My present thinking on the appointment of Douglas Lute is that the WH wanted one thing from the creation of the position and has ended up with something else. Philip Zellikow said on the Newshour yesterday that the idea was to creat a senior MILITARY assistant to the president who would enable Bush to intevene directly in the operational details of the two wars and to enforce his will among the departments of government. The theory among the faithful evidently is that the lack of PERSONAL direction from the "commander guy" is what is wrong with the conduct of these wars. It is true that you can’t "drive" the military machine if you don’t understand it. Bush does not. I suppose the idea was to come up with something alike in function to OKW.
It is not evident to me that in LTG Lute, the faithful got what they were looking for. pl
So, if the faithful did not get what they were looking for in Lute, what does that mean for the future of the war? Do you think having Lute will make ANY difference, or are the Bushies just going to have someone new to blame as things continue to crumble in Iraq? And if Lute doesn’t do their bidding, will they just replace him with someone else who probably really doesn’t want to be “Czar”?
Also of interest, Petraeus has come out and said that he doesn’t expect to have anything definitive to say in Sept., although they will be “indicators” of how things are going on the political side. So, I guess we’ll be just sitting in the same swamp we’re in now, right, and the admin. will be saying we need another 6 months (another Friedman unit) before we can say whether the surge is working?
My first reaction was “Diffusion of Responsibility”, in other words, the “Commander Guy” gets to blame his Czar.
Now I’m not so sure, but the thought of Bush intervening personally in operational matters is chilling.
“Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW), (Wehrmacht High Command, Armed Forces High Command in English), was part of the command structure of the armed forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.
OKW was formed on 4 February 1938 following the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair which led to the dismissal of Werner von Blomberg and the dissolution of the Reichswehrministerium (Reich Ministry of War). The new organization replaced the German War Ministry (Reichskriegsministrerium). The appointments made to the new organization and the motive behind the reorganization are commonly thought to be Führer Adolf Hitler’s desire to consolidate control around his position to the detriment of the Wehrmacht High Command.”
Thank you for your site.
On the Czar…Will he be unofficially, a listening post for the Army about what Bush is doing in the WH?
I thought the new position was created to put more space between the President and the two nasty land wars in Asia that appear to be sending his political party into total meltdown. He can just let the “War Czar” handle it, and he’s free to watch more American Idol. Only 18 more months and he can wash his hands of this whole sorry mess. You know he’s marking the days on his calendar.
As I understand it their stated goal was to have someone to coordinate administration policy amongst the various government agencies that have to carry it out. Which means they’ve chosen a man who disagrees with their policy to coordinate implementing that policy amongst the various branches of government. It’s not quite like sending Bolton to the UN, but it seems close.
If his real job is to make it easier for Bush to personally intervene in day to day military operations… God help us all. One could say that compared to the Administration’s other military luminaries such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld Bush Jr. could hardly fail to shine. I’m somehow not encouraged by that.
Was LTG Lute under orders to take this job?
Who was the jerk who came up with naming the drug/education/war people czars? Unless they promote LTG Lute…how’s he going to coordinate all those 4 stars.
This is truly another ignorant move by this increasingly inept administration.
In 1943 several German generals tried to induce Hitler to restore the office of Commander in Chief of the Army, to serve as a buffer between Hitler, as Commander Guy of the Armed Forces, and the Army. Hitler was trying to micromanage the Army as a part-time job. Both the Air Force and the Navy had CICs, and Hitler left them to do their jobs in peace. Hitler saw their efforts as an assault on his prestige and so the inept tragedy continued.
I am sorry, with the OKW reference I now cannot get this vision of Dubya out of my mind.
He is deep in a CENTCOM bunker bending across a map of Iraq, moving imaginary stop-loss extended battalions and quarter-strenght Iraqi ghost divisions. The generals surround him, nodding and flattering. When one has the temerity to question a judgement of the Decider, the President explodes into a froth-filled tirade about his destiny and the “wonder weapons” that will ensure the success of the “Petraus Offensive.”
George Bush has never done anything in his entire life that involved:
a) personal responsibility
c) no political angle
This is about political machinations. It is an approach to the elections in 2008 to “compartmentalize” the war and put the Party one step farther away from it.
I shall paraphrase:
“Yes, the war is going poorly, but we really don’t have much to do with that. Ask General Lute.”
In sum, it is the Gonzales defense:
“Yes, we lost a dozen highly competent United States attorneys who were prosecuting high level criminals, but, you see, I had nothing to do with it. I had delegated that to my associate. I really don’t know what he did.”
And, please note, that in a minimalist way, the Gonzales defense in working.
I must have an improper understanding of the OKW. I thought we had an analogous organ in the JCS.
To continue the analogy regarding the Wehrmacht, it seems to me that if COL Lang is correct and Mr Bu$h desires to directly meddle in military strategy and operational planning, we might one day have the extremely bad fortune of experiencing Mr Bu$h’s confident appraisal that Army Group Steiner will rectify the situation in Iraq.
The suggestion that LTG Lute is intended to carry the can, along with GEN Petraus, if there is a serious setback does have some value to it.
That a czar has been appointed speaks volumes about the timidity of the Joint Chiefs. The military is now a certified Junior Varsity team.
I add that they already appointed an Admiral to coordinate all military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq, I believe.
That was with a view toward bombing Iran.
This latest appointment almost undoubtedly constitutes an abandonment of the plan to bomb Iran. It’s off the table.
So, in a sense, the military has had its way. They had no stomach for bombing Iran, and it is not going to happen.
Secondly, Iraq is now completely radioactive politically. George is looking as hard as he can to get as far away from it as he can as quickly as he can. He realizes that it tarnishes his Presidency more than the fraud, criminality, and corruption that have dogged it in other areas.
