Angelo M. Codevilla: Advice To War Presidents

Chaitanya   Museum Opening, 2000

In the Name of The Father, and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit, Amen.



Angelo M. Codevilla is justly esteemed a political philosopher of the first water, of the highest translucence.  I consider him the peer-successor of his countryman (of birth) Niccolò Machiavelli.

Political philosophy (statecraft) always has been the telos of my observations and inquiries.  In recent years I assigned that purpose a phrase originated, as best I know, by Immanuel Kant: Theological Geography.

My teachers in philosophy and political philosophy uniformly portrayed Machiavelli as a dark genius, or, a genius of dark arts.  A cynic, a manipulator, a man who espoused power for power’s sake, a lackey of lords and ladies of station.  They were teaching me Marxism — in the 1950s and 1960s!  Yet, always my teachers’ tone conveyed jealousy of Niccolò’s accomplishments and awe beneath his commanding intellect and fortitude.  They would like to have been as keen and clever as he was.  That was obvious.  What was not obvious, to me at least, was that Machiavelli was as my teachers described him.

So I let the matter rest pro tem and segued to my other favorite — and, it turns out, kissin’ cousins of political philosophy — observations and inquiries: mathematics, theology and music.

Lately, one of our sons commended to my attention Codevilla’s Advice To War Presidents: A Remedial Course In Statecraft.  I had not known of it, regrettably.  Now I am reading it.

Angelo is my age, 1943 model, older by a few months.  His literary style is aphoristic, maximal, epigraphic, as is mine.  His being a Philosophical Realist (Plotinus, Augustine), to be contrasted with Philosophical Nominalist (Pelagius, Abelard), accounts for that literary style, as it does mine.

There follow Codevilla maxims in Advice To War Presidents that compel my admiration:

Page 96: Thus with overconfidence both of solipsism, twentieth-century American diplomacy neglected statecraft’s primordial questions: What exactly are we after?  What does it take to persuade whom of what?  What means are sufficient to what ends?

Page 98: Diplomacy’s indispensable first step, then, is not to confuse diplomacy aimed at agreements that accommodate both side’s interests with the kind that is essentially another weapon of war.

Page 108-9: In its February 12, 2007 , issue, decide a story headlined “The Weight Of The World,” Time magazine pictured a pensive Secretary of State Rice.  Its point, that she and her Administration were not up to bringing peace to the Middle East, managing China’s rise, Russia’s slide, North Korea’s armaments, and Africa’s tragedies, was based on the supposition that managing the world is the task of American foreign policy.  It isn’t.  Any country’s foreign policy, including America’s can only manage that country’s interests.  Confusing your country’s interests with anybody else’s, imagining you can bear their burdens, well nigh guarantees you will end up harming all you touch.  Your country’s burdens are heavy enough.  If you manage to bear them well, you will have done your job.

Page 111: Quoting Machiavelli at length, from his Discourses:

Money … will not defend you but will cause you to be plundered all the sooner.  Nor could any idea be more false than the popular opinion of wealth as the sinew of war. … Good soldiers are the sinew of war and not gold, because gold is insufficient to find soldiers, but good soldiers are more than sufficient to find gold. … Money is certainly necessary as a secondary consideration, but it is a need that good soldiers overcome by themselves, because it is impossible for good soldiers to lack money, just as it is impossible for wealth alone to create good soldiers.

Page 122: In short, economic stratagems are potent insofar as they are parts of serious plans for victory.

Page 124: Pretense of doing something, it seems, is the comfortable middle option between doing nothing and admitting it.

Page 135: In economic affairs, as in others, what you have means less than what you mean to do with it.

Page 145: Wars Are For Winning

Page 145: As men are born to die in pain, so nations are born and die in war.

Page 145: Though not every war seems to place a regime’s life at risk, they all do.

Page 145: Because killing and dying engages any regime’s legitimacy to the fullest, war is the ultimate election.

Page 146: In fact, there is no such thing as peace simply.

Page 146: In short, war’s ugliness must not blind us to its primordial function — establishing peace.  But whose peace?  That’s what wars decide.

Page 147: Hence war is essentially a clash of purposes.  Only derivatively is it a clash of arms.

Page 147: Hence, war’s essential discipline is figuring out what peace you want, as well as pointing out the moral obstacles to that peace.  Only in light of that does killing make sense.

Page 150: Twentieth-century American statesmen’s reticence about the very word war coupled with their willingness to engage military forces reminds us of Voltaire’s quip that ladies tremble at hearing of certain things, though they do not hesitate to do them.  And like those ladies, our statesmen demurely put themselves in positions where doing it is inevitable.

Page 152: In sum, Twentieth-century American statesmen sometimes wielded the tools of war without intending to make war, and at other times intended war but eschewed the tools.  They confuse war with actions: with bombing or “boots on the ground,” with killing and dying, with campaigns against every physical and social ill, with teaching lessons or punishing, with occupying and building nations.  But war is none of these.  War is a deadly contest for your peace.

Page 153: Hence, self-preservation’s prerequisite is to shed any sense of entitlement to your peace, to be ever conscious how your regime might be undone.

Page 153: Competent regimes wake war in ways that bring them peace, above all internally.

Page 153: Perpetual foreign war becomes civil war.

Page 156: But surely judging in one’s own cause under the shadow of death is hazardous intellectually as well as morally.  It is also inevitable.

Page 156: Prestige is worth fighting for because it is a currency in international affairs that often buys peace more cheaply than blood or money.  Cicero arguing to give Pompey the kitchen along with its sink in order to crush Mithridades:

Therefore consider whether it is right for you to hesitate to continue to support enthusiastically a war in which we are defending Rome’s reputation as a great power, the safety and security of our allies, the principal sources of our tax revenues, and the fortunes of a very large number of individual citizens — all matters intimately connected with our national interest.

