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The Truth About Iraqi EFPs by Philip Giraldi

Iranian Involvement in Iraq by Philip Giraldi (Originally written back in 2008)

  1. Introduction:

The United States government has been arguing since 2005 that Iran is “interfering” in neighboring Iraq. At a political level, the interference is alleged to involve supporting Shi’ite surrogates groups, frequently incorporating militias, who are not cooperating in the development of a pluralistic democracy in Baghdad. Iran is also allegedly making more difficult the establishment of security inside Iraq through its support of insurgents who are attacking both United States and multinational troops as well as Iraqi security forces. Although the United States can be reasonably viewed as having itself interfered in Iraq through its invasion of the country in 2003, the charges are nevertheless serious and should be regarded as credible.

It might reasonably be assumed that Iran is engaged in the politics of its neighbor Iraq. It would be surprising if it were not, given the longstanding relationships with several Iraqi political groups and the tie of Shi’ism, which is the religion of most Iranians and Iraqis. Iran must also perceive an existential security threat due to the presence of 140,000 American soldiers in Iraq coupled with a regular flow of belligerent language emanating from Washington. Tehran would certainly want to manage and contain that threat if at all possible.

The question then becomes the extent to which Iranian involvement exceeds acceptable interaction. If Iran is opposing political reconciliation and reconstruction in Iraq, it considerably narrows the options that the US can pursue to stabilize the country and eventually disengage from it. If Iran is arming, training, or directing insurgents and militias to attack US, multinational, and Iraqi forces Washington has an obligation to craft an appropriate response to counter the threat and preserve American lives. But are the allegations about Iran’s interference true? If there has been one lesson coming out of the Iraq experience it is that even well intentioned officials at the highest level in the United States government can be wrong in their assessments. Worse still, some officials might have actually been willing to play hard and fast with the truth in order to support a political agenda that might have otherwise been unsustainable. That politicians from both parties and also the mainstream media use their bully pulpits to confirm Iranian perfidy should provide little comfort: both were generally unquestioning in their support of the contrivances that led to the Iraq war in the first place. There are undeniably many in Washington who are actively seeking a war with Iran and who are willing to do whatever it takes to bring that about. Some have employed the mantra “they are killing our soldiers” to stoke the emotional fires and make military action against Iran appear to be justified.

The public has an obligation to be skeptical, particularly as too ready acceptance of the case against Iran might ultimately involve the issue of war and peace with the United States pitted against an adversary far more formidable than Saddam Hussein. This paper seeks to examine a number of issues relating to Iran and its role in Iraq. First is the question of what exactly Iran is doing inside Iraq. Is it training, equipping, funding, and sometimes directing insurgents and militiamen who are attacking American soldiers? Is it already “at war” with the United States, as a number of leading politicians and media pundits contend? Second, if Iran is playing a role in Iran short of that of a belligerent, what precisely has been its level of engagement? What is the history of Iranian involvement with the Shi’ite politicians who are now dominant in Iraq and what reciprocity exists? What do the Iraqis think about Iran and its ambitions? Third, what is Iran’s role in the broader context of Near Eastern politics and how does that condition its concerns about Iraq and the American presence? How do Shi’ite historical vulnerabilities influence Tehran policies towards Iraq and towards the Sunni ruled states surrounding the Persian Gulf? Finally, given all of the above, what is the appropriate United States response? Is containment of Iran an option or should there be intensive bilateral engagement between Washington and Tehran? Is the problem larger than that, requiring a multilateral response to mitigate security concerns of both Iran and its neighbors?

  1. Allegations that Iran is supplying weapons, training, and money to Iraqi insurgents and militias that are targeting Americans

On March 3rd, 2008, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, greeting visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, stated that “I think that the level of trust is very high, and I say frankly that the position Iran has taken recently was very helpful in bringing back security and stability.”1 Al-Maliki was referring to Iran’s commitment to use its good offices to help restrain groups inside Iraq that are opposed to the establishment of a viable national government. Not everyone would agree with that assessment, however. There has been a great deal of critical commentary by American generals and politicians regarding the alleged Iranian role in the insurgency in Iraq, including allegations that Iran is already at war with the United States.

Sophisticated roadside bombs using shaped charges, initially referred to as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and more recently as Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), first appeared in Iraq in the summer of 2004. General John Vines reported on the weapon in June 2005, stating that it was being used by Sunni insurgents and was likely produced by ordnance experts from the disbanded Iraqi Army.2

The first suggestion that Iran might be involved with such weapons in an attempt to destabilize the situation in Iraq came from a Pentagon leaked story that appeared on August 4th, 2005, stating that US soldiers had “intercepted” shaped charges “smuggled into northeastern Iran only last week.” Shaped charges, which eventually evolved into Explosively Formed Penetrators, are the basic components of roadside bombs, which were the most successful weapons being used against the so-called Multi-National Force headed by the US. Northeastern Iraq borders Iran. The NBC version of the story stated that “it could not have happened without the full consent of the Iranian government.”3

A few days later on August 9th, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld returned to the issue of Iranian interference, stating that the shaped charges were “clearly, unambiguously from Iran.”4 On October 5th, 2005, an unnamed senior British official told the BBC that shaped charges killing British troops had come from Hezbollah in Lebanon “via Iran.”5 On the next day, British Prime Minister Tony Blair attributed the bombs to “Iranian elements or to Hezbollah,” though he admitted that he had no evidence for the assertion.6

President George W. Bush in a briefing on March 11th, 2006 raised directly for the first time the issue of Iranian interference, warning that “…if the Iranians are trying to influence the outcome of the political process, or the outcome of the security situation there, we’re letting them know our displeasure.”7 In a press conference two days later he stated “Some of the most powerful IEDs we’re seeing in Iraq today came from Iran.” Bush quoted Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, “Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices.”8

In September 2006, General John Abizaid reported that a single sophisticated Russian made RPG-29 anti-tank weapon had been found in Iraq. He said it was “unclear” how it had arrived in the country, but went on to suggest that it came from Hezbollah which “indicates…an Iranian connection.”9 Major General Richard Zahner gave a press conference on September 28th in which he said that Iran’s involvement in weapons production for insurgents was proven because the C-4 explosive used in EFPs had the same batch number as explosives found on a Hezbollah ship carrying arms to Palestinians that was seized by Israelis in 2003. He said that only the Iranian military could permit access to such military grade explosives.10

In October 2006, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns complained that Iran was supplying “very sophisticated arms” to Shi’ite insurgents and to terrorists in Iraq.11 A month later, on November 27th, 2006 an anonymous senior American intelligence official told The New York Times that Hezbollah had been training as many as 1-2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and that Iran was “…a link to Lebanese Hezbollah and helped facilitate Hezbollah training inside Iraq.” The official also asserted that Iran seeks “a managed instability in the near term” inside Iraq to “bog down the American military.” The Times also reported that “American officials” claim the Iranians are providing explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs as well as training in Iran and quoted General John P. Abizaid concerning the Hezbollah-Iranian connection, “We saw it in Lebanon. So to me, No.1, it indicates an Iranian connection.”12

On November 30th, 2006, ABC news reported an anonymous senior defense official claim of “smoking gun evidence of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq: brand new weapons fresh from Iranian factories.” The weapons were allegedly date stamped 2006, suggesting that they were going directly from factory to consumer.13

Leading American politicians not in the government also were criticizing Iran. In December 2006, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut stated that he opposed direct talks with Iran because it would be like going to “your local fire department asking a couple of arsonists to help put out the fire. These people are flaming the fire. They are extremists.”14 On July 6, 2007, Lieberman wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal entitled “Iran’s Proxy War: Tehran is on the offensive against Us throughout the Middle East. Will Congress respond?” He wrote “The Iranian government, by its actions, has all but declared war on us and our allies in the Middle East. American now has a solemn responsibility to utilize the instruments of our national power to convince Tehran to change its behavior,” employing “credible force” because Iran is bringing “about the death of American service members in Iraq.” He described how the “Iranian government has been using the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah to train and organize Iraqi extremists, who are responsible in turn for the murder of American service members.” He called Iran’s role as “hostile and violent” and complained that Tehran’s “fanatical government” demonstrates “expansionistic, extremist behavior.” After again referring to Iran’s “fanatical regime,” he cited “attacks on American soldiers” as a reason why Iran “must be confronted head on.”

On December 29th, 2006, Lieberman continued his attack, writing an op-ed for The Washington Post entitled “Why we need more Troops in Iraq,” in which he explained the situation in the Middle East in simple terms: “On one side are extremists and terrorists led and sponsored by Iran, on the other moderates and democrats supported by the United States.”

In response to the growing perception of an Iranian threat, President Bush gave orders in December to arrest Iranians inside Iraq to obtain evidence of Tehran’s interference. Several were detained in late December and five Iranian officials working in the Kurdish city Irbil were captured in a pre dawn raid by Special Forces on January 9th, 2007.

In January 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was very specific about Iranian interference, charging that “…there is plenty of evidence that there is Iranian involvement with these networks that are making high explosive IEDs and that are endangering our troops, and that’s going to be dealt with.”15 In a speech on January 10th, 2007, Bush also returned to the attack, stating that “Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We’ll interrupt the flow of support from Iran…and we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”16

On January 29th, 2007, Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary said “Right now what we are seeing is some evidence that the Iranians have been involved in activities that have led to the deaths of American soldiers…And among other things they could stop smuggling arms – or at least contributing arms.”17 Lieutenant General Ray Odierno also picked up on the theme two days later, saying that “We have weapons that we know through serial numbers…that trace back to Iran.” He also added that “some of the elements to make” roadside bombs “are coming out of Iran.” He also claimed that Iran was supplying the militias with truck mounted Katyusha rockets and RPG-29s, a sophisticated rocket propelled grenade with two warheads that had devastated Israeli forces when they invaded Lebanon in July 2006.18 Curiously, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack denied any administration intention to provide a document detailing how Iranians were supporting insurgents that were killing US troops.19 Paul Richter of the Los Angeles Times reported that the report had not been released because it was lacking in credibility.20

Signs that all of the Bush Administration was not singing off of the same sheet of music came a few days later, on February 3rd, when Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked if Iran was supplying Shiite militias with arms. He answered “I don’t know that we know the answer to that question.”21

On February 11th, 2007, the military in Iraq staged a major power point briefing on “Iranian Support for Lethal Activity in Iraq.” In an accompanying background briefing held in the Green Zone in Iraq, it was asserted that Iranian built bombs smuggled into Iraq had killed at least 170 US and coalition soldiers since June 2004.22 The briefing had been previously scheduled but canceled, apparently in a bid to collect more evidence. The briefers concluded that “Iran is involved in supplying explosively formed projectiles or EFPs and other material to Iraqi extremist groups.”23 A second analyst stated that Iran had increased the shipment of EFPs to Iranian Shiite groups, though it was also noted that there was not yet any “smoking gun” among the evidence that had been collected and that Iranian official involvement in the arms trafficking was an “inference.” The al-Qods force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards force was charged with having the links with “foreign militants.” A number of shell casings and seized munitions were displayed, several having apparent manufacture dates of 2006. It was also claimed that the five Iranians arrested in Irbil in January had been al-Qods Force officers.24

On February 26th, 2007, James Glanz and Richard A. Oppel of The New York Times reported that the discovery of a Shiite weapons cache in the city of Hilla provided evidence of the Iranian link to bomb making in Iraq. Infrared sensors, electronic triggering devices, and explosive material “all produce weapons with Iranian signatures that has never been found outside Iraq or southern Lebanon.” Another raid in Diyala province seized enough components to make 100 or more EFPs. According to ordnance expert Major Marty Weber, the copper disks that give EFPs their potency were machined to a flawless finish “indicating to the explosives expert that they were manufactured in Iran.” Weber also admitted, however, that the infrared sensor is similar to that used in a garage door opener and it is readily available at outlets like RadioShack. He conceded that “you can never be certain” when asked if the devices could have been engineered in Iraq, but added that it was a “no brainer” that they were Iranian because he had only seen such components in Iraq and in Lebanon, where they are used by Hezbollah.25

On the following day, the same two Times reporters witnessed a dog and pony show in a field near the Baghdad airport, where components alleged to come from Iran were on display. Apart from C-4 explosive with serial and batch numbers linking to Iran, most of the components were void of any indication of origin. The reporters noted that some of the PVC tubes used to make the bomb canisters were marked as having been manufactured in the United Arab Emirates and also in Haditha, a Sunni Arab town in Iraq.26

On April 11th, 2007, there was a media roundtable in Baghdad featuring Major General Caldwell and Major Weber. The briefing reiterated much of the information that had been provided in February and to The New York Times journalists. Caldwell asserted that the EFPs were being “manufactured and smuggled into this country” and that Iraqis were being trained in their use in Iran. He cited the information on recent training of Shiite “extremists” as coming from “detainee debriefs of some personnel that we’ve picked up” and went on to claim that Iran was training insurgents in sniper training, making EFPs , and launching rockets. Weber claimed that captured mortar rounds were “specific to Iranian manufacture.” Caldwell was also the first to state that Iranian intelligence was providing support to Sunni insurgent groups.27

On June 10, 2007, Senator Joseph Lieberman again appeared on the CBS Sunday morning show “Face the Nation” and stated “I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq. And to me that would include a strike into … over the border into Iran … where they are training these people coming back into Iraq to kill our soldiers.” He later stated that “By some estimates, they have killed as many as 200 American soldiers.”

Two weeks later, on July 2, 2007, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, referring to a spectacularly successful attack in January in Karbala that killed five American soldiers, briefed reporters that two prisoners28 had revealed “that senior leadership within the Quds Force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack.” Bergner did not indicate that Iran had either supplied weapons or had participated in the planning, but he did say that Qods Force was supplying Shi’ite special groups with weapons and funding amounting to $750,000 to $3 million every month. Bergner also said that Qods had been using Hezbollah to train and channel weapons to Iraq, specifically to what the military refers to as “secret cells” or “special groups” that are alleged to be breakaway factions from the larger militias.29

Three weeks later, on July 24, 2007, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met with Iranian officials to discuss the security situation in Iraq. Afterwards, he said that he had told the Iranians that in the two months since the last meeting “we’ve actually seen militia related activity that could be attributed to Iranian support go up…”30

An interview with Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno on August 7th followed, reported by The New York Times on the following day. Odierno claimed that the number of attacks had gone up in July and that Tehran was increasing its support of militias, which he described as “surging” their support to “special groups,” a reference to the alleged Iranian backed militant cells. The Iranian surge was reportedly an attempt to influence negatively the report that General David Petraeus was preparing for Congress on progress in Iraq. The Times reporter wrote that “American intelligence says that its report of Iranian involvement is based on technical analysis of exploded and captured devices, interrogation of Shiite militants, the interdiction of trucks near Iran’s border with Iraq and parallels between the use of the weapons in Iran and in southern Lebanon by Hezbollah.”31

Lieutenant General Ray Odierno opened a new front on July 25, 2007, claiming that the increased accuracy of mortar rounds being fired into the heavily protected Green Zone in Baghdad was due to training in Iran. Odierno said “In the last three months, we have seen a significant improvement in the capability of mortar men and rocketeers to provide accurate fire into the Green Zone and other places. We think this is directly related to training conducted inside Iran.”32

On August 21st, 2007, the media jumped in, demanding a harder line. A lead editorial in The Washington Post was headed “Tougher on Iran: the Revolutionary Guard is at war with the United States. Why not fight Back?” It accepted that Iran had killed one third of all US troops who had died in Iraq in July and that fifty members of the Revolutionary Guard were operating south of Baghdad “facilitating training of Shi’ite extremists.” The Post also posited that Iran is “trying to kill as many Americans as possible.”33

A September 2007 report to Congress by the Pentagon on “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq” referred to the assassinations of two Iraqi governors in “improvised explosive device attacks believed to have been conducted by Iranian-influenced extremist groups…Most of the explosives and ammunition used by these groups are provided by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.”34 General David Petraeus also spoke to Congress in September, stating that “It is increasingly apparent that Iran through the use of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Qods Force seeks to turn the Shia militia extremists into a Hezbollah like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.” Petraeus also asserted in his briefing that there was hard evidence incriminating Iran that had been obtained from the drives of computers obtained when several suspects were detained in March.35

In the same month Senator Joseph Lieberman was the co-sponsor together with John Kyl of Arizona of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the recently passed defense appropriations bill, which passed by a Senate vote of 76 to 22 on September 26th,, 2007. The amendment stated that “the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable act of hostility against the United States.” Joe Lieberman also issued a press release on the subject, dated July 11th, 2007, accusing Iran of “murdering our troops” and quoting Senator John Kyl, who blamed Iran for “actively supporting terrorists who are killing our troops in Iraq.”36

On October 25, 2007, the State Department listed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards al-Qods Force as a supporter of terrorist organizations, which requires all “US persons” to block and freeze all property that the Qods Force has an interest in. The designation US persons includes all American companies as well as all resident aliens living with the United States.37

Robin Wright of The Washington Post reported on November 7th, 2007, that Iran had made a “recent pledge” to “stop arming, training, and funding extremists in Iraq.”38 Iran has always claimed that it does not do any such thing and it is highly unlikely that any government on the face of the earth would admit to supporting armed extremists in a neighboring country, so Wright’s description of the fruit of the discussions between Tehran and Baghdad must be considered somewhat suspect. Other sources report that Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had had discussions over the security situation and that Iran had agreed to help tighten up border security to restrict the movement of privately obtained weapons that were presumably going to militias.39

Director of Central Intelligence Michael V. Hayden told Congress on November 27th, 2007 that “the Iranian hand is stoking violence in Iraq.” Hayden said he was skeptical about reports of Iran’s interference, but had changed his view after reviewing intelligence reports.”40

On November 15th, 2007, Major General James Simmons, providing a Pentagon briefing on roadside bombs, stated that all EFP caches in Iraq “originated in Iran,” that the Qods Force is responsible for all the weapons found, and that the Iranian leadership is “aware” of what is going on.41 Eleven days later, on November 26, 2007, the Voice of American reported that Colonel Don Farris, commander of coalition forces in two Baghdad neighborhoods, had described how “Iran backed Shi’ites, which he called the special groups…are continuing their attacks. (They) planted nine Iranian-designed and supplied high powered bombs…which contained explosive charges that likely came from Iran.” Farris also referred to a captured Iraqi who had “admitted to receiving training in Iran in building in building and employing these explosively formed projectiles. And another admitted to working as an agent for somebody or some group in Iran.”42

On December 7, 2007 Marine Lieutenant General John F. Sattler stated at a Pentagon news conference indicated that “Iran also was supplying weapons, training and finances to Iraqi insurgents, but there are indications that Iran has stopped this practice.” Army Lieutenant General Carter F. Ham qualified the comment, saying “But there are other indicators that weapons, munitions and training are still being provided by Iran.”43

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell stated on December 19th, 2007 that there had been a reduction in “attacks that involve weapons that we believe emanated from Iran, involve techniques that we believed were probably instructed by trainers from Iran.”44 A Pentagon report dated December 24th stated that “Qods Force provides many of the explosives used by these groups…” adding there had been “no identified decrease in Iranian training and funding” of militias.45

On January 12th 2008, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker hosted a joint press briefing at Camp Arifjan Kuwait in which they said that attacks associated with the “signature weapons that are provided by Iran had gone down” but that “training…continued until recently.” Crocker said he could not draw the conclusion that Iran had moved away from “supporting extremist militant groups that are attacking our forces…”46

Five days later Lieutenant General Ray Odierno, commander of the multi-national corps in Iraq, told the media at a January 17th Pentagon briefing that the Iranians “continue to train Iraqi extremists in Iran…and continue to pay some of these extremists.” He was not sure if they were still “importing weapons” but added that many weapons were being found, including “mortar systems and rounds that are manufactured clearly in Iran” and “C-4 like material that we know has been developed in Iran.” Odierno also said that the Iranian Qods Force was supporting “groups” that had broken away from Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army.47 Curiously, Odierno’s boss Robert Gates said the same day in an NPR interview that Iran is a “significant challenge” for the United States. He refused to describe it as a threat.48

An updated report from the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress entitled “Iran’s Activities and Influence in Iraq,” appeared on January 24th, 2008, shortly before the State of the Union Address. It said that “Iran is materially assisting major Shiite Muslim political factions in Iraq…and their armed militias. In late 2007 the Administration noted a decrease in Iranian weapons shipments.” Four days later, President Bush said on January 28th, 2008, in his State of the Union Address, that Iran is funding and training militia groups in Iraq…”

Rear Admiral Gregory Smith briefed the press in Baghdad on February 17th, 2008. He declared that there had been daily attacks carried out by “Iranian-backed special groups” using weapons that were in caches, though he added that there was no evidence of an “increase in the shipment of arms by Iran into Iraq.” He added that “The intent of Iran in supporting the training and financing we believe continues.”49

In the wake of the early March 2008 visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baghdad, the first such visit ever made by an Iranian head of state, Lieutenant General Ray Odierno said that he had “pretty clear” evidence that Iran was training Shi’ite “special groups.” He also said that rocket attacks on visitors to Iraq were “being done by Iranian surrogates.” Admiral William Fallon, Chief of Central Command, also commented that the US had asked the Iraqi government to convey to Ahmadinejad the need for “stopping this lethal flow of equipment.”50 A week after the Ahmadinejad visit concluded, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said “We believe they continue to train the Iraqis…” General David Petraeus also commented “There is no question that Iran has continued to train the so-called special groups. We have individuals in detention…who had explained how the received the training.”51

On March 18, 2008, Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain claimed that the US military had discovered a large supply of “the most lethal” copper disks used for roadside bombs, adding for good measure that Iran was training militants, assisting Hezbollah, and pursuing nuclear weapons.52

President Bush increased the heat on Iran still further on the following day, stating in an interview that the Iranians had “declared they want a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” a comment that was later modified by a White House national security spokesman who said that the president had merely been “speaking in shorthand.”53 Six days later, after Shi’ite militiamen had bombarded the Green Zone in Baghdad, General David Petraeus claimed that the missiles used had been provided by Iran. He also reiterated the allegation that Iran was supporting “elements that are paid for, they are funded, they are trained, they’ve been equipped and they’ve been directed by and large by the Iranian Quds force.”54

Fighting at the end of March 2008 between Iraqi government forces and the Mehdi Army militia ended when an Iraqi parliamentary delegation traveled to Qom and obtained the mediation of the Iranian Qods Force commander Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani. The parliamentarians were quoted as seeking a cease fire and Iranian agreement to “stop supplying weapons to Shiite militants in Iraq.”55

  1. Analyzing the Charges that Iran is supplying weapons, training, and money to Iraqi insurgents and militias that are targeting Americans

The claims being made by the Bush Administration, by Congress, and by the media regarding Iranian support of militants in Iraq have a number of things in common: they are generic and lacking in specificity, they are based on possibly unwarranted assumptions about Iranian interactions with other players in the region, they play fast and loose with statistics, and they seldom provide actual verifiable evidence to back up the assertions being made. One might also point out that nearly all the reports are derivative in that they build on each other to develop credibility, much like the reports about Iraq in 2002, and also that the mainstream media is generally accepting of commentary provided by anonymous official sources or by no sources at all, which is again reminiscent of Iraq. As a rule the official sources also ignore alternative explanations and do not consider existing evidence that would disprove or modify the judgments being made.56

The general nature of the charges and lack of specificity is most glaring. The central allegation being made is that Iran is smuggling sophisticated weaponry into Iraq that is being used by third parties to kill American soldiers, but even when specific claims are made they are laced with qualifying expressions like “we believe,” “possibly,” and “we have intelligence.” The accusations about Iranian behavior are particularly surprising in light of dissenting views also coming out of Washington like the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, released in an unclassified version in January 2007, which declared that Iran had no decisive influence over developments in Iraq.57

Sometimes a red herring is produced to obscure exactly what is being suggested. Over the past year, many of allegations about Iranian involvement in Iraq have focused on contact with “secret cells” or “special groups” that have reportedly broken off from the larger Shi’ite militias, most particularly the Mehdi Army of cleric Moqtaqa al-Sadr. On July 2nd, 2007, Brigadier General Kevin Bergner said “These special groups are militia extremists funded, trained, and armed by external sources, specifically, by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force operatives.”58 There is independent evidence confirming that fringe militia groups exist but the extent to which they have been able to disrupt security inside Iraq is debatable. The degree to which they might be funded by Iran is unknown.59 It should also be observed that providing support and a maintaining a relationship between two parties does not necessarily imply that one side is directing the other. Evidence suggests that all of the political groupings in Iraq are overwhelmingly driven by their domestic constituencies and political ambitions, not by Tehran. Iran, for its part, also knows its limitations. As Ray Takeyh puts it, “The rulers of the Islamic Republic have no illusions that the Shi’ites in Iraq are likely to concede to their authority…”60

It has also been noted that the arguments about Iranian involvement are logically inconsistent. The Iraqi insurgency in the period 2004-2006 was largely Sunni. That the Iranians would be supplying the Sunnis or that the Sunnis would even seek such assistance does not appear probable. In an April 2007 briefing Major General William Caldwell explained, “We have, in fact, found some cases recently where Iranian intelligence services have provided to some Sunni insurgent groups some support.” Three uses of “some” in one sentence suggest a degree of uncertainty. Even the relatively tame media at the briefing were skeptical, asking “Do the Iranians support all the militias in Iraq?”61

The first rule of verification is who, what, when where, why. There are numerous reports suggesting that Iran is supplying weapons to militias but there has not been a single report identifying weapons that can be unambiguously traced to Iran on a given day and at a given location were used to kill Americans or even to target Americans. One can reasonably argue that some of the weapons are destroyed in the attacks that actually take place making accountability difficult or impossible, but the military has reported the confiscation of numerous caches of weapons that were undamaged.62 Some of the weapons that were displayed on February 11th, 2007 in Baghdad that were reported to be Iranian in origin presumably come from weapons seizures, but two key elements to make the case against Iran were lacking. First, there was no suggestion of just how many alleged Iranian manufactured weapons have been found in Iraq. Is it in the thousands? Hundreds? Three? If only a few weapons have been found it would suggest that there has been no systematic attempt at smuggling in arms, quite the contrary. Given the fact that the briefers had already delayed their briefing once because it lacked credibility, it would be plausible to assume that the number of seized Iranian weapons is small.63

A second element that is lacking is what might be described in law enforcement terms as a chain of custody whereby the weapons can be seen to move from the Iranian government through channels controlled by that same government into the hands of insurgents and militias with the intent to use the weapons against the occupation forces. This might appear to be an impossibly high standard of proof, but if the weapons are being moved by the Iranian government in any quantity there has to be an established mechanism that is being employed. As the United States and its allies control the ground inside Iraq, it is to be presumed that smuggling mechanisms would at a minimum be identifiable using intelligence and police resources, even if the Iranians are attempting to conceal the process. This is particularly true as the identification of a mechanism that can be clearly linked to Iran would appear to be a high priority objective for the multinational force and for the Iraqi police and army.

During the February 11th 2007 Baghdad briefing it was reported that the weapons on display were labeled in English because they are manufactured in Iran designated for sale in international arms markets. Domestic-use weapons are labeled in Farsi.64 It has also been noted by military briefers that Iranian manufactured weapons apparently arrive in Iraq through the services of smugglers who operate along the border.65 Connecting the dots it is possible to come to an alternative explanation for the presence of the weapons, namely that they are bought or stolen in Iran or even elsewhere and are smuggled in by individuals profiting from the seller’s market existing in Iraq.66 That mortar rounds and other weapons are in Iraq as a deliberate policy choice by the Iranian government is certainly plausible, but no solid evidence has been presented to back up that claim.

Mortar rounds aside, the weapon of choice for the insurgency is the Explosively Formed Penetrators or EFPs, which are frequently deployed as roadside bombs against American armor. The EFP is very simple to make. It consists of a concave copper disk that is placed at the top of a tube. At the bottom of the tube is an explosive charge, usually military grade plastic explosive, attached to a detonator, which can be a wire, a remote electric device like a cell phone link, an infrared device, or a timer. The detonator causes the explosive to go off, the heat and explosive power turning the copper disk into a molten jet of metal that can penetrate as much as eight inches of steel. The EFP or variations thereof has been around for a long time. It was reportedly used under its old name “shaped charge” by the French resistance against the Germans and by the Irish Republican Army against British armored vehicles and it has been used extensively by both Hezbollah and Hamas against the Israelis.

The claim that EFPs deployed in Iraq originate in Iran is perhaps the most serious charge against the Islamic Republic. EFPs cause by far the highest casualty rate among American soldiers because of their lethality. As has been noted above, military briefers accentuate the impact of the weapon by assuming that all deaths and injuries caused by the EFP are traceable to Iran. The case against Iran basically relies on two basic arguments. The first is that the EFP is actually a sophisticated weapon that has to have its copper disk machined in a weapons shop that is accustomed to milling metal to the finest tolerances. According to those who believe in an Iranian hand in EFP attacks, it is not possible that the weapons are being produced by Iraqis without Iranian assistance. The second argument is that the EFPs being used in Iraq are similar in configuration and “signature” to the EFPs being used by the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Since Hezbollah is assumed to be a surrogate of Iran then the insurgents in Iraq must also be relying on Iran for support.

It should be evident that there are problems with both of the arguments being used to link Iran to the EFPs. First, the American military knows perfectly well that the Iraqis are more than capable of making the weapon.67 Iraq had a large and relatively sophisticated military prior to 2003. It had its own weapons shops and ordnance experts, many of whom were Sunnis and many of whom became unemployed in the spring of 2003 when the army was disbanded. In late 2005, British forces discovered an EFP factory located in Majar al-Kabir, north of Basra.68 A raid by US troops on a machine shop in Baghdad in November 2006 discovered a stack of copper disks waiting to be fitted into EFPs.69 Weapons experts who are not US Army spokesmen and therefore free to contradict the official line claim that the weapon can, in fact, be made by any reasonably competent machine shop that has a metal lathe.70 The Israelis have obtained EFPs made both by Hezbollah and by technically far less advance Hamas. One such weapon destroyed a tank in Lebanon.71 It may be true that a copper disk that is not machined precisely might deviate slightly on its flight path and might not be as devastating as one that is perfect, but in practical terms it will still work. The more probably conclusion based on available evidence is that the EFP is not a difficult weapon to make.

Second, the argument that Hezbollah and the Iraqi insurgency are using the same tactics and weapons and therefore must both be controlled and directed by Iran is completely illogical. Hezbollah’s tactical independence from Iran will be discussed in greater detail below, but tactics and weapons improvisations are both derivative and evolutionary, particularly for insurgents and other unconventional fighters. It should not be surprising to see one group adopting the successful tactics and weapons of another, particularly as Hezbollah and the Mehdi Army are known to have an ongoing relationship.72 Why should anyone be surprised to see the Iraqi insurgents acquiring the know-how to make a simple weapon that costs $20 and which can knock out a $4 million tank?73

Iran has also been credited with training Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen and also funding their activity. The allegations have been repeated often enough to give them apparent credibility, but verifiable information to support the claims is lacking.74 If the US military and Iraqi government have indeed captured many insurgents who training in Iraq why is there a reticence to tell even one story providing names, dates, the location of the training, who the Iranian trainers were, and other details that might suggest that the allegations are true.75 If the US military is certain that Iran is funding militias where is the evidence? Again, when and how did it happen, where did the money come from, and who received it?76

Iran’s presumed relationship with Hezbollah is a critical part of the story. Hezbollah was founded during the Lebanese civil wars in mid-1980s. It was Iranian-backed and its original purpose was to defeat the right wing mostly Christian forces, the Phalangists, and eventually establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon. Since that time, it has also taken on the task of organizing resistance to the occupation of southern Lebanon by the Israeli Army. Like the Iranians, it is predominantly Shi’ite. Observers believe that Hezbollah continues to defer to Iran on religious and strategic issues and that it enjoys a close, fraternal relationship. But the nature of the relationship and the sense of reciprocity has shifted considerably since the summer of 2006, with Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah currently pursuing an independent policy that is much more focused on Lebanese politics. When Israel invaded southern Lebanon in July 2006 to liberate two captured soldiers, the successful resistance was orchestrated by Hezbollah itself and had little to do with Iran, though Iran did support its ally.77 The Iranian media initially criticized Hezbollah for allowing itself to get drawn into a protracted conflict with Israel, which placed Iran in a difficult position. It only became more supportive when the number of civilian casualties increased.78 Hezbollah has become a political party and a social force in Lebanon. It is a major player in the Lebanese political matrix. There is no evidence that it is currently invariably acting as a proxy for Iran even though it continues to enjoy a fraternal relationship and does support Iran where its own interests and those of Tehran converge.

Hezbollah pursues its own policy in neighboring Iraq, where it is assisting Shiite groups opposed to the United States. Hezbollah reportedly trained at least 2,000 militants belonging to the Mehdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and there is evidence that the training has continued.79 As al-Sadr and the Mehdi Army have had a sometimes rocky relationship with Iran, the training would not necessarily be in Tehran’s interest.80

It is also reasonable to assume that if Shi’ite militias have acquired the EFP technology from someone else, it most likely would have come from Hezbollah, not from Iran. Hezbollah has employed the weapon against the Israelis since 1997 and was particularly successful using it in 2006. It has also been claimed that “intelligence indicates” that machine tools that could be used to make the copper disks that are the most difficult to produce part of the weapon were sent to Lebanon by Iran in 2006.81 The United States government contention that similarities in tactical doctrine between Hezbollah and Shi’ites in Iraq suggest a common Iranian control over both is an argument that lacks credibility.82 Given what is known about contacts between the Mehdi Army and Hezbollah, it is more likely that it is Hezbollah that has been sharing both tactics and weapons improvisation techniques directly with the Iraqi Shi’ites.

One of the most glaring peculiarities of the case against Iraq is the misuse of statistics. The often repeated charge that Iran has been responsible for 170 deaths of American soldiers, leading inevitably to “they are already at war with us” rhetoric, comes from assuming that every EFP used in Iraq is Iranian in origin and that the Iranian government is complicit in shipping the weapons or their components into Iraq. There is no evidence for either assertion. As noted above, the EFP material can be produced locally or can come from any one of a number of other sources, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.83 There is no evidence that the Iranian government is involved in the process. It would also be interesting to know to what extent EFPs have been used against the Iraqi security forces, which are predominantly Shi’ite and include many militiamen from the Badr Group supported by Iran. If only US and multinational force are being targeted that would be suggestive, but if Shi’a are also the victims it would undercut claims that the weapons are being supplied by Iran. Unfortunately, detailed statistics on the targeting in insurgent attacks in Iraq has not been made public by the military authorities, if it is being compiled at all. Also, whether EFPs used against American forces are predominantly employed in Shi’ite as opposed to Sunni areas might help to indicate their possible source. Nor is there any information on the possible use of EFPs by the two leading Shi’ite militias, the Badr Group and the Mehdi Army. Unfortunately, no such breakdown of the details of the deployment of EFPs has been released by Central Command or the Iraqi authorities.

A specific claim that as many as fifty Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been on the loose in southern Iraq training and equipping Shi’ite militias has never been demonstrated.84 One assumes that the US and Iraqi authorities have made a major effort to detain those individuals, which suggests that their existence might well be apocryphal. Arrests of five Iranian officials in Irbil in the Kurdish region on January 10, 2007 have also failed to provide a “smoking pistol” on Iranian interference,85 though the arrest of two senior guardsmen in Baghdad during a visit to leading Shi’ite politician Abdul Aziz al-Hakim in December 2006 is suggestive of an ongoing strategic relationship between Iran and the Badr Organization.86

Finally, the case for Iran’s “military interference” in Iraq is largely circumstantial. Even assuming that Tehran is meddling in Iraq whenever possible to keep the United States off balance so it cannot attack Iran, specific instances that unambiguously demonstrate Iranian involvement based on names, dates, and places do not exist, or at least the US military and the Iraqi authorities have been unwilling or unable to provide details that would support the case. Very often the tenuousness of the information is masked by vague references to intelligence sources, which presumably must be protected. This argument has some merit, but the large number of weapons caches reported seized in Iraq surely suggests that all such successes cannot be based solely on carefully protected clandestine operations. Specific verifying information on many of the seizures must be available without damaging vital sources of intelligence. Since the United States government is selectively charging Iran with offenses that might lead to war, enough credible information must be revealed to assure the public and the media that the argument has merit. The information can be carefully screened to prevent disclosure of sensitive information, but a case for war must perforce be made in a transparent fashion. This has not occurred regarding Iran, where the Bush Administration policy has been to repeatedly assert that interference in Iraq is taking place without providing the type of evidence that would unambiguously support the claim.

  1. The Relationship between the Iranian and Iraqi Governments

In spite of the angry rhetoric coming out of Washington, the relationship between Iraq’s government and that of Iran has generally been a comfortable one.87 The two countries established full diplomatic relations in September 2004.88 In August 2006, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) told an interviewer that despite numerous requests made by himself and other Shi’ite politicians, the US authorities had failed to demonstrate any real evidence supporting Iranian meddling in Iraq.89 More recently, the first visit by an Iranian head of state to Baghdad cemented the economic ties between the two countries and confirmed that “Iran is becoming Iraq’s indispensible political ally and trading partner.”90

Iran has a clearly defined national interest vis-à-vis Iraq. It does not want to see Iraq become chaotic and thereby destabilizing but it also does not want to see the country become politically united and so powerful that it will again represented a political, military, and economic threat to Tehran. In support of that objective, it seeks a united and democratic Iraq that is federal in nature, limiting the possibility that a strong central government with nationalistic aspirations will develop. A stable Iraq would, in the Iranian view, also lead to a departure of US forces sooner rather than later, a major policy objective as Tehran sees the continued American presence as a direct threat to its survival.91 A secondary agenda is to limit the extent to which Iraq will become a challenge to Iran’s primacy as the center of Shi’ism. Some commentators have described Iran’s choice for Iraq as manageable chaos,92 but that is surely too strong a judgment and it would be more accurate to say that Iran seeks to influence developments in Iraq in a direction that is favorable to its own interests while at the same time working to contain American power.

Iraq also has a clearly defined national interest regarding Iran. It desires a fraternal relationship based on the Shi’ite ties shared by most of the population of the two countries, but it at the same time seeks to maintain its identity and independence from its much larger and more powerful neighbor. The Iraqi identity is largely based on the fact the Iraq is an Arab nation linguistically, ethnically, and culturally while Iran is predominantly Persian. Iraq also has a different vision of the relationship between religion and the state. Iraqi religious leaders are predominantly of the “quietist” school which believes that Shi’ite Islam should have an influence on the country but that clerics should not run it, with a clear separation between religious and political authority.93 Iran believes that religion and state should not be separated and that the religious authorities should also be the ultimate political authorities.

As Iran and Iraq share a 900 mile border and are each other’s most important trading partners,94 Iranian involvement in Iraq is inevitable. The question is to what degree that involvement becomes actual interference manifested as an attempt to control developments inside Iraq. Many Iraqi political leaders have links to Iran, primarily derived from the fact that Iran was the only country willing to shelter Shi’ite dissidents during the rule of Saddam Hussein.95 The country’s senior Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani was born in Iran and meets regularly with visiting Iranians while refusing to meet with US diplomats.96 Iran has had good relations with the ruling Kurdish party since the early 1990s, when Saddam Hussein was forced to relinquish his military control over the region.97 Iraqi politicians visit Iran regularly and the Iranian government has established relationships with virtually every political faction in Iraq, including the Sunnis.98

Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, one time head of SCIRI and its Badr Group militia, actually fought on the Iranian side in the war against Iraq in the 1980s. His son Abdul Aziz al-Hakim lived in Iran until 2003. He now heads both the party and the group, both of which are key supporters of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. SCIRI and Badr are generally regarded as the being very close to Iran. Both SCIRI and the other dominant Shi’ite political party Dawa have received funds from Tehran but have carefully distanced themselves from any overt political connection.99 The Badr Group, which fought against Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war, was reportedly trained and armed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and still has connections to it. There is believed to be some lingering resentment by Iraqis of the Shi’ite parties formerly all-too-intimate relationships with Iran.100

Varying degrees of Iranian connections are frequently found within the Iraqi government. Many prominent Iraqi politicians have been linked to Iran, but most temper their attachment by stressing their commitment to Iraqi identity. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, one time prime minister and head of Dawa Party, actually formed the party because of his concern that SCIRI was too close to Iran. He nevertheless spent ten years in Iran during the war between the two countries before moving to London in 1989. Humam Hamoudi chairs the constitutional committee of SCIRI. He lived in Iran from 1981 until 2003. Deputy President and SCIRI member Adil Abd al-Mahdi spent the 1980s in Tehran. Senior SCIRI member and former government minister Bayan Jabr commanded the Badr Group and lived in Iran during the 1980s and 1990s.101

The relationship between Iran and rising politician Moqtada al-Sadr has been somewhat problematical. Al-Sadr, whose father and uncle were both killed by Saddam Hussein, controls nearly 11% of the delegates in the Iraqi Parliament and heads the Mehdi Army. The Mehdi Army has been described by Professor Juan Cole as a movement rather than an organization, though this view is being somewhat revised in the wake of fighting between Mehdi and the government forces at the end of March 2008.102

Among leading politicians, al-Sadr is the de facto focal point for Iraqis who demand an end to the foreign military occupation of their country.103 He also demands a strong central government that is independent of Iran and not ruled by theocrats.104 Over the past year, al-Sadr has been burnishing his religious credentials through instruction in Iran’s spiritual center Qom.105 He lacks religious credentials but aspires to become an Ayatollah at the earliest possible age, forty. He has carefully accepted Iranian assistance and has been receptive to attempts to build bridges to him and to his supporters. He is reported to have a close working relationship with Hezbollah, which may have been the source of inspiration for his militia, and his militiamen have also received training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Al-Sadr is nevertheless an Iraqi nationalist who has frequently criticized the SCIRI Party for being too close to Iran and his first trip to Iran was relatively late, in June 2003. Though he has been there a number times since on visits, notably pledging in January 2006 to defend Iran if it is attacked by the US,106 he also is careful to maintain his independence. In February 2007, he suspended two of his commanders who had reportedly received money from Iran. In an attempt to gain control over his Mehdi Army he has also “frozen” the positions of forty others, twenty of whom have been linked to Iran, but there are reports that many of the commanders who are punished are quickly restored to duty. The management changes might be linked to the reports that there are rogue factions within the Mehdi Army that are answering to Iran.107

The overriding question of whether Iraqi politicians are being directed by Iran can be answered unambiguously: they are not.108 Influenced yes, but controlled or directed, no. Even those who spent many years in Iran are careful to burnish their nationalist credentials and all are quick to cite their Arab identity. This is not to suggest however, that no politicians have a close and continuing relationship with the Iranians or that the Iranians lack ability to influence developments. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim certainly does look to Iran for guidance while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relies heavily on al-Hakim’s support to provide his ability to govern. Some Sunni politicians rally their own constituencies by citing the danger of a grand Shia alliance, but even they know that such a combination is unlikely. Iran is a powerful neighbor that must always be considered and sometimes placated, but sources in Iraq generally agree that Tehran’s ability to control developments in Baghdad is limited.

An excellent case in point demonstrating Iran’s influence with its neighbor is the resolution of the fighting that erupted between Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mehdi Militia and the forces of the central government during the last week of March 2008. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, answering to his own Dawa Party and SCIRI, had hoped to eliminate the al-Sadr presence in the key city of Basra prior to local elections later this year but miscalculated and was facing a beating. Members of his own party in parliament, without informing the prime minister, traveled to Qom in Iran on March 28th and arranged a meeting with Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani head of the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard to request that Iran mediate a cease fire. Moqtada al-Sadr was in Qom studying for a religious degree and agreed to attend a meeting hosted by Suleimani. Fighting between one Shi’ite faction considered very close to Iran – the government forces – and another faction considered friendly – the Mehdi Army – was not in Iran’s interest. The sources who were present at the meeting report that Iran “brokered” or “mediated” an agreement that resulted in a cease fire. Iran, obviously influential, was able to bring about an outcome favorable to itself, but it also appears clear that it was able to play a “good faith” role bringing together two parties that it considered to be friendly. There is no evidence to suggest that Iran was either trying to impose a solution or that it was controlling the Iraqi political situation.109

  1. Policy Options for the United States and Iran

At the present time, Iran has few incentives to cooperate with the United States over Iraq. The lack of any incentives has been exacerbated by warlike rhetoric out of Washington coupled with the lack of anything equating to an American policy towards the Islamic Republic.110 Or towards the region.111 Ray Takeyh asks “Can the United States transcend its visceral suspicions of Iran and recognize that its long-term nemesis may be a source of stability?”112

It is necessary to start with the assumption that the current Iraq policy is a failure. Even the supporters of the “surge” concede that it can only buy time for a political framework to be constructed,113 something that has not happened and currently appears highly unlikely given the fighting that has erupted between Shi’ite groups as of late March 2008 and which will likely break out again. If Iraq continues to ignore the American prodding seeking to turn it into a model democracy, it is to be assumed that the security provided by the surge of 158,000 troops has been little more than a temporary success, if that.

It must also be conceded that the policy towards Iran has been a failure. There has, in fact, been no US policy to speak of, only allegations about Iranian behavior leading to threats.114 There has been a series of uncoordinated responses to developing situations, culminating in the firing of the Central Command’s Admiral William Fallon on March 3, 2008, apparently for sending the wrong signals about Washington’s willingness to engage Iran militarily. Fallon had also demanded a comprehensive and realistic security strategy for the entire region running from Lebanon in the west to Afghanistan in the east, something that the Bush Administration was unable to consider much less digest.115

US policy towards Iran must first of all concede that Iran is a rational player that is driven by self interest.116 It must deal with four fundamental questions: What does Iran intend to do in Iraq? Does Iran seek to export its Islamic revolution? Will Iran support the insurgency inside Iraq to entangle US forces? Do Iran and the US have common interests in Iraq?117 As has been demonstrated in the previous chapters, Iran appears to have no real prospect of being able to export its religious revolution to Iraq even if it wished to do so. It clearly seeks a stable though politically weakened Iraq that will not threaten it militarily and that will lead to the expeditious departure of US forces. Both Washington and Tehran want the same thing for Iraq, stability and predictability.

US pressure on Tehran has been extremely counter-productive, shifting the dynamics within Iran against the reformers by lining up the country’s religious leadership behind hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This alignment has brought about the election of a new parliament that is more conservative and will likely be more supportive of confrontation in the foreign policy arena.118 Iran meanwhile continues to expand a nuclear program that could ultimately lead to the development of weapons while the US lacks resources to respond effectively. As Iran and Iraq should not be viewed in isolation, a new paradigm for the entire region is essential.

The United States should have several strategic objectives relating to Iran and Iraq, but it must first of all accept that it will achieve nothing without diplomatic engagement with Iran based on no preconditions. This was the essential message of the bipartisan Iraq Studies Group (ISG) and it has been echoed by many other foreign policy experts since the ISG report and its conclusions were rejected by the Bush Administration.119 Currently, the United States does not actually talk to Iran in spite of repeated assertions that it is both willing and prepared to negotiate outstanding issues. An Iranian proposal to settle all outstanding problems that was made through the Swiss Embassy in 2003 was rejected by the White House and the Swiss diplomats were even admonished for raising the issue.120 President Ahmadinejad has also offered to discuss bilateral problems, but his approaches to the Bush Administration have been ridiculed.121

Seeking a diplomatic solution is not to suggest that Iran should be given a carte blanche to behave as it sees fit, but it rather is to suggest that the playing field starts out even and then reciprocal steps can then be taken to build confidence and reduce tensions. There are serious issues that must be resolved, including Iranian nuclear ambitions, the alleged interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threats against neighboring Sunni Arab states and Israel. The US, for its part, must satisfy Iranian security concerns and stake out a path that will lead to Iran’s becoming an accepted and unexceptional member of the world community.

The final objective of US-Iran dialogue would be a normalization of relations between the United States and Iran to permit negotiation and compromise on all outstanding areas of disagreement, to include the situation inside Iraq. This would all be part of establishing a new security framework for the Middle East that would reduce tensions, eliminate regional threats, and guarantee an uninterrupted flow of oil and gas. As the United States is now militarily dominant in the region, it should feel empowered to take the first step, possibly by explicitly ending its threatening language and giving security guarantees to Iran if it does not proceed with obtaining technical mastery of the fuel cycle for its nuclear program. As experts believe that control of the fuel cycle would permit easy development of weapons grade isotopes,122 it would be a key concession by Iran and the security guarantee would be a significant and commensurate offer by the United States.

Given the current state of western anxiety about Tehran and its intentions and Iranian concerns about the threat posed by the US, everything would have to be based on reciprocal actions subject to detailed and intrusive bilateral verification. As Ronald Reagan put it, “Trust but verify.”123 Everything should be on the negotiating table, to include Iranian support of groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, nuclear weapons programs, and the scale of legitimate Iranian interaction with its neighbors, most notably Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a first step in attempting to shift the regional strategic balance, the US should support elements in Israel who are willing to engage with Syria to normalize relations. Currently, the United States is blocking Israelis who seek a negotiated solution with Syria, which Damascus reportedly is keen to obtain.124 An agreement between Tel Aviv and Damscus underwritten by the United States would end Syrian support for Hezbollah and Hamas and would also perforce end the strategic relationship with Iran. It would, at a stroke, close the overland route between Iran and Lebanon that permits militants to move across country and obtain new supplies of weapons. “Syria is a literal and figurative bridge between Iran and Hezbollah.”125

Without the Syrian and Lebanese nexus, Iran continues to be a major regional power, but its reach and ability to meddle is much reduced. At that point, the outstanding issues can be negotiated and hopefully resolved one by one, recognizing that the United States presence in the Middle East is a given for the foreseeable future and that Iran is a regional power with legitimate national interests. It is most important to realize that the United States and Iran actually share an interest in doing whatever is necessary to help bring about a stable Iraq.126 With normalized relations, American soft power could have a major impact on Iran, which has a young population that is attracted to western culture and liberties.127

While it is unrealistic to assume that Iran and the United States can resolve all of their differences, it is equally unrealistic to assume that sustained and serious negotiation will bear no fruit as the neoconservatives persistently argue in their case against Tehran. Iran is, at the end of the day, like any other nation. It is not suicidal and it is responsive to the same needs and priorities that drive any modern nation state. Recent opinion polls clearly demonstrate that the Iranian people are far from anti-Western, quite the contrary.128 Iran is resentful of its status as a pariah, which has been self-inflicted by leaders like Ahmadinejad, and there is considerable evidence that many in its political leadership would like to make it a more “normal” country.129 It can only do so if the threat from Washington subsides. The United States likewise, cast in the role of the school bully ever since the events of 9/11, is sorely in need of a change of direction and a refurbishing of its image. That change of direction could be signaled by a resolution of the issues dividing Washington from Tehran, a troubled relationship that has been long viewed as one of the most intractable in the world.

1 Richard A. Oppel and Ahmad Fadam, “Ahmadinejad, in Iraq, Chides Bush on Iran Criticism,” The New York Times, March 3, 2008.

2 Davis S. Cloud, “Iraqi Rebels Refine Bomb Skills, Pushing Toll of G.I.’s Higher,” The New York Times, June 22, 2005..

3 Jim Miklaszewski, “Most sophisticated of roadside bombs reportedly coming from Iran,” NBC news, August 4, 2005, see

4 Daniela Deane, “Rumsfeld Says Weapons from Iran found in Iraq,” The Washington Post, August 9, 2005.

5 Gareth Porter, “Despite Charges, No Evidence Iran Sending IEDs to Iraq,” January 17, 2007, posted on

6 “Blair Warns Iran over Iraq bombs,” BBC News, October 6, 2005.

7 Federal News Service, “Remarks by President George W. Bush after Being Briefed by a Joint Improvised explosive Device Defeat Task Force.”

8 “President Discusses Freedom and Democracy in Iraq,” available on

9 Gareth Porter, “Bush’s campaign to pin the Iraq quagmire on Iranian meddling won’t wash,” The American Prospect, February 2, 2007.

10 Ibid. See also Kenneth Katzman, Congressional Research Service, “Iran’s Activities and Influence in Iraq,” January 24, 2008.

11 Gareth Porter, “US Demanding Iran Restrain Shiite Groups,” August 3, 2007, on

12 Michael Gordon, “Hezbollah Said to Help Shiite Army in Iraq.”

13 Jonathan Karl and Martin Clancy, “Exclusive: Iranian Weapons Army Iraqi Militia: Hezbollah Training Also Linked to Iraq Violence,” on

14 Lieberman was appearing on CBS’s Sunday morning broadcast “Face the Nation.”

15 Ibid.

16 Quoted on the first page of the briefing on Iranian Support for Lethal Activity in Iraq, February 11, 2007, see citation 24 below.

17 White House Press release,

18 Interview with USA Today, published on January 31, 2007. Odierno was mistaken about the Katyushas, which have not been used by insurgents in Iraq, and about the RPG-29, which is manufactured in Russia, not Iran. According to Russian sources, Iran does not have the weapon though Hezbollah might have acquired several from Syria, see “Russia denies sending anti-tank weapons to Hizbollah-ministry,” Novosti, October 8, 2006.

19 Gareth Porter, “Bush’s Campaign to pin the Iraq quagmire on Iranian meddling won’t wash,” The American Prospect, February 2, 2007.

20 “U.S. Delays Report on Iranian Role in Iraq,” February 1, 2007.

21 “DoD News Briefing with Secretary Gates and General Pace from Pentagon,” February 2, 2007, on www.defenselink,mil.

22 The number assumes that all deaths by EFPs can be blamed on Iran. At the time, most coalition deaths were credited to Sunni insurgents, an unlikely group for Iran to be supporting.

23 Raw Story, “US Claims Iranian bombs have killed 170 Iraqi coalition troops,” February 11, 2007.

24 Ibid. Also the power point briefing, which is available in a pdf file from the Defense Department website. It states that Iran is “a significant contributor to attacks on coalition forces,” that a “growing body of evidence” points to “Iranian supply of EFPs to extremist groups,” and that “evidence suggests that Iran is also providing training and other forms of weaponry to extremist groups.” It also asserted that the al-Qods Force, referred to as “enablers of violence,” trains extremists and supports terrorism. See also Babak Dehghanpisheh, “Baghdad Briefing,” appearing in Newsweek on February 12, 2007 and appearing on the website in an updated on October 19, 2007.

25 “U.S. Says Raid in Iraq Supports Claim on Iran.”

26 “U.S. Displays Bomb Parts Said to Be Made in Iran.”

27 The briefing is reported in full at It was reported on in The New York Times the next day by Alissa Rubin, “U.S. Suspects that Iran Aids Both Sunni and Shiite Militias.”

28 Sadr Mehdi Brigade former spokesman Qais Khazali and Lebanese Hezbollah official Ali Musa Daqduq.

29 Porter, “US Demanding Iran Restrain Shiite Groups.” Michael R. Gordon of The New York Times reported more alarmingly that the Qods Force had planned the attack, “U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack.” See also Katzman pg. 3. The actual press conference is available on

30 Ibid.

31 Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Says Iran-Supplied Bomb Kills More Troops.”

32 “Iran ‘training Iraqi mortar men,’” BBC News, July 26, 2007.

33 Discussed by Philip Giraldi, “Who’s Killing American Soldiers in Iraq?” August 28, 2007, posted on

35 Gareth Porter, “Debunking the Neocons’ Iran War Measure,” Setpember 27, 2007, posted on

36 Available in full at When the Kyl-Lieberman amendment was debated in the Senate, James Webb of Virginia said, “At best, it’s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy. At worst, it could be read as a backdoor method of gaining congressional validation for military action, without one hearing and without serious debate.” Webb also called the amendment “Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream” and noted that the attempt to categorize the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary guard as a “foreign terrorist organization” would mandate military action against Iran: “What do we do with terrorist organizations? … We attack them.”

37 The designation came during a briefing on Iran given by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, see www.state.gove for the entire statement.

38 “U.S. Says it Will Release Nine of 20 Iranians Captured in Iraq.” Wright’s description is somewhat reminiscent of “when did you stop beating your wife?” Wright reports claims by US government officials that the agreement had resulted in a reduction in violent deaths in Iraq, but she fails to recognize that most of the deaths in Iraq at the time were sourced to Shi’ite militias and the largest militia, the Mehdi Army, had just initiated a cease fire. See Richard Beeston, “Al-Sadr declares Mahdi Army Cease Fire,” The Times: London, August 29, 2007.

39 Gareth Porter, “White House Squabble on Releasing Iranians,” The Asia Times, November 29, 2007 and also Golnaz Esfandiari, “Iran: Ahmadinejad Declares Ties with Iraq ‘Excellent’.” Reported by Radio Free Europe, September 12, 2007.

40 Michael B. Gordon and Dexter Filkins, “Hezbollah Said to Help Shiite Army in Iraq,” The New York Times, November 28, 2006.

41 Gareth Porter, “Petraeus Sought to Prevent Release of Iranians,” November 27, 2007, posted on

42 VOA English Service, “Iran-backed Shiites Continue Attacks in Baghdad, Despite Reduced Violence.”

43 Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, “U.S. General: ‘Jury Still Out’ on Flow of Weapons from Iran.”

44 Reported by the Federal News Service as Defense department Regular Briefing for that date.

45 Michael R. Gordon, “Pentagon Says Services in Iraq Are Stagnant,” The New York Times, December 19, 2007. See also the report itself, available on the Department of Defense website.

46 Reported by White House Press Releases.

47 Reported by the Federal News Service as a Defense Department Briefing.

48 The interview is on, entitled “Gates: No Immediate Military Threat from Iran.”

49 Reported by the Federal News Service.

50 Andrew Gray, “Iran may be biggest threat to Iraq: U.S. General,” Reuters, March 4, 2008.

51 Leila Fadel, “U.S.: Iran reneged on pledge to quit supporting Iraqi militias,” McClatchy Washington Bureau, March 5, 2008.

52 Alfred de Montesquiou, “McCain: Iran’s Influence on the Rise,” Associated Press.

53 The comment was initially reported by McClatchy Newspapers in “Bush erroneously says Iran announced desire for nuclear weapons.” Agence France Presse reported both the comment and White House spin of it in “White House back pedals on Bush comments on Iran bomb,” March 21, 2008.

54 Reported by ABC News on March 25, 2008, “Iran behind Green Zone barrage: Petraeus,”

55 Leila Fadel, “Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire,” McClatchy Newspapers, March 30, 2008.

56 The International Crisis Group put it very well on March 21, 2005, in “Iran in Iraq: How Much Influence?”, “…the evidence of attempted destabilizing Iranian intervention is far less extensive and clear than is alleged; the evidence of successful destabilizing intervention less extensive and clear still.” The notion of interference “…has had the insidious effect of shaping perceptions; if it continues unchallenged, it clearly runs the risk of determining policy…Nor has any concrete evidence been presented to bolster the claim that Iran is either actively promoting the insurgency or seeking to maximize instability.”

57 “Iraq’s neighbors influence…events within Iraq, but the involvement of these outside actors is not likely to be a major driver of violence or the prospects for stability because of the self-sustaining character of Iraq’s internal sectarian dynamics.” Prospects for Iraq’s Stability: A Challenging Road Ahead, January 2007, available at

58 Press Briefing, see www.mnf-iraq-com.

59 Liz Sly, “Concerns rise over Iran-backed militias in Iraq,” Chicago Tribune, February 29, 2008. Sly reports that relationship of the splinter groups with “Iran’s government isn’t clear.” She also reports speculation that the Iranian leadership might not know what the relationship really is due the extreme secretiveness and compartmentation within the government.

60 “Iran’s New Iraq: Effect of the United States invasion of Iraq on the Persian Gulf,” Middle East Journal, Winter 2008.

61 Ibid.

62 As of November 7th, 2007, the US military was reporting the discovery of 5,300 weapons caches in Iraq for 2007 with “much of the material from Iran.” Robin Wright, op. cit.

63 Richter.

64 Press Briefing Caldwell and Weber, April 11, 2007, The briefing inadvertently revealed the diversity of weapons available to insurgents. Several rocket propelled grenades captured in a weapons cache had been made in Bulgaria. During the same briefing, a military official “who was not allowed to speak publicly” suggested that “arms dealers are selling to every side in the conflict,” Alissa J. Rubin, “U.S. Suspects That Iran Aids Both Sunni and Shiite Militias,” The New York Times, April 12, 2007.

65 Press Briefing by Major General William Caldwell and Major Marty Weber, April 11, 2007, available on

66 Central Asia entrepreneurs are also noted for their ability to reproduce facsimile weapons of any type on demand. The weapons are frequently difficult to distinguish from the real thing even when examined by an ordnance expert. In the late 1900s the British were astonished to find that their highly sophisticated Martini-Henry rifles were falling into Afghan hands. The subsequently discovered that they were being manufactured in small blacksmith’s shops in the tribal areas using a captured weapon as a model, the small shops being able to produce rifles that were functionally identical to the ones being manufactured in British government armories. More recently, the arms industry located around Peshawar has been producing perfect counterfeits of the Russian assault rifle the Ak-47. Schachtman op. cit. Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center also recognizes the vitality of the black market in weapons in the Near East, see “Pollack: Bush’s Iraq Plan Deserves Chance,” Council on Foreign Relations, January 30, 2007.

67 US Army Special Forces training manuals that provide instructions on making and using shaped charges are available on the internet, see

68 Gareth Porter, “US Military Ignored Evidence of Iraqi-Made EFPs,” October 26, 2007, posted on

69 Reported by Andrew Cockburn, “In Iraq, anyone can make a bomb,” Los Angeles Times, February 16, 2007. See also Noah Shachtman, “Iraq’s Superbombs: homemade?” February 26, 2007, appearing in Shachtman describes the making of the particularly lethal EFPs as an “intermediate technology” which is difficult to develop initially but then is easy to copy by any skilled craftsman.

70 Michael Knights, Jane’s Intelligence Review, January, 2007. Knights also disputed the military’s contention that the use of C-4 with Iranian markings as the explosive charge from a batch matching explosive seized on a Hezbollah ship in 2003 proves an Iranian connection. It suggests instead a Hezbollah connection. Even US Army ordnance expert Major Marty Weber conceded in February 2007 that “you can never be certain,” when asked if the EFPs could be made in Iraq instead of Iran. He also admitted that key components for the EFPs are readily available, see James Glanz and Richard A. Oppel, “U.S. Says Raid in Iraq Supports Claim on Iran,” The New York Times, February 26, 2007. Bomb parts displayed by the US military in February 2007 included tubes that had been made in the United Arab Emirates and in Iraq, see Glanz and Oppel, “U.S. Displays Bomb Parts Said to Be Made in Iran.”

71 Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Tel Aviv, in a report “Anti-Israeli Terrorism 2006: Data, Analysis, and Trends,” March 2007. The Israelis confirm that the weapons, which have been given the name “shawaz” by Hamas, are locally produced, though they suspect they were made using Hezbollah advice and “know-how.”

72 Mohamad Bazzi, “Borrowing Hezbollah’s Tactics,” Newsday, August 12, 2005.

73 Cockburn.

74 Though see Gareth Porter, “Embarrassed US Starts to Disown Basra Operation,” Inter Press Service, April 1, 2008, which claims that “Thousands of Mahdi Army fighters, including top commanders, were sent to Iran for training.” Porter is a reliable source, but he does not provide his sub-source for the allegation.

75 On March 3, 2008, the US command reported the capture of an unnamed Shi’ite splinter “Special Group” commander in the Beida neighborhood of Baghdad. “US Captures Iranian special forces commander near Baghdad,”

76 Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, a hawk on the Iraq war who has since repented, called the rhetoric about Iran “…dangerously reminiscent of how they talked about the Syrians in 2004 and 2005, when they ridiculously exaggerated Syria’s role in the Sunni insurgency…they are starting to do the same thing with Iran and the Shi’ite insurgency.” Council on Foreign Relations, January 30, 2007. Pollack also asserts that “…there’s no good evidence to show the Iranians are instigating any Shiite attacks on the United States.”

77 Elaine Sciolino, “Iran Backs Hezbollah in Lebanon,” International Herald Tribune, July 19, 2006.

78 This was reported by Hadi Semati in the United States Institute for Peace, Robert Grace & Andrew Mandelbaum, “Understanding the Iran-Hezbollah Connection,” September 2006. The article also stated that “While its patronage of Hezbollah has had a coattail effect for the current leadership, Semati agreed with the other panelists that Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent operations should not be overstated. Noting Hezbollah’s rapidly growing independence from Iran in recent years, he doubted that Iran was ‘operationally involved’ with planning or execution in the conflict. ‘Iran has influence,’ Semati stated, ‘but they don’t have a veto.’” The other panelists were Vasi Nasr, Kenneth Pollack, and Ray Takeyh.

79 Gordon, “Hezbollah Said to Help Shiite Army in Iraq.”

80 The Mehdi Army is politically tied to the Dawa Party, which is close to Iran, but the other large Shi’ite militia, the Badr Organization, is generally regarded as being much closer to Tehran through its affiliation with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which is financially supported by Iran. Al-Sadr is a devoutly religious Shi’ite but he is also regarded as a “nativist” who believes that the Iraqi religious leadership must be native born Iraqi, rejecting any subservience to Iran. Robert Dreyfuss, “Badr vs. Sadr,” September 22, 2005, posted on, describes Sadr’s relationship with Iran as “unclear” even though he has frequently visited the country, has sought refuge there, and has vowed to defend it if it is attacked. When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Iraq in late February 2008, he met several political leaders, but not al-Sadr.

81 Ibid.

82 Glanz claims that the weapons have an “Iranian signature” if they have not been found outside of southern Lebanon or Iraq.

83 A Hezbollah operative named Ali Musa Daqduq was detained in March inside Iraq near Basra by US forces, presumably while advising local Shi’ite militants. According to Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, he had made at least four trips to Iraq, where he “was tasked to organize the special groups in ways that mirrored how Hezbollah was organized in Lebanon.” No Iranian was reported to be involved. See Michael Gordon, “U.S. Ties Iran to Deadly Iraq Attack,” The New York Times, July 2, 2007.

84 The Washington Post lead editorial “Tougher on Iran,” August 21, 2007.

85 The five men were arrested in a building that the Iranians called a “consulate” in Irbil. The Iranian office had been operating for several years with the consent of the Kurdish regional government and the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshayr Zebari immediately demanded that the men be released as they were in Iraq legitimately helping with visas and other paperwork for traveling Iraqis. Several of the employees were Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers as the Guard is responsible for border security. Intensive interrogation of the five did not produce any intelligence and two men were quietly released in November 2007. The other three are still in detention. There are also media reports that at least fifteen other Iranians have been detained, seven of whom have been released. None of the Iranians in custody has been charged by either the US or Iraqi authorities. See Wright op. cit.

86 Gareth Porter, “Sadr Offensive Show Failure of Petraeus Strategy,” Inter Press Service News Agency, March 29, 2008.

87 Anoushiravan Ehteshami, “Iran-Iraq Relations after Saddam,” The Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington Quarterly, Autumn 2003, dismisses the “persistent notion that the two countries are somehow destined for rivalry” since their historic conflict derived from Ottoman-Sassanian competition over Mesopotamia, political entities that no longer exist.