And please note the consistency of George’s position:
I have always given the military everything they wanted. I have followed their directions to a “T”. Everything that has happened in Iraq, has happened because the military told me to do it. This is their problem…oh, and my dog ate my homework.”
I thought US military operations around the world were coordinated by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs. And policy was coordinated between the Pentagon and the State Dept by the National Security Adviser. Is this then a vote of no confidence in Pace and Hadley? Sidelining them instead of firing them, something Junior doesn’t like to do?
I realized along time ago that certain people think totally different than a regular personality. Accordingly, attempting to comprehend what the idiot prince is thinking is beyond the pale of a normal mind.
that there is now a war czar at the cabinet level does not speak volumes about the General’s timidity.
Rather it is proof that in the Bush administration the interagency cooperation process is broken beyond repair. Right now they’re working past and against each other. That was clearly visible even before 911 when it needed Powell’s full weight to hold back the loonies over that spy plane affair. Right from the start there were two contradicting foreign policies being pursued in parallel and rivalry. And that is still so. The administration in respect of the conduct of the war is caught in disarray and contradiction. The ‘commander guy’ bears full rersponsibility for allowing his administration to become so disorganised. Why is this so?
The National Security Council (NSC) that once was aimed at producing just that was wrecked by Rumsfeld and Cheney early in the Bush administration to not have their lunacies watered down. And Bush let it happen. Probably he didn’t care. The emergence of a War Czar right now indicates to me there is no intent to revive the national security council (because that would indicate having made mistakes) but to get the same result, interagency cooperation, through the backdoor.
It will be Lute’s job to try reconcile Defense, State, Whitehouse and the VP’s office – without him having a say in their respective realms. Good luck with that.
They appointed an Admiral as head of CENTCOM, who remains in charge. This new chap is meant to go somewhere between NSC, JCS, and God knows where.
The principles of war are tenets used by military organizations to focus the thinking of leaders toward successful prosecution of battles and wars. They are generally attributed to Clausewitz and his book, On War.
Objective:Define a decisive and attainable objective for every military operation.
Offensive: Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative.
Mass: Apply sufficient force to achieve the objective.
Economy of Force: Focus the right amount of force on the key objective, without wasting force on secondary objectives.
Maneuver: Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
Unity of Command: For every objective, there must be a unified effort and one person responsible for command decisions.
Security: Never permit the enemy to acquire an unexpected advantage.
Surprise: Otherwise known as “Audacity”; Strike the enemy at a time and/or place and in a manner for which he is unprepared.
Simplicity: Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and clear, concise orders.
They are seldom violated on the tactical (units in contact with the enemy) or strategic (policy and national) level without dire consequences. The national Muppet show on Pennsylvania Ave seems to have never heard of them, and the cowed uniform assembly holed up in the nation’s ‘largest five sided adult day care center’ are afraid to insist on their application. The sun goes up, more troops die, the sun goes down. The sun goes up, more troops die, the sun goes down.
I agree that the purpose of a position like the one Lute has been appointed to may shift from what it was when originally announced. I.e., it’s a moving target and will continue to move.
My reaction when I first heard about it was that Cheney was behind it as the VP’s office found itself frozen out by Gates and Rice. The VP needed a new “inter-agency process” that he could muck around with.
Lute will feel the Cheney monkeywrench. Will he absorb and deflect or will he facilitate Cheney mania?
Is the appointment of a 3-star “War Czar” (hate that term almost as much as I hate Homeland Security) to oversee the 4-star Joint Generals and Sec of Def counter to military organization and/or constitutional authority?
He will be a staff aide to the president and not in the chain of command. pl
Just a few questions from the back row. Does anyone have an opinion as to where LTG Lute would fit in the paradigm described in the article by Lt. Col. Yingling (referrred to at the Athenaeum)? And does anyone in the know have an opinion as to whether he is a member of a corporate managerial class or an “artistic” class whose career is a vocational calling?
And lastly…and I hope this isn’t off point…but does anyone know if LTG Lute has an opinion on the viability of dragon skin armour?
If I may speculate…I would not have called this body armour…”dragon skin”. As W. Dalrymple makes amply clear in his book “Holy Mountain”…Muslims have a deep veneration for St. George who in art work and the collective memory is known for slaying the dragon. So with that in mind, I’d call the body armour…”St. George’s armour”…or something along those lines. Just my opinion.
Does that mean ceremonial “aide-de-camp” PL?
This evokes an image from War and Peace where Prince Andrei, who was – as I recall – a major and a staff officer, held a long conversation with some young lieutenant while they kept a general from a socially inferior family cooling his heels until they were done. ( Andrei came from the very heights of Russian society. )
Tolstoy commented that the actual as opposed to the formal lines of authority were quite distinct.
So may I suggest that Lute’s appointment perhaps indicates not some very new but rather a quite old meaning to the word, “Czar.”
The following is a true story, related directly by an individual who was present in the room at the time.
When W was in business school, he had to make a project presentation as part of a course. He arrived at the offices of a major investment banking firm in NYC. He did his sthick. The project involved an oil refinery in Texas. At the end, someone asked, “You have a refinery but where are the pipelines, or means of transporting the oil out to market? Your presentation doesn’t include a plan for distribution.” The questioner was summarily hustled out of the room by a managing director and told, “That’s Prescott Bush’s grandson, don’t make him look like an idiot.”
Sid3, this armor isn’t new. It’s called “scale armor” and it pre-dated chainmail in history. A rough date for the changeover is 1066. The name “dragon skin” was probably a marketing decision to imply that the wearer would be as invulnerable as a dragon–a mythical beast. Go figure!
Sid3: Given the other associations one can make with St. George (Particularly his cross) It might be something best avoided.
