A PURITAN RENASCENCE?
Trial and Error: The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution
Edward J. Larson
New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985
viii + 222 pp., $17.95
By Jerry H. Combee
Edward Larson's Trial and Error demonstrates the interplay between public opinion and the legislative-judicial process in our country on the creation-evolution issue. It shows how the public teaching of science in America has dramatically changed from the 1920s, when teaching evolution was forbidden, to the 1980s, when only teaching evolution is permitted. It accounts for the difference by a shift in popular opinion-for in a democracy, the public teaching of science is not just a scientific issue, but a political issue too. And one senses from the book that the last word from the public on this issue may not yet have been heard.
The author could easily have written Trial and Error as a comedy of errors. Instead, Mr. Larson-a Harvard lawyer with a Ph.D. in history of science-has written a balanced and objective account of the subject of his subtitle: "The American Controversy Over Creation and Evolution." For example, rather than casting William Jennings Bryan in the familiar role of reactionary buffoon, Larson does not fail to mention Mr. Bryan's prominence in the Progressive movement nor the role that this liberal movement played in inspiring the anti-evolution crusade of the 1920s. And refusing to follow the current scientific establishment in dismissing contemporary "creationists" as rural rustics, Larson gives the funny lines to the likes of an Arkansas judge who in 1982 erected a wall of separation between religion and science: overturning equal time for creation and evolution as an unconstitutional establishment of religion, one Judge Overton, relying on expert testimony from a positivist philosopher of science, defined science as "what scientists do" (p. 161).
But it has been quite some time since scientists knew what they are doing.
Eliminating God from science by definition, positivism provides no philosophical credibility for the "instinctive faith"-necessary for science per Alfred North Whitehead (Science and the Modern World)- "that there is an order of nature which can be traced in every detailed occurrence." Whitehead found but "one source" for the origin of the belief without which "the incredible labours of science would be without hope": "insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher." With "every detail . . . supervised and ordered," "the search into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality."
Without God as the creator and legislator of nature, there can be no cause and effect, no order, no intelligible, objective reality in nature. Without God as the creator and legislator of nature, nature is not rational and science is not reasonable. C. S. Lewis put his finger upon the open nerve of contemporary science nearly four decades ago when he wrote:
Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared-the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true (Miracles: A Preliminary Study, Macmillan, 1947, p. 106).
The same scientific establishment that denies an orderer, a designer, an arranger-in a word, God-now denies order, design, arrangement-in a word, truth. It is not uncommon to read in philosophy of science literature that science does not seek rational understanding of "reality," a word not often before put in quotation marks. Even some of the best scientific minds have been affected. Thus, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born had written:
In 1921, I believed that science produced an objective knowledge of the world, which is governed by deterministic laws. The scientific method seemed to me superior to other, more subjective ways of forming a picture of the world. . . . In 1951, I believed none of these things.
C. S. Lewis warned that "We may be living nearer than we suppose to the end of the Scientific Age," and it is hard to disagree when a Max Born effectively repudiates science, and when eminent scientists, advocating subjective rather than objective criteria in the quest for knowledge, recommend the sacred writings of Eastern mysticism. (See, for example, Vince Taylor, "Subjectivity and Science: A Correspondence About Belief," Technology Review, February 1979, pp. 48-57.)
Religion, it would seem, is going to get into science one way or another-either through the back door as the last resort of those who feel constrained to put such words as reality in quotes, or through the front door as the proud premise of searchers after objective order.
After several decades of trying to ground democracy on moral relativism, there is growing recognition-and not just on the Right-that democracy requires a divine foundation. Thus the Brookings institution's recently published study, Religion in American Public Life, declares that "republican government depends for its health on values that over the not-so-long-run must come from religion," for "human rights are rooted in the moral worth with which a loving Creator has endowed each human soul" (p. 348).
I would argue that the modern natural rights doctrine originated not in a Hobbesian moral gloss on Machiavellianism but rather grew spontaneously out of Puritanism (a thesis that ought to be familiar to any casual reader of de Tocqueville). But for now, suffice it to say that the common people at the time of the founding did not read Locke esoterically. Most, of course, did not read Locke at all, but rather learned political philosophy from pulpit pounders who preached the "Lockean consensus" into existence. So, then, why was it "self-evident" to those whose sentiments were harmonized in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
For the generation of the founding, the evidence for God's existence abounded as they contemplated the stars, the sun and its planets, the plants and animals, and man-especially man, for man himself seemed to provide the most striking confirmation of the divine. "To . . . show that we are capable of knowing, i.e., being certain that there is a God, and how we may come by this certainty," argued Locke-a source of more than one consensus-in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, "we need go no further than ourselves, and that undoubted knowledge we have of our own existence." If so, then, as the reasoning of the age went, men ought to see-Locke called this "the most obvious truth that reason discovers . . . its evidence . . . equal to mathematical certainty"-that in the beginning, such a world-with man-could have been created only by an infinite rational God.
It was the belief that man was created by God that made the truths of the Declaration self-evident to the people of 1776:
For men being the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker- all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business-they are his property whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure; and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorize us to destroy another, as if we were made for one another's uses as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours. (Locke, Second Treatise, sec. 6)
In Engle v. Vitale, the 1962 Supreme Court decision outlawing school prayer, Justice Hugo Black offered this consolation:
There is of course nothing in the decision reached here that is inconsistent with the fact that school children and others are officially encouraged to express love for our country by reciting historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence which contain reference to the Deity or by singing officially espoused anthems which include the composer's professions of faith in a Supreme Being, or with the fact that there are many manifestations in our public life of belief in God.
But what if the kids want to go beyond "reciting" the Declaration? What if they ask questions? "Who is the Creator?" "What does created mean?" "Didn't we learn in science class that man evolved from animals?" Will it be constitutional for the teacher to answer?
Descending from the mountains, Zarathustra encountered one old hermit saint, living in the forest, away from the world, resigned to making and singing songs-no rational sermons, note-and laughing, crying, humming in praise to his-note, no one else's-god. "Could it be possible?" Zarathustra asked himself when alone. "This old saint in the forest has not yet heard anything of this, that God is dead!" But God is alive and doing well in the hearts of Americans, of whom 94 percent profess belief in Him, 89 percent say they pray to Him regularly, and 88 percent say the Bible is His inspired word. Half consider Adam and Eve parents of the human race; even many who do not nevertheless favor the teaching of creation in the public schools. Thus speak Roper and Gallup, Zarathustra to the contrary notwithstanding.
Nietzsche's prediction of islands of faith remaining in a sea of atheism missed the mark by much more than a margin of statistical error when Darwin's darkness and other clouds of atheism blackened the horizon as the twentieth century approached. But he was not the last atheist to be fooled by a Holy Ghost who delights to hide in the darkest darkness coming just before dawn.
The elites that dominate American civilization today have been unjoyfully surprised by the massive resurgence of orthodox Christianity, and the revival of Protestant fundamentalism most noticeably, as A.D. 2000 approaches. But these oligarchs of culture forfeit the right to rule our minds If they either cannot see or do not care that the death of God means the destruction of science . . . that a society that funds the public teaching of science but forbids mention of God contributes to the ruin of science . . . that evolution can endow us with urges, even aspirations perhaps, but certainly with no natural rights . . . that democratic civic education taught without religious and moral content is societal suicide . . . that a religious people whose institutions presuppose the existence of a Supreme Being will finally have enough of the secularism of the most severe sort-plain old atheism-running rampant in their schools.
Trial and Error reminds us of the importance of public opinion in regard to these matters; and therefore that we the people, perhaps after all miscast as Nietzsche's last men, may not be finished yet.
AMERICA DEFENDENDA EST?
Promise or Peril: The Strategic Defense Initiative
Zbigniew Brzezinski, et al., eds.