Page 156: Realist and Liberal Internationalist doctrine to the contrary notwithstanding, cold calculations of collective material interest move few decisions about war and peace.

Page 157: So you should ask, “Who among them wants what?”  And “Who among us wants what?”

Page 157: The word honor should be in your vocabulary, if only because more people bet their lives on immaterial considerations than on material ones.  Human beings — especially the livelier ones — value primacy, integrity, self-regard, deference, glory, above life itself.

Page 158-160: America’s Cause:

Live differently: all men are created equal (no titles of nobility), obey the laws of nature and nature’s God, lead quiet and peaceable lives.
Therefore, must be independent.
Therefore must force respectleaving no favor unrewarded and no offense unpunished.

Unless statesmen exact multiple eyes or teeth for one, fellow citizens end up paying with arms, legs, and heads.

President George W. Bush’s 2005 inaugural statement that America cannot rest or be free unless and until all the world is free (meaning that we can never be free, never at peace) may well be the most concise antithesis ever of what America is about.

Moreover, navies work best closest to their own shores and worst closest to enemy shores.  But today’s steersmen want a navy fit primarily to project power deep into the Old World’s landmass.

Our statesmen would do well to ponder the historic disaster that overtook Athens’ navy — the high tech wonder of the age — when it was committed to supporting a faraway land campaign.

And of course, Washington, Adams, Lincoln and Seward, and TR were as clear as Thucydides, Livy (and, indeed, Augustus) had been that your interest, your involvement is related inversely to the distance from home.

Page 161: Washington and J. Q. Adams were right: We should enlist only in our own cause.  And Lincoln pointed in the right direction: America is so endowed that once we get our causes right the rest will take care of itself.

Page 162: By the same token, though Wahabi Islam is alien and repulsive to us, it becomes our enemy only insofar as it animates Saudi Arabia, has billions of dollars at its disposal, and uses them to foment deadly hatred for Americans through the mosques and organizations it pays for in America as well.

Page 162: Russia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was both the epitome of despotism and America’s closest diplomatic ally — for the finest geopolitical reasons.  Because the Russian fleet visited New York in the Civil War’s darkest days, as Britain was building Confederate ships and France was trying to take Mexico, Lincoln referred to the Tsar as my great and good friend.

Page 163: Fully to understand who our enemies may be, we must  be clear about who, specifically, if eliminated or constrained, will give us our peace.

Page 163: Nothing quite so foredooms a war as misidentifying the enemy or indecision about whether someone or something is to be crushed or propitiated or left alone.

Page 164: Though Christianity disinclines us from paying due attention to it, the fact is that welcomed is the enemy clearly marked off from the population at large.

Page 164: Since this has always been so, you must conclude that then contemporary American notion that war must spare innocent civilians can be counterproductive to the extent that the problem resides in whole societies.

Page 165: So what does it take to undo widespread impediments to our peace?  The only sensible answer a priori is: it takes what it takes — in short, unless we want to drift in the narcotic hope that movements and regimes that have prospered by whetting appetites for American blood will place themselves at risk to curb them, that those who have fought us will now fight for us, we have no reasonable choice but to do whatever intimidation, killing, starving, and humiliating it takes to dismay them, eliminate them, discredit them, quickly to accommodate whoever may dream of martyrdom, and to be indiscriminate enough so that those around them will turn on them to save themselves.  The logic of war demands that you do this to whoever gives you cause.  When you designate someone an enemy, you may be mistaken.  But failing to acknowledge demonstrated enmity is worse than a mistake.

Page 165: They [The National Strategy of the United States (NCS) and The National Military Strategy (DOD)] make no attempt to show why anyone should reasonably expect what the US government does to achieve the things the US government wishes.  But strategy is precisely the intellectual connection between ends and means: a concrete , reasonable plan for using what you’ve got to get what you want.  The difference between thoughtless acts and empty wishes on one side and strategy on the other is reason.  A plan qualifies as strategy insofar as the success of the operations is prescribes is reasonably likely to put your peace in your grasp and insofar as these operations are in your power to accomplish.

Page 166: But the logic of war demands that the plan for getting in be the same as for getting out — namely that it be a strategy for victory.

Page 166: Are you bringing all of the available tools to bear as best you can?  Forbearing any of them for whatever reason, betrays your people and your troops.

Page 175: In short, the individuals, groups, and states that have caused havoc in the West have not done so by force majeure.  Rather, their force mineure has sufficed only because the West has indulged them.  They have pushed against open doors, found more acquiescence than they or anyone else imagined a generation ago.  Were Westerners intent on war, and were the brightest of minds to elaborate a strategy to avoid their destruction, they would have little to work with.  In short, their strength is neither more nor less than our reticence.

Page 175: Just as clearly, many well-placed Americans prefer we suffer terrorism at the level in which we are suffering it, hoping that it will decrease or not get worse, rather than do the things that would crush the terrorists.  Why they prefer this to war is all-important.  But it is beyond our scope.

Page 175-176: By the logic of war, lively examples of what happens to those who give us offense motivate others to avoid their fates.  The other side of that common sense coin is the lesson of which Secretary of State J. Q. Adams reminded President James Monroe in 1823, the lesson by which Americans statesmen lived for a century and that Wilson and his successors forgot: If you want others to leave you alone, it really helps to leave them alone too.

Page 178: The surest path to unbloody victory is the prospect that fighting would result in bloody triumph.  If you try elegantly to deter the enemy without a military balance unbalanced on your side, and if there is any doubt you are willing, even eager, to reap that imbalance’s fruits; if there is the slightest hint that you might not have your whole heart in the fight, above all if the enemy suspects that substituting deterrence for fighting is itself your chief objective, then you will end up having deterred yourself.  Strategy is the opposite of bluff.