88 Mounir Elkhamri, “Iran’s Contribution to the Civil War in Iraq,” The Jamestown Foundation, January 2007. Elkhamri states that there is a “strong history of Iranian-sponsored unrest in Iraq” and that Tehran is seeking to “assume total control” over Iraq but fails to provide evidence for either assertion. He claims that “Vast areas of Iraq are under the virtual control of the Qods Force…” a claim that no other source has made, and that one third of two thousand Iranian religious scholars in Iraq are actually intelligence officers. His source is “Terrorists Training Camp in Iran,” in Iran Focus, February 27, 2006, an article that could not otherwise identified. Elkhamri is an analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Ft. Leavenworth Kansas. He speaks Arabic but not Farsi. That said, however, Iran’s closest ally in Iraq is al-Hakim and his comments might not be objective. Many Sunni politicians would disagree with him about Iranian interference.

89 Golnaz Esfandiari, “Iran: Ahmadinejad Declares Ties with Iraq ‘Excellent’,” Reported by Radio Free Europe on September 12, 2006.

90 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit, in which he was greeted with a lavish public ceremonial was favorably viewed in comparison to visits by US politicians who remain in the heavily protected Green Zone, only venturing out by helicopter. Ahmadinejad moved around by car. It was also noted by the Iraqi media that none of Iraq’s Arab neighbors had yet sent a head to state to Baghdad and that many Arab countries do not even have an embassy in Baghdad. Allen Pizzey, “Iran Winning Iraqi Hearts and Minds,” CBS News, March 4, 2008.

91 See especially Takeyh “Iran’s New Iraq.”

92 International Crisis Group op. cit.

93 This is the view of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and of the dominant Dawa political party. Geoffrey Kemp, “Iran and Iraq: The Shia Connection, Soft Power, and the Nuclear Factor,” United States Institute of Peace, November 2005.

94 The trade exceeds $8 billion per year and is expected to grow rapidly. Iran will be supplying electricity to Basra. “Iran Winning Iraqi Hearts And Minds.”

95 Edward Wong, “Iran is in Strong Position to Steer Iraq’s Political Future,” The New York Times, July 3, 2004.

96 Sistani has refused to issue a fatwa or religious ruling condemning the production of nuclear weapons because he does not wish to bring on a confrontation with Iran if Tehran goes ahead with its weapons program. Babak Rahimi, “The Sadri-Sistani Relationship,” The Jamestown Foundation, March 29, 2007.

97 Iraqi President and Kurd Jalal Talabani has a relationship with Iran going back twenty-two years. Iran has carefully cultivated its ties with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is the dominant party in the Kurdish region. M. Javedanfar, “Iran’s 22 years relationship with Iraq’s Interim President,”, dated December 4, 2005.

98 Kemp op. cit.

99 It was reported in 2004 that “The United States Army has observed ‘a large amount of US currently being passed by Iran’ to SCIRI,” Wong op. cit.

100 Half a million Iraqis died during the war against Iran in the 1980s. Wong and Kemp.

101 Ibid.

102 See especially Porter, “Embarrassed US Starts to Disown Basra Operation,” who argues that the Mehdi turned out to be much better organized and controlled than had been expected. See also Charles Crain, “How Moqtada al-Sadr Won In Basra,” Time Magazine, April 1, 2008.

103 “Analysts Discuss the Influence of Muqtada al-Sadr,” National Public Radio, March 27, 2006. Media reports prior to March 2008 that the US military had achieved dialogue and a modus vivendi with Mehdi were much overstated. In fact, there was only intermittent contact and only with low level functionaries.

104 See New York Times blog posting “Mullah Time,” April 1, 2008, posting by “Blue Sun.”

105 Amir Taheri, “The ‘Manchurian Mullah’,” The New York Post, February 1, 2008. He has reportedly grown much closer to Iran of late, see Robert Dreyfuss, “The Lessons of Basra,” The Nation, March 31, 2008.

106 Babak Rahimi, “Moqtada al-Sadr’s New Alliance with Tehran,” The Jamestown Foundation, March 1, 2007. But see also Ellen Knickmeyere and Omar Fekeiki, “Iraqi Shiite Cleric Pledge to Defend Iran, The Washington Post, January 24, 2006, which says that al-Sadr pledged to come to the aid of “any Islamic State.”

107 Damien Cave, “Iraq Rebel Cleric Reins In Militia; Motives at Issue,” The New York Times, February 25, 2007.

108 In the current fighting between Badr and Mehdi Army, Anthony Cordesman sees Iran as supporting all sides “ensuring that it would support the winner,” Frank James, “Expert: Current Iraq fighting not good guys vs. bad,” Baltimore Sun, March 26, 2008 and also Cordesman. “A Civil War Iraq Can’t Win, The New York Times, March 30, 2008.. Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress in “Resurging Iraqi Violence: Shi’a Civil War Only One of Many,” sees Badr as Iran’s “closest allies inside Iraq” but that the overriding issue is an “intra-Shia civil war” that is a struggle for power. See also above footnotes 56, 57, and 75 for comments on the essentially Iraqi nature of Iraqi politics from the International Crisis Group, the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, and from Kenneth Pollack. See also Takeyh, who notes that Iraq’s political parties “must place some distance between themselves and Tehran.”

109 See especially Fadel “Iranian general played key role in brokering Iraq cease-fire,” and Warren Strobel and Leila Fadel, “Iranian who brokered Iraqi peace is on US terrorist watch list,” McClatchy Newspapers, March 31, 2008.

110 Kemp op. cit.

111 Katulis, who describes the Bush Administration approach to the Middle East as “strategic confusion.”

112 Ray Takejh, “Iran’s New Iraq: Effect of the United States’ invasion of Iraq on the Persian Gulf,” Middle East Journal, Winter 2008.

113 Keith W. Mines, “After the Surge: the Only Iraq worth fighting for,”, January 8, 2008.

114 Porter, “Embarrassed U.S.”

115 Philip Giraldi, “Fallon Walks the Plank,” March 17, 2008, Huffington Post. The last four commanders of Central command, who would actually have to fight a war initiated by the White House, have all gone on record as supporting direct negotiations with Iran without preconditions.

116 As Ray Takeyh puts it “Iran’s policy towards Iraq…is predicated on careful, calibrated calculations of national interest…” Kayhan Barzegar “Understanding the Roots of Iranian Foreign Policy in the New Iraq,” Middle East Policy, Summer 2005, writes “Although Iran has maintained a moderate foreign-policy stance in order to bring balance to the domestic scene in Iraq, groups within the Islamic Republic aspire to keep close association with Iraqi Shiites in order to counter the uncompromising US approach toward Iran.”

117 Takeyh, who notes that Iran’s arming of Shi’ite militias, if it is taking place, must be seen in the context of it being a form of deterrence. Its “tense relations with the United States” require it to signal that it can and will retaliate through surrogates if it is attacked.

118 Alireza Jafarzadeh, “The Mission of Iran’s New Majlis,”, March 27, 2008.

119 David E. Sanger, “Iraq Studies Group Draft backs diplomacy with Iran and Syria,” International Herald Tribune, November 22, 2006.

120 Flynt L. Leverett, “Iran: the Gulf Between Us,” The New York Times, January 24, 2006.

121 Ahmadinejad sent an eighteen page letter to Bush. Bush apparently did not read it. Karl Vick, “No proposals in Iranian’s letter to Bush, U.S. says,” The Washington Post, May 9, 2006.

122 Nazila Fathi, “Iran says it is making nuclear fuel, defying U.N.,” The New York Times, April 12, 2006.

123 See

124 “Restarting Israeli-Syrian Negotiations,” International Crisis Group, April 10, 2007.

125 Robert Grace op. cit. quoting Kenneth Pollack.

126 Takeyh, op. cit. notes that “Washington seems to have fallen into a trap of seeing the specter of Iran behind its failings in Iraq” adding that “A more proper diplomatic strategy…would…seek ways to harmonize US-Iranian policies…it is incongruous to suggest that the United States has sufficient interests in Iraq to the point of mandating its invasion and occupation, and yet the country next door should not have any role in its neighbor’s affairs.”

127 “Poll of the Iranian Public,” January 16, 2007, Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland. See also the poll conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow, “Polling Iranian Public Opinion: an Unprecedented Nationwide Survey of Iran,” conducted in June 2007.

128 Ibid.

129 Shahram Chubin, “Dealing with Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions, post-Lebanon,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, September 17, 2006.

Bush’s Meeting With A Murderer

by Robert Dreyfuss, December 4, 2006

President George W. Bush meets today with Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the turbaned leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a Shiite fundamentalist party that is strongly tied to Iran. In so doing, the president is meeting with someone who, perhaps more than anyone else in Iraq, is responsible for trying to destroy Iraqi national unity, prevent national reconciliation among Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian mix, and push Iraq into civil war. Al-Hakim, who was virtually Fed-Ex’d into Iraq by the Pentagon in March 2003, was a mainstay of the Iraqi National Congress, led by neoconservative darling Ahmed Chalabi throughout the 1990s. And today al-Hakim controls the SCIRI militia, the Badr Brigade, the Iraqi interior ministry and many of Iraq’s feared death squads. Not to put too fine a point on it, Hakim is a mass murderer.

What’s stunning about Bush’s encounter with al-Hakim is that it occurs precisely at the moment when critically important bridges are being built across Iraq’s Sunni-Shiite divide­bridges that al-Hakim is trying to blow up.

During a stop in Amman, Jordan, on his way to the United States, al-Hakim point blank tried to torpedo the idea of an international conference that might bring together Iraq’s various factions. Such a conference was explicitly proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last week, who offered to host it. A similar conference, or one like it, is likely to be part of the recommendations that will be issued on Wednesday by the Iraq Study Group, the panel co-chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton. But al-Hakim trashes the idea. “It is unreasonable or incorrect to discuss issues related to the Iraqi people at international conferences,” said the Shiite radical. “The proposal is unrealistic, incorrect and illegal.” (It is, of course, perfectly legal.)

It is not the first time that al-Hakim has tried to undermine reconciliation efforts. During repeated attempts by the Arab League to organize a conference that would bring Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders together with representatives of the armed resistance in search of an accord, al-Hakim almost single-handedly destroyed the idea. And it is al-Hakim, whose SCIRI controls much of Iraq’s south, who is the driving force behind efforts to create a separatist Shiite-run state in Iraq’s south.

Hakim’s wrecking-ball effort is taking place in the context of unprecedented efforts by leaders of Iraq’s factions to create what many Iraqi leaders are calling a “government of national salvation.”

Such a government would topple and replace the ineffectual, clownish Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Supporters of the idea, who are getting ready to announce a National Salvation Front in Iraq, include rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, many of Iraq’s Sunni leaders in and out of government, representatives of the Iraqi resistance and perhaps even some important Kurdish leaders.

Last week, when the feckless Maliki traveled to Jordan to meet Bush, Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his 30 members of parliament to suspend their participation and pulled five cabinet ministers out of Maliki’s government. Sadr’s Mahdi Army, one of the most powerful of Iraq’s armed factions and one which has been involved in death squads and assassinations itself, controls large parts of east Baghdad and many areas of the south, and they have fiercely opposed Hakim’s SCIRI. According to Sadr, his political forces will not rejoin the government until the United States has announced a timetable for the end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Sadr is now reaching out to Sunni and Kurdish leaders to form an anti-occupation bloc that will represent the vast majority of Iraqi public opinion. Polls have shown that up to 80 percent of Sunni Arabs and 60 percent of Shiite Arabs want an immediate end to the occupation.

Among those supporting the new National Salvation Front, along with Sadr, are Saleh Mutlaq, the Sunni leader of Iraq’s National Dialogue Front; Tariq al-Hashemi, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party; former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, and many others. According to the Iraqi newspaper Al-Arab Al-Yawm, Mutlaq described the front as a broad cross-section of Iraqis opposed to the U.S. occupation:

Mutlaq added that the new front will include a number of groups that are not participating in the current Iraqi government including Baathists, pan-Arabists, the Founding Conference that includes 46 political movements, the old Iraqi army leadership, and tribal leaders from the middle and south of Iraq. In addition, the front will include representatives from Turcoman, Yazidi, and Kurdish patriotic leaders who are against the occupation and for Iraq’s unity, and other Christian movements that believe in Iraq’s unity.

Mutlaq also said that seven leading Iraqi Shiite ayatollahs will support the new grouping.

Even as the National Salvation Front takes shape, there is strong evidence that Sunni and Shiite clerics are reaching out to each other.

Two weeks ago, Muqtada al-Sadr demanded that Sunni clerics issue a fatwa , or religious order, condemning killings of Iraqi civilians by al-Qaida types and offering Sunni help to rebuild the domed mosque in Samarra that was destroyed in a bombing in February. It was that bombing that touched over the most severe phase of Iraq’s civil war, setting of a wave of reprisal killings among Shiites and Sunnis.

Since Sadr’s call, several leading Sunni clerics have done as Sadr asked, according to the Los Angeles Times, including top Sunni religious leaders in Basra, Nasariyah, Amarah and Samaweh. All four were associated with the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), the leading Sunni religious group in Iraq, which has close ties to the Sunni insurgency. Not only that, but Harith al-Dhari, the leader of the AMS, issued a blunt condemnation of al-Qaida:

Al Qaeda is part of the resistance, but the resistance is of two kinds. The resistance that only resists occupation, this we support one hundred per cent. The resistance that mixes up resisting the occupation and killing innocents, even if it calls itself resistance, this we condemn.

Two weeks ago, the Iraqi interior ministry, which is heavily controlled by Hakim’s SCIRI, issued an arrest warrant for al-Dhari, accusing him of maintaining ties to “terrorists.”

This sort of inter-communal reconciliation is precisely what Iraq needs. Furthermore, to build it will require that Iraqis come together on the one issue about which most of them agree: ending the U.S. occupation. There is, without doubt, a majority of Iraq’s parliament opposed to the occupation. To create a replacement government of anti-U.S. Iraqis, who would then demand that the United States leave Iraq, would be a difficult task at best, because of the very presence of 150,000 U.S. troops and America’s overbearing ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. Furthermore, it is a fragile effort: a major assassination or targeted violence could shatter it before it even gets off the ground.

Still, it is perhaps Iraq’s last, best hope for ending its civil war and starting to recreate a functioning state. Against this, there is talk inside the Bush administration, of “picking a winner,” of choosing sides in Iraq’s civil war­which, of course, means backing the Shiites. Such a notion is a nonstarter, if for no other reason than the question: Which Shiites? For the Bush administration, it could only mean SCIRI, Hakim’s band of thugs and assassins.

If so, it would be the last, ugly mistake for President Bush’s merry band of incompetents, bunglers and war criminals. The release of the Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq on Wednesday will signal the end of the Bush administration’s neoconservative-driven war policy, and the beginning of a new, realist-dominated consensus that America’s foreign policy establishment hopes will restore some of the U.S. prestige and influence that has been eviscerated by Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

It is too much, perhaps, to expect from the Bush administration, but here’s an idea. Instead of trying to court Hakim and SCIRI to support a continued U.S. occupation of Iraq, the White House ought to acknowledge and heed the growing body of opinion in Iraq that wants the United States out, fast.

Robert Dreyfuss is an Alexandria, Va.-based writer specializing in politics and national security issues. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Henry Holt/Metropolitan Books, 2005), a contributing editor at The Nation and a writer for Mother Jones, The American Prospect and Rolling Stone.

America’s ‘Crack’ Plague has Roots in Nicaragua War by Gary Webb August 18, 1996

Via NarcoNews.

Colombia-San Francisco Bay Area drug pipeline
helped finance CIA-backed Contras

Published: Aug. 18, 1996 BY GARY WEBB
Mercury News Staff Writer
FOR THE BETTER PART of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.

This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America � and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons.

It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting “gangstas” of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.

Other storiesTestimony links U.S. to drugs-guns trade
Dealers got their ‘own little arsenal’
The army’s financiers — who met with CIA agents both before and during the time they were selling the drugs in L.A. — delivered cut-rate cocaine to the gangs through a young South-Central crack dealer namedRicky Donnell Ross.Unaware of his suppliers’ military and political connections, “Freeway Rick” — a dope dealer of mythic proportions in the L.A. drug world — turned the cocaine powder into crack and wholesaled it to gangs across the country.The cash Ross paid for the cocaine, court records show, was then used to buy weapons and equipment for a guerrilla army named the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (Nicaraguan Democratic Force) or FDN, the largest of several anti-communist commonly called the Contras.
document link
Biographical information on Rick Ross
Photo link
More photos of Rick Ross

While the FDN’s war is barely a memory today, black America is still dealing with its poisonous side effects. Urban neighborhoods are grappling with legions of homeless crack addicts. Thousands of young black men are serving long prison sentences for selling cocaine — a drug that was virtually unobtainable in black neighborhoods before members of the CIA’s army started bringing it into South-Central in the 1980s at bargain-basement prices.And the L.A. gangs, which used their enormous cocaine profits to arm themselves and spread crack across the country, are still thriving, turning entire blocks of major cities into occasional war zones.
There is a saying that the ends justify the means,” former FDN leader and drug dealerOscar Danilo Blandon Reyes testified during a recent cocaine trafficking trial in San Diego. “And that’s what Mr. Bermudez (the CIA agent who commanded the FDN) told us in Honduras, OK? So we started raising money for the Contra revolution.”Recently declassified reports, federal court testimony, undercover tapes, court records here and abroad and hundreds of hours of interviews over the past 12 months leave no doubt that Blandon was no ordinary drug dealer.
document link
Biographical information on Danilo Blandon
audio link
Blandon’s testimony
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Shortly before Blandon — who had been the drug ring’s Southern California distributor — took the stand in San Diego as a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice, federal prosecutors obtained a court order preventing defense lawyers from delving into his ties to the CIA.Blandon, one of the FDN’s founders in California, “will admit that he was a large-scale dealer in cocaine, and there is no additional benefit to any defendant to inquire as to the Central Intelligence Agency,” Assistant U.S. Attorney L.J. O’Neale argued in his motion shortly before Ross’ trial on cocaine trafficking charges in March.
document link
Motion to preclude reference to CIA involvement
The most Blandon would say in court about who called the shots when he sold cocaine for the FDN was that “we received orders from the — from other people.”The 5,000-man FDN, records show, was created in mid-1981 when the CIA combined several existing groups of anti-communist exiles into a unified force it hoped would topple the new socialist government of Nicaragua.From 1982 to 1988, the FDN — run by both American and Nicaraguan CIA agents — waged a losing war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, the Cuban-supported socialists who’d overthrown U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
Blandon, who began working for the FDN’s drug operation in late 1981, testified that the drug ring sold almost a ton of cocaine in the United States that year — $54 million worth at prevailing wholesale prices. It was not clear how much of the money found its way back to the CIA’s army, but Blandon testified that “whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution.”
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Blandon’s testimony
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At the time of that testimony, Blandon was a full-time informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, ajob the U.S. Department of Justice got him after releasing him from prison in 1994.Though Blandon admitted to crimes that have sent others away for life, the Justice Department turned him loose on unsupervised probation after only 28 months behind bars and has paid him more than $166,000 since, court records show.
document link
Motion for reduction of Oscar Danilo Blandon’s sentence
“He has been extraordinarily helpful,” federal prosecutor O’Neale told Blandon’s judge in a plea for the trafficker’s release in 1994. Though O’Neale once described Blandon to a grand jury as “the biggest Nicaraguan cocaine dealer in the United States,” the prosecutor would not discuss him with the Mercury News.

A known dealer since ’74 has stayed out of U.S. jails

Blandon’s boss in the FDN’s cocaine operation, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero, has never spent a day in a U.S. prison, even though the federal government has been aware of his cocaine dealings since at least 1974, records show.Meneses — who ran the drug ring from his homes in the San Francisco Bay Area — is listed in the DEA’s computers as a major international drug smuggler and was implicated in 45 separate federal investigations. Yet he and his cocaine-dealing relatives lived quite openly in the Bay Area for years, buying homes in Pacifica and Burlingame, along with bars, restaurants, car lots and factories in San Francisco, Hayward and Oakland.
document link
Biographical information on Norwin Meneses
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More photos of Norwin Meneses

“I even drove my own cars, registered in my name,” Meneses said during a recent interview in Nicaragua.Meneses’ organization was “the target of unsuccessful investigative attempts for many years,” prosecutor O’Neale acknowledged in a 1994 affidavit. But records and interviews revealed that a number of those probes were stymied not by the elusive Meneses but by agencies of the U.S. government.Agents from four organizations — the DEA, U.S. Customs, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement — have complained that investigations were hampered by the CIA or unnamed “national security” interests.

1988 investigation hit a wall of secrecy

One 1988 investigation by a U.S. Senate subcommittee ran into a wall of official secrecy at the Justice Department.In that case, congressional records show, Senate investigators were trying to determine why the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, Joseph Russoniello, had given $36,000 back to a Nicaraguan cocaine dealer arrested by the FBI.

The money was returned, court records show, after two Contra leaders sent letters to the court swearing that the drug dealer had been given the cash to buy weapons for guerrillas. Russoniello said it was cheaper to give the money back than to disprove that claim.

“The Justice Department flipped out to prevent us from getting access to people, records — finding anything out about it,” recalled Jack Blum, former chief counsel to the Senate subcommittee that investigated allegations of Contra cocaine trafficking. “It was one of the most frustrating exercises that I can ever recall.”

It wasn’t until 1989, a few months after the Contra-Sandinista war ended and five years after Meneses moved from the Peninsula to a ranch in Costa Rica, that the U.S. government took action against him — sort of.

Federal prosecutors in San Francisco charged Meneses with conspiracy to distribute one kilo of cocaine in 1984, a year in which he was working publicly with the FDN.

In San Francisco photo, Meneses seen with CIA operative

Meneses’ work was so public, in fact, that he posed for a picture in June 1984 in a kitchen of a San Francisco home with the FDN’s political boss, Adolfo Calero, a longtime CIA operative who became the public face of the Contras in the United States.According to the indictment, Meneses was in the midst of his alleged cocaine conspiracy at the time the picture was taken.

But the indictment was quickly locked away in the vaults of the San Francisco federal courthouse, where it remains today � inexplicably secret for more than seven years. Meneses was never arrested.

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1984 meeting of anti-communist group in San Franciscodocument link
Biographical information on Adolfo Calero

Reporters found a copy of the secret indictment in Nicaragua, along with a federal arrest warrant issued Feb. 8, 1989. Records show the no-bail warrant was never entered into the national law enforcement database called NCIC, which police use to track down fugitives. The former federal prosecutor who indicted him, Eric Swenson, declined to be interviewed.After Nicaraguan police arrested Meneses on cocaine charges in Managua in 1991, his judge expressed astonishment that the infamous smuggler went unmolested by American drug agents during his years in the United States.
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Indictment of Norwin Meneses
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Photo of the arrest warrant (58K)

“How do you explain the fact that Norwin Meneses, implicated since 1974 in the trafficking of drugs … has not been detained in the United States, a country in which he has lived, entered and departed many times since 1974?” Judge Martha Quezada asked during a pretrial hearing.”Well, that question needs to be asked to the authorities of the United States,” replied Roger Mayorga, then chief of Nicaragua’s anti-drug agency.

U.S. officials amazed Meneses remained free

His seeming invulnerability amazed American authorities as well.A Customs agent who investigated Meneses in 1980 before transferring elsewhere said he was reassigned to San Francisco seven years later “and I was sitting in some meetings and here’s Meneses’ name again. And I can remember thinking, “Holy cow, is this guy still around?’.”

Blandon led an equally charmed life. For at least five years he brokered massive amounts of cocaine to the black gangs of Los Angeles without being arrested. But his luck changed overnight.

On Oct. 27, 1986, agents from the FBI, the IRS, local police and the Los Angeles County sheriff fanned out across Southern California and raided more than a dozen locations connected to Blandon’s cocaine operation. Blandon and his wife, along with numerous Nicaraguan associates, were arrested on drug and weapons charges.

The search warrant affidavit reveals that local drug agents knew plenty about Blandon’s involvement with cocaine and the CIA’s army nearly 10 years ago.

“Danilo Blandon is in charge of a sophisticated cocaine smuggling and distribution organization operating in Southern California,” L.A. County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Gordon said in the 1986 affidavit. “The monies gained from the sales of cocaine are transported to Florida and laundered through Orlando Murillo, who is a high-ranking officer of a chain of banks in Florida named Government Securities Corporation. From this bank the monies are filtered to the Contra rebels to buy arms in the war in Nicaragua.”

Corporate records show that Murillo — a Nicaraguan banker and relative of Blandon’s wife — was a vice-president of Government Securities Corporation in Coral Gables, a large brokerage firm that collapsed in 1987 amid allegations of fraud. Murillo did not respond to an interview request.

Despite their intimate knowledge of Blandon’s operations, the police raids were a spectacular failure. Every location had been cleaned of anything remotely incriminating. No one was ever prosecuted.

Ron Spear, a spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Sherman Block, said Blandon somehow knew that he was under police surveillance. Others thought so, too.

“The cops always believed that investigation had been compromised by the CIA,” Los Angeles federal public defender Barbara O’Connor said in a recent interview. O’Connor knew of the raids because she later defended the raids’ leader, Sgt. Gordon, against federal charges of police corruption. Gordon, convicted of tax evasion, declined to be interviewed.


Lawyer suggests aid was at root of problem

FBI records show that soon after the raids, Blandon’s defense attorney, Bradley Brunon, called the sheriff’s department to suggest that his client’s troubles stemmed from a most unlikely source: a recent congressional vote authorizing $100 million in military aid to the CIA’s Contra army.

According to a December 1986 FBI Teletype, Brunon told the officers that the “CIA winked at this sort of thing. … (Brunon) indicated that now that U.S. Congress had voted funds for the Nicaraguan Contra movement, U.S. government now appears to be turning against organizations like this.”That FBI report, part of the files of former Iran-Contra Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, was made public only last year, when it was released by the National Archives at the Mercury News’ request.
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FBI Teletype regarding conversation with attorney Bradley Brunon
Blandon has also implied that his cocaine sales were, for a time, CIA-approved. He told a San Francisco federal grand jury in 1994 that once the FDN began receiving American taxpayer dollars, the CIA no longer needed his kind of help.”When Mr. Reagan get in the power, we start receiving a lot of money,” Blandon testified. “And the people that was in charge, it was the CIA, so they didn’t want to raise any (drug) money because they have, they had the money that they wanted.””From the government?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hall.”Yes,” for the Contra revolution,” Blandon said. “So we started — you know, the ambitious person — we started doing business by ourselves.”Asked about that, prosecutor Hall said, “I don’t know what to tell you. The CIA won’t tell me anything.”None of the government agencies known to have been involved with Meneses and Blandon over the years would provide the Mercury News with any information about them.A Freedom of Information Act request filed with the CIA was denied on national security grounds. FOIA requests filed with the DEA were denied on privacy grounds. Requests filed months ago with the FBI, the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service have produced nothing so far.

None of the DEA officials known to have worked with the two men would talk to a reporter. Questions submitted to the DEA’s public affairs office in Washington were never answered, despite repeated requests.

Blandon’s lawyer, Brunon, said in an interview that his client never told him directly that he was selling cocaine for the CIA, but the prominent Los Angeles defense attorney drew his own conclusions from the “atmosphere of CIA and clandestine activities” that surrounded Blandon and his Nicaraguan friends.

“Was he involved with the CIA? Probably. Was he involved with drugs? Most definitely,” Brunon said. “Were those two things involved with each other? They’ve never said that, obviously. They’ve never admitted that. But I don’t know where these guys get these big aircraft …”

That very topic arose during the sensational 1992 cocaine trafficking trial of Meneses after Meneses was arrested in Nicaragua in connection with a staggering 750-kilo shipment of cocaine. His chief accuser was his friend Enrique Miranda, a relative and former Nicaraguan military intelligence officer who had been Meneses’ emissary to the cocaine cartel of Bogota, Colombia. Miranda pleaded guilty to drug charges and agreed to cooperate in exchange for a seven-year sentence.

In a long, handwritten statement he read to Meneses’ jury, Miranda revealed the deepest secrets of the Meneses drug ring, earning his old boss a 30-year prison sentence in the process.

“He (Norwin) and his brother Luis Enrique had financed the Contra revolution with the benefits of the cocaine they sold,” Miranda wrote. “This operation, as Norwin told me, was executed with the collaboration of high-ranking Salvadoran military personnel. They met with officials of the Salvadoran air force, who flew (planes) to Colombia and then left for the U.S., bound for an Air Force base in Texas, as he told me.”

Meneses — who has close personal and business ties to a Salvadoran air force commander and former CIA agent named Marcos Aguado — declined to discuss Miranda’s statements during an interview at a prison outside Managua in January. He is scheduled to be paroled this summer, after nearly five years in custody.

U.S. General Accounting Office records confirm that El Salvador’s air force was supplying the CIA’s Nicaraguan guerrillas with aircraft and flight support services throughout the mid-1980s.

Miranda did not name the Air Force base in Texas where the FDN’s cocaine was purportedly flown. The same day the Mercury News requested official permission to interview Miranda, he disappeared.

While out on a routine weekend furlough, Miranda failed to return to the Nicaraguan jail where he’d been living since 1992. Though his jailers, who described him as a model prisoner, claimed Miranda had escaped, they didn’t call the police until a Mercury News correspondent showed up and discovered he was gone.

He has not been seen in nearly a year.


MONDAY: How the drug ring worked, and how crack was “born” in the San Francisco Bay Area. Plus, the story of how the U.S. government gave back $36,000 seized from a drug dealer after he claimed the money belonged to the Contras.


Additional reporting for this series in Nicaragua and Costa Rica was done by Managua journalist Georg Hodel. Research assistance at the Nicaraguan Supreme Court in Managua was done by journalist Leonore Delgado.

Shadowy Origins of ‘Crack’ Epidemic by Gary Webb August 19, 1996

Via NarcoNews

Role of CIA-linked agents
a well-protected secret until now

Published: Aug. 19, 1996 BY GARY WEBB
Mercury News Staff WriterIF THEY’D BEEN IN a more respectable line of work, Norwin Meneses, Danilo Blandon and ”Freeway Rick” Ross would have been hailed as geniuses of marketing.

This odd trio — a smuggler, a bureaucrat and a driven ghetto teen-ager — made fortunes creating the first mass market in America for a product so hellishly desirable that consumers will literally kill to get it: ”crack” cocaine.

Federal lawmen will tell you plenty about Rick Ross, mostly about the evils he visited upon black neighborhoods by spreading the crack plague in Los Angeles and cities as far east as Cincinnati. On Aug. 23, they hope, Freeway Rick will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

But those same officials won’t say a word about the two men who turned Rick Ross into L.A’s first king of crack, the men who, for at least five years, supplied him with enough Colombian cocaine to help spawn crack markets in major cities nationwide. Their critical role in the country’s crack explosion, a Mercury News investigation found, has been a strictly guarded secret — until now.

To understand how crack came to curse black America, you have to go into the volcanic hills overlooking Managua, the capital of the Republic of Nicaragua.

Other storiesSan Francisco agent thought she was onto something big
Meneses’ trail was getting warm when her superiors took her off the case‘Crack’ born in San Francisco Bay Area in ’74
It was a failed attempt to copy something else
During June 1979, those hills teemed with triumphant guerrillas called Sandinistas — Cuban- assisted revolutionaries who had just pulled off one of the biggest military upsets in Central American history. In a bloody civil war, they’d destroyed the U.S.-trained army of Nicaragua’s dictator, Anastasio Somoza. The final assault on Somoza’s downtown bunker was expected any day.In the dictator’s doomed capital, a minor member of Somoza’s government decided to skip the war’s obvious ending. On June 19, Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes gathered his wife and young daughter, slipped through the encircling rebels and flew into exile in California.Blandon, the then 29-year-old son of a wealthy slumlord, left a life of privilege and luxury behind. Educated at the finest private schools in Latin America, he had earned a master’s degree in marketing and had become the head of a $27 million program financed by the U.S. government. As Nicaragua’s director of wholesale markets, it had been his job to create an American-style agricultural system.
Today, Danilo Blandon is a well-paid and highly trusted operative for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Federal officials say he is one of the DEA’s top informants in Latin America, collecting intelligence on Colombian and Mexican drug lords and setting up stings.In March, he was the DEA’s star witness at a drug trial in San Diego, where, for the first time, he testified publicly about his strange interlude between government jobs — the years he sold cocaine to the street gangs of black Los Angeles.
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Drug Enforcement Agency

Dealer says patriotism for Nicaragua was motive

A stocky man with salt-and-pepper hair, a trim mustache and a distinguished bearing, Blandon swore that he didn’t plan on becoming a dope dealer when he landed in the United States with $100 in his pocket, seeking political asylum. He did it, he insisted, out of patriotism.When duty called in late 1981, he was working as a car salesman in East Los Angeles. In his spare time, he said, he and a few fellow exiles were working to rebuild Somoza’s defeated army, the Nicaraguan national guard, in hopes of one day returning to Managua in triumph.

Like his friends, Blandon nursed a keen hatred of the Sandinistas, who had confiscated the Blandon family’s cattle ranches and sprawling urban slums. His wife’s politically prominent family — the Murillos, whose patriarch was Managua’s mayor in the 1960s — lost its immense fortune as well.

”Because of the horror stories and persecution suffered by his family and countrymen, Blandon said he decided to assist his countrymen in fighting the tyranny of the (Sandinista) regime,” stated a 1992 report from the U.S. Probation and Parole Department. ”He decided that because he was an adept businessman, he could assist his countrymen through monetary means.”But the rallies and cocktail parties the exiles hosted raised little money. ”At this point, he became committed to raising money for humanitarian and political reasons via illegal activity (cocaine trafficking for profit),” said the heavily censored report, which surfaced during the March trial.
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Oscar Danilo Blandon probation report
That venture began, Blandon testified, with a phone call from a wealthy friend in Miami named Donald Barrios, an old college classmate. Corporate records show Barrios was a business partner of one of the ex-dictator’s top military aides: Maj. Gen. Gustavo ”The Tiger” Medina, a steely eyed counterinsurgency expert and the former supply boss of Somoza’s army.Blandon said his college chum, who also was working in the resistance movement, dispatched him to Los Angeles International Airport to pick up another exile, Juan Norwin Meneses Cantarero. Though their families were related, Blandon said, he’d never met Meneses — a wiry, excitable man with a bad toupee — until that day.”I picked him up, and he started telling me that we had to (raise) some money and to send to Honduras,” Blandon testified. He said he flew with Meneses to a camp there and met one of his new companion’s old friends, Col. Enrique Bermudez.
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Medina’s quotation in a restaurant review
Bermudez — who’d been Somoza’s Washington liaison to the American military – was hired by the Central Intelligence Agency in mid-1980 to pull together the remnants of Somoza’s vanquished national guard, records show. In August 1981, Bermudez’s efforts were unveiled at a news conference as the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (FDN) — in English, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force. It was the largest and best-organized of the handful of guerrilla groups Americans would know as the Contras.Bermudez was the FDN’s military chief and, according to congressional records and newspaper reports, received regular CIA paychecks for a decade, payments that stopped shortly before his still-unsolved slaying in Managua in 1991.
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Biographical information on Col. Enrique Bermudez
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Blandon’s testimony about Bermudez
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Reagan’s secret order not enough to fund Contras

White House records show that shortly before Blandon’s meeting with Bermudez, President Reagan had given the CIA the green light to begin covert paramilitary operations against the Sandinista government. But Reagan’s secret Dec. 1, 1981, order permitted the spy agency to spend only $19.9 million on the project, an amount CIA officials acknowledged was not nearly enough to field a credible fighting force.After meeting with Bermudez, Blandon testified, he and Meneses ”started raising money for the Contra revolution.” ”There is a saying that the ends justify the means,” Blandon testified. ”And that’s what Mr. Bermudez told us in Honduras, OK?”

While Blandon says Bermudez didn’t know cocaine would be the fund-raising device they used, the presence of the mysterious Mr. Meneses strongly suggests otherwise.

Norwin Meneses, known in Nicaraguan newspapers as ”Rey de la Droga” (King of Drugs), was then under active investigation by the DEA and the FBI for smuggling cocaine into the United States, records show.

And Bermudez was very familiar with the influential Meneses family. He had served under two Meneses brothers, Fermin and Edmundo, who were generals in Somoza’s army. Somoza himself spoke at the 1978 funeral of Edmundo Meneses, who was slain by leftists shortly after his appointment as Nicaragua’s ambassador to Guatemala, hailing him as an anti-communist martyr.

A violent death — someone else’s — had also made brother Norwin famous in his homeland. In 1977 he was accused of ordering the assassination of Nicaragua’s chief of Customs, who was gunned down in the midst of an investigation into an international stolen car ring allegedly run by Norwin Meneses.

Though the customs boss accused Meneses on his deathbed of hiring his killer, Nicaraguan newspapers reported that the Managua police, then commanded by Edmundo Meneses, cleared Norwin of any involvement.

Despite that incident and a stack of law enforcement reports describing him as a major drug trafficker, Norwin Meneses was welcomed into the United States in July 1979 as a political refugee and given a visa and a work permit. He settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for the next six years supervised the importation of thousands of kilos of cocaine into California.

It arrived in all kinds of containers: false-bottomed shoes, Colombian freighters, cars with hidden compartments, luggage from Miami. Once here, it disappeared into a series of houses and nondescript storefront businesses scattered from Hayward to San Jose, Pacifica to Burlingame, Daly City to Oakland.

And, like Blandon, Meneses went to work for the CIA’s army.

At the meeting with Bermudez, Meneses said in a recent interview, the Contra commander put him in charge of ”intelligence and security” for the FDN in California.

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Presidential directive ordering support of paramilitary operations against Nicaragua
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A copy of the order signed by President Reagan (122K)
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Blandon’s testimony
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Blandon’s testimony about Meneses
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Article reporting death of Edmundo Meneses Cantanero




”Nobody (from California) would join the Contra forces down there without my knowledge and approval,” he said proudly. Blandon, he said, was assigned to raise money in Los Angeles.Blandon testified that Meneses took him back to San Francisco and, over two days, schooled him in the cocaine trade.Meneses declined to discuss any cocaine dealings he may have had, other than to deny that he ever ”transferred benefits from my business to the FDN. Business is business.”Lessons over, Blandon said, Meneses gave him two kilograms of cocaine (roughly 4 pounds), the names of two customers and a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.”Meneses was pushing me every week,” he testified. ”It took me about three months, four months to sell those two keys because I didn’t know what to do. … In those days, two keys was too heavy.”

At the time, cocaine was so costly that few besides rock stars and studio executives could afford it. One study of actual cocaine prices paid by DEA agents put it at $5,200 an ounce.

But Blandon wasn’t peddling the FDN’s cocaine in Beverly Hills or Malibu. To find customers, he and several other Nicaraguan exiles working with him headed for the vast, untapped markets of L.A.’s black ghettos.


Uncanny timing made marketing strategy work

Blandon’s marketing strategy, selling the world’s most expensive street drug in some of California’s poorest neighborhoods, might seem baffling, but in retrospect, his timing was uncanny. He and his compatriots arrived in South-Central L.A. right when street-level drug users were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable: by changing the pricey white powder into powerful little nuggets that could be smoked — crack.Crack turned the cocaine world on its head. Cocaine smokers got an explosive high unmatched by 10 times as much snorted powder. And since only a tiny amount was needed for that rush, cocaine no longer had to be sold in large, expensive quantities. Anyone with $20 could get wasted.

It was a ”substance that is tailor-made to addict people,” Dr. Robert Byck, a Yale University cocaine expert, said during congressional testimony in 1986. ”It is as though (McDonald’s founder) Ray Kroc had invented the opium den.”Crack’s Kroc was a disillusioned 19-year-old named Ricky Donnell Ross, who, at the dawn of the 1980s, found himself adrift on the streets of South-Central Los Angeles.A talented tennis player for Dorsey High School, Ross had recently seen his dream of a college scholarship evaporate when his coach discovered he could neither read nor write.At the end of tennis season, Ross quit high school and wound up at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, a vocational community college where, ironically, he learned to bind books. But a bookbinding career was the last thing Ross had in mind. L.A. Trade-Tech had a tennis team, and Ross was still hoping his skills with the racquet would get his dreams back on track.
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Hearing before the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control
”He was a very good player,” recalled Pete Brown, his former coach at L.A. Trade-Tech. ”I’d say he was probably my No. 3 guy on the team at the time.”To pay his bills, however, Ross picked up a different racket: stolen car parts. In late 1979, he was arrested for stealing a car and had to quit the trade while the charges were pending.

‘Freeway Rick’ hears about popularity of jet-set drug

During this forced hiatus, Ross said, a friend home on Christmas break from San Jose State University told him about the soaring popularity of a jet-set drug called cocaine, which Ross had only vaguely heard about. In the impoverished neighborhoods of South-Central, it was virtually non-existent. Most street cops, in fact, had never seen any because cocaine was then a parlor drug of the wealthy and the trendy.Ross’ friend — a college football player — told him ”cocaine was going to be the new thing, that everybody was doing it.” Intrigued, Ross set off to find out more.

Through a cocaine-using auto upholstery teacher Ross knew, he met a Nicaraguan named Henry Corrales, who began selling Ross and his best friend, Ollie ”Big Loc” Newell, small amounts of remarkably inexpensive cocaine.

Thanks to a network of friends in South-Central and Compton, including many members of various Crips gangs, Ross and Newell steadily built up clientele. With each sale, Ross reinvested his hefty profits in more cocaine.

Eventually, Corrales introduced Ross and Newell to his supplier, Danilo Blandon. And then business really picked up.

”At first, we was just going to do it until we made $5,000,” Ross said. ”We made that so fast we said, no, we’ll quit when we make $20,000. Then we was going to quit when we saved enough to buy a house …”

Ross would eventually own millions of dollars’ worth of real estate across Southern California, including houses, motels, a theater and several other businesses. (His nickname, ”Freeway Rick,” came from the fact that he owned properties near the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles.)

Within a year, Ross’ drug operation grew to dominate inner-city Los Angeles, and many of the biggest dealers in town were his customers. When crack hit L.A.’s streets hard in late 1983, Ross already had the infrastructure in place to corner a huge chunk of the burgeoning market.


$2 million worth of crack moved in a single day

It was not uncommon, he said, to move $2 million or $3 million worth of crack in one day.”Our biggest problem had got to be counting the money,” Ross said. ”We got to the point where it was like, man, we don’t want to count no more money.”

Nicaraguan cocaine dealer Jacinto Torres, another former supplier of Ross and a sometime- partner of Blandon, told drug agents in a 1992 interview that after a slow start, ”Blandon’s cocaine business dramatically increased. … Norwin Meneses, Blandon’s supplier as of 1983 and 1984, routinely flew quantities of 200 to 400 kilograms from Miami to the West Coast.”Leroy ”Chico” Brown, an ex-crack dealer from Compton who dealt with Ross, told the Mercury News of visiting one of Ross’ five cookhouses, where Blandon’s powder was turned into crack, and finding huge steel vats of cocaine bubbling atop restaurant-size gas ranges.
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Record of FBI interview with Jacinto Jose Torres
”They were stirring these big pots with those things you use in canoes,” Brown said with amazement. ”You know — oars.”
Blandon told the DEA last year that he was selling Ross up to 100 kilos of cocaine a week, which was then ”rocked up” and distributed ”to the major gangs in the area, specifically the “Crips’ and the “Bloods,”’ the DEA report said.At wholesale prices, that’s roughly $65 million to $130 million worth of cocaine every year, depending on the going price of a kilo.”He was one of the main distributors down here,” said former Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detective Steve Polak, who was part of the Freeway Rick Task Force, which was set up in 1987 to put Ross out of business. “And his poison, there’s no telling how many tens of thousands of people he touched. He’s responsible for a major cancer that still hasn’t stopped spreading.”
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Report of DEA investigation
But Ross is the first to admit that being in the right place at the right time had almost nothing to do with his amazing success. Other L.A. dealers, he noted, were selling crack long before he started.
What he had, and they didn’t, was Danilo Blandon, a friend with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of high-grade cocaine and an expert’s knowledge of how to market it.”I’m not saying I wouldn’t have been a dope dealer without Danilo,” Ross stressed. ”But I wouldn’t have been Freeway Rick.”The secret to his success, Ross said, was Blandon’s cocaine prices. ”It was unreal. We were just wiping out everybody.”
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John Arman and Blandon discuss high-grade cocaine
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That alone, Ross said, allowed him to sew up the Los Angeles market and move on. In city after city, local dealers either bought from Ross or got left behind.”It didn’t make no difference to Rick what anyone else was selling it for. Rick would just go in and undercut him $10,000 a key,” Chico Brown said. ”Say some dude was selling for 30. Boom — Rick would go in and sell it for 20. If he was selling for 20, Rick would sell for 10. Sometimes, he be giving (it) away.”Before long, Blandon was giving Ross hundreds of kilos of cocaine on consignment — sell now, pay later — a strategy that dramatically accelerated the expansion of Ross’ crack empire, even beyond California’s borders.Ross said he never discovered how Blandon was able to get cocaine so cheaply. ”I just figured he knew the people, you know what I’m saying? He was plugged.”But Freeway Rick had no idea just how ”plugged” his erudite cocaine broker was. He didn’t know about Norwin Meneses, or the CIA, or the Salvadoran air force planes that allegedly were flying the cocaine into an air base in Texas.

And he wouldn’t find out about it for another 10 years.


TUESDAY: The impact of the crack epidemic on the black community, and why justice hasn’t been for all.


Additional reporting for this series in Nicaragua and Costa Rica was done by Managua journalist Georg Hodel. Research assistance at the Nicaraguan Supreme Court was performed by journalist Leonore Delgado.

War on Drugs has Unequal Impact on Black Americans by Gary Webb August 20, 1996

Via NarcoNews

Contra case illustrates the discrepancy: Nicaraguan goes free; L.A. dealer faces life

Published: Aug. 20, 1996 BY GARY WEBB
Mercury News Staff WriterFOR THE LAST YEAR and a half, the U.S. Department of Justice has been trying to explain why nearly everyone convicted in California’s federal courts of ”crack” cocaine trafficking is black.Critics, who include some federal court judges, say it looks like the Justice Department is targeting crack dealers by race, which would be a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Federal prosecutors, however, say there’s a simple, if unpleasant, reason for the lopsided statistics: Most crack dealers are black.

”Socio-economic factors led certain ethnic and racial groups to be particularly involved with the distribution of certain drugs,” the Justice Department argued in a case in Los Angeles last year, ”and blacks were particularly involved in the Los Angeles area crack trade.”

Other storiesFlawed sentencing the main reason for race disparity
In 1993, crack smokers got 3 years; coke snorters got 3 monthsSan Francisco Bay Area man tangled in drug web
Tales to DEA of gun running, drug trafficking fall on deaf ears
But why — of all the ethnic and racial groups in California to pick from — crack planted its deadly roots in L.A.’s black neighborhoods is something only Oscar Danilo Blandon Reyes can say for sure.Danilo Blandon, a yearlong Mercury News investigation found, is the Johnny Appleseed of crack in California — the Crips’ and Bloods’ first direct-connect to the cocaine cartels of Colombia. The tons of cut-rate cocaine he brought into black L.A. during the 1980s and early 1990s became millions of rocks of crack, which spawned new crack markets wherever they landed.On a tape made by the Drug Enforcement Administration in July 1990, Blandon casually explained the flood of cocaine that coursed through the streets of South-Central Los Angeles during the previous decade.
These people have been working with me 10 years,” Blandon said. ”I’ve sold them about 2,000 or 4,000 (kilos). I don’t know. I don’t remember how many.””It ain’t that Japanese guy you were talking about, is it?” asked DEA informant John Arman, who was wearing a hidden transmitter.”No, it’s not him,” Blandon insisted. ”These … these are the black people.”Arman gasped. ”Black?!””Yeah,” Blandon said. ”They control L.A. The people (black cocaine dealers) that control L.A.” 

U.S. has paid Blandon more than $166,000

But unlike the thousands of young blacks now serving long federal prison sentences for selling mere handfuls of the drug, Blandon is a free man today. He has a spacious new home in Nicaragua and a business exporting precious woods, courtesy of the U.S. government, which has paid him more than $166,000 over the past 18 months, records show — for his help in the war on drugs.That turn of events both amuses and angers ”Freeway Rick” Ross, L.A.’s premier crack wholesaler during much of the 1980s and Danilo Blandon’s biggest customer.

”They say I sold dope everywhere but, man, I know he done sold 10 times more dope than me,” Ross said with a laugh during a recent interview.

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1990 conversation between John Arman and Oscar Danilo Blandon
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Blandon discusses his contacts with Arman
Note: Strong language used in excerpt.
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More of the conversation between Arman and Blandon
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Confirmation of Blandon’s identity as an informant



Nothing epitomizes the drug war’s uneven impact on black Americans more clearly than the intertwined lives of Ricky Donnell Ross, a high school dropout, and his suave cocaine supplier, Danilo Blandon, who has a master’s degree in marketing and was one of the top civilian leaders in California of an anti-communist guerrilla army formed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Called the Fuerza Democratica Nicaraguense (FDN), it became known to most Americans as the Contras.
In recent court testimony, Blandon, who began dealing cocaine in South-Central L.A. in 1982, swore that the first kilo of cocaine he sold in California was to raise money for the CIA’s army, which was trying on a shoestring to unseat Nicaragua’s new socialist Sandinista government.After Blandon crossed paths with Ross, a South-Central teen-ager who had the gang connections and street smarts necessary to move the army’s cocaine, a veritable blizzard engulfed the ghettos.Former Los Angeles Police narcotics detective Stephen W. Polak said he was working the streets of South-Central in the mid-1980s when he and his partners began seeing more cocaine than ever before.
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Oscar Danilo Blandon testifies about a conversation he had with Norwin Meneses
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”A lot of detectives, a lot of cops, were saying, hey, these blacks, no longer are we just seeing gram dealers. These guys are doing ounces; they were doing keys,” Polak recalled. But he said the reports were pooh-poohed by higher-ups who couldn’t believe black neighborhoods could afford the amount of cocaine the street cops claimed to be seeing.”Major Violators (the LAPD’s elite anti-drug unit) was saying, basically, ahh, South-Central, how much could they be dealing?” said Polak, a 21-year LAPD veteran. ”Well, they (black dealers) went virtually untouched for a long time.”It wasn’t until January 1987 — when crack markets were popping up in major cities all over the U.S. — that law enforcement brass decided to confront L.A.’s crack problem head-on. They formed the Freeway Rick Task Force, a cadre of veteran drug agents whose sole mission was to put Rick Ross out of business. Polak was a charter member.”We just dedicated seven days a week to him. We were just on him at every move,” Polak said.Ross, as usual, was quick to spot a trend. He moved to Cincinnati and quietly settled into a home in the woodsy Republican suburbs on the east side of town.”I called it cooling out, trying to back away from the game,” Ross said. ”I had enough money.”

His longtime supplier, Blandon, reached an identical conclusion around the same time. A massive police raid on his cocaine operation in late 1986 nearly gave his wife a nervous breakdown, he testified recently, and by the summer of 1987 he was safely ensconced in Miami, with $1.6 million in cash.

Some of his drug profits, records show, were invested in a string of rental car and export businesses in Miami, often in partnership with an exiled Nicaraguan judge named Jose Macario Estrada. Like Blandon, the judge also worked for the CIA’s army, helping FDN soldiers and their families obtain visas and work papers in the United States. Estrada said he knew nothing of Blandon’s drug dealings at the time.


Blandon invested in four-star steak house

Blandon also bought into a swank steak-and-lobster restaurant called La Parrilla, which became a popular hangout for FDN leaders and supporters. The Miami Herald called it the ”best Nicaraguan restaurant in Dade County” and gave it a four-star rating, its highest.But neither Ross nor Blandon stayed ”retired” for long.A manic deal-maker, Ross found Cincinnati’s virgin crack market too seductive to ignore. When he left Los Angeles, the price of a kilo was around $12,000. In the Queen City, Ross chuckled, ”keys was selling for $50,000. It was like when I first started.”
document link
Review of La Parrilla
Plunging back in, the crack tycoon cornered the Cincinnati market using the same low-price, high-volume strategy — and the same Nicaraguan drug connections — he’d used in L.A. Soon, he was selling crack as far away as Cleveland, Indianapolis, Dayton and St. Louis.”There’s no doubt in my mind crack in Cincinnati can be traced to Ross,” police officer Robert Enoch told a Cincinnati newspaper three years ago.But Ross’ reign in the Midwest was short-lived. In 1988, one of his loads ran into a drug-sniffing dog at a New Mexico bus station and drug agents eventually connected it to Ross. He pleaded guilty to crack trafficking charges and received a mandatory 10-year prison sentence, which he began serving in 1990.In sunny Miami, Blandon’s retirement plans also had gone awry. His 24-city rental car business collapsed in 1989 and later went into bankruptcy. To make money, he testified, he came to the Bay Area and began brokering cocaine again, buying and selling from the same Nicaraguan dealers he’d known from his days with the FDN. In 1990 and 1991, he testified, he sold about 425 kilos of cocaine in Northern California — $10.5 million worth at wholesale prices.But unlike before, when he was selling cocaine for the Contras, Blandon was constantly dogged by the police.Twice in six months he was detained, first by Customs agents while taking $117,000 in money orders to Tijuana to pay a supplier, and then by the LAPD in the act of paying one of his Colombian suppliers more than $350,000.

The second time, after police found $14,000 in cash and a small quantity of cocaine in his pocket, he was arrested. But the U.S. Justice Department — saying a prosecution would disrupt an active investigation — persuaded the cops to drop their money laundering case.

Soon after that, Blandon and his wife, Chepita, were called down to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service office in San Diego on a pretense and scooped up by DEA agents, on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. They were jailed without bond as dangers to the community and several other Nicaraguans were also arrested.

Blandon’s prosecutor, L.J. O’Neale, told a federal judge that Blandon had sold so much cocaine in the United States his mandatory prison sentence was ”off the scale.”

Then Blandon ”just vanished,” said Juanita Brooks, a San Diego attorney who represented one of Blandon’s co-defendants. ”All of a sudden his wife was out of jail and he was out of the case.”


The reasons were contained in a secret Justice Department memorandum filed in San Diego federal court in late 1993.

Prosecutor found Blandon ‘extraordinarily valuable’

Blandon, prosecutor O’Neale wrote, had become ”extraordinarily valuable in major DEA investigations of Class I drug traffickers.” And even though probation officers were recommending a life sentence and a $4 million fine, O’Neale said the government would be satisfied if Blandon got 48 months and no fine. Motion granted.

document link
Motion for downward departure from sentencing guidelines
Less than a year later, records show, O’Neale was back with another idea: Why not just let Blandon go?After all, he wrote the judge, Blandon had a federal job waiting.O’Neale, saying that Blandon ”has almost unlimited potential to assist the United States,” said the government wanted ”to enlist Mr. Blandon as a full-time, paid informant after his release from prison.”And since it would be hard to do that job with parole officers snooping around, O’Neale added, the government wanted him turned loose without any supervision. Motion granted. O’Neale declined to comment.After only 28 months in custody, most of it spent with federal agents who debriefed him for ”hundreds of hours,” he said, Blandon walked out of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego, was given a green card and began working on his first assignment: setting up his old friend ”Freeway Rick” for a sting operation.
document link
Motion for reduction of sentence for Oscar Danilo Blandon

Targeted for a sting while sitting in prison

Records show Ross was still behind bars, awaiting parole, when San Diego DEA agents targeted him for a ”reverse” sting — one in which government agents provide the drugs and the target provides the cash. The sting’s author, DEA agent Chuck Jones, has testified that he had no evidence Ross was dealing drugs from his prison cell, where he’d spent the past four years.But during his incarceration Ross did something that, in the end, may have been even more foolhardy: He testified against Los Angeles police officers, as a witness for the U.S. government.

Soon after Ross went to prison for the Cincinnati bust, federal prosecutors from Los Angeles came to see him, dangling a tantalizing offer. A massive scandal was sweeping the L.A. County sheriff’s elite narcotics squads, and among the dozens of detectives fired or indicted for allegedly beating suspects, stealing drug money and planting evidence were members of the old Freeway Rick Task Force.

document link
1994 statement regarding Ricky Ross and Danilo Blandon
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Grand jury testimony by DEA agent Chuck Jones

If Ross would testify about his experiences, he was told, it could help him get out of jail.In 1991, he took the stand against his old nemesis, LAPD detective Steve Polak, who eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of excessive use of force and retired. But the deal Ross got from federal prosecutors for testifying — five years off his sentence and an agreement that his remaining drug profits would not be seized — galled many.”Ross will fall again someday,” Polak bitterly told a Los Angeles Times reporter in late 1994.By then, the trip wires were already strung.Within days of Ross’ parole in October 1994, he and Blandon were back in touch and their conversation quickly turned to cocaine. It was almost like old times, except that Ross was now hauling trash for a living. He was also behind on his mortgage payments for an old theater he owned in South-Central, which he was trying to turn into a youth academy.
According to tapes Blandon made of some of their discussions, Ross repeatedly told Blandon that he was broke and couldn’t afford to finance a drug deal. But Ross did agree to help his old mentor, who was also pleading poverty, find someone else to buy the 100 kilos of cocaine Blandon claimed he had.

Drug-laden vehicle was a trap for Ross

On March 2, 1995, in a shopping center parking lot in National City, near San Diego, Ross poked his head inside a cocaine-laden Chevy Blazer and the place exploded with police.

Photo link
Drugs used in DEA’s bust (15K)
Ross jumped into a friend’s pickup and zoomed off ”looking for a wall that I could crash myself into,” he said. ”I just wanted to die.” He was captured after the truck careened into a hedgerow and has been held in jail without bond since then.Ross’ arrest netted Blandon $45,500 in government rewards and expenses, records show. On the strength of Blandon’s testimony, Ross and two other men were convicted of cocaine conspiracy charges in San Diego last March — conspiring to sell the DEA’s cocaine. Sentencing is set for Aug. 23. Ross is facing a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The other men are looking at 10- to 20- year sentences.
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Ross’ truck at time of his capture by the DEA (13K)
Acquaintances say Blandon, who refused repeated interview requests, is a common sight these days in Managua’s better restaurants, drinking with friends and telling of his ”escape” from U.S. authorities.According to his Miami lawyer, Blandon spends most of his time shuttling between San Diego and Managua, trying to recover Nicaraguan properties he left behind in 1979, when the socialists seized power and sent him running to the United States.

Additional reporting for this series in Nicaragua and Costa Rica was done by Managua journalist Georg Hodel. Research assistance at the Nicaraguan Supreme Court was performed by journalist Leonore Delgado.


Dealer’s sentencing postponed

Lawyer gets time to seek documents on alleged CIA-crack linkPublished: Sept. 14, 1996

Mercury News Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff postponed the sentencing of former Los Angeles cocaine king ”Freeway” Rick Ross on Friday and agreed to allow Ross’ attorney to seek classified government documents relating to the potential involvement of CIA operatives in selling cocaine in black neighborhoods during the 1980s.Huff, who said it ”would be outrageous for the government to infect this country with drugs,” also suggested that federal prosecutors seek a sworn statement from CIA Director John Deutch regarding the spy agency’s knowledge of such activities.

Deutch, in a press release last week, disclaimed any CIA involvement in cocaine trafficking.

Ross’ defense lawyer, Alan Fenster of Los Angeles, filed motions this week seeking a dismissal of Ross’ recent cocaine-trafficking conviction, based on the Mercury News series ”Dark Alliance,” which detailed how members of a CIA-run guerrilla army imported thousands of kilos of cocaine into South-Central Los Angeles during the past decade, helping touch off the nation’s crack cocaine epidemic.

Dealer was key witness

One of those drug dealers, former Nicaraguan government official Danilo Blandon, was the key witness against Ross during his trial last March. Blandon, who now works as an undercover informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, has admitted under oath that he began selling cocaine in Los Angeles in 1982 to raise money for the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, the largest component of the rebel force commonly known as the Contras.

Fenster, during a three-hour court hearing Friday, argued that Ross’ conviction should be thrown out on the grounds of outrageous government conduct, because Justice Department lawyers withheld information about Blandon’s involvement with the Contras and cocaine until it was too late for him to make any use of it at trial.

The only reason he had any idea of Blandon’s past activities, Fenster said, was because one of his investigators spoke to a Mercury News reporter about Blandon two weeks before the trial.

”If I had had that information when I needed it, I could have convinced a jury of 12 U.S. attorneys to dismiss this case,” Fenster argued. Instead, he said, the Justice Department ”stonewalled it. They kept you in the dark and they kept me in the dark. (Ross) is a victim of the most outrageous government conduct known to man.”

Government lawyer scoffs

But Assistant U.S. Attorney L.J. O’Neale scoffed at Fenster’s claims of CIA involvement, calling them ”the worst sort of supposition … it’s all innuendo and supposition.” He also said the Mercury News’ series did ”not make a solid case” of CIA involvement.

Moments later, though, O’Neale acknowledged that ”when Blandon says he sold cocaine for the Contras, yeah, he did … we have never found his credibility to be lacking in the slightest.”

O’Neale also agreed that ”Mr. Blandon thought the CIA was running things. Whether that’s accurate or not, I don’t know, but that’s what he thought.”

In March, Blandon testified that before he began selling drugs for the CIA’s army, he met in Honduras withCol. Enrique Bermudez, a longtime CIA operative who was selected by the agency to be the Contras’ military commander. Also attending that meeting, Blandon testified, was Nicaraguan cocaine trafficker Norwin Meneses, who was the head of intelligence and security for the Contras in California.

Other storiesCongressional Black Caucus demands investigation
Sept. 13, 1996

Pair arrested while urging probe
Sept. 12, 1996

Jackson calls for investigation
Sept. 8, 1996

Series leads to CIA probe
Sept. 6, 1996

Waters calls on Attorney General
Sept. 4, 1996

Boxer calls for CIA probe
Aug. 29, 1996

Black groups seek probe of CIA drug links
Aug. 24, 1996

Editorial: Another CIA disgrace: Helping the crack flow
Aug. 21, 1996

Gary Webb radio and TV appearances
Last updated:
Sept. 16, 1996


document link
Biographical information onOscar Danilo Blandon, Norwin Meneses, Enrique Bermudez andRick RossPhoto link
More photos of Rick Ross

Inner-city dealingsBlandon said Bermudez told him the Contras needed money and that ”the ends justified the means,” after which he began dealing cocaine in inner-city Los Angeles. During that time, he testified, he was receiving instructions ”from … other people.”

He told a federal grand jury in 1994 that at some point the CIA decided it didn’t need any more drug money because the Reagan administration had begun giving the Contras taxpayer dollars.

While O’Neale strenuously denied that the CIA was in any way involved with Blandon or his cocaine dealing, he also admitted to Judge Huff that he did not know if any CIA documents existed regarding Blandon or Meneses, who was Blandon’s boss in the Contra drug ring.

”Whatever files the CIA has are not available to an assistant U.S. attorney,” O’Neale said. ”I’m not privy to that.”

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Blandon’s testimony
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Grand jury testimony of Danilo Blandon


Before Blandon’s testimony at Ross’ trial, O’Neale filed a motion asking the judge to bar defense lawyers from questioning Blandon about his involvement with the CIA, saying that if it were true, ”it would be classified and if false, should not be allowed.”

Huff told Fenster on Friday that she had taken the motion under submission and had never actually made a formal ruling; Fenster said he was under the impression that he was not allowed to ask about the CIA, and he never did.

document link
Motion to preclude references to CIA 

Huff agreed to let Fenster file a motion under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) seeking documents regarding the CIA’s connections to Blandon.Timing at issue

But O’Neale argued that it didn’t have any bearing on Ross’ case if Blandon was involved with the spy agency, since Ross’ conviction involved crimes committed in 1994 and 1995, not during the Nicaraguan civil war.

Ross, whom O’Neale called ”the Wal-Mart of crack cocaine,” was arrested after Blandon lured him into a DEA sting involving 100 kilos of cocaine.No matter what Blandon did in the past, O’Neale argued, it did not excuse Ross’ involvement in crack dealing.

”If there was great evil, and there was, regardless of who started that evil, (Ross) was Santa’s little helper,” O’Neale said.

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Drugs used in DEA’s bust
”If the United States government was involved in selling cocaine in the United States,” Huff asked, ”don’t you think that would be outrageous government conduct?””In this case, no,” O’Neale answered, prompting laughter and loud grumbling from the courtroom spectators.

Huff set another hearing for Nov. 19.

Reagan Aides and the ‘Secret Government’ Miami Herald July 5, 1987

by Alfonso Chardy, Herald Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Some of President Reagan’s top advisers have operated a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office, congressional investigators and administration officials have concluded.

Investigators believe that the advisers’ activities extended well beyond the secret arms sales to Iran and aid to the contras now under investigation.

Lt. Col. Oliver North, for example, helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad.

When the attorney general at the time, William French Smith, learned of the proposal, he protested in writing to North’s boss, then-national security adviser Robert McFarlane.

The advisers conducted their activities through secret contacts throughout the government with persons who acted at their direction but did not officially report to them.

The activities of those contacts were coordinated by the National Security Council, the officials and investigators said.

There appears to have been no formal directive for the advisers’ activities, which knowledgeable sources described as a parallel government.

In a secret assessment of the activities, the lead counsel for the Senate Iran-contra committee called it a “secret government-within-a-government.”

The arrangement permitted Reagan administration officials to claim that they were not involved in controversial or illegal activities, the officials said.

“It was the ultimate plausible deniability,” said a well-briefed official who has served the Reagan administration since 1982 and who often collaborated on covert assistance to the Nicaraguan contras.

The roles of top-level officials and of Reagan himself are still not clear. But that is expected to be a primary topic when North appears before the Iran-contra committees beginning Tuesday. Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh also is believed to be trying to prove in his investigation of the Iran-contra affair that government officials engaged in a criminal conspiracy.


Much of the time, Cabinet secretaries and their aides were unaware of the advisers’ activities. When they periodically detected operations, they complained or tried to derail them, interviews show.

But no one ever questioned the activities in a broad way, possibly out of a belief that the advisers were operating with presidential sanction, officials said.

Reagan did know of or approve at least some of the actions of the secret group, according to previous accounts by aides, friends and high-ranking foreign officials.

One such case is the 1985 visit to Libya by William Wilson, then-U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and a close Reagan friend, to meet with Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, officials said last week. Secretary of State George Shultz rebuked Wilson, but the officials said Reagan knew of the trip in advance.

The heart of the secret structure from 1983 to 1986 was North’s office in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, investigators believe.

North’s influence within the secret structure was so great, the sources said, that he was able to have the orbits of sophisticated surveillance satellites altered to follow Soviet ships around the world, call for the launching of high-flying spy aircraft on secret missions over Cuba and Nicaragua and become involved in sensitive domestic activities.

Many initiatives

Others in the structure included some of Reagan’s closest friends and advisers, including former national security adviser William Clark, the late CIA Director William Casey and Attorney General Edwin Meese, officials and investigators said.

Congressional investigators said the Iran deal was just one of the group’s initiatives. They say exposure of the unusual arrangement may be the legacy of their inquiry.