Well, that and I seriously doubt that the name of a given sort of body armor would make any difference whatsoever to the sort of person who’s involved in fighting the American forces in Iraq. It’d be like insurgents reasoning that since Americans are strongly against desecrating their flags, they would think twice about shooting an insurgent wrapped in old glory.
I would urge all to read the following:
This is the best, single article analysis of the policy dynamics concerning Iraq I’ve read.
why does adding lute as a “iraq coordinator” add the group (bush, cheney, gates, rice, pace and hadley)?
i would not be surprised it lute ends up as spokesperson
i hope the senior military is happy with the bush guy that they wanted so badly
i wonder what they think of gore now
“Was LTG Lute under orders to take this job?”
As I understand it, the position was declined by all the retired officers they approached. LTG Lute is an active duty soldier so it was an offer he could not refuse. Whether or not he took the position under protest, I can not say.
Got it. Thanks. I just thought I’d toss a few ideas out there.
Will, one explanation is that the Neocons, and many others who are not Neocons per se, have fallen under the spell of Carl Schmitt, chief jurist of the Third Reich.
The Bush43 Admin can be viewed as embodying Schmitt’s ideas. How so? For one, Professor Leo Strauss, Neocon icon, was a star student of Schmitt but had to exit Germany in 1933, settling first in the UK (to study Hobbes of course) then in the US. Schmitt got Strauss the Rockefeller Foundation grant to study Hobbes. Schmitt also appeals to perverse non-Straussian and non-Neocon circles.
Schmitt theorized on “states of emergency,” “dictatorship”,and the like. These concepts seem to underly the Bush Administration’s concept of the “Unitary Executive.”
For an eerie read, dust off a copy of Arthur Schlesinger’s, “The Imperial Presidency” and compare. Bush43 perfects what was started under Nixon. [George Shultz as one signficant and central continuity…]
OKW? Naturlich! The “decision” thing comes from Schmitt and the “charismatic leader” thing from Max Weber, another Neocon idol.
iirc the US had flak jackets using scales in the 50s or 60s for air crews. They iirc used metal plates. The Russians iirc also had some similar designs. The idea in itself isn’t new.
The hype around ‘dragon skin’ is probably a result of their clever marketing.
From what I understand Dragon Skin is scale material. Suggests to me that shot resistance might depend from angle of impact of a bullet. It might protect well from some angles, but less from others. In that sense it might offer only a partial improvement at a price – and not be a real progress over issued protection – but I am just an uninformed observer.
In contrast to the partly shrill accusations you find on the web, that would be a benign explanation why the Army refuses to accept Dragon Skin.
Lute might want to sit down with the Decider/Commander Guy over warm milk at bedtime and read him the following Chatham House report:
“Accepting Realities in Iraq” (London, May 2007):
Anytime a “czar” is appointed in government, you know it’s a war we don’t really have any intention of “winning.” Why else would we assign it the title of history’s loser?
None of the scenarios posited above are anything but laughable. To put some separation between Bush and his disaster? That ship has sailed. To further enable his meddling? Ya, that’ll work out well for him. To gin up some PR spin that he’s really, really, no kidding, fer shure this time gonna get this Iraq thing fixed once and for all? Uh huh. Lots of people are going to buy that.
It leaves only one explanation- he’s gone insane, and the WH is trying their best to keep a positive spin on it.
A fascinating discovery about Strauss from the recent study by Eugene Sheppard, who has looked closely at his German-language writings.
It seems that Hitler’s seizure of power did not dent his fascist convictions, immediately at least. A quotation from a letter Strauss wrote in May 1933:
“Just because the right-wing oriented Germany does not tolerate us, it simply does not follow that the principles of the right are therefore to be rejected. To contrary, only on the basis of the principles of the right — fascist, authoritarian, imperial — is it possible, in a dignified manner, without the ridiculous and sickening appeal to the ‘unwritten rights of man’, to protest against the repulsive monster.”
(Eugene Sheppard, Leo Strauss and the Politics of Exile, p. 61).
I think his views did change to some degree subsequently — although his practice of ‘esoteric writing’ makes it almost impenetrably difficult to work out precisely what he thought during his American years.
But that a man who had so catastrophically misjudged the politics of the Thirties should feel entitled to see himself as a possessed of an ‘esoteric wisdom’ quite beyond the spiritual capabilities of lesser human beings really does demonstrate that he was not only a fool but an extraordinarily arrogant one.
Thank you, Tim G, for the reference in New York Review of Books. Very illuminating.
As I have watched George W over the past 5 years, I have come to the conclusion that he didn’t want the presidency. He wanted the American equivalent of the British constitutional monarchy (with Cheney playing the Blair Role). Thus Bush could do what he really liked: land on aircraft carriers, serve fake turkeys, dance to drums, conduct orchestras, appear in a floodlit New Orleans square,handing out knighthoods ala Freedom medals, biking, vacationing, etc. Q.E.D., King George of America–who never had to make really tough decisions. Thus the appointment of a war czar relieves him of responsibility in that area, too, other than accepting a ceremonial surrender.
Another thought on the Lute appointment : This is a move by the military to get their own eyes, ears and voice into the WH, and prevent Cheney and the neo-cons from pushing Bush into further crazy ventures in his remaining term (with Iraq fizzling out, the chances of another Republican succeeding Bush receding, they must be getting desperate to achieve something before his term ends).
The trigger for this move by the military may well have been Bush ordering them to prepare an attack on Iran. Fallon’s reported refusal to accept a third carrier task force would then be part of the blocking moves they are making. They realize what another stupid gamble such as this would do to the country and the military. It is much easier to negate such a venture at the gestation stage than after it is received in the Pentagon as a Presidential directive.
(The historical parallel would not be OKW but, rather, the German generals urging Guderian to accept the offered position of Chief of the General Staff in order to curb Hitler’s increasingly disastrous conduct of the Russian campaign from OKH. Toying further with the analogy, it would be deliciously ironical if the Czar idea started as a plan by Kagan & Co to set up an OKW type arrangement, with Keane at its head, in order to bypass an uncooperative Pentagon).