Page 179: The only reason why you shoot is what happens after you shoot, because you shoot; moreover, the only people you want to kill, the only things you want to destroy, are the ones that endanger your life and peace.

Page 179-180: Just as strategy must serve the purpose of peace, operations must serve the purpose of strategy.  Just as screwdrivers are useful only on the screws for which they are fit, so ground, naval, and air forces, diplomacy, bribery, and subversion will serve your strategy only when you use them in the ways for which they are fit.  Seldom is good strategy served by operations that do not make sense in and of themselves.

Page 180: The United States has never been, is not, and never can be a great land power — except in North America.  Just as our interests in the Old World’s depths are limited, so is our power.  …  Geography is the reason.  …  There is no military reason for living in replenished mine fields.  …  But no amount of steel can make sense of using infantry as police, much less in minefields.  In short, for the strategy to make sense the operations have to make sense.

[He is talking about OIF and by inference OEF.  I suspect he is not facing the fact that there was no strategy for either Operation, which is to say, theatre-level strategy derived from USA grand national strategic objective.]

Page 180-181: But in Iraq after April 2003, day after day, year after year, US troops on foot or in armored vehicles patrolled Iraqi streets that were replenished minefields — and some two-thirds of US casualties came from walking and driving around in them.  There is no military reason for living in replenished minefields.  The US government tried to lower casualties by providing the troops with more body armor and some heavily armored vehicles.  But no amount of steel can make sense of using infantry as police, much less in minefields.  In short, for the strategy to make sense the operations have to make sense.

Page 181: Few nostrums are as misleading as “control of the sea depends on ships.”  In fact, ships are a good second to the primary method: controlling the land that controls the sea.  In fact, the Mediterranean became the Romans’ mare nostrum after Rome had conquered all its shores, and the nineteenth-century Britain dominated the oceans not so much because they were crawling with British ships but rather because it controlled the lands around the passages to and from the oceans: Gibraltar, Suez, Singapore, Cape Town, the Falklands.

Page 181-182: The most important of our naval operations is controlling mid-ocean from bases in the United States.  The ships being designed and the crews trained for projecting a little conventional power onto distant shores against small-time enemies will be useless for defending the major islands, and ships wasted in halfhearted efforts to defend these islands will not be available for controlling the middle of the oceans.

Page 182: Because the US Air Fore is built on the airpower myth, according to which strikes from the air determine the outcome of wars, it is America’s biggest obstacle to intelligent air operations.

Page 190: But what, precisely, would any given relationship between groups in another land have to do with our peace?  Don’t hold your breath for an answer.

Page 190: But victory in our time is as self-evident as ever.  If you can’t celebrate it in peace and safety, with flags flying, bands blaring, and enemies dead or cringing, chances are it’s not the real thing.

Page 191:  Daniel Patrick Moynihan: Intelligence is not to be confused with intelligence.

Angelo M. Codevilla: Use intelligence, not intelligence.

Page 192: We begin to grasp the difference between information and intelligence by asking: What would you do with this tidbit that you would not do without it?  What difference does it make?  This recalls Gregory Bateson’s famous definition of information: a difference that makes a difference.

Page 192: The black arts of intelligence and subversion are so attractive — especially to those who know little about them — because of the truism that knowledge of foreigners’ secrets may let us avoid fights or win them cheaply, and that whereas economic force is blunt, diplomacy amounts to asking, and war is hazardous, it can be cheap and effective to put words in the right ears, coins in the right pockets, or bullets in the right heads.  But information is useful only insofar as you make intelligent use of it, and even inherently useful knowledge does not craft plans reasonably to succeed, or square your ends with your means.

Page 192: As for the stratagems of subversion, the US government is the only one that ever mystified them by assigning them exclusively to an intelligence agency, the CIA.

Page 193: The problem the CIA was created to fix was a myth of its own making.  [That USG did not see Pearl Harbor attack coming.]

Page 195: Thus the intelligence community does not ask “How must we shape ourselves to answer this question?” but rather “What do we have on this?” and, above all, “What do we really think about this?”  In short, US intelligence became a classic producer-dominated system, with bias unleavened by responsibility.

Page 200: Because they do, the more closely an intelligence devise is to firing weapons, the likelier it is actually to serve its intended purpose.

Page 200-201: Thus defining the instrument of human collection has the same effect as defining the instruments of technical collection in terms of “the best technology.”  Namely, it precludes the question “Best for what?”  Precluding that question, and building an espionage system designed for bureaucratic convenience rather than to approach this or that kind of target, is attractive because it permits the illusion that the system is capable of getting at everything and anything.  The opposite is true.

Page 202: In our time, it also depends on the worth of the CIA’s theory of terrorism, which became official US doctrine in 1993, namely, that terrorists are “rogue” individuals and groups rather than direct or indirect agents of states.

Page 204: The key to successful quality control is the organization’s willingness to question its own competence.

Page 211: As on the human side, the governing attitude has to combine humility about our own security and aggressive, intellectually agile attempts to penetrate the other side’s.  Counterintelligence depends on attitude.

Page 211-212: When, inevitably, intelligence analysts mix their judgement with the “take,” they preempt their customers’ intellectual authority to some extent.  Hence translating reports into products tempts analysts to erase the distinction between hard facts and (their own) soft judgements.  That is why Stalin refused to look at analyses and told his services not ro produce them lest they “ride straight into self-made traps” — or he ride into theirs.

Page 212: So when you encounter models, keep your hand on your intellectual wallet.

Page 214: But CIA’s analysts do organize their thoughts around policy objectives: their own.  And so CIA’s foremost concern, from its inception, has been ensuring that what it considers its premier products, some eighty National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) per year, and its quotidian “current intelligence” briefings as well as the National Intelligence Daily, a classified newspaper, be the US government’s official truths.