Washington, D.C.: The Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1986
479 pp., $22.00 (cloth), $14.00 (paper)
By Christopher Flannery
On March 23, 1983, President Reagan delivered a speech on the "enormous military might" of the Soviet Union and what to do about it in nuclear weapons, he said, the Soviets had achieved a "margin of superiority" over the United States.1
As a result of this decisive shift in the nuclear balance, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others, had Impressed upon the President the "necessity to break out" of a deterrence posture that relied solely on offensive retaliation.2 The President therefore, proposed to "embark on a program to counter the awesome Soviet missile threat with measures that are defensive." He would, that is, direct an effort "to define a long-term research and development program." taking "probably decades," to begin to eliminate the threat of nuclear missiles altogether.
Leading Democrats denied the existence of the Soviet strategic threat and ridiculed the proposed defensive measures. U.S. forces "more than offset" the Soviet nuclear threat according to the official Democratic rebuttal. Senator Edward Kennedy branded the President's speech "misleading Red scare tactics and reckless Star Wars schemes." The label stuck and the "Star Wars" debate had begun.3
Promise or Peril aims to provide "a well-rounded picture of the key issues surrounding strategic defense." A Churchill speech from the 1930s opens the volume, apparently to dispose the reader favorably to the general idea of strategic defense. But most of the thirty-five selections included in the volume are reprints, abridgements, or expansions of articles published in the last few years in such journals as Foreign Affairs, International Security, Orbis, Strategic Review, The New Republic, and Commentary. There are, as well a few newspaper articles, excerpts of speeches, papers presented at a 1983 Ethics and Public Policy Center conference, and two previously unpublished essays.
Contributors to the volume range from avid proponents of near-term deployment to those for whom the very thought of American self defense practically justifies a Soviet first strike. They include one incumbent and one past president former secretaries of defense and national security advisors, diplomatists and arms controllers past and present, scholars, scientists, journalists, Winston Churchill as noted, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and a Serbian Orthodox Priest.
The book is divided topically into six sections, but inevitably, there is considerable overlap and repetition. This review, discarding overlap and repetition and a good deal of complexity, ambivalence, and subtlety, extracts from the collection the main arguments for and against strategic defense.
What is the Issue?
A certain confusion has beset the SDI debate from the beginning. This arose from the striking incongruity between the immediate and critical danger posed by Soviet nuclear superiority, which had rendered our existing deterrent barren in theory and impotent in practice, and a tentative research program examining prospects for technologically sophisticated defenses "decades" down the road, if ever.4
Everyone is in favor of a "vigorous research program." After all, we were already spending about $1 billion a year on strategic defense research before anyone ever heard of SDI. Even SDI's most strident critics believe that this was a prudent hedge against the "theoretical" possibility that the Soviets might "creep out" or "break out" of the 1972 ABM Treaty restrictions on strategic defenses. The real battle is between those who fear that SDI research will lead to actual deployment of strategic defenses (particularly in the near-term), abrogation of the ABM Treaty, and abandonment of long-standing American strategic doctrine and those who fear that it will not. In other words, the serious political debate is between those who take seriously the immediate Soviet military threat which is supposed to be the reason for SDI, and those who do not.
Against the Detente
The mainstream critics of the President's initiative choose to understand SDI as a program conceived to make America invulnerable to nuclear assault by strategic ballistic missiles. The core of their argument simply put is that this will not work, that it threatens to start a nuclear war, and that it destroys any prospect of arms control. Behind this position, which is put forth by former secretary of defense James Schlesinger among others, is the conviction that traditional American deterrence theory is sound and that America possesses today an effective deterrent. The President and fellow supporters of SDI "do not respect reality," as McGeorge Bundy, George Kennan, Robert McNamara, and Gerard Smith wrote in their notorious Foreign Affairs article, reprinted here. SDI is a "dream" or a "vision" originating in the "understandable," and "entirely natural," and altogether "proper and sensible," but nonetheless "false" hope that nuclear weapons could somehow be made, in the President's words, "impotent and obsolete." SDI then, is the "expensive and dangerous pursuit of a mirage." (87-89, 367-380)
The reality that must be respected is the revolutionary new reality created by the existence of nuclear weapons. These weapons "are destructive to a degree that makes them entirely different from any other weapon in history" (Emphasis added). Since Hiroshima, the calculations that must enter into American strategic defense are "totally different" from defensive calculations of all former times. Unlike all previous weapons in history, defense against nuclear weapons is impossible. (368-369)
The only adequate defense against nuclear weapons, according to this line of thinking, would be a virtually perfect defense. In today's terms, this would mean the ability to stop 99 percent or 99.5 percent or 99.75 percent of the roughly 10,000 Soviet warheads if they were launched simultaneously. Anything short of that would amount to hideous failure. From this point of view, then, an SDI seeking absolute security would seem to be on the right track. The difficulty arises, however, that there is no prospect of such a defense. As Schlesinger puts it, "There is no serious likelihood of removing the nuclear threat from our cities in our lifetime, or in the lifetime of our children." In fact "There is no realistic hope that we shall ever again be able to protect American cities." Irretrievable vulnerability is the reality of the nuclear age. (88-89, 132-133, 368-369)
Even if technology should become available to enable us to deploy a perfect defense against 10,000 Soviet nuclear warheads, it would be imprudent to attempt it. It would cost perhaps $1 trillion (Schlesinger's figure, repeated by many), which would inevitably require the U.S. to reduce defense expenditures in other areas, such as conventional defense of Europe. The Soviets would not in the meantime, be standing still, and it would cost them much less to develop the ability to overcome this perfect defense than it cost us to build it. And besides, even such a "perfect" defense against ballistic missiles would be radically imperfect: "[I]t entirely excludes from its range any effort to limit the effectiveness of other systems-bomber aircraft, cruise missiles, and smuggled warheads." (91, 93, 137, 368)
All of this is in any case wildly speculative. A fully deployed, multi-layered, strategic defense "can never be tested in advance as a full system." "All the different aspects of all the different layers must work well together in an extremely hostile environment (direct attack) the first time that the system is used. The first and only test of the extraordinarily complex system will be the one and only time it is used in battle." And then, it "must be triggered almost instantly." During the boost phase of Soviet missiles (now, about a five-minute period, though possibly reducible to as little as one minute) there must be "detection, decision, aim, attack, and kill." This would be a far greater demand on our ability to exercise rational control than any system ever deployed. (370, 416)
