foreign policy.
To take the path of strategic defense, Fossedal and Graham argue, the U.S. needs to move swiftly to build and deploy a "layered" defense system. This would combine several types of space-based weapons, which could engage and destroy attacking Soviet missiles and warheads during their flight toward the United States, with ground-based defense against any warheads that leaked through. These defenses would be supplemented by U.S. civil defense programs. With the U.S. better protected against nuclear attack by strategic defenses, it would be freer to pursue its foreign policy goals and to act in support of those causes in which it believes. The space layers of the strategic defenses would do more than contribute to the security of the U.S. against nuclear attack, however. They would also be able to protect vital U.S. military capabilities in space (e.g., intelligence, early warning, and communications satellites) and would correct what the authors believe is a dangerous and growing Soviet edge in space.
America should not only move military assets into space as a defensive measure, Fossedal and Graham argue, but should gain control of space militarily and use this advantage to restore Western military superiority. Such a "high frontier" would make it possible for the United States to make a "new effort to take the initiative in promoting security, democracy, and development in communist and underdeveloped nations." Space-based strategic defenses would also provide the military power and a secure position from which to roll back Soviet influence: A "properly defended Western alliance would be in a position to promote freedom in the East as it has never done before." Further, having regained the diplomatic and moral (to say nothing of military) initiative, the U.S. "would be the champion of peace and security. We would offer our protective blanket to all nations that hope to escape the horrible consequences of assured destruction" (pp. 110, 111).
Although this review is primarily concerned with their defense strategy, we must note that Fossedal and Graham are not simply interested in creating a better and more secure defense (and offense) for the United States. In addition to protecting our military space assets and projecting American military power globally, U.S. command of space would allow that locale to be used for U.S. economic exploitation-manufacturing, research and development, and energy collection or generation. And this would be only the first step in a great new American adventure which, Fossedal and Graham contend, would revitalize American society and restore the conditions for the spread of freedom in the world. That adventure is presented as being analogous to the conquering and settling of the American West.
America need only repeat what it did on its last frontier, the West. We would have to provide for reasonable means of transportation-a railroad into space. We would have to create human outposts to coordinate and oversee our increasing activity-a town store or post office above the atmosphere. We would have to proclaim, and then demonstrate, our determination to defend the frontier settler and his possessions-a sheriff's office in the sky. We should be doing this and more anyway, in order to protect the United States and its allies on earth. (p. 83)
Fossedal and Graham argue that the new adventure, like the Westward expansion, would restore sturdy virtues to the American people. Societies not interested in exporting themselves, in ensuring the spread of their virtues and way of life, the authors claim, lose confidence in themselves and their own ways of life. With strategic defenses and the settling of the space frontier, Fossedal and Graham contend, America can renew its political virtue and prepare for victory over the Soviet Union.
Robert Jastrow, a prominent scientist in the NASA space program for many years, has been one of the most vocal and effective supporters of the SDI program. Dr. Jastrow has, in comparison with Fossedal and Graham, more modest goals for strategic defenses, although Jastrow has audacious ends of his own. He supports development of strategic defenses which can render nuclear-armed ballistic missiles essentially useless.
The main purpose of his book is to describe for the general public the most promising strategic defense technologies. The technical discussion is prefaced and concluded by a discussion of strategic policy issues related to SDI. The technical section emphasizes potential space-based weapon systems, discussing the physics of a number of directed-energy weapons (e.g., chemical lasers, neutral particle beam, and x-ray laser) and kinetic-energy kill weapons (e.g., hit-to-kill rockets and rail-guns). Jastrow also sketches some of the ways in which the tactical and technical requirements for the "system architecture" might be met. These elements (including surveillance, target acquisition, kill assessment, self-defense, battle management, and command and control) are needed to allow a complex, many-layered defense system to be controlled and operated effectively even in the face of a determined attack.
Jastrow is only partially successful in translating his understanding of the science of strategic defense for the public. Many of the new defensive weapon concepts are based on complex physics beyond the ken of the general public. In trying to develop explanations and analogies to make these concepts accessible, he has cut a lot of corners, allowing him to be criticized by anti-SDI scientists. Yet the descriptions are too brief and general to educate the inquisitive reader.
Jastrow begins his strategic arguments from the same premise as do Fossedal and Graham-that Mutual Assured Destruction characterizes the current strategic condition. Unlike them, however, Jastrow is not troubled by the domestic and foreign policy consequences of MAD, for MAD implies a strategic balance between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. and hence deterrence and stability in international relations.
Strategic stability is usually defined as a situation where neither nuclear superpower can, in a first strike, hope to eliminate the other side's ability or will to retaliate in a manner the first striker would find unacceptable. If this condition is met, both sides are deterred from attacking. Crisis stability is assured if neither side, in a crisis, believes that the outcome of a war would be significantly better for it if it struck first than if it awaited the other side's attack, or avoided war altogether. To adherents of Mutual Assured Destruction doctrine, these conditions are met when both sides retain sufficient numbers of nuclear weapons which can survive a preemptive attack, be launched, and penetrate to cause a level of damage the other side regards as "unacceptable." The maintenance by the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. of survivable forces capable of inflicting such punishment on each other is supposed to provide both strategic stability and crisis stability. If these criteria were accepted by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., they would allow for very large reductions of the superpowers' strategic nuclear arsenals.
Jastrow's fear, and the basis for his advocacy of strategic defenses, seems to be that the U.S. cannot assure stability in the future on the basis of offensive nuclear forces alone. In his view, the Soviet Union has never accepted the desirability of strategic stability or its basis in mutual vulnerability. Instead of following the American policy of limiting the growth of strategic forces and avoiding the construction of a force capable of threatening the other side's retaliatory forces, the Soviets develop forces and retain doctrines which would allow them to threaten, or execute, a successful nuclear attack on the U.S. It is the Soviet Union's erosion of the strategic balance, not the principle of a nuclear balance associated with MAD, that Jastrow finds unacceptable. He notes without argument that "[m]any people, including prominent government leaders, see a positive value in keeping nuclear weapons because they have kept World War II from breaking out. At any rate, they see no hope of getting rid of them" (p. 136). Moreover, the presence of nuclear weapons has suppressed the outbreak or escalation of nonnuclear wars between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. because of the risk that any war would lead to a ruinous nuclear exchange. The NATO strategy of flexible response, including the threat of nuclear first-use, relies directly on this threat of escalation to nuclear weapons to help deter nonnuclear aggression.
Not surprisingly, Jastrow goes on to argue that what really counts is not the number of nuclear weapons on either side, but the maintenance of a nuclear balance between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Of this he says:
Today there is a nuclear balance between the two superpowers, with 10,000 intercontinental nuclear weapons in round numbers, in each arsenal. But an equally effective balance would exist if each country had 5,000 such weapons. . . . Such is the fearsome power of these weapons, that if each country had only 10 nuclear weapons, a nuclear balance would still exist. And if 10 weapons would deter an attack and keep the nuclear balance, then why not five or one-or zero? The deterring effect of nuclear weapons on aggression is effective all the way down to zero weapons, provided both sides have equal numbers of these weapons at every stage. (pp. 137-38)
But given the preference of the U.S.S.R for a policy based on superior offensive nuclear forces, Jastrow seems to argue that only the commitment of the U.S. to strategic defenses will demonstrate the futility of this policy and provide the leverage necessary to get the U.S.S.R. to accept a policy based on balance and stability. The development and deployment of strategic defenses by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would then allow for a safe, confident, mutual reduction in offensive nuclear weapons. Even moderately effective defenses would provide nearly perfect protection against attacks using the small numbers of weapons that might be secreted, and thereby negate the effect of any modest cheating on disarmament agreements. Consequently, defenses would provide the confidence required for both sides to engage in real, substantial reductions in offensive arms. A coordinated build-up of defense and build-down of offenses would put us on the path toward nuclear obsolescence.
And what of the role of offensive nuclear weapons in keeping the peace and extending deterrence to U.S. allies? According to Jastrow, that role would not be endangered for a long time. If both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. deployed 80 percent effective defenses, meaning we could destroy 80 percent of the missiles the Soviets launched at the U.S. in any attack, most of the U.S. retaliatory force would survive and could be launched in retaliation. Even if Soviet defenses intercepted 80 percent of our retaliatory strike, the remaining missiles would be enough to devastate the U.S.S.R. As Jastrow says, "They will know that if they attack us, we will be able to strike back with our nuclear weapons and reduce all the major Soviet cities to rubble in thirty minutes" (p. 15). In other words, the practical result of strategic defenses, for a considerable period of time, would be the restoration of a confident mutual assured destruction posture. But this raises two disturbing questions. First, is a nuclear balance really sufficient to allow the U.S. to meet its strategic requirements? As Jastrow noted, U.S. strategic policy provides for first use of nuclear weapons if necessary in response to aggression, and to escalate and control a nuclear war. How we might achieve these tasks in the face of a nuclear balance or Soviet superiority, even with a very large and diverse nuclear arsenal, has been one of the central questions in U.S. strategic policy for many years. With very small, balanced nuclear forces or no nuclear weapons, we certainly could not do these things at all. Second, at some point in the reduction of offenses and deployment of defenses that Jastrow proposes, both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. would lose all fear of nuclear war-that is, the threat even to incinerate each others' civilian population would be negated. Jastrow notes without demur that many people believe the fear of nuclear war contributes importantly to the prevention of both nuclear and nonnuclear war between nuclear weapon states. What would be required to maintain American security in the complete absence of offensive nuclear arms? We never get a clear answer to these questions, and for this, How to Make Nuclear Weapons Obsolete has sometimes been criticized.
These two volumes present sharply differing defense strategies which might be made possible by the successful development and deployment of strategic defense technologies. While both are valuable attempts to work through this difficult new subject, neither strategy is completely convincing as it now stands. The Fossedal-Graham strategy, the objectives of which are much larger than just supplying an adequate defense, would require the U.S. to gain control of space and use that control as the high ground from which to exercise a decisive military advantage over the Soviet Union.
Achieving such a strategy would require overcoming some major hurdles. The first is that, as Fossedal and Graham note, the U.S. has fallen behind the U.S.S.R. in some important areas of military power. The authors advocate rapid development and deployment of defenses, but there is considerable doubt within the defense community whether the sorts of weapons which they advocate building in the next several years will be effective enough to implement their strategy. Nor is the U.S. so superior in many areas of technology relevant to strategic defenses and military uses of space that we can expect to establish superiority without a long and hard struggle with the Soviet Union. The second obstacle to the Fossedal-Graham strategy is that it is very far from the center of the present spectrum of U.S. defense policy alternatives. Current U.S. policy guidance, developed by the most conservative, pro-defense administration in many years, favors a cooperative, mutual deployment of space defenses and reduction of offenses. That is, it foresees the move toward strategic defenses as a way to lessen the tension and danger associated with a policy of competitive cooperation with the U.S.S.R., not to overturn that relationship and forcibly roll back Soviet influence. Does America have the political will to adopt and sustain an offensive policy?
Professor Jastrow's strategy, envisioning a mutual, phased deployment of defense and reduction in nuclear offensive weapons, is more in keeping with current U.S. policy guidance on SDI. However, Jastrow and present U.S. policy have not yet given compelling answers to some important issues. The first is that, for a mutual, phased introduction of defenses and reduction of offenses to occur, both the United States and the Soviet Union need to be convinced that a mutual retaliatory policy, and negotiated mutual reductions aiming at the ultimate obsolescence of offensive nuclear weapons would meet (or meet as well as possible) their national security interests. The Soviets have made it clear that they believe offensive nuclear weapons are the decisive weapons of war and potent instruments of political intimidation. Their forces and policies appear to be designed to ensure nuclear superiority, in order to prevail in war or peace. Accordingly, they have been unreceptive to U.S. ideas about nuclear balances and ideas of stability, and hostile to U.S. strategic defense. They have tried to halt the SDI research program and have said that they would attempt to counter any strategic defense deployments.
Jastrow argues that the development of effective defenses would convince both sides that building more offensive weapons would be unprofitable. However, the superiority of defenses to offenses might not be obvious enough in all circumstances to persuade the U.S.S.R. to (as opposed to longer-term possibilities) might not exercise this sort of leverage at all.
Furthermore, if Jastrow's strategy were implemented and nuclear weapons did become obsolete, the U.S. would have to fill a major security gap left by the demise of its offensive nuclear weapons. The effective elimination of offensive nuclear weapons could force the U.S. to develop general-purpose forces and plans to deter or defeat aggression wherever and at whatever level it occurred. Indeed, the U.S. may have to face this expensive and unwanted requirement in any case, as extended deterrence becomes less credible and more dangerous. Alternatively, optimists may believe that the elimination of mutual offensive threats and the process of negotiations which would accompany the deployment of defenses would reduce animosities between the United States and the U.S.S.R. and limit the risks of war. Then the responsibilities of U.S. regional and alliance forces would be reduced, and no improvements to those forces would be needed.
It is almost certain that the United States will not settle on its ultimate objectives for strategic defense, or the strategy it wants to develop to support those objectives, for some time yet. Differences such as those noted between the Fossedal-Graham and Jastrow approaches need to be addressed and resolved, and other ideas about the long-term objectives of SDI need to be thought through as well. In addition, there are avenues open for U.S. nuclear strategy which would not require strategic defenses.
Two basic approaches rely on offensive weapons alone. Choosing one of these would allow for a continuation of defensive arms control agreements and negotiations of bans on space weapons. The least spectacular approach is to try to maintain current U.S. nuclear strategy. Presently, it is called the countervailing strategy, which is the latest refinement to the flexible response/limited options approach to nuclear strategy which was first adopted by the U.S. in the early 1960s. This strategy has come to accept Mutual Assured Destruction as an underlying condition of large, reasonably survivable nuclear arsenals. As long as the U.S. and the Soviets take necessary precautions, neither one could realistically hope to limit its damage to very low levels following a massive nuclear exchange. As a consequence, the U.S. does not view the threat of all-out nuclear war as a useable policy option, but as a final, passive deterrent. We have instead developed a number of limited nuclear-attack options for our central and regional forces which are potentially less devastating, and therefore more plausible, responses to Soviet aggression. These "limited options," the chief element of U.S. nuclear strategy for many years, would be used to respond in kind to limited Soviet nuclear attacks on the U.S. and our allies, or perhaps to attempt to halt a massive Soviet assault against NATO, using conventional and perhaps chemical weapons. The U.S. believes these more credible threats would, in the event deterrence should fail, offer some hope of controlling and containing a nuclear war and leading to an acceptable peace.
In the absence of strategic defenses, we might be able to find ways to continue this strategy. To do so, however, would almost certainly require the development and deployment of new generations of improved, more survivable offensive nuclear forces, better target acquisition capabilities, military assets to track down and destroy mobile targets, and weapons to destroy very hard and deeply buried facilities. The need to carry out these programs would put narrow limits on acceptable arms-control agreements and complicate verification of compliance with the agreements that are in principle acceptable. An understanding of this prospect, along with the technical challenge of developing these forces and the reluctance of political authorities to support them, is one of the most important reasons many strategists have come to support SDI.