Page 215: Analyst Russell Jack Smith was only half kidding when he told Sherman Kent: “There hasn’t been a fact in the National Intelligence Estimate in five years.”

Page 215: Thomas Powers’ description of the CIA founding generation’s priorities fits a half-century later: “Incoming papers might be a foot deep on his desk in L Building in the morning but [Frank Wisner, one of its founding greats] would neglect it all if he noticed a wrong-headed column by Scotty Reston in the morning Times.  Nothing took precedence over getting Reston straightened out.”

Page 215-216: A generation later, CIA had dropped the name [“The National Foreign Assessment Center”] but not the pretense.  George Tenent, Director from 1997 to 2004, explained: “Policy makers are allowed to come to independent judgements about what the intelligence may mean. … What they cannot do is overstate the intelligence itself. … They must clearly delineate between what the intelligence says and the conclusions they have reached” (emphasis mine [Codevilla’s]).

Page 216: In sum, incompetent as it may be unintelligence, the CIA-led intelligence community is a competent Washington lobby.

Page 217: CIA’s position, for the sake of which it wrote and fought, was the proposition “Terrorism is a spontaneous reaction by rogue individuals and groups to socioeconomic events, religious phenomena, and US policies.  Arab states are not responsible for it.  Our principal enemy, almost synonymous with terrorism itself, is al-Qaeda.”

Page 219: But CIA did all it could to delegitimize such thinking [Saudi money and Iraqi intelligence services inspired “terrorism”] because its principal preoccupation was to restrain the UIS government from acting against states from which terrorists come and for whose causes terrorists fight.

Page 222: Endowing bureaucrats with power over truth transforms them into mandarins, neuters Presidents, Congresses, and citizens regardless political leanings, and subverts democracy.

Page 223: All operations of politics and war involve mixtures of forthrightness and deception.  Subversion means turning parts of foreign bodies politic to your use.  But implying that hiding your hand is the key to it hides the essence of subversion: appealing to their hopes, fears, pride, resentments.  Thus to co-opt and other’s will is also called seduction.  Note that nobody has ever been co-opted, seduced, or subverted without his knowledge.  Mighty powers that cannot and will not be denied draw others to themselves through hope and fear.  Convincing your target that resistance is futile is very subversive.  Moreover, though subversive operations themselves may require hiding your relationships for a while, subversion itself eventuates in actions that cannot be secret.

Page 223-224: Success in such heavy-handed interference comes not from able pretense but rather from the target’s reluctance to answer indirect war with the direct kind.  ….  In short, subversion’s success is usually proportionate to prospects for overt victory.

Page 225: Because the CIA misunderstood the reasons for its early success, it has suffered mostly disasters ever since.  ….  … those whom CIA recruited for its operations as well as those at whom the operations were targeted, knew that CIA involvement meant that while America hoped certain things would happen, it was unwilling to make sure they would happen.  ….  With few exceptions, like the late Ted Shackley, who organized an army of Hmong tribesmen that kept North Vietnam out of Indochina’s north-western corner throughout the Vietnam war, these “covert warriors” have been sorcerers’ apprentices.  You would not trust electricians of comparable competence to wire your house.

Page 226: People who think this way seems really to think that they can divest some foreigners of their own goals and get them to embrace ours by bribing, tricking, and sermonizing them.  People who think this way may never have learned that most of the parties and movements that US covert action funded turned against us.  But common sense makes clear enough that transplanting your purposes into other people is impossible because they naturally put their own purposes ahead of yours, and hence that the art of coalitions consists in riding ever-shifting convergences and divergences.

[Ergo the stupidity and futility of trying to protect US interests in MENA by “planting democracy” there.]

Page 226-227: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: Nevertheless, all factions in American politics share the notion that intelligence should be and can be the key element in the “war on terrorism.”  That is because the desire to achieve much on the cheap is so widespread.

Beware of the temptation to spare yourself the responsibility of making decisions on policy because you cannot get access to the sources you want.  For example, you may not have secret sources that tell you precisely what role Syria played in the assassination of pro-American politicians in Beirut in 2003.  But you cannot pretend you don’t know the essentials of the matter.  What are you going to do about it?

Today, plenty of information is available to any newspaper reader about leaders of states and movements who advocate terrorizing Americans and without whose inspiration, propaganda, money and protection terrorists could not operate.  However, “Liberal Internationalists,” “Neo-conservatives,” and “Realists” vie to demand that US intelligence supply information about the names, movements, and intentions of all small fry who are preparing to commit terrorists acts — information about acts that have not happened — that would have to stand up in courts of law and public opinion.  That mission is impossible.

First, unless it were accomplished more thoroughly than imaginable, it would not stop terrorism.  Second, since conspiracy is rightly difficult to prove in civilized courts, the kind of intelligence needed to convict persons preparing to commit terrorism would have to be of the kind that police forces within countries run against criminals and subversives — vastly different from that which countries run against one another or that occupying forces can run.  Such intelligence would have to be pervasive and intrusive into society’s nooks and crannies, able to compel persons to become and remain faithful informants.  In short, it would have to be like the Second Chief Directorate of the old KBG, or the East German Stasi.  The notion of America tightening such a grip on itself, never mind on mankind, need not detain us.  Moreover, civilized societies would demand real evidence.  The Bush Administration’s proposal to bring terror suspects to trial but not to reveal the evidence against them is a foredoomed attempt to meld the totalitarian square with the civilized circle.

Intelligence is an instrument of war, not law.  Distinguishing between friend and foe is fundamental to any organism’s life and seldom requires more than ordinary perspicacity.  The precise relationship between any person and event is only tangential to the only question that matters in war: Is this person an enemy, an obstacle to my peace, or not?  Nevertheless, our statesmen impose on our intelligence services the task of searching out insignificant persons they [do] not know — precisely because they disagree among themselves about whether to wage war on the significant ones they do know about.