It would take perhaps decades to develop and deploy this full-fledged ballistic missile defense. These decades would be extremely provocative to the Soviet Union and dangerous to us. The Soviets would be sorely tempted to attack and destroy our defenses as we deployed them, before we gained per impossible a decisive advantage. This "transitional danger" is one of the reasons that some have advocated sharing our technology with the Soviets as we proceed, so that they will not feel unduly threatened, a laughably absurd idea that is one of many proofs of the President's "failure of understanding." The kinds of secrets SDI will depend on could not be shared without enabling the enemy to overcome the defenses made possible by the secrets. (93, 138, 374)
In general, SDI critics admit that even "leaky" defenses could offer significant protection of military targets, and that defense of American ICBMs could be "consistent with the traditional concept of deterrent stability." But advocates of ICBM defenses are thought to take an "alarmist view of the threat of Soviet preemptive attack." Even the Reagan administration is said to have abandoned serious concern with the "window of vulnerability," as demonstrated by the decision to base the MX missile in admittedly vulnerable Minuteman silos. "After all," as Peter Clausen of the Union of Concerned Scientists writes, "if the vulnerability of the Minuteman forces constituted a dangerous temptation to the Soviet Union, then basing the much more capable and threatening MX in the same silos could only increase that temptation." (172-173)
The "theoretical" vulnerability of American ICBMs does not eviscerate the American deterrent, in any case. For one, this vulnerability "may be exaggerated." But even if it is not, the other two legs of the U.S. strategic triad are sufficient for the purposes of deterrence. There are about 10,000 nuclear warheads in the American arsenal. Only about 2,100 of these are mounted on land-based ICBMs. "[T]he U.S. ability to launch a devastating retaliatory strike would not be in doubt even if the U.S. land-based force were destroyed." (173)
American deployment of an imperfect strategic defense-the only kind possible-would encourage, not discourage, a Soviet attack. As Charles Krauthammer argues, it would create "uncertainties for Soviet planners" that would be "destabilizing." In a crisis, the Soviets would be driven to launch an all-out preemptive strike, for fear that an American first-strike, backed up even with an imperfect defense, might render Soviet retaliation impotent. The Soviets, in the popular phrase, would be forced to "use it or lose it" (137-138)
On top of all its inherent problems, SDI has been a shock to our European allies from the beginning. Announced as it was without prior consultation, it came as a blow to those governments who were in the midst of defending INF deployments against very active anti-nuclear opposition. If nuclear weapons were to be made "impotent and obsolete," why spread more of them across the European countryside? If deterrence through the threat of offensive retaliation was a moral and strategic failure, why were Europeans being asked to deploy more offensive deterrents? Would an America shielded by strategic defenses mean a Europe more likely to become a battleground? Was SDI the latest expression of the American isolationist impulse? To quiet these and other concerns, consultations were initiated and allied governments were invited to participate in SDI. But, aside from the fact that successful strategic defenses would be more difficult to achieve in Europe even than in America, and aside from the political uproar that would inevitably be caused by any attempt to deploy strategic defenses in Europe, who would pay for it? Would it not mean reductions in European conventional forces, and would this not be very bad indeed? (92, 287-289)
By far the greatest danger posed by SDI, the cause of the most impassioned reaction against it, is that it threatens deterrence. To ask, Why not see whether a defense against nuclear weapons is possible? is to ask, Why not abolish deterrence? The most fervent SDI supporters are accused of reckless talk about "the immorality of deterrence." We must never forget that "For the balance of our days, the security of the Western world will continue to rest on deterrence." (88,131)
Now, to abolish deterrence in this context means more than to cease relying on the threat of offensive retaliation to "deter" a Soviet attack against us, and to rely instead upon strategic defenses for our safety. It means-what Kennan, McNamara, and company particularly lament-to "abandon the shared view of nuclear defense" that has underlain negotiations with the Soviets on strategic weapons for the past twenty years. This "shared view" "recognized that the pursuit of defensive systems would inevitably lead to an expanded competition and to greater insecurity for both [sides]." The Soviets and the Americans mutually understood that "neither of the two superpowers can tolerate the notion of 'impotence' in the face of the arsenal of the opponent." America should not, therefore, threaten "the continued ability of Soviet warheads to get through." This would threaten deterrence. (369, 379-80)
In other words, the American people will be made more secure if we assure the Soviet ability to land nuclear warheads upon us than if we attempt to assure to the extent possible that the Soviets cannot do this. This is the deterrence that must not be abandoned, not the American deterrent against a Soviet attack but the "mutual" Soviet-American deterrent against the common nuclear danger. To secure this deterrence, as Robert McNamara argued twenty years ago and is joined by eminent colleagues in arguing today, the U.S. must take responsibility for sustaining the effectiveness of the Soviet nuclear arsenal. The U.S. must not "degrade the destruction capability of the Soviets' offensive force to an unacceptable level." (23, 380)
The official incarnation of this shared and mutual view of the common danger, which the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. are joined together to oppose, is the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 (reprinted in an appendix to this volume). The ABM Treaty is "the most important single arms control agreement that we and the Soviet Union share." It is "at the very center" of arms control, because it rests upon that "common understanding" without which arms control would not be possible, that "mutual" understanding of the inherent consequences of nuclear weapons, called "mutual assured destruction," popularly known as MAD. (90, 168, 379-380)
The ABM Treaty has been "profoundly constructive," forcing the Soviets to accept limitations on their nuclear weapons. The "unilateral" abrogation of this treaty to pursue SDI would destroy the "mutuality" and "trust" that are essential to arms control and would with absolute certainty provoke the Soviets to take measures that would nullify our efforts. We must have mutual deterrence, or none. (90, 373)
For the Defense
The case for strategic defense is straightforward. In the course of the last twenty years, the Soviets have step by step achieved nuclear superiority over the United States. Our deterrent can no longer deter. Strategic defense is one of many urgent measures we must take to meet this crisis and restore our deterrent. This is necessary not only for the safety of the American people, which the President has a constitutional obligation to secure, but for the sake of freedom everywhere, which can hope for no succor from an undefended America and no quarter from a dominant Soviet Union.
What is the American deterrent? It is not, and it has never been, a shared concern about a common danger. There has never been a "shared" or "mutual" understanding of strategic doctrine between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, such as the one used by American arms controllers to justify the ABM Treaty of 1972. MAD was an American dream that led to an American disaster.
The American deterrent consists in something very palpable called the "strategic nuclear triad": about 1,000 ICBMs, a few hundred bombers, and a few dozen submarines. These weapons have been variously tasked with deterring a Soviet attack against American cities and Soviet nuclear or conventional aggression against American allies and vital interests.5 To succeed in these deterrent functions, these weapons must be able to deter a successful Soviet attack on themselves. Doubt about this primary deterrent casts shadows of doubt over all those lesser tasks with which these weapons are charged in American strategic doctrine.