The other major approach using only offenses is to give up the plans and forces for conducting limited nuclear options and to rely much more explicitly on the ultimate threat of massive nuclear retaliation for U.S. security. Many people believe that nuclear weapons are a much better deterrent than the proponents of the limited-options approach admit. The threat that in the event of a severe Soviet provocation, the United States might retaliate with several hundred nuclear weapons is so terrible, they argue, that it is adequate by itself to deter almost any aggression. Reverting to a clearer and more direct reliance on this threat, perhaps backed up by stronger nonnuclear forces to defeat minor aggression, is a strategy which is quite widely advocated today. However, adopting this strategy would mean abandoning the limited-options strategic approach which has been repeatedly renewed over the past twenty years. It would mean convincing ourselves that the single threat to retaliate massively can by itself deter large and small-scale aggression against the United States, its friends and allies. This has not been acceptable to U.S. presidents in the past, and it is unlikely to be in the future.
Long before agreement is reached about what long-term U.S. defense objectives and strategy should be, and whether they will or will not require strategic defenses, the administration and Congress will make important decisions about the future of the SDI program. The actual choices that are available for the next few years are narrower than the long-term strategic options and have become quite clear. Continued reliance on an offense-only approach has proven to be increasingly difficult, and for good reasons the United States has chosen to investigate major alternatives.
If the United States continues to pursue SDI research, there are two general near-term courses available. The first is to conduct research and development on strategic defense technologies which would offer a decisive technical and cost advantage over offensive nuclear weapons. If perfected, such weapons would allow for a major and rapid transformation of strategy from reliance on offenses to defenses. Problems with a long, drawn-out transition to defenses, where there are troublesome combinations of offensive and defensive forces on both sides, would be minimized. In the presence of such defensive weapons, both sides would realize that attempting to retain offensive ballistic missiles would be fruitless, and a rapid movement to nearly leak-proof defenses and rudimentary offenses would be assured. This approach is largely consistent with the SDI research program plans for the fiscal years 1985 and 1986 and with recent presidential policy statements on SDI. It would probably require a long period of research and development and no near-term deployments, therefore allowing, even encouraging, the continuation of treaty constraints on strategic defenses while research is being conducted. Hard decisions about the utility of actually building and deploying defenses could be put off for many years, and the propriety of deploying such weapons, if they were ever perfected, would be unquestionable. Of course this approach would do nothing to resolve present U.S. strategic problems, and in practice would require either the continuation of the countervailing approach or movement toward an offensive strategy more closely resembling MAD.
The other approach is to adapt defenses to something resembling the countervailing strategy, while orienting that strategy toward the incorporation of more and better defenses as they become available. This would require emphasizing research into less effective but nearer-term technologies, along with longer-term research. Since demands on these defenses would be less, their prospects for success would be greater, and they might be available much sooner. The less-effective defenses which might be developed and deployed in the nearer-term could initially be used to restore and strengthen some variant of present U.S. nuclear strategy by reducing Soviet confidence in their ability to achieve their nuclear-strike objectives. Using defenses in this way would require the U.S. to continue to rely heavily on offensive nuclear forces for some time. Thus the U.S. could continue to threaten the use of limited nuclear options to extend deterrence to our allies and to make credible responses to less-than-all-out Soviet aggression against the United States.
But this departure from a primarily offensive strategy which limits defenses would be a major-and might be an irrevocable-step. To take that step without being sure that we can get to an acceptable strategy, better than the one we now rely on, would be hazardous in the extreme. That is why many serious and responsible strategists and policy-makers have approached SDI with great caution. But as this review has tried to indicate, our understanding of better long-term strategies is not yet complete, and the cases made for most of them are not yet compelling. Because the problems with an offense-only strategy are so pressing, the U.S. may nevertheless feel compelled to move ahead with developing and deploying whatever strategic defenses become available. If so, we need to be sure that each step we take leads us to a satisfactory and self-contained stopping point (or at least to a strategy which is better than other available options) before we make the move. We need not only to continue examining where we ultimately want to go with strategic defenses but how they might help us to resolve our strategic problems in the next decade.
CRIME AND HUMAN NATURE
Crime and Human Nature
James Q. Wilson and Richard J. Herrnstein
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985
639 pp., $22.95
By Christopher Manfredi
Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, three broad perspectives have contributed to explanations of crime. Early in the century, crime was thought to be the inevitable product of urban squalor, poor parenting, pauperism, and the unwillingness of new immigrants to conform to American society. From the middle of the century until the 1950s, the dominant view was that crime is the symptom of individual psychological flaws that require probing and treatment. Finally, a theory of environmental causation emerged in which crime is attributed to social conditions whose cause is structural flaws in the economy over which ordinary individuals have no control.
According to these explanations, crime is the result either of conditions external to the offender or of his being an abnormal psychological type. In either case, the logical consequence is identical: Offenders should neither be held responsible nor punished for their criminal acts. In Crime and Human Nature, James Q. Wilson and Richard Herrnstein demonstrate that punishment is a justifiable response to crime in spite of the attack made by social science on the concepts of free action and individual responsibility. They argue that the principal causes of crime are not an offender's abnormal psychology (or biology) or his environment. Rather, they assert that crime is a result of those unchanging aspects of human nature that make any human act possible. In other words, crime is a manifestation of the same human nature that produces acts of greatness.
Wilson and Herrnstein begin by articulating their own theory of crime. In their view, "[a] person will do that thing the consequences of which are perceived by him or her to be preferable to the consequences of doing something else" (p. 43). Societies and individuals, they continue, attach various positive and negative reinforcements to different crimes. Psychological, environmental, and biological factors help to explain why "individuals differ in the value they assign to such reinforcements and the degree to which they discount them over time" (p. 56). The important point, however, is that individuals choose to attach certain values to various reinforcements. The critical question in explaining crime, according to Wilson and Herrnstein, is why some individuals consistently place a low value on society's negative reinforcements of crime. In particular, they ask, why is this phenomenon most prevalent among young males?
Three-fourths of the book consists of a discussion of what social scientists know about crime. The authors examine current knowledge on the influence of constitutional (gender, age, intelligence, personality, and psychopathology), developmental (families, schools), social (community, labor markets, television, substance abuse), and historical and cultural factors on crime. These chapters are extremely useful for students of crime and represent the best recent compilation of contemporary theories of crime.
We are reminded, for example, that women in all cultures commit crimes much less frequently than men and that criminal activity drops off rapidly with age. We also learn that men with certain body types are more likely than others to commit crimes; that there is a relationship between intelligence and criminal activity; and that the link between unemployment and crime is much more complex than is generally thought Wilson and Herrnstein's contribution to this literature is to examine these relationships and to reflect on how they might influence an individual's valuation of the consequences of crime.
Although significant in itself, the most interesting aspect of Crime and Human Nature is not its survey of current theories of crime. The book distinguishes itself from other similar works in drawing conclusions about human nature from the study of crime. In Wilson and Herrnstein's view, recent advances in our understanding of crime produce a paralyzing contradiction at the core of the criminal justice system between science and free action. This contradiction weakens the system's capacity to respond adequately to crime. Their solution is to concede that traditional notions of free action are untenable, suggesting that a new conception of personal responsibility is required which takes advantage of these advances in knowledge (p. 507). Thus, Wilson and Herrnstein resist the temptation to conclude that science renders criminal responsibility and punishment impossible. They argue that the "progress made toward explaining criminality does not reduce the need for punishment, it only enables us to think more clearly about how punishment might work on people who commit, or might commit, crimes" (p. 490).
Wilson and Herrnstein's argument at this point can be characterized in the following way. Modern science, especially as applied to criminality, reveals that theories of human nature emphasizing absolute notions of free action are flawed. This does not force the conclusion that individuals are not responsible to a large degree for their actions. Rather, it indicates the need for a more refined theory of human nature, the objective of the final chapter.
The book's last chapter summarizes their argument in the following way:
. . . there is a human nature that develops in intimate settings out of a complex interaction of constitutional and social factors, and . . . this nature affects how people choose between the consequences of crime and its alternatives. (p. 508)
This argument is then used to assess the two views of human nature most frequently held by modern criminologists. The first view is derived from Hobbes and considers man as a self-seeking rational calculator. The second view is taken from Rousseau and asserts that man is naturally good, that he will realize his goodness if social arrangements are decent, and that he will be corrupted if these arrangements are defective.
For Wilson and Herrnstein, these views represent two sides of the same coin. The Hobbesian view sees man as a natural criminal who must be constrained by social arrangements; the Rousseauian position understands man as a natural innocent who is driven to crime by social institutions. Both views are defective because they minimize the importance of personal responsibility. In both cases, the responsibility for crime lies in faulty social organization. In the Hobbesian case, the fault is the failure to constrain man's natural impulses properly. In the Rousseauian case, it is a failure to avoid the corruption of man's innocence.
The strength of Crime and Human Nature is its reliance on Aristotle for a third theory of human nature. While Wilson and Herrnstein point out that Aristotle is largely ignored by criminologists, they do not discuss the relationship between criminology and modern philosophy. The scientific study of crime is an invention of the eighteenth century and owes its rapid development to Jeremy Bentham's musings on social reform. Modern philosophy's contribution is the understanding of human nature as either wholly submissive to the appetites or completely determined by social influences. This leads to a world-view in which crime is experienced as the result of causes over which individuals have little control, rather than as a free moral act for which one must be held responsible. Bentham's contribution was to imagine a world in which the causes of social disorder are eliminated.
Criminology emerged from these two desires to identify the causes of crime and to develop techniques for eradicating those causes. Consequently, the modern scientific approach to crime is corrective rather than punitive. Criminology's object of study is not the offense as such, but the offender. The scientific study of crime is, in essence, the scientific study of criminals. Under the influence of modern philosophy, however, the study of criminals is further reduced to the study of the environment of criminals. This is readily apparent in the academic status of criminology as a subdiscipline within sociology.
Crime and Human Nature's quarrel with criminology is not with the claim that students of crime should concern themselves with criminals. Rather, the dispute is with the assumption that criminology reveals more about a criminal's environment than about the criminal himself. Wilson and Herrnstein imply that an Aristotelian perspective permits criminologists to understand this aspect of their work. Indeed, Wilson and Herrnstein draw an analogy between Aristotle's discovery of human nature through reflections on slavery and their similar discovery through reflections on crime. They emphasize the importance of familial and political associations to the development of man's capacity to act freely and independently. These associations are formed naturally in order to nurture just actions, the end of which is happiness. Wilson and Herrnstein's point is that family life and political community exist in order to teach the distinction between justice and injustice.
Unfortunately, Crime and Human Nature devotes only three pages to Aristotle's thought, resulting in a truncated resistance to mainstream criminology. It also, I believe, fails to address the most critical aspect of Aristotle's teaching with respect to individual responsibility. This aspect is the importance of choice (prohairesis) in Aristotle's enumeration of the distinctly human qualities throughout the Nicomachean Ethics. Human beings, by their very nature, must constantly choose among courses of action, and one of the great lessons of the Ethics is that there is not an infinite number of equally "valuable" choices-some choices are superior to others. The essential question is not, as it is for modern criminology, how to limit or manipulate the human capacity to choose. This is neither possible nor desirable since choice is rooted in human nature. Rather, the crucial issue is what choices will receive public approval or disapproval. This is perhaps the most important reason for defending the concept of individual responsibility. Without a notion of responsibility, neither approval nor disapproval is possible.
Implicit in Wilson and Herrnstein's book is the assertion that criminal justice policy should be equally as concerned with questions of just and unjust regimes as it is with reducing recidivism rates or increasing deterrence. In this respect, Crime and Human Nature raises important questions about the "economization" of public policy analysis. For the most part, contemporary policy studies evade any serious reflection on the proper ends of government; at most, reference is made to "empirical" political theory. This is unfortunate, since the policy sciences, when properly grounded in such considerations, have much to offer. Policy analysts would do well to heed Wilson and Herrnstein's admonition that "any serious social inquiry must begin with an understanding of human nature" (p. 19).
WOODROW WILSON REVISITED
Woodrow Wilson and World War I, 1917-1921
Robert H. Ferrell
New York: Harper & Row, 1985
xii + 346 pp., $19.95
Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, and the Guilt of Germany
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985
xiii + 193 pp., $25.00
By Terry B. O'Rourke
Sixty-one years after his death, Woodrow Wilson remains a controversial figure in American history: viewed by many as a moral Titan who attempted to impose a principled order upon the strife of international life; discerned by a few as a false prophet who ignored the realities of power politics. Participation in World War I and the peace settlement marked America's decisive entry into the world arena. Victory in 1918, as in 1945, was an American victory; the exhausted armies of France and Britain were saved by the infusion of two million U.S. troops. Thereafter, the fate of Europe could not be decided without America. The debate over the moral basis of America's role in foreign relations, initiated by these great events, continues to this day. Above all others, Woodrow Wilson articulated the moral tenets and goals of American foreign policy. An understanding of Wilson's role, both as statesman and symbol, is central to an understanding of American foreign policy. One must recall that even Richard Nixon characterizes himself as an admirer of Woodrow Wilson.
Woodrow Wilson and World War I, 1917-1921, by Robert H. Ferrell, is a volume in Harper & Row's "New American Nation" series. Like other volumes in the series, it provides a concise and competent treatment of its subject by an accomplished historian. A. Lentin's Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, and the Guilt of Germany, as its title indicates, deals with a narrower subject. Lentin, a British barrister, has produced a superb book, marked by a thorough mastery of his subject and a keen understanding of the personalities involved in the Paris Peace Conference. Together, the books provide a balanced analysis of Wilson's goals and his ultimate failure.
The core of Wilson's foreign policy was a lofty idealism that shaped his views on the war, intervention, and the peace settlement: America was to serve the interests of mankind; universal moral principles were to supplant the pursuit of national self-interest. According to Wilson, "We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifice we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind" (quoted in Lentin, p. 6).
Wilson's commitment to the universal blinded him to the particular. With the outbreak of World War I, Wilson was unable to detect any significant differences between the cause of the Allies and that of the Central Powers. In his opinion, the war had been caused by the iniquitous balance-of-power system and the pursuit of imperial and national aggrandizement. Strict and impartial neutrality was pronounced. Ferrell correctly notes that when Admiral Benson told Admiral Sims that the United States would as soon fight the British as the Germans, Wilson shared his views. As late as 1916, Secretary of State Lansing privately lamented (as later revealed in his War Memoirs) that Wilson was unable to grasp the real issues of the war:
That German imperialistic ambitions threaten free institutions everywhere apparently has not sunk very deeply into his mind, for six months I have talked about the struggle between Autocracy and Democracy, but do not see that I have made any great impression.