[Trump Administration has moved away from that stupidity by, for example, assigning responsibility for NORK to China and for Taliban to Pakistan, and at least in China’s case applied economic squeeze/common sense/fairness to compel China to de-nuke NORK.]

Page 229: Quoting Machiavelli, The Prince: The prince who is more afraid of the people than of foreigners must make fortress; but the one who is more afraid of foreigners than of the people must leave them out.

There never was any reason why a prince should disarm his subjects; on the contrary, when he finds them disarmed he should always arm them; because by arming them those arms become yours … and the subjects make themselves partisans.  And because one cannot arm alll subjects, if you benefit those whom you arm you can do [what you like] to the others more securely; and that difference which they recognize in their own regard makes them obliged to you. … But when you disarm them you begin to offend them; you show you distrust them either out of vileness or out of little faith: and both of these opinions generate hate against you.

Quoting Shakespeare’s Ovid in The Tempest: Treason doth never prosper.  What’s the reason?  Why, if it prosper none dare call it treason.

Page 230: Securing the home front’s safety and cohesion against what the American oath of office calls “enemies foreign and domestic” is arguably more vital than winning foreign battles.

Page 231: Internal security must be understood as a part of war and as sharing the problems and characteristics of war.  Just as there is no such thing as peace for all, there is no such thing as security for all.  Just as you must ask “Whose peace?  Despite who?” you must ask “What security?  Against whom?”  Wisely choosing those against whom we are to secure ourselves at home is as essential as is identifying enemies in war.  In fact, it is the same thing.

Page 231-2: At home as well as abroad, politics is the art of choosing sides.  Because it is, one person’s security is often the reverse of someone else’s insecurity.  Because some people are pillars of our order while others are indifferent to it or aspire to another, the wise regime secures itself by treating these different people differently.  Conversely, regimes that refuse to distinguish domestic friends and enemies, that fail to enlist the ones against the others, end up neutralizing the friends and emboldening the enemies.  Security, then, is not about administrative arrangements, much less about fences and badges and screaming sirens.  It is intensely political and social.  It is all about discrimination.. It is by, of, and for fellow combatants.  It is against thoughts, words and deeds that give aid and comfort to the enemy.  It happens when people mobilize against anyone in their midst whom they suspect of insufficient devotion to the common cause.  The now common notion that freedom hampers security, and that if you want security you must sacrifice some freedoms, is the reverse of a truth only recently forgotten: The greatest security exists among peoples who are freely committed to each other against common enemies.

Page 232: In sum, the essence of domestic security is to empower and encourage the regime’s partisans to act as owners of society and to encourage those who might be on the wrong side to get on the right side.  By contrast, to pretend in wartime that all domestic political and social tendencies are equally worthy of respect and freedom is suicidally to abdicate statesmanship.

Page 232: In traditional American statesmanship, war is an exceptional event meant to restore a normalcy in which domestic security and treason are irrelevant.

Page 232: Domestic security, then, is naturally a part of war’s effort for victory.  Most emphatically, it cannot substitute for such an effort.

Page 233: [After 911 u]nserious about waging war abroad, our statesmen tried to secure the home front by politically blind security measures.

Page 233: Both sets of positions [government power is the solution, government power is the problem] are irrelevant to victory, and both evade the political question: Who are the people whose restriction will give us safety?

Page 233: The American experience with Homeland Security should reinforce for future generations the old Machiavellian maxims: First, only the people, not the police, can ensure security.  Second, mixing law and war perverts both.

Page 235: But the US government eliminated serious security clearances in the 1970s.

Page 241: The point of all this is that massive increases in the size, equipment, and prerogatives of American security forces produced a parody of security.  When heavily armed police swarm and clunk menacingly into places where criminals, terrorists, or deranged persons have slaughtered victims, they advertise pathetic impotence.

Page 241: In sum, nothing in Homeland Security’s ponderous apparatus would stop any ten people from shutting down our school system by throwing bottles of flaming gasoline into ten school buses in ten states at the same time, from crippling public assembly by detonating ten suicide vests among crowds at ten football stadia, or from bringing down airlines with bombs in carry-on luggage — or even with tampons made of plastique.  Nor do fences, concrete barriers, or entry codes, much less SWAT teams, reduce the likelihood that a squad of terrorists clothed, fake-credentialed, armed, vehicled, and shouting “go, go, go,” like the para-militaries of any federal state, or local agency, might enter a nuclear installation, a dam, the New York Stock Exchange, or any place they wished, to do what they wish.


Page 245: Note that republican Rome’s dictators” were appointed for brief emergencies and could not extend their terms.

Page 245: In sum, there is less fundamental difference between left and right than meet the eye.

Page 248: In short, our statesmen refuse to acknowledge that there is not a unity of purpose among us and to draw public lines between what is permissible and not because they refuse to take war seriously.  They prefer the aimless force and sterile arguments of Home Land Security in part because they believe, as the Department of Homeland Security’s 2002 founding charter, signed by President George W. Bush, asserts: “The terrorist threat to America . . . is an unavoidable byproduct of the technological, educational, economic and social progress” of our time.  “It is a permanent condition to which America and the entire world must adjust.”

Page 249: In short, the US government’s official refusal to aim Homeland Security at those most likely to threaten it is a political choice to defer to the prejudices and predilections of one side of America’s political spectrum over another’s.

Page 251: The point here is that focusing on political intentions rather than on specific acts is the key to placing serious obstacles in the way of terrorists in America.