“After we establish that a policy decision was made at the highest levels to transfer responsibility for contra support to the NSC…, we favor examining how that decision was implemented,” wrote Arthur Liman, chief counsel of the Senate committee, in a secret memorandum to panel leaders Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Warren Rudman, R- N.H., before hearings began May 5.

“This is the part of the story that reveals the whole secret government-within-a-government, operated from the [Executive Office Building] by a Lt. Col., with its own army, air force, diplomatic agents, intelligence operatives and appropriations capacity,” Limon wrote in the memo, parts of which were shared with The Herald.

A spokesman for Liman declined comment but did not dispute the memo’s existence.

A White House official rejected the notion that any of Reagan’s advisers were operating secretly.

“The president has constantly expressed his foreign policy positions to the public and has consulted with the Congress,” the official said.

Began in 1980

Congressional investigators and current and former officials interviewed — members of the CIA, State Department and Pentagon — said they still do not have a full record of the impact of the the advisers’ activities.

But based on investigations and personal experience, they believe the secret governing arrangement traces its roots to the last weeks of Reagan’s 1980 campaign.

Officials say the genesis may have been an October 1980 decision by Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager and a former officer in the World War II precursor of the CIA, to create an October Surprise Group to monitor Jimmy Carter’s feverish negotiations with Iran for the release of 52 American hostages.

The group, led by campaign foreign policy adviser Richard Allen, was founded out of concern Carter might pull off an “October surprise” such as a last-minute deal for the release of the hostages before the Nov. 4 election. One of the group’s first acts was a meeting with a man claiming to represent Iran who offered to release the hostages to Reagan.

Allen — Reagan’s first national security adviser– and another campaign aide, Laurence Silberman, told The Herald in April of the meeting. they said McFarlane, then a Senate Armed Services Committee aide, arranged and attended it. McFarlane later became Reagan’s national security adviser and played a key role in the Iran-contra affair. Allen and Silberman said they rejected the offer to release the hostages to Reagan.

Briefing book theft

Congressional aides now link another well-known campaign incident — the theft of confidential briefing materials from Carter’s campaign before the Oct. 28, 1980, Carter-Reagan debate — to the same group of advisers.

They believe that Casey obtained the briefing materials and passed them to James Baker, another top Reagan campaign aide, who was White House chief of staff in Reagan’s first term.

Once Reagan was sworn in, the group moved quickly to set itself up, officials said. Within months, the advisers were clashing with officials in the traditional agencies.

Six weeks after Reagan was sworn in, apparently over State Department objections, then-CIA director Casey submitted a proposal to Reagan calling for covert support of anti-Sandinista groups that had fled Nicaragua after the 1979 revolution.


It is still unclear whether Casey cleared the plan with Reagan. But In November 1981 the CIA secretly flew an Argentine military leader, Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, to Washington to devise a secret agreement under which Argentine military officers trained Nicaraguan rebels, according to an administration official familiar with the agreement.

About the same time, North completed his transfer to the NSC from the Marine Corps. Those who worked with North in 1981 remember his first assignments as routine, although not unimportant.

North, they recalled, was briefly assigned to carry the “football,” the briefcase containing the secret contingency plans for fighting a nuclear war, which is taken everywhere the president goes. North later widened his assignment to cover national crisis contingency planning. In that capacity he became involved with the controversial national crisis plan drafted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


From 1982 to 1984, North assisted FEMA, the U.S. government’s chief national crisis-management unit, in revising contingency plans for dealing with nuclear war, insurrection or massive military mobilization.

North’s involvement with FEMA set off the first major clash between the official government and the advisers and led to the formal letter of protest in 1984 from then- Attorney General Smith.

Smith was in Europe last week and could not be reached for comment.

But a government official familiar with North’s collaboration with FEMA said then-Director Louis O. Guiffrida, a close friend of Meese’s, mentioned North in meetings during that time as FEMA’s NSC contact.

Guiffrida could not be reached for comment, but FEMA spokesman Bill McAda confirmed the relationship.

“Officials of FEMA met with Col. North during 1982 to 1984,” McAda said. “These meetings were appropriate to Col. North’s duties with the National Security Council and FEMA’s responsibilities in certain areas of national security.”

FEMA’s clash with Smith occurred over a secret contingency plan that called for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law during a national crisis.

The plan did not define national crisis, but it was understood to be nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition against a military invasion abroad.


The official said the contingency plan was written as part of an executive order or legislative package that Reagan would sign and hold within the NSC until a severe crisis arose.

The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a June 30, 1982, memo by Guiffrida’s deputy for national preparedness programs, John Brinkerhoff. A copy of the memo was obtained by The Herald.

The scenario outlined in the Brinkerhoff memo resembled somewhat a paper Guiffrida had written in 1970 at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., in which he advocated martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. The paper also advocated the roundup and transfer to “assembly centers or relocation camps” of at least 21 million “American Negroes.”

When he saw the FEMA plans, Attorney General Smith became alarmed. He dispatched a letter to McFarlane Aug. 2, 1984 lodging his objections and urging a delay in signing the directive.

“I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness,” Smith said in the letter to McFarlane, which The Herald obtained. “This department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an ’emergency czar’ role for FEMA.”

It is unclear whether the executive order was signed or whether it contained the martial law plans. Congressional sources familiar with national disaster procedures said they believe Reagan did sign an executive order in 1984 that revised national military mobilization measures to deal with civilians in case of nuclear war or other crisis.


Around the time that issue was producing fireworks with the administration, McFarlane and Casey reassigned North from national crisis planning to international covert management of the contras. The transfer came after North took a personal interest, realizing that neither the State Department nor any other government agency wanted to handle the issue after it became clear early in 1984 that Congress was moving to bar official aid to the rebels.

The new assignment, plus North’s natural organizational ability, creativity and the sheer energy he dedicated to the issue, gradually led to an expansion of his power and stature within the covert structure, officials and investigators believe.

Meese also was said to have played a role in the secret government, investigators now believe, but his role is less clear.

Meese sometimes referred private American citizens to the NSC so they could be screened and contacted for soliciting support for the Nicaraguan contras.

One of those supporters, Philip Mabry of Fort Worth, told The Herald earlier this year that in 1983 he was told by fellow conservatives in Texas to contact Meese, then White House counselor, if he wanted to help the contras. After he contacted Meese’s office, Mabry received a letter from Meese obtained by The Herald advising him that his name had been given to the “appropriate people.”

Shortly thereafter, Mabry said, a woman who identified herself as Meese’s secretary gave him the name and phone number of another NSC secretary who, in turn, gave him North and his secretary, Fawn Hall, as contacts.

Meese’s Justice Department spokesman, Patrick Korten, denies that Meese was part of North’s secret contra supply network and notes that Meese does not recall having referred anyone to North on contra-related matters.

In addition to North’s role as contra commander and fund-raiser, North became secret overseer of the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy, through which the Reagan administration disseminated information that cast Nicaragua as a threat to its neighbors and the United States.

An intelligence source familiar with North’s relationship with that office said North was directly involved in many of the best publicized news leaks, including the Nov. 4, 1984, Election Day announcement that Soviet-made MiG jet fighters were on their way to Nicaragua.

McFarlane is now believed to have been the senior administration official who told reporters that the Soviet cargo ship Bakuriani, en route to Nicaragua from a Soviet Black Sea port, was probably carrying MiGs.

The intelligence official said North apparently recommended that the information be leaked to the press on Election Day so it would reach millions of people watching election results. CBS and NBC broadcast the report that night.


The leak led to a new clash between the regular bureaucracy and the president’s advisers. The official State Department spokesman, John Hughes, tried hard to play down the report, pointing out that it was unproven that the Bakuriani was carrying MiGs. At the same time, employees of the Office of Public Diplomacy, acting under North’s direction, insisted that the crates were inside the ship and that MiGs were still a possibility.

To take a closer look, the source said, North requested a high-flying SR-71 Blackbird spy aircraft be sent from Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., to fly over the Nicaraguan port of Corinto while the Bakuriani unloaded its cargo. The pictures showed that the Bakuriani unloaded helicopters, not MiGs.

North was not the only adviser who operated outside traditional government channels, investigators have concluded.

Others were known as the RIGLET, a semi-official unit made up of North; Alan Fiers, a CIA Central American affairs officer; and Elliott Abrams, the current assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, according to Abrams’ subordinate Richard Melton. Melton revealed the existence of the RIGLET in a deposition given to the Iran- contra committees. The name is a diminutive for RIG, which stands for Restricted Interagency Group.

Among the RIGLET’s actions was ordering the U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, Lewis Tambs, to assist the contras in setting up a front in southern Nicaragua. Tambs, who resigned suddenly last year after his links to North were revealed, testified about the instructions to Iran-contra investigators.

But perhaps the key to the parallel government was the role played by Reagan’s second national security adviser, William Clark. It was during Clark’s tenure that North began to gain influence in the NSC.

Clark also recruited several midlevel officers from the Pentagon and the CIA to work on a special Central American task force in 1983 to push aid for El Salvador, a task force member said.

“Judge Clark was the granddaddy of the system,” he said. “I was working at the Pentagon on another issue when my boss said that because of special circumstances, I was to be reassigned to the task force.”

A former administration official familiar with Clark’s activities said Clark also had approved contacts between Vatican Ambassador Wilson and Libya before Wilson’s November 1985 journey, which came after McFarlane replaced Clark at the NSC.

The former official said Wilson also had carried out secret missions for the Reagan administration in a Latin American country where Wilson reportedly maintained contacts with high-level officials. The source asked that the country not be identified because the system is still in place and had reduced tensions by circumventing the regular bureaucracies of both countries.

Calls to Wilson’s and Clark’s offices in California were not returned.



Sources say the parallel government behind the Reagan administration engaged in secret actions including:

  • A CONTINGENCY plan to suspend Constitution and impose martial law in United States in case of nuclear war or national rebellion.
  • 1985 VISIT to Libya by William Wilson, then U.S. ambassador to Vatican and close Reagan friend, to meet with Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
  • HAVING ROUTES of sophisticated surveillance satellites altered to follow Soviet ships around world.
  • LAUNCHING of spy aircraft on secret missions over Cuba and Nicaragua.
  • PROPOSAL in 1981 to provide covert support of anti- Sandinista groups that fled Nicaragua after Sandinista revolution in 1979.
  • DISSEMINATION of information that cast Nicaragua as threat to neighbors and United States.

Before Reagan was elected, campaign aides who became the president’s top advisers carried out these secret activities:

  • CREATION in 1980 of October Surprise Group to monitor President Carter’s negotiations with Iran for release of 52 American hostages. Group met with man who claimed to represent Iran and who offered to release hostages to Reagan. Offer declined, officials say.
  • ACQUISITION of stolen confidential briefing materials from Carter’s campaign before Oct. 28, 1980, Carter- Reagan debate.

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm by David Wurmser 1996

[Having recently received a 404 error at the IASPS site’s version of this piece, I figured it better be saved from the Google cache before it’s gone forever. -Scott]

Companion piece “Coping With Crumbling States” here.

Following is a report prepared by The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies’ “Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000.” The main substantive ideas in this paper emerge from a discussion in which prominent opinion makers, including Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser participated. The report, entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” is the framework for a series of follow-up reports on strategy.

Israel has a large problem. Labor Zionism, which for 70 years has dominated the Zionist movement, has generated a stalled and shackled economy. Efforts to salvage Israel’s socialist institutions—which include pursuing supranational over national sovereignty and pursuing a peace process that embraces the slogan, “New Middle East”—undermine the legitimacy of the nation and lead Israel into strategic paralysis and the previous government’s “peace process.” That peace process obscured the evidence of eroding national critical mass— including a palpable sense of national exhaustion—and forfeited strategic initiative. The loss of national critical mass was illustrated best by Israel’s efforts to draw in the United States to sell unpopular policies domestically, to agree to negotiate sovereignty over its capital, and to respond with resignation to a spate of terror so intense and tragic that it deterred Israelis from engaging in normal daily functions, such as commuting to work in buses.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government comes in with a new set of ideas. While there are those who will counsel continuity, Israel has the opportunity to make a clean break; it can forge a peace process and strategy based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism, the starting point of which must be economic reform. To secure the nation’s streets and borders in the immediate future, Israel can:

Work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats. This implies clean break from the slogan, “comprehensive peace” to a traditional concept of strategy based on balance of power.

Change the nature of its relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas and nurturing alternatives to Arafat’s exclusive grip on Palestinian society.

Forge a new basis for relations with the United States—stressing self-reliance, maturity, strategic cooperation on areas of mutual concern, and furthering values inherent to the West. This can only be done if Israel takes serious steps to terminate aid, which prevents economic reform.

This report is written with key passages of a possible speech marked TEXT, that highlight the clean break which the new government has an opportunity to make. The body of the report is the commentary explaining the purpose and laying out the strategic context of the passages.

A New Approach to Peace

Early adoption of a bold, new perspective on peace and security is imperative for the new prime minister. While the previous government, and many abroad, may emphasize “land for peace”— which placed Israel in the position of cultural, economic, political, diplomatic, and military retreat — the new government can promote Western values and traditions. Such an approach, which will be well received in the United States, includes “peace for peace,” “peace through strength” and self reliance: the balance of power.

A new strategy to seize the initiative can be introduced:


We have for four years pursued peace based on a New Middle East. We in Israel cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent. Peace depends on the character and behavior of our foes. We live in a dangerous neighborhood, with fragile states and bitter rivalries. Displaying moral ambivalence between the effort to build a Jewish state and the desire to annihilate it by trading “land for peace” will not secure “peace now.” Our claim to the land —to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years–is legitimate and noble. It is not within our own power, no matter how much we concede, to make peace unilaterally. Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, “peace for peace,” is a solid basis for the future.

Israel’s quest for peace emerges from, and does not replace, the pursuit of its ideals. The Jewish people’s hunger for human rights — burned into their identity by a 2000-year old dream to live free in their own land — informs the concept of peace and reflects continuity of values with Western and Jewish tradition. Israel can now embrace negotiations, but as means, not ends, to pursue those ideals and demonstrate national steadfastness. It can challenge police states; enforce compliance of agreements; and insist on minimal standards of accountability.

Securing the Northern Border

Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:

striking Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.

paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.

striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.

Israel also can take this opportunity to remind the world of the nature of the Syrian regime. Syria repeatedly breaks its word. It violated numerous agreements with the Turks, and has betrayed the United States by continuing to occupy Lebanon in violation of the Taef agreement in 1989. Instead, Syria staged a sham election, installed a quisling regime, and forced Lebanon to sign a “Brotherhood Agreement” in 1991, that terminated Lebanese sovereignty. And Syria has begun colonizing Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of Syrians, while killing tens of thousands of its own citizens at a time, as it did in only three days in 1983 in Hama.

Under Syrian tutelage, the Lebanese drug trade, for which local Syrian military officers receive protection payments, flourishes. Syria’s regime supports the terrorist groups operationally and financially in Lebanon and on its soil. Indeed, the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon has become for terror what the Silicon Valley has become for computers. The Bekaa Valley has become one of the main distribution sources, if not production points, of the “supernote” — counterfeit US currency so well done that it is impossible to detect.


Negotiations with repressive regimes like Syria’s require cautious realism. One cannot sensibly assume the other side’s good faith. It is dangerous for Israel to deal naively with a regime murderous of its own people, openly aggressive toward its neighbors, criminally involved with international drug traffickers and counterfeiters, and supportive of the most deadly terrorist organizations.

Given the nature of the regime in Damascus, it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan “comprehensive peace” and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting “land for peace” deals on the Golan Heights.

Moving to a Traditional Balance of Power Strategy


We must distinguish soberly and clearly friend from foe. We must make sure that our friends across the Middle East never doubt the solidity or value of our friendship.

Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria’s regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which Asad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam.

But Syria enters this conflict with potential weaknesses: Damascus is too preoccupied with dealing with the threatened new regional equation to permit distractions of the Lebanese flank. And Damascus fears that the ‘natural axis’ with Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the center would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi Peninsula. For Syria, this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East which would threaten Syria’s territorial integrity.

Since Iraq’s future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites in their efforts to redefine Iraq, including such measures as: visiting Jordan as the first official state visit, even before a visit to the United States, of the new Netanyahu government; supporting King Hussein by providing him with some tangible security measures to protect his regime against Syrian subversion; encouraging — through influence in the U.S. business community — investment in Jordan to structurally shift Jordan’s economy away from dependence on Iraq; and diverting Syria’s attention by using Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.

Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.

King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein.

Changing the Nature of Relations with the Palestinians

Israel has a chance to forge a new relationship between itself and the Palestinians. First and foremost, Israel’s efforts to secure its streets may require hot pursuit into Palestinian-controlled areas, a justifiable practice with which Americans can sympathize.

A key element of peace is compliance with agreements already signed. Therefore, Israel has the right to insist on compliance, including closing Orient House and disbanding Jibril Rujoub’s operatives in Jerusalem. Moreover, Israel and the United States can establish a Joint Compliance Monitoring Committee to study periodically whether the PLO meets minimum standards of compliance, authority and responsibility, human rights, and judicial and fiduciary accountability.


We believe that the Palestinian Authority must be held to the same minimal standards of accountability as other recipients of U.S. foreign aid. A firm peace cannot tolerate repression and injustice. A regime that cannot fulfill the most rudimentary obligations to its own people cannot be counted upon to fulfill its obligations to its neighbors.

Israel has no obligations under the Oslo agreements if the PLO does not fulfill its obligations. If the PLO cannot comply with these minimal standards, then it can be neither a hope for the future nor a proper interlocutor for present. To prepare for this, Israel may want to cultivate alternatives to Arafat’s base of power. Jordan has ideas on this.

To emphasize the point that Israel regards the actions of the PLO problematic, but not the Arab people, Israel might want to consider making a special effort to reward friends and advance human rights among Arabs. Many Arabs are willing to work with Israel; identifying and helping them are important. Israel may also find that many of her neighbors, such as Jordan, have problems with Arafat and may want to cooperate. Israel may also want to better integrate its own Arabs.

Forging A New U.S.-Israeli Relationship

In recent years, Israel invited active U.S. intervention in Israel’s domestic and foreign policy for two reasons: to overcome domestic opposition to “land for peace” concessions the Israeli public could not digest, and to lure Arabs — through money, forgiveness of past sins, and access to U.S. weapons — to negotiate. This strategy, which required funneling American money to repressive and aggressive regimes, was risky, expensive, and very costly for both the U.S. and Israel, and placed the United States in roles is should neither have nor want.

Israel can make a clean break from the past and establish a new vision for the U.S.-Israeli partnership based on self-reliance, maturity and mutuality — not one focused narrowly on territorial disputes. Israel’s new strategy — based on a shared philosophy of peace through strength — reflects continuity with Western values by stressing that Israel is self-reliant, does not need U.S. troops in any capacity to defend it, including on the Golan Heights, and can manage its own affairs. Such self-reliance will grant Israel greater freedom of action and remove a significant lever of pressure used against it in the past.

To reinforce this point, the Prime Minister can use his forthcoming visit to announce that Israel is now mature enough to cut itself free immediately from at least U.S. economic aid and loan guarantees at least, which prevent economic reform. [Military aid is separated for the moment until adequate arrangements can be made to ensure that Israel will not encounter supply problems in the means to defend itself]. As outlined in another Institute report, Israel can become self-reliant only by, in a bold stroke rather than in increments, liberalizing its economy, cutting taxes, relegislating a free-processing zone, and selling-off public lands and enterprises — moves which will electrify and find support from a broad bipartisan spectrum of key pro-Israeli Congressional leaders, including Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

Israel can under these conditions better cooperate with the U.S. to counter real threats to the region and the West’s security. Mr. Netanyahu can highlight his desire to cooperate more closely with the United States on anti-missile defense in order to remove the threat of blackmail which even a weak and distant army can pose to either state. Not only would such cooperation on missile defense counter a tangible physical threat to Israel’s survival, but it would broaden Israel’s base of support among many in the United States Congress who may know little about Israel, but care very much about missile defense. Such broad support could be helpful in the effort to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

To anticipate U.S. reactions and plan ways to manage and constrain those reactions, Prime Minister Netanyahu can formulate the policies and stress themes he favors in language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the Cold War which apply well to Israel. If Israel wants to test certain propositions that require a benign American reaction, then the best time to do so is before November, 1996.

Conclusions: Transcending the Arab-Israeli Conflict

TEXT: Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them.

Notable Arab intellectuals have written extensively on their perception of Israel’s floundering and loss of national identity. This perception has invited attack, blocked Israel from achieving true peace, and offered hope for those who would destroy Israel. The previous strategy, therefore, was leading the Middle East toward another Arab-Israeli war. Israel’s new agenda can signal a clean break by abandoning a policy which assumed exhaustion and allowed strategic retreat by reestablishing the principle of preemption, rather than retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb blows to the nation without response.

Israel’s new strategic agenda can shape the regional environment in ways that grant Israel the room to refocus its energies back to where they are most needed: to rejuvenate its national idea, which can only come through replacing Israel’s socialist foundations with a more sound footing; and to overcome its “exhaustion,” which threatens the survival of the nation.

Ultimately, Israel can do more than simply manage the Arab-Israeli conflict though war. No amount of weapons or victories will grant Israel the peace its seeks. When Israel is on a sound economic footing, and is free, powerful, and healthy internally, it will no longer simply manage the Arab-Israeli conflict; it will transcend it. As a senior Iraqi opposition leader said recently: “Israel must rejuvenate and revitalize its moral and intellectual leadership. It is an important — if not the most important–element in the history of the Middle East.” Israel — proud, wealthy, solid, and strong — would be the basis of a truly new and peaceful Middle East.

Participants in the Study Group on “A New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000:”

Richard Perle, American Enterprise Institute, Study Group Leader

James Colbert, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Johns Hopkins University/SAIS
Douglas Feith, Feith and Zell Associates
Robert Loewenberg, President, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies
Jonathan Torop, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
David Wurmser, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies
Meyrav Wurmser, Johns Hopkins University

Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant by David Wurmser 1996

[Having recently received a 404 error at the IASPS site’s version of this piece, I figured it better be saved from the Google cache before it’s gone forever. -Scott]

Companion piece “A Clean Break” is here.

For related reading:

“Ultimate ‘peace process’ prize,” by Robert J. Loewenberg, The Washington Times, October 13, 1996
“Just as Saddam’s Power is Under Assault,” by David Wurmser, The Wall Street Journal – Europe, September 11, 1996
“Balance of Power,” by Richard Perle, The Wall Street Journal – Europe, July 10, 1996

Iraq’s future will profoundly affect the strategic balance in the Middle East. The battle to dominate and define Iraq is, by extension, the battle to dominate the balance of power in the Levant over the long run. Syria understands this and has made the Iraq file its highest priority since the Gulf War. Belatedly, Jordan has realized the strategic significance of the circumstance and forwarded its Hashemite option for Iraq.

Until now, Syria and Iran have worked together without success to assume the lead role in defining a post-Saddam Iraq. Jordan’s Hashemite option for Iraq is another blow to Syria’s ambitions and will surely trigger a fierce Syrian-Jordanian competition. Still, Turkey’s recent shift under the Islamist leader Erbakan and that country’s continuing inability to come to terms with its Kurdish problem, as well as Iran’s increasing position as the power broker in northern Iraq, Asad’s close ties to Crown Prince Abdallah, and overall Western and Israeli inattentiveness due to their quest for “comprehensive peace,” offer Asad some hope. The United States, Israel, and Turkey should pay particular attention to this circumstance in formulating an approach to the Levant.

The Stakes for the Region and the United States

Syria’s and Iraq’s regimes are based on Baathism, a variant of Nasser’s brand of secular-Arab nationalism. Baathism has failed. Since it is pan-Arab, it holds that all Arabs should unite into one Arab state. This quest undermined the legitimacy and retarded the development of both Iraq and Syria as nation-states. Underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, their politics are still defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition. It is unlikely that any institutions created by tyrannical secular-Arab nationalist leaders, particularly the army, will escape being torn apart. The leaders of both Syria and Iraq seek to overcome the consequences of this internal failure by engaging in relentless external efforts to control the region.

Iraq tried to take over its neighbor, Kuwait — a catastrophic mistake that has accelerated Iraq’s descent into internal chaos. This chaos has created a vacuum in an area geostrategically central, and rich with human and natural resources. The vacuum tempts Iraq’s neighbors to intervene, especially Syria, which is also driven to control the region. Syria has indeed sought to shift the region’s balance of power by dominating a post-Saddam Iraq and tapping its resources.

Iraq’s chaos and Syria’s efforts simultaneously and provide opportunities for the Jordanian monarchy. Jordan is best suited to manage the tribal politics that will define the Levant in the wake of failed secular-Arab nationalism. The Hashemites alone are adept enough in forging strong tribal, familial and clan alliances to create viable nations in the Levant.

Jordan’s potential endangers Syria. In response, Syria has tried to cobble together a broad coalition, to include Saudi Arabia, to oppose, embarrass, isolate and eventually defeat Jordan. However, Saudi support for Syria, which is crucial for Damascus, is ambivalent. This has led Syria to take an active interest in Saudi succession. Jordan, in turn, tried to forge a Turkish-Israeli-American coalition to buttress its efforts. Saddam Hussein’s invasion of northern Iraq early on August 31, 1996, is the latest manifestation of this strategic competition among the states of the northeast Middle East, or Levant. It marks his reentry as a long-term player in this competition.

The issue is not whether Syria in its Baathist form will survive or prevail in the long run. Like communism, Baathism’s days are numbered. The issue here is whether the West and Israel can construct a strategy for limiting and expediting the chaotic collapse that will ensue in order to move on to the task of creating a better circumstance. The problem is as follows:

If Syria prevails in the short run, then Jordan would be isolated and King Hussein’s regime besieged. Tribal alliances extending across the Levant would submit to Syrian diktat. Jordan, along with the rest of the Levant, would first come under Syria’s sway, and then later be swept up by Syria’s eventual crumbling. Most of the Levant then will crumble into neo-feudalism.

If, on the other hand, Jordan wins, then Syria would be isolated and surrounded by a new pro-western Jordanian-Israeli-Iraqi-Turkish bloc, the first of which can help contain and manage (through its more solid and traditional regime) the scope of the coming chaos in Iraq and most probably in Syria. In the long-run, a Hashemite victory could usher in an era defined by a stable balance of power system rooted to tribal alliances. These alliances, in turn, can form solid bases for the development of states.

Iraq’s future will also determine how the Arab “Cold War” will end. The struggle for Iraq represents a return to the questions of 1958. The divide between traditional, pro-Western monarchies under the Hashemites and perhaps some of the al-Saud family on the one side, and the pro-Soviet secular-Arab nationalists one the other, has reappeared. Only now it is the latter that is in crumbling descent and missing its Soviet patron.

As this competition builds, the United States remains preoccupied with the quest for “comprehensive peace” without reference to regional strategic rivalries and the crumbling nature of the states engaged in them. It is in the West’s interests to make a clean break from this policy. It would be prudent for the United States and Israel to abandon the quest for “comprehensive peace” — including its “land for peace” provision, with Syria — since it locks the United States into futile attempts to prop-up local tyrants and the unnatural states underneath them. Instead, the United States and Israel can use this competition over Iraq to improve the regional balance of power in favor of regional friends like Jordan. Doing so would help expedite the demise of Baathism in Syria and present King Hussein with the opportunity to forge tribal/clan/familial alliances across the Middle East that could become a more stable and solid basis for future Arab nations than the tyranny of the Baathist type. This begins with ensuring that Syria does not prevail in the struggle to define Iraq.

The West should not abandon its victory. It should not position itself to become the protector of Baathism, which is no more than a Cold War enemy relic on probation. The Arab-Israeli peace process is, in effect, doing just this.

The Strategic Consequences of Failed Secular-Arab Nationalism

Strategic planners must consider the political character of nations. American planners anchored their strategy during the Cold War to an appreciation of the nature of communism. America’s strategy toward the Middle East must include a similar appreciation of secular-Arab nationalism, particularly Baathism.

Since the late-1950s, secular-Arab nationalism has been the prevailing political trend in the Levant. Two governments in particular were defined around variants of this school of politics — the Iraqi regime that ousted the Hashemites in 1958, and the Syrian regime that came to power in the early 1960s. Both regimes eventually fell to followers of an extreme form of secular-Arab nationalism, namely Baathism (Syria in 1963; Iraq in 1968).

Baathism seeks to combine Leninist socialism, a concept of “Arab awakening,” and even racial nationalism. It is flawed, dangerous, and terminally ill. Some scholars argue that despite their failure, Syria and Iraq can remain united under strong statist institutions, such as a ruling military junta, rather than be ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families. Some, perhaps most, argue that the leadership in the military has become a case of “riding the tiger.” Namely, at the moment of transition, the leadership, even of the military, understands it either hangs together or hangs separately. Thus, the unified army could be expected to assume power and hold at least most of the center of country together.

Some scholars argue that Iraq and Syria can remain united because of Baathism. They would argue that statist efforts have mobilized so broad a spectrum within the state that it forges a national identity. Mobilization gives a large portion of the population a vested interest in the success of the state-building enterprise for which so many have sacrificed. This vested interest develops into a sense of nation.

It is impossible to build solid nations through tyranny. The Soviet Union’s collapse into pieces should have alerted the West that the post-Cold War world will be beset not by strong, threatening nations, but by chaos emerging from former tyranny. As a series of articles which appeared in the Arab and Western press after the Cold War indicated, this is also true of the Arab world as well. In 1992, Robert Kaplan wrote, “There is No Middle East.” He argued that the artificial post-colonial state structure was yielding to irrepressible, older loyalties. Kaplan noted specifically how vulnerable was the facade of stability erected by secular-Arab nationalist authoritarian rulers and how the Middle East nation-state system could crumble with the violent resumption of history.

While many Arab writers, mostly from the Gulf region, took great umbrage at Kaplan’s analysis, some, mostly from the Levant, agreed. Rami Khouri of the Jordan Times conceded over the following months that a combination of supra-national and sub-national forms of identity will define the Middle East in the future. Moreover, Khouri noted that the debate over the crumbling of national identity is vital to understanding the weakness of democracy and pluralism in the Arab world. When the civil war in Yemen erupted in 1994, a number of other Arab writers, notably also from the Levant, joined Khouri in his analysis. Foreign journalists also began to notice how authority, on the grass-roots level, had developed into forms of syndicalism. Even The New York Times Magazine’s Michael Kelly described the Palestinian Authority in Gaza as racked by anti-authority sentiments and disintegrating into feudal warlord-like fiefdoms in refugee camps. And as recently as September 1995, journalists noted that the only real authority capable of functioning on the local level in the Palestinian areas was the old clan and leading-families structures. Others noted the resurgence of ethnicity among minorities in the region. These writers were all impressed by an emerging phenomenon — the crumbling of Arab secular-nationalist nations.

Baathism is perhaps the most extreme and tyrannical form of secular-Arab nationalism. As such, it mostly reflects its failure. For thirty years Syria and Iraq engaged in massive statist repression to erase all loyalties other than to the regime. Instead, their regimes and institutions have prevented the building of nations. The failures of Baathism in the Levant chillingly resemble those of communism in eastern Europe. Both communism and Baathism faltered on the problem of nationality. Just as communism sought to unite all peoples under one ideology, Baathism sought to unite all Arabs under one state. Unity is paramount, and nationalism threatened that unity. Baathism blocked, rather than encouraged, the inhabitants of Iraq and Syria from forging distinct communities. The effort to pursue pan-Arab integration, which failed in every other respect, did achieve its most dangerous purpose: to undermine the legitimacy of nationalism which could be expected to emerge from the voluntary association of factions. Pan-Arabism could not be reconciled with nationalism or factionalism. Nor could statist repression break factionalism down as easily as it could erase nationalism. Baathism instead drove these states into relentless foreign adventures. In the end, Baathism attained neither, leaving the Arab nations to fluctuate between repression and anarchy.

Baathism’s failure is most evident in Iraq. The residual unity of the nation is an illusion projected by extreme repression of the state. While there is a sense of common destiny among many Iraqis in ousting Saddam, the mechanism for doing so most reliably remains working through clan, family, and tribal connections. Indeed, only the most primordial, almost instinctual ties, manage to survive the watchful eye and heavy hand of Saddam. Those ties are resurfacing in the politics even of Saddam’s innermost circle. As one long-time observer of Iraq noted:

No longer is the regime [Saddam] satisfied with punishing the military men whose heads become visible, even if they are from the central region and from the tribal body that forms its hard core….Thus, the tribes close to the regime no longer enjoy any inviolability or privilege. It may be the first time that the regime is facing danger from inside a circle that was assumed to protect the regime and form a defense for its Takriti hard core….Now the fire is encompassing the Sunni center.

The venerated Iraqi academic, Abbas Kelidar, explains the reason for this disintegration:

Iraq and Syria have continued to have as precarious an existence as when they were created….Although their political structure has become powerful and all-embracing, it has remained as alien and artificial as the boundaries drawn to demarcate their international frontiers.

Military service has been regarded as an imperative process of nation-building in new states….But the primordial ties of kinship — tribal, religious, ethnic, and family bonds — have remained paramount. Often they take precedence over national identity and interest. Group interaction within the armed forces, as in the state at large, has assumed a compartmentalized form, particularly when it comes to power-sharing….Instead, a military-civilian symbiosis has developed between highly-politicized officers and ideological groups of the intelligentsia, whose purpose and function are to dominate the political process. Under their domination, political authority assumes a tribal nature. It becomes segmented and totally dependent on the primordial cohesion of the group and its loyalty to a strong and pervasive leadership. Without group solidarity — familial, tribal, sectarian, and communal — the ruling establishment is reduced to warring factions. Under these conditions, the state is unable to ensure domestic political stability or prevent external interference and sedition. Its survival becomes a matter of speculation for its own people as well as its ambitiously irredentist neighbors.

In the Arab East…the threat of disintegration is inherent to the system itself.

Syria faces the same failure as Iraq. It, perhaps more than any other country in the Arab world, represents the regional danger of Baathism. As one Syrian Baathist noted with candor:

Classic Baathism addresses three distinct factional divisions in Syrian society: tribalism, sectarianism, and clanism. The army and Baathism have been seen as ways to level the field among all the factions and to offer a superseding identity. It was hoped that over generations, through “political education” and by achieving economic equality, this superseding identity would take root and erase the divisions and inequities. But in the 1980s, the Baathist party realized — especially in the wake of the events in Hama and the immediate threat posed to the regime by the Muslim Brotherhood — that its hold on power was still retained primarily through military force. It also realized that the military could not transform society and allocate values. This…is where the Baath Party now finds itself. It rules through the threat of violence as the ultimate means….The implication of this situation…is that any successor regime presiding over Syria that has not institutionalized Baathism will have to resort to purely traditional means to survive. In short, if the regime is stripped of Baathism, it will have to rely exclusively on force.

Tribal, ethnic, sectarian, and warlord-like centripetal forces — many of which are shared with the Iraqis — lie seething under the veneer of unity and stability carefully displayed by Damascus’s Baathist regime.

Factionalism is not itself the problem bedeviling the Arab world. Factionalism need not doom efforts to forge nations. Under natural circumstances, these forces could be harnessed through voluntary associations, alliances, and unions as the seeds of real nations. Such was the case in the early 1920s, as the Hashemite King Faisal I of Iraq forged his nation by negotiating tribal alliances and union. Iraq was founded upon, rather than opposed to, these primordial ties which so define Arab society.

A natural state represents elements that can develop into a nation. These factional elements, in their turn civilize and restrain the power of the state. The problem of the nation-state, especially in the Arab world, is that government can quickly become intrusive, a distended clan, or anarchic. The state becomes an instrument of clan domination. Even under the best of circumstances, Arab nations will suffer enduring clan and tribal problems. While the state may need to employ some measure of force to protect the union of the nation from collapse, an intrusive statist presence designed to erase the tribal or clan identity or transform society leads inescapably to wild swings between repression and anarchy.

Factionalism in Iraq and Syria is likely in the short run to erupt into violence and anarchy during either succession or a major regional competition. The Baathist state, rather than serve as the limited, agreed-upon agent of factional alliances, instead became the instrument for unnatural, and eventually futile, repression of factions, intrusion into all facets of society to affect radical change, and exploitation of the entire state apparatus by the ruling faction over all others. Factional allegiance has become synonymous with the fight against Baathist tyranny. Here, then, is an example of a Baathist nation swinging wildly between repression and the anarchy that brings down the tyranny.

Collapse in either Syria or Iraq will affect the other profoundly. On the ideological level, a failure of Baathism in one indicts the regime of the other. But more importantly, the cross-border tribal and clan alliances make it likely that events in Iraq would spread uncontrollably into Syria itself. Syria’s regime is well aware of this weakness. The link between the internal and external is described as follows by a French diplomat:

Asad relies, both domestically and at the regional level, on complex strategies and tactics based on community, tribal, clan, and family ties where interpersonal obligations are paramount. Over the last 30 years, the building of those ties…has determined and set the pace both for domestic public life and for external policy….As ‘Alawi power has strengthened, expanded, and at the same time dispersed over the entirety of Syrian territory, the community’s tribal distinctness, based on occupation of a particular terrain, has been blurred to the profit of segmentation by clans, even families, whose networks of solidarity and alliance extend beyond traditional internal and external limits of the community.

In this context, both the Syrian and Iraqi regimes seek to avoid internal collapse by insulating themselves from and seeking to control external tribal politics and rival ideas. In short, they are driven to parallel their quest for internal homogeneity with external unity (pan-Arabism), which drives them to match their internal repression with external aggression against neighbors and more distant coalitions. This quest for regional control has hastened the destruction of Iraq already and drives Syria into dangerous policies as well.

Syria compensates for its weaknesses by being unswayable, relentless, cunning, bold and disciplined in its pursuit of regional control. Syria’s opponents, in contrast, have been none of these. They have, therefore, allowed Asad, despite his and his country’s weaknesses, to achieve much.

The very effort to prop Baathism up threatens the region by keeping its nations artificial and fragile. The inhabitants of Syria and Iraq will persevere in defining themselves though their families, tribes, and clans. U.S. and Israeli strategic policy in the Levant must be informed by an appreciation of the crumbling nature of Baathism and the perseverance of tribes and clans. Such a policy includes harnessing voluntary alliances (which serve as barriers to state repression) to forge eventual tribal, familial, and clan unions under limited governments. Such unions and limited governments, in turn, are the hope for the Arab world, since they alone can develop into real nations.

Syria Identifies the Emerging Power Vacuum in Iraq

The Levant now resembles Europe of 1914: crumbling states, like Syria, locked in bitter rivalries over a collapsing entity (Iraq). The prize itself is more powerful than any of the neighbors that covet it. Iraq, a nation of 18 million, occupies some of the most strategically important and well-endowed territories of the Middle East. Given the cross-border alliances of tribes and the fragility of the secular-Arab nationalist states in the Levant, strategic competition over Iraq may well lead to the collapse of some of the engaged regimes. Thus, whoever inherits Iraq dominates the entire Levant strategically.

Syria was the quickest of its neighbors to realize the dangers and possibilities of the circumstances in Iraq. After the Gulf War, Syria focused on shaping the overall regional balance by playing the dominant role in a post-Saddam Iraq. Syria chose not to work through the Iraqi National Congress (INC), the main Iraqi opposition umbrella movement to Saddam Hussein. Syria has never had close relations with the INC. In October 1992, when a major INC conference convened in Salaheddin in northern Iraq, not only did Damascus and Tehran-based groups refuse to attend, but the meeting was pilloried. Damascus’s refusal was based on a policy of “reflecting the ‘regional forces’ displeasure with the American tendency to take hold of the opposition card.” When the INC convened another large conference in 1993 in Vienna, Austria, Syria barred Damascene-based representatives of some INC member organizations from attending. Syria opposed the INC because it never came under Syria’s control and, in the words of Syrian Vice President Khaddam, the INC includes components that serve as “Western agents.” Syria opposed the INC, in fact, because it potentially threatened rather than assisted Syria’s regional ambitions.

As a result, Syria has attempted ever since the Gulf War to topple Saddam under the banner of an alternative, Damascene/Tehran-based opposition. Such attempts date back as far as late December 1991. At that time, Syria’s President Asad met with Iran’s powerful agent in southern Iraq, Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim of the Shiite Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), who came to Damascus at Asad’s invitation, to coordinate a coup attempt against Saddam. According to the Syrian press, Asad was briefed on December 23 on SAIRI’s plan to launch the coup. Simultaneously, Baqr al-Hakim invited Iraqi opposition leaders to come together in Damascus to chart a plan to oust the Iraqi leader and install a new regime. While other opposition leaders did come, al-Hakim failed to secure their support. In the first days of January 1992, leaflets were distributed to the Iraqi population, asking it to support an impending coup and imploring Iraqi Baathist officials to defect now to avoid death. Soon thereafter reports began to emerge that there were mass arrests by the regime, focused mostly in the areas of Mosul, Salaheddin and the central area of the Anbar province. Mass raids, sweeps, and searches even in Baghdad itself were also reported. As the Syrian regime’s news services began to predict an imminent coup, the official Iraqi press began to warn at the same time against what it claimed were “the Syrian regime’s agents” preparing such a coup. The effort was ill-fated. Syria acknowledged candidly — within a week of Iraq’s accusatory warnings against Syria’s involvement — its prior knowledge of an attempt. The coup failed, according to Syria’s radio network, Syrian Arab News Agency, because one of the officers, Mufleh al-Rawi, betrayed the plotters to Saddam.

This first attempt at seizing the initiative, and therein casting Syria as the mentor of the effective Iraqi opposition, failed. Despite all the detailed reporting, it is unclear that such a coup was ever planned. It is certainly strange that Syria, normally cagey and guarded, would so publicly inform all who would listen, which includes Saddam’s security forces, about an impending coup. The only certainty was that the SAIRI head, al-Hakim, did come to Damascus to brief Asad and give the impression of dynamic opposition activity, and that Syria sought to rope the Saudis into their plans.

Syria’s problem was deeper than just al-Rawi’s supposed betrayal, if such betrayal even occurred. Syria, if it is limited to cooperating only with its own and Iran’s agents among the Iraqi opposition, simply lacks the assets or inroads into Iraq to get done what it hinted it would like to do. Syria could not forge an opposition that penetrated the Sunni political and demographic core in the geographic center of Iraq, the power base upon which Saddam’s regime rests. Eroding support for Saddam in this Sunni center was vital to any attempt to topple him. Syria had thus to involve an external force that had some currency with the Sunni core to overcome these liabilities. Asad realized that he would have to enlist the Sunni Saudis to give the Sunni stamp of approval to his Shiite/’Alawite (SAIRI/Syrian) initiative.

But the failed 1991 coup did not lead Asad to understand that he needed Saudi help; the reverse may be true. The need to impress the Saudis may have led him to launch a failed, or perhaps even faux, coup. It is worth noting that at the same time as the supposed coup, Syria reached out publicly to enlist Saudi Arabia in its efforts, hoping that Saudi support would lend a Sunni imprimatur. On December 23, 1991, the same day as Syria’s press hinted at an impending coup, it also indicated that Damascus had already broached the subject of holding a Saudi-Syrian sponsored conference on the issue of Iraq, and that Riyadh was interested. Indeed, the Syrians were even reporting that the Saudis wanted to use the conference to set up an Iraqi government in exile.

The publicity surrounding the coup, coinciding as it did with a public campaign to enlist Saudi Arabia to host a conference which would enshrine Syria’s “protective” but struggling lead role in Iraq, suggests that the coup served less to overthrow Saddam, than to illustrate Syria’s vanguard role in the north Levant to the Saudis. It was meant to create the impression that the only plausible attempts to rid Iraq of Saddam are hatched, via SAIRI, from Damascus. Whether the coup worked, or even existed (there was a car-bomb in downtown Baghdad on December 30, 1991 but no other violence), was immaterial. What was important was to make sure the Saudis took note of who is the vanguard trying to get rid of Saddam.

Three months later a summit under Saudi auspices convened. The coup, “fool’s coup,” or “Potemkin coup” worked. The point had been made that the key players are Asad and SAIRI alone. Syria convinced Saudi Arabia to host a conference for Iraq, modeled on the Taef accords (the 1989 Taef accords choreographed pan-Arab, especially Saudi, support for a plan which granted Syria the lead role in defining a future Lebanon). As one Arab journalist, citing Syrian sources, described it in March 1992:

Just as the 1989 Taef conference brought reconciliation among the Lebanese, so Riyadh is likely ‘to host a major political conference — under Syrian, Iranian, and Saudi auspices with the participation of the various Iraqi factions and personalities — in order to secure for Iraq that which was achieved for Lebanon.’

The actual Saudi conference in early March 1992 featured Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, according him a warm reception. Not only did al-Hakim meet with King Fahd, Crown Prince Abdallah, and Prince Sultan as a group; he also met alone with King Fahd. Indeed, on parting, King Fahd remarked, “I look forward to the day when al-Hakim would receive him in Baghdad.” Al-Hakim met also with Sheikh Mohammed bin-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s justice minister who is the leading exponent of the thinking of the Kingdom’s official Sunni, Wahhabi sect. The al-Hakim/Sheikh bin Jubeir meeting was perhaps the most significant. Saudi Arabia’s involvement in staging this conference, especially its willingness to cooperate with al-Hakim and begin a Sunni-Shiite dialogue to reconcile the two with respect to Iraq, was symbolically very important. One of the problems Syria and Iran encountered in their efforts in Iraq was that the Sunni demographic core of Iraq, located in the center of the country, remained fearful of the consequences of Saddam’s fall from power. As long as Iran and Baqr al-Hakim seemed to dominate Syrian efforts, the horrifying prospect of mass retaliation by a new Shiite-run regime against the Sunni loomed and gave any Iraqi Sunni opponent of Saddam pause. As one Iraqi dissident put it:

Saddam’s survival is due not to his inherent strength, but in large measure to the absence of viable alternatives….Many Sunnis feel that the alternative to Saddam would be an anti-Sunnite backlash waged by a Shiite-Kurdish alliance that would disempower the Sunnis and blame them for Saddam’s excesses.

This is why bringing in the Saudis was so important for Syria. Most of all, the Wahhabi clerical leadership, would give a stamp of approval to Hakim and Syria’s and Iran’s efforts. It was a signal to Iraqi Sunnis that the Sunni/Shia gap can be bridged and that no Shiite revenge would attend Saddam’s demise.

And yet, in spite of all this, Syrian persistence did not pay off, even with the involvement of the Saudis. Syria simply failed to muster the assets it needed in the Sunni core of Iraq. Other Iraqi opposition figures continued to ignore al-Hakim. Syria thereafter engaged in nearly annual efforts to form new “front” blocs and coalitions — such as the one which was launched with great fanfare in February 1993 in Damascus, around Abdelamir al-Rakabi, that was opposed to the INC and Western intervention in Iraq. These efforts were all stillborn.

Jordan’s Strategic Shift

In fall 1994, Syria began to encounter a more serious problem: Jordan’s strategic shift. Since Asad’s primary goal was to prevent the solidification of a pro-Western bloc that could serve as an alternative to his regional domination, Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel and its attending warmth challenged Asad’s plans profoundly.

Toppling Saddam around a Damascene-based movement would have made Syria the preeminent regional power and thrown the Jordanian-Israeli cooperative relationship into disarray. However, it was beyond Asad’s reach in the immediate future to accomplish this. Asad had to try another approach to sabotage Jordan’s strategic shift. This came in the form of a diplomatic campaign to isolate and weaken King Hussein among Arabs in order to make the nascent Israeli-Jordanian-American strategic cooperation — which had the potential in Asad’s view of becoming a powerful and dangerous regional bloc opposed to Syria and Iran — a dead letter. To do this, apart from accusing King Hussein of heresy (punishable by death), he took a new, conciliatory tack with Iraq. In January 1995, Asad decided he would tap Baghdad’s power for the purpose of tactical alliance. Accordingly, he called for a summit involving Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq to convene in Damascus as part of the follow-on to the 1994 Alexandria summit (of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt) to coordinate a more resolute stand against Israel. He also called for the resurrection of the Non-Aligned Movement which so plagued and undermined the United States in the 1970s.

But again Asad was stymied. No Syrian-oriented follow-on summit took place; no anti-Western bloc emerged either regionally or globally. Instead, the Cairo Summit a few weeks later, which involved Israel and Jordan but not Syria (by its own choice), dashed those hopes and left Syria isolated. February 1995 found Asad with little more than rhetoric. He accused Amman publicly of upsetting the balance in the Middle East in Israel’s favor. This Cairo summit, and the attending warmth of the Israeli-Jordanian relationship that was developing, signaled most clearly the strategic shift in Jordan that would eventually become a major obstacle for Syria’s regional pursuits. Syria after 1995 faced a powerful counter-bloc to its intentions.

Syria’s Efforts Following the Ramadi Unrest in Iraq

Having failed to muster either a local or international anti-Western bloc, and observing growing Jordanian-Israeli cooperation, Asad’s efforts seemed doomed. He had tried almost everything, but to no avail. But events in 1995 quickly presented him with new opportunities which he, in contrast to his pro-Western neighbors, was quick to appreciate and seize.

In spring 1995, infighting erupted among INC factions, especially among its two main Kurdish factions, the KDP and PUK. This fighting preoccupied and weakened that organization. About the same time, serious anti-Saddam unrest exploded in the city of Ramadi, the capital of the Sunni al-Anbar province in the center of Iraq and less than 100 miles from Baghdad. Asad seized the moment of INC inattentiveness and Saddam’s weakness to launch Syria’s most ambitious effort to forge a Damascus-based opposition to Saddam.

The unrest in Ramadi in May and the infighting which plagued the INC helped position Syria to play an active role in Iraqi politics and completely challenge Jordan’s strategic shift. Jordan could hardly exploit such a revolt in its strategic competition with Syria since it was still so tied to the Iraqi military elite. It was seen as largely supportive of Saddam and the status quo in Iraq. The Ramadi unrest led many to believe revolution in Iraq was imminent. Jordan, which would be profoundly affected by such a revolution, could do little more than observe events nervously but passively. Syria, on the other hand, had no such obstacles and was well-positioned to exploit dramatic change. By effectively exploiting the events in Ramadi, Syria could strategically isolate Jordan at the very moment Amman went out on a limb making a warm peace with Israel. Syria moved, therefore, with great speed to exploit Iraqi developments.

The unrest in Ramadi involved the Sunni, one- to two-million strong Dulaym tribe. The Dulaymis are among the largest and most strategically and politically central Sunni tribes. Until that time, they were also considered among the most loyal to Saddam. In the late 1960s, the Dulaymis played a major role in bringing Iraq’s Baathists to power, and in the wake of the Gulf War in 1991, they were among the key tribes that kept the Baathists in power by playing a central role in crushing the Shia revolt in southern Iraq. So identified with the regime were they that the governate in which they reside, al-Anbar province, was referred to as the “White Governate” in reference to their loyalty to the Baathists.

The Dulaym tribesmen are also aligned and friendly with many other Sunni tribes considered loyal to Saddam, such as the al-Rifai. Most importantly, their territorial domain stretches from the outskirts of Baghdad to the Syrian border — implying that the politics of the Dulaym tribe also have an internal aspect for Syria. This was risky for Asad. Were he to align himself with the Dulaym, then he had a “in” in the Sunni core of Iraq. However, if his efforts failed or even backfired, then he stirred up his own tribal problems in Syria. And if he did nothing, then the unrest could eventually slide across the border to simmer and erupt in Syria. So, the unrest presented Syria with an opportunity — generated by the failure of Baathism in Iraq — but also a danger for Damascus — generated by the same failure of Baathism in Syria.

The eroding support for Saddam reflected by the unrest in Ramadi and Abu Ghraib did not necessarily threaten Saddam’s first tier of defense — “Saddam’s Fedayeen” units (highly paid mercenaries commanded by one of Saddam’s sons, Uday). But it indicated that he was losing control of his second tier of defense: the Special Republican Guard which is staffed largely by Sunni personnel from several key tribes, especially the Dulaymis. Indeed, as Cairo MENA reported in the wake of the Ramadi uprising, “the events at al-Ramadi have led to complete mistrust between the Republican Guards [unclear whether this means the Special Republican Guard or just the Republican Guard], which in the past was the main force upon which the Iraqi president depended and which was completely loyal to him, and Saddam’s Fedayeen units.” To topple Saddam, the opposition needed support from at least some Sunni tribes constituting this second tier of defense.

The nature and location of this unrest threw Syria into the center of a new Iraqi opposition movement crystallizing around the Dulaym tribe. The options presented Syria by a large-scale popular defection of the Dulaym tribe were far-reaching: Were the Dulaym to oppose the regime actively and work with Syria, then Syria would become the mentor of a Sunni opposition with a sympathetic local population from its border to Baghdad. Here was an opportunity for Damascus to overcome the obstacle to all its previous attempts: the lack of core Sunni support in Iraq. Syria understood this. It is in the context of the Dulaymi uprising and the crumbling solidity of the Special Republican Guard that al-Hakim’s statements on July 26, 1995 aggressively egging Syria on should be understood. It is noteworthy that a day later, it became clear al-Hakim had been in Damascus when he said these things immediately after meeting Syrian Vice President Khaddam.

Syria and its newly found Sunni allies fleeing the crushing hand of Saddam in Ramadi moved quickly. On June 8, 1995 the first reports emerged from Damascus that “the Armed al-Dulaym Tribes Sons Movement” had been formed as was distributing leaflets in Baghdad. Next, Western news agencies began reporting a flow a weapons from Dulaym tribe members in Syria to their brethren in Iraq. By mid-June, the Dulaym revolt seemed to be in full swing. The leadership of the Dulaym clan in Iraq slipped a message out, through Amman, to the West with a stern warning that they had now embarked on a general uprising against the regime in Baghdad.

Syria was now the center of activity for Iraqi opposition politics. The location of the primary actors and the sources of information both suggested the centrality of Damascus to sustaining this revolt. During the mid-June events in Abu Ghraib, the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Republic of Iraq’s (SAIRI) spokesman in Damascus, Bayan Jabr, relayed timely information from the Dulaym tribe. By June 13, Ahmad Dulaymi, allegedly the brother of Generals Mazlum al-Dulaymi (whose execution sparked the Ramadi unrest), and Turki al-Dulaymi (who led the mutiny at Abu Ghraib) fled Ramadi for Damascus. Other Sunni tribal leaders joined Ahmad Dulaymi. On June 19, Reuters reported that the Dulaym were negotiating with the leaders of the Nimr and Shammar tribes, which are other Dulaymi sub-clans inhabiting the area bordering Syria north of al-Anbar. Together, these refugees formed the Iraqi “tribes movement” or the al-Majlis al Ri’asi al-’a’la li Ittihad al-’asha’ir al-’Iraqiyyah (The Supreme Leadership Council of the Union of Iraqi Tribes). On June 19 this Council announced that it would meet to coordinate a practical “united military action plan.” It called “on the chiefs of the Iraqi tribes in exile to form a delegation to contact all opposition forces.” Thus, in early summer 1995, Syria almost effortlessly acquired that which it had hitherto lacked: a Damascene-based Sunni Iraqi opposition movement with tentacles reaching to the heart of Iraq and Saddam’s regime. Syria had penetrated Iraq’s Sunni center.

As result, in late June 1995 Syria moved quickly to use its good fortune and set up a series of meetings to forge a new front to replace the INC. This new front united the Sunni “tribes movement” and the Iran-based Shiite opposition in southern Iraq. This coordination is significant considering the Sunni fear that Shiites and Kurds will take revenge on them after Saddam’s fall (the same reason why Saudi/Wahhabi support was considered essential by Syria in 1992 in order to give an imprimatur to the otherwise Shia-Alawite axis which the Syrian-Iranian relationship represented). The Dulaym tribe played a key role in Saddam’s campaign earlier to crush the Shia opposition in the south. Now it formed the core of the “tribes movement” which Syria was trying to coordinate with al-Hakim’s Shia-based efforts. Table One illustrates the fast pace of intriguing diplomatic activity between Damascus and Tehran which signaled the launching of Syria’s initiative in late June. By mid-July, all the main pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian Iraqi opposition actors were present in Damascus. Table Two illustrates the events as they unfolded.

The series of meetings and events revealed that Syria continued to rely primarily on the Shiite opposition — particularly al-Hakim’s SAIRI as its main point of contact with the Iraqi opposition — rather than the Dulaym-based tribal movement in crafting its Iraq policy. This was a mistake. Coordination with SAIRI might have meshed well with Syria’s strategic alliance with Iran, which provided contact with Iraq’s Shia opposition, but it brought into question the very Sunni credentials which a Dulaym-centered tribal opposition offered Syria.

As a result, Syria’s initiative, which culminated in the meetings of the Iraqi opposition groups on July 31—August 1, failed. Baqr al-Hakim’s plan to establish a field command in Iraq itself to direct rebellious activities caused a contentious debate. Khaddam met al-Hakim on July 26, and Asad himself met al-Hakim on August 2, indicating that Asad sought to lend some weight to al-Hakim’s side in the dispute. Even so, al-Hakim did not prevail. In fact, two key nationalist figures located permanently in Damascus, Generals Wafiq Samarrai and Hasan an-Naqib, spurned al-Hakim’s invitation to help set up a field command since they felt it cast the entire opposition,

Table One

June 24: Syrian Vice President Khaddam and Foreign Minister Shara traveled to Teheran “to take part in the semi-annual Joint Cooperation Committee meeting,” and to meet with SAIRI’s Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim.

July 4: Khaddam and Shara met in Damascus with a delegation of the Iraqi Islamic Dawa party, according to the party’s European publication, Sawt al-Iraq, and called “for an Iraqi political enterprise to serve as an alternative to the enterprise that has collapsed, namely the INC.” Bahr al-Uloum, confirmed the report, saying that Syrian officials told him earlier that “the INC’s endeavor has come to an end,” that the INC was an agent of the West, that a “new political enterprise as an alternative to the failed INC” should be established, and that “Syria, which proposed support in finding effective work for the opposition, suggested some nominations to establish a body as an alternative.”

July 6: This meeting was followed by a few resignations of Shia leaders from the INC, including Walid al-Tamimi, although he had already drifted away earlier from active participation in the INC.

July 11: Mahdi al-Ubaydi, the head of the anti-Saddam Arab Socialist Baath Party met in Damascus with Major General Wafiq Samarrai, a senior Sunni defector from Saddam’s regime who relocated to Damascus from northern Iraq at this time to discuss the formation of a new front under the umbrella of the Coordinating Committee for Nationalist and Democratic Action. Mahdi al-Ubaydi indicated there was soon going to be a large conference among opposition groups in Damascus, “which will accept the initiative of Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim.” Al-Ubaydi said that “among the first tasks of this front will be to initiate field action in coordination with the military and popular leaders inside Iraq, which are in sympathy with the opposition forces, to overthrow the regime. . . [and to use] the broad base of opposition within the army that is expanding as a result of the regime’s tyranny, particularly in Ramadi.”

Table Two

July 17: SAIRI’s al-Hakim arrived in Damascus “to discuss a plan to topple Hussein this year” and to discuss with Syrian officials how “to improve the activities of the opposition.” Specifically, al-Hakim said he carried specific proposals, which included setting up an operational headquarters to coordinate activities inside Iraq. On same day, SAIRI announced it had sent a delegation in secret to Ramadi to render assistance to the Dulaym tribe and meet with their leaders to establish more effective ways of coordinating activities.

July 23: the Shiite head of the Islamic Action Organization, Taqi al-Mudarissi came to Damascus. According to al-Mudarissi, Khaddam convened an umbrella meeting of all these groups on July 23 or 24 to stress that “a practical plan to direct activities in Iraq was needed.” He “would offer Syria’s help to achieve this objective.” Khaddam also said that the Iraqi opposition needed to establish a new umbrella group with Syrian help to replace the INC.

July 26: al-Hakim met with Khaddam to discuss the details of his plan. The meeting was made public immediately afterwards. During the meeting, al-Hakim and Khaddam discussed “a new plan to overthrow the tyrant in which the Iraqi army will have a big role….Discussion focused on establishing a united field command to lead the Jihad to topple the defeated Saddamist regime.”

July 31: al-Hakim convened a meeting with a number of the nationalist (namely, secular) opposition elements to discuss the plans covered in the July 26 meeting between himself and Khaddam.

August 1: al-Hakim reconvened the entire umbrella group for one last time to “persuade it to back his plan of establishing an opposition field command on Iraqi soil.”

August 2: Syrian President Hafiz Asad met with al-Hakim and other SAIRI members in Damascus.

including the Sunni movements, under SAIRI’s, namely the Islamists’, overall control. As a slight to al-Hakim, neither general even attended the final August 1 meeting. It was evident that Syria again encountered the same problem as earlier; it failed to establish the initiative’s credentials among Sunni Iraqis.

Al-Hakim tried to put the best face on the meeting’s deadlocked results when he stated, “that meeting with Syrian officials and other opposition figures in Damascus recently has provided a new impetus to the anti-Saddam forces.” He even claimed that the meeting did achieve one thing: an agreement to reestablish a 1990 committee for coordinating nationalist-Islamist opposition activities. Still, these statements and committees were meaningless. He could not hide the fact that his defunct proposal for establishing a field command was to have been the physical manifestation of the Sunni-Shiite alliance. His field command, and therefore, the alliance, never got off the ground. Damascus and its nascent opposition movement still failed to penetrate the Sunni center of Iraq, as they had failed over the four previous years.

Enter Jordan and the Hashemite Option

After starting off so well in early summer 1995, but then souring by late July, Syria encountered even more serious trouble in August. Al-Hakim’s wish — to find core Sunni officers around which to focus anti-Saddam activity — was realized, but as Jordan’s opportunity, not Syria’s or al-Hakim’s. Hussein Kamal, among the most senior of Saddam’s inner circle, defected to Jordan on August 8, 1995, a week after the failed Syrian conference on Iraq. This defection convinced King Hussein to raise the anti-Saddam standard himself.

When the unrest in Ramadi erupted, King Hussein was placed in a difficult position. While the king’s neighbors could exploit the unrest to the Hashemites’ detriment, Jordan could do nothing. It had not engaged the Iraqi opposition and was trapped in the status quo by its ties to the senior Iraqi leadership. However, when the most senior elements of the Iraqi national leadership themselves defected, it freed King Hussein from having to choose between his ties to the Iraqi elite and supporting a change in Baghdad. Both pointed toward revolt, and Jordan moved, alongside Iraq’s most senior military elite, into the opposition. The “Hashemite option” for Iraq was born.

Shortly after Hussein Kamal’s defection, King Hussein addressed the nation and the Iraqi people. He emphasized that Iraq’s greatness is coupled with its Hashemite past. He spent the bulk of his speech gushing with pride over Iraq’s Hashemite past, noting how bound and beneficial it was to all of Arabdom:

Iraq, its people and soldiers have a special status…characterized by the…long march…which was nourished by the pages of shining history, since Humaymah, from where the Abbasid call began, to the time of the great Arab revolt.

As for us, the tombs of our martyrs are studding the land of Iraq….This has been our history since the days of Ali bin Abi-Talib [the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law], his sons, Hasan and Husayn…and finally in the era of Faisal II and his family, whose precious blood flowed in Karbala.

The allusion once again to the spilling of the blood of a Hashemite, a descendent of the prophet, in Karbala, Iraq cannot be overemphasized (especially to the Shia). It draws an analogy between Faisal II’s assassination and the martyring of Hasan and Husayn (the event from which sprang the Shiatu Ali — Shia), and casts King Hussein as the savior not only of the Sunni center, but of the majority of Shia in Iraq as well. It also reminds Iraqis that his family’s stature predates the Shia-Sunni split. This speech, and its long-historical musing, was more than nostalgia. It was a reminder of the central Hashemite role in the Levant and a strategic concept for the future — a Hashemite confederation across the northern Levant which would isolate Syria.

King Hussein’s effort to woo the Iraqi Shiite community at Iran’s expense is reasonable. While many in the West identify Shiite movements as spiritually tied to Iran, some are in fact not. First of all, there are fissures even within the pro-Iranian movements that leaders like King Hussein can exploit. Even Iraqi Shiite opposition leader, Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim of SAIRI, and the rest of the Shiite opposition, which is more indigenously Iraqi, have been at odds in the past. For example, most Shiites hesitated to involve themselves with plots hatched in Damascus and Teheran such as the failed coup attempt by Hakim in December 1991. On December 23, 1991, an official SAIRI spokesman in Damascus said that Hakim met with Asad to present a “comprehensive politico-military plan to get rid of Saddam’s dictatorship and foreign trusteeship….Hakim’s visit to Syria heralded a drive to implement the plan.” But on the same day, the Organization for Islamic Action (OIA), a Shiite opposition faction under the SAIRI umbrella, denied it had a part in plans to topple Saddam hatched by al-Hakim. Moreover, in a slap at Syria’s involvement, its leader noted that “al-Hakim did not represent the OIA which believes that the future of Iraq should be decided by the Iraqi people.” The rift is even wider between the pro-Iranian movements and others. Some of the Shiite opposition movements, such as the al-Khoe foundation under Layth Qubbah, are aligned with King Hussein and the West. And the head of the INC and one of the most prominent of the Iraqi opposition figures to Saddam, Ahmed Chalabi, is himself a Shiite and a close, long-time Hashemite confidant. For these reasons, and others such as his lineage, King Hussein can make a credible bid to lead the Shia community in Iraq as well, even though he is a Sunni.

King Hussein also described secular-Arab nationalism as destructive of Iraq’s greatness. He had nothing positive to say about Iraq since 1958, and elliptically accused secular-Arab nationalism of being an agent of foreign conspiracies:

I have no ambitions other than to see soon Iraq emerge from the total darkness and its long night of suffering to see the dawn of its freedom and liberation from all the causes of suffering, be they internal or external….I was [Faisal II’s] deputy and heir to the Presidency of the Arab Union that brought the two countries together. He departed at an early age and was a victim of the conspiracies of all hostile forces in and outside the Arab homeland.

Half a year later, King Hussein was less elliptical. He bluntly blamed the phenomenon of Baathism, which he added was an agent of foreign, namely Soviet policy. Regarding the events of 1958, and all that has gone wrong since in Iraq, he said:

It was fairly obvious that at that time, we had the Cold War in the region. There were divides created in our region, within the Arab family, and the movement that brought about the change in Iraq was essentially the Baath party, which is Syria and Iraq at that time — supported by the then Soviet Union and by Egypt.

This leaves little doubt as to King Hussein’s understanding of Iraq’s problem: secular-Arab nationalism, particularly Baathism. Iraq was born, progressed, and held together by Hashemites. Since 1958, when the Hashemites were killed, Iraq has languished and deteriorated. To avoid an almost apocalyptic future, Iraq must rid itself of this ideology and work with Jordan, perhaps in a Hashemite framework.

King Hussein’s new strategy was more than rhetoric. Since Hussein Kamal’s defection, and especially since late fall 1995, King Hussein has set himself up as the mentor/vanguard of the effort to oust Saddam and manage Iraq’s eventual implosion through some sort of Hashemite construct. Jordan realizes it has little choice but to engage actively. Iraq has become a battle ground already. As King Hussein noted candidly:

Iraq is surrounded by many countries and many of them may have more interest than we have in Iraq, and that is the danger, that is the fear, that Iraq could turn to become a battle ground for those powerful neighbors of Iraq who seek to enhance their own positions.