It is also quite feasible that Gates is party to this. If so, it would mean that, the Baker move having failed, this could be an attempt by Bush Sr.’s cronies to save Jr. from being led into another disaster before he’s safely out of harm’s way in 2009.
Yes. I think they wanted a Keitel/Jodl figure but may have ended up with the Guderian model. pl
“The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done.”
–George W. Bush, Greeley CO, Nov. 4, 2006
“Both the Air Force and the Navy had CICs, and Hitler left them to do their jobs in peace. Hitler saw their efforts as an assault on his prestige and so the inept tragedy continued”
The Luftwaffe was safely in the hands of Goering. The German Navy was highly unlikely to be able to overthrow Hitler from Kiel.
The German Army was another matter. The Wehrmacht could potentially remove the Nazi state and Hitler never did trust his generals.
David Habakkuk, Thank you for the very helpful reference per Strauss. I will most certainly get the book particularly as I believe the Straussians (Neocons included but also non-Neocons) have taken over the ideology of the Republican Party. Senator Chuck Hagel, among many others, often points out that the Republican Party has no relationship today to the party under Eisenhower, Reagan, or even Goldwater. Personally, I like Ike and remember watching him on my parents old black and white TV in the 50s.
My take is that the “Conservative Revolution” the Straussians and other followers of Carl Schmitt have in mind has NOTHING to do with our American traditions, whether of a Hamiltonian or a Jeffersonian bent. This revolution (and we see it in the current administration) has everything to do with the European “Conservative Revolution” of the 1920s and 1930s, that is Fascism and National Socialism precisely the enemies (of civilization) we as a Nation fought in WWII. I won’t enter into the issue of the Bush family financial relations with top Nazi backers like the Thyssens….but for those with an interest see:
The best summary I have seen so far of the Strauss problem is by Shadia Drury in her “Leo Strauss and the American Right” (New York: St. Martin’s, 1999). She, and her circle of Canadian academic colleagues, have a clear view. Even more disturbing, however, is her book “Alexander Kojeve. The Roots of Postmodern Politics.” Wolfie’s mentor (and Fukuyama’s), Allen Bloom, was a disciple of the very very dark Kojeve. [One can decode Scooter Libby’s pornographic novel I think by reference to Kojeve].
I am a great admirer of Shadia Drury — and used her work in a piece on the appalling paper by Schmitt and Shulsky on Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence which Colonel Lang posted on this blog some time back.
Her book on Kojève I have not read, but clearly need to — particularly as Allan Bloom seems to be a crucial figure in all this. I was very much not amused to discover that ‘Ravelstein’ — the Saul Bellow character modelled on Bloom — believed Caesar to be ‘the greatest man who ever lived within the tides of time (p. 53 of my Penguin edition.) I think republics who are happy to have an intellectual with such a marked enthusiasm for Caesar moulding the views of those who shape their foreign policy are asking for trouble!
You are I think absolutely right to see a continuity with the ‘conservative revolution’ of the European Twenties and Thirties — and this is a continuity to which people (on both sides of the Atlantic) need to wake up. Also important here is the in some ways rather close intellectual relationship between central conceptions of the ‘conservative revolution’ and Leninist ideas. A great French historian, Élie Halévy, commented on this in 1936, in an analysis of what he termed the Era of Tyrannies. Responding, his colleague Marcel Mauss pointed to the prevalence of conceptions given classic expression in the influential Reflections on Violence of Georges Sorel. And certainly the belief in the entitlement of conspiratorial minorities to shape events, and the need for rousing ‘myths’ to manipulate the masses — and also the enthusiasm for violence — are common to Sorel, Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler.
The common ground between extremes makes it easy to see there could be a close intellectual relationship between the ex-Stalinist Kojève and Strauss, the devotee of the Nazi Party members Carl Schmitt and Martin Heidegger. (Another fascinating piece of information from the Sheppard book is that as late as July 1933 Strauss was asking Schmitt for an introduction to the Action Française polemicist Charles Maurras!) It also makes it easy to see how the (apparently by no means entirely repentant) ex-Trotskyist Irving Kristol could become a pioneer of neoconservatism.
Jet Heer suggested another link, through the American Trotskyist Max Schachtman to Albert Wohlstetter, mentor to both Wolfowitz and Perle. But I do not know how accurate this is. More information on the intellectual origins of the Wohlstetters would be useful!
When her original 1988 study of The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss was reissued in 2005, incidentally, Drury added a new preface entitled ‘Straussians in Power: Secrecy, Lies, and Endless War’, which is well worth reading.
In 1989, I thought we had seen the politics of ‘endless war’. How naïve can one be!
I also like Ike — and rather wish that his courtesy had not caused him to amend his original formulation about the ‘military-industrial-congressional complex’.
David Habakkuk, Thanks again for another reference. I will look for a copy of the Halevy book. After reading Drury’s Kojeve book, it occurred to me that the Iraq War may well for the initiated like Wolfie be seen as a “postmodern war” or an extension of “postmodern politics.” Your Sorel reference is on target in this regard.
The best in depth general biography of Kojeve (from which Drury draws) is Dominique Auffret, Alexandre Kojeve, La philosophie, l’etat, la fin de l’histoire (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1990).
I have had the opportunity to meet several times in recent years with Prof. (and former Dean) Eugen Weber out at UCLA while doing archival research there. He is fine person and early in his career specialized in the study of European Fascism. His edited survey is a most useful overview with excellent references and goes country by country: Hans Rogger and Eugen Weber, The European Right. A Historical Profile (University of California Press, 1966). His first book was on Maurras. Maurras was denounced by the Roman Catholic Church from what I gather. I have found through research that Maurras was a friend and associate of Gerard Encausse, the French occultist and perhaps this is why. For Encausse (“Papus”) see:
I think one can make connections between a number of European esoteric circles in the 1920s and 1930s; remember the inner Nazi circle was mystical-occult, Haushofer’s Thule Society and all that.