Page 252: On the one hand, countless injustices pressed the target populations [Americans of German descent during WWI and Americans of Japanese descent during WWII] to preclude the rise among themselves of movements that might have dragged them into serious conflicts with the rest of society.  On the other, the majority’s involvement in and responsibility for internal security contributed to the feeling of unity and confidence that characterized mainstream American society during these great wars.

Page 252: Due to the majority’s remarkable sociopolitical unity, the American people fought two hot world wars and a cold one against great powers without wrapping themselves in razor wire, and maintained freedom such as people in war have seldom if ever maintained, freedom such as contemporary Americans may never experience.

Page 253: Apolitical policing of political strife ends up as impotent, random harassment at best.  Too often, the pretense of political neutrality hides indefensible political choices.

Page 253: Wisdom about domestic security begins with the fact that no society, including our own, is homogeneous; that although our population is not essentially at odds with itself, not everyone among us is a friend; that the negative laws that frame our civic freedoms make sense, are operable, only among friends, and that we neither can close down our open society — Israelize it– nor desire to.  That is why preserving the framework of our civic freedoms in the face of war depends so much on forging unity of purpose.

Page 253-4: But since absolute unity of purpose cannot exist, it is better to admit that there cannot be the same freedoms for those with sympathy for the enemy as for friends.  Civic freedoms in wartime can exist fully only among fellow combatants.  Hence, drawing the line between friends and enemies is the prerequisite for preserving freedom among friends.  Drawing that line is a matter of political choice.  Because political choice is inevitable, it is better for all concerned that it be made explicitly, publicly, and responsibly.

Page 255-6: Why did the FBI focus on these men [Drs. Harfill and Ivins] while not even confronting evidence that points in other directions?  Because it had drawn a line, made a judgement, according to which right-wing elements within then United States are the likeliest sources of high-tech terrorism.  Drs. Hatfull and Ivies fit its profile and were persecuted.  But they were never prosecuted, logically, presumably because the evidence for doing so was not there.  That profile’s reverse side was out statesmen’s political prejudice to the effect that Iraq must not be named as a major source of terrorism, much less as having contributed to 9/11, and that places like Princeton would never, ever produce or harbor sympathizers, much less collaborators with terrorism.

The FBI drew a line, chose sides.  Wrong line.  Wrong sides.  It did it by following the US government’s logic with regard to Homeland Security.  We can take a small amount of comfort from the fact that our statesmen developed this logic largely in pectore and explained it in public hypocritically, that is, unsustainably.  It would not be easy to make a public case that America must be at least as much on guard against right-wing elements in league with Zionists intent on mass slaughter to impose their foreign and domestic politics against Islamists whose anti-Western agenda finds echoes in America’s far Left.

Our point here is that the choice of against whom the country should secure itself, of what the logic of Homeland Security should be is quintessentially the public’s business, to be decided by open debates and votes — not by officials who make political choices under pretense of political neutrality or technical expertise.  [Emphasis added.]

Page 259: Hence, America’s security must depend less on criminal penalties than on attitudes.

Page 259: Alexis de Tocqueville explained why life in the America of his time was far more secure than in Europe — why in Europe homes and public buildings were unsafe though like fortresses, while in America they were unguarded and safe: In Europe, he wrote, the criminal is a luckless man trying to save his head from the authorities as the people look on.  But in America, he is hunted by every man.  In Europe, the government owned the state.  In America, the people owned it, and acted like it.  The point is straightforward: Police forces are poor, and often counterproductive substitutes for the population’s immunological reaction — pervasive and preclusive — against those they recognize as not on their side.  Governments cannot bring it forth.  They can only suppress or pervert it.  This natural function of living bodies politic is the basis of foreign war and the essence of domestic security.

Page 260: Few American people have any difficulty regarding as monstrous Saudi Wahabism and its funding of suicide bombing.  Few Americans feel the slightest sympathy for the various Palestinian potentates’ raising of a generation to get up in the morning asking themselves what they are going to do to kill Americans this day.  Nor do Americans have any problem ostracizing, pressuring, restricting, delegitimizing, or making uncool anybody who looks or sounds even vaguely as if he might not be entirely against such monsters.  The biggest barrier to our dealing with the foreign and domestic manifestations of these monstrosities is our statesmen’s sleepy confidence in apolitical obfuscation.

Page 260-1: The statesman’s task is to focus the war as precisely as possible, leaving no doubt as to the enemy, and as little as possible doubt about what is and is not permissible domestically.  To declare war, to declare the enemy, is to draw the line between our society on one side, and anyone who might give aid and comfort to the other side.  That must be done with proper, not abstract nouns.  Our freedoms, our wonderful American negative laws, can exist only on the friendly side of this divide.  Aiding the enemy, or even sympathizing with him, is not good sport.  Nor is it innocuous to damn America, to suffer it to be damned, or to rejoice in its sorrows.  On the other hand, pseudo-criminal prosecutions in lieu of social and political line-drawing feed a spiral of personal vengeance that can only destroy the mutual friendship that is the condition of freedom.

So it is self-evident — to those who understand the meaning of the term — that freedom and internal security will take care of themselves to the extent that war on foreign enemies is taken seriously.

Page 263: America’s situation in our time is no more unprecedented than ours or any other nation’s ever was.  For statesmen to argue that novelty wipes out all previous rules is to claim that they can make up their own exempt from questioning.  But though all international interactions were are, and will be singular, none is exempt from the rules of common sense, accessible to all who read history.  Only principles that are the very opposite of complex and peculiar make it possible to make sense of peculiarly compress choices.