Though he denies seeking a Hashemite role in Iraq, King Hussein’s actions and the frequency of his denials bring to mind the words of the Queen in Mousetrap, Shakespeare’s play within a play in Hamlet after the scheme is drawn out by the players: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” He has no choice; the moment the focus of opposition to Saddam moved to Amman, King Hussein cast himself as opposed to about every dangerous leader in the Middle East: Asad, Saddam, and Rafsanjani. Nor did he have a choice about taking such a risk. Failure to challenge Syria’s dangerous inroads into Iraq, as Damascus did surrounding the Ramadi events, would eventually leave the Hashemite monarch so isolated by a Saudi-Iraqi-Syrian-Iranian-PLO axis that his realm and reign would be threatened. Success of his effort has become a matter of survival.

No opposition threatens Saddam’s regime, and Syria’s for that matter, more than King Hussein’s. His initiative has assets and legitimacy that none of Iraq’s other neighbors have. He is a Sunni, which eases fears among Iraqi Sunni of the sort of blood revenge that would conceivably attend a Shia- or Kurd-led revolution.

But the king also has solid credentials among Shia. He is a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, and he has reminded Iraqis on numerous recent occasions of this fact. This impresses the Shia, marked in their veneration of the prophet himself and his lineage. The king’s recent speeches serve a pointed political aim: The Hashemites are respected by all of Iraq’s Islamic sects, have long been tied to the territory of Iraq, and have played a central role in the Levant. King Hussein remains close to the elite of Iraqi society, undermining the fealty of many of the tribes upon which Saddam’s regime draws support. In short, all factions of Iraqi society can live with King Hussein’s leadership.

Unfortunately, he entered this effort without being able to trust his own government or guarantee the acquiescence of his own people and with complications arising from Israel’s and the United States’s quest for “comprehensive peace.” Signs of division within the Jordanian government over its Iraq policy became evident soon after Kamal’s defection. At the same time King Hussein was making clear he sought a change of regime in Iraq (and his and Asad’s foreign ministers were throwing insults at each other over the right to do so), some senior members of Jordan’s government were claiming that the defection was a “passing cloud.” Jordan, they said, had generally good relations with Iraq and did not seek Saddam’s ouster. Jordan would not move alone without first securing “Arab solidarity and international support.” Jordan’s foreign minister (al-Kabariti) opposed this view. Indeed, al-Kabariti had made it clear in very undiplomatic language that Jordan will not take its foreign policy cue from others (a reference to Syria) and “does not need to discuss borders and the way we deal with neighbors with anybody.” Moreover, on the same day that King Hussein was telling Israeli papers that he wanted to see Saddam replaced immediately and expects confrontation, Jordan’s prime minister, Sherif Zeid bin Shaker, said Jordan was committed to good relations with Iraq. The prime minister added that Jordan would not interfere in Iraq’s affairs or sacrifice its good ties with Iraq for the sake of improving ties with Gulf countries. The U.S. promise to protect Jordan from Iraq was uncalled for, he said.

It was precisely this internal lack of consensus, and the mistrust of the professional bureaucracy, that forced King Hussein to shake his government up in what was generally considered a “White Revolution” in early 1996.

The “White Revolution,” the purpose of which was to set Jordan up more solidly to launch a major initiative on Iraq with the INC and other Iraqi elements, was focused on the office of the prime minister. Foreign Minister al-Kabariti was clearly among the Hashemite palace’s closest confidants and supporters in its Iraq and new Saudi policies. He was, therefore, charged with forming a new government to replace Prime Minister bin Shaker, who had been the source of mixed signals and equivocation coming from Amman on the Iraq issue. As one Arab paper reported, Kabariti’s letter of appointment was clear; it instructed him to:


    Spare no effort to end the suffering of the Iraqi people and enable them to enjoy pluralism and democracy….The letter instructs Kabariti to back the Iraqi opposition and join forces with the United States and Gulf States to bring about the desired change in Baghdad.

The longer the Iraq problem remains unresolved, the less clear it is that King Hussein can succeed. Hussein’s increasing stridency reflects his sense of danger, arising from the fact that time works against him. Time takes the initiative from his hands, giving Syria, Iran, and Iraq the time to infiltrate, plot, discredit, and isolate the king. In short, the longer this drags on and the less support he gets from the West, the more endangered are the Hashemites. The Iraq issue could eventually bring down the dynasty.

Damascene Troubles

The Iraq problem threatens Jordan profoundly. It threatens Syria just as profoundly. As much as Amman’s “losing Iraq” would leave Jordan isolated, so too would Damascus’s “losing Iraq” leave Syria isolated. Iraq’s course affects Syria’s strategic environment in a series of ways.

First, events in Iraq can shake Syria’s position in Lebanon. Lebanon is no easy problem for Asad. He works primarily through the strong Shiite presence in the South to maintain his pressure on Israel. This pressure is necessary to preempt the Israelis from engaging more deeply in Lebanese affairs and undermining Syria in its Sunni or Christian core. But beyond the pressure on Israel, one of the most important bolts Asad retains in his arsenal to retain his strong grip on Lebanon is Hizballah, both operationally and ideologically. Hizballah’s ideological core emerges from the schools of Qom in Iran. Asad uses his alliance with Iran to keep the ideological thrust of Hizballah pro-Syrian. In turn, Syria retains operational control of Hizballah through Sheikh Nasrallah, who is more closely tied to Syria than Iran. As long as Hizballah is the primary force in southern Lebanon, the Lebanese Shia are linked ideologically to Iran.

Yet, while Hizballah is linked organically and ideologically to Iran, the Shia in southern Lebanon have more traditionally been linked over centuries through intermarriage and tribal alliances to Najaf in Iraq (a city in which the main Shiite schools are located). Because of Saddam’s control of Iraq and suppression of Shia Islam, and because of Asad’s control of Lebanon, the Lebanese Shia gradually were forced to abandon their ties to Iraq and accept Hizballah and Iran by default as their religious center.

A Hashemite presence in Iraq, especially within the Shia centers in Najaf, could break Iran’s and Syria’s grip on the Shiite community of Lebanon. Were Jordan to prevail in Iraq, then Najaf’s elite, with its veneration of the prophet’s family, would be tied to King Hussein, and pro-Jordan Iraq Shiites as Ahmed Chalabi and Layth Qubbah of the al-Khoe foundation would define the Iraqi Shiite community after Saddam’s removal. Close cooperation between Israel and Jordan could undermine Syria’s pressure on Israel’s northern border as the local Shia are weaned from Hizballah’s domination. In short, developments in Iraq could potentially unravel Syria’s structure in Lebanon by severing the Shia-Syrian-Iranian axis.

In fall 1995, Syria faced not only the Iraq issue, but the festering problem of Lebanese leadership, since the final term of the pro-Syrian president of Lebanon, Elias Hrawi, was to expire soon. To avoid an unraveling of his solid grip in Lebanon while he engaged this most important Iraqi issue, Asad had to quickly solve the leadership problem. According to Lebanese sources, Asad summoned Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and Speaker Beri to Damascus, where they heard on September 10 according to Lebanese government sources, that:

The Syrians say they are surrounded by the Americans in Jordan, Israel, and Turkey, and now they fear in Iraq too….The Lebanese were told firmly to stop their chronic squabbling….Damascus was too preoccupied with dealing with the threatened new regional equation to permit distractions of the Lebanese flank. The problem is very serious for Syria; they cannot afford the fantasy of Lebanese problems now. This is one of the really rare times that they can’t….The Syrians were really firm in telling everyone they have to cool it.

The two were told simply to reinstall President Hrawi.

Lebanon was not the only problem Syria faced. By late fall 1995 and early 1996, Syria’s efforts in Iraq were falling apart. Key figures involved in the July 1995 meetings in Damascus, such as Bahr al-Uloum and Wafiq Samarrai, moved closer to Jordan, and even al-Hakim was forced to publicly admit the infeasibility of his plans to establish a field command in Iraq. And by March 1996, al-Hakim, perhaps in a moment of opportunism and sensing the currents, relayed a message to King Hussein through the Kurdish PUK leader, Jalal Talabani, offering SAIRI’s cooperation in any action against Saddam’s regime.

Syria Reacts

Driven by the need to keep together its crumbling Baathist state and its rickety regional strategy, Syria cannot afford to abandon to Jordan its efforts with respect to Iraq. Within a half year from the moment of great hope in June-July 1995 (the Ramadi unrest), Damascus’ opportunities in Iraq turned into a mortal danger. Accordingly, Syria moved from actively forging an alternate Iraqi opposition to sabotaging Jordan’s efforts. This strategy, the results of which were mixed, took the following forms:

  • Forge an international coalition to isolate Amman
  • Subvert the Jordanian regime
  • Preempt American and Israeli support for King Hussein by linking the Iraq issue to the prospect of “comprehensive peace”
  • Keep Saddam afloat and cooperate against Jordan.
  • Undermine Jordan’s attempts to work with the INC by establishing Syrian and Iranian dominance in northern Iraq
  • Secure Saudi support for Syria and undermine Saudi-Jordanian rapprochement

The last objective led Syria into internal Saudi politics.

Syria’s Efforts to Isolate Amman and Subvert the Hashemites

In response to Jordan’s bid, Syria had to isolate Amman diplomatically. First, Damascus moved to neutralize the legitimacy which Hussein Kamal’s defection had conferred on Amman’s credentials among the Iraqi opposition. It did so by discrediting Kamal himself as a worthy or even genuine opponent of Saddam. The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) began lambasting Kamal, hinting that he should be killed along with Saddam. In the words of Fayez Sayegh, chief editor of SANA: “When people take over, they will punish all those whose hands were stained by blood whether they were inside or outside of Iraq….The change should not be made by Saddam’s men.” Syria also forbade any of the Iraqi opposition elements based in Damascus from meeting Kamal, a request with which all but one complied though some of them, such as al-Hakim, publicly had noted only a few days earlier that they wanted to work with Kamal. Furthermore, pro-Syrian newspapers, such as the Lebanese as-Safir, blasted the Hashemite-American-Israeli conspiracy to take over and partition Iraq and isolate Syria:

    Could it be an American-Hashemite scandal in Saddam Hussein’s house…this transforms the King [Hussein] from a host into a partner in a conspiracy against the historic ally Abu Uday [Saddam Hussein], or at least as the go-between who nominates the alternative on behalf of the initiator, the White House.

Having launched the public campaign to discredit Hussein Kamal, Syria moved also on the international diplomatic front to forge a coalition against Jordan’s efforts, tapping the historic antipathies that both Egypt and Saudi Arabia had with Jordan.

The first such diplomatic effort was to secure Egypt’s opposition to Jordan. On September 3, Asad flew to Egypt to meet President Mubarak, after which the two expressed strong reservations over Kamal, emphasized that efforts to remove Saddam must remain pan-Arab, and accused Jordan of undermining inter-Arab cooperation. Syria’s next address was Iran. On September 10, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouq a-Shara traveled to Iran to report to Rafsanjani that Syria had succeeded in securing Egypt’s complete support for the Syrian-Iranian position on Iraq. Echoing the views of Egypt’s leaders, Cairo’s government-run papers began criticizing harshly, even ridiculing, King Hussein and his Iraq policy. First came an article by Samir Ragab in Egypt’s al-Gomhuriya. It attacked Hussein as an American stooge. This negative campaign continued deep into 1996.

Other Arabs quickly grasped the existence and significance of Syrian-Jordanian competition. The Saudi pan-Arab daily, Asharq al-Awsat, described the Egyptian-Syrian summit clearly as “an attempt to snatch the initiative out of Jordan’s hands on Iraq,” and in a separate article, noted that “a new regional alliance is taking shape to counter U.S. plans for the country.” Despite its understanding of the momentous importance of Jordan’s shift from supporter to opponent of Saddam, Saudi policy following the Kamal defection was confused. The Saudis went from initially being positive to eventually being negative, but with some residual ambivalence, a pattern suggestive of differences in ruling Saudi circles. These differences sharpened, and thus surfaced visibly, in early 1996. At first, Saudi Arabia welcomed Kamal’s defection. The editor of the pan-Arab, Saudi-run weekly, al-Majalla, enthused in the Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, on the positive role that Kamal could play in toppling Saddam and warned “opposition groups that if they try to discredit him they will only be assisting Saddam.” Saudi Arabia reacted positively officially as well, and sent their intelligence director, Prince Turki al-Faisal, to Amman to debrief Kamal, and invited Jordan’s Foreign Minister al-Kabariti to come to Riyadh to meet with King Fahd. Saudi papers predicted “imminent, positive developments in the Saudi-Jordanian relationship,” which had been severed since 1991. Indeed, largely through the efforts of al-Kabariti, even as the Saudis soured on Jordan’s efforts, Jordanian-Saudi relations improved throughout fall 1995. This was demonstrated by the reestablishing of diplomatic relations, with the appointment of Abdallah al-Sudairi as the new Saudi ambassador to Amman. Appointing an al-Sudairi established a clear link between the al-Saud ruling family’s Sudairi branch (which includes Fahd, Sultan, Naif, Turki, and Salman) and Jordan. This is a matter of great consequence — especially with respect to the Syrian-Jordanian competition over Iraq. The Sudairi branch, close to the United States, was entering the succession struggle with Crown Prince Abdallah, who is not a Sudairi and is close to Syria and more sympathetic to Saddam.

Yet, while these meetings and diplomatic acts signaled Saudi-Jordanian rapprochement, there were conflicting signals as well coming from Saudi Arabia. Indeed the editor of a major Saudi paper wrote an editorial blasting Syria, saying that “the sudden emergence of Syrian-led opposition to the Jordanian project has unsettled many, and could end up rescuing the Iraqi regime from its grave predicament.” But by late-September, Saudi Arabia had reversed most of its initial support for Jordan and joined Syria and Egypt in signaling that it preferred the status quo rather than leap into the unknown with a Jordanian-inspired change in Baghdad.

There was, thus, a clearly different reaction between Saudi Arabia and Syria in the first weeks after the Kamal defection, perhaps, again, reflecting fissures within Riyadh between pro-Syrian and pro-Western/Jordanian camps of the royal family.

Egypt had ever since Jordan’s shift on Israel (because of the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty) sought to undermine King Hussein in coordination with Syria. Thus, Cairo moved quickly to help Asad not only in his campaign to discredit Hussein Kamal, but to isolate and undermine Amman. Egypt played a major role keeping Saudi Arabia and Jordan apart. In early February, with much fanfare and two-months lead-up, King Hussein was to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Fahd and “seal the reconciliation between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.” In advance of this visit, Egypt worked behind the scenes with Crown Prince Abdallah and Asad to try to persuade them to “clear the air with Iraq” because of concerns over Jordanian initiatives. Finally, a few hours before King Hussein’s trip, Mubarak flew to Riyadh and met with Crown Prince Abdallah. The two conspired to cancel the Fahd/Hussein meeting and “to abort a full Jordanian-Saudi reconciliation at the last minute.” A number of Arab papers noted the next day that Jordan’s Iraq policy was a matter of particular attention during the Mubarak/Abdallah meeting. They noted that Mubarak met with Abdallah to “abort the Jordanian monarch’s visit to the Kingdom by stressing that the call for a federation in Iraq [the Hashemite plan] was dangerous and could have an adverse impact on the stability of the region.” It worked: there was no Hussein/Fahd summit.

While Egypt moved to drive a wedge between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Syria tried to enlist Turkey. In an effort to exploit fears of a breakup of Iraq, which could exacerbate Turkey’s Kurdish problem, Iran and Syria convened a foreign minister’s meeting in Teheran with Turkey on September 8, 1995 to discuss the Iraq problem. To emphasize the danger of Jordan’s plan to Turkey, in the week leading up to the meeting, both the Syrian and Iranian press highlighted Jordan’s initiative as an Israeli-American plan to carve up Iraq and set up a Kurdish state. Turkey attended, but Syria and Iran failed to draw Turkey into a specific announcement opposing King Hussein’s initiative or his hosting of Kamal. Indeed, the final communique included only a general statement that “the division of Iraq would have dangerous consequences for peace and stability at both the regional and international levels.” Syria could simply not lure Turkey.

Syria also worked to undermine, perhaps even subvert the Hashemite reign in Jordan. Throughout the fall and winter, 1995-1996, King Hussein was besieged by Syrian efforts to infiltrate agents into Jordan and to undermine his regime. For example, King Hussein told the Jordanian press on February 22, 1995, that he had information that “Syrian Prime Minister Abdelhalim Khaddam had offered to cooperate with eight Jordanian opposition leaders” who visited Damascus in January 1995 in order to thwart further Israel-Jordanian cooperation.

Saudi papers reported in late spring that Jordanian authorities continued to arrest infiltrators of Palestinian organizations from Syria who were going to conduct acts in Jordan. And Jordanian Prime Minister al-Kabariti claimed that Jordanian forces had foiled 36 planned terror attacks in Jordan linked to the purported infiltrations. By May 1996, Israeli papers reported that the Jordanians had arrested several dozens of people suspected of planning terror attacks against tourists and senior Jordanian officials, and that a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Kabariti had been foiled the month before. The Israeli papers reported that Jordan had information that Syrian President Asad was aware of the planned wave of terror, and was trying “to show that the peace agreement between Israel and Jordan could not provide any country in the region with security and quiet.”

Jordanian Prime Minister Kabariti’s statements underscore what is perhaps the most important regional shift: Jordan was moved across the board by the Syria-Iraq matter to cooperate strategically with Israel to establish a pro-Western bloc to dominate the Levant’s balance of power. Syria in turn, understood this and engaged every effort to sabotage the shift. The most dangerous of Damascus’s efforts to sabotage Amman took the shape of the Syrian-Israeli peace process, which exploited Israel’s quest for “comprehensive peace.” The “comprehensive” nature of peace was meant to neutralize Jordan’s special strategic relationship with Israel.

Linking Syria’s Regional Aims to the Peace Process

Israel and the United States have spent the last five years pursuing a regionally comprehensive peace. Underlying this view is the assumption that lack of progress on any one Arab-Israeli negotiating track undermines the progress of any other. This has led Israel and the United States to make concessions to Arafat and Asad under the notion that it would reinforce King Hussein’s decision to make peace with Israel.

The pursuit of comprehensive peace can actually undermine Hussein. The pursuit includes too monolithic a view of the Arab world regarding the Arab-Israeli dispute. It accepts pan-Arab dreams of secular-Arab nationalists — that there is an “Arab interest” to all Arab leaders aspire. But these dreams, which have brought ruin on to the Arab world, have also served to prevent Arab leaders from cooperating with Israel against other Arab leaders. Each leader has far more important strategic interests than the “Arab” cause.

The Arab world’s leaders are not informed by pan-Arabism. They are obsessed with survival. As such, inter-Arab conflicts, not Arab-Israeli issues, are the primary issues that occupy the minds of Arab leaders. Political developments in the Arab-Israeli dispute do little to threaten Asad’s or King Hussein’s existence internally. On the other hand, inter-Arab rivalries, along with the artificiality and porousness of borders, become acute internal problems for Arab leaders. The conflict between Jordan and Syria threatens both regimes.

Thus, the Arab-Israeli dispute acquires primary importance for Arab leaders only insofar as Israel’s power is a deus ex machina for Arab leaders to tap for their existential dispute with other Arabs. That motivation grounded the Weizman-Faisal agreements of 1919. It led to the King Abdullah-Israeli understandings in the early 1950s. It forced King Hussein to rely on Israel during Syria’s intervention in “Black September” 1970. It encouraged various Lebanese factions, including the Shias, to support Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982. And it has now led Jordan into the current peace agreement with Israel — exactly because Amman needs Jerusalem’s cooperation on regional strategic matters.

The faulty assumptions upon which the quest for comprehensive peace are based leads Israel and the United States into a dangerous strategic misstep. The more Israel tries to solidify its ties to King Hussein by appeasing Arafat and Asad, the more Israel abets their efforts to undermine King Hussein, unraveling the strategic cooperation between Jerusalem and Amman upon which King Hussein’s decision to make peace is based.

Syria’s interest in the Arab-Israeli peace process is informed largely by how it benefits Damascus in realizing it regional ambitions. Specifically, it is informed by how the peace process can help Damascus out-maneuver competing Arabs. Within the context of this regional ‘Alawite-Hashemite confrontation, the peace process with Asad and Arafat undermines Jordan. Jordan engages in the peace process to secure Israeli and American support for his regional efforts against Asad and Arafat. In response to Jordan’s bid to influence the course of events in Iraq, Syria linked continuation of the Arab-Israeli peace process to American support for Syria’s “regional concerns,” which clearly meant Iraq. Syria dangles (but never fulfills) the temptation of peace in front of Israel and the United States in the hope of luring them into toning down their support for King Hussein in Iraq. In essence, Damascus took the peace process hostage to force on the United States and Israel his strategic plan to undermine Jordan.

At least until the Israeli elections of summer 1996, Syria’s lure worked. Already in early September 1995, American officials started issuing a long series of public reassurances to Damascus that America would not harm Syrian interests by its Iraq policy. For example, after threats by Asad in early September over not resuming peace talks, an American official hastened to assure Asad by telling al-Hayat, that Assistant Secretary of State Pelletreau’s early September trip which excluded Syria was not a snub:

    It was by no means an attempt to deliberately exclude Syria from the debate about Iraq’s future; Washington’s policy is entirely separate from its approach to peace talks….

The United States is not trying to put pressure on Syria…by manipulating the regional equation in light of Hussein Kamal’s defection….I will be very frank. The Syrians were talking of the United States’ trying to manipulate developments in Iraq in a conspiratorial manner to increase pressure on Syria to make progress on the peace talks….This is far from the truth….Our policy toward Iraq is our policy toward Iraq and it exists in its own right. It is not linked….The United States is not trying to use Iraq as a ‘stick’ with which to beat Syria.

Pelletreau was making clear to Syria that the United States would not exploit Syria’s concerns on Iraq; instead it would accommodate those concerns with its regional strategy.

Syria, either unimpressed by this reassurance or encouraged by America’s anxiety over the peace process (or both), linked the issues even more closely. On September 27, 1995, a Syrian official spoke to a reporter from the Saudi pan-Arab paper, Asharq al-Awsat. According to the reporter, the Syrian official conveyed the following:

    There is no room for signing a peace agreement before defining Syria’s position and role in the future regional map. Iraq’s fate is the key to the post-peace game. Asad wants to discuss this before signing a peace deal; Washington would ignore Syria’s position if it signs with Israel before the Iraq issue is solved….Damascus believes that Jordan plays a major role with regard to establishing a ‘natural axis’ with central Iraq on one side and Israel on the other, which would isolate Syria from the Arabian peninsula and [in the words of the Syrian official] ‘squeeze it between this axis in the south and Turkey in the north. Damascus fears that this could be the prelude to a redrawing of the map of the Middle East along sectarian, religious, linguistic, and ethnic lines, which would threaten Syria’s territorial integrity, something Asad could not accept.’

Additional warnings were sounded by pro-Syrian journalists on the eve of Secretary of State Warren Christopher’s trip to Syria in early October 1995. Accordingly, during Christopher’s trip, Asad demanded that the United States address its regional fears and agree to the centrality of “Syria’s regional role on the future Middle East map” before it would agree to restart talks with Israel. The following week, the U. S. Assistant Secretary of State Pelletreau assured Syria that:

    Washington’s policy is not aimed at isolating or putting pressure on Damascus….The United States opposes any confederal arrangement that would lead to the breakup of Iraq.

There was a lot of speculation that we and others might be trying to…put pressure on Syria through the policy we are following in Iraq, and I can tell you it is not true. In fact, we have had a certain dialogue with Syria about developments within Iraq. The key point here is that the problems that continue to exist with Iraq [are] one set of problems that are not related to the peace process.

But the issue arose again in November, when Syria warned of Jordanian schemes and linked them to a Jordanian-Israeli strategic plan. Khaddam, in an interview to al-Wasat’s George Seeman, not only linked, but merged Jordan’s efforts in Iraq with the peace process as one coherent conspiracy:

    [Khaddam] charged that plans were being hatched to break Iraq up into separate Sunnite, Shiite, and Kurdish entities that would then be rejoined with Jordan in a federation that would be part of a new Israeli-led bloc in the region. He warned that such schemes would lead to the dismemberment of other Arab countries along ethnic or religious lines, part of the process of strengthening Israel’s hand against the Arabs by fragmenting them.

The warning was astounding. Khaddam seemed to admit that if Jordan were to prevail and garner Israeli support, then the region’s secular-Arab nations would collapse. In fact, since this statement was cast in terms of the threat Jordan’s initiative poses to Syria, he implies that a break-up of Iraq would lead to a break-up of Baathist Syria. In defining the Jordanian threat in such a way, Khaddam comes close to admitting Syrian Baathism’s failure to craft a solid state. This would contradict the facade of unity so carefully cultivated by the Syrian Baathist regime. It revealed that for Syria, the quest for regional domination was also a matter of survival, serving at once as an opportunity and a mortal danger.

These Syrian warnings were shortly afterwards met by further American, and eventually even Israeli, assurances that Syria’s “regional anxieties” will be assuaged. Indeed, by December 1995, Jewish news sources reported that Israel, “in a deliberate departure from long-held positions…conferred on Syria a new strategic and regional significance that the secularist state never had.” Jerusalem and Washington were sliding into being responsible for propping-up, if not even supporting, Baathism in order to keep the “peace process” afloat. In doing so, they were rapidly undermining the Hashemites in Jordan.

Loosening Saddam’s Isolation

Despite all of Syria’s efforts, including help from Egypt and some factions within Saudi Arabia, and despite the United States’ and Israel’s strategic missteps, Jordanian efforts gained momentum. In early 1996, after a series of meetings between King Hussein and INC heads in London, King Hussein staged a late-January Amman conference encompassing a broad array of opposition figures, including some that had taken part in the Syrian-based meeting in July 1996. Lacking the power to halt Jordan’s efforts directly, Syria signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam. Thus, soon after the Kamal defection, Asad moved to sabotage King Hussein’s efforts by trying to prop up Saddam long enough to ensure failure of Amman’s drive. The first indication of the implementation of this strategy was an article, written by a Jordanian Baathist, already in August, 1995:

    Syria may be locked in a historic and ideological dispute with the current Iraqi government, but it would rather deal with it than with the alternative regimes the international media machine has begun to lionize, namely a Jordan-based effort.

By early September 1995, Saudi papers were reporting that:

    a new regional alliance is taking shape to counter U.S. plans for [Iraq]….It is widely believed that Syria is…determined to wrench the ‘Iraqi card’ from Jordan’s hands and that Asad has even established contact with Saddam himself, his arch rival for two decades.

In October, major Western papers began to report the rapprochement with Saddam, saying “the bitter foes of Baghdad suddenly decided that Saddam and the status quo were preferable to a potentially dangerous disintegration of Iraq,” which is how King Hussein’s objectives are generally described. By mid-December, Arab papers noted improving Iraqi-Syrian ties, with one Bahrain daily reporting that “Syria is hinting that it might restore ties with Iraq in order to strengthen its hand.” Egypt played a major role in this effort as well.

In early spring 1996, Syria began using Algerian mediation in order to affect a Syrian-Iraqi thaw. By late spring 1996, reportedly Asad began to meet directly with Saddam Hussein along the Syrian-Iraqi border to try to forge a common strategy to deal with what Asad called a threat of “the return to the policy of alliances,” namely Jordanian efforts to oust Saddam and the creation of regional Israeli-Jordanian-Turkish-American bloc.

Part of Syria’s efforts may also involve relieving the pressure on Saddam. Iraq is forbidden under a number of UN resolutions from selling its oil, except under UN supervision and provisos. It is possible, however, that Syria is allowing Iraq to transport some of its oil for export through Tripoli, Lebanon. There is no firm evidence of this transshipment activity, but rumors persist. If so, then the oil would pass most securely through the port in Tripoli, to be transshipped as Syrian oil. The port in Tripoli is run by a Sunni named Shaaban, called the “Prince of the Believers.” Shaaban is a close friend of Asad and skims money for private use from port operations. This arrangement permits Syria to conduct clandestine transshipments discreetly.

Saudi Succession as a Factor between Iraq and Jordan

To tolerate Saddam would incur the wrath of Saudi Arabia — a relationship even more important to Syria than its ties to Iran. Asad’s relationship with Saudi Arabia — anchored to personal ties between Crown Prince Abdallah and Syria — is important for a number of reasons. It helps keep the common Hashemite foe off balance and is a vital link in isolating King Hussein. Saudi Arabia has provided Syria with much-needed cash in the past. The relationship helps Syria avoid isolation within the Arab world. Finally, it encourages the Saudis to intervene with the West to keep Syria out of the “rogue nation” camp that includes Iran, Libya, and Iraq; namely it helps Syria avoid isolation vis-a-vis Europe and America.

Syria, however, is clearly worried about its relations with Saudi Arabia and the damage Jordan’s initiative could cause. As early as September 1995, as al-Wasat’s Damascus correspondent Ibrahim Hamidi, reported, “[Syria’s] main concern at present is the prospect of Jordan adopting a major role in bringing about a change in Iraq, which would reduce the oil-rich Gulf states’ need for Syria.” Hussein Kamal’s defection and Jordan’s subsequent initiative began to cause a rift on regional policy between Riyadh and Damascus. This fear must have been sharpened in January 1996 as King Hussein was openly making efforts to unite the various Iraqi opposition factions and have them move to Amman as their center of operations. Asad must have been particularly concerned when the al-Sudairi Saudi ambassador to Jordan, Abdallah al-Sudairi, “declared that there are no differences between his country and Jordan over Iraq…and that the two countries were working together.” Asad’s problem was compounded by the Jordanian “White Revolution” in the first week of February 1996, which installed al-Kabariti, known for his antipathy toward Syria. Syria was in danger of losing Saudi support on the Iraq issue, to Jordan.

To respond, Syria launched a strategic initiative to counter the pro-American drift in the Middle East, isolate Amman, and bring Saddam’s Iraq out of the woods within limits, if only to counter-balance what it perceives is a pro-American, Israeli-Turkish-Jordanian alliance.

Syria’s efforts to challenge the United States and deal with Iraq could run into resistance in Riyadh. In the framework of this delicate, but vital, relationship for Asad, Syria’s involvement in the June 1996 terror attack on the U.S. barracks at Khobar towers in Dhahran is most perplexing. Press reports indicate persistently that Syria at least tolerated, perhaps even assisted, in the attack on American forces at Dhahran’s Khobar Towers housing complex in June 1996. There is also mounting circumstantial evidence that this is the case. The bomb, according to reports circulated widely in the American press, originated in Lebanon, which is virtually under complete control of Ghazi Kan’an, Syria’s de facto military governor of Lebanon. In the words of Alain Chouet, head of the French Mission to the United Nations in Geneva:

Ghazi Kan’an, an al-Kalbiyah [the ‘Alawite tribe from which Asad hails] from Bhamra [the ‘Alawite village next to Asad’s] is allied to the Asads by having married his son to a daughter of Jamil al-Asad. He is a Brigadier General in charge of all security aspects of the Lebanon situation, which he discusses directly with President Asad, without intermediaries. A virtual Syrian proconsul in Beirut, he dominates public life in Lebanon, where nothing happens anymore without his authorization.

If Syria had no role in the bomb, and Hizballah acted in a wildcat operation, then this would have been an embarrassment to Asad, a failure of Kan’an, and a major crisis in one of Syria’s most important regional relationships. Yet, a week later, Ghazi Kan’an was promoted; he was appointed Director of the Foreign Operations Branch of Syrian intelligence, among the most sensitive positions in Syria.

If true, why would Syria, a regime not given to forfeiting control, allow itself to be implicated with an operation so damaging to its most important associate in the region? Why would Syria, when it has entered a dangerous struggle with Jordan over the balance of power in the Levant, risk antagonizing one of its most important allies? And why would Syria, just as it moves to keeping Saddam afloat, risk antagonizing the Saudis further? The answer to these questions lies in the dynamics of internal Saudi politics, the course of which is critical to Asad. The split within the royal family, between the al-Sudairis and Abdallah, presents Syria with an opportunity. In launching an anti-American campaign that might include tolerance and rehabilitation of Saddam, Asad would have a particular problem with the al-Sudairi branch of the ruling al-Saud family. That branch is closer to the United States than to Syria. Moreover, the al-Sudairis have also been leading the rapprochement with Jordan, appointing one of its own members as the ambassador to Amman. They are also adamant in rejecting any rapprochement with Saddam.

In contrast to the al-Sudairis, Crown Prince Abdallah is closer to Syria than to the United States. He has even led efforts to sabotage Jordanian-Saudi rapprochement. He is also more positively disposed toward Saddam Hussein, in part because of his antipathy toward Jordan. In short, Asad and Abdallah share a regional strategic view.

Most observers would argue that the survival of the Saudi regime as we know it rests upon the presence and connection of the royal family to the Americans. The Gulf War, the reliance on U.S. forces, and the close ties to the Bush administration have so identified these royals with the American relationship that they could hardly survive its souring. The terrorists who attacked the Khobar towers were surely aware of this, and it is likely that they understood that attacking the American presence would threaten the position of these royals.

To make sense of Syria’s involvement, if true, indicates that there must be a more nuanced understanding of Syria’s calculus toward Saudi Arabia. The increasingly acute succession struggle in the Saudi kingdom may provide context.

In late December 1995, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia became ill, passing de facto power to Prince Abdallah, known for his sympathies to Syria. This dress rehearsal for the real transfer approaching, which included visible jostling for power between Princes Sultan and Abdallah, clarified for Syria both its opportunities as well as dangers at that moment. Abdallah had been placed in temporary charge of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia when King Fahd was incapacitated through illness. Yet, during Abdallah’s brief absence for a state visit to a neighboring Gulf state, his main al-Sudairi rival, Prince Sultan, asserted power back in Riyadh. Abdallah had to hurry home and reassert his temporary, but paramount ruling status. Part of this effort to reassert power, according to Lebanese information, involved inviting Syrian operatives into the kingdom. Some of these operatives also assisted Lebanese terror groups in establishing a stronger foothold in the kingdom.

While Syria may not be interested in destabilizing or antagonizing Saudi Arabia as a nation, it may be interested in undermining Saudi Arabia’s relations with the United States by encouraging and even helping forces within the kingdom who want to eject the Americans.

The close U.S.-Saudi relationship is essential for the survival of the al-Sudairi branch of the royal family that controls the regime currently. It is not so essential, and may even be detrimental, for other elements of the royal family. Some branches, such as those around Abdallah, are much more anti-Western, and even regard Saddam favorably. Even the most virulent of the local, anti-royal, fundamentalist-Sunni movements that call for violence and may have been involved in the Dhahran bombing, understand this distinction and seem to focus their wrath primarily on the al-Sudairi branch of the al-Saud family. In the words of al-Masari’s Committee for the Defense of Legal Rights (CDLR),

Brothers have had reservations with regard to using the generalized term ‘Al-Saud’ and of criticism of the Royal family in general. These brothers claim that there are actually several respectable members within the Royal family. They mentioned that some members of the family are also sympathetic towards the reformers and the reform project [i.e.-revolutionary movements like the CDLR], and, therefore, the general criticism of Aal Saud may lead to the loss of support to such people. This is valuable advice, but we would like to comfort our brothers in that most of our criticism is directed to a limited number of personalities headed by Fahd, Sultan, Salman, and Naif, and their direct responsibility for the crimes of the regimes.

Crown Prince Abdallah is glaringly absent from this list.

It is possible that Syria is undermining Saudi Arabia’s relations with the United States in order to sabotage the position of the al-Sudairis and assist others in the royal family closer to the Syrians, more opposed to the United States and Jordan, more tolerant of Iraq and less hostile to Iran. In other words, if the succession struggle in Saudi Arabia is on Asad’s mind, then assisting those who wish to remove the U.S. umbrella from Saudi Arabia through terror attacks, is in Syria’s interest, precisely because Saudi Arabia is so important for Asad. Syria needs to ensure that succession flows in the direction of Abdallah and those who share his sentiments, and away from those who draw closer to Jordan.

Syria has interfered before in Saudi Arabia. In summer 1995, Asad conspired with Crown Prince Abdallah — who is a married to a member of the prominent Sunni Itri family in Damascus that is very closely aligned with the Asad clan — to engineer a crisis that would sabotage improving Turkish-Saudi ties, according to the Turkish journal, Nokta. A number of Turkish nationals who had been selling drugs from Syrian-controlled territory in Lebanon and transferring them through the Hatay province in Turkey, were arrested in Saudi Arabia. When a death sentence was passed on these Turks, the Turkish government sent high-ranking emissaries to Riyadh to argue for commuting their sentence. However, the Turks were executed on Abdallah’s order even though the Turkish emissaries had been reassured by King Fahd this would not happen.

The succession question is especially important because Abdallah and Sultan, the two most likely successors, are old, of questionable health and will serve at best as transitional figures. Their importance lies in the power wielded as king and in anointing the next generation of royal princes. Common wisdom holds that all the members of the royal family are keenly aware that their primary concern must be the survival of the royal family, and that even inter-family rifts over power are subordinate to the quest for family preeminence. Still, many observers concede that Saudi succession may be just as likely an unbridled and unprincipled struggle for power. Indeed, precisely because the survival of the family is on the line with every succession, precisely because the stakes are so high, the factional infighting may be intense as each views the other’s politics as leading to the family’s dishonor and destruction. Moreover, the vulnerability and importance of Saudi Arabia tempt other nations, such as Syria and Iran, to interfere in internal Saudi politics to shape the succession struggle, perhaps even without their Saudi benefactor’s being aware of this.

Thus, the stakes are not only over the next king, but over the institutionalization of the long-term direction which Saudi Arabia will take — toward the West and Jordan under the al-Sudairis, or toward Syria under Crown Prince Abdallah.

Undermining the INC in Northern Iraq

Jordan relied heavily on an alliance with the INC to pursue the Hashemite option. The INC encompasses the entire Iraqi opposition spectrum except some of those groups working with Damascus. By coordinating with the INC, King Hussein gave his Hashemite initiative an Iraqi facade. Moreover, the INC’s presence in northern Iraq gave Jordan a locally populated geographic base — northern Iraq — from which to operate.

Hussein Kamal’s defection to Amman in summer 1995 and Jordan’s introducing its initiative on Iraq coincided with an American-mediated cease-fire between Kurdish factions in northern Iraq in late summer 1995, dubbed the “Dublin Agreement.” This was yet another blow to Asad since it thrust the INC functionally as the protectors of peace in northern Iraq, therein proving the organization’s effectiveness, reversing the weakness it faced as a result of the Kurdish infighting in spring 1995 which had left a void which Asad sought to fill. In short, King Hussein began forging an alliance with the INC to exploit traditional Hashemite ties to Iraqi society for the purpose of slowly infiltrating the tribal base surrounding Saddam. This transformed northern Iraq into a springboard and node of opposition activity associated with King Hussein’s initiative.

Given the INC’s importance to King Hussein’s initiative, and given the INC’s base of power in northern Iraq, the key battle ground between Syria and Jordan shifted in fall 1995 to northern Iraq. Iraqi opposition sources reported that Jordan was trying to “counter Syrian attempts to undermine its role in Iraq by establishing a ‘Jordanian presence’ in the Western-protected Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq.” There were even reports that Israel had established an intelligence presence in northern Iraq in collaboration with Iraqi opposition leaders; whether true or not, these reports drew a strong warning from Syria and affected its perception of the situation.

While the “Dublin agreement” laid a solid geographical foundation for Jordan to pursue its Hashemite initiative, America did not use the “Dublin agreement” and cease-fire as a springboard to rejuvenate and forward the INC as a solution to the Iraq problem as a whole and to solidify its position on northern Iraq. Indeed, after the “Dublin agreement” was signed, America neglected northern Iraq and the role it would play in the competition for Iraq’s future. U.S. envoys promised economic, financial, and security assistance to the INC, but little, in fact, materialized. Without U.S. involvement, the working relations between the two main Kurdish factions deteriorated as the INC lost its mediating effectiveness. The INC had been born and based in northern Iraq; politically ignoring northern Iraq was tantamount to abandoning the INC. Iran and Syria, seeing the vacuum thus created, soon began to assert their influence in the north by exploiting their geographic advantages — a move which drew no American response. It is likely that Syria and Iran increased their involvement in northern Iraq’s Kurdish areas and undermined the “Dublin agreement” in large part in order to sabotage King Hussein’s plans.

Two-weeks after the U.S.-brokered cease-fire in northern Iraq, the pro-Syria/Iran Kurdish faction, the PKK, attacked pro-INC Kurdish factions in an act, which Kamran Karadaghi, al-Hayat’s Iraq commentator, noted:

may have been…part of efforts to undermine U.S. influence in the enclave…which could be part of the broader rivalry between Washington and Damascus over the Iraqi opposition and post-Saddam Iraq. The PUK-KDP agreement [the August 1995 US-brokered ‘Dublin agreement’] provides for the INC to play a major role in policing the truce between them, and this runs counter to Syria’s attempts to supplant the INC with an Iraqi opposition coalition under its auspices aimed at thwarting what it sees as the ‘American project’ for Iraq’s future.

With the Kurdish issue unresolved, Iran and Syria increased their leverage in northern Iraq. Throughout the fall, Iran and Syria pushed hard to press both the KDP and PUK to regard them as the main power brokers. Iran moved SAIRI’s military wing, the Badr forces, into northern Iraq by December — an act which drew Turkey’s, but not U.S. concern.

Syria’s and Iran’s pressure began to pay off by late November, as evinced by the public agreements between the KDP, PUK, and SAIRI. The effects of the pressure were evident in the way in which both the PUK and KDP were forced to provide ostentatious receptions to visiting Iranian dignitaries, especially Iran’s Iraq policy supremo, Ali Agha Mohammadi. It is possible that the increasing difficulties that the INC encountered in late fall 1995 in northern Iraq led the two Kurdish factions by late November to enter discussions with King Hussein of Jordan to move their center of activity from northern Iraq to Amman, as some Iraqi opposition elements claim.

The PUK, located in the eastern part of the enclave, buckled and came to terms with Iran. The KDP, located in the western part, remained aloof and refused to disband its anti-Iranian wing, the KDP-Iran. By spring 1996, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Red Crescent Society intervened directly and freely in northern Iraq. Iran eventually invaded northern Iraq in June 1996, and pressed the PUK into active hostility against the KDP. The KDP was beleaguered in the face of Iran’s pressure. America still took no notice of these developments, highlighting its political disengagement from northern Iraq.

Iran and Syria succeeded by summer 1996 to force Kurdish factions in the north to submit to Iran’s and Syria’s domination or face obliteration.

Syria’s and Iran’s interventions in northern Iraq had another deleterious effect that would undermine Jordan. It highlighted the power vacuum that the north had become. Such a vacuum was sure to invite Saddam’s attentions. The efforts of Jordan’s King Hussein to undermine Saddam over the past year particularly threatened Saddam. By late summer 1996, Saddam was ready to respond to this threat. According to the Jordanian government, Saddam fomented riots in August 1996 in a number of Jordanian cities, including the worst in seven years in Kerak, to derail Jordan’s Hashemite option. Then, on August 30, displaying understanding that using power generates power, Saddam exploited the U.S. neglect of northern Iraq and invaded northern Iraq. While Saddam’s incursion into the north was aimed tactically at the Kurds, it served this much broader strategic purpose. He invaded to undermine Hashemite plans and reverse his image of weakness. Saddam acted in response to the fragility of his regime, which has tempted Iraq’s neighbors to compete for power in Iraq in preparation for Saddam’s departure.


The competition to inherit Iraq has been underway since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Its course will profoundly affect the balance of power in the Middle East. The events of August 1996 in northern Iraq are only the latest chapter in this competition, with Saddam reasserting himself as a major actor as well.

It would be tempting for the United States to write off northern Iraq and let Syria, Iran, and Iraq brawl over the scraps. But King Hussein has launched an initiative that can manage the chaos that awaits Iraq and the Levant in a way that benefits the United States. It is in the West’s interest that Jordan prevail in this confrontation. Were the Hashemites to win, then they could become the cornerstone of a stable balance of power that also includes Israel and Turkey.

The United States should encourage a reshaping of the regional balance of power in which Jordan plays a major role. The king’s efforts have earned him the enmity of the most dangerous regimes in the Middle East: Asad’s, Saddam’s, and Rafsanjani’s. If left to stand alone, King Hussein’s initiative, perhaps even his regime, will be threatened in the face of such powerful opponents.

So this brings us back to the first questions of strategy. How should the West, particularly the United States and Israel, deal with the strategic competition over Iraq? To begin with, the battle over Iraq represents a desperate attempt by residual Soviet bloc allies in the Middle East to block the extension into the Middle East of the impending collapse that the rest of the Soviet bloc faced in 1989. The West must avoid repeating the mistakes at the end of the Cold War. It was futile and counterproductive in 1989-1991 to pursue stability in East Europe by trying to salvage communism and Gorbachev’s rule. It is equally unwise to pursue stability in the Levant by propping up secular-Arab nationalism.

Moreover, the effort to prop up secular-Arab nationalism in its crumbling weakness, is anchored to the belief that it can be “reformed” enough to be resurrected as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism. Yet, one of the main strategic objectives of the peace process is to perpetuate Levantine secular-Arab nationalist regimes. Indeed, the previous Israeli government believed that, “[Israel’s] role is to protect the existing regimes, to prevent or halt the process of radicalization, and to block the expansion of fundamental religious zealotry.”

But the present study, which is the second IASPS Research Paper in Strategy to be published by the Institute, shows that the pursuit of comprehensive peace and the effort to harness secular-Arab nationalist regimes such as Syria’s in the battle to stem the fundamentalist tide is not only futile. It is also a dangerous strategic misstep. Five years ago, the West learned that resisting the tide of fundamentalism in Iran by embracing secular-Arab nationalism in Iraq was perilous. The attempt to play one against the other was an explosive mistake. The same lesson should now be applied to Syria. It is in both Israel’s and the West’s interest to expedite the demise of secular-Arab nationalism. Secular-Arab nationalism, which is indeed on the edge of collapse, is perhaps most dangerous in its final moments and should not be regarded as an “ally in waiting.” The pursuit of the peace process is preventing this.

Secular-Arab nationalism, particularly Baathism, undermines regional stability and damages the West’s interests not only in its active role as a threat, but also in its more passive role as an obstacle to introducing more formidable, and beneficial, intellectual defenses among Arabs with which to stem fundamentalism. Secular-Arab nationalism offers no intellectual challenge to fundamentalism. It now holds onto power not by weight of its idea, but by the intensity of its terror. As long as this transitional, languishing circumstance continues, the Arab world is prevented from pursuing alternatives. Most of all, the effort to salvage secular-Arab nationalism, like the quest for “comprehensive peace,” itself becomes dangerous and destabilizing to the region’s balance of power.

As the rejection of communism was necessary for the Europeans and Russians to move on to a government more able to resist dangerous ideas in former East bloc countries, so too is the rejection of radical secular-Arab nationalism necessary for the Arab world to move to a more healthy future. The West and its local friends must engage fundamentalism with better associates than Baathists.

Although the United States contains Iraq militarily, Washington and Jerusalem ignore Iraq politically. This too is, in part, a legacy of the peace process. U.S. and Israeli regional policies were informed almost exclusively by the quest for comprehensive peace, which replaced traditional strategic considerations, especially the balance of power, with European Union-style regional integration.

Israel’s policies toward Iraq have been largely driven by this concept of “comprehensive peace.” Israel’s Rabin, who had developed a close working relationship with Jordan’s Hussein, grasped the significance of Jordan’s shift and supported Jordan’s efforts. This support continued initially after Rabin’s death. HaAretz reported that in Peres’ December meetings with top American officials, he even proposed the creation of NATO-style alliance among Israel, Jordan, a post-Saddam Iraq, and Turkey. But Israeli commentators noted that all such cooperation was conceived more as a form of prodding Asad to accept comprehensive peace than as a strategic plan to contain, undermine, and eventually transcend Syria and secular-Arab nationalism. “Comprehensive peace,” rather than balance of power, continued to inform Israeli policy on Iraq, as was revealed a month later when Syria balked returning to the negotiations. The stalling of the Syrian track, and the Israeli government’s desire to revive it, led Israel to concede to Syria its prominent regional role rather than to redouble its efforts to contain or undermine Asad. In this context, the United States, as Pelletreau’s statements indicate, and Israel, as Peres’s also indicate, sought to coopt Syrian President Asad by considering seriously his regional plans.

The American and Israeli quest for regional integration has proven flawed and unrealistic. It has caused the West to neglect the dangerous strategic competitions that still define the region, quite independent of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Such neglect has allowed a dangerous deterioration in the power and relative position of those forces potentially aligned with the West by allowing Syria to leverage the peace process both to block the United States from endorsing Jordan’s efforts, and to remove some of the teeth behind growing Turkish-Israeli collaboration — which will continue over the long-run despite Erbakan’s current administration. In short, the quest for “comprehensive peace” blocks Israel and the United States from pursuing a durable regional strategy based on the balance of power.

Lebanon is Asad’s Achilles heel. Iran is his strategic ally. Turkey’s Erbakan is his hope. Iraq is his objective. And an Abdallah-dominated Saudi Arabia is his shield from the West. The United States must support moves to challenge Syria’s position in Lebanon, to undermine Iran, to ensure Turkey’s long-term pro-Western tilt and integration into Europe, to support Jordan’s efforts in Iraq, and to understand better the dynamics of Saudi succession as they relate to its foreign policy. Otherwise, the West will still not get peace. Instead it will look beyond Israel’s borders at secular-Arab nationalism’s final legacy — a chaotic sea that resembles violent, medieval European feudalism (which will painfully intrude on the West), unfortunately infused with high-technology weaponry — rather than at a stable balance of power system that can serve as a more solid basis for the Arabs upon which to build their nations and contemplate effective governance.

US: Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

by Richard Cummings,
January 16th, 2007

In November of 2002, Stephen J. Hadley, deputy national security advisor, asked Bruce Jackson to meet with him in the White House. They met in Hadley’s office on the ground floor of the West Wing, not far from the offices of Vice President Dick Cheney and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. Hadley had an exterior office with windows, an overt indicator of his importance within the West Wing hierarchy.

This was months before Secretary of State Colin Powell would go to the United Nations to make the administration’s case for the invasion of Iraq, touting the subsequently discredited evidence of weapons of mass destruction. But according to Jackson, Hadley told him that “they were going to war and were struggling with a rationale” to justify it. Jackson, recalling the meeting, reports that Hadley said they were “still working out” a cause, too, but asked that he, Jackson, “set up something like the Committee on NATO” to come up with a rationale.

Jackson had launched the U.S. Committee on NATO, a nongovernmental pressure group, in 1996 with Hadley on board. The objective of the committee, originally called the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, was to push for membership in the NATO military alliance for former Soviet bloc countries including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

What Bruce Jackson came up with for Hadley this time, in 2002, was the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. The mission statement of the committee says it was “formed to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations.” The pressure group began pushing for regime change — that is, military action to remove Hussein — in the usual Washington ways, lobbying members of congress, working the media and throwing money around. The committee’s pitch, or rationale as Hadley would call it, was that Saddam was a monster — routinely violating human rights — and a general menace in the Middle East.

“I didn’t see the point about WMDs or an Al Queda connection,” Jackson says. In his mind the human rights issue was sufficient to justify a war.

Jackson had long been a proponent of unseating Hussein, and the committee dovetailed with his quite real sense of mission. In addition to his role in the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and the U.S. Committee on NATO, he had also been president of the Project for Transitional Democracies, organized to “accelerate democratic reform” in Eastern Europe.

Still, there is another way to view Jackson’s activities. As The New York Times put it in a 1997 article, “at night Bruce Jackson is president of the U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, giving intimate dinners for senators and foreign officials. By day, he is director of strategic planning for Lockheed Martin Corporation, the world’s biggest weapons maker.”

That’s how D.C. works. Many of the people making decisions have been in and out of the same set of revolving doors connecting government, conservative think tanks, lobbying firms, law firms and the defense industry. So strong is the bond between lobbyists, defense contractors and the Pentagon that it is known in Washington as “the iron triangle.” And this triangle inevitably gets what it wants. Why? Because in the revolving door system, a defense contractor executive can surface as an official in the Department of Defense, from which position he can give lucrative contracts to his former employer, and his prospects for an even better paying job in the private sector brighten. Former aides to members of congress become handsomely paid lobbyists for the companies they were able to help in their position on Capitol Hill. Such lobbyists can spread their corporate-funded largesse to the friendliest members and their aides on the Hill. And so on.

These “blow-dried Republican lobbyists,” as one Washington district court judge calls them, wield far more power than most of the elected officials in town. Forget dime-a-dozen congressmen. It’s these operatives who get the best tables at the Capital Grille, where the power brokers lunch and sup. The lobbyists have their own lockers there, with personalized nameplates, where they store their vintage wines, ports and whiskies. They dine on the fine aged beef you can see through a window that allows guests to gaze into the refrigerated meat storage area. These people make up the K Street oligarchy that, despite all the vituperative rhetoric in recent years about campaign finance reform and insidious special interests, run Washington.

Bruce Jackson is a perfect example of this. While vice president for strategy and planning for Lockheed from 1999 to 2002, Jackson, by his own account, was also “responsible for the foreign policy platform at the 2000 Republican National Convention,” to which he was a delegate. (The platform involved a dramatic increase in defense spending.) His title at the convention was chair of the platform subcommittee on foreign policy. He also served as co-chairman of the finance commission of Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign. Prior to joining Lockheed, Jackson had served as executive director of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the think tank whose principles included Dick Cheney. PNAC served as the Bush administration’s blueprint for preemptive war and authored a 1998 open letter to President Bill Clinton calling for military force to oust Saddam Hussein.

But forget Jackson. In 2002, he was on the outside. Stephen Hadley, looking out of the windows from his West Wing office, was on the inside. Sure, Hadley had the requisite government experience for a deputy national security advisor. He had been an assistant secretary of defense under Bush’s dad. But he had been through the revolving door, too: Stephen Hadley, the point man for justifying the invasion of Iraq, had also lawyered at Shea & Gardner, whose clients included Lockheed.

Of course, all the frothing at the mouth about lobbyists, money and special interests can seem from outside the Beltway as much ado about nothing. The government hands out contracts. The beneficiaries or those who want to be beneficiaries buy steak dinners for the officials who hold the purse strings. Big deal. The problem, though, is that, upon closer scrutiny, this is not how the system works. It’s actually much more sinister than that, allowing the interests of America to be subverted by the interests of corporate America. As you’ll see here, your elected officials did not deliberate on how best to protect their constituents, decide bombing Iraq was the best way and then order some provisions and weapons. On the contrary, this is the story of how Lockheed’s interests, as opposed to those of the American citizenry, set the course of U.S. policy after 9/11.

For the war companies, things have worked out perfectly. Whatever the rationale for the invasion of Iraq, business is booming. Not long after Bush took office, Lockheed Martin’s revenues soared by more than 30 percent, as it was awarded $17 billion in contracts from the Department of Defense, a far cry from the lean years of the Clinton administration. (Under Clinton, it did win $2 billion in contracts with the Department of Energy for nuclear weapons activity; recently Bush called for 125 new nukes a year, opening up new contract horizons in that area, as well.) Its stock went from 16.375 in October of 1999 to 71.52 in June of 2002. As professor of finance at the State University at Buffalo Michael Rozeff observes, “the stock market anticipates many events.”

Lockheed Martin reported 2002 sales of $26.6 billion, a backlog of more than $70 billion and free cash of $1.7 billion. And that was before the war in Iraq.

When it came to organizing the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, Jackson, by his own admission, “knew nothing about Iraq.” So while he agreed to serve as its chairman, he turned day-to-day operations over to Republican operative Randy Scheunemann, who took the position of executive director. Scheunemann was a member of the board of directors of PNAC. Scheunemann also served as treasurer of Jackson’s Project on Transitional Democracies, and had been a consultant on Iraq to Donald Rumsfeld. He had also been a staffer for Mississippi Senator Trent Lott when Lott was the senate majority leader — Scheunemann had in fact authored the Iraq Liberation Act. The act authorized the $97 million in Pentagon aid that would fund the Iraq National Congress, led by Ahmed Chalabi, who subsequently got close to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, explaining to her where Saddam Hussein’s WMDs were supposedly located.

Jackson then turned to his old friend Julie Finley, whom he refers to as the “grande dame” of Washington Republican politics and fundraising, to serve as treasurer of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. She had held dozens of positions in Republican affiliated groups, and had served as chairman of the board of directors of Jackson’s Project on Transitional Democracies. She also knew how to leverage her connections: Among those signing on as board members of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002 were Richard Perle, then the chairman of the Defense Advisory Board, former U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick and former CIA Director James Woolsey. Former Secretary of State George Schultz signed on to the advisory board.

A key member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq was Rend Al-Rahim Francke, the founder of the Iraq Foundation, which, according to its tax return, was 99 percent funded by U.S. government grants. The Iraq Foundation, in turn, provided logistical support for the anti-Saddam Hussein propaganda documentary Voices of Iraq and facilitated its distribution. The objective was the manipulation of public opinion to support regime change to oust Saddam Hussein, all in support of the goals of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

If the names and organizations connected to the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq seem to blur together, it’s no coincidence. Many of the people involved had been in and out of that set of revolving doors connecting government, conservative think tanks, lobbying firms and the defense industry. And many shared another common bond, as well: a link to Lockheed Martin.

By the time the committee had assembled, they had a number of contacts in the Bush administration — many of whom also had Lockheed connections. Bush had appointed Powell A. Moore assistant secretary of defense for legislative affairs serving directly under Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. From 1983 until 1998, when he had become chief of staff to Republican Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee, Moore was a consultant and vice president for legislative affairs for Lockheed.

Albert Smith, Lockheed’s executive vice president for integrated systems and solutions, was appointed to the Defense Science Board. Bush had appointed former Lockheed chief operating officer Peter B. Teets as undersecretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office, where he made decisions on the acquisition of reconnaissance satellites and space-based elements of missile defense. Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, the only Democrat appointed by Bush to his cabinet, worked for Lockheed, as did Bush’s Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England. Haley Barbour, chairman of the Republican National Committee before becoming the governor of Mississippi, worked for a Lockheed lobbying firm. Joe Allbaugh, national campaign manager of the Bush-Cheney ticket and director of FEMA during the first two years of the Bush administration (he appointed his college friend Michael Brown as FEMA’s general counsel), was a Lockheed lobbyist for its rapidly growing intelligence division.

Dick Cheney’s son-in-law, Philip J. Perry, a registered Lockheed lobbyist who had, while working for a law firm, represented Lockheed with the Department of Homeland Security, had been nominated by Bush to serve as general counsel to the Department of Homeland Security. His wife, Elizabeth Cheney, serves as deputy assistant secretary of state for Middle Eastern affairs.

Vice President Cheney’s wife, Lynne, had, until her husband took office, served on the board of Lockheed, receiving deferred compensation in the form of half a million dollars in stock and fees. Even President Bush himself has a Lockheed Martin connection. As governor of Texas, he had attempted to give Lockheed a multimillion-dollar contract to reform the state’s welfare system.

Soon after taking office in 2001, Bush had also appointed Lockheed president and CEO Robert J. Stevens to his Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. The future of that industry was, of course, in an expanding defense budget, and a war in Iraq wouldn’t hurt Lockheed’s bottom line.

Jackson has the perfect pedigree for this insular, incestuous world of interconnections. His father, William Jackson, was the first person to hold the position of national security advisor, under Dwight Eisenhower. Growing up, his neighbors had included the historian and diplomat George Kennan, author of the doctrine of containment during the Cold War, and William Bundy, a Johnson administration hawk. Jackson graduated from the elite St. Mark’s boarding school in Massachusetts and then attended Princeton. In the 1980s Jackson worked for presidents Reagan and Bush under Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, as well as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz.

Next Jackson worked in proprietary trading at Lehman Brothers, an investment bank, before leaving for Martin Marietta, then one of the top defense corporations. Jackson’s role was director of strategic planning and corporate development projects, which involved the merger of Martin Marietta with the 800-pound gorilla of the industry, Lockheed. Jackson remained with the new entity, Lockheed Martin.

Today Jackson’s Washington apartment is discreetly elegant. Aside from shelves of books, there is another item on the wall in Jackson’s apartment worthy of note: It is a signed photograph of George W. Bush together with Jackson and Julie Finley, the fund-raiser who was treasurer of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Sitting in his apartment, which also serves as his office, Jackson describes his role at Lockheed Martin as “non-technical.” He worked at developing strategies to improve sales and find new markets, moving the company in directions that were profitable.

Meanwhile, in his “spare time,” Jackson worked to promote the expansion of NATO and Iraq liberation, worked to get Bush elected and helped establish the administration’s foreign policy. While Jackson sees his role as head of the United States Committee on NATO as an idealistic one, separate from his job, NATO expansion proved a valuable marketing tool for Lockheed Martin, as Eastern European and Central Asian counties upgraded their obsolete militaries, and, as we’ll see, also provided a way to gain support among former Soviet bloc countries for Bush’s coming war in Iraq.

The collateral benefits of Jackson’s activities to Lockheed Martin were unambiguous, leading one to conclude that while he might have thought he was using them, in reality they were using him. Jackson argues that only “literary types” would see a connection between Lockheed Martin and the Iraq war as “seamless.” He insists that his own activities were “not part of my day job. What I did at other times was my own business. There are lesbians who work for Lockheed Martin. One of them might be a belly dancer at night.”

As for the same names — many of them people with Lockheed Martin connections — appearing on the letterhead of groups pressing for military action in Iraq and for NATO expansion, Jackson quips: “How many intellectuals are there in Washington? Twenty? We all share the same concerns.”

Jackson acknowledges that he “gave William Kristol money” to help start the Weekly Standard, which advocated military action to remove Saddam Hussein, just as he had earlier joined with Kristol at the PNAC — all by virtue of their shared ideology, as he explains it. But if the connection between Lockheed Martin and the Iraq war was not seamless, neither was it serendipitous. For example, Lockheed also supported the pro-war Weekly Standard as a paying advertiser.

“It used to be just an airplane company,” John Pike, a military analyst and director of says about Lockheed Martin. “Now it’s a warfare company. It’s an integrated solution provider. It’s a one-stop shop. Anything you need to kill the enemy, they will sell you.”

They also will tell you who the enemy is. And whether it was seamless or serendipitous, Stephen Hadley, referred to by The New York Times as one of the more significant Lockheed operatives in the Bush White House, was there to tie it all together.

Still, while Lockheed Martin may look invincible now, it was not always so. Its rise has been fraught with disaster and catastrophe, even near-extinction, from which it ultimately became determined to insulate itself, free from the vicissitudes of the free market.

During Lockheed’s dark days, its failures were so notorious they inspired Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, a 1974 concept album by Robert Calvert, the lead singer of the British prog rock band Hawkwind. Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, Hawkwind’s bassist prior to founding Motörhead, also contributed to the LP, a send-up of the true story of West Germany’s experiences with Lockheed’s Starfighter jet, the F-104G.

Rejected by the American Air Force, Lockheed sold the Starfighters to the West German air force. Of the 916 jets sold to West Germany, 292 crashed, killing 116 pilots.

The opening track on Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters is cumbersomely titled “Franz Joseph Strauss, Defence Minister, Reviews the Luftwaffe in 1958, Finding It Somewhat Lacking in Image Potential,” done by Calvert in a crazed German accent, impersonating, in Monty Python manic style, the “Uber-Teutonic Defence Minister.” But German officials were not laughing, and government investigations of the purchase ensued. Meanwhile, Lockheed also sold the Starfighter to the Japanese, with 54 of their F-104Gs also falling from the sky.

As a manufacturer of civilian airliners, Lockheed had foundered from the time its propeller-driven Constellation was grounded in 1946 by the Civilian Aeronautics Board after a series of crashes that year. It also discontinued its Electra turboprop commercial airliner two years after it was introduced in 1959 when three crashed in one year.

Its legendary Super Constellation — a mainstay of American transatlantic commercial aviation from 1951 to 1955 — faced competition in 1956 from the DC-7, the first aircraft capable of regularly flying non-stop in both directions across the North Atlantic. To keep up, Lockheed created the 1649 Starliner, but it was overtaken by the faster Bristol Britannia and then rendered obsolete by the jet-powered Boeing 707 and the Havilland Comet 4. Lockheed built only 44 Starliners and failed to recoup its investment on what proved to be its last propeller commercial aircraft.

To add insult to injury, the Navy, by now moving into jets, canceled a contract for the W2V-1, a military version of the Model 1649 designed to serve as an airborne early-warning craft. Not only were the 1649s unable to compete with new jets, their engines were “temperamental” by Lockheed’s own admission. And while Lockheed was able to offset some of these losses by going into the missile business with the founding of Lockheed Missile Systems Division (later Lockheed Missiles and Space Company) and promoting its Polaris and Trident series — which served as the company’s cash cows during hard times — its bad business decisions and overruns continued to threaten its profitability.

Finally shifting to jet aircraft, Lockheed still foundered. The company designed and built the JetStar, thinking it had a guaranteed market with the Air Force, which led Lockheed to believe that as many as three hundred of the aircraft would be ordered if Lockheed won the competition for the UCX, or “utility transport, experimental.” In the event, the Air Force bought only 16 of the advanced aircraft, leaving a residual sense of “betrayal” in the company, as executives interviewed by Walter J. Boyne expressed in his corporate history of Lockheed, Beyond The Horizons.

As Boyne details, Lockheed fared no better in the commercial jet sweepstakes, precipitating a crisis that almost destroyed the company. By failing to acquire Douglas when it had an opportunity to do so, Lockheed allowed McDonnell to beat them to the punch in 1967, a lesson Lockheed management would not forget. Lockheed had hoped to allow Douglas to go under because of late deliveries of both its DC-8 and DC-9, and then pick it up at a cheap price, transforming Lockheed into a much larger and more powerful company than Boeing. Instead, Lockheed found itself in competition with McDonnell Douglas to fill the commercial jet niche between the Boeing 707 (and its counterpart, the DC-8) and the new 747. Its answer was the L-1011 TriStar.

Designed with three engines for non-stop transcontinental flights, Lockheed opted to go with Rolls-Royce for the engines because of Rolls’ willingness to provide needed funding for development. Also, American Airlines appeared to favor the Rolls-Royce engine, and Lockheed assumed it would therefore be able to sell American the TriStar. But Franklin Kolk, American’s chief engineer and father of the wide-body jet, favored a twin engine aircraft and, disappointed in Lockheed for not following his advice, pushed American to purchase DC-10s instead.

Dan Haughton, Lockheed’s CEO, who had previously headed its nuclear missile division, frantically offered the L-1011 TriStar to Eastern and TWA at a drastically reduced price. But since there were Congressional rumblings about Lockheed using a foreign engine — with dollars leaving America for Britain — Haughton concocted a scheme to announce a sale of 50 L-1011s to Air Holdings in Britain to show that money would be coming into the United States to more than offset what was going out to Rolls-Royce. GE offered its engine to United Airlines at a favorable rate, assuming that Lockheed would switch from Rolls-Royce to win a United contract. But Lockheed refused to redesign the TriStar to accept the GE CF6 engine because of the $100 million cost of such a conversion. Haughton, believing he still had the American deal, was convinced United would fall in line and accept the RB 211 engine from Rolls-Royce. But United used its leverage to drive down the price of the competing engines and planes. Then it stabbed Lockheed in the back by going with the Douglas DC-10, announcing its intention to buy 60 with an option to buy 30 more.