After America's intervention in the war in 1917 (provoked by Germany's unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmerman Telegram disclosing Germany's aim of a war alliance with Mexico if the United States did not remain neutral), Wilson continued to distance himself from the war aims of the Allies: America, he stressed, was an "associated power." The gap between Wilson and the Allies, the universal and the particular, widened with the peace negotiations.
In January 1918, without consulting Britain and France, Wilson announced his famous Fourteen Points as the basis for European and world peace. The major points were: (1) open covenants of peace openly arrived at; (2) freedom of the seas; and (14) a league of nations. Wilson supplemented his Fourteen Points with the Four Principles of February 1918, in which he announced the balance-of-power concept forever discredited; the Four Ends of July 4, which called for the establishment of "the reign of law, based upon the consent of the governed, and sustained by the organized opinion of mankind"; and the Five Particulars of September 27, which proclaimed equalitarianism among nations.
The Allies had no enthusiasm for Wilson's vision of a reformed world order. The French Premier, Clemenceau, privately ridiculed Wilson for claiming four more points than the Lord Himself. But in October 1918, when the outcome of the war hinged upon American might, Britain and France reluctantly acceded to the Fourteen Points-with the exception of reparations and the freedom of the seas-as the basis of an armistice with Germany. Compromise was coerced by the threat of a separate peace with the Central Powers.
A brief semblance of allied solidarity was shattered by Wilson's arrival in Paris. Wilson saw himself as the spokesman for all mankind, but the Allied leaders were spokesmen for their own domestic public opinion. Lloyd George, pressured by inflamed public opinion, sought reparations for Britain's economic losses in the war. Clemenceau, also pressured by an aroused public opinion, demanded reparations and security from the threat of a future, renascent Germany.
Months of difficult negotiations among the Allies eroded Wilson's resolve. Although Ferrell correctly notes that the extent of Wilson's compromises and surrenders at Paris is somewhat exaggerated, Wilson himself believed that his high principles were significantly compromised. National boundaries were drawn and populations and mandates distributed with scant regard for Wilsonian "self-determination." But the major compromise involved reparations: Wilson originally said that the Allies would get nothing; in the end, he agreed to a commission that fixed German reparations in the amount of $33 billion. Lentin contends that reparations in excess of Germany's ability to pay, along with the notorious war-guilt clause of the Peace Treaty-whereby Germany was forced to accept responsibility for causing the war and all losses and damages sustained by the Allies-created a legacy of bitterness and guaranteed that Germany would attempt to overthrow the Versailles Treaty.
Why did Wilson compromise at Paris? Both Ferrell and Lentin agree that Wilson simply lacked the strength of personality and skill to negotiate on a one-to-one basis with Lloyd George and Clemenceau. Further, Wilson made a grave tactical error in attending the conference personally instead of sending delegates. As Lentin aptly observes:
By coming "at last, to close quarters with the world," he shed, unwittingly, his one indubitable quality of greatness-his radiant vision of things above and beyond the orbit of knowing politicians-and his ability to communicate that vision and endow it with form and beauty. . . . From those lofty heights he was unassailable. . . . Once he descended from that solitary eminence and began to deal, or appear to deal, with Lloyd George and Clemenceau on their level, he was done for. His prophetic mantle, as he rubbed shoulders with them, became sullied with their dross. His moral, and therefore his political authority was fatally impaired.
Finally, one must understand Wilson's compromises in the context of his commitment to the League of Nations. He believed that the League would provide a mechanism to redress international wrongs and to correct any mistakes made at the Paris Conference. The more Wilson compromised, the greater became his commitment to the League. Lentin concludes that Wilson seemed to envisage the League "as a kind of international pharmacopoeia, with a patent remedy for every problem."
The most perplexing issue of Wilson's statesmanship is his refusal to accept any reservations to the Peace Treaty, thereby contributing to its rejection by the Senate. Opposition to the Treaty focused on Article 10: "The members of the League undertake to respect and preserve as against external aggression the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all members of the League." Opponents of the Treaty argued that Article 10 obligated the United States to use military force, and conflicted with Congress's constitutional obligation to declare war. Wilson "was not forthcoming with any convincing argument to the contrary. His equivocations were ironic. As Lentin notes, when Clemenceau had demanded teeth for the League-an international army and general staff-Wilson nervously changed the subject and spoke of the Monroe Doctrine.
Along with most historians, Ferrell speculates that Wilson's failure to compromise on the Treaty was due to poor physical and mental health. Such factors certainly contributed to Wilson's obstinacy, but they were not its principal cause: After Paris, the League was an instrument not only to redeem mankind but also to redeem Woodrow Wilson's compromises.
It is unfair to blame Wilson's intransigence for the Senate's rejection of the Treaty. Even with Senator Lodge's reservations circumscribing Article 10, the Treaty failed on a first vote in November 1919: 55 against, 39 for; and, without reservations, 53 against, 38 for. In a second vote in March 1920, the Treaty, with Lodge's reservations, failed again to obtain the necessary two-thirds vote: 49 voted in favor, 39 against passage. The Treaty was rejected because of the perception that it required the United States to surrender control of its foreign policy to foreigners. Contrary to Ferrell's optimistic views, it is possible that nothing Wilson could have said or done would have made any difference for the simple reason that on this issue Wilson did not speak for the American people. In the end, Theodore Roosevelt proved to be correct when, in 1918, he brutally denied that "Wilson, his Points, his Principles, or his Particulars 'have any shadow of right to be accepted as expressive of the will of the American people'" (Lentin, p. 32).
With the Senate's rejection of the Treaty, Wilson was politically dead; but he nonetheless endures to this day as a vital symbol of moralism in U.S. foreign policy. With the tragic outbreak of World War II, a general belief seemed to emerge that the United States should have joined the League of Nations and that U.S. participation would have made a difference. Somehow, Wilson seemed vindicated by subsequent events. But a detailed assessment of the interwar years shows this conception of Wilson's prescience to be fanciful. Reparations and the war-guilt clause inflamed German hatred, but the peace settlement did nothing to check Germany: she remained territorially intact and the largest homogeneous racial bloc in Europe. For this reason alone, Marshall Foch observed: "This is not a Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years." Idealists who point to the formation of the United Nations as a vindication of Woodrow Wilson overlook the post-World War II dismemberment of Germany as a vindication of Foch.
The League of Nations ultimately failed because it had no teeth. It had no teeth, in part, because within a few years after the war's end Britain and France differed on how to treat Germany: Britain wanted to conciliate "good" Germans; France wanted to use force. There is no reason to believe that U.S. membership in the League would have provided the will to use force. It was the very possibility that the United States might again become involved in a European war that gave rise to the Treaty reservations; the Treaty's rejection by the Senate; interwar isolationism; and the Neutrality Acts of 1935, 1936, 1937, and 1939. Moreover, Wilson's derogation of the balance of power and his emphasis on the rule of law and moral suasion, cast the use of force into disrepute. Wilson's attempt to transfer the concepts of domestic law into the international realm oversimplified the origins of war and overestimated the readiness of Germany to abide by the peace settlement. Wilson ignored the issue of how nations which accept law and international organization as the basis of their foreign relations are to deal with regimes willing to use force to impose their will. As Michael Howard has observed:
Law could be no substitute for power, for without power there could be no law; but power involved precisely those strategic considerations of force-levels, arms procurement, alliances, staff talks and availability of bases for military operations which enthusiastic protagonists of the League of Nations were so determined to avoid.
Wilson's legacy proved to be a hodge-podge of simplistic and emotion-laden concepts, which Hitler successfully used to manipulate and divide Western opinion.
Debate over a multitude of recent issues-Vietnam, the Shah, Central America, and South Africa-undeniably shows moralism to be a dynamic factor in U.S. foreign policy. A proper understanding of Wilson, his strengths and weaknesses, contributes to a proper understanding of the goals of U.S. foreign policy. Wilson repudiated national self-interest as the basis for U.S. foreign policy, seeking instead to serve the interests of mankind. As Robert Osgood has observed, the mistake of Woodrow Wilson and other American idealists was "in confusing what was ideally desirable with what was practicably attainable." While Wilson is to be praised for recognizing the bond between America's domestic morality and the projection of those standards into international
affairs, he was unrealistic to expect other nations to conform to his moral standards and aspirations. In practice, Wilson's diplomacy was a form of intellectual imperialism, rooted in the arrogant and specious assumption that the opinions of a small-but influential-coterie of Anglo-American intellectuals were the opinions of mankind. Consequently, Wilson was more inclined to imposing moral solidarity upon his Allies than with recognizing the greater threat posed by a common foe. Such a course proved to be destructive, both to universal principles and to national self-interest. We must always remember that the proper goal of our foreign policy is to advance prudently the independence and security of the United States, not to repudiate those already in our camp for failing to conform with our domestic moral standards. All too often in recent years, idealists have demanded, in the name of Wilsonian principles, that we abandon beleaguered allies-only to see their peoples subjected to far greater cruelties than those decried by shortsighted critics, and U.S. security interests weakened. In dealing with
the Shahs of the world, we must reflect on the likely alternatives and how they may advance or impede our interests. We must not be moved by the visions of Woodrow Wilson, but chastened by the possibility of the mad mullah.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Lake Wobegon Days
New York: Viking Press, 1985
x + 337 pp., $17.95
By Bruce C. Sanborn
Garrison Keillor is my neighbor. We live within a couple of miles of each other in St. Paul, and although I have never met Garrison, we have both been known to stop by that new, special spot in St. Paul: Cafe Latté. The interior design there is nouveau art deco; the food, for instance, the three-grain and green soup, is tasty and unusual; and the crowd is smartly dressed and upscale for the most part. When we arrive at the Cafe's doors, Garrison might be coming from his nationally known live radio show, "A Prairie Home Companion," and my wife and I from a movie like Rocky. Unlike ours, Garrison's entry turns admiring heads-and gets people whispering about their proximity to "a real celebrity." Even though St. Paul has been moving upscale, the town is still closer to Lake Wobegon than to Los Angeles.
Everyone knows Garrison has been hitting the cover off the ball lately. His Book-of-the-Month Club novel, Lake Wobegon Days, is a best seller. He's on the cover of Time magazine. He's been invited to Washington. In a picture I saw recently he was standing in what appears to be Tip O'Neill's office with Tip O'Neill, Minnesota Congressman Bruce Vento, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) President Bill Kling, and Congressman Gerry Sikorski. Mr. Vento's newsletter (where I saw the picture) reports that Garrison had just been "feted at a Capitol Hill luncheon" and that he and MPR had "received a $100,000 federal grant to expand national programming of 'A Prairie Home Companion.'"
Years ago Garrison Keillor changed his name from Gary Keillor. Gary Keillor is the 35- to 45-year-old narrator of Lake Wobegon Days, where he sketches a leisurely picture of his hometown, Lake Wobegon, which Gary claims is in Mist County, Minnesota, though it is not on the map. Gary depicts the townsfolk and different places in Lake Wobegon, and he gives us a broad-brush picture of its past. Not only that, he gets us laughing by including in his sketches many one-liners and funny twists. Gary is a landscape humorist.
A girl stands on the diving dock, pushes off, and "executes a perfect cannonball" landing with a "dull thunsh." As Gary says, "Left to our own devices, we Wobegonians go straight for the small potatoes. Majestic doesn't appeal to us; we like the Grand Canyon better with Clarence and Arlene parked in front of it, smiling. We feel uneasy at momentous events." Lake Wobegon is a small town. In school and church, the Wobegonians were called to truth and honor, "but the truth was that we always fell short." The Wobegonians may not appreciate the majestic; nevertheless, as Gary dwells on their common ways to tell his humorous tale, we see that the Wobegonians possess something fairly valuable: common sense. The Wobegonians may not fully appreciate a Winston Churchill, but on the other hand they would not likely vote a George McGovern into the presidency. Gary recounts that "in 1955, a man from the University came and gave us 'the World of 1980' with slides of bubble-top houses, picture-phones, autogyro copter cars, and floating factories harvesting tasty plankton from the sea. We sat and listened and clapped, but when the chairlady called for questions from the audience, what most of us wanted to know we didn't dare ask: 'How much are you getting paid for this?'"
Lake Wobegon's founding was not a thing of glory. Really, there were two foundings. Henry Watt, who fancied himself a founder, was responsible for the first, which failed. Henry had "a dream": he would "found a college, a city of learning on a hill, and would give his life to it." Gary mentions that Henry spoke at a Founder's Day event, and, as record of the speech, Gary gives us a half page of notes taken by a student at the time. Henry spoke of America and the "laws of nature, laws of God," of ideas and ideals, of Carlyle's saying "the history of the world is the biography of great men." It turns out, however, Henry's dreams of glory were mostly of his own glory and not of the glory of a city founded and perpetuated by men and women of noble character dedicated to timeless principle and serving as example and beacon to all. Rendered dry and hollow by self-interest, Henry's hopes went up in smoke.
Second came Magnus Oleson, a Norwegian emigrant, and by 1980 Magnus was to be found "in the family tree of almost every Norwegian in town." The town is now primarily populated by people of Norwegian and German ancestry. In 1863, when Lincoln was fighting to preserve the Union and prove that a nation dedicated to the "proposition that all men are created equal" could endure, Magnus arrived in Mist County on an officer's stolen horse after having deserted the Union Army. He had concluded that the Civil War "was no war for a Norwegian." Gary notes Magnus's "loyalty to Lincoln's.cause was very slight." Magnus even wrote a letter calling Lincoln "a butcher and a barbarian." Given that Magnus was new to America, young, and surrounded by bloodshed at the time of his desertion, and given that once in Mist County, he lent a kind hand to his fellows, I guess one might forgive him his failure to appreciate America's and Lincoln's cause. All the same, it came as a shock to Magnus's Wobegon descendants when they discovered his history. Unlike Magnus's descendants, Garrison just seems to find it funny. Regarding the town's second founding, I should note, Magnus did not see himself as the town's founder, merely as a man who moved into the Lake Wobegon area. More than anything, chance and accident account for Wobegon's founding. Statesmanship based on principle did not.
Gary opens Lake Wobegon Days with a poem. He asks that he be as full of truth as dogs, who know their loved ones and growl and bark at strangers. Loyalty is important in Lake Wobegon; the town "runs on loyalty." What they are loyal to is important-important enough for me to have returned to St. Paul from the East after school and join the family business, to marry and have three kids, to drive an American car with a "Support the Boy Scouts" sticker on the bumper, and to fly the American flag from our home. The Wobegonians are loyal to their hometown and its moral health; they are loyal to family, church, and their fellow-citizens.
This kind of community is-or was until recently-the bedrock of American democracy. The loyalty of the Wobegonians to one another and their community is remarkable in this day and age. In Lake Wobegon we see the kind of community that our parents or grandparents knew, one in which a decent moral character was not only shaped, but preserved, from generation to generation. And it may be that it is only in such communities that this decency can be preserved. In creating such a community, Gary has performed a valuable service, for he holds up to modern life an image of what it has lost, a loss which is sustained and justified (or, more precisely, rationalized away) by all the "isms" of our age.