On a related theme, Ralph Toledano’s “Cry Havoc” (Washington DC: Anthem Books 2006) exposes the Frankfurt School influence in the US. Ralph passed away earlier this year.
A key link between European Fascism and the United States during the 1930s at the Big Business-Wall Street elite level was the “American Liberty League.” The best book on it is George Wolfskill, The Revolt of the Conservatives. A History of the American Liberty League, 1934-1940 (Houghton Mifflin, 1962).
I presented a paper in Berlin last year that went into the relationship between the American Liberty League, Eurpean Fascism, and the Bush43 Administration and think I rather shocked the audience.
Can someone explain just how it is that Allen Bloom protege Wolfie was the Dean of the very prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (1994-2001) and that another Bloom protege Francis Fukuyama (the “end of history” guy borrowing directly from Kojeve twisted Hegelianism) has a top position there?
One wonders whether Lute has the slightest clue as to what he has gotten himself into…
Clifford Kiracofe, David Habakkuk,
Thank you both for your interchange, which is so interesting that I cut and pasted it into a Word doc for the cites. I was a faculty spouse at University of Chicago for 5 years, and I’d always wondered why the the place stank of Nazis. Now I know.
Here is another quick read about the current conditions under the surge:
What amazes me is that the neocons could have been taken in by this guff. I assume that Leo Strauss had some sort of charasmatic cult leader attraction for such a thing to happen. They remind me of the fourth class of officers Col. Lang mentions in his Yingling piece–stupid and energetic.
Does anyone have an opinion on the psychological make-up of the neocons? Generally, is there a presence of true neuroses, such as narcissism?
Your comment opens up a whole range of new lines of enquiry!
I think your question about how one protégé of Allan Bloom, Wolfowitz, came to be Dean of the SAIS, and another, Francis Fukuyama, to have a top position there, is a most interesting one — all the more so as nobody seems to find it in the least extraordinary.
Until I read it recently, I had had no idea as to quite how batty the famous ‘End of History’ lecture actually is. Fukuyama told us that the ‘realm of consciousness in the long run necessarily becomes manifest in the material world, indeed creates the material world in its own image’. And in terms of the evolution of consciousness, it seems, Fukuyama thought history had actually been at an end for the better part of two centuries. I cannot resist quoting at length:
“Kojève sought to resurrect the Hegel of the Phenomenology of Mind, the Hegel who proclaimed history to be at an end in 1806. For as early as this Hegel saw in Napoleon’s defeat of the Prussian monarchy at the Battle of Jena the victory of the ideals of the French Revolution, and the imminent universalization of the state incorporating the principles of liberty and equality. Kojève, far from rejecting Hegel in light of the turbulent events of the next century and a half, insisted that the latter had been essentially correct. The Battle of Jena marked the end of history because it was at that point that the vanguard of humanity (a term quite familiar to Marxists) actualized the principles of the French Revolution. While there was considerable work to be done after 1806 — abolishing slavery and the slave trade, extending the franchise to workers, women, blacks, and other racial minorities, etc. — the basic principles of the liberal democratic state could not be improved upon. The two world wars in this century and their attendant revolutions and upheavals simply had the effect of extending those principles spatially, such that the various provinces of human civilization were brought up to the level of its most advanced outposts, and of forcing those societies in Europe and North America at the vanguard of civilization to implement their liberalism more fully.”
The notion that the imperialistic military despotism of Napoleon represented the principle of liberty, as well as equality, seems a bit strange. Obviously when Lord Nelson had blown the French fleet out of the water the year before Hegel wrote, he was really a kind of ‘deadender’ vainly resisting the ineluctable triumph of what Fukuyama calls the ‘Western idea’. (And as for that terrible man Clausewitz, who refused to accept the verdict of Jena and went off to fight with the Russians — what words of condemnation can suffice?)
A corollary of Fukuyama’s argument, of course, is that all the catastrophes of European history between 1805 and 1945 are to be explained in terms of the resistance of different kinds of ‘deadender’ to the forces of ‘modernity’. As Strauss himself appears to have been a believer in hierarchy, it is very difficult to work out what the hell is going on here. With those influenced by Strauss and Bloom, it is very difficult to be entirely clear what the actual ‘esoteric doctrine’ really was, and whether their pupils were regarded as being worthy to be entrusted with it, or seen by their teachers as unworthy beings who had to be fed the ‘exoteric doctrine’.
Halévy’s ‘Era of Tyrannies’ paper is actually very short, but the whole discussion which followed at the Society of Philosophy in Paris is very interesting. It was reproduced in a 1965 selection of his writings, edited by Fritz Stern under the title ‘The Era of Tyrannies’. The original, which I have not seen, was published posthumously by Gallimard in 1938.
I was most interested by the remark about Chicago having ‘stank of Nazis’. Any university of course is a very complex place, with many currents. But I have found with Strauss, as also with his pupils Gary Schmitt and Abram Shulsky, that there is a kind of appalling odour of arrogance and contempt.
Chicago was, and probably is still, quite complex. But there were all these intellectual thugs around, very like Wolfie, who is a very typical product. I remember that Mircea Eliade was uncovered as a member of Roumania’s Iron Guard while I was there and he was one of the most prized members of the Committee on Social Thought, that band of Platonic Guardians, which also included Bloom. As for Wohlstetter, look at the two books on RAND for his antecedents. Fred Kaplan’s Wizards of Armageddon or Gregg Herkin’s Counsels of War. He no doubt evolved after he went to Chicago, but he started out as an especially paranoid Rand analyst, whose first idee fixe was a Soviet first strike on SAC’s bombers, an impossibilty as it turned out–LeMay intended to hit them first and knew what they were up to.