With the deck stacked against it, Lockheed proceeded with the Rolls-Royce engine that, unexpectedly, then failed the standard test for “susceptibility to bird-strike damage.” When three dead chickens were fired into one of the engines while it was in operation, it blew apart. Rolls was obliged to redesign the engine, producing one that was heavier and more costly and increasing the cost of the TriStar.

Competition from GE drove down the price of engines, causing Rolls-Royce to hemorrhage money. On February 4, 1971, it declared bankruptcy. Lockheed was thrown into turmoil. Having created a $50 million state-of-the-art facility to produce the L-1011s, it suspended production and laid off 4,000 employees. But Richard Nixon and Ted Heath, Britain’s prime minister, joined forces to attempt to salvage Rolls-Royce and Lockheed.

Heath arranged for Britain to take over Rolls-Royce as “Rolls-Royce 1971,” as it was registered on the London Stock Exchange — a bit of socialism for the privileged. Nixon’s Secretary of the Treasury, John Connally, negotiated a deal between Britain and the United States to continue production of the RB 211 and the L-1011 TriStar, with Britain agreeing to make the engine as long as America would guarantee the L-1011 would continue to production. As part of the deal, Lockheed agreed to pay $120 million more for the engines. It was all in vain, however, as Lockheed was eventually obliged to discontinue the L-1011 in the wake of a bribery scandal during their attempts to get Japan to buy the aircraft. Beyond The Horizons offers an excellent look at this entire episode.

Lockheed learned a number of things from the L-1101 experience. First and foremost, it didn’t pay to compete in the private sector. Instead, the company shifted gears; these days 80 percent of its business comes from federal government contracts. Moreover, Lockheed would load the government with its own people and then hire former defense department employees, creating a revolving door that would guarantee friends in the right places. That goal, of course, has been achieved and sustained.

Also in the wake of the L-1011 debacle, Lockheed’s business practices became aggressive in the extreme. It charged the Pentagon $646 for a toilet seat and delivered C-5A transport planes — that cost millions of dollars — without installing thousands of essential parts. It paid bribes to foreign officials to help unload planes no one wanted, including giant long-distance transports to Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil and Italy, until the passage of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 made such actions illegal. Undeterred, in 1995 Lockheed paid an Egyptian official $1.2 million to secure a contract for three C-130 cargo planes. A Lockheed executive promised a federal judge that the company would henceforth make a “commitment to the highest ethical standards of conduct,” but this was not until it was obliged to pay $145.3 million in penalties. Also, in 1994, Lockheed received a $13 million fine under the Arms Export Control Act when it supplied information that could have been used to improve the accuracy of Chinese ballistic missiles. The U.S. government charged Lockheed with 30 violations of arms export laws in connection with having aided Chinese satellite technology.

Lockheed also learned never again to miss out on the chance to gobble up other defense contractors or merge with them on favorable terms. After developing the F-22 (later known as the F/A 22) with General Dynamics and Boeing, Lockheed took over General Dynamics’ Forth Worth aircraft division. And in 1995, it made the decision that would change the face of the industry. Lockheed would merge with Martin Marietta, which itself had gobbled up the aerospace division of General Electric. President Clinton wanted the merger so a new, more technologically advanced company could emerge, capable of building a new Joint Strike Fighter supersonic warplane.

Lockheed met secretly with its financial advisor, Morgan Stanley, which considered the deal beneficial, at least to the stock market. Dick Cheney served on the Board of Morgan Stanley. His 2004 financial disclosure statement lists Lockheed stock options and $50,000 in Lockheed stock, but also investments in a number of Morgan Stanley funds. In 2000, The New York Times reported that “Mr. Cheney has a much larger brokerage account at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, on whose board he serves, but he did not report any trades in that account on his and his wife’s tax returns…. Mr. Cheney and his wife Lynne had previously disclosed only the first two pages of their tax returns for 1990 through 1999, holding back the supporting documentation that show details of investment income.”

Overall, the new Lockheed Martin received about $1 billion from U.S. government coffers for costs related to the merger, which as Geov Parrish noted in Mother Jones, included “approximately $31 million” paid in executive bonuses.

But all did not go well with the merger. Lockheed Martin incurred further debt when it acquired the defense electronics and system integration business of Loral Space & Communications. Joint ventures with Russia to launch satellites also cost Lockheed Martin a considerable amount of money. Lockheed poured almost a billion dollars into the ventures as of 1999 before security issues limited the number of Russian launches of U.S. built satellites to 20.

Then, in 1999, with profits tumbling, Vance Coffman, the chairman and now CEO, shook up the company, reorganizing its management structure to create what it described as a “new customer focused organizational realignment.” In short, it was a strategy designed to respond to another lesson learned in the course of doing business: By becoming part of the decision-making process, Lockheed Martin could ensure that defense budgets would expand and not contract.

The shakeup got into high gear as the price of its shares tumbled to its all-time low of $16.375. Executives left in droves. Lockheed Martin announced the retirement of Peter Teets, the company’s president and chief operating officer. (Two years later Teets was appointed as undersecretary of the Air Force in the Bush administration.) Coffman chaired a search committee for new blood, eventually appointing as CFO (and in 2001, CEO) Robert J. Stevens, formerly a vice president of Lockheed Martin’s strategic development organization. Stevens, says Jackson, is “as straight arrow as you get, an all-American guy,” who “polishes his own shoes.”

While working as head of strategic planning, Stevens had devised a strategy he could implement as CEO to turn Lockheed Martin around and make it the master of its fate. And as he served on Bush’s Commission to Examine the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry from 2001 to 2002, he had the president’s ear.

In 1999, when Stevens left strategic planning to become chief financial officer, Jackson became vice president for strategy and planning, their careers intersecting at a crucial time. Stevens developed the strategy for Lockheed to outpace Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman as the top Pentagon contractor through aggressively pursuing federal contracts while eschewing the risks of the marketplace in the private sector. He started pouring large sums of PAC money to members of Congress to garner their cooperation and hired the armies of lobbyists for which Lockheed Martin became famous. According to Jackson, Lockheed Martin has hired “200 lobbyists,” who in turn “hire other lobbyists” to work on Lockheed accounts. (One of them is Katherine Armstrong, daughter of a policy aide to Ronald Reagan. It was Katherine Armstrong who hosted the infamous Dick Cheney hunting party at Armstrong Ranch where Cheney accidentally shot a leading Republican lawyer.) Fees to lobbyists in a given year likely exceed $10 million.

When the United States gives military aid to its allies, the benefits accrue to Lockheed Martin, too. Israel, for example, spends much of the $1.8 billion a year it receives in military aid from the U.S. on planes and missile systems from Lockheed — and that’s in years when it is not actively at war with Hezbollah. Lockheed’s market is worldwide, selling F-16 fighters, surveillance software and other equipment to more than 40 countries. The United Arab Emirates, forced to give up its deal to run American ports through its state-run Dubai entity, has been a major customer, spending more than $6 billion on F-16 fighters in 2000 as it looked forward to the Bush presidency. No wonder Bush threatened to veto legislation barring the ports deal.

Stevens has boasted that Lockheed Martin not only creates the technology, it makes military policy as well. He told The New York Times in November of 2004 that Lockheed stands at “the intersection of policy and technology,” which, he observed, “is really a very interesting place to be. We are deployed, entirely in developing daunting technology” that “requires thinking through the policy dimensions of national security as well as technology.” He acknowledges “this is not a business where in the purest economical sense there’s a broad market of supply and demand.”

And although he may shine his own shoes, Stevens is paid $7 million a year, not counting bonuses and stock options. In 2002, Stevens left Bush’s aerospace commission, becoming a member of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, and Jackson left Lockheed Martin to work on the Project on Transitional Democracies and the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Stevens and Jackson were tag team wrestlers, Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside, of Team Lockheed. And, increasingly, the distinction between Lockheed Martin and the government began to blur as the war in Iraq became inevitable.

With the 2002 election over and Democrats increasingly hawkish on Iraq, Bush made his State of the Union address on January 29, 2003, uttering this now famous line: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” The threat of Saddam Hussein was established and the American people bought it. And the person claiming responsibility for leaving that line in was Hadley.

In February of 2003, Jackson helped draft a declaration for the 10 Eastern European foreign ministers — all countries up for NATO membership and associated with Jackson’s expansion efforts — that became known as the “Vilnius Ten,” rebuking French President Jacques Chirac’s opposition to attacking Iraq. The declaration stated: “The newest members of the European community agree that we must confront the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and that the United Nations must act now.” Jackson achieved this success when he attended a dinner party at the Slovak embassy in Washington and told assembled diplomats from the countries, according to The American Prospect’s John B. Judis, that signing the declaration would help win U.S. approval of their membership.

On March 20, 2003, America attacked Iraq. “Shock and Awe” began at night, with Lockheed Martin Stealth F-117 Nighthawks leading the assault. Looking like gigantic, venomous black bats, the V-shaped killers with their sharply spiked tail wings swept over Baghdad in search of the concrete shelters and reinforced bunkers where it was believed Saddam Hussein and his inner circle were concealed. Light ground forces moved swiftly toward Baghdad. An American blitzkrieg had been launched.

The F-117 had been reconfigured to carry a 2,000-pound bunker buster bomb, accurately guided by new technology to hit its target at a vertical impact angle with a warhead called the BLU-109. The Lockheed Missiles and Space Company manufactured it. Lockheed’s Keyhole and Lacrosse satellites beamed images from the war back to the military, employing its Theater Battle Management Core Systems, specialized software used to coordinate communications between intelligence systems and ground forces to assist the air campaign. Lockheed U-2 and the SR-71 Blackbird spy planes joined with its F-16 and the F/A 22 jet fighters in support of the F-117s. Army and Marine ground troops unleashed Lockheed Hellfire laser-guided anti-armor missiles to demolish helicopters and land attack vehicles, and PAC-3 missiles, a highly agile, “hit-to-kill” interceptor, to provide air defense for ground combat forces. Lockheed Javelin portable missiles were used to considerable effect, particularly later in the invasion of Fallujah. Lockheed’s “arsenal of democracy” was in full display.

Five days later, Bush asked Congress for $74.7 billion to pay for six months of combat, separate from the regular defense budget. But by June, it had become obvious that the “uranium from Africa” intelligence had been deeply flawed and erroneous. Acknowledging the CIA had warned him in two separate memos that the Agency would not stand by the information suggesting Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program, Stephen Hadley had this to say about it: “When the language in the drafts of the State of the Union referred to efforts to acquire natural uranium, I should have either asked that they — the 16 words given to that subject — be stricken, or I should have alerted DCI Tenet. And had I done so, this would have avoided the whole current controversy. And in my current position, I am the senior-most official within the NSC staff, directly responsible for the substantive review and clearance of presidential speeches. The president and the national security advisor look to me to ensure that the substantive statements in those speeches are the ones in which the president can have confidence. And it is now clear to me that I failed in that responsibility in connection with the inclusion of these 16 words in the speech that he gave on the 28th of January.”

Yet when Colin Powell resigned as secretary of state and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice took his place, Stephen Hadley was promoted to take her position as national security advisor. Hadley’s “error” had enabled Bush to go to war, the big payoff for Lockheed Martin.

But how had the British government gotten the intelligence on the African uranium so wrong? How had MI6, the most fabled intelligence service in the world, allowed itself to be misled by dubious sources? While Tony Blair and his government deny any pressure was put on its intelligence services, the stakes were high for Britain to join America in the war. And here again Lockheed loomed large.

In October of 2001, the Pentagon announced it was awarding Lockheed Martin a nearly $20 billion contract for the next phase of the development of the Joint Strike Fighter, called the F-35. To the industry, it was “the deal of the century,” despite the fact that the century had only just begun. In beating out Boeing, Lockheed asserted itself as the undisputed leader of military contractors for decades to come, if not forever. But it did not go it alone. It brought in on the deal not only Northrop Grumman, but also the beleaguered BAE Systems, Britain’s, and Europe’s, largest defense contractor. Under the terms of the contract, BAE was responsible for building the aft fuselage and the tails; Lockheed the forward fuselage and wings; and Northrop the middle fuselage.

On September 30, 2005, following Britain’s participation in the invasion of Iraq and with its ground troops still on the ground as other coalition partners, such as Spain, pulled out their troops, according to John A. Smith of Lockheed’s Fort Worth operation: “Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Department of Defense formalized a $25.7 billion Joint Strike Fighter system development and demonstration contract that effectively replaces the $19.7 billion SDD contract under which the JSF was operating previously.” As this was all covered by the fiscal year 2005 Congressional budget, it “requires no additional Congressional funding.”

Smith explains that nine countries will use the F-35 — the United States, the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway — with all nine negotiating for what they will buy in the future, with sales worth $257 billion. (Israel has recently indicated its intention of converting its air force to F-35s in a deal worth $5 billion.) He explains that this is the fifth year of 12 in the systems development stage. Smith further explains that there is “no fixed percentage” as to how the three participating companies receive money, which is paid out on an “as needed” basis.

Bush couldn’t go into Iraq without a major ally and Lockheed knew it. To sweeten the pot for Blair, Lockheed dragged BAE Systems into the F-35 deal. When BAE still struggled prior to the war (Goldman Sachs reported that BAE would have to cut its dividend), Lockheed began renegotiating the contract — with the new version unveiled in 2005, giving BAE billions more to be paid “as needed.” This put BAE back on its feet, able to build the Typhoon jet fighter for sale to Saudi Arabia in a $70 billion deal, saving 10,000 BAE jobs and 4,000 Rolls-Royce jet engine building jobs.

Meanwhile, a government accountability office report for Congress says the Defense Department is investing too heavily in the F-35 without knowing whether the aircraft will work properly. The report criticizes the Pentagon plan to spend $49 billion on 424 fighters before full testing on the stealth plane is completed in 2013. “Starting production before ensuring the design is mature through flight testing significantly increases the risk of costly design change that will push the program over budget and behind schedule,” the report concludes. But that is all light years away, as far as Lockheed and BAE are concerned. As Bob Elrod, a senior executive at Lockheed’s fighter plane division boasted, “We’re looking at world domination of the market.”

To make things even better for Blair, Lockheed brought the British in on the new presidential helicopter deal, notwithstanding the loud protests of then-Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman from Connecticut, where Sikorsky — America’s leading helicopter manufacturer and the losing bidder — is located.

Meanwhile Jackson closed down the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in June 2003 because its human rights rationale for the war had been abandoned.

“We were cut out,” Jackson explains, “after the whole thing went to Rumsfeld. The Department of Defense didn’t want anyone looking over their shoulder. Rumsfeld took it all away from State.” Jackson had lined up people like Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, Natan Sharansky of Israel and Carl Bildt, the prime minister of Sweden, to support the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, but Bush and Rumsfeld took off in another direction. Stephen Hadley explained to Jackson that “terrorism and WMDs” were now the rationale for the war, not human rights.

News of torture at Abu Ghraib prison undermined all of Jackson’s efforts and, to his credit, he called for Rumsfeld’s resignation. He acknowledges that things are not going well in Iraq, but still sees the removal of Saddam Hussein as morally justified. He declines to predict how it will all end.

Poland, one of the countries Bruce Jackson helped gain membership in NATO, also joined the “coalition of the willing,” sending troops to Iraq as a desperate Bush scrambled to find allies in the war. Poland also spent 976 million Euros (more than $1.6 billion) in 2006 upgrading its military, almost all of it going to Lockheed Martin for the first eight F-16 warplanes to be delivered this year, part of a total of the 48 F-16s it has ordered. Mounted on a wall in Jackson’s apartment is a glass case containing an ornate antique Polish sword and scabbard, a gift in appreciation of his efforts. Lockheed Martin must have been appreciative, as well: Jackson can tell you the exact price of Lockheed Martin shares.

But Jackson and Hadley — promoted to national security advisor despite his “error” on the uranium — weren’t the only beneficiaries among the core group of war advocates. In Washington, the revolving door is already working to the benefit of many involved. Randy Scheunemann, for instance, the president of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, became president of the Mercury Group, which lobbied for Lockheed Martin and other corporate clients, before setting up his own firm, Scheunemann and Associates, and then Orion Strategies, which, among other things, consults with companies and countries seeking to do business in Iraq. Rend Al-Rahim Francke, member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and founder of the Iraq Foundation that facilitated the film Voices of Iraq, was appointed Iraqi ambassador to the United States in November of 2003.

When Assistant Secretary of Defense Powell Moore left the government in 2005, though not an attorney, he joined the powerful international law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, which specializes in aerospace and defense, as managing director of federal government relations. According to the firm’s description of its activities, it provides “legal services to some of the largest and fastest growing companies in the aerospace, electronics and information technology field, names such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, SAIC and TRW.”

Edward C. Aldridge, who was the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics responsible for the November 2001 approval of the Lockheed contract to build F-35, left government in 2003 and now serves on Lockheed’s board of directors. That’s Washington in an era when the war companies run things.

What, if anything, can be done about the oligarchy of the war companies and the K Street lobbyists pulling the strings in our capital? Is there no way to break the iron triangle? Jackson agrees that contractors doing business with the government should be prohibited by law from making political contributions. He says the contractors would favor this because the situation is not as most people think it is. He insists it’s the elected officials who “shake down” the contractors for contributions and not the other way around. Of course, this may be the best indicator, in a roundabout way, of just how powerful the war companies are — in the name of special interest reform the legislators would be cut out of the action from the flow of defense money they can apparently no longer control.

Former Long Island Democratic Representative Otis Pike, who served in the Marines and was a hawk on Vietnam, once said privately, while still in office, that the only solution was to “nationalize” the defense industry. Pike’s attitude regarding national security evolved as a result of experiences chairing the Pike Committee investigating abuses by the CIA in the 1970s. Since half of Lockheed Martin’s business now comes from its IT division, there is no reason why it should not be broken up under the anti-trust laws into two separate companies, without any damage to its ability to innovate. Also, a war-profits tax of the type imposed by Britain on its military contractors during World War I to help pay for the cost of the war — since they were profiting from it — might be in order.

But none of this is the concern of the beautiful and the brilliant young techies, black, white, brown and yellow, male and female, gay and straight, who throng to Washington to work for the subcontracting firms locating there in droves. In March of 2005, Lockheed Martin acquired Sytex, which provides “personnel and technological solutions to the Pentagon’s Northern Command, the Army Intelligence and Strategic Command and the Department of Homeland Security,” making Lockheed one of the biggest recruiters of private interrogators, “unaccountable to any legal authority or disciplining procedure,” as Corpwatch puts it.

In March of 2006, Lockheed Martin won the lion’s share of a $20 billion contract by the U.S. Army to develop cutting-edge technology to support the Army’s “reconnaissance, communications, surveillance and intelligence gathering in combat situations.” According to Lockheed spokeswoman Wendy Owen this was a “major victory” for Lockheed Martin, which has been aggressively promoting its systems and information technology divisions, which account for half of its business. It already provides surveillance services for United States ports.

That night, March 16, when the local press announced the $20 billion contract, Cafe Citron, off Dupont Circle, was packed with revelers. Latin music throbbed as they laughed and shouted, partying with abandon, knocking down the drinks. For those in the war business, life is good.

Our Enemy, the State by Albert Jay Nock 1935

 If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact, namely: a great redistribution of power between society and the State. This is the fact that interests the student of civilization. He has only a secondary or derived interest in matters like price-fixing, wage-fixing, inflation, political banking, “agricultural adjustment,” and similar items of State policy that fill the pages of newspapers and the mouths of publicists and politicians. All these can be run up under one head. They have an immediate and temporary importance, and for this reason they monopolize public attention, but they all come to the same thing; which is, an increase of State power and a corresponding decrease of social power.

It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power; there is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.

Moreover, it follows that with any exercise of State power, not only the exercise of social power in the same direction, but the disposition to exercise it in that direction, tends to dwindle. Mayor Gaynor astonished the whole of New York when he pointed out to a correspondent who had been complaining about the inefficiency of the police, that any citizen has the right to arrest a malefactor and bring him before a magistrate. “The law of England and of this country,” he wrote, “has been very careful to confer no more right in that respect upon policemen and constables than it confers on every citizen.” State exercise of that right through a police force had gone on so steadily that not only were citizens indisposed to exercise it, but probably not one in ten thousand knew he had it.

Heretofore in this country sudden crises of misfortune have been met by a mobilization of social power. In fact (except for certain institutional enterprises like the home for the aged, the lunatic-asylum, city-hospital and county-poorhouse) destitution, unemployment, “depression” and similar ills, have been no concern of the State, but have been relieved by the application of social power. Under Mr. Roosevelt, however, the State assumed this function, publicly announcing the doctrine, brand-new in our history, that the State owes its citizens a living. Students of politics, of course, saw in this merely an astute proposal for a prodigious enhancement of State power; merely what, as long ago as 1794, James Madison called “the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the government”; and the passage of time has proved that they were right. The effect of this upon the balance between State power and social power is clear, and also its effect of a general indoctrination with the idea that an exercise of social power upon such matters is no longer called for.

It is largely in this way that the progressive conversion of social power into State power becomes acceptable and gets itself accepted.1 When the Johnstown flood occurred, social power was immediately mobilized and applied with intelligence and vigour. Its abundance, measured by money alone, was so great that when everything was finally put in order, something like a million dollars remained. If such a catastrophe happened now, not only is social power perhaps too depleted for the like exercise, but the general instinct would be to let the State see to it. Not only has social power atrophied to that extent, but the disposition to exercise it in that particular direction has atrophied with it. If the State has made such matters its business, and has confiscated the social power necessary to deal with them, why, let it deal with them. We can get some kind of rough measure of this general atrophy by our own disposition when approached by a beggar. Two years ago we might have been moved to give him something; today we are moved to refer him to the State’s relief-agency. The State has said to society, You are either not exercising enough power to meet the emergency, or are exercising it in what I think is an incompetent way, so I shall confiscate your power, and exercise it to suit myself. Hence when a beggar asks us for a quarter, our instinct is to say that the State has already confiscated our quarter for his benefit, and he should go to the State about it.

Every positive intervention that the State makes upon industry and commerce has a similar effect. When the State intervenes to fix wages or prices, or to prescribe the conditions of competition, it virtually tells the enterpriser that he is not exercising social power in the right way, and therefore it proposes to confiscate his power and exercise it according to the State’s own judgment of what is best. Hence the enterpriser’s instinct is to let the State look after the consequences. As a simple illustration of this, a manufacturer of a highly specialized type of textiles was saying to me the other day that he had kept his mill going at a loss for five years because he did not want to turn his workpeople on the street in such hard times, but now that the State had stepped in to tell him how he must run his business, the State might jolly well take the responsibility.

The process of converting social power into State power may perhaps be seen at its simplest in cases where the State’s intervention is directly competitive. The accumulation of State power in various countries has been so accelerated and diversified within the last twenty years that we now see the State functioning as telegraphist, telephonist, match-pedlar, radio-operator, cannon-founder, railway-builder and owner, railway-operator, wholesale and retail tobacconist, shipbuilder and owner, chief chemist, harbour-maker and dockbuilder, housebuilder, chief educator, newspaper-proprietor, food-purveyor, dealer in insurance, and so on through a long list.2

It is obvious that private forms of these enterprises must tend to dwindle in proportion as the energy of the State’s encroachments on them increases, for the competition of social power with State power is always disadvantaged, since the State can arrange the terms of competition to suit itself, even to the point of outlawing any exercise of social power whatever in the premises; in other words, giving itself a monopoly. Instances of this expedient are common; the one we are probably the most acquainted with is the State’s monopoly of letter-carrying. Social power is estopped by sheer fiat from application to this form of enterprise, notwithstanding it could carry it on far cheaper, and, in this country at least, far better. The advantages of this monopoly in promoting the State’s interests are peculiar. No other, probably, could secure so large and well-distributed a volume of patronage, under the guise of a public service in constant use by so large a number of people; it plants a lieutenant of the State at every country-crossroad. It is by no means a pure coincidence that an administration’s chief almoner and whip-at-large is so regularly appointed Postmaster-general.

Thus the State “turns every contingency into a resource” for accumulating power in itself, always at the expense of social power; and with this it develops a habit of acquiescence in the people. New generations appear, each temperamentally adjusted – or as I believe our American glossary now has it, “conditioned” – to new increments of State power, and they tend to take the process of continuous accumulation as quite in order. All the State’s institutional voices unite in confirming this tendency; they unite in exhibiting the progressive conversion of social power into State power as something not only quite in order, but even as wholesome and necessary for the public good.


In the United States at the present time, the principal indexes of the increase of State power are three in number. First, the point to which the centralization of State authority has been carried. Practically all the sovereign rights and powers of the smaller political units – all of them that are significant enough to be worth absorbing – have been absorbed by the federal unit; nor is this all. State power has not only been thus concentrated at Washington, but it has been so far concentrated into the hands of the Executive that the existing regime is a regime of personal government. It is nominally republican, but actually monocratic; a curious anomaly, but highly characteristic of a people little gifted with intellectual integrity. Personal government is not exercised here in the same ways as in Italy, Russia or Germany, for there is as yet no State interest to be served by so doing, but rather the contrary; while in those countries there is. But personal government is always personal government; the mode of its exercise is a matter of immediate political expediency, and is determined entirely by circumstances.

This regime was established by a coup d’Etat of a new and unusual kind, practicable only in a rich country. It was effected, not by violence, like Louis-Napoleon’s, or by terrorism, like Mussolini’s, but by purchase. It therefore presents what might be called an American variant of the coup d’Etat.3 Our national legislature was not suppressed by force of arms, like the French Assembly in 1851, but was bought out of its functions with public money; and as appeared most conspicuously in the elections of November, 1934, the consolidation of the coup d’Etat was effected by the same means; the corresponding functions in the smaller units were reduced under the personal control of the Executive.4 This is a most remarkable phenomenon; possibly nothing quite like it ever took place; and its character and implications deserve the most careful attention.

A second index is supplied by the prodigious extension of the bureaucratic principle that is now observable. This is attested prima facie by the number of new boards, bureaux and commissions set up at Washington in the last two years. They are reported as representing something like 90,000 new employes appointed outside the civil service, and the total of the federal pay-roll in Washington is reported as something over three million dollars per month.5 This, however, is relatively a small matter. The pressure of centralization has tended powerfully to convert every official and every political aspirant in the smaller units into a venal and complaisant agent of the federal bureaucracy. This presents an interesting parallel with the state of things prevailing in the Roman empire in the last days of the Flavian dynasty, and afterwards. The rights and practices of local self-government, which were formerly very considerable in the provinces and much more so in the municipalities, were lost by surrender rather than by suppression. The imperial bureaucracy, which up to the second century was comparatively a modest affair, grew rapidly to great size, and local politicians were quick to see the advantage of being on terms with it. They came to Rome with their hats in their hands, as governors, Congressional aspirants and such-like now go to Washington. Their eyes and thoughts were constantly fixed on Rome, because recognition and preferment lay that way; and in their incorrigible sycophancy they became, as Plutarch says, like hypochondriacs who dare not eat or take a bath without consulting their physician.

A third index is seen in the erection of poverty and mendicancy into a permanent political asset. Two years ago, many of our people were in hard straits; to some extent, no doubt, through no fault of their own, though it is now clear that in the popular view of their case, as well as in the political view, the line between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor was not distinctly drawn. Popular feeling ran high at the time, and the prevailing wretchedness was regarded with undiscriminating emotion, as evidence of some general wrong done upon its victims by society at large, rather than as the natural penalty of greed, folly or actual misdoings; which in large part it was. The State, always instinctively “turning every contingency into a resource” for accelerating the conversion of social power into State power, was quick to take advantage of this state of mind. All that was needed to organize these unfortunates into an invaluable political property was to declare the doctrine that the State owes all its citizens a living; and this was accordingly done. It immediately precipitated an enormous mass of subsidized voting-power, an enormous resource for strengthening the State at the expense of society.6


There is an impression that the enhancement of State power which has taken place since 1932 is provisional and temporary, that the corresponding depletion of social power is by way of a kind of emergency-loan, and therefore is not to be scrutinized too closely. There is every probability that this belief is devoid of foundation. No doubt our present regime will be modified in one way and another; indeed, it must be, for the process of consolidation itself requires it. But any essential change would be quite unhistorical, quite without precedent, and is therefore most unlikely; and by an essential change, I mean one that will tend to redistribute actual power between the State and society.7 In the nature of things, there is no reason why such a change should take place, and every reason why it should not. We shall see various apparent recessions, apparent compromises, but the one thing we may be quite sure of is that none of these will tend to diminish actual State power.

For example, we shall no doubt shortly see the great pressure-group of politically-organized poverty and mendicancy subsidized indirectly instead of directly, because State interest can not long keep pace with the hand-over-head disposition of the masses to loot their own Treasury. The method of direct subsidy, or sheer cash-purchase, will therefore in all probability give way to the indirect method of what is called “social legislation”; that is, a multiplex system of State-managed pensions, insurances and indemnities of various kinds. This is an apparent recession, and when it occurs it will no doubt be proclaimed as an actual recession, no doubt accepted as such; but is it? Does it actually tend to diminish State power and increase social power? Obviously not, but quite the opposite. It tends to consolidate firmly this particular fraction of State power, and opens the way to getting an indefinite increment upon it by the mere continuous invention of new courses and developments of State-administered social legislation, which is an extremely simple business. One may add the observation for whatever its evidential value may be worth, that if the effect of progressive social legislation upon the sum-total of State power were unfavourable or even nil, we should hardly have found Prince de Bismarck and the British Liberal politicians of forty years ago going in for anything remotely resembling it.

When, therefore, the inquiring student of civilization has occasion to observe this or any other apparent recession upon any point of our present regime,8 he may content himself with asking the one question, What effect has this upon the sum-total of State power? The answer he gives himself will show conclusively whether the recession is actual or apparent, and this is all he is concerned to know.

There is also an impression that if actual recessions do not come about by themselves, they may be brought about by the expedient of voting one party out and another one in. This idea rests upon certain assumptions that experience has shown to be unsound; the first one being that the power of the ballot is what republican political theory makes it out to be, and that therefore the electorate has an effective choice in the matter. It is a matter of open and notorious fact that nothing like this is true. Our nominally republican system is actually built on an imperial model, with our professional politicians standing in the place of the praetorian guards; they meet from time to time, decide what can be “got away with,” and how, and who is to do it; and the electorate votes according to their prescriptions. Under these conditions it is easy to provide the appearance of any desired concession of State power, without the reality; our history shows innumerable instances of very easy dealing with problems in practical politics much more difficult than that. One may remark that in this connexion also the notoriously baseless assumption that party-designations connote principles, and that party-pledges imply performance. Moreover, underlying these assumptions and all others that faith in “political action” contemplates, is the assumption that the interests of the State and the interests of society are, at least theoretically, identical; whereas in theory they are directly opposed, and this opposition invariably declares itself in practice to the precise extent that circumstances permit.

However, without pursuing these matters further at the moment, it is probably enough to observe here that in the nature of things the exercise of personal government, the control of a huge and growing bureaucracy, and the management of an enormous mass of subsidized voting-power, are as agreeable to one stripe of politician as they are to another. Presumably they interest a Republican or a Progressive as much as they do a Democrat, Communist, Farmer-Labourite, Socialist, or whatever a politician may, for electioneering purposes, see fit to call himself. This was demonstrated in the local campaigns of 1934 by the practical attitude of politicians who represented nominal opposition parties. It is now being further demonstrated by the derisible haste that the leaders of the official opposition are making towards what they call “reorganization” of their party. One may well be inattentive to their words; their actions, however, mean simply that the recent accretions of State power are here to stay, and that they are aware of it; and that, such being the case, they are preparing to dispose themselves most advantageously in a contest for their control and management. This is all that “reorganization” of the Republican party means, and all it is meant to mean; and this is in itself quite enough to show that any expectation of an essential change of regime through a change of party-administration is illusory. On the contrary, it is clear that whatever party-competition we shall see hereafter will be on the same terms as heretofore. It will be a competition for control and management, and it would naturally issue in still closer centralization, still further extension of the bureaucratic principle, and still larger concessions to subsidized voting-power. This course would be strictly historical, and is furthermore to be expected as lying in the nature of things, as it so obviously does.

Indeed, it is by this means that the aim of the collectivists seems likeliest to be attained in this country; this aim being the complete extinction of social power through absorption by the State. Their fundamental doctrine was formulated and invested with a quasi-religious sanction by the idealist philosophers of the last century; and among peoples who have accepted it in terms as well as in fact, it is expressed in formulas almost identical with theirs. Thus, for example, when Hitler says that “the State dominates the nation because it alone represents it,” he is only putting into loose popular language the formula of Hegel, that “the State is the general substance, whereof individuals are but accidents.” Or, again, when Mussolini says, “Everything for the State; nothing outside the State; nothing against the State,” he is merely vulgarizing the doctrine of Fichte, that “the State is the superior power, ultimate and beyond appeal, absolutely independent.”

It may be in place to remark here the essential identity of the various extant forms of collectivism. The superficial distinctions of Fascism, Bolshevism, Hitlerism, are the concern of journalists and publicists; the serious student9 sees in them only the one root-idea of a complete conversion of social power into State power. When Hitler and Mussolini invoke a kind of debased and hoodwinking mysticism to aid their acceleration of this process, the student at once recognizes his old friend, the formula of Hegel, that “the State incarnates the Divine Idea upon earth,” and he is not hoodwinked. The journalist and the impressionable traveller may make what they will of “the new religion of Bolshevism”; the student contents himself with remarking clearly the exact nature of the process which this inculcation is designed to sanction.


This process – the conversion of social power into State power – has not been carried as far here as it has elsewhere; as it has in Russia, Italy or Germany, for example. Two things, however, are to be observed. First, that it has gone a long way, at a rate of progress which has of late been greatly accelerated. What has chiefly differentiated its progress here from its progress in other countries is its unspectacular character. Mr. Jefferson wrote in 1823 that there was no danger he dreaded so much as “the consolidation [i.e., centralization] of our government by the noiseless and therefore unalarming instrumentality of the Supreme Court.” These words characterize every advance that we have made in State aggrandizement. Each one has been noiseless and therefore unalarming, especially to a people notoriously preoccupied, inattentive and incurious. Even the coup d’Etat of 1932 was noiseless and unalarming. In Russia, Italy, Germany, the coup d’Etat was violent and spectacular; it had to be; but here it was neither. Under covers of a nation-wide, State-managed mobilization of inane buffoonery and aimless commotion, it took place in so unspectacular a way that its true nature escaped notice, and even now is not generally understood. The method of consolidating the ensuing regime, moreover, was also noiseless and unalarming; it was merely the prosaic and unspectacular “higgling of the market,” to which a long and uniform political experience had accustomed us. A visitor from a poorer and thriftier country might have regarded Mr. Farley’s activities in the local campaigns of 1934 as striking or even spectacular, but they made no such impression on us. They seemed so familiar, so much the regular thing, that one heard little comment on them. Moreover, political habit led us to attribute whatever unfavourable comment we did hear, to interest; either partisan or monetary interest, or both. We put it down as the jaundiced judgment of persons with axes to grind; and naturally the regime did all it could to encourage this view.

The second thing to be observed is that certain formulas, certain arrangements of words, stand as an obstacle in the way of our perceiving how far the conversion of social power into State power has actually gone. The force of phrase and name distorts the identification of our own actual acceptances and acquiescences. We are accustomed to the rehearsal of certain poetic litanies, and provided their cadence be kept entire, we are indifferent to their correspondence with truth and fact. When Hegel’s doctrine of the State, for example, is restated in terms by Hitler and Mussolini, it is distinctly offensive to us, and we congratulate ourselves on our freedom from the “yoke of a dictator’s tyranny.” No American politician would dream of breaking in on our routine of litanies with anything of the kind. We may imagine, for example, the shock to popular sentiment that would ensue upon Mr. Roosevelt’s declaring publicly that “the State embraces everything, and nothing has value outside the State. The State creates right.” Yet an American politician, as long as he does not formulate that doctrine in set terms, may go further with it in a practical way than Mussolini has gone, and without trouble or question. Suppose Mr. Roosevelt should defend his regime by publicly reasserting Hegel’s dictum that “the State alone possesses rights, because it is the strongest.” One can hardly imagine that our public would get that down without a great deal of retching. Yet how far, really, is that doctrine alien to our public’s actual acquiescences? Surely not far.

The point is that in respect of the relation between the theory and the actual practice of public affairs, the American is the most unphilosophical of beings. The rationalization of conduct in general is most repugnant to him; he prefers to emotionalize it. He is indifferent to the theory of things, so long as he may rehearse his formulas; and so long as he can listen to the patter of his litanies, no practical inconsistency disturbs him – indeed, he gives no evidence of even recognizing it as an inconsistency.

The ablest and most acute observer among the many who came from Europe to look us over in the early part of the last century was the one who is for some reason the most neglected, notwithstanding that in our present circumstances, especially, he is worth more to us than all the de Tocquevilles, Bryces, Trollopes and Chateaubriands put together. This was the noted St.-Simonien and political economist, Michel Chevalier. Professor Chinard, in his admirable biographical study of John Adams, has called attention to Chevalier’s observation that the American people have “the morale of an army on the march.” The more one thinks of this, the more clearly one sees how little there is in what our publicists are fond of calling “the American psychology” that it does not exactly account for; and it exactly accounts for the trait we are considering.

An army on the march has no philosophy; it views itself as a creature of the moment. It does not rationalize conduct except in terms of an immediate end. As Tennyson observed, there is a pretty strict official understanding against its doing so; “theirs not to reason why.” Emotionalizing conduct is another matter, and the more of it the better; it is encouraged by a whole elaborate paraphernalia of showy etiquette, flags, music, uniforms, decorations, and the careful cultivation of a very special sort of comradery. In every relation to “the reason of the thing,” however – in the ability and eagerness, as Plato puts it, “to see things as they are” – the mentality of an army on the march is merely so much delayed adolescence; it remains persistently, incorrigibly and notoriously infantile. Past generations of Americans, as Martin Chuzzlewit left record, erected this infantilism into a distinguishing virtue, and they took great pride in it as the mark of a chosen people, destined to live forever amidst the glory of their own unparalleled achievements wie Gott in Frankreich. Mr. Jefferson Brick, General Choke and the Honourable Elijah Pogram made a first-class job of indoctrinating their countrymen with the idea that a philosophy is wholly unnecessary, and that a concern with the theory of things is effeminate and unbecoming. An envious and presumably dissolute Frenchman may say what he likes about the morale of an army on the march, but the fact remains that it has brought us where we are, and has got us what we have. Look at a continent subdued, see the spread of our industry and commerce, our railways, newspapers, finance-companies, schools, colleges, what you will! Well, if all this has been done without a philosophy, if we have grown to this unrivalled greatness without any attention to the theory of things, does it not show that philosophy and the theory of things are all moonshine, and not worth a practical people’s consideration? The morale of an army on the march is good enough for us, and we are proud of it. The present generation does not speak in quite this tone of robust certitude. It seems, if anything, rather less openly contemptuous of philosophy; one even sees some signs of a suspicion that in our present circumstances the theory of things might be worth looking into, and it is especially towards the theory of sovereignty and rulership that this new attitude of hospitality appears to be developing. The condition of public affairs in all countries, notably in our own, has done more than bring under review the mere current practice of politics, the character and quality of representative politicians, and the relative merits of this-or-that form or mode of government. It has served to suggest attention to the one institution whereof all these forms or modes are but the several, and, from the theoretical point of view, indifferent, manifestations. It suggests that finality does not lie with consideration of species, but of genus; it does not lie with consideration of the characteristic marks that differentiate the republican State, monocratic State, constitutional, collectivist, totalitarian, Hitlerian, Bolshevist, what you will. It lies with consideration of the State itself.


There appears to be a curious difficulty about exercising reflective thought upon the actual nature of an institution into which one was born and one’s ancestors were born. One accepts it as one does the atmosphere; one’s practical adjustments to it are made by a kind of reflex. One seldom thinks about the air until one notices some change, favourable or unfavourable, and then one’s thought about it is special; one thinks about purer air, lighter air, heavier air, not about air. So it is with certain human institutions. We know that they exist, that they affect us in various ways, but we do not ask how they came to exist, or what their original intention was, or what primary function it is that they are actually fulfilling; and when they affect us so unfavourably that we rebel against them, we contemplate substituting nothing beyond some modification or variant of the same institution. Thus colonial America, oppressed by the monarchical State, brings in the republican State; Germany gives up the republican State for the Hitlerian State; Russia exchanges the monocratic State for the collectivist State; Italy exchanges the constitutionalist State for the “totalitarian” State.

It is interesting to observe that in the year 1935 the average individual’s incurious attitude towards the phenomenon of the State is precisely what his attitude was towards the phenomenon of the Church in the year, say, 1500. The State was then a very weak institution; the Church was very strong. The individual was born into the Church, as his ancestors had been for generations, in precisely the formal, documented fashion in which he is now born into the State. He was taxed for the Church’s support, as he now is for the State’s support. He was supposed to accept the official theory and doctrine of the Church, to conform to its discipline, and in a general way to do as it told him; again, precisely the sanctions that the State now lays upon him. If he were reluctant or recalcitrant, the Church made a satisfactory amount of trouble for him, as the State now does. Notwithstanding all this, it does not appear to have occurred to the Church-citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State-citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance. There it was; he accepted its own account of itself, took it as it stood, and at its own valuation. Even when he revolted, fifty years later, he merely exchanged one form or mode of the Church for another, the Roman for the Calvinist, Lutheran, Zuinglian, or what not; again, quite as the modern State-citizen exchanges one mode of the State for another. He did not examine the institution itself, nor does the State-citizen today.

My purpose in writing is to raise the question whether the enormous depletion of social power which we are witnessing everywhere does not suggest the importance of knowing more than we do about the essential nature of the institution that is so rapidly absorbing this volume of power.10 One of my friends said to me lately that if the public-utility corporations did not mend their ways, the State would take over their business and operate it. He spoke with a curiously reverent air of finality. Just so, I thought, might a Church-citizen, at the end of the fifteenth century, have spoken of some impending intervention of the Church; and I wondered then whether he had any better-informed and closer-reasoned theory of the State than his prototype had of the Church. Frankly, I am sure he had not. His pseudo-conception was merely an unreasoned acceptance of the State on its own terms and at its own valuation; he showed himself no more intelligent, and no less, than the whole mass of State-citizenry at large.

It appears to me that with the depletion of social power going on at the rate it is, the State-citizen should look very closely into the essential nature of the institution that is bringing it about. He should ask himself whether he has a theory of the State, and if so, whether he can assure himself that history supports it. He will not find this a matter that can be settled off-hand; it needs a good deal of investigation, and a stiff exercise of reflective thought. He should ask, in the first place, how the State originated, and why; it must have come about somehow, and for some purpose. This seems an extremely easy question to answer, but he will not find it so. Then he should ask what it is that history exhibits continuously as the State’s primary function. Then, whether he finds that “the State” and “government” are strictly synonymous terms; he uses them as such, but are they? Are there any invariable characteristic marks that differentiate the institution of government from the institution of the State? Then finally he should decide whether, by the testimony of history, the State is to be regarded as, in essence, a social or an anti-social institution?

It is pretty clear now that if the Church-citizen of 1500 had put his mind on questions as fundamental as these, his civilization might have had a much easier and pleasanter course to run; and the State-citizen of today may profit by his experience.


AS FAR back as one can follow the run of civilization, it presents two fundamentally different types of political organization. This difference is not one of degree, but of kind. It does not do to take the one type as merely marking a lower order of civilization and the other a higher; they are commonly so taken, but erroneously. Still less does it do to classify both as species of the same genus – to classify both under the generic name of “government,” though this also, until very lately, has been done, and has always led to confusion and misunderstanding.

A good understanding of this error and its effects is supplied by Thomas Paine. At the outset of his pamphlet called Common Sense, Paine draws a distinction between society and government. While society in any state is a blessing, he says, “government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” In another place, he speaks of government as “a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.” He proceeds then to show how and why government comes into being. Its origin is in the common understanding and common agreement of society; and “the design and end of government,” he says, is “freedom and security.” Teleologically, government implements the common desire of society, first, for freedom, and second, for security. Beyond this it does not go; it contemplates no positive intervention upon the individual, but only a negative intervention. It would seem that in Paine’s view the code of government should be that of the legendary king Pausole, who prescribed but two laws for his subjects, the first being, Hurt no man, and the second, Then do as you please; and that the whole business of government should be the purely negative one of seeing that this code is carried out.

So far, Paine is sound as he is simple. He goes on, however, to attack the British political organization in terms that are logically inconclusive. There should be no complaint of this, for he was writing as a pamphleteer, a special pleader with an ad captandum argument to make, and as everyone knows, he did it most successfully. Nevertheless, the point remains that when he talks about the British system he is talking about a type of political organization essentially different from the type that he has just been describing; different in origin, in intention, in primary function, in the order of interest that it reflects. It did not originate in the common understanding and agreement of society; it originated in conquest and confiscation.1

Its intention, far from contemplating “freedom and security,” contemplated nothing of the kind. It contemplated primarily the continuous economic exploitation of one class by another, and it concerned itself with only so much freedom and security as was consistent with this primary intention; and this was, in fact, very little. Its primary function or exercise was not by way of Paine’s purely negative interventions upon the individual, but by way of innumerable and most onerous positive interventions, all of which were for the purpose of maintaining the stratification of society into an owning and exploiting class, and a property-less dependent class. The order of interest that it reflected was not social, but purely anti-social; and those who administered it, judged by the common standard of ethics, or even the common standard of law as applied to private persons, were indistinguishable from a professional-criminal class.

Clearly, then, we have two distinct types of political organization to take into account; and clearly, too, when their origins are considered, it is impossible to make out that the one is a mere perversion of the other. Therefore when we include both types under a general term like government, we get into logical difficulties; difficulties of which most writers on the subject have been more or less vaguely aware, but which, until within the last half-century, none of them has tried to resolve.

Mr. Jefferson, for example, remarked that the hunting tribes of Indians, with which he had a good deal to do in his early days, had a highly organized and admirable social order, but were “without government.” Commenting on this, he wrote Madison that “it is a problem not clear in my mind that [this] condition is not the best,” but he suspected that it was “inconsistent with any great degree of population.” Schoolcraft observes that the Chippewas, though living in a highly-organized social order, had no “regular” government. Herbert Spencer, speaking of the Bechuanas, Araucanians and Koranna Hottentots, says they have no “definite” government; while Parkman, in his introduction to The Conspiracy of Pontiac, reports the same phenomenon, and is frankly puzzled by its apparent anomalies.

Paine’s theory of government agrees exactly with the theory set forth by Mr. Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. The doctrine of natural rights, which is explicit in the Declaration, is implicit in Common Sense;2 and Paine’s view of the “design and end of government” is precisely the Declaration’s view, that “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men”; and further, Paine’s view of the origin of government is that it “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” Now, if we apply Paine’s formulas or the Declaration’s formulas, it is abundantly clear that the Virginian Indians had government; Mr. Jefferson’s own observations show that they had it. Their political organization, simple as it was, answered its purpose. Their code-apparatus sufficed for assuring freedom and security to the individual, and for dealing with such trespasses as in that state of society the individual might encounter – fraud, theft, assault, adultery, murder. The same is clearly true of the various peoples cited by Parkman, Schoolcraft and Spencer. Assuredly, if the language of the Declaration amounts to anything, all these peoples had government; and all these reporters make it appear as a government quite competent to its purpose.

Therefore when Mr. Jefferson says his Indians were “without government,” he must be taken to mean that they did not have a type of government like the one he knew; and when Schoolcraft and Spencer speak of “regular” and “definite” government, their qualifying words must be taken in the same way. This type of government, nevertheless, has always existed and still exists, answering perfectly to Paine’s formulas and the Declaration’s formulas; though it is a type which we also, most of us, have seldom had the chance to observe. It may not be put down as the mark of an inferior race, for institutional simplicity is in itself by no means a mark of backwardness or inferiority; and it has been sufficiently shown that in certain essential respects the peoples who have this type of government are, by comparison, in a position to say a good deal for themselves on the score of a civilized character. Mr. Jefferson’s own testimony on this point is worth notice, and so is Parkman’s. This type, however, even though documented by the Declaration, is fundamentally so different from the type that has always prevailed in history, and is still prevailing in the world at the moment, that for the sake of clearness the two types should be set apart by name, as they are by nature. They are so different in theory that drawing a sharp distinction between them is now probably the most important duty that civilization owes to its own safety. Hence it is by no means either an arbitrary or academic proceeding to give the one type the name of government, and to call the second type simply the State.


Aristotle, confusing the idea of the State with the idea of government, thought the State originated out of the natural grouping of the family. Other Greek philosophers, labouring under the same confusion, somewhat anticipated Rousseau in finding its origin in the social nature and disposition of the individual; while an opposing school, which held that the individual is naturally anti-social, more or less anticipated Hobbes by finding it in an enforced compromise among the anti-social tendencies of individuals. Another view, implicit in the doctrine of Adam Smith, is that the State originated in the association of certain individuals who showed a marked superiority in the economic virtues of diligence, prudence and thrift. The idealist philosophers, variously applying Kant’s transcendentalism to the problem, came to still different conclusions; and one or two other views, rather less plausible, perhaps, than any of the foregoing, have been advanced.

The root-trouble with all these views is not precisely that they are conjectural, but that they are based on incompetent observation. They miss the invariable characteristic marks that the subject presents; as, for example, until quite lately, all views of the origin of malaria missed the invariable ministrations of the mosquito, or as opinions about the bubonic plague missed the invariable mark of the rat-parasite. It is only within the last half-century that the historical method has been applied to the problem of the State.3

This method runs back the phenomenon of the State to its first appearance in documented history, observing its characteristic marks, and drawing inferences as indicated. There are so many clear intimations of this method in earlier writers – one finds them as far back as Strabo – that one wonders why its systematic application was so long deferred; but in all such cases, as with malaria and typhus, when the characteristic mark is once determined, it is so obvious that one always wonders why it was so long unnoticed. Perhaps in the case of the State, the best one can say is that the cooperation of the Zeitgeist was necessary, and that it could be had no sooner.

The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner.4 On the negative side, it has been proved beyond peradventure that no primitive State could possibly have had any other origin.5 Moreover, the sole invariable characteristic of the State is the economic exploitation of one class by another. In this sense, every State known to history is a class-State. Oppenheimer defines the State, in respect of its origin, as an institution “forced on a defeated group by a conquering group, with a view only to systematizing the domination of the conquered by the conquerors, and safeguarding itself against insurrection from within and attack from without. This domination had no other final purpose than the economic exploitation of the conquered group by the victorious group.”

An American statesman, John Jay, accomplished the respectable feat of compressing the whole doctrine of conquest into a single sentence. “Nations in general,” he said, “will go to war whenever there is a prospect of getting something by it.” Any considerable economic accumulation, or any considerable body of natural resources, is an incentive to conquest. The primitive technique was that of raiding the coveted possessions, appropriating them entire, and either exterminating the possessors, or dispersing them beyond convenient reach. Very early, however, it was seen to be in general more profitable to reduce the possessors to dependence, and use them as labour-motors; and the primitive technique was accordingly modified. Under special circumstances, where this exploitation was either impractical or unprofitable, the primitive technique is even now occasionally revived, as by the Spaniards in South America, or by ourselves against the Indians. But these circumstances are exceptional; the modified technique has been in use almost from the beginning, and everywhere its first appearance marks the origin of the State. Citing Ranke’s observations on the technique of the raiding herdsmen, the Hyksos, who established their State of Egypt about B.C. 2000, Gumplowicz remarks that Ranke’s words very well sum up the political history of mankind.

Indeed, the modified technique never varies. “Everywhere we see a militant group of fierce men forcing the frontier of some more peaceable people, settling down upon them and establishing the State, with themselves as an aristocracy. In Mesopotamia, irruption succeeds irruption, State succeeds State, Babylonians, Amoritans, Assyrians, Arabs, Medes, Persians, Macedonians, Parthians, Mongols, Seldshuks, Tatars, Turks; in the Nile valley, Hyksos, Nubians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks; in Greece, the Doric States are specific examples; in Italy, Romans, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Franks, Germans; in Spain, Carthaginians, Visigoths, Arabs; in Gaul, Romans, Franks, Burgundians, Normans; in Britain, Saxons, Normans.” Everywhere we find the political organization proceeding from the same origin, and presenting the same mark of intention, namely: the economic exploitation of a defeated group by a conquering group.

Everywhere, that is, with but one significant exception. Wherever economic exploitation has been for any reason either impractical or unprofitable, the State has never come into existence; government has existed, but the State, never. The American hunting tribes, for example, whose organization so puzzled our observers, never formed a State, for there is no way to reduce a hunter to economic dependence and make him hunt for you.6

Conquest and confiscation were no doubt practicable, but no economic gain would be got by it, for confiscation would give the aggressors but little beyond what they already had; the most that could come of it would be the satisfaction of some sort of feud. For like reasons primitive peasants never formed a State. The economic accumulations of their neighbours were too slight and too perishable to be interesting;7 and especially with the abundance of free land about, the enslavement of their neighbours would be impracticable, if only for the police-problems involved.8

It may now be easily seen how great the difference is between the institution of government, as understood by Paine and the Declaration of Independence, and the institution of the State. Government may quite conceivably have originated as Paine thought it did, or Aristotle, or Hobbes, or Rousseau; whereas the State not only never did originate in any of those ways, but never could have done so. The nature and intention of government, as adduced by Parkman, Schoolcraft and Spencer, are social. Based on the idea of natural rights, government secures those rights to the individual by strictly negative intervention, making justice costless and easy of access; and beyond that it does not go. The State, on the other hand, both in its genesis and by its primary intention, is purely anti-social. It is not based on the idea of natural rights, but on the idea that the individual has no rights except those that the State may provisionally grant him. It has always made justice costly and difficult of access, and has invariably held itself above justice and common morality whenever it could advantage itself by so doing.9

So far from encouraging a wholesome development of social power, it has invariably, as Madison said, turned every contingency into a resource for depleting social power and enhancing State power.10 As Dr. Sigmund Freud has observed, it can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime. In Russia and Germany, for example, we have lately seen the State moving with great alacrity against infringement of its private monopoly by private persons, while at the same time exercising that monopoly with unconscionable ruthlessness. Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.


Such are the antecedents of the institution which is everywhere now so busily converting social power by wholesale into State power.11 The recognition of them goes a long way towards resolving most, if not all, of the apparent anomalies which the conduct of the modern State exhibits. It is of great help, for example, in accounting for the open and notorious fact that the State always moves slowly and grudgingly towards any purpose that accrues to society’s advantage, but moves rapidly and with alacrity towards one that accrues to its own advantage; nor does it ever move towards social purposes on its own initiative, but only under heavy pressure, while its motion towards anti-social purposes is self-sprung.

Englishmen of the last century remarked this fact with justifiable anxiety, as they watched the rapid depletion of social power by the British State. One of them was Herbert Spencer, who published a series of essays which were subsequently put together in a volume called The Man versus the State. With our public affairs in the shape they are, it is rather remarkable that no American publicist has improved the chance to reproduce these essays verbatim, merely substituting illustrations drawn from American history for those which Spencer draws from English history. If this were properly done, it would make one of the most pertinent and useful works that could be produced at this time.12

These essays are devoted to examining the several aspects of the contemporary growth of State power in England. On the essay called Over-legislation, Spencer remarks the fact so notoriously common in our experience,13 that when State power is applied to social purposes, its action is invariably “slow, stupid, extravagant, unadaptive, corrupt and obstructive.” He devotes several paragraphs to each count, assembling a complete array of proof. When he ends, discussion ends; there is simply nothing to be said. He shows further that the State does not even fulfil efficiently what he calls its “unquestionable duties” to society; it does not efficiently adjudge and defend the individual’s elemental rights. This being so – and with us this too is a matter of notoriously common experience – Spencer sees no reason to expect that State power will be more efficiently applied to secondary social purposes. “Had we, in short, proved its efficiency as judge and defender, instead of having found it treacherous, cruel, and anxiously to be shunned, there would be some encouragement to hope other benefits at its hands.”

Yet, he remarks, it is just this monstrously extravagant hope that society is continually indulging; and indulging in the face of daily evidence that it is illusory. He points to the anomaly which we have all noticed as so regularly presented by newspapers. Take up one, says Spencer, and you will probably find a leading editorial “exposing the corruption, negligence or mismanagement of some State department. Cast your eye down the next column, and it is not unlikely that you will read proposals for an extension of State supervision.14 …Thus while every day chronicles a failure, there every day reappears the belief that it needs but an Act of Parliament and a staff of officers to effect any end desired.15 Nowhere is the perennial faith of mankind better seen.”

It is unnecessary to say that the reasons which Spencer gives for the anti-social behaviour of the State are abundantly valid, but we may now see how powerfully they are reinforced by the findings of the historical method; a method which had not been applied when Spencer wrote. These findings being what they are, it is manifest that the conduct which Spencer complains of is strictly historical. When the town-dwelling merchants of the eighteenth century displaced the landholding nobility in control of the State’s mechanism, they did not change the State’s character; they merely adapted its mechanism to their own special interests, and strengthened it immeasurably.16

The merchant-State remained an anti-social institution, a pure class-State, like the State of the nobility; its intention and function remained unchanged, save for the adaptations necessary to suit the new order of interests that it was thenceforth to serve. Therefore in its flagrant disservice of social purposes, for which Spencer arraigns it, the State was acting strictly in character.

Spencer does not discuss what he calls “the perennial faith of mankind” in State action, but contents himself with elaborating the sententious observations of Guizot, that “a belief in the sovereign power of political machinery” is nothing less than “a gross delusion.” This faith is chiefly an effect of the immense prestige which the State has diligently built up for itself in the century or more since the doctrine of jure divino rulership gave way. We need not consider the various instruments that the State employs in building up its prestige; most of them are well known, and their uses well understood. There is one, however, which is in a sense peculiar to the republican State. Republicanism permits the individual to persuade himself that the State is his creation, that State action is his action, that when it expresses itself it expresses him, and when it is glorified he is glorified. The republican State encourages this persuasion with all its power, aware that it is the most efficient instrument for enhancing its own prestige. Lincoln’s phrase, “of the people, by the people, for the people” was probably the most effective single stroke of propaganda ever made in behalf of republican State prestige.

Thus the individual’s sense of his own importance inclines him strongly to resent the suggestion that the State is by nature anti-social. He looks on its failures and misfeasances with somewhat the eye of a parent, giving it the benefit of a special code of ethics. Moreover, he has always the expectation that the State will learn by its mistakes, and do better. Granting that its technique with social purposes is blundering, wasteful and vicious – even admitting, with the public official whom Spencer cites, that wherever the State is, there is villainy – he sees no reason why, with an increase of experience and responsibility, the State should not improve.

Something like this appears to be the basic assumption of collectivism. Let but the State confiscate all social power, and its interests will become identical with those of society. Granting that the State is of anti-social origin, and that it has borne a uniformly anti-social character throughout its history, let it but extinguish social power completely, and its character will change; it will merge with society, and thereby become society’s efficient and disinterested organ. The historic State, in short, will disappear, and government only remain. It is an attractive idea; the hope of its being somehow translated into practice is what, only so few years ago, made “the Russian experiment” so irresistibly fascinating to generous spirits who felt themselves hopelessly State-ridden. A closer examination of the State’s activities, however, will show that this idea, attractive though it be, goes to pieces against the iron law of fundamental economics, that man tends always to satisfy his needs and desires with the least possible exertion. Let us see how this is so.


There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means.17 The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means. The primitive exercise of the political means was, as we have seen, by conquest, confiscation, expropriation, and the introduction of a slave-economy. The conqueror parcelled out the conquered territory among beneficiaries, who thenceforth satisfied their needs and desires by exploiting the labour of the enslaved inhabitants.18 The feudal State, and the merchant-State, wherever found, merely took over and developed successively the heritage of character, intention and apparatus of exploitation which the primitive State transmitted to them; they are in essence merely higher integrations of the primitive State.

The State, then, whether primitive, feudal or merchant, is the organization of the political means. Now, since man tends always to satisfy his needs and desires with the least possible exertion, he will employ the political means whenever he can – exclusively, if possible; otherwise, in association with the economic means. He will, at the present time, that is, have recourse to the State’s modern apparatus of exploitation; the apparatus of tariffs, concessions, rent-monopoly, and the like. It is a matter of the commonest observation that this is his first instinct. So long, therefore, as the organization of the political means is available – so long as the highly-centralized bureaucratic State stands as primarily a distributor of economic advantage, an arbiter of exploitation, so long will that instinct effectively declare itself. A proletarian State would merely, like the merchant-State, shift the incidence of exploitation, and there is no historic ground for the presumption that a collectivist State would be in any essential respect unlike its predecessors;19 as we are beginning to see, “the Russian experiment” has amounted to the erection of a highly-centralized bureaucratic State upon the ruins of another, leaving the entire apparatus of exploitation intact and ready for use. Hence, in view of the law of fundamental economics just cited, the expectation that collectivism will appreciably alter the essential character of the State appears illusory.

Thus the findings arrived at by the historical method amply support the immense body of practical considerations brought forward by Spencer against the State’s inroads upon social power. When Spencer concludes that “in State-organizations, corruption is unavoidable,” the historical method abundantly shows cause why, in the nature of things, this should be expected – vilescit origine tali. When Freud comments on the shocking disparity between State-ethics and private ethics – and his observations on this point are most profound and searching – the historical method at once supplies the best of reasons why that disparity should be looked for.20 When Ortega y Gasset says that “Statism is the higher form taken by violence and direct action, when these are set up as standards,” the historical method enables us to perceive at once that his definition is precisely that which one would make a priori.

The historical method, moreover, establishes the important fact that, as in the case of tabetic or parasitic diseases, the depletion of social power by the State can not be checked after a certain point of progress is passed. History does not show an instance where, once beyond this point, this depletion has not ended in a complete and permanent collapse. In some cases, disintegration is slow and painful. Death set its mark on Rome at the end of the second century, but she dragged out a pitiable existence for some time after the Antonines. Athens, on the other hand, collapsed quickly. Some authorities think Europe is dangerously near that point, if not already past it; but contemporary conjecture is probably without much value. That point may have been reached in America, and it may not; again, certainty is unattainable – plausible arguments may be made either way. Of two things, however, we may be certain; the first is, that the rate of America’s approach to that point is being prodigiously accelerated; and the second is, that there is no evidence of any disposition to retard it, or any intelligent apprehension of the danger which that acceleration betokens.


IN CONSIDERING the State’s development in America, it is important to keep in mind the fact that America’s experience of the State was longer during the colonial period than during the period of American independence; the period 1607-1776 was longer than the period 1776-1935. Moreover, the colonists came here full-grown, and had already a considerable experience of the State of England and Europe before they arrived; and for purposes of comparison, this would extend the former period by a few years, say at least fifteen. It would probably be safe to put it that the American colonists had twenty-five years’ longer experience of the State than citizens of the United States have had.

Their experience, too, was not only longer, but more varied. The British State, the French, Dutch, Swedish and Spanish States, were all established here. The separatist English dissenters who landed at Plymouth had lived under the Dutch State as well as the British State. When James I made England too uncomfortable for them to live in, they went to Holland; and many of the institutions which they subsequently set up in New England, and which were later incorporated into the general body of what we call “American Institutions,” were actually Dutch, though commonly – almost invariably – we credit them to England. They were for the most part Roman-Continental in their origin, but they were transmitted here from Holland, not from England.1 No such institutions existed in England at that time, and hence the Plymouth colonists could not have seen them there; they could have seen them only in Holland, where they did exist.

Our colonial period coincided with the period of revolution and readjustment in England, referred to in the preceding chapter, when the British merchant-State was displacing the feudal State, consolidating its own position, and shifting the incidence of economic exploitation. These revolutionary measures gave rise to an extensive review of the general theory on which the feudal State had been operating. The earlier Stuarts governed on the theory of monarchy by divine right. The State’s economic beneficiaries were answerable only to the monarch, who was theoretically answerable only to God; he had no responsibilities to society at large, save such as he chose to incur, and these only for the duration of his pleasure. In 1607, the year of the Virginia colony’s landing at Jamestown, John Cowell, regius professor of civil law at the University of Cambridge, laid down the doctrine that the monarch “is above the law by his absolute power, and though for the better and equal course in making laws he do admit the Three Estates unto Council, yet this in divers learned men’s opinions is not of constraint, but of his own benignity, or by reason of the promise made upon oath at the time of his coronation.”

This doctrine, which was elaborated to the utmost in the extraordinary work called Patriarcha, by Sir Robert Filmer, was all well enough so long as the line of society’s stratification was clear, straight and easily drawn. The feudal State’s economic beneficiaries were virtually a close corporation, a compact body consisting of a Church hierarchy and a titled group of hereditary, large-holding landed proprietors. In respect of interests, this body was extremely homogeneous, and their interests, few in number, were simple in character and easily defined. With the monarch, the hierarchy, and a small, closely-limited nobility above the line of stratification, and an undifferentiated populace below it, this theory of sovereignty was passable; it answered the purposes of the feudal State as well as any.

But the practical outcome of this theory did not, and could not, suit the purposes of the rapidly-growing class of merchants and financiers. They wished to introduce a new economic system. Under feudalism, production had been, as a general thing, for use, with the incidence of exploitation falling largely on a peasantry. The State had by no means always kept its hands off trade, but it had never countenanced the idea that its chief reason for existence was, as we say, “to help business.” The merchants and financiers, however, had precisely this idea in mind. They saw the attractive possibilities of production for profit, with the incidence of exploitation gradually shifting to an industrial proletariat. They saw also, however, that to realize all these possibilities, they must get the State’s mechanism to working as smoothly and powerfully on the side of “business” as it had been working on the side of the monarchy, the Church, and the large-holding landed proprietors. This meant capturing control of this mechanism, and so altering and adapting it as to give themselves the same free access to the political means as was enjoyed by the displaced beneficiaries. The course by which they accomplished this is marked by the Civil War, the dethronement and execution of Charles I, the Puritan protectorate, and the revolution of 1688.

This is the actual inwardness of what is known as the Puritan movement in England. It had a quasi-religious motivation – speaking strictly, an ecclesiological motivation – but the paramount practical end towards which it tended was a repartition of access to the political means. It is a significant fact, though seldom noticed, that the only tenet with which Puritanism managed to evangelize equally the non-Christian and Christian world of English-bred civilization is its tenet of work, its doctrine that work is, by God’s express will and command, a duty; indeed almost, if not quite, the first and most important of man’s secular duties. This erection of labour into a Christian virtue per se, this investment of work with a special religious sanction, was an invention of Puritanism; it was something never heard of in England before the rise of the Puritan State. The only doctrine antedating it presented labour as the means to a purely secular end; as Cranmer’s divines put it, “that I may learn and labour truly to get mine own living.” There is no hint that God would take it amiss if one preferred to do little work and put up with a poor living, for the sake of doing something else with one’s time. Perhaps the best witness to the essential character of the Puritan movement in England and America is the thoroughness with which its doctrine of work has pervaded both literatures, all the way from Cromwell’s letters to Carlyle’s panegyric and Longfellow’s verse.