In their own way, the Wobegonians see their decency threatened and in danger of slipping away. The following is a long quotation from pages 155 and 156 of Lake Wobegon Days, but it is well worth the read.
Byron valued patience. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. Life is full of disappointments. You learn this growing up on a farm, forty acres of corn burns up in July or is flooded out or beaten to a pulp by hail. You learn to look at it and say, "Well-." And after you've looked at disaster, disappointment falls into place in the natural order of things. The lack of a car to drive to a dance, the lack of a good shirt to go in, the lack of time to go at all-these aren't disasters, not like to his son.
The world had changed. Father Emit spoke about this to the Commercial Club a few weeks before. Byron was Lutheran, but he gave father Emil a lot of credit, father Emil had spoken the week before father's Day and said that agnostic liberals had cut fatherhood off at the knees. These liberals aimed to destroy authority and stability, and so had undermined the father. Look at television, father had said-Dad is shown as a dummy who stumbles around and breaks things and gets into trouble, usually to be rescued by a small child or a pet. . . .
Father Emil thought that fatherhood could be restored, but Byron thought maybe things had gone too far. Guys who hung around the elevator often talked about their boys and things the boys did that they the fathers would never have dared to do. Guy Peterson the other day had mentioned his boy, Guy, Jr. The boy had refused to do chores. Said he didn't feel like it. "You sick?" Guy asked him. No, the boy said, he felt depressed. Guy was baffled by that. He didn't know what depression had to do with the fact there were forty Holsteins that had to be milked and the stalls cleaned and the feed put down. He didn't see how depression entered into the picture at all. "If I had ever said that to my dad, he woulda walloped me one upside the head, given me something to be depressed about." That was in the old days when it was different.
For those who thirst and burn for distinction-for those who "just want to be me, just want to be free," as I think the song goes-Lake Wobegon with its traditional ways, morality, and discipline might offer cramped quarters. And as Gary reveals, "most of Lake Wobegon's children leave, as I did, to realize themselves as finer persons than they were allowed to be at home." Whether they succeed in becoming finer persons, Gary leaves in some doubt.
Gary says he left Lake Wobegon to realize himself as a finer person. In writing this book, however, he takes us with him back to Lake Wobegon. He usually is affectionate toward the Wobegonians, and his humor at their expense is almost always soft, though that cannot be said of the biting, self-pitying humor of many of the children who leave Wobegon (see the 95 Theses 95 in the footnote that runs from page 251 to 274; interestingly, one can find in the Theses a multitude of the rationalizations of today's moral wilderness). All the same, I think it is Gary's use of humor that distinguishes him from the Wobegonians and keeps him a stranger in his own hometown. As mentioned already, Gary's humor often permits us to see the basic decency and common sense of the Wobegonians and Lake Wobegon, but at the same time, Gary uses his humor to parody gently the Wobegonians and their old ways, and thereby he gives the children an excuse for leaving town. Gary often knowingly uses his humor to bring the lofty and good down to laughable, low ground. I don't think a Wobegonian of the old regime would do such a thing. The Wobegonians may not always understand or appreciate fully the true and honorable, but they do not knowingly treat them with disrespect or irreverence.
Gary gets his audience laughing at honorable people and events. Gary takes us to a Lake Wobegon Memorial Day event at which respect is being paid to those who died for America. Through Gary's eyes, we see it as a farce. During the event Gary mentions that his ancestors on his mother's side lived in New England during the Revolutionary War, the war that sprang from our loyalty to "the self-evident truth that all men are created equal." It turns out that during the war, Gary's ancestors sided with Britain and King George. Gary chooses that side too: "The disobedience of my ancestors was a wonderful thought; I imagined myself back there with them. Taking up a rifle and fighting against America! Shooting at George Washington, the Father of our Country! Shooting the white wig right off his head! A terrible wicked idea, it made me shiver to think it, but I kept right on thinking." Isn't Gary to an extent doing to what is honorable, to the Father of our Country, and to our Country, what Father Emil said today's TV shows and agnostic liberals do to fathers, authority, and stability?
Gary admits he joined the Boy Scouts to have fun with his friends, not "for the Scout part": "What [our Scout Leader] was talking about, the dishonor and all, made no sense to me. What honor?" At least as a youth, the noble and honorable were not important to Gary. Something else was:
One word I liked [as a child] was popular. . . . It didn't occur in our reading book, where little children did the right thing although their friends scoffed at them and where despised animals wandered alone and redeemed themselves through pure goodness and eventually triumphed to become Top Dog . . . which though thrilling, didn't appeal to me so much as plain popular. "The popular boy came to the door and everyone smiled and laughed. They were so glad to see him. They crowded around him to see what he wanted to do."
Whether or not Garrison wants it as an adult, he is getting the popularity Gary sought as a child. We know he's been on the cover of Time and has been feted by the powerful in Washington, D.C., which are forms of attention he seemed to fancy as a child. Numerous times he tells of his youthful reveries, in which people bowed to him, in which "crowds clapped silently from the ditches, and great men looked down from reviewing stands." And St. Paul has been cheering for Garrison and rallying behind him. People have given a lot of money to renovate the World Theater for Garrison and his radio show. Individuals in the community have given $200,000; corporations have given $1.4 million; and on top of that, the government has given some of our tax dollars. Things have gotten a bit tense lately, however.
With Garrison becoming such a national celebrity, the local newspapers have recently run articles about Garrison's personal relations, and Garrison resents their doing that. He has gone so far as to hint that he might leave St. Paul and that "the amount of money that has been invested in the World Theater would not make the slightest bit of difference." I'm sure that comes as a blow to many people in the neighborhood. Because he did follow through and leave Lake Wobegon, I think Garrison's hint has to be taken seriously.
That's no note to end on, though. Let us return to and end with Lake Wobegon. Spending all this time with the Wobegonians and their children, I got to thinking: Would a Washington, Lincoln, or Churchill be able to realize his greatness and reveal his uncommon excellence in common, old Lake Wobegon? I think so. Through speech and action, they could call us to decency, principle, and loyalty to family, God, and our fellow citizens.
HITLER AND BIG BUSINESS
The Collapse of the Weimar Republic: Political Economy and Crisis
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981
366 pp., $36.00 (cloth), $14.50 (paper)
German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler
Henry Ashby Turner, Jr.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1985
xxi + 504 pp., $25.00
By Larry Schweikart
David Abraham's The Collapse of the Weimar Republic and Henry A. Turner, Jr.'s German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler have been somewhat overshadowed by their reviews, which have generated as much controversy as the books themselves. Some historians, for example, incensed at Abraham's distortions, actually wrote to departments of history where Abraham was being considered for employment and suggested that Abraham's work was, well, tripe. Fortunately, real issues exist here, and a great deal more than professional animosity is at work.
Abraham's book provided the ammunition for its own critics. It would have suffered some mild but obligatory attacks in any event simply because it is a Marxist approach to the Weimar period in Germany (although serious philosophical challenges to Marxist methodology are rarely made any more, except in conservative journals). But an entirely different controversy arose over Abraham's loose application of historical ground rules (you know; evidence is supposed to exist for the point one is trying to make; it must be identified in notes so that others may check one's sources; it should support one's argument-that kind of thing). "Loose application" actually is a generous description of what Abraham does with evidence.
But what exactly does The Collapse of the Weimar Republic say? Abraham argues that Weimar was the final stage of the German nineteenth-century processes. This then leads Abraham to use class analysis and set Weimar in a Marxist context. After approaching a workers' revolution, the laboring class retreated, permitting the middle class to stage its own, flawed revolution which "disguised old conflicts while never being fully accepted by the majority of . . . the dominant social classes" (p. 7). The rest of the book explores "conflicts" within and between classes, the most interesting and important of which is the "labor/capital conflict." Ultimately, the "dominant social classes [especially businessmen] came to see the NSDAP [Nazis] as the most reliable or best available basis of support for continuing their own dominance and for liquidating Weimar democracy" (p. 324).
Conclusions such as these should raise eyebrows, not because they contribute "to the reformulation of a major scholarly debate," as one Abraham defender said in The Chronicle of Higher Education (February 6, 1985, p. 9), but because they accept class analysis as a legitimate method of writing history. In this method there is, indeed, madness. While a question remains in this reviewer's mind whether any devout Marxist can develop meaningful historical interpretations, it is at least clear that the "class conflict" method of analysis itself seems to encourage the outright misuse of sources. Consider the abuses cited by reviewers of The Collapse of the Weimar Republic in the American Historical Review, October 1983: (1) a "nonexistent book" (actually, Abraham admits that it was merely an incorrect title in his note); (2) a "nonexistent journal article" (Abraham claims that he had only the author and pages incorrect); (3) a letter of a meeting that purports to give reactions to a meeting that took place five days later (Abraham admits the letter is misdated, then cites another, written five days later, as his proof); (4) a letter written in November 1932 by a man who had died five months earlier (Abraham bothered to find only a last name, and apparently there were several men with the name Scholz involved in events he described); (5) "the use as evidence of nonexistent archival documents" (Abraham claims they exist, exactly where he cited them); and (6) "gratuitously misleading" paraphrasing leading to "factually incorrect" interpretations. (This includes, apparently, the arbitrary insertion of the word not in a quotation to render a meaning completely opposite to that intended.) Another scholar checked seventy of Abraham's footnotes and found only four correct!
These serious errors stem less from carelessness than from a world view that is dictated by method. (The best explanation of this phenomenon appears in Robert Loewenberg's article in the May 1976 issue of the Historian, "'Value-Free' vs. 'Value-Laden': A Distinction Without a Difference.") The issue is not so much why those abuses occurred as why they recur, seemingly without a response from the profession. In 1973 Robert Maddox* exposed the widespread, deliberate errors of citations, omissions, and misinterpretations in seven separate New Left works on the Cold War. A close reading of Maddox's book, followed by an examination of Abraham's, shows that the history profession apparently learned little from the scandal of the New Left historians a decade ago.
Still, more than a few voices critical of such historical hanky-panky have been raised. Perhaps the most influential is that of Henry A. Turner, Jr., who has provided an accurate and verifiable history of the Weimar period in his German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler. Turner sensibly avoids class struggle as a theme and simply asks if big business liked Hitler. Did business leaders support him? Did they give him money? Turner concludes that they did not. Only "through gross distortion can big business be accorded a crucial, or even major, role in the downfall of the Republic" (p. 340). Turner claims that bias "appears over and over again in treatments of the political role of big business even by otherwise scrupulous historians" (p. 350).
In his own examination of the evidence, Turner looked at the correspondence of German business leaders, minutes of their meetings, and their contributions. While it might be reassuring for some to think that Hitler came to power through the financial support of a few evil businessmen, the facts are that most of the Nazis' money came from the German people. Turner carefully discusses Hitler's policy stances toward business. Hitler was always wary of alienating the businessmen, but his failure to present a clear, procapitalistic economic program made the corporate leaders all the more leery of him. Modern Marxists, quite naturally, would like to implicate capitalism in the Holocaust. But, of course, Hitler's themes were those of Stalin and, in our own day, Gorbachev. Nazism, as Turner suggests but never makes sufficiently clear, resembled Marxism in many ways, including Jew-hatred and hostility to the individual. In any case, Turner's book has completely refuted the accepted notions that German corporations supported Hitler.
Quite candidly, therefore, Turner has called Abraham's book "the Brinks robbery of German history" and castigated the "personal communications" sections of the historical journals, where errors such as those committed by Abraham should be exposed. As Maddox and Loewenberg both point out, a major failure of the scholarly journal "system" is that book reviews sometimes do not appear for a year or more after a book is published; moreover, faculty members now often gain promotions and/or tenure on a publisher's acceptance of a book. Thus, once a book reaches this point (no matter how poor or inaccurate), it lands in a safety zone. Communications to journals face severe space limitations, so that few major errors of fact or interpretation can be scrutinized.
Finally, of course, a vast majority of the editors, publishers, and reviewers themselves share the "value-free" attitudes that result in books such as The Collapse of the Weimar Republic and therefore respond with the type of comment cited above by the Abraham defender (often such works are called "fresh approaches" or "new formulations" by reviewers). Modern editors and reviewers generally favor works such as Abraham's, which makes the quest for accuracy and truth all the more difficult. Turner is right when he contends that historians "continue to subordinate the study of Nazism to a crusade against capitalism. As always when the writing of history is made subservient to some other goal, the result has been poor history." One would hope that twice is enough. First the New Left historians, and now Abraham, threaten to make historical scholarship meaningless. Of course, that is exactly what Marx wanted.
*The New Left and the Origins of the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973).
THE VIRTUE OF PRESIDENTS
Presidents Above Party: The First American Presidency, 1789-1829
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984
269 pp., $24.95
By Kimberly Shankman
Presidents Above Party has as its subject the question of how the first six presidents understood "what it meant to be virtuous in public life" (p. xi) and how this understanding guided them in shaping the presidency. Ralph Ketcham attempts to illuminate this question by focusing on how these men conceived of the relationship between political parties and statesmanship.
This focus is the book's greatest strength and greatest weakness: It provides a subject at once interesting and important, yet one which is simply unmanageable for this study. Either a consideration of the early presidents' ideas of party or a study of their conception of the requirements of statesmanship could have been a work of tremendous value. However, the attempt to combine the two subjects and deal not only with the thought of all six presidents, but also the thought of Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, and Van Buren (with some consideration of the thought of the Puritans) all in 250 pages, is simply too much. As a result, the book has diffuse quality, and the treatment of each president's thought is superficial, so that the work as a whole remains more intriguing than enlightening. Furthermore, in attempting to deal with this massive subject, Ketcham resorts to trying to fit it all into a framework he has drawn from seventeenth century England: the conflict between Bolingbroke and Walpole. In Ketcham's model, Bolingbroke stands for public virtue, a. distrust of the entrepreneurial spirit, and contempt for party. Walpole, on the other hand, stands for the glorification of commerce, acceptance of party, and the equation of public virtue with private vice.
Unlike some, who identify the American Founding with Ketcham's Walpolean catalogue, Ketcham argues that the Founders adhered rather to the model presented by Bolingbroke. Indeed, one of the significant contributions of this work is Ketcham's convincing demonstration that the Founders (at least those who became president) no more thought that they had constructed a regime which would function effectively in the absence of virtue-both on the part of the people and on the part of the rulers-than they thought that pigs could fly. Thus the idea of the patriotic (i.e., virtuous) leader was of fundamental importance to the early presidents.
Ketcham argues that this idea can be traced to the Augustan giants Pope, Swift, and of course, Bolingbroke. In opposing Walpolean modernism, they upheld a "classical" ideal of public life as more than just a collection of self-interested individuals exchanging commodities, and therefore of statesmanship as more than merely securing the conditions of material prosperity.