‘realm of consciousness in the long run necessarily becomes manifest in the material world, indeed creates the material world in its own image’
Ye gods. Its a magic-christian doctrine, straight out of some postmodern chaos-magic book with glossy covers and a lot of crap about fractals. Iraq: The first neo-platonic invasion of history? It fits eerily into the recurring theme of GWB’s speeches describing the GWOT as a “contest of Wills”. Could it be that the Ayn Randians are in control? Does anyone know where Lute stands, ideologically? Heute die Welt, morgen die sonnensystem…
David Habakkuk, How do I navigate to your piece on Shulsky and intelligence? I had heard there was an attack on Sherman Kent by Shulsky and Schmitt but never saw this article. I would prefer reading your critique in any event.
DH and John Shreffler, Per U Chicago, George Shultz was the Dean of the Business School there and I think this is significant considering the intellectual climate there and his later powerful role in the Republican Party and in American politics generally. He created W’s foreign policy advisory group, the Vulcans, with Wolfie and etc.
I had dinner recently with a friend who told me that when the balloon went up on the Iraq War, a fax (unclassified) arrived at the Pentagon for Rumsfeld from Shultz congratulating him for the war and saying in effect “On to victory.”
This is Shultz’s war perhaps more than anyone’s but he operates behind the scenes in rarified upper levels of power and privilege. He surfaces from time to time in various policy advocacy groups. See, for example, the following entry for the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and note all the names carefully: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Committee_for_the_Liberation_of_Iraq
My understanding is that Rumsfeld and Cheney were cultivated by U. Chicago based vectors of the Straussians in their days in the Ford Administration circa mid-1970s. In Straussian parlance, Rumsfeld and Cheney are the “gentlemen” whom the “philosophers” advise.
And Rummy was later coached we can say by none other than Midge Decter, wife of Norman Podhoretz co-founder with Irving Kristol of Neoconism. (She wrote a biography on Rummy). When he wasn’t too busy selling pharmaceuticals, Rummy was the Chairman of the Committee for the Free World of which see and again note the names:
Also, per Strauss, waves of his students have permeated philosophy departments across the US, not to mention political science departments, and law schools. So some would say this is a larger and more profound national problem than simply a few dozen mondo bizarro Neocon policy types running amok inside the DC Beltway.
It would be most interesting, and perhaps even revealing, to know what circles Strauss was in during his time in London in the 1930s.
On a related note, Hans Morgenthau founder of the so-called “Realist” school of international relations theory taught at U Chicago. He is dissected in an extremely revealing biography by a Swiss professor, Christoph Frei “Hans J. Morgenthau. An Intellectual Biography” (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2001). Like Strauss, Morgenthau was a Nietzschean.
Those of you who are interested in a Chinese review (by Wan Lixin) of Fukuyama’s book “After the Neocons” may visit:
Clifford Kiracofe, John Shreffler, MK, Chris Marlowe.
Again new lines of inquiry seem to open up at a breathtaking place! I had been dimly aware that Shultz might be an important player, but not grasped that he could be a pivotal figure. And if Morgenthau was a Nietzschean, that opens up fresh issues about the ambiguities of ‘realism’.
As for my piece on Schmitt and Shulsky. If you click on ‘Habakkuk’ in the list of categories on the right hand of SST, and scroll down, you will find it. Included along with it is their paper, a paper by Colonel Lang which follows up the argument of the ‘Koolaid’ essay, and some comments by Richard Sale.
My piece was written in haste, and shows it (I didn’t have time to include references, for one thing). However, as the purpose of the paper by Schmitt and Shulsky (S&S) was to discredit the CIA by rubbishing the work of Sherman Kent, a pivotal figure in shaping the organisation’s analytical side, I had thought it worthwhile to read Kent’s book on Strategic Intelligence rather closely. What emerged was that S&S had created a straw man — attributing to Kent all kinds of sophomoric errors which he patently did not commit, and which nobody reasonably endowed with critical sense and objectivity could conceivably have suggested he had committed. And on the central point — that intelligence involves defining the specific problems one wants answered, and then exploiting whatever are the appropriate means to find information to answer them — Kent was clearly right. Espionage, codebreaking, intensive scholarly study of open source materials — all are tools of intelligence analysis, and need to be used in conjunction. And indeed, with the most important Western source of ‘Humint’ on the Soviet Union during the Cold War — Oleg Penkovsky — Allen Dulles sought the expertise of Kent’s Office of National Estimates to evaluate the information he provided. The ONE analyst Raymond Garthoff, who before joining the CIA had established a reputation as the pioneer of Western academic studies of Soviet military strategy, had the expertise required to separate the invaluable wheat in Penkovsky’s analysis from the (sometimes very dangerous) chaff which reflected bias deriving from his hatred of the Soviet regime.
The Wolfowitz approach to intelligence — the direction in which S&S’s pretence of high intellectual sophistication actually led — turned all this on its head. The whole body of scholarly expertise on Iraq was simply ignored (remedy William Kristol on ‘pop sociology’?). Information supplied by and through Chalabi — quite patently animated by a hatred of and desire to destroy Saddam’s regime — was subjected to no critical appraisal whatsoever.
How far the S&S paper should be seen as a kind of awful warning about the consequences of the Straussians’ disregard for the importance of context in intellectual history, how far S&S were consciously misrepresenting Kent to further their campaign against the CIA, seems to me a moot point. My instinct is that, as with the neocons generally, they have a way of convincing themselves of the truth of what it suits their polemical purposes to believe — and become hopelessly tangled up in their own webs of deceit.