But the merchant-State of the Puritans was like any other; it followed the standard pattern. It originated in conquest and confiscation, like the feudal State which it displaced; the only difference being that its conquest was by civil war instead of foreign war. Its object was the economic exploitation of one class by another; for the exploitation of feudal serfs by a nobility, it proposed only to substitute the exploitation of a proletariat by enterprisers. Like its predecessor, the merchant-State was purely an organization of the political means, a machine for the distribution of economic advantage, but with its mechanism adapted to the requirements of a more numerous and more highly differentiated order of beneficiaries; a class, moreover, whose numbers were not limited by heredity or by the sheer arbitrary pleasure of a monarch.

The process of establishing the merchant-State, however, necessarily brought about changes in the general theory of sovereignty. The bald doctrine of Cowell and Filmer was no longer practicable; yet any new theory had to find room for some sort of divine sanction, for the habit of men’s minds does not change suddenly, and Puritanism’s alliance between religious and secular interests was extremely close. One may not quite put it that the merchant-enterprisers made use of religious fanaticism to pull their chestnuts out of the fire; the religionists had sound and good chestnuts of their own to look after. They had plenty of rabid nonsense to answer for, plenty of sour hypocrisy, plenty of vicious fanaticism; whenever we think of seventeenth-century British Puritanism, we think of Hugh Peters, of Praise God Barebones, of Cromwell’s iconoclasts “smashing the mighty big angels in glass.” But behind all this untowardness there was in the religionists a body of sound conscience, soundly and justly outraged; and no doubt, though mixed with an intolerable deal of unscrupulous greed, there was on the part of the merchant-enterprisers a sincere persuasion that what was good for business was good for society. Taking Hampden’s conscience as representative, one would say that it operated under the limitations set by nature upon the typical sturdy Buckinghamshire squire; the mercantile conscience was likewise ill-informed, and likewise set its course with a hard, dogged, provincial stubbornness. Still, the alliance of the two bodies of conscience was not without some measure of respectability. No doubt, for example, Hampden regarded the State-controlled episcopate to some extent objectively, as unscriptural in theory, and a tool of Antichrist in practice; and no doubt, too, the mercantile conscience, with the disturbing vision of William Laud in view, might have found State-managed episcopacy objectionable on other grounds than those of special interest.

The merchant-State’s political rationale had to respond to the pressure of a growing individualism. The spirit of individualism appeared in the latter half of the sixteenth century; probably – as well as such obscure origins can be determined – as a by-product of the Continental revival of learning, or, it may be, specifically as a by-product of the Reformation in Germany. It was long, however, in gaining force enough to make itself count in shaping political theory. The feudal State could take no account of this spirit; its stark regime of status was operable only where there was no great multiplicity of diverse economic interests to be accommodated, and where the sum of social power remained practically stable. Under the British feudal State, one large-holding landed proprietor’s interest was much like another’s, and one bishop’s or clergyman’s interest was about the same in kind as another’s. The interests of the monarchy and court were not greatly diversified, and the sum of social power varied but little from time to time. Hence an economic class-solidarity was easily maintained; access upward from one class to the other was easily blocked, so easily that very few positive State-interventions were necessary to keep people, as we say, in their place; or as Cranmer’s divines put it, to keep them doing their duty in that station of life unto which it had pleased God to call them. Thus the State could accomplish its primary purpose, and still afford to remain relatively weak. It could normally, that is, enable a thorough-going economic exploitation with relatively little apparatus of legislation or personnel.2

The merchant-State, on the other hand, with its ensuing regime of contract, had to meet the problem set by a rapid development of social power, and a multiplicity of economic interests. Both these tended to foster and stimulate the spirit of individualism. The management of social power made the merchant-enterpriser feel that he was quite as much somebody as anybody, and that the general order of interest which he represented – and in particular his own special fraction of that interest – was to be regarded as most respectable, which hitherto it had not been. In short, he had a full sense of himself as an individual, which on these grounds he could of course justify beyond peradventure. The aristocratic disparagement of his pursuits, and the consequent stigma of inferiority which had been so long fixed upon the “base mechanical,” exacerbated this sense, and rendered it at its best assertive, and at its worst, disposed to exaggerate the characteristic defects of his class as well as its excellences, and lump them off together in a new category of social virtues – its hardness, ruthlessness, ignorance and vulgarity at par with its commercial integrity, its shrewdness, diligence and thrift. Thus the fully-developed composite type of merchant-enterpriser-financier might be said to run all the psychological gradations between the brothers Cheeryble at one end of the scale, and Mr. Gradgrind, Sir Gorgius Midas and Mr. Bottles at the other.

This individualism fostered the formulation of certain doctrines which in one shape or another found their way into the official political philosophy of the merchant-State. Foremost among these were the two which the Declaration of Independence lays down as fundamental, the doctrine of natural rights and the doctrine of popular sovereignty. In a generation which had exchanged the authority of a pope for the authority of a book – or rather, the authority of unlimited private interpretation of a book – there was no difficulty about finding ample Scriptural sanction for both these doctrines. The interpretation of the Bible, like the judicial interpretation of a constitution, is merely a process by which, as a contemporary of Bishop Butler said, anything may be made to mean anything; and in the absence of a coercive authority, papal, conciliar or judicial, any given interpretation finds only such acceptance as may, for whatever reason, be accorded it. Thus the episode of Eden, the parable of the talents, the Apostolic injunction against being “slothful in business,” were a warrant for the Puritan doctrine of work; they brought the sanction of economic interest into complete agreement, uniting the religionist and the merchant-enterpriser in the bond of a common intention. Thus, again, the view of man as made in the image of God, made only a little lower than the angels, the subject of so august a transaction as the Atonement, quite corroborated the political doctrine of his endowment by his Creator with certain rights unalienable by Church or State. While the merchant-enterpriser might hold with Mr. Jefferson that the truth of this political doctrine is self-evident, its Scriptural support was yet of great value as carrying an implication of human nature’s dignity which braced his more or less diffident and self-conscious individualism; and the doctrine that so dignified him might easily be conceived of as dignifying his pursuits. Indeed, the Bible’s indorsement of the doctrine of labour and the doctrine of natural rights was really his charter for rehabilitating “trade” against the disparagement that the regime of status had put upon it, and for investing it with the most brilliant lustre of respectability.

In the same way, the doctrine of popular sovereignty could be mounted on impregnable Scriptural ground. Civil society was an association of true believers functioning for common secular purposes; and its right of self-government with respect to these purposes was God-given. If on the religious side all believers were priests, then on the secular side they were all sovereigns; the notion of an intervening jure divino monarch was as repugnant to Scripture as that of an intervening jure divino pope – witness the Israelite commonwealth upon which monarchy was visited as explicitly a punishment for sin. Civil legislation was supposed to interpret and particularize the laws of God as revealed in the Bible, and its administrators were responsible to the congregation in both its religious and secular capacities. Where the revealed law was silent, legislation was to be guided by its general spirit, as best this might be determined. These principles obviously left open a considerable area of choice; but hypothetically the range of civil liberty and the range of religious liberty had a common boundary.

This religious sanction of popular sovereignty was agreeable to the merchant-enterpriser; it fell in well with his individualism, enhancing considerably his sense of personal dignity and consequence. He could regard himself as by birthright not only a free citizen of a heavenly commonwealth, but also a free elector in an earthly commonwealth fashioned, as nearly as might be, after the heavenly pattern. The range of liberty permitted him in both qualities was satisfactory; he could summon warrant of Scripture to cover his undertakings both here and hereafter. As far as this present world’s concerns went, his doctrine of labour was Scriptural, his doctrine of master-and-servant was Scriptural – even bond-service, even chattel-service was Scriptural; his doctrine of a wage-economy, of money-lending – again the parable of the talents – both were Scriptural. What especially recommended the doctrine of popular sovereignty to him on its secular side, however, was the immense leverage it gave him for ousting the regime of status to make way for the regime of contract; in a word, for displacing the feudal State and bringing in the merchant-State.

But interesting as these two doctrines were, their actual application was a matter of great difficulty. On the religious side, the doctrine of natural rights had to take account of the unorthodox. Theoretically it was easy to dispose of them. The separatists, for example, such as those who manned the Mayflower, had lost their natural rights in the fall of Adam, and had never made use of the means appointed to reclaim them. This was all very well, but the logical extension of this principle into actual practice was a rather grave affair. There were a good many dissenters, all told, and they were articulate on the matter of natural rights, which made trouble; so that when all was said and done, the doctrine came out considerably compromised. Then, in respect of popular sovereignty, there were the Presbyterians. Calvinism was monocratic to the core; in fact, Presbyterianism existed side by side with episcopacy in the Church of England in the sixteenth century, and was nudged out only very gradually.3 They were a numerous body, and in point of Scripture and history they had a great deal to say for their position. Thus the practical task of organizing a spiritual commonwealth had as hard going with the logic of popular sovereignty as it had with the logic of natural rights.

The task of secular organization was even more troublesome. A society organized in conformity to these two principles is easily conceivable – such an organization as Paine and the Declaration contemplated, for example, arising out of social agreement, and concerning itself only with the maintenance of freedom and security for the individual – but the practical task of effecting such an organization is quite another matter. On general grounds, doubtless, the Puritans would have found this impracticable; if, indeed, the times are ever to be ripe for anything of the kind, their times were certainly not. The particular ground of difficulty, however, was that the merchant-enterpriser did not want that form of social organization; in fact, one can not be sure that the Puritan religionists themselves wanted it. The root-trouble was, in short, that there was no practicable way to avert a shattering collision between the logic of natural rights and popular sovereignty, and the economic law that man tends always to satisfy his needs with the least possible exertion.

This law governed the merchant-enterpriser in common with the rest of mankind. He was not for an organization that should do no more than maintain freedom and security; he was for one that should redistribute access to the political means, and concern itself with freedom and security only so far as would be consistent with keeping this access open. That is to say, he was thoroughly indisposed to the idea of government; he was quite as strong for the idea of the State as the hierarchy and nobility were. He was not for any essential transformation in the State’s character, but merely for a repartition of the economic advantages that the State confers.

Thus the merchant-polity amounted to an attempt, more or less disingenuous, at reconciling matters which in their nature can not be reconciled. The ideas of natural rights and popular sovereignty were, as we have seen, highly acceptable and highly animating to all the forces allied against the feudal idea; but while these ideas might be easily reconcilable with a system of simple government, such a system would not answer the purpose. Only the State-system would do that. The problem therefore was, how to keep these ideas well in the forefront of political theory, and at the same time prevent their practical application from undermining the organization of the political means. It was a difficult problem. The best that could be done with it was by making certain structural alterations in the State, which would give it the appearance of expressing these ideas, without the reality. The most important of these structural changes was that of bringing in the so-called representative or parliamentary system, which Puritanism introduced into the modern world, and which has received a great deal of praise as an advance towards democracy. This praise, however, is exaggerated. The change was one of form only, and its bearing on democracy has been inconsiderable.4


The migration of Englishmen to America merely transferred this problem into another setting. The discussion of political theory went on vigorously, but the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty came out in practice about where they had come out in England. Here again a great deal has been made of the democratic spirit and temper of the migrants, especially in the case of the separatists who landed at Plymouth, but the facts do not bear it out, except with regard to the decentralizing congregationalist principle of church order. This principle of lodging final authority in the smallest unit rather than the largest – in the local congregation rather than in a synod or general council – was democratic, and its thorough-going application in a scheme of church order would represent some actual advance towards democracy, and give some recognition to the general philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty. The Plymouth settlers did something with this principle, actually applying it in the matter of church order, and for this they deserve credit.5

Applying it in the matter of civil order, however, was another affair. It is true that the Plymouth colonists probably contemplated something of the kind, and that for a time they practised a sort of primitive communism. They drew up an agreement on shipboard which may be taken at its face value as evidence of their democratic disposition, though it was not in any sense a “frame of government,” like Penn’s, or any kind of constitutional document. Those who speak of it as our first written constitution are considerably in advance of their text, for it was merely an agreement to make a constitution or “frame of government” when the settlers should have come to land and looked the situation over. One sees that it could hardly have been more than this – indeed, that the proposed constitution itself could be no more than provisional – when it is remembered that these migrants were not their own men. They did not sail on their own, nor were they headed for any unpreempted territory on which they might establish a squatter sovereignty and set up any kind of civil order they saw fit. They were headed for Virginia, to settle in the jurisdiction of a company of English merchant-enterprisers, now growing shaky, and soon to be superseded by the royal authority, and its territory converted into a royal province. It was only by misreckonings and the accidents of navigation that, most unfortunately for the prospects of the colony, the settlers landed on the stern and rockbound coast of Plymouth.

These settlers were in most respects probably as good as the best who ever found their way to America. They were bred of what passed in England as “the lower orders,” sober, hard-working and capable, and their residence under Continental institutions in Holland had given them a fund of politico-religious ideas and habits of thought which set them considerably apart from the rest of their countrymen. There is, however, no more than an antiquarian interest in determining how far they were actually possessed by those ideas. They may have contemplated a system of complete religious and civil democracy, or they may not. They may have found their communist practices agreeable to their notion of a sound and just social order, or they may not. The point is that while apparently they might be free enough to found a church order as democratic as they chose, they were by no means free to found a civil democracy, or anything remotely resembling one, because they were in bondage to the will of an English trading-company. Even their religious freedom was permissive; the London company simply cared nothing about that. The same considerations governed their communist practices; whether or not these practices suited their ideas, they were obliged to adopt them. Their agreement with the London merchant-enterprisers bound them, in return for transportation and outfit, to seven years’ service, during which time they should work on a system of common-land tillage, store their produce in a common warehouse, and draw their maintenance from these common stores. Thus whether or not they were communists in principle, their actual practice of communism was by prescription.

The fundamental fact to be observed in any survey of the American State’s initial development is the one whose importance was first remarked, I believe, by Mr. Beard; that the trading-company – the commercial corporation for colonization – was actually an autonomous State. “Like a State,” says Mr. Beard, “it had a constitution, a charter issued by the Crown… like the State, it had a territorial basis, a grant of land often greater in area than a score of European principalities… it could make assessments, coin money, regulate trade, dispose of corporate property, collect taxes, manage a treasury, and provide for defense. Thus” – and here is the important observation, so important that I venture to italicize it – “every essential element long afterward found in the government of the American State appeared in the chartered corporation that started English civilization in America.” Generally speaking, the system of civil order established in America was the State-system of the “mother countries” operating over a considerable body of water; the only thing that distinguished it was that the exploited and dependent class was situated at an unusual distance from the owning and exploiting class. The headquarters of the autonomous State were one side of the Atlantic, and its subjects on the other.

This separation gave rise to administrative difficulties of one kind and another; and to obviate the – perhaps for other reasons as well – one English company, the Massachusetts Bay Company, moved over bodily in 1630, bringing their charter and most of their stockholders with them, thus setting up an actual autonomous State in America. The thing to be observed about this is that the merchant-State was set up complete in New England long before it was set up in Old England. Most of the English immigrants to Massachusetts came over between 1630 and 1640; and in this period the English merchant-State was only at the beginning of its hardest struggles for supremacy. James I died in 1625, and his successor, Charles I, continued his absolutist regime. From 1629, the year in which the Bay Company was chartered, to 1640, when the Long Parliament was called, he ruled without a parliament, effectively suppressing what few vestiges of liberty had survived the Tudor and Jacobean tyrannies; and during these eleven years the prospects of the English merchant-State were at their lowest.6

It still had to face the distractions of the Civil War, the retarding anomalies of the Commonwealth, the Restoration, and the recurrence of tyrannical absolutism under James II, before it succeeded in establishing itself firmly through the revolution of 1688.

On the other hand, the leaders of the Bay Colony were free from the first to establish a State-policy of their own devising, and to set up a State-structure which should express that policy without compromise. There was no competing policy to extinguish, no rival structure to refashion. Thus the merchant-State came into being in a clear field a full half-century before it attained supremacy in England. Competition of any kind, or the possibility of competition, it has never had. A point of greatest importance to remember is that the merchant-State is the only form of State that ever existed in America. Whether under the rule of a trading company or a provincial governor or a republican representative legislature, Americans have never known any other form of the State. In this respect the Massachusetts Bay colony is differentiated only as being the first autonomous State ever established in America, and as furnishing the most compete and convenient example for purposes of study. In principle it was not differentiated. The State in New England, Virginia, Maryland, the Jerseys, New York, Connecticut, everywhere, was purely a class-State, with control of the political means reposing in the hands of what we now style, in a general way, the “business-man.”

In the eleven years of Charles’s tyrannical absolutism, English immigrants came over to join the Bay colony, at the rate of about two thousand a year. No doubt at the outset some of the colonists had the idea of becoming agricultural specialists, as in Virginia, and of maintaining certain vestiges, or rather imitations, of semi-feudal social practice, such as were possible under that form of industry when operated by a slave-economy or a tenant-economy. This, however, proved impracticable; the climate and soil of New England were against it. A tenant-economy was precarious, for rather than work for a master, the immigrant agriculturalist naturally preferred to push out into unpreempted land, and work for himself; in other words, as Turgot, Marx, Hertzka, and many others have shown, he could not be exploited until he had been expropriated from the land. The long and hard winters took the profit out of slave-labour in agriculture. The Bay colonists experimented with it, however, even attempting to enslave the Indians, which they found could not be done, for the reasons that I have already noticed. In default of this, the colonists carried out the primitive technique by resorting to extermination, their ruthless ferocity being equalled only by that of the Virginia colonists.7

They held some slaves, and did a great deal of slave-trading; but in the main, they became at the outset a race of small freeholding farmers, shipbuilders, navigators, maritime enterprisers in fish, whales, molasses, rum, and miscellaneous cargoes; and presently, moneylenders. Their remarkable success in these pursuits is well known; it is worth mention here in order to account for many of the complications and collisions of interest subsequently ensuing upon the merchant-State’s fundamental doctrine that the primary function of government is not to maintain freedom and security, but to “help business.”


One examines the American merchant-State in vain for any suggestion of the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty. The company-system and the provincial system made no place for it, and the one autonomous State was uncompromisingly against it. The Bay Company brought over their charter to serve as the constitution of the new colony, and under its provisions the form of the State was that of an uncommonly small and close oligarchy. The right to vote was vested only in shareholding members, or “freemen” of the corporation, on the stark State principle laid down many years later by John Jay, that “those who own the country should govern the country.” At the end of a year, the Bay colony comprised perhaps about two thousand persons; and of these, certainly not twenty, probably not more than a dozen, had anything whatever to say about its government. This small group constituted itself as a sort of directorate or council, appointing its own executive body, which consisted of a governor, a lieutenant-governor, and a half-dozen or more magistrates. These officials had no responsibility to the community at large, but only to the directorate. By the terms of the charter, the directorate was self-perpetuating. It was permitted to fill vacancies and add to its numbers as it saw fit; and in so doing it followed a policy similar to that which was subsequently recommended by Alexander Hamilton, of admitting only such well-to-do and influential persons as could be trusted to sustain a solid front against anything savouring of popular sovereignty.

Historians have very properly made a great deal of the influence of Calvinist theology in bracing the strongly anti-democratic attitude of the Bay Company. The story is readable and interesting – often amusing – yet the gist of it is so simple that it can be perceived at once. The company’s principle of action was in this respect the one that in like circumstances has for a dozen centuries invariably motivated the State. The Marxian dictum that “religion is the opiate of the people” is either an ignorant or a slovenly confusion of terms, which can not be too strongly reprehended. Religion was never that, nor will it ever be; but organized Christianity, which is by no means the same thing as religion, has been the opiate of the people ever since the beginning of the fourth century, and never has this opiate been employed for political purposes more skilfully than it was by the Massachusetts Bay oligarchy.

In the year 311 the Roman emperor Constantine issued an edict of toleration in favour of organized Christianity. He patronized the new cult heavily, giving it rich presents, and even adopted the labarum as his standard, which was a most distinguished gesture, and cost nothing; the story of the heavenly sign appearing before his crucial battle against Maxentius may quite safely be put down beside that of the apparitions seen before the battle of the Marne. He never joined the Church, however, and the tradition that he was converted to Christianity is open to great doubt. The point of all this is that circumstances had by that time made Christianity a considerable figure; it had survived contumely and persecution, and had become a social influence which Constantine saw was destined to reach far enough to make it worth courting. The Church could be made a most effective tool of the State, and only a very moderate amount of statesmanship was needed to discern the right way of bringing this about. The understanding, undoubtedly tacit, was based on a simple quid pro quo; in exchange for imperial recognition and patronage, and endowments enough to keep up to the requirements of a high official respectability, the Church should quit its disagreeable habit of criticizing the course of politics; and in particular, it should abstain from unfavourable comment on the State’s administration of the political means.

These are the unvarying terms – again I say, undoubtedly tacit, as it is seldom necessary to stipulate against biting the hand by which one is fed – of every understanding that has been struck since Constantine’s day, between organized Christianity and the State. They were the terms of the understanding struck in the Germanies and in England at the Reformation. The petty German principality had its State Church as it had its State theatre; and in England, Henry VIII set up the Church in its present status as an arm of the civil service, like the Post-office. The fundamental understanding in all cases was that the Church should not interfere with or disparage the organization of the political means; and in practice it naturally followed that the Church would go further, and quite regularly abet this organization to the best of its ability.

The merchant-State in America came to this understanding with organized Christianity. In the Bay colony the Church became in 1638 an established subsidiary of the State,8 supported by taxation; it maintained a State creed, promulgated in 1647. In some other colonies also, as for example, in Virginia, the Church was a branch of the State service, and where it was not actually established as such, the same understanding was reached by other means, quite as satisfactory. Indeed the merchant-State both in England and America soon became lukewarm towards the idea of an Establishment, perceiving that the same modus vivendi could be almost as easily arrived at under voluntaryism, and that the latter had the advantage of satisfying practically all modes of credal and ceremonial preference, thus releasing the State from the troublesome and profitless business of interference in disputes over matters of doctrine and Church order.

Voluntaryism pure and simple was set up in Rhode Island by Roger Williams, John Clarke, and their associates who were banished from the Bay colony almost exactly three hundred years ago, in 1636. This group of exiles is commonly regarded as having founded a society on the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty in respect of both Church order and civil order, and as having launched an experiment in democracy. This, however, is an exaggeration. The leaders of the group were undoubtedly in sight of this philosophy, and as far as Church order is concerned, their practice was conformable to it. On the civil side, the most that can be said is that their practice was conformable in so far as they knew how to make it so; and one says this much only by a very considerable concession. The least that can be said, on the other hand, is that their practice was for a time greatly in advance of the practice prevailing in other colonies – so far in advance that Rhode Island was in great disrepute with its neighbours in Massachusetts and Connecticut, who diligently disseminated the tale of its evil fame throughout the land, with the customary exaggerations and embellishments. Nevertheless, through acceptance of the State system of land-tenure, the political structure of Rhode Island was a State-structure from the outset, contemplating as it did the stratification of society into an owning and exploiting class and a propertyless dependent class. Williams’s theory of the State was that of social compact arrived at among equals, but equality did not exist in Rhode Island; the actual outcome was a pure class-State.

In the spring of 1638, Williams acquired about twenty square miles of land by gift from two Indian sachems, in addition to some he had bought from them two years before. In October he formed a “proprietary” of purchasers who bought twelve-thirteenths of the Indian grant. Bicknell, in his history of Rhode Island, cites a letter written by Williams to the deputy-governor of the Bay colony, which says frankly that the plan of this proprietary contemplated the creation of two classes of citizens, one consisting of landholding heads of families, and the other, of “young men, single persons” who were a landless tenantry, and as Bicknell says, “had no voice or vote as to the officers of the community, or the laws which they were called upon to obey.” Thus the civil order in Rhode Island was essentially a pure State order, as much so as the civil order of the Bay colony, or any other in America; and in fact the landed-property franchise lasted uncommonly long in Rhode Island, existing there for some time after it had been given up in most other quarters of America.9

By way of summing up, it is enough to say that nowhere in the American colonial civil order was there ever the trace of a democracy. The political structure was always that of the merchant-State; Americans have never known any other. Furthermore, the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty was never once exhibited anywhere in American political practice during the colonial period, from the first settlement in 1607 down to the revolution of 1776.


AFTER conquest and confiscation have been effected, and the State set up, its first concern is with the land. The State assumes the right of eminent domain over its territorial basis, whereby every landholder becomes in theory a tenant of the State. In its capacity as ultimate landlord, the State distributes the land among its beneficiaries on its own terms. A point to be observed in passing is that by the State-system of land-tenure each original transaction confers two distinct monopolies, entirely different in their nature, inasmuch as one concerns the right to labour-made property, and the other concerns the right to purely law-made property. The one is a monopoly of the use-value of land; and the other, a monopoly of the economic rent of land. The first gives the right to keep other persons from using the land in question, or trespassing on it, and the right to exclusive possession of values accruing from the application of labour to it; values, that is, which are produced by exercise of the economic means upon the particular property in question. Monopoly of economic rent, on the other hand, gives the exclusive right to values accruing from the desire of other persons to possess that property; values which take their rise irrespective of any exercise of the economic means on the part of the landholder.1

Economic rent arises when for whatsoever reason, two or more persons compete for the possession of a piece of land, and it increases directly according to the number of persons competing. The whole of Manhattan Island was bought originally by a handful of Hollanders from a handful of Indians for twenty-four dollars worth of trinkets. The subsequent “rise in land-values,” as we call it, was brought about by the steady influx of population and the consequent high competition for portions of the island’s surface; and these ensuing values were monopolized by the holders. They grew to an enormous size, and the holders profited accordingly; the Astor, Wendel, and Trinity Church estates have always served as classical examples for study of the State-system of land-tenure.

Bearing in mind that the State is the organization of the political means – that its primary intention is to enable the economic exploitation of one class by another – we see that it has always acted on the principle already cited, that expropriation must precede exploitation. There is no other way to make the political means effective. The first postulate of fundamental economics is that man is a land-animal, deriving his subsistence wholly from the land.2

His entire wealth is produced by the application of labour and capital to land; no form of wealth known to man can be produced in any other way. Hence, if his free access to land be shut off by legal preemption, he can apply his capital only with the landholder’s consent, and on the landholder’s terms; in other words, it is at this point, and at this point only, that exploitation becomes practicable.3 Therefore the first concern of the State must be invariably, as we find it invariably is, with its policy of land-tenure.

I state these elementary matters as briefly as I can; the reader may easily find a full exposition of them elsewhere.4 I am here concerned only to show why the State system of land-tenure came into being, and why its maintenance is necessary to the State’s existence. If this system were broken up, obviously the reason for the State’s existence would disappear, and the State itself would disappear with it.5 With this in mind, it is interesting to observe that although all our public policies would seem to be in process of exhaustive review, no publicist has anything to say about the State system of land-tenure. This is no doubt the best evidence of its importance.6

Under the feudal State there was no great amount of traffic in land. When William, for example, set up the Norman State in England after conquest and confiscation in 1066-76, his associated banditti, among whom he parcelled out the confiscated territory, did nothing to speak of in the way of developing their holdings, and did not contemplate gain from the increment of rental-values. In fact, economic rent hardly existed; their fellow-beneficiaries were not in the market to any great extent, and the dispossessed population did not represent any economic demand. The feudal regime was a regime of status, under which landed estates yielded hardly any rental-value, and only a moderate use-value, but carried an enormous insignia-value. Land was regarded more as a badge of nobility than an active asset; its possession marked a man as belonging to the exploiting class, and the size of his holdings seems to have counted for more than the number of his exploitable dependents.7 The encroachments of the merchant-State, however, brought about a change in these circumstances. The importance of rental-values was recognized, and speculative trading in land became general.

Hence, in a study of the merchant-State as it appeared full-blown in America, it is a point of utmost importance to remember that from the time of the first colonial settlement to the present day, America has been regarded as a practically limitless field for speculation in rental-values.8

One may say at a safe venture that every colonial enterpriser and proprietor after Raleigh’s time understood economic rent and the conditions necessary to enhance it. The Swedish, Dutch and British trading-companies understood this; Endicott and Winthrop, of the autonomous merchant-State on the Bay, understood it; so did Penn and the Calverts; so did the Carolinian proprietors, to whom Charles II granted a lordly belt of territory south of Virginia, reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific; and as we have seen, Roger Williams and Clarke understood it perfectly. Indeed, land-speculation may be put down as the first major industry established in colonial America. Professor Sakolski calls attention to the fact that it was flourishing in the South before the commercial importance of either negroes or tobacco was recognized. These two staples came fully into their own about 1670 – tobacco perhaps a little earlier, but not much – and before that, England and Europe had been well covered by a lively propaganda of Southern landholders, advertising for settlers.9

Mr. Sakolski makes it clear that very few original enterprisers in American rental-values ever got much profit out of their ventures. This is worth remarking here as enforcing the point that what gives rise to economic rent is the presence of a population engaged in a settled exercise of the economic means, or as we commonly put it, “working for a living” – or again, in technical terms, applying labour and capital to natural resources for the production of wealth. It was no doubt a very fine dignified thing for Carteret, Berkeley, and their associate nobility to be the owners of a province as large as the Carolinas, but if no population were settled there, producing wealth by exercise of the economic means, obviously not a foot of it would bear a pennyworth of rental-value, and the proprietors’ chance of exercising the political means would therefore be precisely nil. Proprietors who made the most profitable exercise of the political means have been those – or rather, speaking strictly, the heirs of those – like the Brevoorts, Wendels, Whitneys, Astors, and Goelets, who owned land in an actual or prospective urban centre, and held it as an investment rather than for speculation.

The lure of the political means in America, however, gave rise to a state of mind which may profitably be examined. Under the feudal State, living by the political means was enabled only by the accident of birth, or in some special cases by the accident of personal favour. Persons outside these categories of accident had no chance whatever to live otherwise than by the economic means. No matter how much they may have wished to exercise the political means, or how greatly they may have envied the privileged few who could exercise it, they were unable to do so; the feudal regime was strictly one of status. Under the merchant-State, on the contrary, the political means was open to anyone, irrespective of birth or position, who had the sagacity and determination necessary to get at it. In this respect, America appeared as a field of unlimited opportunity. The effect of this was to produce a race of people whose master-concern was to avail themselves of the opportunity. They had but the one spring of action, which was the determination to abandon the economic means as soon as they could, and at any sacrifice of conscience or character, and live by the political means. From the beginning, this determination has been universal, amounting to monomania.10

We need not concern ourselves here with the effect upon the general balance of advantage produced by supplanting the feudal State by the merchant-State; we may observe only that certain virtues and integrities were bred by the regime of status, to which the regime of contract appears to be inimical, even destructive. Vestiges of them persist among peoples who have had a long experience of the regime of status, but in America, which has had no such experience, they do not appear. What the compensations for their absence may be, or whether they may be regarded as adequate, I repeat, need not concern us; we remark only the simple fact that they have not struck root in the constitution of the American character at large, and apparently can not do so.


It was said at the time, I believe, that the actual causes of the colonial revolution of 1776 would never be known. The causes assigned by our schoolbooks may be dismissed as trivial; the various partisan and propagandist views of that struggle and its origins may be put down as incompetent. Great evidential value may be attached to the long line of adverse commercial legislation laid down by the British State from 1651 onward, especially to that portion of it which was enacted after the merchant-State established itself firmly in England in consequence of the events of 1688. This legislation included the Navigation Acts, the Trade Acts, acts regulating the colonial currency, the act of 1752 regulating the process of levy and distress, and the procedures leading up to the establishment of the Board of Trade in 1696.11 These directly affected the industrial and commercial interests in the colonies, though just how seriously is perhaps an open question – enough at any rate, beyond doubt, to provoke deep resentment.

Over and above these, however, if the reader will put himself back into the ruling passion of the time, he will at once appreciate the import of two matters which have for some reason escaped the attention of historians. The first of these is the attempt of the British State to limit the exercise of the political means in respect of rental-values.12 In 1763 it forbade the colonists to take up lands lying westward of the source of any river flowing through the Atlantic seaboard. The dead-line thus established ran so as to cut off from preemption about half of Pennsylvania and half of Virginia and everything to the west thereof. This was serious. With the mania for speculation running as high as it did, with the consciousness of opportunity, real or fancied, having become so acute and so general, this ruling affected everybody. One can get some idea of its effect by imagining the state of mind of our people at large if stock-gambling had suddenly been outlawed at the beginning of the last great boom in Wall Street a few years ago.

For by this time the colonists had begun to be faintly aware of the illimitable resources of the country lying westward; they had learned just enough about them to fire their imagination and their avarice to a white heat. The seaboard had been pretty well taken up, the freeholding farmer had been pushed back farther and farther, population was coming in steadily, the maritime towns were growing. Under these conditions, “western lands” had become a centre of attraction. Rental-values depended on population, the population was bound to expand, and the one general direction in which it could expand was westward, where lay an immense and incalculably rich domain waiting for preemption. What could be more natural than that the colonists should itch to get their hands on this territory, and exploit it for themselves alone, and on their own terms, without risk of arbitrary interference by the British State? – and this of necessity meant political independence. It takes no great stress of imagination to see that anyone in those circumstances would have felt that way, and that colonial resentment against the arbitrary limitation which the edict of 1763 put upon the political means must therefore have been great.

The actual state of land-speculation during the colonial period will give a fair idea of the probabilities in the case. Most of it was done on the company-system; a number of adventurers would unite, secure a grant of land, survey it, and then sell it off as speedily as they could. Their aim was a quick turnover; they did not, as a rule, contemplate holding the land, much less settling it – in short, their ventures were a pure gamble in rental-values.13 Among these pre-revolutionary enterprises was the Ohio company, formed in 1748 with a grant of half a million acres; the Loyal Company, which like the Ohio Company, was composed of Virginians; the Transylvania, the Vandalia, Scioto, Indiana, Wabash, Illinois, Susquehanna, and others whose holdings were smaller.14

It is interesting to observe the names of persons concerned in these undertakings; one can not escape the significance of this connexion in view of their attitude towards the revolution, and their subsequent career as statesmen and patriots. For example, aside from his individual ventures, General Washington was a member of the Ohio Company, and a prime mover in organizing the Mississippi Company. He also conceived the scheme of the Potomac Company, which was designed to raise the rental-value of western holdings by affording an outlet for their produce by canal and portage to the Potomac River, and thence to the seaboard. This enterprise determined the establishment of the national capital in its present most ineligible situation, for the proposed terminus of the canal was at that point. Washington picked up some lots in the city that bears his name, but in common with other early speculators, he did not make much money out of them; they were appraised at about $20,000 when he died.

Patrick Henry was an inveterate and voracious engrosser of land lying beyond the dead-line set by the British State; later he was heavily involved in the affairs of one of the notorious Yazoo companies, operating in Georgia. He seems to have been most unscrupulous. His company’s holdings in Georgia, amounting to more than ten million acres, were to be paid for in Georgia scrip, which was much depreciated. Henry bought up all these certificates that he could get his hands on, at ten cents on the dollar, and made a great profit on them by their rise in value when Hamilton put through his measure for having the central government assume the debts they represented. Undoubtedly it was this trait of unrestrained avarice which earned him the dislike of Mr. Jefferson, who said, rather contemptuously, that he was “insatiable in money.”15

Benjamin Franklin’s thrifty mind turned cordially to the project of the Vandalia Company, and he acted successfully as promoter for it in England in 1766. Timothy Pickering, who was Secretary of State under Washington and John Adams, went on record in 1796 that “all I am now worth was gained by speculations in land.” Silas Deane, emissary of the Continental Congress in France, was interested in the Illinois and Wabash Companies, as was Robert Morris, who managed the revolution’s finances; as was also James Wilson, who became a justice of the Supreme Court and a mighty man in post-revolutionary land-grabbing. Wolcott of Connecticut, and Stiles, president of Yale College, held stock in the Susquehanna Company; so did Peletiah Webster, Ethan Allen, and Jonathan Trumbull, the “Brother Jonathan,” whose name was long a sobriquet for the typical American, and is still sometimes so used. James Duane, the first mayor of New York City, carried on some quite considerable speculative undertakings; and however indisposed one may feel towards entertaining the fact, so did the “Father of the Revolution” himself – Samuel Adams.

A mere common-sense view of the situation would indicate that the British State’s interference with a free exercise of the political means was at least as great an incitement to revolution as its interference, through the Navigation Acts, and the Trade Acts, with a free exercise of the economic means. In the nature of things it would be a greater incitement, both because it affected a more numerous class of persons, and because speculation in land-values represented much easier money. Allied with this is the second matter which seems to me deserving of notice, and which has never been properly reckoned with, as far as I know, in studies of the period.

It would seem the most natural thing in the world for the colonists to perceive that independence would not only give freer access to this one mode of the political means, but that it would also open access to other modes which the colonial status made unavailable. The merchant-State existed in the royal provinces complete in structure, but not in function; it did not give access to all the modes of economic exploitation. The advantages of a State which should be wholly autonomous in this respect must have been clear to the colonists, and must have moved them strongly towards the project of establishing one.

Again it is purely a common-sense view of the circumstances that leads to this conclusion. The merchant-State in England had emerged triumphant from conflict, and the colonists had plenty of chance to see what it could do in the way of distributing the various means of economic exploitation, and its method of doing it. For instance, certain English concerns were in the carrying trade between England and America, for which other English concerns built ships. Americans could compete in both these lines of business. If they did so, the carrying-charges would be regulated by the terms of this competition; if not, they would be regulated by monopoly, or, in our historic phrase, they could be set as high as the traffic would bear. English carriers and shipbuilders made common cause, approached the State and asked it to intervene, which it did by forbidding the colonists to ship goods on any but English-built and English-operated ships. Since freight-charges are a factor in prices, the effect of this intervention was to enable British shipowners to pocket the difference between monopoly-rates and competitive rates; to enable them, that is, to exploit the consumer by employing the political means.16 Similar interventions were made at the instance of cutlers, nailmakers, hatters, steelmakers, etc.

These interventions took the form of simple prohibition. Another mode of intervention appeared in the customs-duties laid by the British State on foreign sugar and molasses.17 We all now know pretty well, probably, that the primary reason for a tariff is that it enables the exploitation of the domestic consumer by a process indistinguishable from sheer robbery.18 All the reasons regularly assigned are debatable; this one is not, hence propagandists and lobbyists never mention it. The colonists were well aware of this reason, and the best evidence that they were aware of it is that long before the Union was established, the merchant-enterprisers and industrialists were ready and waiting to set upon the new-formed administration with an organized demand for a tariff.

It is clear that while in the nature of things the British State’s interventions upon the economic means would stir up great resentment among the interests directly concerned, they would have another effect fully as significant, if not more so, in causing those interests to look favourably on the idea of political independence. They could hardly have helped seeing the positive as well as the negative advantages that would accrue from setting up a State of their own, which they might bend to their own purposes. It takes no great amount of imagination to reconstruct the vision that appeared before them of a merchant-State clothed with the full powers of intervention and discrimination, a State which should first and last “help business,” and which should be administered by persons of actual interest like to their own. It is hardly presumable that the colonists generally were not intelligent enough to see this vision, or that they were not resolute enough to risk the chance of realizing it when the time could be made ripe; as it was, the time was ripened almost before it was ready.19 We can discern a distinct line of common purpose uniting the interests of the actual or potential speculator in rental-values – uniting the Hancocks, Gores, Otises, with the Henrys, Lees Wolcotts, Trumbulls – and leading directly towards the goal of political independence.

The main conclusion, however, towards which these observations tend, is that one general frame of mind existed among the colonists with reference to the nature and primary function of the State. This frame of mind was not peculiar to them; they shared it with the beneficiaries of the merchant-State in England, and with those of the feudal State as far back as the State’s history can be traced. Voltaire, surveying the debris of the feudal State, said that in essence the State is “a device for taking money out of one set of pockets and putting it into another.” The beneficiaries of the feudal State had precisely this view, and they bequeathed it unchanged and unmodified to the actual and potential beneficiaries of the merchant-State. The colonists regarded the State primarily as an instrument whereby one might help oneself and hurt others; that is to say, first and foremost they regarded it as the organization of the political means. No other view of the State was ever held in colonial America. Romance and poetry were brought to bear on the subject in the customary way; glamorous myths about it were propagated with the customary intent; but when all came to all, nowhere in colonial America were actual practical relations with the State ever determined by any other view than this.20


The charter of the American revolution was the Declaration of Independence, which took its stand on the double theses of “unalienable” natural rights and popular sovereignty. We have seen that these doctrines were theoretically, or as politicians say, “in principle,” congenial to the spirit of the English merchant-enterpriser, and we may see that in the nature of things they would be even more agreeable to the spirit of all classes in American society. A thin and scattered population with a whole wide world before it, with a vast territory full of rich resources which anyone might take a hand at preempting and exploiting, would be strongly on the side of natural rights, as the colonists were from the beginning; and political independence would confirm it in that position. These circumstances would stiffen the American merchant-enterpriser, agrarian, forestaller and industrialist alike in a jealous, uncompromising and assertive economic individualism.

So also with the sister doctrine of popular sovereignty. The colonists had been through a long and vexatious experience of State interventions which limited their use of both the political and economic means. They had also been given plenty of opportunity to see how the interventions had been managed, and how the interested English economic groups which did the managing had profited at their expense. Hence there was no place in their minds for any political theory that disallowed the right of individual self-expression in politics. As their situation tended to make them natural-born economic individualists, so it also tended to make them natural-born republicans.

Thus the preamble of the Declaration hit the mark of a cordial unanimity. Its two leading doctrines could easily be interpreted as justifying an unlimited economic pseudo-individualism on the part of the State’s beneficiaries, and a judiciously managed exercise of political self-expression by the electorate. Whether or not this were a more free-and-easy interpretation than a strict construction of the doctrines will bear, no doubt it was in effect the interpretation quite commonly put upon them. American history abounds in instances where great principles have, in their common application, been narrowed down to the service of very paltry ends. The preamble, nevertheless, did reflect a general state of mind. However incompetent the understanding of its doctrines may have been, and however interested the motives which prompted that understanding, the general spirit of the people was in their favour.

There was complete unanimity also regarding the nature of the new and independent political institution which the Declaration contemplated as within “the right of the people” to set up. There was a great and memorable dissension about its form, but none about its nature. It should be in essence the mere continuator of the merchant-State already existing. There was no idea of setting up government, the purely social institution which should have no other object than, as the Declaration put it, to secure the natural rights of the individual; or as Paine put it, which should contemplate nothing beyond the maintenance of freedom and security – the institution which should make no positive interventions of any kind upon the individual, but should confine itself exclusively to such negative interventions as the maintenance of freedom might indicate. The idea was to perpetuate an institution of another character entirely, the State, the organization of the political means; and this was accordingly done.

There is no disparagement implied in this observation; for, all questions of motive aside, nothing else was to be expected. No one knew any other kind of political organization. The causes of American complaint were conceived of as due only to interested and culpable mal-administration, not to the essentially anti-social nature of the institution administered. Dissatisfaction was directed against administrators, not against the institution itself. Violent dislike of the form of the institution – the monarchical form – was engendered, but no distrust or suspicion of its nature. The character of the State had never been subjected to scrutiny; the cooperation of the Zeitgeist was needed for that, and it was not yet to be had.21

One may see here a parallel with the revolutionary movements against the Church in the sixteenth century – and indeed with revolutionary movements in general. They are incited by abuses and misfeasances, more or less specific and always secondary, and are carried on with no idea beyond getting them rectified or avenged, usually by the sacrifice of conspicuous scapegoats. The philosophy of the institution that gives play to these misfeasances is never examined, and hence they recur promptly under another form or other auspices,22 or else their place is taken by others which are in character precisely like them. Thus the notorious failure of reforming and revolutionary movements in the long-run may as a rule be found due to their incorrigible superficiality.

One mind, indeed, came within reaching distance of the fundamentals of the matter, not by employing the historical method, but by a homespun kind of reasoning, aided by a sound and sensitive instinct. The common view of Mr. Jefferson as a doctrinaire believer in the stark principle of “states’ rights” is most incompetent and misleading. He believed in states’ rights, assuredly, but he went much farther; states’ rights were only an incident in his general system of political organization. He believed that the ultimate political unit, the repository and source of political authority and initiative, should be the smallest unit; not the federal unit, state unit or county unit, but the township, or, as he called it, the “ward.” The township, and the township only, should determine the delegation of power upwards to the county, the state, and the federal units. His system of extreme decentralization is interesting and perhaps worth a moment’s examination, because if the idea of the State is ever displaced by the idea of government, it seems probable that the practical expression of this idea would come out very nearly in that form.23

There is probably no need to say that the consideration of such a displacement involves a long look ahead, and over a field of view that is cluttered with the debris of a most discouraging number, not of nations alone, but of whole civilizations. Nevertheless it is interesting to remind ourselves that more than a hundred and fifty years ago, one American succeeded in getting below the surface of things, and that he probably to some degree anticipated the judgment of an immeasurably distant future.

In February, 1816, Mr. Jefferson wrote a letter to Joseph C. Cabell, in which he expounded the philosophy behind his system of political organization. What is it, he asks, that has “destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all powers into one body, no matter whether of the autocrats of Russia or France, or of the aristocrats of a Venetian senate.” The secret of freedom will be found in the individual “making himself the depository of the powers respecting himself, so far as he is competent to them, and delegating only what is beyond his competence, by a synthetical process, to higher and higher orders of functionaries, so as to trust fewer and fewer powers in proportion as the trustees become more and more oligarchical.” This idea rests on accurate observation, for we are all aware that not only the wisdom of the ordinary man, but also his interest and sentiment, have a very short radius of operation; they can not be stretched over an area of much more than township-size; and it is the acme of absurdity to suppose that any man or any body of men can arbitrarily exercise their wisdom, interest and sentiment over a state-wide or nation-wide area with any kind of success. Therefore the principle must hold that the larger the area of exercise, the fewer and more clearly defined should be the functions exercised. Moreover, “by placing under everyone what his own eye may superintend,” there is erected the surest safeguard against usurpation of freedom. “Where every man is a sharer in the direction of his ward-republic, or of some of the higher ones, and feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day;… he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte.”

No such idea of popular sovereignty, however, appeared in the political organization that was set up in 1789 – far from it. In devising their structure, the American architects followed certain specifications laid down by Harington, Locke and Adam Smith, which might be regarded as a sort of official digest of politics under the merchant-State; indeed, if one wished to be perhaps a little inurbane in describing them – though not actually unjust – one might say that they are the merchant-State’s defence mechanism.24

Harington laid down the all-important principle that the basis of politics is economic – that power follows property. Since he was arguing against the feudal concept, he laid stress specifically upon landed property. He was of course too early to perceive the bearings of the State-system of land-tenure upon industrial exploitation, and neither he nor Locke perceived any natural distinction to be drawn between law-made property and labour-made property; nor yet did Smith perceive this clearly, though he seems to have had occasional indistinct glimpses of it. According to Harington’s theory of economic determinism, the realization of popular sovereignty is a simple matter. Since political power proceeds from land-ownership, a simple diffusion of land-ownership is all that is needed to insure a satisfactory distribution of power.25 If everybody owns, then everybody rules. “If the people hold three parts in four of the territory,” Harington says, “it is plain that there can neither be any single person nor nobility able to dispute the government with them. In this case therefore, except force be interposed, they govern themselves.”

Locke, writing a half-century later, when the revolution of 1688 was over, concerned himself more particularly with the State’s positive confiscatory interventions upon other modes of property-ownership. These had long been frequent and vexatious, and under the Stuarts they had amounted to unconscionable highwaymanry. Locke’s idea therefore was to copper-rivet such a doctrine of the sacredness of property as would forever put a stop to this sort of thing. Hence he laid it down that the first business of the State is to maintain the absolute inviolability of general property-rights; the State itself might not violate them, because in so doing it would act against its own primary function. Thus, in Locke’s view, the rights of property took precedence even over those of life and liberty; and if ever it came to the pinch, the State must make its choice accordingly.26

Thus while the American architects assented “in principle” to the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty, and found it in a general way highly congenial as a sort of voucher for their self-esteem, their practical interpretation of it left it pretty well hamstrung. They were not especially concerned with consistency; their practical interest in this philosophy stopped short at the point which we have already noted, of its presumptive justification of a ruthless economic pseudo-individualism, and an exercise of political self-expression by the general electorate which should be so managed as to be, in all essential respects, futile. In this they took precise pattern by the English Whig exponents and practitioners of this philosophy. Locke himself, whom we have seen putting the natural rights of property so high above those of life and liberty, was equally discriminating in his view of popular sovereignty. He was no believer in what he called “a numerous democracy,” and did not contemplate a political organization that should countenance anything of the kind.27

The sort of organization he had in mind is reflected in the extraordinary constitution he devised for the royal province of Carolina, which established a basic order of politically inarticulate serfdom. Such an organization as this represented about the best, in a practical way, that the British merchant-State was ever able to do for the doctrine of popular sovereignty.

It was also about the best that the American counterpart of the British merchant-State could do. The sum of the matter is that while the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty afforded a set of principles upon which all interests could unite, and practically all did unite, with the aim of securing political independence, it did not afford a satisfactory set of principles on which to found the new American State. When political independence was secured, the stark doctrine of the Declaration went into abeyance, with only a distorted simulacrum of its principles surviving. The rights of life and liberty were recognized by a mere constitutional formality left open to eviscerating interpretations, or, where these were for any reason deemed superfluous, to simple executive disregard; and all consideration of the rights attending “the pursuit of happiness” was narrowed down to a plenary acceptance of Locke’s doctrine of the preeminent rights of property, with law-made property on an equal footing with labour-made property. As for popular sovereignty, the new State had to be republican in form, for no other would suit the general temper of the people; and hence its peculiar task was to preserve the appearance of actual republicanism without the reality. To do this, it took over the apparatus which we have seen the English merchant-State adopting when confronted with a like task – the apparatus of a representative or parliamentary system. Moreover, it improved upon the British model of this apparatus by adding three auxiliary devices which time has proved most effective. These were, first, the device of the fixed term, which regulates the administration of our system by astronomical rather than political considerations – by the motion of the earth around the sun rather than by political exigency; second, the device of judicial review and interpretation, which, as we have already observed, is a process whereby anything may be made to mean anything; third, the device of requiring legislators to reside in the district they represent, which puts the highest conceivable premium upon pliancy and venality, and is therefore the best mechanism for rapidly building up an immense body of patronage. It may be perceived at once that all these devices tend of themselves to work smoothly and harmoniously towards a great centralization of State power, and that their working in this direction may be indefinitely accelerated with the utmost economy of effort.

As well as one can put a date to such an event, the surrender at Yorktown marks the sudden and complete disappearance of the Declaration’s doctrine from the political consciousness of America. Mr. Jefferson resided in Paris as minister to France from 1784 to 1789. As the time for his return to America drew near, he wrote Colonel Humphreys that he hoped soon “to possess myself anew, by conversation with my countrymen, of their spirit and ideas. I know only the Americans of the year 1784. They tell me this is to be much a stranger to those of 1789.” So indeed he found it. On arriving in New York and resuming his place in the social life of the country, he was greatly depressed by the discovery that the principles of the Declaration had gone wholly by the board. No one spoke of natural rights and popular sovereignty; it would seem actually that no one had ever heard of them. On the contrary, everyone was talking about the pressing need of a strong central coercive authority, able to check the incursions which “the democratic spirit” was likely to incite upon “the men of principle and property.”28

Mr. Jefferson wrote despondently of the contrast of all this with the sort of thing he had been hearing in the France which he had just left “in the first year of her revolution, in the fervour of natural rights and zeal for reformation.” In the process of possessing himself anew of the spirit and ideas of his countrymen, he said, “I can not describe the wonder and mortification with which the table conversations filled me.” Clearly, though the Declaration might have been the charter for American independence, it was in no sense the charter of the new American State.


IT IS a commonplace that the persistence of an institution is due solely to the state of mind that prevails towards it, the set of terms in which men habitually think about it. So long, and only so long, as those terms are favourable, the institution lives and maintains its power; and when for any reason men generally cease thinking in those terms, it weakens and becomes inert. At one time, a certain set of terms regarding man’s place in nature gave organized Christianity the power largely to control men’s consciences and direct their conduct; and this power has dwindled to the point of disappearance, for no other reason than that men generally stopped thinking in those terms. The persistence of our unstable and iniquitous economic system is not due to the power of accumulated capital, the force of propaganda, or to any force or combination of forces commonly alleged its cause. It is due solely to a certain set of terms in which men think of the opportunity to work; they regard this opportunity as something to be given. Nowhere is there any other idea about it than that the opportunity to apply labour and capital to natural resources for the production of wealth is not in any sense a right, but a concession.1

This is all that keeps our system alive. When men cease to think in these terms, the system will disappear, and not before.

It seems pretty clear that changes in the terms of thought affecting an institution are but little advanced by direct means. They are brought about in obscure and circuitous ways, and assisted by trains of circumstance which before the fact would appear quite unrelated, and their explosive or solvent action is therefore quite unpredictable. A direct drive at effecting these changes comes as a rule to nothing, or more often than not turns out to be retarding. They are so largely the work of those unimpassioned and imperturbable agencies for which Prince de Bismarck had such vast respect – he called them the imponderabilia – that any effort which disregards them, or thrusts them violently aside, will in the long run find them stepping in to abort its fruit.

That is what we are attempting to do in this rapid survey of the historical progress of certain ideas, is to trace the genesis of an attitude of mind, a set of terms in which now practically everyone thinks of the State; and then to consider the conclusions towards which this psychical phenomenon unmistakably points. Instead of recognizing the State as “the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men,” the run of mankind, with rare exceptions, regards it not only as a final and indispensable entity, but also as, in the main, beneficent. The mass-man, ignorant of its history, regards its character and intentions as social rather than anti-social; and in that faith he is willing to put at its disposal an indefinite credit of knavery, mendacity and chicane, upon which its administrators may draw at will. Instead of looking upon the State’s progressive absorption of social power with the repugnance and resentment that he would naturally feel towards the activities of a professional-criminal organization, he tends rather to encourage and glorify it, in the belief that he is somehow identified with the State, and that therefore, in consenting to its indefinite aggrandizement, he consents to something in which he has a share – he is, pro tanto, aggrandizing himself. Professor Ortega y Gasset analyzes this state of mind extremely well. The mass-man, he says, confronting the phenomenon of the State, “sees it, admires it, knows that there it is…. Furthermore, the mass-man sees in the State an anonymous power, and feeling himself, like it, anonymous, he believes that the State is something of his own. Suppose that in the public life of a country some difficulty, conflict, or problem, presents itself, the mass-man will tend to demand that the State intervene immediately and undertake a solution directly with its immense and unassailable resources…. When the mass suffers any ill-fortune, or simply feels some strong appetite, its great temptation is that permanent sure possibility of obtaining everything, without effort, struggle, doubt, or risk, merely by touching a button and setting the mighty machine in motion.”

It is the genesis of this attitude, this state of mind, and the conclusions which inexorably follow from its predominance, that we are attempting to get at through our present survey. These conclusions may perhaps be briefly forecast here, in order that the reader who is for any reason indisposed to entertain them may take warning of them at this point, and close the book.

The unquestioning, determined, even truculent maintenance of the attitude which Professor Ortega y Gasset so admirably describes, is obviously the life and strength of the State; and obviously too, it is now so inveterate and so wide-spread – one may freely call it universal – that no effort could overcome its inveteracy or modify it, and least of all hope to enlighten it. This attitude can only be sapped and mined by uncountable generations of experience, in a course marked by recurrent calamity of a most appalling character. When once the predominance of this attitude in any given civilization has become inveterate, as so plainly it has become in the civilization of America, all that can be done is to leave it to work its own way out to its appointed end. The philosophic historian may content himself with pointing out and clearly elucidating its consequences, as Professor Ortega y Gasset has done, aware that after this there is no more that one can do. “The result of this tendency,” he says, “will be fatal. Spontaneous social action will be broken up over and over again by State intervention; no new seed will be able to fructify.2

Society will have to live for the State, man for the governmental machine. And as after all it is only a machine, whose existence and maintenance depend on the vital supports around it,3 the State, after sucking out the very marrow of society, will be left bloodless, a skeleton, dead with that rusty death of machinery, more gruesome than the death of a living organism. Such was the lamentable fate of ancient civilization.”


The revolution of 1776-1781 converted thirteen provinces, practically as they stood, into thirteen autonomous political units, completely independent, and they so continued until 1789, formally held together as a sort of league, by the Articles of Confederation. For our purposes, the point to be remarked about this eight-year period, 1781-1789, is that administration of the political means was not centralized in the federation, but in the several units of which the federation was composed. The federal assembly, or congress, was hardly more than a deliberative body of delegates appointed by the autonomous units. It had no taxing-power, and no coercive power. It could not command funds for any enterprise common to the federation, even for war; all it could do was to apportion the sum needed, in the hope that each unit would meet its quota. There was no coercive federal authority over these matters, or over any matters; the sovereignty of each of the thirteen federated units was complete.

Thus the central body of this loose association of sovereignties had nothing to say about the distribution of the political means. This authority was vested in the several component units. Each unit had absolute jurisdiction over its territorial basis, and could partition it as it saw fit, and could maintain any system of land-tenure that it chose to establish.4

Each unit set up its own trade-regulations. Each unit levied its own tariffs, one against another, in behalf of its chosen beneficiaries. Each manufactured its own currency, and might manipulate it as it liked, for the benefit of such individuals or economic groups as were able to get effective access to the local legislature. Each managed its own system of bounties, concessions, subsidies, franchises, and exercised it with a view to whatever private interest its legislature might be influenced to promote. In short, the whole mechanism of the political means was non-national. The federation was not in any sense a State; the State was not one, but thirteen.

Within each unit, therefore, as soon as the war was over, there began at once a general scramble for access to the political means. It must never be forgotten that in each unit society was fluid; this access was available to anyone gifted with the peculiar sagacity and resolution necessary to get at it. Hence one economic interest after another brought pressure to bear on the local legislatures, until the economic hand of every unit was against every other, and the hand of every other was against itself. The principle of “protection,” which, as we have seen was already well understood, was carried to lengths precisely comparable with those to which it is carried in international commerce today, and for the same primary purpose – the exploitation, or in plain terms the robbery, of the domestic consumer. Mr. Beard remarks that the legislature of New York, for example, pressed the principle which governs tariff-making to the point of levying duties on firewood brought in from Connecticut and on cabbages from New Jersey – a fairly close parallel with the octroi that one still encounters at the gates of French towns.

The primary monopoly, fundamental to all others – the monopoly of economic rent – was sought with redoubled eagerness.5 The territorial basis of each unit now included the vast holdings confiscated from British owners, and the bar erected by the British State’s proclamation of 1763 against the appropriation of Western lands was now removed. Professor Sakolski observes drily that “the early land-lust which the colonists inherited from their European forebears was not diminished by the democratic spirit of the revolutionary fathers.” Indeed not! Land-grants were sought as assiduously from local legislatures as they had been in earlier days from the Stuart dynasty and from colonial governors, and the mania of land-jobbing ran apace with the mania of land-grabbing.6

Among the men most actively interested in these pursuits were those whom we have already seen identified with them in pre-revolutionary days, such as the two Morrises, Knox, Pickering, James Wilson and Patrick Henry; and with their names appear those of Duer, Bingham, McKean, Willing, Greenleaf, Nicholson, Aaron Burr, Low, Macomb, Wadsworth, Remsen, Constable, Pierrepont, and others which now are less well remembered.

There is probably no need to follow out the rather repulsive trail of effort after other modes of the political means. What we have said about the foregoing two modes – tariffs and rental-value monopoly – is doubtless enough to illustrate satisfactorily the spirit and attitude of mind towards the State during the eight years immediately following the revolution. The whole story of insensate scuffle for State-created economic advantage is not especially animating, nor is it essential to our purposes. Such as it is, it may be read in detail elsewhere. All that interests us is to observe that during the eight years of federation, the principles of government set forth by Paine and by the Declaration continued in utter abeyance. Not only did the philosophy of natural rights and popular sovereignty7 remain as completely out of consideration as when Mr. Jefferson first lamented its disappearance, but the idea of government as a social institution based on this philosophy was likewise unconsidered. No one thought of a political organization as instituted “to secure these rights” by processes of purely negative intervention – instituted, that is, with no other end in view than the maintenance of “freedom and security.” The history of the eight-year period of federation shows no trace whatever of any idea of political organization other than the State-idea. No one regarded this organization otherwise than as the organization of the political means, an all-powerful engine which should stand permanently ready and available for the irresistible promotion of this-or-that set of economic interests, and the irremediable disservice of others; according as whichever set, by whatever course of strategy, might succeed in obtaining command of its machinery.


It may be repeated that while State power was well centralized under the federation, it was not centralized in the federation, but in the federated unit. For various reasons, some of them plausible, many leading citizens, especially in the more northerly units, found this distribution of power unsatisfactory; and a considerable compact group of economic interests which stood to profit by a redistribution naturally made the most of these reasons. It is quite certain that dissatisfaction with the existing arrangement was not general, for when the redistribution took place in 1789, it was effected with great difficulty and only through a coup d’Etat, organized by methods which if employed in any other field than that of politics, would be put down at once as not only daring, but unscrupulous and dishonorable.

The situation, in a word, was that American economic interests had fallen into two grand divisions, the special interests in each having made common cause with a view to capturing control of the political means.One division comprised the speculating, industrial-commercial and creditor interests, with their natural allies of the bar and bench, the pulpit and the press. The other comprised chiefly the farmers and artisans and the debtor class generally. From the first, these two grand divisions were colliding briskly here and there in the several units, the most serious collision occurring over the terms of the Massachusetts constitution of 1780.8

The State in each of the thirteen units was a class-State, as every State known to history has been; and the work of manoeuvring it in its function of enabling the economic exploitation of one class by another went steadily on.

General conditions under the Articles of Confederation were pretty good. The people had made a creditable recovery from the dislocations and disturbances due to the revolution, and there was a very decent prospect that Mr. Jefferson’s idea of a political organization which should be national in foreign affairs and non-national in domestic affairs might be found continuously practicable. Some tinkering with the Articles seemed necessary – in fact, it was expected – but nothing that would transform or seriously impair the general scheme. The chief trouble was with the federation’s weakness in view of the chance of war, and in respect of debts due to foreign creditors. The Articles, however, carried provision for their own amendment, and for anything one can see, such amendment as the general scheme made necessary was quite feasible. In fact, when suggestions of revision arose, as they did almost immediately, nothing else appears to have been contemplated.

But the general scheme itself was as a whole objectionable to the interests grouped in the first grand division. The grounds of their dissatisfaction are obvious enough. When one bears in mind the vast prospect of the continent, one need use but little imagination to perceive that the national scheme was by far the more congenial to those interests, because it enabled an ever-closer centralization of control over the political means. For instance, leaving aside the advantage of having but one central tariff-making body to chaffer with, instead of twelve, any industrialist could see the great primary advantage of being able to extend his exploiting operations over a nation-wide free-trade area walled-in by a general tariff; the closer the centralization, the larger the exploitable area. Any speculator in rental-values would be quick to see the advantage of bringing this form of opportunity under unified control.9

Any speculator in depreciated public securities would be strongly for a system that could offer him the use of the political means to bring back their face-value.10 Any shipowner or foreign trader would be quick to see that his bread was buttered on the side of a national State which, if properly approached, might lend him the use of the political means by way of a subsidy, or would be able to back up some profitable but dubious freebooting enterprise with “diplomatic representations” or with reprisals.

The farmers and the debtor class in general, on the other hand, were not interested in those considerations, but were strongly for letting things stay, for the most part, as they stood. Preponderance in the local legislatures gave them satisfactory control of the political means, which they could and did use to the prejudice of the creditor class, and they did not care to be disturbed in their preponderance. They were agreeable to such modification of the Articles as should work out short of this, but not to setting up a national11 replica of the British merchant-State, which they perceived was precisely what the classes grouped in the opposing grand division wished to do. These classes aimed at bringing in the British system of economics, politics and judicial control, on a nation-wide scale; and the interests grouped in the second division saw that what this would really come to was a shifting of the incidence of economic exploitation upon themselves. They had an impressive object-lesson in the immediate shift that took place in Massachusetts after the adoption of John Adams’s local constitution of 1780. They naturally did not care to see this sort of thing put into operation on a nation-wide scale, and they therefore looked with extreme disfavour upon any bait put forth for amending the Articles out of existence. When Hamilton, in 1780, objected to the Articles in the form in which they were proposed for adoption, and proposed the calling of a constitutional convention instead, they turned the cold shoulder; as they did again to Washington’s letter to the local governors three years later, in which he adverted to the need of a strong coercive central authority.

Finally, however, a constitutional convention was assembled, on the distinct understanding that it should do no more than revise the Articles in such a way, as Hamilton cleverly phrased it, as to make them “adequate to the exigencies of the nation,” and on the further understanding that all the thirteen units should assent to the amendments before they went into effect; in short, that the method of amendment provided by the Articles themselves should be followed. Neither understanding was fulfilled. The convention was made up wholly of men representing the economic interests of the first division. The great majority of them, possibly as many as four-fifths, were public creditors; one-third were land-speculators; some were money-lenders; one-fifth were industrialists, traders, shippers; and many of them were lawyers. They planned and executed a coup d’Etat, simply tossing the Articles of Confederation into the waste-basket, and drafting a constitution de novo, with the audacious provision that it should go into effect when ratified by nine units instead of by all thirteen. Moreover, with like audacity, they provided that the document should not be submitted either to the Congress or to the local legislatures, but that it should go direct to a popular vote!12

The unscrupulous methods employed in securing ratification need not be dwelt on here.13 We are not indeed concerned with the moral quality of the proceedings by which the constitution was brought into being, but only with showing their instrumentality in encouraging a definite general idea of the State and its functions, and a consequent general attitude towards the State. We therefore go on to observe that in order to secure ratification by even the nine necessary units, the document had to conform to certain very exacting and difficult requirements. The political structure which is contemplated had to be republican in form, yet capable of resisting what Gerry unctuously called “the excess of democracy,” and what Randolph termed its “turbulence and follies.” The task of the delegates was precisely analogous to that of the earlier architects who had designed the structure of the British merchant-State, with its system of economics, politics and judicial control; they had to contrive something that could pass muster as showing a good semblance of popular sovereignty, without the reality. Madison defined their task explicitly in saying that the convention’s purpose was “to secure the public good and private rights against the danger of such a faction [i.e., a democratic faction], and at the same time preserve the spirit and form of popular government.”

Under the circumstances, this was a tremendously large order; and the constitution emerged, as it was bound to do, as a compromise-document, or as Mr. Beard puts it very precisely, “a mosaic of second choices,” which really satisfied neither of the two opposing sets of interests. It was not strong and definite enough in either direction to please anybody. In particular, the interests composing the first division, led by Alexander Hamilton, saw that it was not sufficient of itself to fix them in anything like a permanent impregnable position to exploit continuously the groups composing the second division. To do this – to establish the degree of centralization requisite to their purposes – certain lines of administrative management must be laid down, which, once established, would be permanent. The further task therefore, in Madison’s phrase, was to “administration” the constitution into such absolutist modes as would secure economic supremacy, by a free use of the political means, to the groups which made up the first division.