In adopting this ideal of the dignity of public life, the early presidents accepted as well the responsibilities of statesmanship which would foster such dignity. Thus, to them statesmanship meant much more than simple administration of government. It meant setting the moral tone for the community-something attempted by strategies as diverse as John Adams's attempt to attach elaborate titles and ceremonies to the office of the president so as to discourage any "aristocratical pride" in the Senate, and Jefferson's reception of foreign dignitaries in "republican" house slippers (pp. 95 and 108). It meant as well directing the nation's energies to communal purposes (expansion and internal improvements); and, most importantly, fostering a moral and intellectual community suitable for the maintenance of republican liberty. To this end, the first six presidents all supported the idea of a national university, the curriculum of which would emphasize "the science of government"; for, "in a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important . . . to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?" (Washington, Message to Congress, December 10, 1796). this idea rather gained than lost strength with the passage of time, with John Quincy Adams adding to the proposal a national observatory, because "our country had contracted the engagement to contribute her share of mind, of labor, and of expense to the improvement of those parts of knowledge which lie beyond the reach of individual acquisition'' (p. 136).
The early presidents conceived of the government as an agent for the edification of the citizens, not only because such edification was noble in itself, but also because it was essential to free government. These presidents understood that republican liberty depended on public education in virtue. Their role, as they saw it, was to provide a model of virtuous citizenship for the emulation of the country.
Crucial to this role was the president's independence from factious influence-the president, like a wife, must be above reproach. Thus they found it proper to eschew any formal partisan affiliation or activity. Even Jefferson, who effected the Revolution of 1800 at the head of a party, did not accept the legitimacy of a permanent two-party system once that revolution had been accomplished: "We are all republicans-we are all federalists."
In Ketcham's analysis, the acceptance of presidential partisanship is Walpolean. Hence he maintains that the election of Jackson constituted an abrupt end to the era of patriotic leadership, and the acceptance of an enervated, Mandevillean conception of republican statesmanship: "after a century, it seemed, Bernard Mandeville and Daniel Defoe had triumphed over Pope and Bolingbroke" (p. 152).
Unfortunately, Ketcham's portrayal of the change in official attitude toward partisanship, and the effect that change had on the notion of public virtue-what should be the core of his study-is singularly unenlightening. In the first place, his discussion of the change is more chronological than analytical: Martin Van Buren seems to drop deus ex machina (in this case, a party machine) onto the stage of American politics. More importantly, however, his attempt to fit the American experience into his model requires what only with great charity can be described as oversimplification (rather than absolute distortion) of the Jacksonian presidency.
Ketcham presents Jackson as essentially Walpole from Tennessee: "Jackson assumed that the public good required of government no more than the removal of impediments to private enterprise," and therefore accepted a party system which consisted in "bringing ordinary citizens into the process of government, both through direct officeholding and by cementing their loyalty to a permanent political party" (pp. 150, 153). Consider, however, the following passage from Jackson's Farewell Address:
No free government can stand without virtue in the people and a lofty spirit of patriotism, and if the sordid feelings of mere selfishness shall usurp the place which ought to be filled by public spirit, the legislation of Congress will soon be converted info a scramble for personal and sectional advantages.
This is the work of a man who thinks that "the public good required of government no more than the removal of impediments to private enterprise"? Hardly. Clearly, Jackson had a more developed idea of public virtue than private vice guided by an invisible hand. Space does not permit a detailed examination of Jackson's presidency, but two points must be made. In the first place, Jackson clearly and explicitly-Ketcham either ignores or denigrates this evidence-explains his major actions (the removal of the Bank deposits, the stand against nullification, and even the infamous "spoils system") in terms of their effect on the public good. He consistently argues that his actions are taken for the good of the country as a whole against factious combinations. Since concern for the public good and opposition to faction seem to constitute the idea of virtue, according to Ketcham, one wonders how he came to overlook Jackson's use of these concepts to justify his actions. In the second place, even Jackson's enemies would argue that Jackson's very faults stemmed not from a disregard for the importance of the presidency as a symbol of republican virtue, but from too great a concern with it and too close an identification of himself with the office: "The ordinary patriot is apt to regard the enemies of his country as his personal enemies. But Jackson was always inclined, with entire sincerity, to regard his personal enemies as the enemies of his country" (Carl Schurz, Henry Clay, v. 1, p. 324).
Ketcham might have been better advised to look to American history, rather than English literary warfare, for an explanation of the change in official attitude toward political parties. When one turns one's gaze from the battle between Walpole and Bolingbroke to the battle between Jackson and the Whigs, two possibilities for the rise of political parties suggest themselves.
In the first place, one is struck by the simple thought that with Monroe we had run out of revolutionary leaders to be president. Following the chaotic election of 1824, parties began to be acceptable. This suggests that party may have been viewed as a training ground for statesmen, a way to fill the void left by the absence of the conspicuous patriotism represented by revolutionary service, for without the mechanism of party the "personal presidency" as represented by Jackson was the most likely model for future leaders. The danger posed by this was that it led to the glorification of military leaders (the easiest way to gain renown across such a vast country), which of course increased the danger of a military coup. Consider the warning of that preeminent partisan, Clay, to his fellow Whigs considering nominating General Taylor for president:
It seems to me that the Whig party has been long and deliberately committed against the election of a military officer to the Presidency who had never developed any capacity for civil administration. . . . The true principle, I think, is this: that great military attainments and triumphs do not qualify of themselves nor disqualify for the Presidency.
If General Taylor, who is absolutely without any experience whatever in civil administration, shall be elected, I think we may bid adieu to the election ever again of any man to the office of Chief Magistrate who is not taken from the army . . . . Military chieftain will succeed military chieftain, until at last one will reach the presidency who, more unscrupulous than his predecessors, will put an end to our liberties, and establish a throne of military despotism. (Clay, Letter to Daniel Ullman, May 12, 1847)
A presidency based on The Idea of the Patriot King is acceptable only as long as you're sure you have patriots, so you don't end up simply with a king.
An alternative (or supplementary) explanation for the rise of party is the growing influence of sectionalism as a pernicious force in American politics. It is possible that the antebellum statesmen looked to parties as forces to counteract the influence of merely sectional loyalties: Allegiance to party, organized on principles which could cross regional lines, could replace allegiance to section.
Consider Madison's thoughts on the subject:
Parties under some denominations or other must always be expected in a government as free as ours. When the individuals belonging to them are intermingled in every part of the whole Country, they strengthen the Union of the Whole, while they divide every part. (Letter to Robert Walsh, November 27, 1819)
Both of the preceding suggestions are merely that-suggestions as to where a serious study of the rise of partisanship in America could begin. Both possess a virtue strikingly absent from Ketcham's work-they take their bearings from the American context of the problem of American partisanship. Seeing the development of the American presidency as the mechanical unfolding of a predetermined debate, the terms of which were set by the seventeenth century English literati, dooms from the start the project of considering what the first presidents thought about "what it meant to be virtuous in public life."
ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
Without God, Without Creed: The Origins of Unbelief in America
Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press,
xviii + pp., $26.50
The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America
Richard J. Neuhaus
Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1984
288 pp., $16.95
By David Tucker
When President Reagan spoke in religious terms to the National Association of Evangelicals in 1983, his remarks, particularly his description of the Soviet Union as the focus of evil in the world, incited a riot of comment. For example, in a New York Times column entitled "Onward, Christian Soldiers," Anthony Lewis ridiculed Reagan, calling him "primitive." "If there is anything that should be illegitimate in the American system," wrote Lewis, "it is such use of sectarian religiosity to sell a political program." Lewis concluded by implying that Reagan had done something unprecedented in our political life.
Apparently, Lewis has forgotten that at the nominating convention of the Progressive Party in 1912, all those present sang "Onward, Christian Soldiers." In the ejection, the party's candidate, Theodore Roosevelt, came in second to his Democratic opponent, Woodrow Wilson, but not because Wilson stood for the separation of religion and politics. In a speech in Denver in 1911, Wilson declared, "America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture." In 1918, as President, Wilson declared May 30 a day of national humiliation, prayer, and fasting. From the beginnings of the republic, Americans have mixed religion and politics. Even such a representative of the Enlightenment as Thomas Jefferson once proposed that our national seal depict Moses leading the chosen people to the Promised Land.
Traditionally, the Biblical Theism, with an admixture of moral philosophy, has provided coherence to American pluralism, countering the centrifugal tendencies of self-interest. On July 4, 1869, Henry Ward Beecher, who served as minister to a congregation of middle-class businessmen in New York City, preached a sermon entitled "The Moral Theory of Civil Liberty." In this sermon, Beecher praised freedom and wealth but only if they led men away from their animal passions toward their higher sentiments, a Christ-like benevolence and, preeminently, the intellectual life that leisure made possible. Both the title of his sermon and the occasion of its delivery express nicely the way in which our national life stood upon a common ground of moral philosophy, theism, and Biblical ethics. Even those differences that went beyond what we normally encompass in the phrase "pluralism" remained upon this ground. Both sides in the Civil War, said Lincoln, "read the same Bible and pray to the same God."
Our Biblical and moral tradition comprised a variety of denominations, theologies, and sects. John Quincy Adams was a member of this tradition, combining philosophy and Scripture in an elegant understanding of man's privileged place in the universe, poised in that middle state between God and the beasts. So were the thousands who gathered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, on August 6, 1801, in the first great camp meeting revival, jerking and grunting in ecstatic communion with their God. This tradition eventually came to include Roman Catholicism and Judaism, each making its own peace with the land of religious liberty. If some of the inhabitants of this land yet harbor suspicions of others, if some purity of dogma was lost, some practices made to accommodate changing times, some church structures bent by the forces of democracy, the result was still a blessing for America. We have benefited beyond measure both by our separation of church and state and by our blending of religion and politics.
In mixing religion and politics, then, Reagan has done nothing unprecedented. He has merely returned to a traditional American way of doing things. The animus generated by this return comes from fear of the goals pursued by Reagan's religious allies and the accurate perception that a majority of Americans share the old, sturdy virtues they champion-belief in God, love of country, and pride in work. A recent survey found that 95 percent of Americans polled said that they believed in God, while 76 percent of the British, 62 percent of the French, and 79 percent of the Japanese said they did. Again, 71 percent of the Americans believed in an afterlife, while 43 percent of the Europeans and 31 percent of the Japanese did. (It is interesting to note that exactly the same percentages in each case said they were willing to die for their country.) The same poll found that 84 percent of the Americans took a great deal of pride in their work, while 36 percent of the Europeans and 37 percent of the Japanese did. Finally, 80 percent of the Americans said they were very proud to be American, while only 30 percent of the Japanese, 21 percent of the West Germans, 33 percent of the French, 55 percent of the British, and 41 percent of the Italians expressed great pride in their countries. Even more striking, in 1982 a Gallup poll found that 44 percent of Americans (25 percent of whom were college graduates) agreed with the statement that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years." Only 9 percent of those who responded agreed with the statement that God had no part in human development.
The rhetoric of the religious right thus resonates in the souls of many Americans, including those who may not share the same religious sentiments as the conservative Christians or even agree with them on particular issues such as abortion or prayer in school. This suggests that a potent political force may develop. The religious right has reportedly gained significant grass-roots power in the Republican parties of Minnesota, Virginia, and several other states. With the money and support of conservative Political Action Groups and groups such as Moral Majority, Reagan's return to our tradition of religion and politics may portend a significant change in our political life.
James Turner's Without God, Without Creed and Richard John Neuhaus's The Naked Public Square help us understand our current political-religious situation. Turner describes in detail the development of unbelief in the Western world, concentrating on nineteenth-century America. He argues that "it was religion, not science or social change, that gave birth to unbelief. Having made God more and more like man-intellectually, morally, emotionally-the shapers of religion made it feasible to abandon God, to believe simply in man" (p. 261).
Turner is describing the rise of liberal religion and its transformation into ethical culture. In our day, ethical culture has become, in a pejorative phrase, "secular humanism," defined by Jerry Falwell "as the attempt to solve [man's] problems independently of God." By explaining the decline in God's prestige, Turner makes more intelligible and plausible the reaction to religious liberalism, one version of which is the religious conservatism that has again become politically active in the United States.
One problem in Turner's argument, however, is that he understates the aggressively secular character of the modern teachings, to which religion accommodated itself. He thus encourages his readers to underestimate the gulf that divides the religious right from their liberal antagonists. Members of the religious right have never done this. For example, at the Baptist Preconference Convention of 1920, A. C. Dixon described in unforgiving terms the character of his enemies. According to Dixon, the atheistic teachings of Darwin and Nietzsche led to the conclusion that might makes right, that the strong have the right to destroy the weak. In a universe without God, nothing has its place and nothing is forbidden, including tyranny. World War I, according to Dixon, had been a contest between brute force and a civilization of just and equal laws, which protected the weak. That war ended with the defeat of Germany, but the ideas of our enemies had been transplanted to the United States, where they threatened the Victory for justice won by Lincoln. There were battles still to be fought. "While victory on the side of liberty and humanity has checked, if not destroyed, German militarism," contended Dixon, "it remains for those who believe and love the Bible to mobilize and fight the battle for the truth which has given to the world its passion for liberty and humanity."
Dixon and his allies fought atheism and evolution wherever they could, including the classroom. In the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, they won the battle (Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in a Tennessee high school) but they lost the war. They were ridiculed in the national press, and, by all accounts, the defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, bested the prosecution's and the movement's champion three-time presidential candidate and former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan. Bryan died shortly after the trial, and the movement went into the political wilderness, from which it has only recently been called. Despite its new prominence, the movement still labors under a burden of ridicule and caricature that obscures its greater significance.
One of the merits of Neuhaus's The Naked Public Square is that it looks at the religious right comprehensively and sympathetically. While admitting that there are anti-democratic elements in the religious right, Neuhaus warns against overestimating their importance and defends the religious right from a variety of false charges. He argues persuasively that it mixes religion and politics no more than left-wing movements and that it is not any more guilty of single-issue politics than the left. More important, Neuhaus defends what he calls the core intuition of the New Right, that our national life is crippled if religion is ruled illegitimate in our public lives. America, at least as we have known it, cannot survive with a naked public square.
Neuhaus qualifies his support of the New Right because he sees in it a fanaticism as destructive of democracy as the fanaticism of the left. What Neuhaus wants is a vital center that can withstand the pressure from either extreme. But it is precisely on this point that Neuhaus's argument falters. According to him, Jefferson, Jackson, and others "strove to articulate democracy as a credal cause . . . but finally it is a faith in which freedom is the end as well as the means. It is a faith devoid of transcendent purpose that can speak to the question of what freedom is for." Thus, as the title of his book indicates, Neuhaus believes that our politics is inherently naked or purposeless. Yet if freedom and democracy are hollow, as Neuhaus argues, how can a vital center form around them?