With regard to the role of Wohlstetter. Clearly I need to read the Kaplan book, but will hazard some comments. In a paper in Middle East Policy, Leila Hudson suggested that a lot of us had exaggerated the influence of the Straussians, at the expense of that Albert Wohlstetter and also his wife Roberta — and that one also needed to look at their role as innovators in the arts of information manipulation. I think she overstated her case somewhat, but she certainly had a point, and looking at Wolfowitz and Perle the Wohlstetters seem crucial.
I do not know whether this ties up with the role of Schultz, who was of course an economist by training. But I think that in relation to the Wohlstetters — even leaving aside the question of their role in the development of the black arts of information manipulation — one needs to distinguish different issues. There are specific issues to do with their views on the likelihood of a Soviet nuclear attack and the importance of the nuclear balance as a determinant of Cold War risk-taking; and there are also more general issues relating to the attempt to remodel the study of strategy as an axiomatic science, on the basis of economics. Here again, questions of context are crucial. And these lead on to kind of arguments about the importance of, and difficulty of acquiring, linguistic culture and knowledge, about which vigorous discussions having been in progress on a neighbouring thread.
In an interesting paper entitled ‘Reason Divorced from Reality’ published last year, Richard Ned Lebow discussed the work of the Nobel prize winner Thomas Schelling on ‘deterrence’ and ‘compellence’. For Lebow, Schelling is ‘an important representative of a broader intellectual development: the colonization by microeconomics of international relations and the social sciences generally.’ But Lebow’s case was that in much of this work, the appearance of ‘rationality’ is actually misleading. His fundamental point is that once one is talking about the use of military power to send signals — which was what ‘deterrence’ and ‘compellence’ means — one ought to deal seriously with the fact that signals only take on meaning in context, and that ‘context is the function of the history, culture, and prior experience of actors with each other.’ So to the disregard of context which is characteristic of Straussian intellectual history is added the incapacity to deal adequately with context which comes from the application of Western microeconomics, devised in contexts where language, culture and history are not at issue, to international relations, where they are.
If this argument holds water, then an emperor-with-no-clothes situation would seem to have emerged. You may have people with PhD degrees from and professorships at famous universities — and in some cases at least, if not that of Schmitt and Shulsky — genuinely very great intellectual power — who actually are approaching the study of international relations in ways that are radically misconceived. The effect of the prestige of the institutions and the individuals may then be to reinforce systematically misconceived approaches in the culture more generally.
In understanding the ‘history, culture and prior experience of actors with one another’ linguistic understanding is key. But, if Lebow is to be believed, the study of ‘history, foreign languages and cultures are on the whole discouraged by top-ranked American graduate programmes in international relations.’ Their narrowness of these programmes, Lebow says, ‘reflects arrogance, but also recognition that any acknowledgement of the relevance of this kind of knowledge would significantly reduce the claim of pure theorists of any orientation for status and resources.’ Some would say that less theory, and more empiricism, is precisely what we need.
Actually questions to do with the ambiguity of evidence and of context were already very clearly being generated in the work of Raymond Garthoff even before he joined the CIA. I have a good deal to say about his work in my discussion of S&S, and also about the work of another intelligence officer turned scholar, Michael MccGwire. Of these, Garthoff was a product of an academic international training, but one which included serious study of Russian (he also managed to secure an effective immersion without leaving the United States, as he married the daughter of one of his language instructors, a former Tsarist army officer). MccGwire by contrast started out as a wartime Royal Navy midshipman, volunteered for language training after the war, and went on to become the most important British analyst both of the Soviet navy and of Soviet military strategy in general. His methodological discussions, which are very interesting, are buried in appendices to his works on substantive questions of Soviet strategy. Like Garthoff, he argued that the neocon belief that the focus of Soviet strategy was on planning to fight and win a nuclear war was, by the late Eighties, way out of date. Like Garthoff, he believed that the whole attempt to model the Cold War relationship in highly abstract terms was radically misconceived.
Some kind of purging of the Augean stables, not simply decisively to eliminate the intellectual heirs both of the ‘conservative revolution’ and of Leon Trotsky, but also to restore the study of language, history and culture to a central place in the study and practice of international relations, would seem overdue!
DH et al
It has been my conviction that the present day academic discipliones of political science and internatonal relations are largely “empty vessels” devoted to study of their subjects ar a level of theoretical abstraction that renders them useless for anyone who will have to deal with real people and societies in government.
For example, the present day generation of US Army Foreign Area Officers (FAO) for the Middle East are not what was once produced by the system. It used to be that the graduate level preparation of such people was heavily into the humanities focused on the region, laguage, anthropology, in short the very things that DH mentions as often missing in graduate programs.
As a result, FAO oficers are not as well values by commanders as they once were and are not thought of as being the kind of well informed, gifted eccentrics who can deal with headmen, shaikhs, tribals, etc. pl
DH,PL etal., could not agree more and I am saying this from the trenches in academe. Being semi-retired, unconcerned about tenure, and teaching because I enjoy working with young people, I can say this.
The consequences of the defunding of area studies and the near destruction of traditional historically based international relations studies are more than just “academic.” There are very real consequences at the level of high policy or on the ground operationally…say the unnecessary Iraq War.
Out front, I have a bias as my original studies were in diplomatic history under Norman Graebner at the University of Virginia. I then went on for a Masters and PhD there in the Department of Foreign Affairs, which in that era was solidly historically based in terms of methodology. As a grad student, I was an assistant to the director of the Russian and East European Studies Center, my main field in the Cold War era.
But the UVA Foreign Affairs department was at that time (not now) a hold out as the field of international relations had shifted in terms of methodology in the late 1950s and 1960s toward “quantitative” methods involving mathematical “models” and statistical analysis. One might argue that RAND and other military contracting opportunities had a major role in this, the product being neat and tidy bundles of numbers mystically authoritative.