Page 264: Our focus must be on the United States of America.  It is false and dangerous to suppose any universal convergence of interests or regimes, any sort of universal harmony — or universal strife.  Rather, all peoples, including Americans, are endowed inalienably with the will to decide on the business of the day on whatever basis they choose.  Our twentieth-century statesmen’s basic mistake has been to confuse America with the world.  By imagining America responsible for others, they also imagined that America is subject to something like a grand jury of mankind — of which they fancy themselves the rapporteurs.  But we are not the world, there is no such grand jury, and our statesmen are responsible to us.  Hence competent statesmanship’s prerequisite is to forswear hubris, to focus America’s foreign relations in our time as they were focused in the eighteenth and nineteenth [centuries]: on the American people’s peculiar wants and needs.  Though less ambitious than world-keeping, minding one[‘s] country’s business calls upon the limits of the statesman’s art.  If our statesmen prove good and prudent at it, and if we are lucky, we may maintain ourselves.

Page 264: The proper questions, which all the components of our foreign policy establishing neglect, are “What business of ours does this involve?” “Where in this does America’s interest lie?”  Only by answering them can one understand individual choices and apply statecraft’s instruments properly.

Page 265: The only bones in America’s body politic that yearn to shape mankind belong to those Americans who fancy themselves the world’s leaders — who like Woodrow Wilson feel more comfortable among the foreign potentates they imagine to be their peers, pretending that their agendas represent their countrymen’s commitment, than they do at home dealing with their equals’ concerns, which they deem parochial and low.  Thus like Wilson do they represent only themselves.  Nor are these Americans a true imperial class.  ….  By contrast [to Spanish Conquistadores and British colonial administrators], our Liberals, Neo-conservatives, and Realists fancy themselves shaping the planet from climate-controlled conference rooms, within bubbles that eliminate physical risk by precluding contact with unauthorized persons.  Expecting to manage passions they cannot feel, they leave the dirty work to the armed forces but restrict what those forces may do.  ….  Disagree as they might on details, our Liberals, Neo-conservatives and Realisits agree on the essential: The American people suffer from isolationism.  In fact, the American people embody common sense.

Page 265: In America, foreign affairs are as much the people’s business as any, especially as they touch war and peace.  Therefore it was fitting that during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries America’s foreign relations depended on the government’s political branches for conception as well as conduct.  But any historian who traces US foreign affairs into our century finds that the intellectual substance of American statesmanship has come from persons outside any process responsible to the voters.  Whereas once the national interest was the things that the country was interested in, its latter-day version amounts to the preferences of a self-elected, self-perpetuating Establishment whose language and interests seem to be on a planet other than the American people’s.

Page 267: George Washington’s twin maxims, to observe good faith and justice towards all nations … cultivate peace and harmony with all and to prepare for war in order to earn peace, are perennial common sense.

Blurring that distinction really does run against common sense.  As Machiavelli counseled, people in general and enemies in particular are to be caressed or extinguished.  Never do anybody a little harm.  The American people’s preference for tolerating inconveniences, but then ridding themselves of enemies by short decisive wars, is the mark of sophistication, not immaturity.  Nor does our presumptive preference for peace amount to pacifism.  On the contrary, it means recognizing that peace is the result of dealing with enemies successfully, and it concentrates the mind on what is needed to do so — including war.

Page 267: Much as we may wish that any country’s internal order were different, or opine unofficially about what any foreign country’s way of life should be, the US government should foreswear interference, by word or deed, in the internal affairs of other countries.

Page 267-8: But we alone get to decide what our business is, what anything that happens abroad may be worth to us.  Since we want peace, we should be wiling to give it — unless we see that some foreigners are interfering with our business intolerably, are waging or may be about to wage war on us.  When words and forbearance fail to dissuade foreigners from minding what we consider our business, only war can stop them.  That means interfering with the enemy’s affairs, external and internal, in whatever way and to whatever extent may be required to secure our peace.

Page 268: Our interest in any foreign country’s political order is secondary, as is our interest in its welfare.  Our primary interest is to protect our peace, our lives and vital interests, from any country’s government that endangers them by omission or commission.  The offending country’s government will have brought America’s wrath upon itself.  War almost always ends up making changes in the enemy’s internal order, and often aims at doing so as part of what may be needed to win.  But generally, it is nonsense to hope that promoting some kind of political change will defeat the enemy.  Military victory is the horse what draws the cart of political change.  Unless the rare circumstances that followed World War II repeat themselves, the United American people should not try to repair the broken crockery.

Page 268-9: Moreover, the American people will no more support serious imperialism than they will support serious groveling.  The real choice for America is between continuing to bluster and pander halfheartedly in pursuit of universal dreams, or to get back to the basics of national, rational statecraft.

We neither dwell on how incompatible those fundamentals are with the beliefs and moods of our dominant social class, nor speculate on the circumstances that might eclipse its dysfunctional ideas and habits.  Nor do we prescribe a regimen for detoxifying it.  We only describe sobriety.

Page 269: Being sober starts with using words according to their ordinary meaning.  Bandying words crafted or altered to suppose that the world is as you prefer does not magically change it.

Page 271: As Confucius suggested, if there is arbitrariness in what is said, if what is said is not what is meant, confusion reigns because there can be no intelligible relationship between what is expected to happen and what happens.  Discussion does not benefit a nation of loose talkers.  Is it too much to demand of those in public life to use words according to dictionary meanings, to exchange sentences full of proper nouns and transitive verbs?

Page 271: To understand the role of ideas in international affairs you must straightaway dismiss the notion that, somehow, talk can substitute for the traditionally “hard” disciplines of military strategy and diplomacy, that America can be made so attractive to foreigners as to lessen the need for harsh measures. ….  Consider, then, what thoughts may move foreigners, what thoughts should move America, and of what the battleground for the human mind may consist.

Since the human mind is moved by fear, interest, and honor as wells as by reason about truth, goodness, and beauty, power exerts an elemental grip on it.  Winners inspire praise.  Losers get shunned.  The old saying “He who has good arms will always have good friends” means that, if your armed forces are successful, if they are reassuring to friends and feared by foes, more people will be attracted to you and fewer repelled by you.