The Soviet Union has the ability to destroy perhaps 90 percent of our ICBMs, two-thirds of our bomber force, and half of our nuclear submarines, using about half or less of the Soviet ICBM force. Following such a strike, there is no doubt that the U.S. would remain in possession of sufficient forces to wreak destruction on Soviet society. But such retaliation, as Brzezinski writes, would be "suicidal." The Soviets would still possess some 3,000 ICBM warheads, 2,000 or so SLBM warheads, and about a thousand nuclear bombs on their bombers. Therefore, though the U.S. might possess the "power" to retaliate, it is unthinkable that any U.S. leader would "will" to do so, even, or especially, on MAD principles. Our deterrent has been deterred. (57, 154, 426)
The Soviets developed the decisive "counterforce" capacity they now possess, as Robert Jastrow says, "since the signing of SALT I and in the name of arms control." The ABM Treaty of 1972 was supposed to lead to reductions in such counterforce weapons. Indeed, failure to achieve such reductions, according to an official U.S. statement at the time, could jeopardize America's "supreme interests" and "be a basis for withdrawal from the ABM Treaty." Instead, according to Keith Payne of the National Institute for Public Policy, while the SALT "process" continued and the ABM Treaty remained in force, there was "a 600 percent increase in the number of Soviet counterforce weapons." (149, 330-331, 450)
Offensive weapons were not all that the Soviets continued to build following the
ABM Treaty of 1972. As David Yost informs us, "Soviet BMD [Ballistic Missile Defense] investments steadily increased" as well. American ABM expenditures, characteristically, declined following the treaty. According to some expert estimates, the U.S. exceeded the Soviet Union in BMD expenditures by a ratio of two to one in the late 1960s, while by 1980, the Soviets were outspending the Americans five to one in this area. Thus, among its many consequences, "the ABM Treaty halted any future progress towards an effective American missile defense system without . . . having the same effect
on Soviet research and modernization programs." (245, 270)
After the ABM Treaty-as before the ABM Treaty-the Soviet Union continued to build that combination of offensive and defensive forces best suited to "war-fighting, war-survival, and victory." Unlike their American counterparts, the Soviets signed the ABM Treaty for reasons other than endorsing a principle of mutual vulnerability." Neither in declaratory policy nor in weapons programs or developments, writes Manfred Worner, Minister of Defense of the Federal Republic of Germany, have the Soviets ever accepted "the concept of deterrence through mutual assured destruction (MAD)." While making "an investment of awesome magnitude" in their offensive forces, the Soviets continued through the seventies and into the eighties to devote an equal or comparable amount to strategic defense, including civil defense, air defense, and ABM systems. Thus, as Fred Hoffman writes, "during the twenty-year period in which the West has relied on threats of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), the Soviets have altered what they call the 'correlation of forces' in their favor." (39, 73, 158-159, 244-245, 277-278, 308)
While the U.S. dismantled the single BMD site permitted under the ABM Treaty, the Soviets proceeded to modernize their Moscow site with upgraded interceptors and new radars. Practically before the ink was dry on the treaty, the Soviets began to test surface-to-air missiles in a manner clearly designed not for aircraft but for missiles. They have continued to improve these missiles. One of them, the SA-X-12, which "may have the capability to engage the Lance and both the Pershing I and Pershing II ballistic missiles," is "notable because its mobility could enable the Soviets to build thousands of them and conceal them in storage until ready to deploy them relatively rapidly." (146-147, 270-271)
Western readers are familiar with the large phased-array radar (LPAR) being constructed near Krasnoyarsk, in violation of the ABM Treaty. This is supplemented by eight other such radars (permitted under the treaty) deployed on the periphery of the Soviet Union. When this radar network becomes fully operational "in the late 1980s, the final gaps will be closed in the Soviet BMD radar coverage network." These radars will be "technically capable of providing battle-management support to a widespread ABM system." Because of "the transportable and concealable nature of many of the components" of the Soviet ABM system, with the LPARs operational, the Soviets will be able to deploy a nationwide ABM system, in a matter of months, when they choose. (270-273)
As to the more exotic technologies, the U.S. Department of Defense estimated in 1979 that the Soviets were outspending the U.S. by a ratio of five to one on high-energy laser programs. In certain technologies, such as microelectronics and highspeed data processing, the U.S. still has a lead. "[B]ut the Soviet Union takes precedence in applying such technologies to BMD and getting BMD capabilities fielded" (emphasis added). In many areas of BMD technology, "for the foreseeable future, the United States will be producing only documents (and possibly prototypes) . . . while the Soviet Union is already creating hard facts." (247, 271-272)
The Krasnoyarsk radar is particularly revealing both of Soviet strategic calculations and of the character of American opposition to strategic defense. Because this radar is such a flagrant and observable violation of the ABM Treaty, and because such radars take years to build, the Soviets must have decided long ago that the hard military advantages to be gained by constructing it far outweighed the consequences of violating the ABM Treaty. SDI critics have provided ample testimony to the soundness of this calculation.
The very thought that the Soviet Union might plan to deploy effective strategic defenses would certainly produce an energetic American response," according to McNamara, Kennan, Bundy and Smith. Indeed, supporters of American strategic defense would wish this were the case. But instead, SDI critics energetically denounce the U.S. for threatening the ABM Treaty, while desperately excusing the Soviets for violating it. Thus, the Krasnoyarsk radar is "of only marginal importance," and is in any case "understandable." And we must beware that we do not allow it to undermine American "public confidence in arms control." It might even present an opportunity for more fruitful arms control discussions with the Soviets. Though "no such sensitive discussions will be possible while Star Wars remains a non-negotiable centerpiece of American strategic policy." (373-378)
In addition to Soviet development and deployment of defenses designed specifically for ballistic missiles, there are several other layers of Soviet defenses that complement the massive Soviet offensive forces. Extensive Soviet air defenses include some 12,000 surface-to-air missiles (the U.S. has none), 2,500 manned interceptors (with significant improvements in both missiles and aircraft), and 7,000 radars scanning the skies above Soviet territory and looking out over the horizon. Soviet civil defense efforts require the services of some 100,000 full-time personnel.
Soviet civil defense includes thorough preparation for the transition from peace to war, for the maintenance of political and military control during war, and for recovery from war. "[T]he Soviets have spent tens of billions of dollars over many years to elaborate a mutually reinforcing network of measures for protecting political and military command and control that include deception, concealment, dispersal, mobility in the air, on the ground and below ground, deep underground structures and active defense."7 About 175,000 Soviet military and civilian leaders are accommodated by some 1500 alternate hardened command posts "well away from urban centers," besides the many bunkers and shelters within the cities. The construction and provision of these relocation sites alone would have cost $28-56 billion in the U.S. Provision is made as well for the protection of vital Industries and vital work forces.8 (58-60, 273)
Twenty years ago, Robert McNamara, one of the architects of American strategic doctrine, wrote that "The most severe threat is an extensive Soviet ABM deployment combined with a deployment of a substantial ICBM force with a hard-target kill capability." Such a threat, he said, was "substantially higher" than the Soviets were expected to achieve in the foreseeable future. Today, due in no small part to the American strategic doctrine of mutual assured destruction and the policies justified by this doctrine, that threat has substantially materialized while we have deliberately denied ourselves the means to defend against it (21)
There is more peril than promise, then, for SDI, when supporters of at least "limited" strategic defenses, like the editor of Promise or Peril continue to subscribe to the most treacherous precepts of this self-defeating strategic doctrine. Brzezinski believes that we should proceed to deploy some sort of strategic defense; but he insists that in so proceeding, we "should not deprive the Soviet side of the assurance that under all circumstances it would still retain a broad retaliatory capability against U.S. society." This is the kind of thinking that got us into the mess we are in, and a kind as alien as it is perilous to the American people.
For a generation our "experts" have urged us to fear death and consult our enemy. At the heart of the movement for strategic defense is an older, sounder disposition that tells us to fear God and take our own part.
1 Transcript printed In New York Times, March 24, 1983, A-20.
2 For a recent elaboration of these themes, see Caspar W. Weinberger, "U.S. Defense Strategy," Foreign Affairs, Spring, 1986, pp. 675-97.
3 "Democrats Charge President Distorted U.S.-Soviet Balance," Washington Post, March 24,1983, A-l.
4For a useful account of the origins and pathology of the confusion at the heart of the SDI debate, see Angelo Codevllla, "How SDI Is Being Undone From Within," Commentary, May 1986, pp. 21-29.
5 For a lucid explanation of the various purposes of American nuclear forces, see Patrick J. Garrity, "Why We Need Nuclear Weapons," Policy Review, Winter, 1986, pp. 36-45.
6 Three of these, near the Soviet western border, were reported publicly by the CIA as recently as last November. Since that time the State and Defense Departments have been arguing over how to interpret this radar network. State Department officials are concerned that attributing strategic significance to the radars might "make it more difficult for the Administration to compromise with the Soviets on the SDI and ABM Issues." See Los Angeles Times, January 13, 1987, I,13.
7Albert Wohlstetter, "Between an Unfree World and None: Increasing our Choices," Foreign Affairs, Summer 1985, p. 988.
8Department of Defense, Soviet Military Power, 1985 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office) pp. 51-53.
THE EMPRESS'S NEW CLOTHES
The Handmaid's Tale
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986
311 pp., $16.95
Men and Marriage
Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Co., 1986
xix + 219 pp., $15.95
By Steven Hayward
Ms. Atwood's novel and Mr. Gilder's jeremiad are each animated by strong opinions on feminism, but one suspects that never the twain shall meet. In fact, these recent books display just how severe the polarity within thought about the sexes has become, even while there is an ironic convergence between them. And, of course, the respective receptions accorded to each shows not only which way the wind is blowing, but also that that wind blows at gale force.