This was accordingly done. For the first ten years of its existence the constitution remained in the hands of its makers for administration in the directions most favourable to their interests. For an accurate understanding of the newly-erected system’s economic tendencies, too much stress can not be laid on the fact that for these ten critical years “the machinery of economic and political power was mainly directed by the men who had conceived and established it.”14

Washington, who had been chairman of the convention, was elected President. Nearly half the Senate was made up of men who had been delegates, and the House of Representatives was largely made up of men who had to do with the drafting or ratifying of the constitution. Hamilton, Randolph and Knox, who were active in promoting the document, filled three of the four positions in the Cabinet; and all the federal judgeships, without a single exception, were filled by men who had a hand in the business of drafting or of ratification, or both.

Of all the legislative measures enacted to implement the new constitution, the one best calculated to ensure a rapid and steady progress in the centralization of political power was the Judiciary Act of 1789.15 This measure created a federal supreme court of six members (subsequently enlarged to nine) and a federal district court in each state, with its own complete personnel, and a complete apparatus for enforcing its decrees. The Act established federal oversight of state legislation by the familiar device of “interpretation,” whereby the Supreme Court might nullify state legislative or judicial action which for any reason it saw fit to regard as unconstitutional. One feature of the Act which for our purposes is most noteworthy is that it made the tenure of all these federal judgeships appointive, not elective, and for life; thus marking almost the farthest conceivable departure from the doctrine of popular sovereignty.

The first chief justice was John Jay, “the learned and gentle Jay,” as Beveridge calls him in his excellent biography of Marshall. A man of superb integrity, he was far above doing anything whatever in behalf of the accepted principle that est boni judicis ampliare jurisdictionem. Ellsworth, who followed him, also did nothing. The succession, however, after Jay had declined a reappointment, then fell to John Marshall, who, in addition to the control established by the Judiciary Act over the state legislative and judicial authority, arbitrarily extended judicial control over both the legislative and executive branches of the federal authority;16 thus effecting as complete and convenient a centralization of power as the various interest concerned in framing the constitution could reasonably have contemplated.17

We may now see from this necessarily brief survey, which anyone may amplify and particularize at his pleasure, what the circumstances were which rooted a certain definite idea of the State still deeper in the general consciousness. That idea was precisely the same in the constitutional period as that which we have seen prevailing in the two periods already examined – the colonial period, and the eight-year period following the revolution. Nowhere in the history of the constitutional period do we find the faintest suggestion of the Declaration’s doctrine of natural rights; and we find its doctrine of popular sovereignty not only continuing in abeyance, but constitutionally estopped from ever reappearing. Nowhere do we find a trace of the Declaration’s theory of government; on the contrary, we find it expressly repudiated. The new political mechanism was a faithful replica of the old disestablished British model, but so far improved and strengthened as to be incomparably more close-working and efficient, and hence presenting incomparably more attractive possibilities of capture and control. By consequence, therefore, we find more firmly implanted than ever the same general idea of the State that we have observed as prevailing hitherto – the idea of an organization of the political means, an irresponsible and all-powerful agency standing always ready to be put into use for the service of one set of economic interests as against another.


Out of this idea proceeded what we know as the “party system” of political management, which has been in effect ever since. Our purposes do not require that we examine its history in close detail for evidence that it has been from the beginning a purely bipartisan system, since this is now a matter of fairly common acceptance. In his second term Mr. Jefferson discovered the tendency towards bipartisanship,18 and was both dismayed and puzzled by it. I have elsewhere19 remarked his curious inability to understand how the cohesive power of public plunder works straight towards political bipartisanship. In 1823, finding some who called themselves Republicans favouring the Federalist policy of centralization, he spoke of them in a rather bewildered way as “pseudo-Republicans, but real Federalists.” But most naturally any Republican who saw a chance of profiting by the political means would retain the name, and at the same time resist any tendency within the party to impair the general system which held out such a prospect.20

In this way bipartisanship arises. Party designations become purely nominal, and the stated issues between parties become progressively trivial; and both are more and more openly kept up with no other object than to cover from scrutiny the essential identity of purpose in both parties.

Thus the party system at once became in effect an elaborate system of fetiches, which, in order to be made as impressive as possible, were chiefly moulded up around the constitution, and were put on show as “constitutional principles.” The history of the whole post-constitutional period, from 1789 to the present day, is an instructive and cynical exhibit of the fate of these fetiches when they encounter the one and only actual principle of party action – the principle of keeping open the channels of access to the political means. When the fetich of “strict construction,” for example, has collided with this principle, it has invariably gone by the board, the party that maintained it simply changing sides. The anti-Federalist party took office in 1800 as the party of strict construction; yet, once in office, it played ducks and drakes with the constitution, in behalf of the special interests that it represented.21

The Federalists were nominally for loose construction, yet they fought bitterly every one of the opposing party’s loose-constructionist measures – the embargo, the protective tariff and the national bank. They were the constitutional nationalists of the deepest dye, as we have seen; yet in their centre and stronghold, New England, they held the threat of secession over the country throughout the period of what they harshly called “Mr. Madison’s war,” the War of 1812, which was in fact a purely imperialist adventure after annexation of Floridian and Canadian territory, in behalf of stiffening agrarian control of the political means; but when the planting interests of the South made the same threat in 1861, they became fervid nationalists again.

Such exhibitions of pure fetichism, always cynical in their transparent candour, make up the history of the party system. Their reductio ad absurdum is now seen as perhaps complete – one can not see how it could go further – in the attitude of the Democratic party towards its historical principles of state sovereignty and strict construction. A fair match for this, however, is found in a speech made the other day to a group of exporting and importing interests by the mayor of New York – always known as a Republican in politics – advocating the hoary Democratic doctrine of a low tariff!

Throughout our post-constitutional period there is not on record, as far as I know, a single instance of party adherence to a fixed principle, qua principle, or to a political theory, qua theory. Indeed, the very cartoons on the subject show how widely it has come to be accepted that party-platforms, with their cant of “issues,” are so much sheer quackery, and that campaign-promises are merely another name for thimblerigging. The workaday practice of politics has been invariably opportunist, or in other words, invariably conformable to the primary function of the State; and it is largely for this reason that the State’s service exerts its most powerful attraction upon an extremely low and sharp-set type of individual.22

The maintenance of this system of fetiches, however, gives great enhancement to the prevailing general view of the State. In that view, the State is made to appear as somehow deeply and disinterestedly concerned with great principles of action; and hence, in addition to its prestige as a pseudo-social institution, it takes on the prestige of a kind of moral authority, thus disposing of the last vestige of the doctrine of natural rights by overspreading it heavily with the quicklime of legalism; whatever is State-sanctioned is right. This double prestige is assiduously inflated by many agencies; by a State-dazzled pulpit, by a meretricious press, by a continuous kaleidoscopic display of State pomp, panoply and circumstance, and by all the innumerable devices of electioneering. These last invariably take their stand on the foundation of some imposing principle, as witness the agonized cry now going up here and there in the land, for a “return to the constitution.” All this is simply “the interested clamours and sophistry,” which means no more and no less than it meant when the constitution was not yet five years old, and Fisher Ames was observing contemptuously that of all the legislative measures and proposals which were on the carpet at the time, he scarce knew one that had not raised this same cry, “not excepting a motion for adjournment.”

In fact, such popular terms of electioneering appeal are uniformly and notoriously what Jeremy Bentham called impostor-terms, and their use invariably marks one thing and one only; it marks a state of apprehension, either fearful or expectant, as the case may be, concerning access to the political means. As we are seeing at the moment, once let this access come under threat of straitening or stoppage, the menaced interests immediately trot out the spavined, glandered hobby of “state rights” or “a return to the constitution,” and put it through its galvanic movements. Let the incidence of exploitation show the first sign of shifting, and we hear at once from one source of “interested clamours and sophistry” that “democracy” is in danger, and that the unparalleled excellences of our civilization have come about solely through a policy of “rugged individualism,” carried out under terms of “free competition”; while from another source we hear that the enormities of laissez-faire have ground the faces of the poor, and obstructed entrance into the More Abundant Life.23

The general upshot of all this is that we see politicians of all schools and stripes behaving with the obscene depravity of degenerate children; like the loose-footed gangs that infest the railway-yards and purlieus of gas-houses, each group tries to circumvent another with respect to the fruit accruing to acts of public mischief. In other words, we see them behaving in a strictly historical manner. Professor Laski’s elaborate moral distinction between the State and officialdom is devoid of foundation. The State is not, as he would have it, a social institution administered in an anti-social way. It is an anti-social institution administered in the only way an anti-social institution can be administered, and by the kind of person who, in the nature of things, is best adapted to such service.


SUCH has been the course of our experience from the beginning, and such are the terms in which its stark uniformity has led us to think of the State. This uniformity also goes far to account for the development of a peculiar moral enervation with regard to the State, exactly parallel to that which prevailed with regard to the Church in the Middle Ages.1

The Church controlled the distribution of certain privileges and immunities, and if one approached it properly, one might get the benefit of them. It stood as something to be run to in any kind of emergency, temporal or spiritual; for the satisfaction of ambition and cupidity, as well as for the more tenuous assurances it held out against various forms of fear, doubt and sorrow. As long as this was so, the anomalies were more or less contentedly acquiesced in; and thus a chronic moral enervation, too negative to be called broadly cynical, was developed towards the vast overbuilding of its material structure.2

A like enervation pervades our society with respect to the State, and for like reasons. It effects especially those who take the State’s pretensions at face value and regard it as a social institution whose policies of continuous intervention are wholesome and necessary; and it also affects the great majority who have no clear idea of the State, but merely accept it as something that exists, and never think about it except when some intervention bears unfavourably upon their interests. There is little need to dwell upon the amount of aid thus given to the State’s progress in self-aggrandizement, or to show in detail or by illustration the courses by which this spiritlessness promotes the State’s steady policy of intervention, exaction and overbuilding.3

Every intervention by the State enables another, and this in turn another, and so on indefinitely; and the State stands ever ready and eager to make them, often on its own motion, often again wangling plausibility for them through the specious suggestion of interested persons. Sometimes the matter at issue is in its nature simple, socially necessary, and devoid of any character that would bring it into the purview of politics.4

For convenience, however, complications are erected on it; then presently someone sees that these complications are exploitable, and proceeds to exploit them; then another, and another, until the rivalries and collisions of interest thus generated issue in a more or less general disorder. When this takes place, the logical thing, obviously, is to recede, and let the disorder be settled in the slower and more troublesome way, through the operation of natural laws. But in such circumstances recession is never for a moment thought of; the suggestion would be put down as sheer lunacy. Instead, the interests unfavourably affected – little aware, perhaps, how much worse the cure is than the disease, or at any rate little caring – immediately call on the State to cut in arbitrarily between cause and effect, and clear up the disorder out of hand.5

The State then intervenes by imposing another set of complications upon the first; these in turn are found exploitable, another demand arises, another set of complications, still more intricate, is erected upon the first two;6 and the same sequence is gone through again and again until the recurrent disorder becomes acute enough to open the way for a sharking political adventurer to come forward and, always alleging “necessity, the tyrant’s plea,” to organize a coup d’Etat.7

But more often the basic matter at issue represents an original intervention of the State, an original allotment of the political means. Each of these allotments, as we have seen, is a charter of highwaymanry, a license to appropriate the labour-products of others without compensation. Therefore it is in the nature of things that when such a license is issued, the State must follow it up with an indefinite series of interventions to systematize and “regulate” its use. The State’s endless progressive encroachments that are recorded in the history of the tariff, their impudent and disgusting particularity, and the prodigious amount of apparatus necessary to give them effect, furnish a conspicuous case in point. Another is furnished by the history of our railway-regulation. It is nowadays of the fashion, even among those who ought to know better, to hold “rugged individualism” and laissez-faire responsible for the riot of stock-watering, rebates, rate-cutting, fraudulent bankruptcies, and the like, which prevailed in our railway-practice after the Civil War, but they had no more to do with it than they have with the precession of the equinoxes. The fact is that our railways, with few exceptions, did not grow up in response to any actual economic demand. They were speculative enterprises enabled by State intervention, by allotment of the political means in the form of land-grants and subsidies; and of all the evils alleged against our railway-practice, there is not one but what is directly traceable to this primary intervention.8

So it is with shipping. There was no valid economic demand for adventure in the carrying trade; in fact, every sound economic consideration was dead against it. It was entered upon through State intervention, instigated by shipbuilders and their allied interests; and the mess engendered by their manipulation of the political means is now the ground of demand for further and further coercive intervention. So it is with what, by an unconscionable stretch of language, goes by the name of farming.9 There are very few troubles so far heard of as normally besetting this form of enterprise but what are directly traceable to the State’s primary intervention in establishing a system of land-tenure which gives a monopoly-right over rental-values as well as over use-values; and as long as that system is in force, one coercive intervention after another is bound to take place in support of it.10


Thus we see how ignorance and delusion concerning the nature of the State combine with extreme moral debility and myopic self-interest – what Ernest Renan so well calls la bassesse de l’homme interesse – to enable the steadily accelerated conversion of social power into State power that has gone on from the beginning of our political independence. It is a curious anomaly. State power has an unbroken record of inability to do anything efficiently, economically, disinterestedly or honestly; yet when the slightest dissatisfaction arises over any exercise of social power, the aid of the agent least qualified to give aid is immediately called for. Does social power mismanage banking-practice in this-or-that special instance – then let the State, which never has shown itself able to keep its own finances from sinking promptly into the slough of misfeasance, wastefulness and corruption, intervene to “supervise” or “regulate” the whole body of banking-practice, or even take it over entire. Does social power, in this-or-that case, bungle the business of railway-management – then let the State, which has bungled every business it has ever undertaken, intervene and put its hand to the business of “regulating” railway-operation. Does social power now and then send out an unseaworthy ship to disaster – then let the State, which inspected and passed the Morro Castle, be given a freer swing at controlling the routine of the shipping trade. Does social power here and there exercise a grinding monopoly over the generation and distribution of electric current – then let the State, which allots and maintains monopoly, come in and intervene with a general scheme of price-fixing which works more unforeseen hardships than it heals, or else let it go into direct competition; or, as the collectivists urge, let it take over the monopoly bodily. “Ever since society has existed,” says Herbert Spencer, “disappointment has been preaching, `Put not your trust in legislation’; and yet the trust in legislation seems hardly diminished.”

But it may be asked where we are to go for relief from the misuses of social power, if not to the State. What other recourse have we? Admitting that under our existing mode of political organization we have none, it must still be pointed out that this question rests on the old inveterate misapprehension of the State’s nature, presuming that the State is a social institution, whereas it is an anti-social institution; that is to say, the question rests on an absurdity.11

It is certainly true that the business of government, in maintaining “freedom and security,” and “to secure these rights,” is to make a recourse to justice costless, easy and informal; but the State, on the contrary, is primarily concerned with injustice, and its primary function is to maintain a regime of injustice; hence, as we see daily, its disposition is to put justice as far out of reach, and to make the effort after justice as costly and difficult as it can. One may put it in a word that while government is by its nature concerned with the administration of justice, the State is by its nature concerned with the administration of law – law, which the State itself manufactures for the service of its own primary ends. Therefore an appeal to the State, based on the ground of justice, is futile in any circumstances,12 for whatever action the State might take in response to it would be conditioned by the State’s own paramount interest, and would hence be bound to result, as we see such action invariably resulting, in as great injustice as that which it pretends to be correct, or as a rule, greater. The question thus presumes, in short, that the State may on occasion be persuaded to act out of character; and this is levity.

But passing on from this special view of the question, and regarding it in a more general way, we see that what it actually amounts to is a plea for arbitrary interference with the order of nature, an arbitrary cutting-in to avert the penalty which nature lays on any and every form of error, whether wilful or ignorant, voluntary or involuntary; and no attempt at this has ever yet failed to cost more than it came to. Any contravention of natural law, any tampering with the natural order of things, must have its consequences, and the only recourse for escaping them is such as entails worse consequences. Nature recks nothing of intentions, good or bad; the one thing she will not tolerate is disorder, and she is very particular about getting her full pay for any attempt to create disorder. She gets it sometimes by very indirect methods, often by very roundabout and unforeseen ways, but she always gets it. “Things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be; why, then, should we desire to be deceived?” It would seem that our civilization is greatly given to this infantile addiction – greatly given to persuading itself that it can find some means which nature will tolerate, whereby we may eat our cake and have it; and it strongly resents the stubborn fact that there is no such means.13

It will be clear to anyone who takes the trouble to think the matter through, that under a regime of natural order, that is to say under government, which makes no positive interventions whatever on the individual, but only negative interventions in behalf of simple justice – not law, but justice – misuses of social power would be effectively corrected; whereas we know by interminable experience that the State’s positive interventions do not correct them. Under a regime of actual individualism, actually free competition, actual laissez-faire – a regime which, as we have seen, can not possibly coexist with the State – a serious or continuous misuse of social power would be virtually impracticable.14

I shall not take up space with amplifying these statements because, in the first place, this has already been done by Spencer, in his essays entitled The Man versus the State; and in the second place, because I wish above all things to avoid the appearance of suggesting that a regime such as these statements contemplate is practicable, or that I am ever so covertly encouraging anyone to dwell on the thought of such a regime. Perhaps, some aeons hence, if the planet remains so long habitable, the benefits accruing to conquest and confiscation may be adjudged over-costly; the State may in consequence be superseded by government, the political means suppressed, and the fetiches which give nationalism and patriotism their present execrable character may be broken down. But the remoteness and uncertainty of this prospect makes any thought of it fatuous, and any concern with it futile. Some rough measure of its remoteness may perhaps be gained by estimating the growing strength of the forces at work against it. Ignorance and error, which the State’s prestige steadily deepens, are against it; la bassesse de l’homme interesse, steadily pushing its purposes to greater lengths of turpitude, is against it; moral enervation, steadily proceeding to the point of complete insensitiveness, is against it. What combination of influences more powerful than this can one imagine, and what can one imagine possible to be done in the face of such a combination?

To the sum of these, which may be called spiritual influences, may be added the overweening physical strength of the State, which is ready to be called into action at once against any affront to the State’s prestige. Few realize how enormously and how rapidly in recent years the State has everywhere built up its apparatus of armies and police forces. The State has thoroughly learned the lesson laid down by Septimius Severus, on his death-bed. “Stick together,” he said to his successors, “pay the soldiers, and don’t worry about anything else.” It is now known to every intelligent person that there can be no such thing as a revolution as long as this advice is followed; in fact, there has been no revolution in the modern world since 1848 – every so-called revolution has been merely a coup d’Etat.15

All talk of the possibility of a revolution in America is in part perhaps ignorant, but mostly dishonest; it is merely the “interested clamours and sophistry” of persons who have some sort of ax to grind. Even Lenin acknowledged that a revolution is impossible anywhere until the military and police forces become disaffected; and the last place to look for that, probably, is here. We have all seen demonstrations of a disarmed populace, and local riots carried on with primitive weapons, and we have also seen how they ended, as in Homestead, Chicago, and the mining districts of West Virginia, for instance. Coxey’s Army marched on Washington – and it kept off the grass.

Taking the sum of the State’s physical strength, with the force of powerful spiritual influences behind it, one asks again, what can be done against the State’s progress in self-aggrandizement? Simply nothing. So far from encouraging any hopeful contemplation of the unattainable, the student of civilized man will offer no conclusion but that nothing can be done. He can regard the course of our civilization only as he would regard the course of a man in a row-boat on the lower reaches of the Niagara – as an instance of Nature’s unconquerable intolerance of disorder, and in the end, an example of the penalty which she puts upon any attempt at interference with order. Our civilization may at the outset have taken its chances with the current of Statism either ignorantly or deliberately; it makes no difference. Nature cares nothing whatever about motive or intention; she cares only for order, and looks to see only that her repugnance to disorder shall be vindicated, and that her concern with the regular orderly sequences of things and actions shall be upheld in the outcome. Emerson, in one of his great moments of inspiration, personified cause and effect as “the chancellors of God”; and invariable experience testifies that the attempt to nullify or divert or in any wise break in upon their sequences must have its own reward.

“Such,” says Professor Ortega y Gasset, “was the lamentable fate of ancient civilization.” A dozen empires have already finished the course that ours began three centuries ago. The lion and the lizard keep the vestiges that attest their passage upon earth, vestiges of cities which in their day were as proud and powerful as ours – Tadmor, Persepolis, Luxor, Baalbek – some of them indeed forgotten for thousands of years and brought to memory again only by the excavator, like those of the Mayas, and those buried in the sands of the Gobi. The sites which now bear Narbonne and Marseilles have borne the habitat of four successive civilizations, each of them, as St. James says, even as a vapour which appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away. The course of all these civilizations was the same. Conquest, confiscation, the erection of the State; then the sequences which we have traced in the course of our own civilization; then the shock of some irruption which the social structure was too far weakened to resist, and from which it was left too disorganized to recover; and then the end.

Our pride resents the thought that the great highways of New England will one day lie deep under layers of encroaching vegetation, as the more substantial Roman roads of Old England have lain for generations; and that only a group of heavily overgrown hillocks will be left to attract the archaeologist’s eye to the hidden debris of our collapsed skyscrapers. Yet it is to just this, we know, that our civilization will come; and we know it because we know that there never has been, never is, and never will be, any disorder in nature – because we know that things and actions are what they are, and the consequences of them will be what they will be.

But there is no need to dwell lugubriously upon the probable circumstances of a future so far distant. What we and our more nearly immediate descendants shall see is a steady progress in collectivism running off into a military despotism of a severe type. Closer centralization; a steadily growing bureaucracy; State power and faith in State power increasing, social power and faith in social power diminishing; the State absorbing a continually larger proportion of the national income; production languishing, the State in consequence taking over one “essential industry” after another, managing them with ever-increasing corruption, inefficiency and prodigality, and finally resorting to a system of forced labour. Then at some point in this progress, a collision of State interests, at least as general as that which occurred in 1914, will result in an industrial and financial dislocation too severe for the asthenic social structure to bear; and from this the State will be left to “the rusty death of machinery,” and the casual anonymous forces of dissolution will be supreme.


But it may quite properly be asked, if we in common with the rest of the Western world are so far gone in Statism as to make this outcome inevitable, what is the use of a book which merely shows that it is inevitable? By its own hypothesis the book is useless. Upon the very evidence it offers, no one’s political opinions are likely to be changed by it, no one’s practical attitude towards the State will be modified by it; and if they were, according to the book’s own premises, what good could they do?

Assuredly I do not expect this book to change anyone’s political opinions, for it is not meant to do that. One or two, perhaps, here and there, may be moved to look a little into the subject-matter on their own account, and thus perhaps their opinions would undergo some slight loosening – or some constriction – but this is the very most that would happen. In general, too, I would be the first to acknowledge that no results of the kind which we agree to call practical could accrue to the credit of a book of this order, were it a hundred times as cogent as this one – no results, that is, that would in the least retard the State’s progress in self-aggrandizement and thus modify the consequences of the State’s course. There are two reasons, however, one general and one special, why the publication of such a book is admissible.

The general reason is that when in any department of thought a person has, or thinks he has, a view of the plain intelligible order of things, it is proper that he should record that view publicly, with no thought whatever of the practical consequences, or lack of consequences, likely to ensue upon his so doing. He might indeed be thought bound to do this as a matter of abstract duty; not to crusade or propagandize for his view or seek to impose it upon anyone – far from that! – not to concern himself at all with either its acceptance or its disallowance; but merely to record it. This, I say, might be thought his duty to the natural truth of things, but it is at all events his right; it is admissible.

The special reason has to do with the fact that in every civilization, however generally prosaic, however addicted to the short-time point of view on human affairs, there are always certain alien spirits who, while outwardly conforming to the requirements of the civilization around them, still keep a disinterested regard for the plain intelligible law of things, irrespective of any practical end. They have an intellectual curiosity, sometimes touched with emotion, concerning the august order of nature; they are impressed by the contemplation of it, and like to know as much about it as they can, even in circumstances where its operation is ever so manifestly unfavourable to their best hopes and wishes. For these, a work like this, however in the current sense impractical, is not quite useless; and those of them it reaches will be aware that for such as themselves, and such only, it was written.



Part 1

  1. The result of a questionnaire published in July, 1935, showed that 76.8 per cent of the replies favourable to the idea that it is the State’s duty to see that every person who wants a job shall have one; 20.1 per cent were against it, and 3.1 per cent were undecided.
  2. In this country, the State is at present manufacturing furniture, grinding flour, producing fertilizer, building houses; selling farm-products, dairy-products, textiles, canned goods, and electrical apparatus; operating employment-agencies and home-loan offices; financing exports and imports; financing agriculture. It also controls the issuance of securities, communications by wire and radio, discount-rates, oil-production, power-production, commercial competition, the production and sale of alcohol, and the use of inland waterways and railways.
  3. There is a sort of precedent for it in Roman history, if the story be true in all its details that the army sold the emperorship to Didius Julianus for something like five million dollars. Money has often been used to grease the wheels of a coup d’Etat, but straight over-the-counter purchase is unknown, I think, except in these two instances.
  4. On the day I write this, the newspapers say the President is about to order a stoppage on the flow of federal relief-funds into Louisiana, for the purpose of bringing Senator Long to terms. I have seen no comment, however, on the propriety of this kind of procedure.
  5. A friend in the theatrical business tells me that from the box-office point of view, Washington is now the best theatre-town, concert-town, and general-amusement town in the United States, far better than New Y.
  6. The feature of the approaching campaign of 1936 which will most interest the student of civilization will be the use of the four-billion-dollar relief-fund that has been placed at the President’s disposal – the extent, that is, to which it will be distributed on a patronage-basis.
  7. It must always be kept in mind that there is a tidal-motion as well as a wave-motion in these matters, and that the wave-motion is of little importance, relatively. For instance, the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the National Recovery Act counts for nothing in determining the actual status of personal government. The real question is not how much less the sum of personal government is now than it was before that decision, but how much greater it is normally now than it was in 1932, and in years preceding.
  8. As, for example, the spectacular voiding of the National Recovery Act.
  9. This book is a sort of syllabus or precis of some lectures to students of American history and politics – mostly graduate students – and it therefore presupposes some little acquaintance with those subjects. The few references I have given, however, will put any reader in the way of documenting and amplifying it satisfactorily.
  10. An inadequate and partial idea of what this volume amounts to, may be got from the fact that the American State’s income from taxation is now about one-third of the nation’s total income! This takes into account all forms of taxation, direct and indirect, local and federal.

Part 2

  1. Paine was of course well aware of this. He says, “A French bastard, landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original.” He does not press the point, however, nor in view of his purpose should he be expected to do so.
  2. In Rights of Man, Paine is as explicit about this doctrine as the Declaration is; and in several places throughout his pamphlets, he asserts that all civil rights are founded on natural rights, and proceed from them.
  3. By Gumplowicz, professor at Graz, and after him, by Oppenheimer, professor of politics at Frankfort. I have followed them throughout this section. The findings of these Galileos are so damaging to the prestige that the State has everywhere built up for itself that professional authority in general has been very circumspect about approaching them, naturally preferring to give them a wide berth; but in the long-run, this is a small matter. Honourable and distinguished exceptions appear in Vierkandt, Wilhelm Wundt, and the revered patriarch of German economic studies, Adolf Wagner.
  4. An excellent example of primitive practice, effected by modern technique, is furnished by the new State of Manchoukuo, and another bids fair to be furnished in consequence of the Italian State’s operations in Ethiopia.
  5. The mathematics of this demonstration are extremely interesting. A resume of them is given in Oppenheimer’s treatise, Der Staat, ch. I, and they are worked out in full in his Theorie der Reinen und Politischen Oekonomie.
  6. Except, of course, by preemption of the land under the State-system of tenure, but for occupational reasons this would not be worth a hunting tribe’s attempting. Bicknell, the historian of Rhode Island, suggests that the troubles over Indian treaties arose from the fact that the Indians did not understand the State-system of land-tenure, never having had anything like it; their understanding was that the whites were admitted only to the same communal use of land that they themselves enjoyed. It is interesting to remark that the settled fishing tribes of the Northwest formed a State. Their occupation made economic exploitation both practicable and profitable, and they resorted to conquest and confiscation to introduce it.
  7. It is strange that so little attention has been paid to the singular immunity enjoyed by certain small and poor peoples amidst great collisions of State interest. Throughout the late war, for example, Switzerland, which has nothing worth stealing, was never raided or disturbed.
  8. Marx’s chapter on colonization is interesting in this connexion, especially for his observation that economic exploitation is impracticable until expropriation from the land has taken place. Here he is in full agreement with the whole line of fundamental economists, from Turgot, Franklin and John Taylor down to Theodor Hertzka and Henry George. Marx, however, apparently did not see that his observation left him with something of a problem on his hands, for he does little more with it than record the fact.
  9. John Bright said he had known the British Parliament to do some good things, but never knew it to do a good thing merely because it was a good thing.
  10. Reflections, I.
  11. In this country the condition of several socially-valuable industries seems at the moment to be a pretty fair index of this process. The State’s positive interventions have so far depleted social power that by all accounts these particular applications of it are on the verge of being no longer practicable. In Italy, the State now absorbs fifty per cent of the total national income. Italy appears to be rehearsing her ancient history in something more than a sentimental fashion, for by the end of the second century social power had been so largely transmuted into State power that nobody could do any business at all. There was not enough social power left to pay the State’s bills.
  12. It seems a most discreditable thing that this century has not seen produced in America an intellectually respectable presentation of the complete case against the State’s progressive confiscations of social power; a presentation, that is, which bears the mark of having sound history and a sound philosophy behind it. Mere interested touting of “rugged individualism” and agonized fustian about the constitution are so specious, so frankly unscrupulous, that they have become contemptible. Consequently collectivism has easily had all the best of it, intellectually, and the results are now apparent. Collectivism has even succeeded in foisting its glossary of arbitrary definitions upon us; we all speak of our economic system, for instance, as “capitalist,” when there has never been a system, nor can one be imagined, that is not capitalist. By contrast, when British collectivism undertook to deal, say with Lecky, Bagehot, Professor Huxley and Herbert Spencer, it got full change for its money. Whatever steps Britain has taken towards collectivism, or may take, it at least has had all the chance in the world to know precisely where it was going, which we have not had.
  13. Yesterday I passed over a short stretch of new road built by State power, applied through one of the grotesque alphabetical tentacles of our bureaucracy. It cost $87,348.56. Social power, represented by a contractor’s figure in competitive bidding, would have built it for $38,668.20, a difference, roughly, of one hundred per cent!
  14. All the newspaper-comments that I have read concerning the recent marine disasters that befell the Ward Line have, without exception, led up to just such proposals!
  15. Our recent experience with prohibition might be thought to have suggested this belief as fatuous, but apparently they have not done so.
  16. This point is well discussed by the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses, ch. XIII (English Translation), in which he does not scruple to say that the State’s rapid depletion of social power is “the greatest danger that today threatens civilization.” He also gives a good idea of what may be expected when a third, economically-composite, class in turn takes over the mechanism of the State, as the merchant class took it over from the nobility. Surely no better forecast could be made of what is taking place in this country at the moment, than this: “The mass-man does in fact believe that he is the State, and he will tend more and more to set its machinery working, on whatever pretext, to crush beneath it any creative minority which disturbs it – disturbs it in any order of things; in politics, in ideas, in industry.”
  17. Oppenheimer, Der Staat, ch. I. Services are also, of course, a subject of economic exchange.
  18. In America, where the native huntsmen were not exploitable, the beneficiaries – the Virginia Company, Massachusetts Company, Dutch West India Company, the Calverts, etc. – followed the traditional method of importing exploitable human material, under bond, from England and Europe, and also established the chattel-slave economy by importations from Africa. The best exposition of this phase of our history is in Beard’s Rise of American Civilization, vol. I, pp. 103-109. At a later period, enormous masses of exploitable material imported themselves by immigration; Valentine’s Manual for 1859 says that in the period 1847-1858, 2,486,463 immigrants passed through the port of New York. This competition tended to depress the slave-economy in the industrial sections of the country, and to supplant it with a wage-economy. It is noteworthy that public sentiment in those regions did not regard the slave-economy as objectionable until it could no longer be profitably maintained.
  19. Supposing, for example, that Mr. Norman Thomas and a solid collectivist Congress, with a solid collectivist Supreme Court, should presently fall heir to our enormously powerful apparatus of exploitation, it needs no great stretch of imagination to forecast the upshot.
  20. In April, 1933, the American State issued half a billion dollars’ worth of bonds of small denominations, to attract investment by poor persons. It promised to pay these, principal and interest, in gold of the then-existing value. Within three months the State repudiated that promise. Such an action by an individual would, as Freud says, dishonour him forever, and mark him as no better than a knave. Done by an association of individuals, it would put them in the category of a professional-criminal class.

Part 3

  1. Among these institutions are: our system of free public education; local self-government as originally established in the township system; our method of conveying land; almost all of our system of equity; much of our criminal code; and our method of administering estates.
  2. Throughout Europe, indeed, up to the close of the eighteenth century, the State was quite weak, even considering the relatively moderate development of social power, and the moderate amount of economic accumulation available to its predatory purposes. Social power in modern France could pay the flat annual levy of Louis XIV’s taxes without feeling it, and would like nothing better than to commute the republican State’s levy on those terms.
  3. During the reign of Elizabeth the Puritan contention, led by Cartwright, was for what amounted to a theory of jure divino Presbyterianism. The Establishment at large took the position of Archbishop Whitgift and Richard Hooker that the details of church polity were indifferent, and therefore properly subject to State regulation. The High Church doctrine of jure divino episcopacy was laid down later, by Whitgift’s successor, Bancroft.Thus up to 1604 the Presbyterians were objectionable on secular grounds, and afterwards on both secular and ecclesiastical grounds.
  4. So were the kaleidoscopic changes that took place in France after the revolution of 1789. Throughout the Directorate, the Consulship, the Restoration, the two Empires, the three Republics and the Commune, the French State kept its essential character intact; it remained always the organization of the political means.
  5. In 1629 the Massachusetts Bay colony adopted the Plymouth colony’s model of congregational autonomy, but finding its principle dangerously inconsistent with the principle of the State, almost immediately nullified their action; retaining, however, the name of Congregationalism. This mode of masquerade is easily recognizable as one of the modern State’s most useful expedients for maintaining the appearance of things without the reality. The names of our two largest political parties will at once appear as a capital example. Within two years the Bay colony had set up a State church, nominally congregationalist, but actually a branch of the civil service, as in England.
  6. Probably it was a forecast of this state of things, as much as the greater convenience of administration, that caused the Bay Company to move over to Massachusetts, bag and baggage, in the year following the issuance of their charter.
  7. Thomas Robinson Hazard, the Rhode Island Quaker, in his delightful Jonnycake Papers, says that the Great Swamp Fight of 1675 was “instigated against the rightful owners of the soil, solely by the cussed godly Puritans of Massachusetts, and their hell-hound allies, the Presbyterians of Connecticut; whom, though charity is my specialty, I can never think of without feeling as all good Rhode Islanders should,… and as old Miss Hazard did when in like vein she thanked God in the Conanicut prayer-meeting that she could hold malice forty years.” The Rhode Island settlers dealt with the Indians for rights in land, and made friends with them.
  8. Mr. Parrington (Main Currents in American Thought, vol. I, p. 24) cites the successive steps leading up to this, as follows: the law of 1631, restricting the franchise to Church members; of 1635, obliging all persons to attend Church services; and of 1636, which established a virtual State monopoly, by requiring consent of both Church and State authority before a new church could be set up. Roger Williams observed acutely that a State establishment of organized Christianity is “a politic invention of man to maintain the civil State.”
  9. Bicknell says that the formation of Williams’s proprietary was a “landholding, land-jobbing, land-selling scheme, with no moral, social, civil, educational or religious end in view”; and his distinction of the early land-allotments on the site where the city of Providence now stands, makes it pretty clear that “the first years of Providence are consumed in a greedy scramble for land.” Bicknell is not precisely an unfriendly witness towards Williams, though his history is avowedly ex parte for the thesis that the true expounder of civil freedom in Rhode Island was not Williams, but Clarke. This contention is immaterial to the present purpose, however, for the State system of land-tenure prevailed in Clarke’s settlements on Aquidneck as it did in Williams’s settlements farther up the bay.

Part 4

  1. The economic rent of the Trinity Church estate in New York City, for instance, would be as high as it is now, even if the holders had never done a stroke of work on the property. Landowners who are holding a property “for a rise” usually leave it idle, or improve it only to the extent necessary to clear its taxes; the type of building commonly called a “taxpayer” is a familiar sight everywhere. Twenty-five years ago a member of the New York City Tax Commission told me that by careful estimate there was almost enough vacant land within the city limits to feed the population, assuming that all of it were arable and put under intensive cultivation!
  2. As a technical term in economics, land includes all natural resources, earth, air, water, sunshine, timber and minerals in situ, etc. Failure to understand this use of the term has seriously misled some writers, notably Count Tolstoy.
  3. Hence there is actually no such thing as a “labour-problem,” for no encroachment on the rights of either labour or capital can possibly take place until all natural resources within reach have been preempted. What we call the “problem of the unemployed” is in no sense a problem, but a direct consequence of State-created monopoly.
  4. For fairly obvious reasons they have no place in the conventional courses that are followed in our schools and colleges.
  5. The French school of physiocrats, led by Quesnay, du Pont de Nemours, Turgot, Gournay and le Trosne – usually regarded as the founders of the science of political economy – broached the idea of destroying this system by the confiscation of economic rent; and this idea was worked out in detail some years ago in America by Henry George. None of these writers, however, seemed to be aware of the effect that their plan would produce upon the State itself. Collectivism, on the other hand, proposes immeasurably to strengthen and entrench the State by confiscation of the use-value as well as the rental-value of land, doing away with private proprietorship in either.
  6. If one were not aware of the highly explosive character of this subject, it would be almost incredible that until three years ago, no one has ever presumed to write a history of land-speculation in America. In 1932, the firm of Harpers published an excellent work by Professor Sakolski, under the frivolous catch-penny title of The Great American Land Bubble. I do not believe that anyone can have a competent understanding of our history or of the character of our people, without hard study of this book. It does not pretend to be more than a preliminary approach to the subject, a sort of pathbreaker for the exhaustive treatise which someone, preferably Professor Sakolski himself, should be undertaking; but for what it is, nothing could be better. I am making liberal use of it throughout this section.
  7. Regard for this insignia-value or token-value of land has shown an interesting persistence. The rise of the merchant-State, supplanting the regime of status by the regime of contract, opened the way for men of all sorts and conditions to climb into the exploiting class; and the new recruits have usually shown a hankering for the old distinguishing sign of their having done so, even though the rise in rental-values has made the gratification of this desire progressively costly.
  8. If our geographical development had been determined in a natural way, by the demands of speculation, our western frontier would not yet be anywhere near the Mississippi River. Rhode Island is the most thickly-populated member of the Union, yet one may drive from one end of it to the other on one of its “through” highways, and see hardly a sign of human occupancy. All discussions of “over-population” from Malthus down, are based on the premise of legal occupancy, and are therefore utterly incompetent and worthless. Oppenheimer’s calculation, made in 1912, to which I have already referred, shows that if legal occupation were abolished, every family of five persons could possess nearly twenty acres of land, and still leave about two-thirds of the planet unoccupied. Henry George’s examination of Malthus’s theory of population is well known, or at least, easily available. It is perhaps worth mention in passing that exaggerated rental-values are responsible for the perennial troubles of the American single-crop farmer. Curiously, one finds this fact set forth in the report of a farm-survey, published by the Department of Agriculture about fifty years ago.
  9. Mr. Chinard, professor in the Faculty of Literature at Johns Hopkins, has lately published a translation of a little book, hardly more than a pamphlet, written in 1686 by the Huguenot refugee Durand, giving a description of Virginia for the information of his fellow-exiles. It strikes a modern reader as being very favourable to Virginia, and one is amused to read that the landholders who had entertained Durand with an eye to business, thought he had not laid it on half thick enough, and were much disgusted. The book is delightfully interesting, and well worth owning.
  10. It was the ground of Chevalier’s observation that Americans had “the morale of an army on the march,” and of his equally notable observations on the supreme rule of expediency in America.
  11. For a most admirable discussion of these measures and their consequences, cf. Beard, op. cit., vol. I, pp. 191-220.
  12. In principle, this had been done before; for example, some of the early royal land-grants reserved mineral-rights and timber-rights to the Crown. The Dutch State reserved the rights to furs and pelts. Actually, however, these restrictions did not amount to much, and were not felt as a general grievance, for these resources had been but little explored.
  13. There were a few exceptions, but not many; notably in the case of the Wadsworth properties in Western New York, which were held as an investment and leased out on a rental-basis. In one, at lease, of General Washington’s operations, it appears that he also had this method in view. In 1773 he published an advertisement in a Baltimore newspaper, stating that he had secured a grant of about twenty thousand acres on the Ohio and Kanawha rivers, which he proposed to open to settlers on a rental-basis.
  14. Sakolski, op. cit., ch. I.
  15. It is an odd fact that among the most eminent names of the period, almost the only ones unconnected with land-grabbing or land-jobbing, are those of the two great antagonists, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Mr. Jefferson had a gentleman’s distaste for profiting by any form of the political means; he never even went so far as to patent one of his many useful inventions. Hamilton seems to have cared nothing for money. His measures made many rich, but he never sought anything from them for himself. In general, he appears to have had few scruples, yet amidst the riot of greed and rascality which he did most to promote, he walked worthily. Even his professional fees as a lawyer were absurdly small, and he remained quite poor all his life.
  16. Raw colonial exports were processed in England, and reexported to the colonies at prices enhanced in this way, thus making the political means effective on the colonists both coming and going.
  17. Beard, op. cit., vol. I., p. 195, cites the observation current in England at the time, that seventy-three members of the Parliament that imposed this tariff were interested in West Indian sugar-plantations.
  18. It must be observed, however, that free trade is impractical so long as land is kept out of free competition with industry in the labour-market. Discussions of the rival policies of free trade and protection invariably leave this limitation out of account, and are therefore nugatory. Holland and England, commonly spoken of as free-trade countries, were never really such; they had only so much freedom of trade as was consistent with their special economic requirements. American free-traders of the last century, such as Sumner and Godkin, were not really free-traders; they were never able – or willing – to entertain the crucial question why, if free trade is a good thing, the conditions of labour were no better in free-trade England than, for instance, in protectionist Germany, but were in fact worse. The answer is, of course, that England had no unpreempted land to absorb displaced labour, or to stand in continuous competition with industry for labour.
  19. The immense amount of labour involved in getting the revolution going, and keeping it going, is not as yet exactly a commonplace of American history, but it has begun to be pretty well understood, and the various myths about it have been exploded by the researches of disinterested historians.
  20. The influence of this view upon the rise of nationalism and the maintenance of the national spirit in the modern world, now that the merchant-State has so generally superseded the feudal State, may be perceived at once. I do not think it has ever been thoroughly discussed, or that the sentiment of patriotism has ever been thoroughly examined for traces of this view, though one might suppose that such a work would be extremely useful.
  21. Even now its cooperation seems not to have got very far in English and American professional circles. The latest English exponent of the State, Professor Laski, draws the same set of elaborate distinctions between the State and officialdom that one would look for if he had been writing a hundred and fifty years ago. He appears to regard the State as essentially a social institution, though his observations on this point are by no means clear. Since his conclusions tend towards collectivism, however, the inference seems admissible.
  22. As, for example, when one political party is turned out of office, and another put in.
  23. In fact, the only modification of it one can foresee is that the smallest unit should reserve the taxing-power strictly to itself. The larger units should have no power whatever of direct or indirect taxation, but should present their requirements to the townships, to be met by quota. This would tend to reduce the organizations of the larger units to skeleton form, and would operate strongly against their assuming any functions but those assigned them, which under a strictly governmental regime would be very few – for the federal unit, indeed, extremely few. It is interesting to imagine the suppression of every bureaucratic activity in Washington today that has to do with the maintenance and administration of the political means, and see how little would be left. If the State were superseded by government, probably every federal activity could be housed in the Senate Office Building – quite possibly with room to spare.
  24. Harington published the Oceana in 1656. Locke’s political treatises were published in 1690. Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations appeared in 1776.
  25. This theory, with its corollary that democracy is primarily an economic rather than a political status, is extremely modern. The Physiocrats in France, and Henry George in America, modified Harington’s practical proposals by showing that the same results could be obtained by the more convenient method of a local confiscation of economic rent.
  26. Locke held that in time of war it was competent for the State to conscript the lives and liberties of its subjects, but not their property. It is interesting to remark the persistence of this view in the practice of the merchant-State at the present time. In the last great collision of competing interests among merchant-States, twenty years ago, the State everywhere intervened at wholesale upon the rights of life and liberty, but was very circumspect towards the rights of property. Since the principle of absolutism was introduced into our constitution by the income-tax amendment, several attempts have been made to reduce the rights of property, in time of war, to an approximately equal footing with those of life and liberty; but so far, without success.
  27. It is worth going through the literature of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century to see how the words “democracy” and “democrat” appear exclusively as terms of contumely and reprehension. They served this purpose for a long time both in England and America, much as the terms “bolshevism” and “bolshevist” serve us now. They were subsequently taken over to become what Bentham called “imposter-terms,” in behalf of the existing economic and political order, as synonymous with a purely nominal republicanism. They are now used regularly in this way to describe the political system of the United States, even by persons who should know better – even, curiously, by persons like Bertrand Russell and Mr. Laski, who have little sympathy with the existing order. One sometimes wonders how our revolutionary forefathers would take it if they could hear some flatulent political thimblerigger charge them with having founded “the great and glorious democracy of the West.”
  28. This curious collocation of attributes belongs to General Henry Knox, Washington’s secretary of war, and a busy speculator in land-values. He used it in a letter to Washington, on the occasion of Shays’s Rebellion in 1786, in which he made an agonized plea for a strong federal army. In the literature of the period, it is interesting to observe how regularly a moral superiority is associated with the possession of property.

Part 5

  1. Consider, for example, the present situation. Our natural resources, while much depleted, are still great; our population is very thin, running something like twenty or twenty-five to the square mile; and some millions of this population are at the moment “unemployed,” and likely to remain so because no one will or can “give them work.” The point is not that men generally submit to this state of things, or that they accept it as inevitable, but that they see nothing irregular or anomalous about it because of their fixed idea that work is something to be given.
  2. The present paralysis of production, for example, is due solely to State intervention, and uncertainty concerning further intervention.
  3. It seems to be very imperfectly understood that the cost of State intervention must be paid out of production, this being the only source from which any payment for anything can be derived. Intervention retards production; then the resulting stringency and inconvenience enable further intervention, which in turn still further retards production; and this process goes on until, as in Rome, in the third century, production ceases entirely, and the source of payment dries up.
  4. As a matter of fact, all thirteen units merely continued the system that had existed throughout the colonial period – the system which gave the beneficiary a monopoly of rental-values as well as a monopoly of use-values. No other system was ever known in America, except in the short-lived state of Deseret, under the Mormon polity.
  5. For a brilliant summary of post-revolutionary land-speculation, cf. Sakolski, op. cit., ch. II.
  6. Mr. Sakolski very justly remarks that the mania for land-jobbing was stimulated by the action of the new units in offering lands by way of settlement of their public debts, which led to extensive gambling in the various issues of “land-warrants.” The list of eminent names involved in this enterprise includes Wilson C. Nicholas, who later became governor of Virginia; “Light Horse Harry” Lee, father of the great Confederate commander; General John Preston, of Smithfield; and George Taylor, brother-in-law of Chief Justice Marshall. Lee, Preston and Nicholas were prosecuted at the instance of some Connecticut speculators, for a transaction alleged as fraudulent; Lee was arrested in Boston, on the eve of embarking for the West Indies. They had deeded a tract, said to be 300,000 acres, at ten cents an acre, but on being surveyed, the tract did not come to half that size. Frauds of this order were extremely common.
  7. The new political units continued the colonial practice of restricting the suffrage to taxpayers and owners of property, and none but men of considerable wealth were eligible to public office. Thus the exercise of sovereignty was a matter of economic right, not natural right.
  8. This was the uprising known as Shays’s Rebellion, which took place in 1786. The creditor division in Massachusetts had gained control of the political means, and had fortified its control by establishing a constitution which was made to bear so hardly on the agrarian and debtor division that an armed insurrection broke out six years later, led by Daniel Shays, for the purpose of annulling its onerous provisions, and transferring control of the political means to the latter group. This incident affords a striking view in miniature of the State’s nature and teleology. The rebellion had a great effect in consolidating the creditor division and giving plausibility to its contention for the establishment of a strong coercive national State.Mr. Jefferson spoke contemptuously of this contention, as “the interested clamours and sophistry of speculating, shaving and banking institutions”; and of the rebellion itself he observed to Mrs. John Adams, whose husband had most to do with drafting the Massachusetts constitution, “I like a little rebellion now and then…. The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.” Writing to another correspondent at the same time, he said earnestly, “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.” Obiter dicta of this nature, scattered here and there in Mr. Jefferson’s writings, have the interest of showing how near his instinct led him towards a clear understanding of the State’s character
  9. Professor Sakolski observes that after the Articles of Confederation were supplanted by the constitution, schemes of land-speculation “multiplied with renewed and intensified energy.” Naturally so, for as he says, the new scheme of a national State got strong support from this class of adventurers because they foresaw that rental-values “must be greatly increased by an efficient federal government.”
  10. More than half the delegates to the constitutional convention of 1787 were either investors or speculators in the public funds. Probably sixty per cent of the values represented by these securities were fictitious, and were so regarded even by their holders.
  11. It may be observed that at this time the word “national” was a term of obloquy, carrying somewhat the same implications that the word “fascist” carries in some quarters today. Nothing is more interesting than the history of political terms in their relation to the shifting balance of economic advantage – except, perhaps, the history of the partisan movements which they designate, viewed in the same relation.
  12. The obvious reason for this, as the event showed, was that the interests grouped in the first division had the advantage of being relatively compact and easily mobilized. Those in the second division, being chiefly agrarian, were loose and sprawling, communications among them were slow, and mobilization difficult.
  13. They have been noticed by several recent authorities, and are exhibited fully in Mr. Beard’s monumental Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.
  14. Beard, op. cit., p. 337.
  15. The principal measures bearing directly on the distribution of the political means were those drafted by Hamilton for funding and assumption, for a protective tariff, and for a national bank. These gave practically exclusive use of the political means to the classes grouped in the first grand division, the only modes left available to others being patents and copyrights. Mr. Beard discusses these measures with his invariable lucidity and thoroughness, op. cit., ch. VIII. Some observations on them which are perhaps worth reading are contained in my Jefferson, ch. V.
  16. The authority of the Supreme Court was disregarded by Jackson, and overruled by Lincoln, thus converting the mode of the State temporarily from an oligarchy to an autocracy. It is interesting to observe that just such a contingency was foreseen by the framers of the constitution, in particular by Hamilton. They were apparently well aware of the ease with which, in any period of crisis, a quasi-republican mode of the State slips off into executive tyranny. Oddly enough, Mr. Jefferson at one time considered nullifying the Alien and Sedition Acts by executive action, but did not do so. Lincoln overruled the opinion of Chief Justice Taney that suspension of the habeas corpus was unconstitutional, and in consequence the mode of the State was, until 1865, a monocratic military despotism. In fact, from the date of his proclamation of blockade, Lincoln ruled unconstitutionally throughout his term. The doctrine of “reserved powers” was knaved up ex post facto as a justification of his acts, but as far as the intent of the constitution is concerned, it was obviously a pure invention. In fact, a very good case could be made out for the assertion that Lincoln’s acts resulted in a permanent radical change in the entire system of constitutional “interpretation” – that since his time “interpretations” have not been interpretations of the constitution, but merely of public policy; or, as our most acute and profound critic put it, “th’ Supreme Court follows th’ iliction rayturns.” A strict constitutionalist might indeed say that the constitution died in 1861, and one would have to scratch one’s head pretty diligently to refute him.
  17. Marshall was appointed by John Adams at the end of his Presidential term, when the interests grouped in the first division were becoming very anxious about the opposition developing against them among the exploited interests. A letter written by Oliver Wolcott to Fisher Ames gives a good idea of where the doctrine of popular sovereignty stood; his reference to military measures is particularly striking. He says, “The steady men in Congress will attempt to extend the judicial department, and I hope that their measures will be very decided. It is impossible in this country to render an army an engine of government; and there is no way to combat the state opposition but by an efficient and extended organization of judges, magistrates, and other civil officers.” Marshall’s appointment followed, and also the creation of twenty-three new federal judgeships. Marshall’s cardinal decisions were made in the cases of Marbury, of Fletcher, of McCulloch, of Dartmouth College, and of Cohens. It is perhaps not generally understood that as a result of Marshall’s efforts, the Supreme Court became not only the highest law-interpreting body, but the highest law-making body as well; the precedents established by its decisions have the force of constitutional law. Since 1800, therefore, the actual mode of the State in America is normally that of a small and irresponsible oligarchy! Mr. Jefferson, regarding Marshall quite justly as “a crafty chief judge who sophisticates the law to his mind by the turn of his own reasoning,” made in 1821 the very remarkable prophecy that “our government is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence. The engine of consolidation will be the federal judiciary; the other two branches the corrupting and corrupted instruments.” Another prophetic comment on the effect of centralization was his remark that “when we must wait for Washington to tell us when to sow and when to reap, we shall soon want bread.” A survey of our present political circumstances makes comment on these prophecies superfluous.
  18. He had observed it in the British State some years before, and spoke of it with vivacity. “The nest of office being too small for all of them to cuddle into at once, the contest is eternal which shall crowd the other out. For this purpose they are divided into two parties, the Ins and the Outs.” Why he could not see that the same thing was bound to take place in the American State as an effect of causes identical with those which brought it about in the British State, is a puzzle to students. Apparently, however, he did not see it, notwithstanding the sound instinct that made him suspect parties, and always kept him free from party alliances. As he wrote Hopkinson in 1789, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addition is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”
  19. Jefferson, p. 274. The agrarian-artisan-debtor economic group that elected Mr. Jefferson took title as the Republican party (subsequently re-named Democratic) and the opposing group called itself by the old pre-constitutional title of Federalist.
  20. An example, noteworthy only because uncommonly conspicuous, is seen in the behaviour of the Democratic senators in the matter of the tariff on sugar, in Cleveland’s second administration. Ever since that incident, one of the Washington newspapers has used the name “Senator Sorghum” in its humorous paragraphs, to designate the typical venal jobholder.
  21. Mr. Jefferson was the first to acknowledge that his purchase of the Louisiana territory was unconstitutional; but it added millions of acres to the sum of agrarian resource, and added an immense amount of prospective voting-strength to agrarian control of the political means, as against control by the financial and commercial interests represented by the Federalist party. Mr. Jefferson justified himself solely on the ground of public policy, an interesting anticipation of Lincoln’s self-justification in 1861, for confronting Congress and the country with a like fait accompli – this time, however, executed in behalf of financial and commercial interests as against the agrarian interests.
  22. Henry George made some very keep comment upon the almost incredible degradation that he saw taking place progressively in the personnel of the State’s service. It is perhaps most conspicuous in the Presidency and the Senate, though it goes on pari passu elsewhere and throughout. As for the federal House of Representatives and the state legislative bodies, they must be seen to be believed.
  23. Of all the impostor-terms in our political glossary, these are perhaps the most flagrantly impudent, and their employment perhaps the most flagitious. We have already seen that nothing remotely resembling democracy has ever existed here; nor yet has anything resembling free competition, for the existence of free competition is obviously incompatible with any exercise of the political means, even the feeblest. For the same reason, no policy of rugged individualism has ever existed; the most that rugged individualism has done to distinguish itself has been by way of running to the State for some form of economic advantage. If the reader has any curiousity about this, let him look up the number of American business enterprises that have made a success unaided by the political means, or the number of fortunes accumulated without such aid. Laissez-faire has become a term of pure opprobrium; those who use it either do not know what it means, or else wilfully pervert it. As for the unparalleled excellences of our civilization, it is perhaps enough to say that the statistics of our insurance-companies now show that four-fifths of our people who have reached the age of sixty-fiive are supported by their relatives or by some other form of charity.

Part 6

  1. Not long ago Professor Laski commented on the prevalence of this enervation among our young people, especially among our student-population. It has several contributing causes, but it is mainly to be accounted for, I think, by the unvarying uniformity of our experience. The State’s pretensions have been so invariably extravagant, the disparity between them and its conduct so invariably manifest, that one could hardly expect anything else. Probably the protest against our imperialism in the Pacific and the Caribbean, after the Spanish War, marked the last major effort of an impotent and moribund decency. Mr. Laski’s comparison with student-bodies in England and Europe lose some of their force when it is remembered that the devices of a fixed term and an irresponsible executive render the American State particularly insensitive to protest and inaccessible to effective censure. As Mr. Jefferson said, the one resource of impeachment is “not even a scarecrow.”
  2. As an example of this overbuilding, at the beginning of the sixteenth century one-fifth of the land of France was owned by the Church; it was held mainly by monastic establishments.
  3. It may be observed, however, that mere use-and-wont interferes with our seeing how egregiously the original structure of the American State, with its system of superimposed jurisdictions and reduplicated functions, was overbuilt. At the present time, a citizen lives under half-a-dozen or more separate overlapping jurisdictions, federal, state, county, township, municipal, borough, school-district, ward, federal district. Nearly all of these have power to tax him directly or indirectly, or both, and as we all know, the only limit to the exercise of this power is what can be safely got by it; and thus we arrive at the principle rather naively formulated by the late senator from Utah, and sometimes spoken of ironically as “Smoot’s law of government” – the principle, as he put it, that the cost of government tends to increase from year to year, no matter which party is in power. It would be interesting to know the exact distribution of the burden of jobholders and mendicant political retainers – for it must not be forgotten that the subsidized “unemployed” are now a permanent body of patronage – among income-receiving citizens. Counting indirect taxes and voluntary contributions as well as direct taxes, it would probably be not far off the mark to say that every two citizens are carrying a third between them.
  4. For example, the basic processes of exchange are necessary, non-political, and as simple as any in the world. The humblest Yankee rustic who swaps eggs for bacon in the country store, or a day’s labour for potatoes in a neighbour’s field, understands them thoroughly, and manages them competently. Their formula is: goods or services in return for goods or services. There is not, never has been, and never will be, a single transaction anywhere in the realm of “business” – no matter what its magnitude or apparent complexity – that is not directly reducible to this formula. For convenience in facilitating exchange, however, money was introduced; and money is a complication, and so are the other evidences of debt, such as cheques, drafts, notes, bills, bonds, stock-certificates, which were introduced for the same reasons. These complications were found to be exploitable, and the consequent number and range of State interventions to “regulate” and “supervise” their exploitation appear to be without end.
  5. It is one of the most extraordinary things in the world, that the interests which abhor and dread collectivism are the ones which have the most eagerly urged on the State to take each one of the successive single steps that lead directly to collectivism. Who urged it on to form the Federal Trade Commission; to expand the Department of Commerce; to form the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Federal Farm Board; to pass the Anti-trust Acts; to build highways, dig out waterways, provide airway services, subsidize shipping? If these steps do not tend straight to collectivism, which way do they tend? Furthermore, when the interests which encouraged the State to take them are horrified by the apparition of communism and the Red menace, just what are their protestations worth?
  6. The text of the Senate’s proposed banking law, published on the first of July, 1935, almost exactly filled four pages of the Wall Street Journal! Really now – now really – can any conceivable absurdity surpass that?
  7. As here in 1932, in Italy, Germany and Russia latterly, in France after the collapse of the Directory, in Rome after the death of Pertinax, and so on.
  8. Ignorance has no assignable limits; yet when one hears our railway-companies cited as specimens of rugged individualism, one is put to it to say whether the speaker’s sanity should be questioned, or his integrity. Our transcontinental companies, in particular, are hardly to be called railway-companies, since transportation was purely incidental to their true business, which was that of land-jobbing and subsidy-hunting. I remember seeing the statement a few years ago – I do not vouch for it, but it can not be far off the fact – that at the time of writing, the current cash value of the political means allotted to the Northern Pacific Company would enable it to build four transcontinental lines, and in addition, to build a fleet of ships and maintain it in around-the-world service. If this sort of thing represents rugged individualism, let future lexicographers make the most of it.
  9. A farmer, properly speaking, is a freeholder who directs his operations, first, towards making his family, as far as possible, an independent unit, economically self-contained. What he produces over and above this requirement he converts into a cash crop. There is a second type of agriculturist, who is not a farmer but a manufacturer, as much so as one who makes woolen or cotton textiles or leather shoes. He raises one crop only – milk, corn, wheat, cotton, or whatever it may be – which is wholly a cash crop; and if the market for his particular commodity goes down below cost of production, he is in the same bad luck as the motor-car maker or shoemaker or pantsmaker who turns out more of his special kind of goods than the market will bear. His family is not independent; he buys everything his household uses; his children can not live on cotton or milk or corn, any more than the shoe-manufacturer’s children can live on shoes. There is still to be distinguished a third type, who carries on agriculture as a sort of taxpaying subsidiary to speculation in agricultural land-values. It is the last two classes who chiefly clamour for intervention, and they are often, indeed, in a bad way; but it is not farming that puts them there.
  10. The very limit of particularity in this course of coercive intervention seems to have been reached, according to press-reports, in the state of Wisconsin. On 31 May, the report is, Governor La Follette signed a bill requiring all public eating-places to serve two-thirds of an ounce of Wisconsin-made cheese and two-thirds of an ounce of Wisconsin-made butter with every meal costing more than twenty-four cents. To match this for particularity one would pretty much have to go back to some of the British Trade Acts of the eighteenth century, and it would be hard to find an exact match, even there. If this passes muster under the “due process of law” clause – whether the eating-house pays for these supplies or passes their cost along to the consumer – one can see nothing to prevent the legislature of New York, say, from requiring that each citizen buy annually two hats made by Knox, and two suits made by Finchley.
  11. Admitting that the lamb in the fable had no other recourse than the wolf, one may nonetheless see that its appeal to the wolf was a waste of breath.
  12. This is now so well understood that no one goes to a court for justice; he goes for gain or revenge. It is interesting to observe that some philosophers of law now say that law has no relation to justice, and is not meant to have any such relation. In their view, law represents only a progressive registration of the ways in which experience leads us to believe that society can best get along. One might hesitate a long time about accepting their notion of what law is, but one must appreciate their candid affirmation of what is not.
  13. This resentment is very remarkable. In spite of our failure with one conspicuously ambitious experiment in State intervention, I dare say there would still be great resentment against Professor Sumner’s ill-famed remark that when people talked tearfully about “the poor drunkard lying in the gutter,” it seemed never to occur to them that the gutter might be quite the right place for him to lie; or against the bishop of Peterborough’s declaration that he would rather see England free than sober. Yet both these remarks merely recognize the great truth which experience forces on our notice every day, that attempts to interfere with the natural order of things are bound, in one way or another, to turn out for the worse.
  14. The horrors of England’s industrial life in the last century furnish a standing brief for addicts of positive intervention. Child-labour and woman-labour in the mills and mines; Coketown and Mr. Bounderby; starvation wages; killing hours; vile and hazardous conditions of labour; coffin ships officered by ruffians – all these are glibly charged off by reformers and publicists to a regime of rugged individualism, unrestrained competition, and laissez-faire. This is an absurdity on its face, for no such regime ever existed in England. They were due to the State’s primary intervention whereby the population of England was expropriated from the land; due to the State’s removal of the land from competition with industry for labour. Nor did the factory system and the “industrial revolution” have the least thing to do with creating those hordes of miserable beings. When the factory system came in, those hordes were already there, expropriated, and they went into the mills for whatever Mr. Gradgrind and Mr. Plugson of Undershot would give them, because they had no choice but to beg, steal or starve. Their misery and degradation did not lie at the door of individualism; they lay nowhere but at the door of the State. Adam Smith’s economics are not the economics of individualism; they are the economics of landowners and mill-owners. Our zealots of positive intervention would do well to read the history of the Enclosures Acts and the work of the Hammonds, and see what they can make of them.
  15. When Sir Robert Peel proposed to organize the police force of London, Englishmen said openly that half a dozen throats cut in Whitechapel every year would be a cheap price to pay for keeping such an instrument of tyranny out of the State’s hands. We are all beginning to realize now that there is a great deal to be said for that view of the matter.

War Is A Racket By Major General Smedley Butler 1935


War Is A Racket

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep’s eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor.

The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other’s throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people — not those who fight and pay and die — only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit.

There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making.

Hell’s bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers?

Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in “International Conciliation,” the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

“And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Undoubtedly Mussolini means exactly what he says. His well-trained army, his great fleet of planes, and even his navy are ready for war — anxious for it, apparently. His recent stand at the side of Hungary in the latter’s dispute with Jugoslavia showed that. And the hurried mobilization of his troops on the Austrian border after the assassination of Dollfuss showed it too. There are others in Europe too whose sabre rattling presages war, sooner or later.

Herr Hitler, with his rearming Germany and his constant demands for more and more arms, is an equal if not greater menace to peace. France only recently increased the term of military service for its youth from a year to eighteen months.

Yes, all over, nations are camping in their arms. The mad dogs of Europe are on the loose. In the Orient the maneuvering is more adroit. Back in 1904, when Russia and Japan fought, we kicked out our old friends the Russians and backed Japan. Then our very generous international bankers were financing Japan. Now the trend is to poison us against the Japanese. What does the “open door” policy to China mean to us? Our trade with China is about $90,000,000 a year. Or the Philippine Islands? We have spent about $600,000,000 in the Philippines in thirty-five years and we (our bankers and industrialists and speculators) have private investments there of less than $200,000,000.

Then, to save that China trade of about $90,000,000, or to protect these private investments of less than $200,000,000 in the Philippines, we would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war — a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made. Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers. Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.

Yes, they are getting ready for another war. Why shouldn’t they? It pays high dividends.

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Yes, and what does it profit the nation?

Take our own case. Until 1898 we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America. At that time our national debt was a little more than $1,000,000,000. Then we became “internationally minded.” We forgot, or shunted aside, the advice of the Father of our country. We forgot George Washington’s warning about “entangling alliances.” We went to war. We acquired outside territory. At the end of the World War period, as a direct result of our fiddling in international affairs, our national debt had jumped to over $25,000,000,000. Our total favorable trade balance during the twenty-five-year period was about $24,000,000,000. Therefore, on a purely bookkeeping basis, we ran a little behind year for year, and that foreign trade might well have been ours without the wars.

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people — who do not profit.


Who Makes The Profits?