Page 271-2: Whether others like us or not is their business.  Whether they respect us is ours.  If you want America to be loved, win.  Then many will profess to love it, and you will be free to ask them to prove it.

Page 272-3: So when matters of war and peace, of large national interest are contested, respect naturally flows to people who take war seriously, who radiate gravitas.  The first half of Theodore Roosevelt’s dictum, “speak softly,” defined gravitas for our time.  “Speak courteously and respectfully,” avoid loose-tongued denunciations of other peoples.”  But take yourself seriously, and take no guff.

Taking America seriously means above all taking seriously the ideas on which it is founded.  Foreigners in our time have taken America less seriously in part because leading Americans have acted as if Americans moral-intellectual core were as Chief Justice William Rehnquist described it: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” — that is to say, America means whatever anybody feels like.

By contrast, according to America’s Founders, the core consisted of “self-evident” truths about “inalienable rights” with which our “Creator” endowed us.  Human equality, the foremost of these truths and endowments, means that we to whom it is self-evident are obliged to deal with others to whom it is equally self-evident, through reason.  Equality requires the politics of persuasion.  But the politics of persuasion is possible only because all sides may, indeed should, refer to common, objective standards of true and false, good and evil, better and worse.  These are the standards — again using the Founders’ language — “of Nature and Nature’s God.”  Because America’s core consists of these ideas, because they became habitual, the American people uniquely speak the language of right and wrong.  Though reason does not simply rule in American councils, it holds an endowed place.

Page 273: In the end, to compete successfully in the American marketplace of ideas it is necessary to marshal reason about right and wrong, as well as about interest, fear, and honor.

Page 273-4: Each civilization, each religion, has its own logic, its own logos, its own reason.  But all have in common some reference to truth, acknowledge some relation between cause and effect.  It is incumbent on practitioners of international relations to learn foreign logi as they learn foreign languages and, in so far as possible, to contend with foreigners for right as we understand it in terms of their own logic. ….

And since the human mind is usually influenced if not ruled by the logic of interest, fear, and honor, we must conclude that a good argument combined with a stick is usually more effective than a good argument alone.

Page 274: Your words must be softer and less demanding than one might imagine given your stick’s hardness and size, and the offers you make should be such that compliance with them would be much less onerous than refusal would be painful.  In short, good diplomacy means making offers they can’t refuse and with which they may comply, even gratefully.  Diplomatic solvency is an excess of power over demands, while bankruptcy consists of demands in excess of the power to compel compliance.

The purpose is persuasion by reason insofar as possible and, insofar as necessary, by bringing to bear verbally those features of reality that argue compellingly for the outcome you desire.

Page 275: In short, US diplomacy has failed to coerce because its words have overshot or undershot compelling reality.

Page 276: By the same token, if you neglect what the balance of power, interest, fear and honor suggests is rightly yours, you may be sure that the other side will notice and conclude reasonably that you are incompetent.

Page 276: If American statesmen communicate their own disregard for the instruments and balance of power, or greater concern for pleasing foreigners than for pleasing the American people, they have no reason to be surprised at the results.

Page 276: For American diplomats, “good relations” with a foreign country should mean above all that it not trouble us.  ….  If the millions who emigrated to America had wanted to live by “world standards” they would not have bothered becoming Americans.

Page 277: But if you intend to press vital matters, you must do so with a strategy for forcing the issue unto victory.

Page 278: The point is simply that the tool you choose to demolish resistance to your demands must be proportionate to that resistance.

When gauging what it might take to overcome any given resistance, it is essential to identify the human beings and institutions of which it consists.  Who, or whose will, is to be broken?  In life as in math, one judges the importance of any factor by factoring it out.  Remove this.  If the equation still works or the problem persists, the factor or enemy you chose is insignificant.  Then you must figure out what will actually cause the enemy or factor to go away.  It is no good to say that this measure “will contribute” to doing away with the enemy.  You must reasonably calculate that the complex of measures you propose will actually cause the effect you want.  Executing that complex of coercive measures is war.  This chain of reason’s very simplicity makes it morally demanding and hence difficult to follow.

Page 279: The fundamental reason for this misuse of war’s instruments is our statesmen’s reluctance to be clear about America’s purposes and America’s enemies.  This befouls domestic even more than it does foreign affairs.  Unwilling clearly to designate foreign enemies, our statesmen closed off Pennsylvania Avenue, wrapped America in razor wire, and subjected us all to security measures that habituate Americans to herd one another and to be herded.  Suppressing the American people’s sense that we have the right to treat presumed enemies as such has had a narcotic effect.

Page 279-80: The foreign relations of the United States should be conducted in ways that maximize the American people’s allegiance to the United States.  That most precious allegiance has waned in our time because our statesmen have worked in a language and with assumptions that have excluded the common sense of the ages and of the American people.  For America to live in a peace secured by popular support requires above all that the American people discuss what that peace might be, what enemies stands in its way, and that they vote whether to undo them.  Whenever the choice arises between restricting the American people’s freedoms at home or waging decisive war abroad, the latter is always advisable.

Our statesmen and the academic, social milieux whence they come and return have presided over too much fighting that has brought us too little peace.  Thus they have forfeited their claims to places and honors.  America needs to replace them.  But even more, it needs to understand and hence to immunize itself against the intellectual viruses that vitiated their minds.

Update 1: Angelo M. Codevilla: The 2016 Election Is Not Reversible

Update 2: Angelo M. Codevilla: Replacing The Republican Party

Update 3: Establishment GOP Puts Cronies over Country on Missile Defense

Update 4: The Tipping Point

Update 5: Codevilla at The Claremont Institute

Update 6: Can’t Kill Enough to Win?  Think Again.


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