Atwood's book has received fulsome praise, such as a page one feature in the New York Times Book Review, and frequent inclusion on various critics' "Ten Best Books of
1986" lists. Gilder, the best-selling author of Wealth and Poverty and The Spirit of Enterprise, was repeatedly rebuffed by the major New York publishing houses in his attempts to place Men and Marriage, an updated version of his 1973 book Sexual
Suicide. (Stories abound of feminist and feminist-fearing editors torpedoing the book at several of these houses of repute.) As such, the fate of these two books ingloriously reveals the extent of corruption of contemporary intellectuals.
The Handmaid's Tale aspires to be the Darkness at Noon of feminism. ("This visionary novel," E. L. Doctorow gushed, "can be read as a companion volume to Orwell's 1984.") Judged strictly on its merits as a piece of fictional prose, it is a bad book. But throw in its ideological purpose and it becomes excruciatingly pretentious.
The story is cast in the form of the tape-recorded diary of Offred, a "handmaid" under an oppressive right-wing regime that has overthrown the American Constitution. The chief objects of this regime's oppression are women. They have been put in their place, so to speak; they can't own property, divorce and abortion are forbidden, and evidence from a single woman is not admissible in court. (It is fairly obvious what this latter means, given what feminists teach is the natural posture of men towards women). Middle-class men own "econowives." Handmaids like Offred are virtual slaves, assigned to a family for two purposes: to keep house and to bear children.
Never mind the implausibility of the notion that the supposedly nefarious forces of the Moral Majority would stage a coup primarily on account of uppity women, or for the cause of unencumbering rape. What really arrests the reader is the suspicion that Atwood intends her novel not as a cautionary tale, but as an allegory that she is attempting to depict the reality of woman's present (and of course, past) oppressed condition.
This theme emerges intermittently throughout the book. When Offred and one of her fellow handmaids see a group of female Japanese tourists, dressed "conventionally," Offred offers this reflection:
It's been a long time since I've seen skirts that short on women. The skirts reach just below the knee and the legs come out from beneath them, nearly naked in their thin stockings, blatant, the high-heeled shoes with their straps attached to the feet like delicate instruments of torture. The women teeter on their spiked feet as if on stilts, but off balance; their backs arch at the waist, thrusting the buttocks out. Their heads are uncovered and their hair is too exposed, in all its darkness and sexuality. They wear lipstick, red, outlining the damp cavities of their mouths, like scrawls on a washroom wall, of the time before.
The passage acts as a two-edged sword, pointing out both the oppression of the new regime (women in public are cloaked much as in post-revolutionary Iran) but moreover the oppression of the old regime, today's American regime, which dictates an equally oppressive standard of what constitutes feminine beauty. The bitter accusing finger is pointed-at men. It's men's fault. We live in a cyclical "penocracy." Heels today, veils tomorrow, and so on.
But Atwood's sword is poorly honed. In an essay entitled "Notes For a Novel About the End of the World," Walker Percy-author of Love in the Ruins-writes: "A serious novel about the destruction of the United States and the end of the world should perform the function of prophecy in reverse. The novelist writes about the coming end in order to warn about present ills and so avert the end." This is Atwood's intention, but The Handmaid's Tale is merely a 311-page feminist cliché. Even Mary McCarthy wrote that it lacks "imagination," the most severe criticism possible for such a novel.
As with all feminists, Atwood's ultimate quarrel is with nature, though, like most of them, she never really joins the issue. (Rage is subversive of reason, and Hell hath no fury . . . or so they say.) But novels especially cannot evade the issue of human nature, and it is over this that one finds the point of convergence between The Handmaid's Tale and Men and Marriage.
Atwood's protagonist confronts the nature of relations between the sexes in a hateful but laconic passage: "Men are sex machines . . . and not much more. They only want one thing. You must learn to manipulate them, for your own good. Lead them around by the nose; that is a metaphor. It's nature's way. It's God's device. It's the way things are." To which George Gilder would respond: Yes, exactly! And long may it so be!
Gilder argues that female manipulation of the male sex drive is the cornerstone of civilization. Though this is a bit unseemly at first encounter, he does build a case in the course of the book. And his essential premise is that male and female natures persist and matter: "The differences between the sexes are the single most important fact of human society." Masculinity and femininity are not merely "roles" which are "imposed" on men and women by "society," but are instead rooted in nature itself. Therefore the attempt to obscure the differences between or avoid the consequences of masculinity and femininity, for the cause of promoting "sexual equality," is profoundly destructive.
Gilder is like the little boy confronted with the emperor's skivvies in the Hans Christian Andersen classic, saying what everyone knows but won't dare speak aloud: the sexes are unequal. But after this his argument takes an unusual turn. For women, he would have it, are naturally superior to men in the end. Moreover, though the differences between the sexes are natural, their resolution depends on a social convention-marriage.
Marriage is a conventional rather than a natural institution for Gilder because fathering and providing is indeed contrary to man's impulsive, nomadic nature; while childbearing and loving nurture come naturally to women.
Even sympathetic reviewers have balked at Gilder's view of marriage, ignoring as it does the mutually noble desires that arise out of natural sexual differences and which are fulfilled through marriage. It should be said at some point that although Men and Marriage is a sort of brief on behalf of human nature, Gilder does not reason from truly traditional premises as one might expect. Throughout the book he relies heavily on modem social science; Margaret Mead and a raft of other anthropologists appear too frequently. Gilder claims not to be a neoconservative, but he argues like one.
Nevertheless, Gilder's explanation of how marriage effects a transformation of men's character is useful and correct. Through marriage, women dispose men toward long-term perspectives on life. Whether it is natural or not, single men left to their own inclinations tend toward "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" Hobbesian lives of unfulfilled desires. Thus Gilder argues that the problems of crime and poverty are much more attributable to singleness than to race or class.
In short, marriage civilizes men and makes them stable and productive. It is here that Gilder's argument on marriage intersects with his works on entrepreneurship and economics. The family, as the fundamental institution of society, is essential to our prosperity and progress: "The driving force of a free economy [is] not material forces or even physical capital, but the metaphysical capital of family and faith." In fact Gilder compares the faith of parents with that of entrepreneurs: "Parents are the ultimate entrepreneurs, and, as with all entrepreneurs, the odds are against them."
The odds are against them, according to Gilder, because of the contemporary assault, at once overt and subtle, against marriage and family life. The radical feminists, of course, explicitly attack the family as an "oppressive" institution, but far short of this extreme the attack persists nonetheless. Marriage and motherhood are now presented to young women as one "option" among many, as a "lifestyle" or as a single facet to be "integrated" into the "lifestyle" of the thoroughly modem woman. "The feminists may have failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment," Gilder observes, "but they seem to have achieved the much more important goal of transforming the lives and attitudes of American men and women."
It is of course to be expected that modern economies will afford women more latitude than their grandmothers. In pre-industrial societies, men were providers by necessity, as hunters and tillers of the field, while women minded home and family as a full-time occupation. In the modern world, the role of provision is performed by money, which lacks gender. Thus everyone, but especially the woman, has more "opportunity." There is no avoiding that the changes in society wrought by modem economies will affect relations between the sexes. It is doubtful whether even Phyllis Schlafly, J.D., would stand for the domestic regimen of her grandmother.
But the fact still remains that whatever our material progress, only women have babies. Regardless of how far science progresses in subduing natural impediments to our material well-being, nature itself cannot be conquered and bent to some human will (though Gilder speculates in a chapter on genetic engineering how some might try to bend it so). And even Atwood is aware of this somehow or dimly. "You can't cheat nature," one of her male characters says, and this weakness in her imaginary tyranny sustains the hope of the women's resistance (the "Underground Femaleroad").
It is above all for our children, born of women, that we are concerned, morally and politically and personally, with the future. The distinguishing characteristic of today's "yuppie" culture-the idea of children as liabilities, nuisances, hindrances to the pursuit of career and the enjoyment of "lifestyle"-is scary in that light. Nothing could be more profoundly destructive to civilized society in the long run, if not the short.