Neuhaus thinks that religion, moderated and somewhat liberalized, can clothe our naked public square more decently than the secular principles of the left. But why would any religion or ardent socialism, for that matter, want to moderate itself, give up the full vigor of its purposefulness, for a political order that has no purpose? Moderation is necessary in a democracy, Neuhaus argues, because democracy is the political order suited to us as ignorant fallen beings. But this argument from ignorance hardly inspires devotion. Can democracy survive if all that can be said in its behalf is that our ignorance is its best defense? Would men be willing to die to defend their ignorance?
Neuhaus cannot find the vital center that he seeks because he concedes too much to the secularists. He agrees with them that our politics are naked. While he deplores the consequences, they do not. By accepting their premise, he puts himself in the position of contriving to clothe decently a body politic that despises the tailor's art. Fortunately, both Neuhaus and the secularists are wrong. Henry Ward Beecher knew better, and on the essentials Jefferson and Lincoln would not have disputed him.
SAVING THE FIRST AMENDMENT
Freedom of Expression: Purpose as Limit
Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 1984
xv + 181 pp., $19.75 (cloth), $9.95 (paper)
By Jonathan K. Van Patten
In an observation demonstrating his marvelous insight, Alexis de Tocqueville noted the tendency in America for political questions to turn into judicial questions. We could say today that judicial questions tend to turn into constitutional questions because of the increasing flexibility of constitutional terminology. The power of judicial review makes sense, however, only if its exercise is shaped by an understanding of the relationship of particular constitutional provisions to each other and to the Constitution as a whole.
It is in the area of free speech (or freedom of expression as it is now denominated) that the very possibility of such understanding is denied. Freedom of expression is viewed by many as an absolute, overriding end in itself: To invoke the First Amendment is to end the discussion.
The consequence of this view has been a general disarray in First Amendment jurisprudence. The substance of expression is absorbed into form: If it communicates, it is protected, notwithstanding the content of the communication. The protection of all expression, without any further justification other than that it is expression, cuts off any inquiry into the purpose of the expression and its relation to the ends of constitutional government. Thus, for example, it has been seriously urged that nude dancing, hair styles, and sleeping in the park each constitute protected forms of expression.
In its own ironic way, the view that freedom of expression is an end in itself has become the new orthodoxy. There is a special indignation reserved for those who believe that there are other principles to be considered in addition to freedom of expression. For example, when the president of the University of South Dakota refused to provide funds for a female mud-wrestling exhibition, there was an outcry at the university about interference with the students' First Amendment rights. (One suspects that had a faculty member offered to be part of the exhibition, there would also have been the charge that academic freedom had been infringed.) The President's response that female mud-wrestling was not compatible with the university's mission seemed like a non sequitur to the First Amendment advocates.
The attempt to bring discussion of freedom of expression back within the framework of a comprehensive understanding of constitutional government is the intention of Francis Canavan's Freedom of Expression: Purpose as Limit. Father Canavan argues that the definition of the freedom should start from the purposes it is intended to serve and its relation to the other purposes which the Constitution also intends to achieve (p. 2). He wishes to reestablish its roots in constitutional government by raising a fundamental question about freedom of expression: Why do we have it and what are we trying to accomplish by it as a people (p. xii)? Canavan believes the meaning of the freedom is molded by its intended purpose of serving the political needs of an open and democratic society (p. 3). Freedom of speech opens the channels by which the consent of the governed is ascertained. There are, in addition, social goals which go beyond the political realm. As Justice Felix Frankfurter said: "Freedom of expression is the well-spring of our civilization. . . . For social development of trial and error, the fullest possible opportunity for the free play of the human mind is an indispensable prerequisite" (p. 5).
The purpose of freedom of speech not only furnishes a justification of the freedom, it also provides a limitation on certain abuses of the rights which are antithetical to its purposes.
If a freedom is guaranteed for the sake of a certain end, those uses of the freedom which make no contribution to that end or are positive hindrances to its achievement, are abuses of the freedom and cease to enjoy the protection of the guarantee, unless the effort to suppress the abuses would be an even greater hindrance to the end. (pp. 6-7, emphasis in original)
Abuses are thus to be tolerated as a matter of judgment, not because the right is absolute or because there is no principled distinction between use and abuse of the right (p. 6).
Contemporary First Amendment scholars generally believe, however, that the threat of government suppression or regulation of expression always poses a greater harm than the harm which might result from abuses of the freedom. "The only acceptable solution to the problem, according to this view, is to absolutize the guarantee and to protect all utterances and publications without discrimination, so long as they remain in the realm of expression and do not pass over into the area of conduct" (p. 7). This view was advocated on the Court by Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas.
Although the Supreme Court has never fully embraced the Black-Douglas view that freedom of expression is an absolute right and an end in itself, neither has it embraced the alternative position that the freedom should be analyzed in light of its intended purposes. Instead, the Court acknowledges, on a case-by-case basis, certain limitations on freedom of expression. While preferable to the absolutist approach, this approach is not so much a view of the First Amendment as it is a way to avoid having a view on the First Amendment. The Court's inability to articulate standards which are based on an understanding of the purposes of freedom of speech is at the root of the contemporary disarray in First Amendment jurisprudence.
Some scholars have claimed that freedom of expression is deeply rooted in our history and that there is a traditional literature of freedom of thought and expression which supports the view that the right is an end in itself. Canavan devotes the major portion of his book to a consideration of this claim. Canavan examines the views of John Milton, John Locke, Benedict Spinoza, Tunis Wortman, John Stuart Mill, Walter Bagehot, Harold Laski, Zechariah Chafee, Jr., and Alexander Meiklejohn, and considers that their writings do not support the view of freedom of speech and press as an end in itself.
For Milton, Locke, and Spinoza, the defense of freedom to speak and publish was also a defense of free inquiry into moral and political truth. Milton defended "bad books" on the ground that immoral books could serve a moral end, because knowledge of good depends on knowledge of evil (p. 48). Freedom from prior restraint was a means to this moral end; to sever the means from the end, and thus to view the freedom apart from its purpose, Canavan argues, is to distort Milton's position (pp. 52-53). Locke's argument for toleration was directed primarily to freedom of religion, but extended to seeking the truth (p. 70). Like Locke, Spinoza urged freedom in matters of religious opinion and the free use of reason in every aspect of human life (pp. 76-77). Spinoza, however, went beyond Locke in advocating freedom of opinion as a means of fostering political discussion and educating people as citizens (p. 76).
The foremost treatise on freedom of speech and press in early America was by Tunis Wortman, a New York lawyer. He argued that public opinion must be the ruling power, but that public opinion had to become enlightened. Freedom of thought was indispensable to "the progression and happiness of mankind" (p. 83). Wortman's belief in the power of reason to arrive at moral and political truth was the foundation of his argument for freedom of speech and press.
Of the authors in Canavan's survey, John Stuart Mill probably is the closest to viewing free speech as an end in itself: what one thinks does not concern others, and speaking is inseparable from thinking (p. 88). Yet individual freedom is not wholly without standards, according to Mill, because he assumed that freedom would be used for individual self-improvement. Canavan concludes that the moralism implicit in Mill's assumptions and his evasion of the tougher questions make it unlikely that he would have supported an unrestricted freedom of the kind advocated today (p. 100).
The other writers surveyed by Canavan argued strongly for freedom, but again not without limits. Bagehot believed that liberty of discussion was necessary for good government, but he conceded that "[n]o government is bound to permit a controversy which will annihilate itself: it is a trustee for many duties, and if possible it must retain the power to perform those duties" (p. 109). Laski argued for broad political and social freedoms; however, he appeared to assume that "social criticism of the kind that is amenable to rational discussion is to be expected only from the Left" (p. 121). Those who have wealth, power, and privilege cannot be expected to be open minded about public policy (p. 123). Thus Laski's defense of freedom was not necessarily a defense of freedom for all. Zechariah Chafee, Jr., whose views on the First Amendment influenced Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was a professor at the Harvard Law School. He did not, however, "propose expression as an end in itself, detached from the rational and moral purposes it served. Expression, to him, was for the sake of discussion, and discussion was for the rational pursuit of truth" (p. 134). While Alexander Meiklejohn had strong libertarian views, he did not advocate freedom of expression without restriction. He argued in favor of a two-tier approach: absolute freedom in the consideration of matters of public interest, and no undue regulation on other kinds of expression. For this expression, the freedom was a "relative constitutional right that may be abridged for sufficient public reason" (p. 139).
Canavan concludes from his survey of the literature that the writers "argued almost exclusively in terms of reason, truth, and moral and political development" (p. 143). It is not certain whether the view of freedom of speech as an end in itself would have made any sense to them. Nevertheless, these writers were often enlisted by contemporary liberals such as Justices Black and Douglas and Professor Emerson to the cause of absolute freedom. This conscription of the liberal tradition of freedom of speech was done in order to obscure the radical nature of the current trend in First Amendment jurisprudence. One of the most valuable contributions of Father Canavan's book is to make clear the arguments of those who have reflected and written in the cause of freedom properly understood. Canavan's survey also provides further evidence of the tendency of contemporary liberalism to transform itself into something wholly different from the intellectual roots.
The trend in contemporary First Amendment jurisprudence is to reject all limitations on expression. Consider, for example, the following sentence written by Justice Lewis Powell. "Under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false idea." The logical fallacy of this statement is readily seen by expressing the statement in its more complete form: Under the First Amendment the only true idea is that there is no such thing as a false idea. Justice Powell's statement is an example of the inroads which skepticism and relativism have made in First Amendment jurisprudence. The exercise of human reason becomes a purely private matter. No one is accountable for his views, no matter how ridiculous. The result of skepticism and relativism is to regard freedom as a "value" or an individual "preference." As Canavan argues, "the liberal temptation is . . . to lapse into radical skepticism and moral relativism in order to leave the individual free to set his course by whatever standards he chooses" (p. 145). This ultimately undercuts the importance of freedom of speech because its best defense is that it makes possible the apprehension of truth, goodness, and beauty by the human mind and heart (p. 146).
The view that reason is essentially private also has consequences for First Amendment jurisprudence. It engenders a preference for a strict rule forbidding limits under any circumstances rather than imposing limits in some cases through the exercise of prudential judgment. Judgment is regarded as inherently faulty because it represents merely the prejudices of the decision maker (p. 149). Moreover, an abstract rule allows the judiciary, which has proven to be amenable to the arguments of activist lawyers, to wield power over elected officials.
Equally important is the power this gives the judges to reject popular judgments on these questions. It is worse, in the view of judges, to have juries making judgments than politicians (see, e.g., Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 37  [Douglas, J., dissenting]). Ironically, juries have traditionally been considered the natural defenders of popular liberties (p. 149). Part of the expansion of judicial power in the area of constitutional law has been at the expense of juries because they are believed to be untrustworthy in the defense of civil liberties. This reflects a general distrust of all popular judgments on political questions (p. 150).
Canavan proposes the restoration of judgment in First Amendment cases. By judging in the light of the purpose of the freedom, Canavan believes that one can work with imprecise terms like "obscenity," "defamation," or "advocacy of violent overthrow" to determine whether limitations on expression are reasonable (pp. 150-51). Canavan believes the argument that the public always goes too far, contemptuously dismisses the common sense and judgment of ordinary men and women, and attempts to substitute abstract doctrine in their place (p. 150). Society thereby becomes conceptualized in a series of "bloodless categories" (p. 25). Canavan's focus on purpose therefore helps to restore concrete considerations to constitutional analysis.
Father Canavan's fundamental questions about the purposes of free speech point the way to recovery in this area. Constitutional law without clearly articulated purposes is a prescription for disaster. It promises to undermine the democratic process by giving legislative and executive powers to an unelected and unaccountable judiciary. Moreover, this judiciary is continually advised (by what Richard Morgan terms "the rights industry") that the people cannot be trusted to protect civil liberties. Judges can serve the public interest by guarding constitutional rights, but only when they draw their authority from the Constitution and its purposes. As Canavan warns: "[W]hen the purpose of freedom is forgotten, freedom cannot long survive" (p. 40).
ISRAEL AND AMERICA: CHOSEN PEOPLE
The Blood of Abraham
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985
xxvii + 257 pp., $15.95
By Joseph Woodard
Four hundred years ago, religion was becoming discredited-at least in the eyes of some European observers-for its excessive militancy. Religious piety has always been a virtue capable of making enemies. To treat anything as more important than life frustrates the purposes of those who use coercion to achieve their ends. The threat of death does not frighten the potential martyr.
Today, however, the religious sentiment can be criticized for the opposite reason, that is, for its excessive and dangerous civility-at least in the West. Piety, in the original sense of the term, is being preempted today by "niceness." There is nothing in this modern religiosity which would prompt anyone to resist coercion. While religion may once have glorified resistance and endurance, it now celebrates reconciliation, peace at any cost, peace even at the cost of belief.
Our contemporary attitude about religion is imbued with William James's belief that "religion is something a man does with his privacy." This has undoubtedly made life more bearable in a theologically pluralistic society. Yet we have gradually come to believe that the only legitimate, public expression of religious piety is "respect for the beliefs of others," regardless of whether those beliefs are themselves disrespectful.
Former President Jimmy Carter's book, The Blood of Abraham, reflects this peculiarly modern view. The Blood of Abraham, consisting of Carter's insights into the current troubles in the Middle East, begins with his appreciation of the origins of the "three great monotheistic religions." As a believing Christian, Carter accepts as a premise the fact that God had a definite plan for the Jews. Yet he fails to take seriously the agonizing political demands which that mission placed upon them. He reports the fact that Joshua led the Israelites' across the Jordan and into the Promised Land. But he fails to report the fact that God had previously laid upon them the stern injunction:
And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shall smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shall make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them. (Deut. 7:2)
It is not clear whether Carter recognizes the possibility that a higher purpose can require measures which are decidedly "not nice." Perhaps he thinks that such stern measures are something other than religious. But this leaves unanswered the question, what is religious?
In one of the more startling passages of his book, Carter explains,
Islam also is more than a religion. The words of the Prophet Mohammed are a guide for tribal and family existence-how to treat friends and enemies, guests in one's home, those who harm their neighbors or who have a legal dispute. (p. 9)
If laws of conduct are "more than religious," perhaps the religious per se is merely the set of beliefs concerning the superhuman origin of human existence, which beliefs are presumably neutral as regards conduct. Could beliefs which have no bearing on the conduct of life still be politically relevant?
In the course of the many interviews which fill the book, Carter seems to suggest to his interlocutors and readers that the vague similarities in the piety of Christian, Moslem, and Jew can provide the loving understanding needed to bring peace to the troubled region. In one of the passages on which the book is most poignant-albeit unintentionally so-Carter relates with approval Sadat's observation that "[w]e all share the blood of Abraham." It appears that Sadat came to accept Carter's view that religious differences are less significant than human similarities. Is it any wonder that Sadat did not survive long as the leader of a Moslem country?