There was a reaction to all this in the 1950s and 1960s by sensible (and honest) scholars both in the United States and in the UK. These scholars emphasized history and culture in the methodology.
The US group never coalesced into anything effective so the field has been all but taken over by the “quantitative types.”
Note that the quantitative models emphasizing conflict can tie nicely into the Nietzschean based so called “Realist” school of post WWII years in the US…the “Hobbesian world” model. Hobbes was selected as the foil because just coming straight out with Nietzsche (and Carl Schmitt) would give things away.
The original UK core group [Herbert Butterfield, Martin Wight, Adam Watson, Hedley Bull] with additional colleagues established what is called “The English School of International Relations Theory.” The UK group was drawn from academics as well as from the Foreign Office and other government entities, Defence etc.. My mentor in this world is Ambassador Adam Watson, who just published his latest book this year at 96 years of age.
As the original founding group members passed away, the “school” was in something of abeyance but was revived in the 1990s by a younger generation of UK scholars and like minded colleagues in other countries, for which see:
My chairman in the department of politics, bless him, at Washington & Lee was kind enough to allow me to teach a seminar course on the English School this past fall. Such courses are not often offered in the US but there are a handful of scholars on this side of the pond who do. My main text book was Adam Watson’s The Evolution of International Society (London: Routlege 1992 repr. 2003) but there was a lot of other material as well plus news clips of relevance each class each week. Students really enjoy pulling news clips off the Internet I found and they get very creative. This gives them some basic practice in collection and reporting from OS. I forbid the use of any US press so they must deal in foreign sources only. If a student is from a foreign country, he/she is encouraged to share with us reporting from that press and translate and comment for us.
Now I must say that International Relations as an academic field developed post World War I in the United States up to World War II was based on historical and cultural analysis as well as on values derived from international law. So actually, pre-World War II US IR is not so different from the early post World War II English School of the four professors above mentioned. For one example see, Frank M. Russell’s “Theories of International Relations” (New York: 1936). This was a widely used standard text in pre-WWII US. An earlier example would be Raymond Leslie Buell’s, “International Relations” (New York: Henry Holt, 1925). And of course there is the classic by Parker T. Moon, “Imperialism and World Politics” (New York: Macmillan, 1928).
Gadzooks! Jigsaw puzzles and I don’t get along.
As a worker-bee with an average formal education but lots of time “in the field,” these two points popped up while reading the last handful of posts about the neocons, et al.
First, “Some would say that less theory, and more empiricism, is precisely what we need.”
Yes, I was going to say we need some folks who have spent time in the trenches of life rather than surrounding themselves with highly educated claptrap. But you are more eloquent.
Many times, the best engineers were technicians first then moved up the ranks after fixing the junk that was poorly designed, and “barrowed” great design ideas from the stuff that worked well. Many of the best officers started out as enlisted peons.
There was a reason the skilled trades used the apprentice system for so long. It worked.
Second, “…ar[e] a level of theoretical abstraction that renders them useless for anyone who will have to deal with real people and societies in government.”
You nailed it, Colonel. This is related to the first point. Someone’s got to implement this stuff with some real-world perspective.
I have always believed that *these truths were self evident.* Guess not.
This is off topic, but did you teach your seminar in Leeds? I used to live about 10 miles north of there in Harrogate.
I could murder a pint of John Smith’s right now!
Cold War Zoomie, although I have not taught at Leeds, would love a pint of John Smith’s myself. Can get Samuel Smith’s at a little shop down the street from my home here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
David Habakkuk, read your excellent piece on S&S who attacked Sherman Kent. It seems to me that their social science critique is based in part on Hans Morgenthau’s “Scientific Man versus Power Politics” (1946).
On Morgenthau, yes your observation per the implications of his Nietzschean perspective is well founded. Again, I recommend the book by Swiss professor Christoph Frei, “Hans J. Morgenthau. An Intellectual Biography” (Baton Rouse: LSU 2001) which dissects Morgenthau, who started out as a lawyer not as a political scientist or historian.
1. “There is indeed a person whose influence was crucial in the formation of Morgenthau’s perspective, an author whose traces can be found throughout Morgenthau’s early writings and who remained an important source of confirmation up until the final years — for the realist in Morgenthau. His name was Friedrich Nietzsche.” (p. 54)
2. “…finally, there were the contacts that Morgenthau made at the “Casa Marx,” or “Red Castle,” as the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research ws dubbed…There he met Max Horkheimer, Franz Oppenheimer, Karl Mannheim, Theodor Wiesengrund (Adorno), Herbert Marcuse, Friedrich Pollach, Karl Landauer, and Eric Fromm.” (pp.38-39)
[On the Frankfurt School see the late Ralph de Toledano’s book, “Cry Havoc” which is extraordinarily revealing. Ralph points out the Frankfurt School was a Soviet emanation backed by Lenin and Djerzhinski personally and set in motion by Georg Lukacs and the ever active Willi Muenzenberg.)
from swoop http://theswoop.net/ln_english/index.php
“One explanation offered to us by a Pentagon official lies in the “poisonous” relations that have developed between General David Petraeus, the commander in Iraq and his predecessor General George Casey, now Army Chief of Staff. “Casey,” we were told, “does not want to interact with Petraeus” A senior Republican politician told us: “None of us believes in success. The game now is to avoid blame for defeat in Iraq.” Despite these challenging political circumstances, Bush himself is personally confident. A White House official told us: “The President is not second-guessing himself. He is not going to flinch on Iraq.” One consequence of Bush’s approach is that, outside some quiet contingency planning inside the Joint Chiefs of Staff, little or no planning is underway in Washington for alternative outcomes. The implication is that when change comes – which, we believe, will take place by the autumn – a chaotic situation may emerge.””
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