To make such an argument in the 1980s is to invite the wrath not only of feminists, but of the New York Times, the United Nations, Democrats, social scientists, and other avatars of sophisticated opinion who are presently captive to the thinking exemplified by The Handmaid's Tale. It takes someone either extraordinarily naive, like
the little boy seeing the emperor's new clothes, or extraordinarily courageous, to point out that the feminist movement is a calamity. Gilder is not naive; he knows he will suffer attacks on his reputation and that his popularity, such as it is, will plummet. Thoughtful readers, therefore, should rally behind his book.
WHY CONSERVATIVES CAN'T GOVERN
Are You Tough Enough?
Anne M. Burford (with John Greenya)
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986
xi + 291 pp., $16.95
The Triumph of Politics: How the Reagan Revolution Failed
David R. Stockman
New York: Harper & Row, 1986
x + 422 pp., $21.95
By John Adams Wettergreen
These are the apex and the nadir of the Reagan administration.
David Stockman was Director of the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) for four and a half years-as long as he wished. During his tenure at this agency, which checks the whole federal bureaucracy, he was recognized in the mass media and in Congress as the most brilliant and powerful Reaganite. Even before Stockman took office, he began to betray the Reagan administration by leaking systematically to an editor of the Washington Post. Yet, when his leaks were published in an infamous Atlantic Monthly article in November 1981 that discredited the administration's first year in office, the President kept him on, reportedly because his expertise at OMB was indispensable. Upon retiring from public service, he wrote a best seller on a million-dollar advance and took a high paying job with the top trader on Wall Street.
At the other pole is Anne Burford. For twenty-two months, she was Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a meddlesome bureaucracy of obscure organization which is best known for its alliances with the environmentalist faction. Burford's tenure was marked by charges of maladministration and political corruption: packs of reporters coursed her through the streets, airports, and hotels of America: Congress found her in contempt. After being forced to resign under humiliating conditions, she spent three years suing the Reagan Administration for the hundreds of thousands in legal fees that she incurred as EPA's Administrator.
Despite these differences in honors, offices, and emoluments, the two are equals. To be sure, at the time of their appointments, Stockman's private accomplishments were superior. Of course, both were good-looking and relatively young when they were appointed, but Stockman was younger and the most eligible bachelor in Washington. Anne Burford was Anne Gorsuch, a separated but not yet divorced mother of three who was "'seeing'" Robert Burford, Director of the Bureau of Land Management (p. 35). These personal details must be mentioned in case anyone supposes that they are unimportant politically. Some of the most influential people in the White House concern themselves full time with these matters, which are the stuff of daily life in Washington (See Burford, pp. 34-5, and Stockman, p. 321).
In public accomplishments, Burford was superior. Although Stockman has a reputation for being unusually intelligent-"I have enormous respect for David's intellect" says Burford-his educational attainments are clearly inferior. Burford ranked high when she graduated from the University of Colorado's law school and she was a Fulbright Scholar, whereas Stockman was admitted to Harvard Divinity School to avoid the Vietnam draft. Stockman is, however, more of an intellectual than Burford, having read all of the writings of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, some of Walter Lippmann, Theodore Lowi and Reinhold Niebuhr, and five years worth of Congressional Quarterly; and he is impressed by people, like then-White House aide Richard Daman, who read "serious books" (see p. 245). An expert on the federal budget once remarked to me that Stockman was appointed, not only because he was the only person in Washington who had read the Federal Budget but also because he had read it cover-to-cover. On the evidence of The Triumph of Politics (see p. 91), this is only half true. And Burford's quick mastery of the details of environmental regulation-a scientifically, legally, and politically complex matter-is no less impressive than Stockman's command of the budget's numbers (see Burford, pp. 47-59).
Stockman, to be sure, had held a higher elective office than Burford, having been a Republican congressman from a safe Michigan district. But Burford, for her part, had been elected and reelected to her state legislature from a heavily Democratic (and Jewish) district, had participated in a conservative rebellion in the Colorado legislature, had assumed the leadership of two important committees in her first term, had written pieces of criminal and environmental law, and had been voted "Outstanding Freshman" by her colleagues. Furthermore, she could beat Stockman at his own game. In a showdown early in Burford's tenure, she got the budget she wanted because her staff leaked a story of Stockman's insensitivity to environmental issues to the New York Times. She was then able to reprimand her staff for pulling such a stunt all the while wondering why Stockman "was personally angry that I had won." Thus did she top Stockman at his leaky best.
Although she was clever and experienced, Burford was known by all parties in Washington for her loyalty to the Reagan administration. Stockman-as everyone knows and as this book evinces-is remarkable for his disloyalty.
Given this moral calculus, one cannot help but wonder why one rose high and the other fell. So here are the materials for considering the things for which citizens, and especially appointed officials, are praised and blamed these days.
Stockman's narrative covers only the first year of his tenure and treats only economic policy. In fact it considers only a part of Reagan's economic policy-Congress's passage of a Budget Resolution on June 26, 1981 and of the Kemp-Roth "Supply-Side" Tax Cut on July 29, 1981. All else-defense and foreign policy, regulatory policy, environmental issues, and so on-is presented in the light of these two legislative actions. And stripped of its stupid gossip about the foibles of congressmen, of the intellectual clap-trap about supply-side and structural effects, and of the snide remarks about the intellect of the President and his advisors, Stockman's claim about these two events is simple: in 1981, the American government wrongly decided to spend more than it took in.
This might not seem like news to anyone familiar with the last fifty years of American political history. So Stockman elaborates. Government spent a lot more and decided to keep on doing so in the future. The consequence will be bad times: inflation to repudiate the resultant massive public (and private) debt. This is not news either, unless one supposes, as Stockman does, that the Reagan administration ought to have put an end to all this.
Stockman's "Reagan Revolution" has nothing to do with moral, social, or religious issues. He has as much contempt for the New Right and the Moral Majority as Norman Lear or the libertarians. Nor does his "Reagan Revolution" have anything to do, except accidentally, with countering the Soviet threat to which Stockman is as blind as the libertarians and the left wing of the Democratic Party. Rather, President Reagan was elected to achieve "the social goals of the liberal establishment . . . through a revival of non-inflationary economic growth." That is "the basic objective of the Reagan Revolution." To the extent that this required some dismantling of the welfare state, Stockman was willing. That is the "whole thesis," and what he repeatedly calls, not without some of the self-mockery born of maturity, the "Grand Doctrine" upon which he operated at OMB in his first year. So Stockman agrees with those conservative critics who claim that he was the tool (and Ronald Reagan the dupe) of the liberal establishment.
Why could not Stockman see that the liberal establishment is not politically respectable, if indeed it needs conservative tools and dupes to accomplish its "social goals?" In the late 1970s, the Supply Siders-Jack Kemp, Irving Kristol, Art Laffer, and Jude Wanniski-convinced Stockman that the liberal establishment was incapable of that impartial administration of the economy which its social goals required. Stockman's experience at OMB taught him that conservatives could not do it either. Sensible people might have concluded that it could not be done. However, being an intellectual (i.e., someone who believes that his ideas are what really matter), Stockman could not conclude that the social goals of the liberal establishment were ruinous of American wealth and power. Instead, he concluded that the truth, his Grand Doctrine, had been mugged by "politics."
One hundred and fifty years ago, Tocqueville pointed out that above all, democrats must fear the excesses of intellectuals. Disgusted with democracy's propensity to reward commercial, not intellectual talents, intellectuals of the right and the left prefer the following proposal:
. . . concentrate all wealth in the hands of a central power whose function it should be to parcel it out to individuals according to their merits. That would . . . [be] a way of escaping from the complete and eternal equality which seems to threaten democratic societies.1
Bureaucratic redistributionism is the effectual truth of the social goal of the liberal establishment, which Stockman so admires. In practice, bureaucratic redistributionism has proven to be both socialistic, e.g., when aiming to raise the least advantaged classes to the socio-economic status they are thought to deserve, and capitalistic, e.g., when seeking to encourage those who produce what is to be redistributed to produce more so that more can be redistributed. Indeed, as Stockman illustrates, bureaucratic redistributionism can be capitalistic and socialistic simultaneously. It is only essential that every redistribution of wealth be administered centrally.