The whole thrust of The Blood of Abraham is that, in some sense or other, religious differences are the source of conflict in the Middle East. Just as the branches of trees compete for a place in the sun, so the three great religions compete for spiritual hegemony. The little metaphor, "the blood of Abraham" seems designed to suggest that we are all brothers, all having the same roots. Carter's pervasive, pan-religious civility can thus be thought of as a sort of pruning of the branches for the sake of the health of the roots. Unfortunately he seems intent upon hacking away at the roots as well.
In the simplest terms, the Arab-Israeli conflict is a struggle between two national identities for control of territory, but there are also historic, religious, strategic, political, and psychological issues. . . . (p. 112)
What is the national identity, if not the "historic, religious, strategic, political . . ."? And how can these be separated from the land? What Carter fails to make clear is that the Palestinians want and the Israelis need the same territory. If the Israelis fail to hold the territory of Palestine, they risk either assimilation or eradication elsewhere. Neither does he point out that Israel was a nation prior to its efforts to hold that land; the Jews could not assimilate elsewhere without losing everything. The Palestinians, on the other hand, risked nothing by being transplanted. Before Israel was formed, they were nothing but Islamic families, and they could have pursued their way of life anywhere in Islam. They have been granted a fictitious "peoplehood" simply as a consequence of the ambitions of their own propagandists and of Islamic leaders in other underpopulated states.
Carter's own eerie rootlessness is betrayed by his continuing portrait of himself as tourist. As he travels through the Middle East, attempting to promote peace through understanding, he seems oblivious to the fact that, in a very practical sense, the Israelis and the Arabs understand each other perfectly.
Much of the book is based upon discussions he had with Middle Eastern leaders during his 1983 ex-president's tour. Flying into Damascus, the travelogue begins, "Abraham's wanderings would have taken him through the land of Syria. . . ." Then, a little later, he blandly reports his conversation with Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad:
He smiled as he observed that the struggle was now viewed by the world as being between little Syria and the mighty American superpower . . . [a little later] . . . he went on to declare, "Our principal enemy is the United States, not Israel," (pp. 77, 81)
Yet Carter, the honest conciliator, maintains that Assad could be "a prime catalyst in achieving an overall peace agreement in the Middle East" (p. 84). One supposes that when the preeminent aspiration is peace, the implications of hostile domination become a secondary consideration.
Finally, we are left with a man indifferent to the distinctive doctrines of religion. Carter seems incapable of appreciating that the Moslem and the Jew cannot dwell upon their common origins in "the blood of Abraham." Yet, something prevents him from reverting to secular loyalty and particularism, from dedicating himself wholeheartedly to the realm of political necessity. He maintains that American aims in the Middle East must include both "honoring the sovereignty of nations" and protecting human rights, "including those generally recognized in the U.S. Constitution" (p. 203). He fails to ask whether the first might not entail the acceptance of tyrannies, or whether the second might not require the shedding of American blood in the attempt to free those people from their tyrants. Above all, he fails really to address the question, comprehensive for American public officials: What are the interests in the United States in the Middle East? It is astonishing that a man who was once the Chief Executive of the United States appears incapable of answering this question. This inability, however, is the inevitable consequence of his rootless and autonomous civility, with nothing to anchor it and nothing to sustain its life.
This having been said, one might justifiably ask whether the book is really worth reading. It is, for at least two reasons. First, Carter had occasion to converse with a considerable number of world leaders, and he reports his conversations with an embarrassing candor. Second, Americans can discover something of their own national character reflected in the book. While Carter may not be the archetypical American, there is a tendency among Americans to assume the domestic concord of the United States is somehow extendable beyond our borders. In understanding the way in which Carter succumbs to this tendency, we may come to a better understanding of the tensions defining us as a people.
After the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, perhaps nothing has shaped us so much as the "First Amendment," especially in the second half of the twentieth century. During the last generation, the nonestablishment clause has been taken to mean more than that the civil administration must remain neutral to differences in religious creeds in its protection of civil and political rights. It means more than that the rights of Americans cannot be contingent upon some public profession of faith. Rather, the First Amendment is now understood to mean that the civil administration has a positive duty to promote secular humanism (despite the fact that twenty-five years ago the Supreme Court recognized "secular humanism" as a religion). We have not yet become Philistines, but the judges now assure us that the public realm is legalized Philistinism.
In its origins, the American character was defined by the dual allegiance to a universal religion, on the one hand, and to the particular and limited administration of the necessities of life, on the other. Not separated, but distinct, both allegiances were taken to be fundamental to the life of "one nation under God," much as the legislated calibration of timepieces presupposed a global conception of time. Now, we are in danger of turning ourselves topsy-turvy. Carter, for example, assumes the practical extension to the whole world of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Unawares, he is committing himself to the universal administration of justice. Alternatively, he believes that the power of love-contagious niceness-should render the actual administration of world justice unnecessary. Thus, he assumes that the "world community" was "deeply mortified" by the Holocaust, though most of the world, including the Arab world and the Soviet bloc, has seemed restrained in its sympathy.
At the same time, Carter ignores the fundamental distinctions between religious creeds. In disregarding the divisions of sympathy and policy resulting from these distinctions, he is assuming that the contradictions between creeds are no more significant than distinctions in cuisines. It is as if someone could assume a kind of wholesale subjectivism concerning the calibration of clocks, while nevertheless assuming that the whole world is running on the same timetable.
It is precisely in the realm of religious legislation that we can begin to appreciate what a difference this all might make. Although he mentions it only in passing, Carter cannot overlook the intimate connection between religion and government for the Jew and the Moslem, especially for the Moslem. In Islam, the distinction between Church and State is a distinction impossible to sustain, in that the Koran is taken to be the comprehensive legislation. Christianity first introduced the distinction between "the things which are Caesar's and those which are God's," while still insisting that a rendering must be made to both.
When the distinction becomes a dogmatic separation, as it has over the last two generations, the administrative neutrality or secular humanism toys with self-annihilation. The neutral administration must stand by idly, watching the spread of superstitions inimical to the health of the Republic. What is worse, the administration dutifully promoting "humanism" infects the land with a sort of spiritual vacuity, leaving the coming generation prey first to gross sensualism, and then to the most intransigent and intolerant sorts of religiosity. If we accept that there is great sanity, both politically and religiously, in distinguishing between political rights and religious devotion, can we remain indifferent to the spread of Islam or Marxism within the Republic? For that matter, can any religion be tolerated if it would entail the eventual eradication of this distinction?
One of the great mysteries of our generation is America's continuing adherence to the cause of Israel. Our support for the cause of Israel is deeper than ever was our support for that of Poland, Vietnam, or Afghanistan. Carter admits that this sustained commitment is "not easily explained to non-Americans" (p. 54). He might have added that it is not easily understood by Americans themselves. The attempted genocide of the Jews in Nazi Germany does not suffice to explain it. This century has seen a number of genocides, most of which have been ignored. Israel is an underdog; but Hungary, too, was an underdog, which we had no difficulty abandoning. Indeed, for Americans, the enduring fascination with Israel is unique. The fact that Israel is a Jewish nation is the beginning of the fascination. The deeper religious grounds of the fascination are obscure and difficult to articulate. The key to the phenomenon is that Israel is not only a Jewish nation but also a democratic state, and thus Israel most embodies the sort of tension defining the American republic. Other nations are republican, but their republicanism may seem oligarchical, like that of the Swiss. Other nations may be democratic, but, like the French, their dedication seems to be the preservation of an accidental "ethnic" heritage.
The Jews are a chosen people, a circumcised people, a people attempting to live a timeless allegiance at this particular time and at that place. Americans still appreciate what this might mean. Despite their sentimental cosmopolitanism, pacifism, materialism, and practical isolationism, Americans still respond to the call to govern themselves in accordance with some vision of human sanctity; such a vision is somehow necessarily bound up with the risk of protecting and welcoming the wretched of the world, here and now. So, in Israel, America sees the political tension between a kind of commanding purpose and the necessity of consent, the tension arising from loyalty to a particular, practical administration of a universal principle, the tension of democratic republicanism.
Carter relates the story of one of his visits to the Israeli Knesset, where he was shocked by the "relatively undisciplined exchanges" of the parliamentarians.
Prime Minister Begin seemed to relish the verbal combat and expressed pride in how unrestrained the shouted argument was. During an especially vituperative exchange, he leaned over to me and said proudly, "This is democracy in action." (p. 33)
Democratic acrimony, at its best, is the consequence of taking the issues seriously, and the survival of democratic institutions presupposes more than a personal appetite for their fruits. Republicanism, an adherence to the common purpose and habits of discourse, must prevail over the centrifugal tendencies of the democratic ethos, for the sake of the very survival of those democratic institutions. For this reason, a fuller understanding of the peculiar nature of religious liberty is the issue of ultimate importance for both Israel and the United States.
TECHNOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY, AND FAITH
The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984
xii + 255 pp., $23.00
By Martin D. Yaffe
Worst-case scenarios of our global future have become regrettably routine. Latter-day Jeremiahs with Ph.D.s forecast impending doom:
- Ecologically, our plundering, polluting, and overpopulating earth's biosphere will soon exhaust its life-sustaining resources.
- Technologically, our accelerating push toward worry-free longevity must someday dehumanize us-whether genetically (as biological engineering transforms our offspring into collections of spare parts) or spiritually as sophisticated machines rob us of meaningful work).
- Geopolitically, our intensifying arms race raises the none-too-distant prospect of (accidental?) nuclear holocaust.
To dismiss the doomsayers as one-sided misses the point. The purpose of prediction, as Professor Jonas reminds us, is not theoretical but practical. "The prophecy of doom is made to avert its coming, and it would be the height of injustice later to deride the 'alarmists' because 'it did not turn out so bad after all'" (p. 120).
Jonas himself is neither a doomsayer nor a Pollyanna, but an exceptionally eloquent and erudite professor of philosophy. His present book caps half a lifetime of concern for the ontological continuity between body and soul, between organic matter and thinking mind-hence between nature and ethics-as against the fashionable but rigid modern dualism spawned by Rene Descartes.
Jonas's The Phenomenon Life: Toward a Philosophical Biology (1966) proposed recasting Aristotle's hierarchy of souls (nutritive, sensory, rational) into terms congenial to recent evolutionary biology: progressive stratification of organic structures becomes dynamically equivalent to (a) increasing scope and distinctness of experience, and (b) accumulating freedom of action. His subsequent Philosophical Essays: From Ancient Creed to Technological Man (1974) pointed to the need for a philosophical anthropology, a reasoned image of Man, against which to measure the use and abuse of nature by modern technological means-as a viable alternative to contemporary nihilism, curiously prefigured in the ancient Gnosticism which occupied Jonas's earlier scholarship.1 Now Jonas writes in search of an ethics to help us face our undecided future as "captive beneficiaries" of modern technology (p. ix). Previous theorizing, he maintains, is not quite up to that task.
Formerly ethics considered technical skills (except medicine) ethically neutral. It was anthropocentric. It supposed man's nature and condition essentially constant, not subject to deliberate or catastrophic reshaping. Above all, it confined itself to familiar, foreseeable, proximate, hence predictable transactions between man and man-leaving their long-run consequences to chance, providence, or fate. Past ethics failed to reckon with "the inherently 'utopian' drift of our actions under the conditions of modern technology" (p. 21). Nowadays our power to act on ("improve") ourselves and our environment grows exponentially, while our power to anticipate and assess the palpable results tends to shrink. Seemingly small-scale decisions become ingredients of our common technological practice, and set off further cumulative dynamics whose remote effects for good or ill are scarcely calculable by strict analogy with the past. Our deeds are no longer simply man-centered but world-changing, if not world-shattering. If so, Jonas argues, then we need new principles for human conduct, to govern our ever-extending, myopic reach into the nature of things.
The watchword here is caution. "Never must the existence or essence of man as a whole be made a stake in the hazards of action" (p. 37). Jonas's stark imperative would counteract our rampant meliorism-our unlimited trust in technological progress on the (unwarrantedly pessimistic) presumption that the common human lot is to be improved at all costs! Such meliorism lacks self-restraint, let alone moderation. Jonas recommends instead a "heuristics of fear" (pp. 26f., 202f.). He means (1) to develop recently pioneered forecasting techniques imaginatively ("heuristically") for making vivid the practical consequences of a proposed technological innovation, and (2) to "educate our soul to a willingness to let itself be affected by [‘fear'] the mere thought of possible fortunes and calamities of future generations, so that the projections of futurology will not remain mere food for idle curiosity or equally idle pessimism" (p. 28). We must learn to anticipate distant possibilities emotionally as well as cognitively, in order to respond preventively here and now.
Various objections to Jonas's cautionary note suggest themselves. How can we have a direct responsibility to the future, since what does not yet exist cannot claim any rights on which to base our duties? Nature itself, Jonas answers, supplies "the archetype of all responsible action" in the "selfless . . . one-way relationship to dependent progeny, given with the biological facts of procreation" (p. 39). Even so, what if our descendants had no complaint about being deprived of human dignity and vocation? "The absence of protest would then itself be the gravest accusation"; for, Jonas emphasizes, "in the final analysis we consult not our successors' wishes (which can be of our own making) but rather the 'ought' that stands above both of us" (p. 41). But isn't nature value-free, permitting no inference from "is" to "ought"? Not necessarily; Jonas rebuts current axiological dogma by analyzing examples (e.g., walking, digesting) to show that nature harbors at least apparently or subjectively purposive actions-implying an ontological locus of value. He does not challenge scientific determinism on its own ground:
[W]e leave entirely open the manner in which a generalized, unconscious "purposiveness" of nature may assert itself in its deterministic causal mechanism, not so much against as through it: just as natural science must leave open how tight or loose, how precise or blurred, the causal web really is at the undermost base of things (beneath a certain threshold of size). (p. 72)
In a lengthy appendix, however, he reduces to absurdity the "epiphenomenalist" solution to the "psychophysical problem" by proving that if mind were only a side-show in nature, then it would be paradoxically a "creation from nothing," a "noneffective physical effect," and a "delusion in itself."2
Responsibility-that our care for other living beings match our power over them-thus gains a needed ontological foothold. Moral actions require concrete incentive, not just abstract validation. Bare Kantian "reverence" for the moral law remains empty of all but formalistic incentive; on the contrary, Jonas insists, "what matters are things rather than states of my will" (p. 89). Aristotle's self-monitoring teleology of nature safely includes man's crowning faculty for benign contemplation; nevertheless it would seem blind to "the aggressive and manipulative intellect bred by modern science and discharged into the nature of things," which Aristotelian theoria does not validate (p. 138). Moral urgency bids Jonas break new ground. The object of responsibility, he asserts, is life, preeminently human life but basically all life as such. Ontologically considered, the inherent purposiveness of life is ipso facto an absolute preference for being over nonbeing, for continued existence and subsequent thriving over raw annihilation-despite (or through) life's tenuousness, transitoriness, variety, and vulnerability. Hence, wherever the once-given matrix for life may become eroded or whittled away, man's first duty can only be to preserve and nurture it. Jonas finds not one but two paradigms for our newly sober nurturing task: the natural responsibility of parents and the supererogatory or self-chosen responsibility of the statesman.
Today's statesman faces the mounting debris of modern life, "the ominous side of the Baconian ideal" (p. 140). Francis Bacon ushered in modern scientific-technological-industrial civilization by construing knowledge as power. This unprecedented, second-degree power, modern scientific technology, was to redirect the primal powers of nature toward wholesale betterment of human life on earth. Now that technology's twin offspring-sustained economic and demographic growth-have come of age, however, they begin to devour each other, as swollen consumerism and swelling populations vie over dwindling planetary resources. Jonas summons responsible statesmanship to exercise its own, third-degree power to rein in Bacon's knowledge-as-power, to curb our hell-bent momentum wisely before it is halted apocalyptically. But how? Would Marxist totalitarian policies succeed better than Western capitalism, which so far has not met the full challenge of long-term mutual survival? On paper, Marxism boasts the advantages of a centrally planned need economy (as opposed to a profit-motivated random marketplace), total autocratic power (versus diversified grass-roots control), and an ascetic (non self-indulgent) morality. Yet in practice, Marxist regimes remain irresponsibly seduced by a collectivist striving after profit, regional economic gain, Baconian worship of technology, and, above all, a glittering but empty millennialism-which Jonas's concluding chapter vivisects.
He singles out Ernst Bloch,3 called "the grandmaster and enfant terrible of Marxist Utopians in our century" (p. 194). Jonas shows how Bloch's hoped-for earthly paradise of leisurely activity is impossible, both technically and morally. Technically, raising worldwide living standards even up to today's developed countries' would exact unbearable expenditures, including utter exhaustion of fossil fuels and steady heat-dissipation by nuclear fuels, resulting in earth-shaking climatic shifts and biospheric degeneration. Alternatively, these catastrophic consequences could be (a) avoided, if human numbers were "sufficiently low or lowered," say, by whatever "monstrous measures" pitiless fanaticism might devise (p. 192), (b) ignored, i.e., distorted by tunnel-visioned true-believers, or (c) begrudged, by sincere if misguided humanists convinced of the Marxist image of man but despairing of its realization. Morally, then, it is all the more needful to criticize Marxism's Utopian dream-world. In Bloch's formulation, the dream is that technology would progressively remove all drudgery from human life until vocation and hobby became one and the same. Jonas foresees "three deadly costs . . .: loss of spontaneity in the hobby becoming a duty, loss of freedom in its necessary public supervision, [and especially] loss of reality . . . and therewith of human dignity":
No ideology can conceal from the actors of this scenario the dismal truth that what they are doing does not really matter, that it could as well be left undone or postponed or done sloppily, without any other damage than setting a bad example and any other penalty than a bad social mark. (p. 196f.)
Would Bloch reply that man's not-yet-existent genuine humanity might otherwise never come to pass? Nonsense, Jonas demurs, for genuine man as he has been with us all along is hardly all play and no work, any more than he is all heights and no depths, all greatness and no wretchedness, all bliss and no torment, all justice and no guilt; rather, his very "ambiguity is inseparable from his humanity" (p. 200).
Perhaps gratuitously, Jonas appeals to (for?) the ever-present though often muted image of Man, latent in the Biblical notion of mankind in God's image but admittedly unarticulated in terms of the contemporary crisis which he announces. Question: Unless we must abandon all hope for a return to moderation, might Jonas not then be premature in dismissing, however reluctantly, Aristotle and the classical discussion of man and nature? Even now can we afford to take the norms for our well-being simply from the extreme threats which we daily face?
No commonplace jeremiad, Jonas's work nevertheless invites comparison with that of his Biblical namesake. The dire warnings of the ancient Jonas induced an entire city to moral repentance and saved it from otherwise certain destruction. Will Professor Hans Jonas's present exhortations fare as well? Jonas here disavows reliance on Biblical faith, nowadays said to be in eclipse, but trusts our future exclusively to the slender thread of our moral reason. Philosophically, he makes us wonder whether the nature
now being systematically pushed out from under us will ever regain its beneficial course.
1Cf. his The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity, 2nd ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963).
2The appendix, along with earlier versions of two chapters of the present book, is also found in his privately distributed On Faith, Reason and Responsibility (Claremont: The Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, 1981).
3Cf. Bloch, Das Prinzip Hoffnung, 3 vols. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1959). Jonas's book was originally titled in German Das Prinzip Verantwortung (Frankfurt am Main: Insel Verlag, 1979).
HUCKLEBERRY FINN AT 100
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Illustrated by Barry Moser
Foreword by Henry Nash Smith
By Catherine Zuckert
To celebrate the centennial of its first publication, the University of California Press has brought out a handsome new edition of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain himself complained a great deal about the "improvements" typesetters and editors made on his manuscript, so Victor Fischer and Walter Blair have carefully prepared this text by comparing the remaining manuscript with the first edition. (This text will also soon be published along with the original illustrations as part of the University of California Press's Works and Papers of Mark Twain.) As the general editor, Robert H. Hirst, notes:
Their work has shown that Mark Twain meticulously revised even the finest details in the Pike County dialect of which he boasted, but that he also failed-inevitably-to guard against the intrusions of error. The edited text therefore comes closer to his wishes than the first edition in several thousand details of wording, spelling, and punctuation, as well as in one major passage that had been omitted altogether from Chapter XVI.
The editorial emphasis on the accuracy of the rendering of the various dialects corresponds to a widely held critical view of the excellence of the novel, that it was the first to give expression to a distinctively American voice or language. The plot, on the other hand, these critics argue, is fundamentally flawed.
Henry Nash Smith refers to the unsatisfactory character of the concluding section of the novel in his foreword to the centennial edition:
Under the spell of the powerful middle section of the book, the reader forgets how far he has been brought from Tom Sawyer's St. Petersburg, until Mark Twain's improvisation reaches its inevitable dead end with Jim chained in a cabin on the one-horse Phelps plantation down in Arkansas. . . . In any other place the preposterous "evasion" Tom contrives for Jim might seem highly amusing. Here it is embarrassing. . . .
To dismiss the end, however, is to miss both the careful organization and the major dramatic point of the novel.
In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain depicts not only a young boy's withdrawal from civil society to live in nature but also his necessary return. To be sure, at first glance, Huck's life on the river appears idyllic. Having evaded the supervision of both guardian and father, Huck can do as he pleases; and living outside both legal and moral conventions, the boy befriends a runaway slave. As Huck and Jim float down the river, we come to admire the ease and excitement of his existence much less than the naive moral sense which leads Huck finally to declare that he would literally be damned rather than see his black companion reenslaved. Huck clearly embodies the goodness of natural compassion. But Twain also shows the limits of compassion, for he shows that it does not suffice to secure either Huck's or Jim's liberty and life.
Impressed by the independent spirit and resourceful intelligence Huck displays on the river, often readers are dismayed when Huck reverts to his old habits and meekly follows Tom Sawyer as soon as he rejoins civil society. Was the amity and ease of Huck and Jim's life in "the state of nature" merely illusory? That would seem to be Twain's point when he shows that Huck has to return to civil society if he is really going to free Jim. Upon reflection readers realize that the runaway slave cannot possibly secure his freedom simply by floating down the Mississippi into slave territory. Even the white orphan Huck proves unable to maintain his independence from the force-based domination of adults when the "duke" and the "dauphin" board his raft. Huck has to return to civil society, Twain shows, because the force and fraud that characterize relations among men in "the state of nature" made it impossible to secure anyone's right to life, liberty, property, or the pursuit of happiness outside the protection of the law. Jim does acquire his freedom at the end of the novel, but he does so through the operation of two forces Huck despises-religion (in the form of Miss Watson's conscience) and law (in the form of her legal will and testament).
To dismiss the conclusion of the novel is thus to miss Twain's irony. In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that irony appears, in fact, in two forms. In the first place, Twain dissimulates. He does not tell the story himself; Huck, himself a problematic or ironic narrator, does. In the second place, the plot itself is clearly ironic. If the "point" is to free Jim, and Jim has really been free the entire time, Huck's "adventures," including his famous battles with his "conscience," are as irrelevant as they are ineffective. At the end of the story, we cannot help but ask, therefore, what the point of the story really is.
Introducing himself at the beginning of his narrative, Huck points to the difference between character and creator: "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,' but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth" (p. 3). Where Twain explicitly writes under a pseudonym, and so is evidently artful, his narrator, an untutored, obviously rather naive boy, appears to be entirely truthful. Although we see Huck assume a series of false identities by telling a series of corresponding "stories" on the river, we believe that he is sharing his inmost thoughts with us, because he "confesses" his errors. For example, after Huck has lied to protect Jim from slavehunters, he reports:
They went off, and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I knowed very well I had done wrong, and 1 see it warn't no use for me to try to learn to do right. . . . Then I thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on,-s'pose you'd a done right and give Jim up; would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I, I'd feel bad-I'd feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I, what's the use you learning to do right, when it's troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?
Twain's post-Civil War readers are apt, of course, to praise Huck for precisely the feelings he himself castigates. But the implicit contrast Twain draws between the perspective of the reader and the perspective of the narrator is just the beginning of the irony of his tale.
In the original manuscript, Huck's confrontation with the slavehunters was preceded by an incident Twain subsequently cut at the urging of his publisher, who wanted him to shorten Huck Finn to make it more saleable as a companion volume to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The editors of the centennial edition have restored this incident, which has particular relevance to the role of Huck as narrator, because it involves the retelling of one man's story by another; that is, it replicates Huck's relation to Twain. In the restored portion, the raftsman Ed retells the story of Dick Allbright to entertain his fellows (and perhaps to warn them against violence-two have just been fighting). Dick's story is a cover or lie, which becomes a confession when the truth about the "haunted" barrel is finally revealed. When the captain of the raft hauls the barrel on board, Dick admits that the dead baby they find inside is his; he killed it "accidentally" he claims, and jumps overboard. Like Dick, Huck suppresses a central piece of information-that Jim was really free all the time-to be revealed only at the end of his story and then by Tom Sawyer. And also like Dick, Huck concludes by stating his intention to "light out," or escape. Where Dick was convicted by the evidence, however, Huck is finally exonerated. Why, then, we are led to ask, does Huck tell his story and "confess"?
Upon reflection we realize that Huck tells his story for the same reason his "respectable" friend Tom Sawyer agrees to help free Jim. (By having Huck masquerade as Tom at the end of the novel, Twain indicates that the two boys are in some fundamental respect interchangeable.) Because Jim is already free, the boys haven't actually done anything illegal. By telling his story, Huck does not really confess to a crime, therefore, so much as he strives to show the good citizens of St. Petersburg that his "adventures" are truly just examples of "innocent" boyish hi-jinks. If he does not gain fame and fortune by writing, Huck will at least convince parents that it is not dangerous for their sons to play with him. (If we follow Huck's suggestion in his introduction and refer to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, we discover that all the boys in St. Petersburg were forbidden to associate with Huck.)
Huck concludes by stating, "I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me and I can't stand it. I been there before" (p. 412). When Huck first left civil society, we recall, he did not rebel against it on principle. On the contrary, we see on the river that he fully accepts conventional standards of right and wrong (including slavery). He repeatedly runs away because he finds conventional constraints uncomfortable. But, we also repeatedly see, he values fellowship more than his physical comfort and ease. Rather than continue to float down the river on his own, Huck thus returns to civil society in order to free his friend Jim. Even at the very beginning of the novel, given the choice between escaping the life of rigid manners and morals at the Widow Douglas's or joining Tom Sawyer's gang, Huck comes back. Huck does not merely want to escape the uncomfortable restraints of civil society. He also wants to be a member of a society, if primarily on his own terms.
But if the "rebel" Huck tells his story, ironically, in order to gain a place for himself in "respectable" society, why does Twain present us with this ironical tale? At first glance it seems that the author, like Ed the raftsman, merely wishes to entertain.
Twain explicitly separates himself from his narrator at the very beginning of the novel by prefacing the story with both a "notice" and an "explanatory" by "the author." In the "explanatory" he stresses the precision with which he has rendered the various dialects, and in the "notice" he warns: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
Twain's disclaimer also has to be read ironically, however. In the first place, he obviously lacks the power or "authority" to carry out his threats, as he himself reminds us by signing the notice "by order of the author, per G. G., Chief of Ordnance." Whether "plot" simply means "story" or more sinister "conspiracy," moreover, plots certainly abound, both as a clear story line and as schemes to fool parents and to free Jim.
Twain simply did not present his lesson directly. "Humor must not professedly preach or professedly teach," he observed in his Autobiography, "but it must do both if it is to live forever. I have always preached. . . . If the humor came of its own accord and uninvited I have allowed it a place in my sermon, but I was not writing the sermon for the sake of the humor. I should have written the sermon just the same. . . ."
Does Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, then, have a moral implicit, if not explicit in the story? Viewed as a whole, Twain's depiction of life in the "state of nature" appears to be a ringing endorsement of the "self-evident truths" of the Declaration of Independence-first and foremost, that all men are created equal. Jim's concern for the integrity of his family, his willingness to risk life and limb to live as a free man, and his devotion to his young white friends all demonstrate that the black slave is the equal, if not the better of any white depicted in the book. Slavery is clearly based on force and convention, contrary to nature, and just plain wrong. All men may be endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, as the Declaration further teaches, but to secure those rights, they have to establish governments. Neither Jim nor Huck (nor the Wilks' heirs nor anyone else in the novel) can secure either life or property from the designs of others except through the agency of law. When these laws fail to secure life and liberty, men like Jim have a right "to alter and abolish them," that is, to rebel. The rule of law is important, but, uninformed by a sense of the natural goodness of human life Huck represents so powerfully, that law will be unjust.
On the other hand, Twain also shows that, like Huck, Americans do not understand their own political principles. For example, after the Revolution, they continued to hold slaves. Not understanding those principles, like Huck, most Americans regard government essentially as a restriction of their freedom through force. Americans do not understand the principles upon which their government is founded, Twain further shows in the depiction of his two most famous, most quintessentially "American characters," because those principles are not altogether true to human nature. By nature, human beings do not regard each other as equals; like Tom Sawyer, they would rather pretend they are better. Nor are they apt to join a social contract in which they give up their natural liberty in order to secure peace and prosperity. Like Huck, they would rather continue to try to evade conventional restraints.
"While Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the funniest book ever written by an American," Smith concludes, "it is also much more." Indeed, it is. It is one of the most serious critiques of American political principles ever written. One hundred years later, that critique is still worth pondering.