By The Triumph of Politics Stockman means the defeat of "ideas" by "power" (see p. 80). That is his whole dismal story: how this or that private interest prevented the impartial administration of the economy which his ideas dictated. Accordingly, he urges his readers to believe that we might have had capitalism's fabled "level playing field," if only the politicians, seeking reelection, had not tampered with his budgetary proposals. If only the liberal welfare state had not engendered private interest groups which favor its massive spending. Stockman (following Theodore Lowi) complains, for page upon tedious page, we might have had that wealth which the liberal establishment requires for the achievement of social justice. Unfortunately, Stockman could not point out, as Martin Diamond did so often for his Political Science 1 classes, that, if only Grandma had wheels, she would be a trolley car.
In other words, Stockman's pet ideas-his revolution, not the Reagan Revolution-could be defeated by the power of others, because they were wrong and everyone believed they were wrong.
What defines the "Reagan Revolution," if anything, is the national recognition that the reigning left-liberal establishment had become ruinous of American life. Ronald Reagan expressed this with admirable clarity and precision throughout his 1980 campaign against Jimmy Carter and Stockman's political mentor, John Anderson. By declaring that "Government is not the solution: government is the problem," Reagan gave voice to an opinion which could have been heard in a thousand bowling alleys, supermarket check-outs, and churches across the nation, but which had rarely, if ever, been articulated nationally in this century.2 Intellectuals of the left and the right interpret Reagan's memorable aphorism as "populistic" and "anti-government" but clearly Reagan meant that government need not be a problem to the American people and that if he were in office, it would cease being a further problem and in that way start being a solution. This really was revolutionary, because the conventional wisdom of the second generation of the New Deal was that wherever there was a problem there was a bureaucratically administered program to solve it.
Stockman knows that the Reagan Revolution, in the sense just indicated, did not fail:
We had tightened the money supply, sharply reduced inflation, and were making some progress on deregulation. For the first time in American politics, we had actually put the spending constituencies on the defensive. That was no mean feat. (p. 348)
Further, he knows that the Reagan administration reversed the liberal establishment's presumption against American military might just as surely as its presumption against American wealth (see p. 392). Furthermore, who but Stockman can fail to notice that during the Reagan Administration economic growth and low inflation have been restored, while spending for liberal social programs has been increased to record levels. However, to Stockman these are not really important accomplishments, because they are not "revolutionary" in the sense that they advanced his precious "social goals of the liberal establishment."
Stockman was theoretically and practically mistaken in believing that the goals of the American left today are "social," not political. Thus, of William Greider, Stockman mistakenly says, "Like me, he was anti-political. He felt that policy ought to be built on ideas, not power." Greider was the editor at the Washington Post whose Atlantic article so discredited Stockman that his history ends with its publication; apparently, after Greider exposed him, Stockman did not do anything worth narrating. Indeed, in form, Triumph of Politics is a kind of commentary on Greider's article: almost every incident in the book ends with Stockman's description of what he leaked to Greider about the event in question. Stockman might believe that "We were engaged in a battle of ideas" (p. 3). Manifestly, Greider ("He was a friend . . ." whines Stockman) and the Washington Post (which "had given us a fair shake-at least sometimes," he says, grateful for any crumb) were willing to use weapons other than ideas.
Stockman makes the same error when he confuses the objectives of the liberal establishment with the goals of the various social and regulatory programs established by the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and the New Frontier/Great Society. Today, as for the past decade, the liberal establishment is devoted to the central administration of the United States, i.e., to bureaucracy. The Democrats' social and regulatory programs of the previous generation are the superstructures of bureaucracy, but the foundation is minute, day-to-day, congressional control of agency spending (and personnel). Because he believes in the moral worth of the liberal establishment's professed social goals, Stockman is blind to the effects of bureaucratization on public finance. Bureaucratization means that congressional budget resolutions, budgets, continuing resolutions, authorizations, and appropriations bills, even if they are passed, have little to do with what is actually spent. Control of spending depends very little upon ideas and debates and resolutions, and very much upon the virtues and vices-the pusillanimity, the civic courage, the moderation-of elected and appointed officials.
Consider: Throughout the spring and summer of 1981, all Washington, and especially Republicans and conservative Democrats, could happily debate the wisdom of this or that program with David Stockman. However, when Stockman actually stopped some spending in the fall of 1981, Senator Mark Hatfield had a temper tantrum: "The White House is threatening to tear up the Constitution,' he exploded...." Upon hearing of OMB's perfectly legal "deferral" of spending, "the unflappable [then-Senate Majority Leader] Howard Baker exploded in red-hot anger" so personal and so violent that his words "stung as much as [Stockman's] father's leather strap." Stockman lit a cigarette to steady his shaking hand. Having a narrow political education, Stockman admired Baker with foolish extravagance: "That guy is better than anybody else who's ever been on the track." So this attack broke his self-confidence once and for all (see pp. 336-7). Things got rough for Davy Stockman on the battlefield of ideas.
Now imagine how "stung" Stockman might have felt if he knew Congressmen were plotting, in cold fury, to ruin him and send him to jail before his approaching wedding day. That is what Anne Burford faced.
During the past decade, the first decade of America's fully bureaucratized regime, politics in Washington became unusually mean-spirited. For example, days before Burford was confirmed, James J. Howard (D-NJ), the Chairman of the House's Public Works and Transportation Committee, viciously berated Burford for allowing his political opponent, whom he had defeated months before Burford was even considered for the position at EPA to take credit for an EPA construction grant in his district (pp. 40-41). Perhaps Howard was merely trying to impress upon her what he thought was really important, but less than a week after she arrived at EPA a federal judge tried to make a similar impression:
'I don't care if that lady just walked in there,' thundered the judge when he heard the request [that EPA issue the standards governing effluents in water which a law had required of the agency five years before]. If this order isn't followed she's going to jail' (p. 69)
So as Burford's book documents, the criminal law, together with temper tantrums, has become a chief instrument of government-that is, of administration-in Washington during the past decade.
Burford actually can sympathize with these poor Congressmen, driven to the extreme of jailing their fellow citizens so they can get reelected. So she pleaded with Rep. John Dingle (D-Mich.) not to press the issue of her criminal contempt of Congress for refusing, on the orders of the Chief Executive, to honor his committee's subpoena. She had "actually been to see the President himself, and had come that close to getting him to agree that we should give Congress whatever [information] it wanted." Dingle replied:
'You know I'm not after you. You're Just in the way. What you need to do is to figure out who your friends are-whether they're up here [in Congress], or at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.'(p. 159)
It is beyond me why Burford remembers Dingle "with respect and admiration," for, make no mistake about it, he and his colleagues intended to send her to jail. Then-Rep. Levitas (D-Ga.)-who should be remembered for his wonderful aphorism, "You can't take the politics out of politics"-was plain about it:
I remember before we made that decision of what to do, not only checking out the precedents on the inherent power of Congress to hold a person in contempt, but what would be done if that occurred. Who would go out and arrest Mrs. Burford? And where would she be incarcerated? I checked out the location of the old jail in the Capitol Building. I actually went and met with the Architect of the Capitol, and he took me around and showed me where they [sc. the Capitol police] use to hold prisoners.' (p. 262)
Indeed, Burford's immediate inferior, Rita Lavelle did go to jail over the very issue on which the Congressmen plotted to jail Burford.
That issue was, of course, being able to take political credit for governmental spending. In particular, the Democratic Congressmen claimed that EPA delayed the announcement of a Superfund grant to clean up Stringfellow toxic dump in California and thus prevented Governor Jerry Brown from taking credit for it in his campaign for the Senate against Pete Wilson. This grant was relatively small-$6 million out of a multi-billion-dollar fund-but the anger of the Democrats was so great that they baited Lavelle into perjuring herself in her congressional testimony about her activities in "election tracking" Superfund grants for someone in the Reagan administration. They tried, but failed to set Burford up for a perjury charge in July 1982; Burford probably knew nothing about the details of Lavelle's partisan activities. The record of the committee testimony on this failed plot to induce Burford to perjure herself was altered by the Democrats. Committee staff were fired, Republican members of the committee held the moral high ground for a few days, but Burford has never been able to get a transcript of the original testimony (p. 235). For whatever reasons, the Democrats regarded those six million Superfund dollars as their own, and were willing to falsify the public record and send Burford to jail to hold on to them.
Burford was not entirely innocent in this matter. In the first place, she hired Rita Lavelle for a position that Lavelle's subordinates knew she was unqualified for; even worse, they knew because Burford told them. "Rita Lavelle was not my choice," Burford insists. Burford turned her down for the position twice, before Joe Ryan of "the White House personnel office" offered this "clincher" argument
'Anne, you know how it is for women; they frequently are not given opportunities to grow, and so it becomes one of those Catch-22 situations: you don't have the management experience because you've never been given the opportunity for management experience, so therefore you're in this ever downward cycle, and you as a woman should be sympathetic to that, and certainly you have been before . . . (p. 112)
Shortly thereafter, Burford was dismayed to discover that "Rita was reporting, frequently, to the powers that be in the White House about internal EPA matters." Nevertheless, Burford cannot be excused for her failure-it is a moral weakness-to understand the fundamental premise of Affirmative Action: if you want someone to be beholden to you, give her something she does not deserve. Clearly, "the White House" understood this, and assumed that the EPA Administrator did too.
In the second place, Burford was not entirely innocent, because she is blind to the reality of bureaucratic government. She, like Stockman, believes that impartial, scientific administration is the solution. She is offended when she learns that there are people at OMB who wish to "bring EPA to its knees." "Had I known [that]," she says, apparently with genuine indignation, "I would have gone to the President and demanded Stockman's resignation." She believes that, with the election of Ronald Reagan, "we were finally going to start paying more attention to the scientific, as opposed to the political, direction. No longer would the scientific area be politicized" (p. 124). And Burford's record at EPA shows that, more than anyone before or since, she was an advocate of scientifically and economically sound environmental policies and regulations. Such a morally and politically obtuse view is wholly alien to the centralized administration of this country, which-to repeat-requires minute, day-to-day control of federal spending and personnel.
The net effect of Burford's tenure has been the control of EPA by the congressmen who conspired to jail her. Lee Thomas, a registered independent and a professional bureaucrat, became EPA's Administrator, but "Congress had usurped the prerogative of the Executive Branch, and is in effect running EPA by virtue of legislative deadlines on a myriad of regulatory programs. . . . And now, with [Burford] gone, no one seems to be paying any attention" (p. 276). No one, that is, except those who are on the receiving end of the enormous Superfund, "the only game in town, the only new source of money" (p. 106).
Why did Stockman rise and Burford fall? Not because Burford was a conservative and Stockman a liberal. Both believe in the liberal establishment's dream of an impartially and efficiently administered welfare state. The difference is clear: one stood up to the congressional commissars in order to remain loyal to the President as the chief administrator of the United States; the other betrayed the President and caved in at the first angry words from Congress.
By keeping Stockman in honor and dumping Burford ingloriously, the Reagan administration did not treat them as they deserved. However, the personal injustices are minor, compared with the political injustice that was their consequence. By keeping Stockman and dumping Burford, the Reaganites helped the legislature perfect its
central administration of the nation. To the carrot-spending unlimited by law-the legislature has added the stick-the penalties of the criminal law.
1Democracy in America, Vol. II, Part I, Ch. 9. The proposal is characteristic of positivism.
2 By the mid-1970s, three different pollsters had reported this distrust of the central government to persons with national authority, but only Reagan made a political issue of the authority of the central government. See Confidence and Concern: Citizens [sic] View of American Government; Hearing before the Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations of the Committee on Government Operations, U.S. Senate, 93rd Congress, 1st sess. (December 3, 1973), pp. 4-5; Nie, Verba, et al., The Changing American Voter (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1976), p. 129; and Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, Improving Urban America (Washington, D.C., September 1976), p. 12.
Common Sense Vindicated
The Media Elite: America's New Powerbrokers
S. Robert Lichter, Stanley Rothman, Linda S. Lichter
Maryland: Adler and Adler, 1986
342 pp., $19.95
As the press of this country now exists, it would seem to be expressly devised by the great agent of mischief, to depress and destroy all that is good, and to elevate and advance all that is evil in the nation. The little truth that is urged, is usually urged coarsly, weakened and rendered vicious by personalities; while those who live by falsehoods, fallacies, enmities, partialities and the schemes of the designing, find the press the very instrument that the devils would invent to effect their designs. A witty but unprincipled stateseman of our own times, has said that 'speech was bestowed on man to conceal his thoughts'; judging from its present condition, he might have added, 'and the press to pervart truth.'
-James Fenimore Cooper
The American Democrat (1838)
The Media Elite is a landmark book of sorts. For several years now it has become increasingly apparent to everyone (except perhaps, to journalists themselves) that those in the media do not represent a cross-section of America. Survey after survey has shown that the most influential reporters and editors are overwhelmingly on the left fringe of the political spectrum. Over 80 percent of the leading journalists voted for McGovem in 1972; only 47 percent believe that adultery is wrong; only 25 percent regard homosexuality as wrong. Nor are things likely to get better in the future. The majority in a recent class of journalism students at Columbia University was found to prefer Fidel Castro to Ronald Reagan.
Media defenders pooh-pooh such data, pointing out that it does not follow necessarily that reporters slant their news coverage, and say that journalists today know how to separate their own views from the stories they cover. Critics retort that it is simply common sense that one's personal views would affect one's stories.
The Media Elite provides convincing evidence that vindicates common sense.
Not that the vindication is complete. Rothman and the Lichters suggest that it is while covering the most blatantly partisan issues that most reporters are more likely to be balanced, as they have their guard up; and that it is precisely on substantive issues where the lines of battle are not so clearly drawn that they more easily fall back on their own preconceptions. (This is contrary to the common perception, and perhaps to the truth. Consider: doesn't covering the greatest partisan issues-those which oppose the United States to the Soviet Union-with moral indifference, reflect a bias in and by itself?)
Through the use of psychological tests, the authors demonstrate empirically that reporters' political views correlate with those whom they deem valid sources. In other words, liberal reporters are more likely to consider fellow liberals as trustworthy sources to be used for a story.
The latter part of the book is devoted to specific case studies of how slanting of the news has occurred in the past. The authors devote most of their attention to the coverage of three issues: nuclear energy, busing, and the oil industry.
This book is not a political tract. Rothman and the Lichters frame their conclusions cautiously; they try not to jump ahead of their evidence. This makes the book all the more worthwhile. Anyone interested in studying the state of the media in modern America ought at least to skim it.
Potential buyers should be aware of some structural problems with the first edition, however. First, too few of the results are summarized in tables so that they can be easily assimilated and compared at a glance. Second, the proofreading leaves something to be desired.
And all should be wary of holding objectivity as an "ideal" when it comes to journalism. There may be a reason why Fenimore Cooper, who lived in a day when journalists were openly partisan, never had to stomach the sort of insidious perversion of truth by the media that is revealed-as if we needed proof-in this book.