The World War, rather our brief participation in it, has cost the United States some $52,000,000,000. Figure it out. That means $400 to every American man, woman, and child. And we haven’t paid the debt yet. We are paying it, our children will pay it, and our children’s children probably still will be paying the cost of that war.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits — ah! that is another matter — twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and “we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,” but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket — and are safely pocketed. Let’s just take a few examples:

Take our friends the du Ponts, the powder people — didn’t one of them testify before a Senate committee recently that their powder won the war? Or saved the world for democracy? Or something? How did they do in the war? They were a patriotic corporation. Well, the average earnings of the du Ponts for the period 1910 to 1914 were $6,000,000 a year. It wasn’t much, but the du Ponts managed to get along on it. Now let’s look at their average yearly profit during the war years, 1914 to 1918. Fifty-eight million dollars a year profit we find! Nearly ten times that of normal times, and the profits of normal times were pretty good. An increase in profits of more than 950 per cent.

Take one of our little steel companies that patriotically shunted aside the making of rails and girders and bridges to manufacture war materials. Well, their 1910-1914 yearly earnings averaged $6,000,000. Then came the war. And, like loyal citizens, Bethlehem Steel promptly turned to munitions making. Did their profits jump — or did they let Uncle Sam in for a bargain? Well, their 1914-1918 average was $49,000,000 a year!

Or, let’s take United States Steel. The normal earnings during the five-year period prior to the war were $105,000,000 a year. Not bad. Then along came the war and up went the profits. The average yearly profit for the period 1914-1918 was $240,000,000. Not bad.

There you have some of the steel and powder earnings. Let’s look at something else. A little copper, perhaps. That always does well in war times.

Anaconda, for instance. Average yearly earnings during the pre-war years 1910-1914 of $10,000,000. During the war years 1914-1918 profits leaped to $34,000,000 per year.

Or Utah Copper. Average of $5,000,000 per year during the 1910-1914 period. Jumped to an average of $21,000,000 yearly profits for the war period.

Let’s group these five, with three smaller companies. The total yearly average profits of the pre-war period 1910-1914 were $137,480,000. Then along came the war. The average yearly profits for this group skyrocketed to $408,300,000.

A little increase in profits of approximately 200 per cent.

Does war pay? It paid them. But they aren’t the only ones. There are still others. Let’s take leather.

For the three-year period before the war the total profits of Central Leather Company were $3,500,000. That was approximately $1,167,000 a year. Well, in 1916 Central Leather returned a profit of $15,000,000, a small increase of 1,100 per cent. That’s all. The General Chemical Company averaged a profit for the three years before the war of a little over $800,000 a year. Came the war, and the profits jumped to $12,000,000. a leap of 1,400 per cent.

International Nickel Company — and you can’t have a war without nickel — showed an increase in profits from a mere average of $4,000,000 a year to $73,000,000 yearly. Not bad? An increase of more than 1,700 per cent.

American Sugar Refining Company averaged $2,000,000 a year for the three years before the war. In 1916 a profit of $6,000,000 was recorded.

Listen to Senate Document No. 259. The Sixty-Fifth Congress, reporting on corporate earnings and government revenues. Considering the profits of 122 meat packers, 153 cotton manufacturers, 299 garment makers, 49 steel plants, and 340 coal producers during the war. Profits under 25 per cent were exceptional. For instance the coal companies made between 100 per cent and 7,856 per cent on their capital stock during the war. The Chicago packers doubled and tripled their earnings.

And let us not forget the bankers who financed the great war. If anyone had the cream of the profits it was the bankers. Being partnerships rather than incorporated organizations, they do not have to report to stockholders. And their profits were as secret as they were immense. How the bankers made their millions and their billions I do not know, because those little secrets never become public — even before a Senate investigatory body.

But here’s how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought — and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn’t any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it — so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Also somebody had a lot of mosquito netting. They sold your Uncle Sam 20,000,000 mosquito nets for the use of the soldiers overseas. I suppose the boys were expected to put it over them as they tried to sleep in muddy trenches — one hand scratching cooties on their backs and the other making passes at scurrying rats. Well, not one of these mosquito nets ever got to France!

Anyhow, these thoughtful manufacturers wanted to make sure that no soldier would be without his mosquito net, so 40,000,000 additional yards of mosquito netting were sold to Uncle Sam.

There were pretty good profits in mosquito netting in those days, even if there were no mosquitoes in France. I suppose, if the war had lasted just a little longer, the enterprising mosquito netting manufacturers would have sold your Uncle Sam a couple of consignments of mosquitoes to plant in France so that more mosquito netting would be in order.

Airplane and engine manufacturers felt they, too, should get their just profits out of this war. Why not? Everybody else was getting theirs. So $1,000,000,000 — count them if you live long enough — was spent by Uncle Sam in building airplane engines that never left the ground! Not one plane, or motor, out of the billion dollars worth ordered, ever got into a battle in France. Just the same the manufacturers made their little profit of 30, 100, or perhaps 300 per cent.

Undershirts for soldiers cost 14¢ [cents] to make and uncle Sam paid 30¢ to 40¢ each for them — a nice little profit for the undershirt manufacturer. And the stocking manufacturer and the uniform manufacturers and the cap manufacturers and the steel helmet manufacturers — all got theirs.

Why, when the war was over some 4,000,000 sets of equipment — knapsacks and the things that go to fill them — crammed warehouses on this side. Now they are being scrapped because the regulations have changed the contents. But the manufacturers collected their wartime profits on them — and they will do it all over again the next time.

There were lots of brilliant ideas for profit making during the war.

One very versatile patriot sold Uncle Sam twelve dozen 48-inch wrenches. Oh, they were very nice wrenches. The only trouble was that there was only one nut ever made that was large enough for these wrenches. That is the one that holds the turbines at Niagara Falls. Well, after Uncle Sam had bought them and the manufacturer had pocketed the profit, the wrenches were put on freight cars and shunted all around the United States in an effort to find a use for them. When the Armistice was signed it was indeed a sad blow to the wrench manufacturer. He was just about to make some nuts to fit the wrenches. Then he planned to sell these, too, to your Uncle Sam.

Still another had the brilliant idea that colonels shouldn’t ride in automobiles, nor should they even ride on horseback. One has probably seen a picture of Andy Jackson riding in a buckboard. Well, some 6,000 buckboards were sold to Uncle Sam for the use of colonels! Not one of them was used. But the buckboard manufacturer got his war profit.

The shipbuilders felt they should come in on some of it, too. They built a lot of ships that made a lot of profit. More than $3,000,000,000 worth. Some of the ships were all right. But $635,000,000 worth of them were made of wood and wouldn’t float! The seams opened up — and they sank. We paid for them, though. And somebody pocketed the profits.

It has been estimated by statisticians and economists and researchers that the war cost your Uncle Sam $52,000,000,000. Of this sum, $39,000,000,000 was expended in the actual war itself. This expenditure yielded $16,000,000,000 in profits. That is how the 21,000 billionaires and millionaires got that way. This $16,000,000,000 profits is not to be sneezed at. It is quite a tidy sum. And it went to a very few.

The Senate (Nye) committee probe of the munitions industry and its wartime profits, despite its sensational disclosures, hardly has scratched the surface.

Even so, it has had some effect. The State Department has been studying “for some time” methods of keeping out of war. The War Department suddenly decides it has a wonderful plan to spring. The Administration names a committee — with the War and Navy Departments ably represented under the chairmanship of a Wall Street speculator — to limit profits in war time. To what extent isn’t suggested. Hmmm. Possibly the profits of 300 and 600 and 1,600 per cent of those who turned blood into gold in the World War would be limited to some smaller figure.

Apparently, however, the plan does not call for any limitation of losses — that is, the losses of those who fight the war. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is nothing in the scheme to limit a soldier to the loss of but one eye, or one arm, or to limit his wounds to one or two or three. Or to limit the loss of life.

There is nothing in this scheme, apparently, that says not more than 12 per cent of a regiment shall be wounded in battle, or that not more than 7 per cent in a division shall be killed.

Of course, the committee cannot be bothered with such trifling matters.


Who Pays The Bills?

Who provides the profits — these nice little profits of 20, 100, 300, 1,500 and 1,800 per cent? We all pay them — in taxation. We paid the bankers their profits when we bought Liberty Bonds at $100.00 and sold them back at $84 or $86 to the bankers. These bankers collected $100 plus. It was a simple manipulation. The bankers control the security marts. It was easy for them to depress the price of these bonds. Then all of us — the people — got frightened and sold the bonds at $84 or $86. The bankers bought them. Then these same bankers stimulated a boom and government bonds went to par — and above. Then the bankers collected their profits.

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don’t believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran’s hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men — men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to “about face”; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another “about face” ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers’ aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn’t need them any more. So we scattered them about without any “three-minute” or “Liberty Loan” speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final “about face” alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don’t even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement — the young boys couldn’t stand it.

That’s a part of the bill. So much for the dead — they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded — they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too — they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam — on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain — with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don’t forget — the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too.

Up to and including the Spanish-American War, we had a prize system, and soldiers and sailors fought for money. During the Civil War they were paid bonuses, in many instances, before they went into service. The government, or states, paid as high as $1,200 for an enlistment. In the Spanish-American War they gave prize money. When we captured any vessels, the soldiers all got their share — at least, they were supposed to. Then it was found that we could reduce the cost of wars by taking all the prize money and keeping it, but conscripting [drafting] the soldier anyway. Then soldiers couldn’t bargain for their labor, Everyone else could bargain, but the soldier couldn’t.

Napoleon once said,

“All men are enamored of decorations . . . they positively hunger for them.”

So by developing the Napoleonic system — the medal business — the government learned it could get soldiers for less money, because the boys liked to be decorated. Until the Civil War there were no medals. Then the Congressional Medal of Honor was handed out. It made enlistments easier. After the Civil War no new medals were issued until the Spanish-American War.

In the World War, we used propaganda to make the boys accept conscription. They were made to feel ashamed if they didn’t join the army.

So vicious was this war propaganda that even God was brought into it. With few exceptions our clergymen joined in the clamor to kill, kill, kill. To kill the Germans. God is on our side . . . it is His will that the Germans be killed.

And in Germany, the good pastors called upon the Germans to kill the allies . . . to please the same God. That was a part of the general propaganda, built up to make people war conscious and murder conscious.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

All they had to do for this munificent sum was to leave their dear ones behind, give up their jobs, lie in swampy trenches, eat canned willy (when they could get it) and kill and kill and kill . . . and be killed.

But wait!

Half of that wage (just a little more than a riveter in a shipyard or a laborer in a munitions factory safe at home made in a day) was promptly taken from him to support his dependents, so that they would not become a charge upon his community. Then we made him pay what amounted to accident insurance — something the employer pays for in an enlightened state — and that cost him $6 a month. He had less than $9 a month left.

Then, the most crowning insolence of all — he was virtually blackjacked into paying for his own ammunition, clothing, and food by being made to buy Liberty Bonds. Most soldiers got no money at all on pay days.

We made them buy Liberty Bonds at $100 and then we bought them back — when they came back from the war and couldn’t find work — at $84 and $86. And the soldiers bought about $2,000,000,000 worth of these bonds!

Yes, the soldier pays the greater part of the bill. His family pays too. They pay it in the same heart-break that he does. As he suffers, they suffer. At nights, as he lay in the trenches and watched shrapnel burst about him, they lay home in their beds and tossed sleeplessly — his father, his mother, his wife, his sisters, his brothers, his sons, and his daughters.

When he returned home minus an eye, or minus a leg or with his mind broken, they suffered too — as much as and even sometimes more than he. Yes, and they, too, contributed their dollars to the profits of the munitions makers and bankers and shipbuilders and the manufacturers and the speculators made. They, too, bought Liberty Bonds and contributed to the profit of the bankers after the Armistice in the hocus-pocus of manipulated Liberty Bond prices.

And even now the families of the wounded men and of the mentally broken and those who never were able to readjust themselves are still suffering and still paying.


How To Smash This Racket!

WELL, it’s a racket, all right.

A few profit — and the many pay. But there is a way to stop it. You can’t end it by disarmament conferences. You can’t eliminate it by peace parleys at Geneva. Well-meaning but impractical groups can’t wipe it out by resolutions. It can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war.

The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nations manhood can be conscripted. One month before the Government can conscript the young men of the nation — it must conscript capital and industry and labor. Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get.

Let the workers in these plants get the same wages — all the workers, all presidents, all executives, all directors, all managers, all bankers — yes, and all generals and all admirals and all officers and all politicians and all government office holders — everyone in the nation be restricted to a total monthly income not to exceed that paid to the soldier in the trenches!

Let all these kings and tycoons and masters of business and all those workers in industry and all our senators and governors and majors pay half of their monthly $30 wage to their families and pay war risk insurance and buy Liberty Bonds.

Why shouldn’t they?

They aren’t running any risk of being killed or of having their bodies mangled or their minds shattered. They aren’t sleeping in muddy trenches. They aren’t hungry. The soldiers are!

Give capital and industry and labor thirty days to think it over and you will find, by that time, there will be no war. That will smash the war racket — that and nothing else.

Maybe I am a little too optimistic. Capital still has some say. So capital won’t permit the taking of the profit out of war until the people — those who do the suffering and still pay the price — make up their minds that those they elect to office shall do their bidding, and not that of the profiteers.

Another step necessary in this fight to smash the war racket is the limited plebiscite to determine whether a war should be declared. A plebiscite not of all the voters but merely of those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying. There wouldn’t be very much sense in having a 76-year-old president of a munitions factory or the flat-footed head of an international banking firm or the cross-eyed manager of a uniform manufacturing plant — all of whom see visions of tremendous profits in the event of war — voting on whether the nation should go to war or not. They never would be called upon to shoulder arms — to sleep in a trench and to be shot. Only those who would be called upon to risk their lives for their country should have the privilege of voting to determine whether the nation should go to war.

There is ample precedent for restricting the voting to those affected. Many of our states have restrictions on those permitted to vote. In most, it is necessary to be able to read and write before you may vote. In some, you must own property. It would be a simple matter each year for the men coming of military age to register in their communities as they did in the draft during the World War and be examined physically. Those who could pass and who would therefore be called upon to bear arms in the event of war would be eligible to vote in a limited plebiscite. They should be the ones to have the power to decide — and not a Congress few of whose members are within the age limit and fewer still of whom are in physical condition to bear arms. Only those who must suffer should have the right to vote.

A third step in this business of smashing the war racket is to make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the united States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.

The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

To summarize: Three steps must be taken to smash the war racket.

We must take the profit out of war.

We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.

We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.


To Hell With War!

I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past. I know the people do not want war, but there is no use in saying we cannot be pushed into another war.

Looking back, Woodrow Wilson was re-elected president in 1916 on a platform that he had “kept us out of war” and on the implied promise that he would “keep us out of war.” Yet, five months later he asked Congress to declare war on Germany.

In that five-month interval the people had not been asked whether they had changed their minds. The 4,000,000 young men who put on uniforms and marched or sailed away were not asked whether they wanted to go forth to suffer and die.

Then what caused our government to change its mind so suddenly?


An allied commission, it may be recalled, came over shortly before the war declaration and called on the President. The President summoned a group of advisers. The head of the commission spoke. Stripped of its diplomatic language, this is what he told the President and his group:

“There is no use kidding ourselves any longer. The cause of the allies is lost. We now owe you (American bankers, American munitions makers, American manufacturers, American speculators, American exporters) five or six billion dollars.

If we lose (and without the help of the United States we must lose) we, England, France and Italy, cannot pay back this money . . . and Germany won’t.

So . . . ”

Had secrecy been outlawed as far as war negotiations were concerned, and had the press been invited to be present at that conference, or had radio been available to broadcast the proceedings, America never would have entered the World War. But this conference, like all war discussions, was shrouded in utmost secrecy. When our boys were sent off to war they were told it was a “war to make the world safe for democracy” and a “war to end all wars.”

Well, eighteen years after, the world has less of democracy than it had then. Besides, what business is it of ours whether Russia or Germany or England or France or Italy or Austria live under democracies or monarchies? Whether they are Fascists or Communists? Our problem is to preserve our own democracy.

And very little, if anything, has been accomplished to assure us that the World War was really the war to end all wars.

Yes, we have had disarmament conferences and limitations of arms conferences. They don’t mean a thing. One has just failed; the results of another have been nullified. We send our professional soldiers and our sailors and our politicians and our diplomats to these conferences. And what happens?

The professional soldiers and sailors don’t want to disarm. No admiral wants to be without a ship. No general wants to be without a command. Both mean men without jobs. They are not for disarmament. They cannot be for limitations of arms. And at all these conferences, lurking in the background but all-powerful, just the same, are the sinister agents of those who profit by war. They see to it that these conferences do not disarm or seriously limit armaments.

The chief aim of any power at any of these conferences has not been to achieve disarmament to prevent war but rather to get more armament for itself and less for any potential foe.

There is only one way to disarm with any semblance of practicability. That is for all nations to get together and scrap every ship, every gun, every rifle, every tank, every war plane. Even this, if it were possible, would not be enough.

The next war, according to experts, will be fought not with battleships, not by artillery, not with rifles and not with machine guns. It will be fought with deadly chemicals and gases.

Secretly each nation is studying and perfecting newer and ghastlier means of annihilating its foes wholesale. Yes, ships will continue to be built, for the shipbuilders must make their profits. And guns still will be manufactured and powder and rifles will be made, for the munitions makers must make their huge profits. And the soldiers, of course, must wear uniforms, for the manufacturer must make their war profits too.

But victory or defeat will be determined by the skill and ingenuity of our scientists.

If we put them to work making poison gas and more and more fiendish mechanical and explosive instruments of destruction, they will have no time for the constructive job of building greater prosperity for all peoples. By putting them to this useful job, we can all make more money out of peace than we can out of war — even the munitions makers.

So…I say,


War is the Health of the State by Randolph Bourne 1918

To most Americans of the classes which consider themselves significant the war [World War I] brought a sense of the sanctity of the State which, if they had had time to think about it, would have seemed a sudden and surprising alteration in their habits of thought. In times of peace, we usually ignore the State in favour of partisan political controversies, or personal struggles for office, or the pursuit of party policies. It is the Government rather than the State with which the politically minded are concerned. The State is reduced to a shadowy emblem which comes to consciousness only on occasions of patriotic holiday.

Government is obviously composed of common and unsanctified men, and is thus a legitimate object of criticism and even contempt. If your own party is in power, things may be assumed to be moving safely enough; but if the opposition is in, then clearly all safety and honor have fled the State. Yet you do not put it to yourself in quite that way. What you think is only that there are rascals to be turned out of a very practical machinery of offices and functions which you take for granted. When we say that Americans are lawless, we usually mean that they are less conscious than other peoples of the august majesty of the institution of the State as it stands behind the objective government of men and laws which we see. In a republic the men who hold office are indistinguishable from the mass. Very few of them possess the slightest personal dignity with which they could endow their political role; even if they ever thought of such a thing. And they have no class distinction to give them glamour. In a republic the Government is obeyed grumblingly, because it has no bedazzlements or sanctities to gild it. If you are a good old-fashioned democrat, you rejoice at this fact, you glory in the plainness of a system where every citizen has become a king. If you are more sophisticated you bemoan the passing of dignity and honor from affairs of State. But in practice, the democrat does not in the least treat his elected citizen with the respect due to a king, nor does the sophisticated citizen pay tribute to the dignity even when he finds it. The republican State has almost no trappings to appeal to the common man’s emotions. What it has are of military origin, and in an unmilitary era such as we have passed through since the Civil War, even military trappings have been scarcely seen. In such an era the sense of the State almost fades out of the consciousness of men.

With the shock of war, however, the State comes into its own again. The Government, with no mandate from the people, without consultation of the people, conducts all the negotiations, the backing and filling, the menaces and explanations, which slowly bring it into collision with some other Government, and gently and irresistibly slides the country into war. For the benefit of proud and haughty citizens, it is fortified with a list of the intolerable insults which have been hurled toward us by the other nations; for the benefit of the liberal and beneficent, it has a convincing set of moral purposes which our going to war will achieve; for the ambitious and aggressive classes, it can gently whisper of a bigger role in the destiny of the world. The result is that, even in those countries where the business of declaring war is theoretically in the hands of representatives of the people, no legislature has ever been known to decline the request of an Executive, which has conducted all foreign affairs in utter privacy and irresponsibility, that it order the nation into battle. Good democrats are wont to feel the crucial difference between a State in which the popular Parliament or Congress declares war, and the State in which an absolute monarch or ruling class declares war. But, put to the stern pragmatic test, the difference is not striking. In the freest of republics as well as in the most tyrannical of empires, all foreign policy, the diplomatic negotiations which produce or forestall war, are equally the private property of the Executive part of the Government, and are equally exposed to no check whatever from popular bodies, or the people voting as a mass themselves.

The moment war is declared, however, the mass of the people, through some spiritual alchemy, become convinced that they have willed and executed the deed themselves. They then, with the exception of a few malcontents, proceed to allow themselves to be regimented, coerced, deranged in all the environments of their lives, and turned into a solid manufactory of destruction toward whatever other people may have, in the appointed scheme of things, come within the range of the Government’s disapprobation. The citizen throws off his contempt and indifference to Government, identifies himself with its purposes, revives all his military memories and symbols, and the State once more walks, an august presence, through the imaginations of men. Patriotism becomes the dominant feeling, and produces immediately that intense and hopeless confusion between the relations which the individual bears and should bear toward the society of which he is a part.

The patriot loses all sense of the distinction between State, nation, and government. In our quieter moments, the Nation or Country forms the basic idea of society. We think vaguely of a loose population spreading over a certain geographical portion of the earth’s surface, speaking a common language, and living in a homogeneous civilization. Our idea of Country concerns itself with the non-political aspects of a people, its ways of living, its personal traits, its literature and art, its characteristic attitudes toward life. We are Americans because we live in a certain bounded territory, because our ancestors have carried on a great enterprise of pioneering and colonization, because we live in certain kinds of communities which have a certain look and express their aspirations in certain ways. We can see that our civilization is different from contiguous civilizations like the Indian and Mexican. The institutions of our country form a certain network which affects us vitally and intrigues our thoughts in a way that these other civilizations do not. We are a part of Country, for better or for worse. We have arrived in it through the operation of physiological laws, and not in any way through our own choice. By the time we have reached what are called years of discretion, its influences have molded our habits, our values, our ways of thinking, so that however aware we may become, we never really lose the stamp of our civilization, or could be mistaken for the child of any other country. Our feeling for our fellow countrymen is one of similarity or of mere acquaintance. We may be intensely proud of and congenial to our particular network of civilization, or we may detest most of its qualities and rage at its defects. This does not alter the fact that we are inextricably bound up in it. The Country, as an inescapable group into which we are born, and which makes us its particular kind of a citizen of the world, seems to be a fundamental fact of our consciousness, an irreducible minimum of social feeling.

Now this feeling for country is essentially noncompetitive; we think of our own people merely as living on the earth’s surface along with other groups, pleasant or objectionable as they may be, but fundamentally as sharing the earth with them. In our simple conception of country there is no more feeling of rivalry with other peoples than there is in our feeling for our family. Our interest turns within rather than without, is intensive and not belligerent. We grow up and our imaginations gradually stake out the world we live in, they need no greater conscious satisfaction for their gregarious impulses than this sense of a great mass of people to whom we are more or less attuned, and in whose institutions we are functioning. The feeling for country would be an uninflatable maximum were it not for the ideas of State and Government which are associated with it. Country is a concept of peace, of tolerance, of living and letting live. But State is essentially a concept of power, of competition: it signifies a group in its aggressive aspects. And we have the misfortune of being born not only into a country but into a State, and as we grow up we learn to mingle the two feelings into a hopeless confusion.

The State is the country acting as a political unit, it is the group acting as a repository of force, determiner of law, arbiter of justice. International politics is a “power politics” because it is a relation of States and that is what States infallibly and calamitously are, huge aggregations of human and industrial force that may be hurled against each other in war. When a country acts as a whole in relation to another country, or in imposing laws on its own inhabitants, or in coercing or punishing individuals or minorities, it is acting as a State. The history of America as a country is quite different from that of America as a State. In one case it is the drama of the pioneering conquest of the land, of the growth of wealth and the ways in which it was used, of the enterprise of education, and the carrying out of spiritual ideals, of the struggle of economic classes. But as a State, its history is that of playing a part in the world, making war, obstructing international trade, preventing itself from being split to pieces, punishing those citizens whom society agrees are offensive, and collecting money to pay for all.

Government on the other hand is synonymous with neither State nor Nation. It is the machinery by which the nation, organized as a State, carries out its State functions. Government is a framework of the administration of laws, and the carrying out of the public force. Government is the idea of the State put into practical operation in the hands of definite, concrete, fallible men. It is the visible sign of the invisible grace. It is the word made flesh. And it has necessarily the limitations inherent in all practicality. Government is the only form in which we can envisage the State, but it is by no means identical with it. That the State is a mystical conception is something that must never be forgotten. Its glamour and its significance linger behind the framework of Government and direct its activities.

Wartime brings the ideal of the State out into very clear relief, and reveals attitudes and tendencies that were hidden. In times of peace the sense of the State flags in a republic that is not militarized. For war is essentially the health of the State. The ideal of the State is that within its territory its power and influence should be universal. As the Church is the medium for the spiritual salvation of man, so the State is thought of as the medium for his political salvation. Its idealism is a rich blood flowing to all the members of the body politic. And it is precisely in war that the urgency for union seems greatest, and the necessity for universality seems most unquestioned. The State is the organization of the herd to act offensively or defensively against another herd similarly organized. The more terrifying the occasion for defense, the closer will become the organization and the more coercive the influence upon each member of the herd. War sends the current of purpose and activity flowing down to the lowest level of the herd, and to its most remote branches. All the activities of society are linked together as fast as possible to this central purpose of making a military offensive or a military defense, and the State becomes what in peacetimes it has vainly struggled to become – the inexorable arbiter and determinant of men’s business and attitudes and opinions. The slack is taken up, the cross-currents fade out, and the nation moves lumberingly and slowly, but with ever accelerated speed and integration, toward the great end, toward the “peacefulness of being at war,” of which L.P. Jacks has so unforgettably spoken.

The classes which are able to play an active and not merely a passive role in the organization for war get a tremendous liberation of activity and energy. Individuals are jolted out of their old routine, many of them are given new positions of responsibility, new techniques must be learned. Wearing home ties are broken and women who would have remained attached with infantile bonds are liberated for service overseas. A vast sense of rejuvenescence pervades the significant classes, a sense of new importance in the world. Old national ideals are taken out, re-adapted to the purpose and used as universal touchstones, or molds into which all thought is poured. Every individual citizen who in peacetimes had no function to perform by which he could imagine himself an expression or living fragment of the State becomes an active amateur agent of the Government in reporting spies and disloyalists, in raising Government funds, or in propagating such measures as are considered necessary by officialdom. Minority opinion, which in times of peace, was only irritating and could not be dealt with by law unless it was conjoined with actual crime, becomes, with the outbreak of war, a case for outlawry. Criticism of the State, objections to war, lukewarm opinions concerning the necessity or the beauty of conscription, are made subject to ferocious penalties, far exceeding in severity those affixed to actual pragmatic crimes. Public opinion, as expressed in the newspapers, and the pulpits and the schools, becomes one solid block. “Loyalty,” or rather war orthodoxy, becomes the sole test for all professions, techniques, occupations. Particularly is this true in the sphere of the intellectual life. There the smallest taint is held to spread over the whole soul, so that a professor of physics is ipso facto disqualified to teach physics or to hold honorable place in a university – the republic of learning – if he is at all unsound on the war. Even mere association with persons thus tainted is considered to disqualify a teacher. Anything pertaining to the enemy becomes taboo. His books are suppressed wherever possible, his language is forbidden. His artistic products are considered to convey in the subtlest spiritual way taints of vast poison to the soul that permits itself to enjoy them. So enemy music is suppressed, and energetic measures of opprobrium taken against those whose artistic consciences are not ready to perform such an act of self-sacrifice. The rage for loyal conformity works impartially, and often in diametric opposition to other orthodoxies and traditional conformities, or even ideals. The triumphant orthodoxy of the State is shown at its apex perhaps when Christian preachers lose their pulpits for taking in more or less literal terms the Sermon on the Mount, and Christian zealots are sent to prison for twenty years for distributing tracts which argue that war is unscriptural.

War is the health of the State. It automatically sets in motion throughout society those irresistible forces for uniformity, for passionate cooperation with the Government in coercing into obedience the minority groups and individuals which lack the larger herd sense. The machinery of government sets and enforces the drastic penalties; the minorities are either intimidated into silence, or brought slowly around by a subtle process of persuasion which may seem to them really to be converting them. Of course, the ideal of perfect loyalty, perfect uniformity is never really attained. The classes upon whom the amateur work of coercion falls are unwearied in their zeal, but often their agitation instead of converting, merely serves to stiffen their resistance. Minorities are rendered sullen, and some intellectual opinion bitter and satirical. But in general, the nation in wartime attains a uniformity of feeling, a hierarchy of values culminating at the undisputed apex of the State ideal, which could not possibly be produced through any other agency than war. Loyalty – or mystic devotion to the State – becomes the major imagined human value. Other values, such as artistic creation, knowledge, reason, beauty, the enhancement of life, are instantly and almost unanimously sacrificed, and the significant classes who have constituted themselves the amateur agents of the State are engaged not only in sacrificing these values for themselves but in coercing all other persons into sacrificing them.

War – or at least modern war waged by a democratic republic against a powerful enemy – seems to achieve for a nation almost all that the most inflamed political idealist could desire. Citizens are no longer indifferent to their Government, but each cell of the body politic is brimming with life and activity. We are at last on the way to full realization of that collective community in which each individual somehow contains the virtue of the whole. In a nation at war, every citizen identifies himself with the whole, and feels immensely strengthened in that identification. The purpose and desire of the collective community live in each person who throws himself wholeheartedly into the cause of war. The impeding distinction between society and the individual is almost blotted out. At war, the individual becomes almost identical with his society. He achieves a superb self-assurance, an intuition of the rightness of all his ideas and emotions, so that in the suppression of opponents or heretics he is invincibly strong; he feels behind him all the power of the collective community. The individual as social being in war seems to have achieved almost his apotheosis. Not for any religious impulse could the American nation have been expected to show such devotion en masse, such sacrifice and labor. Certainly not for any secular good, such as universal education or the subjugation of nature, would it have poured forth its treasure and its life, or would it have permitted such stern coercive measures to be taken against it, such as conscripting its money and its men. But for the sake of a war of offensive self-defense, undertaken to support a difficult cause to the slogan of “democracy,” it would reach the highest level ever known of collective effort.

For these secular goods, connected with the enhancement of life, the education of man and the use of the intelligence to realize reason and beauty in the nation’s communal living, are alien to our traditional ideal of the State. The State is intimately connected with war, for it is the organization of the collective community when it acts in a political manner, and to act in a political manner towards a rival group has meant, throughout all history – war.

There is nothing invidious in the use of the term “herd” in connection with the State. It is merely an attempt to reduce closer to first principles the nature of this institution in the shadow of which we all live, move, and have our being. Ethnologists are generally agreed that human society made its first appearance as the human pack and not as a collection of individuals or of couples. The herd is in fact the original unit, and only as it was differentiated did personal individuality develop. All the most primitive surviving tribes of men are shown to live in a very complex but very rigid social organization where opportunity for individuation is scarcely given. These tribes remain strictly organized herds, and the difference between them and the modern State is one of degree of sophistication and variety of organization, and not of kind.

Psychologists recognize the gregarious impulse as one of the strongest primitive pulls which keeps together the herds of the different species of higher animals. Mankind is no exception. Our pugnacious evolutionary history has prevented the impulse from ever dying out. This gregarious impulse is the tendency to imitate, to conform, to coalesce together, and is most powerful when the herd believes itself threatened with attack. Animals crowd together for protection, and men become most conscious of their collectivity at the threat of war.

Consciousness of collectivity brings confidence and a feeling of massed strength, which in turn arouses pugnacity and the battle is on. In civilized man, the gregarious impulse acts not only to produce concerted action for defense, but also to produce identity of opinion. Since thought is a form of behavior, the gregarious impulse floods up into its realms and demands that sense of uniform thought which wartime produces so successfully. And it is in this flooding of the conscious life of society that gregariousness works its havoc.

For just as in modern societies the sex instinct is enormously oversupplied for the requirements of human propagation, so the gregarious impulse is enormously oversupplied for the work of protection which it is called upon to perform. It would be quite enough if we were gregarious enough to enjoy the companionship of others, to be able to cooperate with them, and to feel a slight malaise at solitude. Unfortunately, however, this impulse is not content with these reasonable and healthful demands, but insists that like-mindedness shall prevail everywhere, in all departments of life. So that all human progress, all novelty, and nonconformity, must be carried against the resistance of this tyrannical herd instinct which drives the individual into obedience and conformity with the majority. Even in the most modern and enlightened societies this impulse shows little sign of abating. As it is driven by inexorable economic demand out of the sphere of utility, it seems to fasten itself ever more fiercely in the realm of feeling and opinion, so that conformity comes to be a thing aggressively desired and demanded.

The gregarious impulse keeps its hold all the more virulently because when the group is in motion or is taking any positive action, this feeling of being with and supported by the collective herd very greatly feeds that will to power, the nourishment of which the individual organism so constantly demands. You feel powerful by conforming, and you feel forlorn and helpless if you are out of the crowd. While even if you do not get any access of power by thinking and feeling just as everybody else in your group does, you get at least the warm feeling of obedience, the soothing irresponsibility of protection.

Joining as it does to these very vigorous tendencies of the individual – the pleasure in power and the pleasure in obedience – this gregarious impulse becomes irresistible in society. War stimulates it to the highest possible degree, sending the influences of its mysterious herd-current with its inflations of power and obedience to the farthest reaches of the society, to every individual and little group that can possibly be affected. And it is these impulses which the State – the organization of the entire herd, the entire collectivity – is founded on and makes use of.

There is, of course, in the feeling toward the State a large element of pure filial mysticism. The sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one’s desire back to the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feelings of protection. It is not for nothing that one’s State is still thought of as Father or Motherland, that one’s relation toward it is conceived in terms of family affection. The war has shown that nowhere under the shock of danger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to assert themselves again, as much in this country as anywhere. If we have not the intense Father-sense of the German who worships his Vaterland, at least in Uncle Sam we have a symbol of protecting, kindly authority, and in the many Mother-posters of the Red Cross, we see how easily in the more tender functions of war service, the ruling organization is conceived in family terms. A people at war have become in the most literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of that naïve faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom they lose their responsibility and anxieties. In this recrudescence of the child, there is great comfort, and a certain influx of power. On most people the strain of being an independent adult weighs heavily, and upon none more than those members of the significant classes who have had bequeathed to them or have assumed the responsibilities of governing. The State provides the convenientest of symbols under which these classes can retain all the actual pragmatic satisfaction of governing, but can rid themselves of the psychic burden of adulthood. They continue to direct industry and government and all the institutions of society pretty much as before, but in their own conscious eyes and in the eyes of the general public, they are turned from their selfish and predatory ways, and have become loyal servants of society, or something greater than they – the State. The man who moves from the direction of a large business in New York to a post in the war management industrial service in Washington does not apparently alter very much his power or his administrative technique. But psychically, what a transfiguration has occurred! His is now not only the power but the glory! And his sense of satisfaction is directly proportional not to the genuine amount of personal sacrifice that may be involved in the change but to the extent to which he retains his industrial prerogatives and sense of command.

From members of this class a certain insuperable indignation arises if the change from private enterprise to State service involves any real loss of power and personal privilege. If there is to be pragmatic sacrifice, let it be, they feel, on the field of honor, in the traditionally acclaimed deaths by battle, in that detour to suicide, as Nietzsche calls war. The State in wartime supplies satisfaction for this very real craving, but its chief value is the opportunity it gives for this regression to infantile attitudes. In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock, the quasi-personal symbol of the strength of the herd, and the leader and determinant of your definite action and ideas.

The members of the working classes, that portion at least which does not identify itself with the significant classes and seek to imitate it and rise to it, are notoriously less affected by the symbolism of the State, or, in other words, are less patriotic than the significant classes. For theirs is neither the power nor the glory. The State in wartime does not offer them the opportunity to regress, for, never having acquired social adulthood, they cannot lose it. If they have been drilled and regimented, as by the industrial regime of the last century, they go out docilely enough to do battle for their State, but they are almost entirely without that filial sense and even without that herd-intellect sense which operates so powerfully among their “betters.” They live habitually in an industrial serfdom, by which, though nominally free, they are in practice as a class bound to a system of machine-production the implements of which they do not own, and in the distribution of whose product they have not the slightest voice, except what they can occasionally exert by a veiled intimidation which draws slightly more of the product in their direction. From such serfdom, military conscription is not so great a change. But into the military enterprise they go, not with those hurrahs of the significant classes whose instincts war so powerfully feeds, but with the same apathy with which they enter and continue in the industrial enterprise.

From this point of view, war can be called almost an upper-class sport. The novel interests and excitements it provides, the inflations of power, the satisfaction it gives to those very tenacious human impulses – gregariousness and parent-regression – endow it with all the qualities of a luxurious collective game which is felt intensely just in proportion to the sense of significant rule the person has in the class division of his society. A country at war – particularly our own country at war – does not act as a purely homogeneous herd. The significant classes have all the herd-feeling in all its primitive intensity, but there are barriers, or at least differentials of intensity, so that this feeling does not flow freely without impediment throughout the entire nation. A modern country represents a long historical and social process of disaggregation of the herd. The nation at peace is not a group, it is a network of myriads of groups representing the cooperation and similar feeling of men on all sorts of planes and in all sorts of human interests and enterprises. In every modern industrial country, there are parallel planes of economic classes with divergent attitudes and institutions and interests – bourgeois and proletariat, with their many subdivisions according to power and function, and even their interweaving, such as those more highly skilled workers who habitually identify themselves with the owning and the significant classes and strive to raise themselves to the bourgeois level, imitating their cultural standards and manners. Then there are religious groups with a certain definite, though weakening sense of kinship, and there are the powerful ethnic groups which behave almost as cultural colonies in the New World, clinging tenaciously to language and historical tradition, though their herdishness is usually founded on cultural rather than State symbols. There are even certain vague sectional groupings. All these small sects, political parties, classes, levels, interests, may act as foci for herd-feelings. They intersect and interweave, and the same person may be a member of several different groups lying at different planes. Different occasions will set off his herd-feeling in one direction or another. In a religious crisis he will be intensely conscious of the necessity that his sect (or sub-herd) may prevail, in a political campaign, that his party shall triumph.

To the spread of herd-feeling, therefore, all these smaller herds offer resistance. To the spread of that herd-feeling which arises from the threat of war, and which would normally involve the entire nation, the only groups which make serious resistance are those, of course, which continue to identify themselves with the other nation from which they or their parents have come. In times of peace they are for all practical purposes citizens of their new country. They keep alive their ethnic traditions more as a luxury than anything. Indeed these traditions tend rapidly to die out except where they connect with some still unresolved nationalistic cause abroad, with some struggle for freedom, or some irredentism. If they are consciously opposed by a too invidious policy of Americanism, they tend to be strengthened. And in time of war, these ethnic elements which have any traditional connection with the enemy, even though most of the individuals may have little real sympathy with the enemy’s cause, are naturally lukewarm to the herd-feeling of the nation which goes back to State traditions in which they have no share. But to the natives imbued with State-feeling, any such resistance or apathy is intolerable. This herd-feeling, this newly awakened consciousness of the State, demands universality. The leaders of the significant classes, who feel most intensely this State compulsion, demand a 100 percent Americanism, among 100 percent of the population. The State is a jealous God and will brook no rivals. Its sovereignty must pervade every one, and all feeling must be run into the stereotyped forms of romantic patriotic militarism which is the traditional expression of the State herd-feeling.

Thus arises conflict within the State. War becomes almost a sport between the hunters and the hunted. The pursuit of enemies within outweighs in psychic attractiveness the assault on the enemy without. The whole terrific force of the State is brought to bear against the heretics. The nation boils with a slow insistent fever. A white terrorism is carried on by the Government against pacifists, socialists, enemy aliens, and a milder unofficial persecution against all persons or movements that can be imagined as connected with the enemy. War, which should be the health of the State, unifies all the bourgeois elements and the common people, and outlaws the rest. The revolutionary proletariat shows more resistance to this unification, is, as we have seen, psychically out of the current. Its vanguard, as the I.W.W., is remorselessly pursued, in spite of the proof that it is a symptom, not a cause, and its persecution increases the disaffection of labor and intensifies the friction instead of lessening it.

But the emotions that play around the defense of the State do not take into consideration the pragmatic results. A nation at war, led by its significant classes, is engaged in liberating certain of its impulses which have had all too little exercise in the past. It is getting certain satisfactions, and the actual conduct of the war or the condition of the country are really incidental to the enjoyment of new forms of virtue and power and aggressiveness. If it could be shown conclusively that the persecution of slightly disaffected elements actually increased enormously the difficulties of production and the organization of the war technique, it would be found that public policy would scarcely change. The significant classes must have their pleasure in hunting down and chastising everything that they feel instinctively to be not imbued with the current State enthusiasm, though the State itself be actually impeded in its efforts to carry out those objects for which they are passionately contending. The best proof of this is that with a pursuit of plotters that has continued with ceaseless vigilance ever since the beginning of the war in Europe, the concrete crimes unearthed and punished have been fewer than those prosecutions for the mere crime of opinion or the expression of sentiments critical of the State or the national policy. The punishment for opinion has been far more ferocious and unintermittent than the punishment of pragmatic crime. Unimpeachable Anglo-Saxon Americans who were freer of pacifist or socialist utterance than the State-obsessed ruling public opinion, received heavier penalties and even greater opprobrium, in many instances, than the definitely hostile German plotter. A public opinion which, almost without protest, accepts as just, adequate, beautiful, deserved, and in fitting harmony with ideals of liberty and freedom of speech, a sentence of twenty years in prison for mere utterances, no matter what they may be, shows itself to be suffering from a kind of social derangement of values, a sort of social neurosis, that deserves analysis and comprehension.

On our entrance into the war, there were many persons who predicted exactly this derangement of values, who feared lest democracy suffer more at home from an America at war than could be gained for democracy abroad. That fear has been amply justified. The question whether the American nation would act like an enlightened democracy going to war for the sake of high ideals, or like a State-obsessed herd, has been decisively answered. The record is written and cannot be erased. History will decide whether the terrorization of opinion and the regimentation of life were justified under the most idealistic of democratic administrations. It will see that when the American nation had ostensibly a chance to conduct a gallant war, with scrupulous regard to the safety of democratic values at home, it chose rather to adopt all the most obnoxious and coercive techniques of the enemy and of the other countries at war, and to rival in intimidation and ferocity of punishment the worst governmental systems of the age. For its former unconsciousness and disrespect of the State ideal, the nation apparently paid the penalty in a violent swing to the other extreme. It acted so exactly like a herd in its irrational coercion of minorities that there is no artificiality in interpreting the progress of the war in terms of the herd psychology. It unwittingly brought out into the strongest relief the true characteristics of the State and its intimate alliance with war. It provided for the enemies of war and the critics of the State the most telling arguments possible. The new passion for the State ideal unwittingly set in motion and encouraged forces that threaten very materially to reform the State. It has shown those who are really determined to end war that the problem is not the mere simple one of finishing a war that will end war.

For war is a complicated way in which a nation acts, and it acts so out of a spiritual compulsion which pushes it on, perhaps against all its interests, all its real desires, and all its real sense of values. It is States that make wars and not nations, and the very thought and almost necessity of war is bound up with the ideal of the State. Not for centuries have nations made war; in fact the only historical example of nations making war is the great barbarian invasions into southern Europe, the invasions of Russia from the East, and perhaps the sweep of Islam through northern Africa into Europe after Mohammed’s death. And the motivations for such wars were either the restless expansion of migratory tribes or the flame of religious fanaticism. Perhaps these great movements could scarcely be called wars at all, for war implies an organized people drilled and led: in fact, it necessitates the State. Ever since Europe has had any such organization, such huge conflicts between nations – nations, that is, as cultural groups – have been unthinkable. It is preposterous to assume that for centuries in Europe there would have been any possibility of a people en masse (with their own leaders, and not with the leaders of their duly constituted State) rising up and overflowing their borders in a war raid upon a neighboring people. The wars of the Revolutionary armies of France were clearly in defense of an imperiled freedom, and, moreover, they were clearly directed not against other peoples, but against the autocratic governments that were combining to crush the Revolution. There is no instance in history of a genuinely national war. There are instances of national defenses, among primitive civilizations such as the Balkan peoples, against intolerable invasion by neighboring despots or oppression. But war, as such, cannot occur except in a system of competing States, which have relations with each other through the channels of diplomacy.

War is a function of this system of States, and could not occur except in such a system. Nations organized for internal administration, nations organized as a federation of free communities, nations organized in any way except that of a political centralization of a dynasty, or the reformed descendant of a dynasty, could not possibly make war upon each other. They would not only have no motive for conflict, but they would be unable to muster the concentrated force to make war effective. There might be all sorts of amateur marauding, there might be guerrilla expeditions of group against group, but there could not be that terrible war en masse of the national State, that exploitation of the nation in the interests of the State, that abuse of the national life and resource in the frenzied mutual suicide, which is modern war.

It cannot be too firmly realized that war is a function of States and not of nations, indeed that it is the chief function of States. War is a very artificial thing. It is not the naïve spontaneous outburst of herd pugnacity; it is no more primary than is formal religion. War cannot exist without a military establishment, and a military establishment cannot exist without a State organization. War has an immemorial tradition and heredity only because the State has a long tradition and heredity. But they are inseparably and functionally joined. We cannot crusade against war without crusading implicitly against the State. And we cannot expect, or take measures to ensure, that this war is a war to end war, unless at the same time we take measures to end the State in its traditional form. The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated. If the State’s chief function is war, then the State must suck out of the nation a large part of its energy for its purely sterile purposes of defense and aggression. It devotes to waste or to actual destruction as much as it can of the vitality of the nation. No one will deny that war is a vast complex of life-destroying and life-crippling forces. If the State’s chief function is war, then it is chiefly concerned with coordinating and developing the powers and techniques which make for destruction. And this means not only the actual and potential destruction of the enemy, but of the nation at home as well. For the very existence of a State in a system of States means that the nation lies always under a risk of war and invasion, and the calling away of energy into military pursuits means a crippling of the productive and life-enhancing processes of the national life.

All this organization of death-dealing energy and technique is not a natural but a very sophisticated process. Particularly in modern nations, but also all through the course of modern European history, it could never exist without the State. For it meets the demands of no other institution, it follows the desires of no religious, industrial, political group. If the demand for military organization and a military establishment seems to come not from the officers of the State but from the public, it is only that it comes from the State-obsessed portion of the public, those groups which feel most keenly the State ideal. And in this country we have had evidence all too indubitable how powerless the pacifically minded officers of State may be in the face of a State obsession of the significant classes. If a powerful section of the significant classes feels more intensely the attitudes of the State, then they will most infallibly mold the Government in time to their wishes, bring it back to act as the embodiment of the State which it pretends to be. In every country we have seen groups that were more loyal than the king – more patriotic than the Government – the Ulsterites in Great Britain, the Junkers in Prussia, l’Action Française in France, our patrioteers in America. These groups exist to keep the steering wheel of the State straight, and they prevent the nation from ever veering very far from the State ideal.

Militarism expresses the desires and satisfies the major impulse only of this class. The other classes, left to themselves, have too many necessities and interests and ambitions, to concern themselves with so expensive and destructive a game. But the State-obsessed group is either able to get control of the machinery of the State or to intimidate those in control, so that it is able through use of the collective force to regiment the other grudging and reluctant classes into a military program. State idealism percolates down through the strata of society; capturing groups and individuals just in proportion to the prestige of this dominant class. So that we have the herd actually strung along between two extremes, the militaristic patriots at one end, who are scarcely distinguishable in attitude and animus from the most reactionary Bourbons of an Empire, and unskilled labor groups, which entirely lack the State sense. But the State acts as a whole, and the class that controls governmental machinery can swing the effective action of the herd as a whole. The herd is not actually a whole, emotionally. But by an ingenious mixture of cajolery, agitation, intimidation, the herd is licked into shape, into an effective mechanical unity, if not into a spiritual whole. Men are told simultaneously that they will enter the military establishment of their own volition, as their splendid sacrifice for their country’s welfare, and that if they do not enter they will be hunted down and punished with the most horrid penalties; and under a most indescribable confusion of democratic pride and personal fear they submit to the destruction of their livelihood if not their lives, in a way that would formerly have seemed to them so obnoxious as to be incredible.

In this great herd machinery, dissent is like sand in the bearings. The State ideal is primarily a sort of blind animal push toward military unity. Any difference with that unity turns the whole vast impulse toward crushing it. Dissent is speedily outlawed, and the Government, backed by the significant classes and those who in every locality, however small, identify themselves with them, proceeds against the outlaws, regardless of their value to the other institutions of the nation, or to the effect their persecution may have on public opinion. The herd becomes divided into the hunters and the hunted, and war enterprise becomes not only a technical game but a sport as well.

It must never be forgotten that nations do not declare war on each other, nor in the strictest sense is it nations that fight each other. Much has been said to the effect that modern wars are wars of whole peoples and not of dynasties. Because the entire nation is regimented and the whole resources of the country are levied on for war, this does not mean that it is the country qua country which is fighting. It is the country organized as a State that is fighting, and only as a State would it possibly fight. So literally it is States which make war on each other and not peoples. Governments are the agents of States, and it is Governments which declare war on each other, acting truest to form in the interests of the great State ideal they represent. There is no case known in modern times of the people being consulted in the initiation of a war. The present demand for “democratic control” of foreign policy indicates how completely, even in the most democratic of modern nations, foreign policy has been the secret private possession of the executive branch of the Government.

However representative of the people Parliaments and Congresses may be in all that concerns the internal administration of a country’s political affairs, in international relations it has never been possible to maintain that the popular body acted except as a wholly mechanical ratifier of the Executive’s will. The formality by which Parliaments and Congresses declare war is the merest technicality. Before such a declaration can take place, the country will have been brought to the very brink of war by the foreign policy of the Executive. A long series of steps on the downward path, each one more fatally committing the unsuspecting country to a warlike course of action, will have been taken without either the people or its representatives being consulted or expressing its feeling. When the declaration of war is finally demanded by the Executive, the Parliament or Congress could not refuse it without reversing the course of history, without repudiating what has been representing itself in the eyes of the other States as the symbol and interpreter of the nation’s will and animus. To repudiate an Executive at that time would be to publish to the entire world the evidence that the country had been grossly deceived by its own Government, that the country with an almost criminal carelessness had allowed its Government to commit it to gigantic national enterprises in which it had no heart. In such a crisis, even a Parliament which in the most democratic States represents the common man and not the significant classes who most strongly cherish the State ideal, will cheerfully sustain the foreign policy which it understands even less than it would care for if it understood, and will vote almost unanimously for an incalculable war, in which the nation may be brought well nigh to ruin. That is why the referendum which was advocated by some people as a test of American sentiment in entering the war was considered even by thoughtful democrats to be something subtly improper. The die had been cast. Popular whim could only derange and bungle monstrously the majestic march of State policy in its new crusade for the peace of the world. The irresistible State ideal got hold of the bowels of men. Whereas up to this time, it had been irreproachable to be neutral in word and deed, for the foreign policy of the State had so decided it, henceforth it became the most arrant crime to remain neutral. The Middle West, which had been soddenly pacifistic in our days of neutrality, became in a few months just as soddenly bellicose, and in its zeal for witch-burnings and its scent for enemies within gave precedence to no section of the country. The herd-mind followed faithfully the State-mind and, the agitation for a referendum being soon forgotten, the country fell into the universal conclusion that, since its Congress had formally declared the war, the nation itself had in the most solemn and universal way devised and brought on the entire affair.

Oppression of minorities became justified on the plea that the latter were perversely resisting the rationally constructed and solemnly declared will of a majority of the nation. The herd coalescence of opinion which became inevitable the moment the State had set flowing the war attitudes became interpreted as a prewar popular decision, and disinclination to bow to the herd was treated as a monstrously antisocial act. So that the State, which had vigorously resisted the idea of a referendum and clung tenaciously and, of course, with entire success to its autocratic and absolute control of foreign policy, had the pleasure of seeing the country, within a few months, given over to the retrospective impression that a genuine referendum had taken place. When once a country has lapped up these State attitudes, its memory fades; it conceives itself not as merely accepting, but of having itself willed, the whole policy and technique of war. The significant classes, with their trailing satellites, identify themselves with the State, so that what the State, through the agency of the Government, has willed, this majority conceives itself to have willed.

All of which goes to show that the State represents all the autocratic, arbitrary, coercive, belligerent forces within a social group, it is a sort of complexus of everything most distasteful to the modern free creative spirit, the feeling for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. War is the health of the State. Only when the State is at war does the modern society function with that unity of sentiment, simple uncritical patriotic devotion, cooperation of services, which have always been the ideal of the State lover. With the ravages of democratic ideas, however, the modern republic cannot go to war under the old conceptions of autocracy and death-dealing belligerency. If a successful animus for war requires a renaissance of State ideals, they can only come back under democratic forms, under this retrospective conviction of democratic control of foreign policy, democratic desire for war, and particularly of this identification of the democracy with the State. How unregenerate the ancient State may be, however, is indicated by the laws against sedition, and by the Government’s unreformed attitude on foreign policy. One of the first demands of the more farseeing democrats in the democracies of the Alliance was that secret diplomacy must go. The war was seen to have been made possible by a web of secret agreements between States, alliances that were made by Governments without the shadow of popular support or even popular knowledge, and vague, half-understood commitments that scarcely reached the stage of a treaty or agreement, but which proved binding in the event. Certainly, said these democratic thinkers, war can scarcely be avoided unless this poisonous underground system of secret diplomacy is destroyed, this system by which a nation’s power, wealth, and manhood may be signed away like a blank check to an allied nation to be cashed in at some future crisis. Agreements which are to affect the lives of whole peoples must be made between peoples and not by Governments, or at least by their representatives in the full glare of publicity and criticism.

Such a demand for “democratic control of foreign policy” seemed axiomatic. Even if the country had been swung into war by steps taken secretly and announced to the public only after they had been consummated, it was felt that the attitude of the American State toward foreign policy was only a relic of the bad old days and must be superseded in the new order. The American President himself, the liberal hope of the world, had demanded, in the eyes of the world, open diplomacy, agreements freely and openly arrived at. Did this mean a genuine transference of power in this most crucial of State functions from Government to people? Not at all. When the question recently came to a challenge in Congress, and the implications of open discussion were somewhat specifically discussed, and the desirabilities frankly commended, the President let his disapproval be known in no uncertain way. No one ever accused Mr. Wilson of not being a State idealist, and whenever democratic aspirations swung ideals too far out of the State orbit, he could be counted on to react vigorously. Here was a clear case of conflict between democratic idealism and the very crux of the concept of the State. However unthinkingly he might have been led on to encourage open diplomacy in his liberalizing program, when its implication was made vivid to him, he betrayed how mere a tool the idea had been in his mind to accentuate America’s redeeming role. Not in any sense as a serious pragmatic technique had he thought of a genuinely open diplomacy. And how could he? For the last stronghold of State power is foreign policy. It is in foreign policy that the State acts most concentratedly as the organized herd, acts with fullest sense of aggressive-power, acts with freest arbitrariness. In foreign policy, the State is most itself. States, with reference to each other, may be said to be in a continual state of latent war. The “armed truce,” a phrase so familiar before 1914, was an accurate description of the normal relation of States when they are not at war. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the normal relation of States is war. Diplomacy is a disguised war, in which States seek to gain by barter and intrigue, by the cleverness of wits, the objectives which they would have to gain more clumsily by means of war. Diplomacy is used while the States are recuperating from conflicts in which they have exhausted themselves. It is the wheedling and the bargaining of the worn-out bullies as they rise from the ground and slowly restore their strength to begin fighting again. If diplomacy had been a moral equivalent for war, a higher stage in human progress, an inestimable means of making words prevail instead of blows, militarism would have broken down and given place to it. But since it is a mere temporary substitute, a mere appearance of war’s energy under another form, a surrogate effect is almost exactly proportioned to the armed force behind it. When it fails, the recourse is immediate to the military technique whose thinly veiled arm it has been. A diplomacy that was the agency of popular democratic forces in their non-State manifestations would be no diplomacy at all. It would be no better than the Railway or Education commissions that are sent from one country to another with rational constructive purpose. The State, acting as a diplomatic-military ideal, is eternally at war. Just as it must act arbitrarily and autocratically in time of war, it must act in time of peace in this particular role where it acts as a unit. Unified control is necessarily autocratic control.

Democratic control of foreign policy is therefore a contradiction in terms. Open discussion destroys swiftness and certainty of action. The giant State is paralyzed. Mr. Wilson retains his full ideal of the State at the same time that he desires to eliminate war. He wishes to make the world safe for democracy as well as safe for diplomacy. When the two are in conflict, his clear political insight, his idealism of the State, tells him that it is the naïver democratic values that must be sacrificed. The world must primarily be made safe for diplomacy. The State must not be diminished.

What is the State essentially? The more closely we examine it, the more mystical and personal it becomes. On the Nation we can put our hand as a definite social group, with attitudes and qualities exact enough to mean something. On the Government we can put our hand as a certain organization of ruling functions, the machinery of lawmaking and law-enforcing. The Administration is a recognizable group of political functionaries, temporarily in charge of the government. But the State stands as an idea behind them all, eternal, sanctified, and from it Government and Administration conceive themselves to have the breath of life. Even the nation, especially in times of war – or at least, its significant classes – considers that it derives its authority and its purpose from the idea of the State. Nation and State are scarcely differentiated, and the concrete, practical, apparent facts are sunk in the symbol. We reverence not our country but the flag. We may criticize ever so severely our country, but we are disrespectful to the flag at our peril. It is the flag and the uniform that make men’s heart beat high and fill them with noble emotions, not the thought of and pious hopes for America as a free and enlightened nation.

It cannot be said that the object of emotion is the same, because the flag is the symbol of the nation, so that in reverencing the American flag we are reverencing the nation. For the flag is not a symbol of the country as a cultural group, following certain ideals of life, but solely a symbol of the political State, inseparable from its prestige and expansion. The flag is most intimately connected with military achievement, military memory. It represents the country not in its intensive life, but in its far-flung challenge to the world. The flag is primarily the banner of war; it is allied with patriotic anthem and holiday. It recalls old martial memories. A nation’s patriotic history is solely the history of its wars, that is, of the State in its health and glorious functioning. So in responding to the appeal of the flag, we are responding to the appeal of the State, to the symbol of the herd organized as an offensive and defensive body, conscious of its prowess and its mystical herd strength.

Even those authorities in the present Administration, to whom has been granted autocratic control over opinion, feel, though they are scarcely able to philosophize over, this distinction. It has been authoritatively declared that the horrid penalties against seditious opinion must not be construed as inhibiting legitimate, that is, partisan criticism of the Administration. A distinction is made between the Administration and the Government. It is quite accurately suggested by this attitude that the Administration is a temporary band of partisan politicians in charge of the machinery of Government, carrying out the mystical policies of State. The manner in which they operate this machinery may be freely discussed and objected to by their political opponents. The Governmental machinery may also be legitimately altered, in case of necessity. What may not be discussed or criticized is the mystical policy itself or the motives of the State in inaugurating such a policy. The President, it is true, has made certain partisan distinctions between candidates for office on the ground of support or nonsupport of the Administration, but what he means was really support or nonsupport of the State policy as faithfully carried out by the Administration. Certain of the Administration measures were devised directly to increase the health of the State, such as the Conscription and the Espionage laws. Others were concerned merely with the machinery. To oppose the first was to oppose the State and was therefore not tolerable. To oppose the second was to oppose fallible human judgment, and was therefore, though to be depreciated, not to be wholly interpreted as political suicide.

The distinction between Government and State, however, has not been so carefully observed. In time of war it is natural that Government as the seat of authority should be confused with the State or the mystic source of authority. You cannot very well injure a mystical idea which is the State, but you can very well interfere with the processes of Government. So that the two become identified in the public mind, and any contempt for or opposition to the workings of the machinery of Government is considered equivalent to contempt for the sacred State. The State, it is felt, is being injured in its faithful surrogate, and public emotion rallies passionately to defend it. It even makes any criticism of the form of Government a crime.

The inextricable union of militarism and the State is beautifully shown by those laws which emphasize interference with the Army and Navy as the most culpable of seditious crimes. Pragmatically, a case of capitalistic sabotage, or a strike in war industry would seem to be far more dangerous to the successful prosecution of the war than the isolated and ineffectual efforts of an individual to prevent recruiting. But in the tradition of the State ideal, such industrial interference with national policy is not identified as a crime against the State. It may be grumbled against; it may be seen quite rationally as an impediment of the utmost gravity. But it is not felt in those obscure seats of the herd mind which dictate the identity of crime and fix their proportional punishments. Army and Navy, however, are the very arms of the State; in them flows its most precious lifeblood. To paralyze them is to touch the very State itself. And the majesty of the State is so sacred that even to attempt such a paralysis is a crime equal to a successful strike. The will is deemed sufficient. Even though the individual in his effort to impede recruiting should utterly and lamentably fail, he shall be in no wise spared. Let the wrath of the State descend upon him for his impiety! Even if he does not try any overt action, but merely utters sentiments that may incidentally in the most indirect way cause someone to refrain from enlisting, he is guilty. The guardians of the State do not ask whether any pragmatic effect flowed out of this evil will or desire. It is enough that the will is present. Fifteen or twenty years in prison is not deemed too much for such sacrilege.

Such attitudes and such laws, which affront every principle of human reason, are no accident, nor are they the result of hysteria caused by the war. They are considered just, proper, beautiful by all the classes which have the State ideal, and they express only an extreme of health and vigor in the reaction of the State to its nonfriends.

Such attitudes are inevitable as arising from the devotees of the State. For the State is a personal as well as a mystical symbol, and it can only be understood by tracing its historical origin. The modern State is not the rational and intelligent product of modern men desiring to live harmoniously together with security of life, property, and opinion. It is not an organization which has been devised as pragmatic means to a desired social end. All the idealism with which we have been instructed to endow the State is the fruit of our retrospective imaginations. What it does for us in the way of security and benefit of life, it does incidentally as a by-product and development of its original functions, and not because at any time men or classes in the full possession of their insight and intelligence have desired that it be so. It is very important that we should occasionally lift the incorrigible veil of that ex post facto idealism by which we throw a glamour of rationalization over what is, and pretend in the ecstasies of social conceit that we have personally invented and set up for the glory of God and man the hoary institutions which we see around us. Things are what they are, and come down to us with all their thick encrustations of error and malevolence. Political philosophy can delight us with fantasy and convince us who need illusion to live that the actual is a fair and approximate copy – full of failings, of course, but approximately sound and sincere – of that ideal society which we can imagine ourselves as creating. From this it is a step to the tacit assumption that we have somehow had a hand in its creation and are responsible for its maintenance and sanctity.

Nothing is more obvious, however, than that every one of us comes into society as into something in whose creation we had not the slightest hand. We have not even the advantage, like those little unborn souls in The Blue Bird, of consciousness before we take up our careers on earth. By the time we find ourselves here we are caught in a network of customs and attitudes, the major directions of our desires and interests have been stamped on our minds, and by the time we have emerged from tutelage and reached the years of discretion when we might conceivably throw our influence to the reshaping of social institutions, most of us have been so molded into the society and class we live in that we are scarcely aware of any distinction between ourselves as judging, desiring individuals and our social environment. We have been kneaded so successfully that we approve of what our society approves, desire what our society desires, and add to the group our own passionate inertia against change, against the effort of reason, and the adventure of beauty.

Every one of us, without exception, is born into a society that is given, just as the fauna and flora of our environment are given. Society and its institutions are, to the individual who enters it, as much naturalistic phenomena as is the weather itself. There is, therefore, no natural sanctity in the State any more than there is in the weather. We may bow down before it, just as our ancestors bowed before the sun and moon, but it is only because something in us unregenerate finds satisfaction in such an attitude, not because there is anything inherently reverential in the institution worshiped. Once the State has begun to function, and a large class finds its interest and its expression of power in maintaining the State, this ruling class may compel obedience from any uninterested minority. The State thus becomes an instrument by which the power of the whole herd is wielded for the benefit of a class. The rulers soon learn to capitalize the reverence which the State produces in the majority, and turn it into a general resistance toward a lessening of their privileges. The sanctity of the State becomes identified with the sanctity of the ruling class, and the latter are permitted to remain in power under the impression that in obeying and serving them, we are obeying and serving society, the nation, the great collectivity of all of us. . . .

Rise of Empire by Garet Garrett 1952

Part One



We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night; the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: “You are now entering Imperium.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.” And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: “No U-turns.”

If you say there were no frightening omens, that is true. The political foundations did not quake, the graves of the fathers did not fly open, the Constitution did not tear itself up. If you say people did not will it, that also is true. But if you say therefore it has not happened, then you have been so long bemused by words that your mind does not believe what the eye can see, even as in the jungle the terrified primitive, on meeting the lion, importunes magic by saying to himself, “He is not there.”

That a republic may vanish is an elementary school book fact.

The Roman Republic passed into the Roman Empire, and yet never could a Roman citizen have said, “That was yesterday.” Nor is the historian, with all the advantages of perspective, able to place that momentous event at an exact point on the dial of time. The Republic had a long, unhappy twilight. It is agreed that the Empire began with Augustus Caesar. Several before him had played emperor and were destroyed. The first emperor in fact was Julius Caesar, who pretended not to want the crown, and once publicly declined it. Whether he feared more the displeasure of the Roman populace or the daggers of the republicans is unknown. In his dreams he may have seen a bloodstained toga. His murder soon afterward was a desperate act of the dying republican tradition.

His heir was Octavian, and it was a very bloody business, yet neither did Octavian call himself emperor. On the contrary, he was most careful to observe the old legal forms. He restored the Senate. Later he made believe to restore the Republic, and caused coins to be struck in commemoration of that event. Having acquired by universal consent, as he afterward wrote, “complete dominion over everything, both by land and sea,” he made a long and artful speech to the Senate, and ended it by saying: “And now I give back the Republic into your keeping. The laws, the troops, the treasury, the provinces, are all restored to you. May you guard them worthily.” The response of the Senate was to crown him with oak leaves, plant laurel trees at his gate and name him Augustus. After that he reigned for more than forty years and when he died the bones of the Republic were buried with him. “The personality of a monarch,” says Stobart, “had been thrust almost surreptitiously into the frame of a republican constitution. . . . The establishment of the Empire was such a delicate and equivocal act that is has been open to various interpretations ever since. Probably in the clever mind of Augustus it was intended to be equivocal from the first.”

What Augustus Caesar did was to demonstrate a proposition found in Aristotle’s Politics, one that he must have known by heart, namely this: “People do not easily change, but love their own ancient customs; and it is by small degrees only that one thing takes the place of another; so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about a revolution in the state.”

Revolution within the form.


There is no comfort in history for those who put their faith in forms; who think there is safeguard in words inscribed on parchment, preserved in a glass case, reproduced in facsimile and hauled to and fro on a Freedom Train.

Let it be current history. How much does the younger half of this generation reflect upon the fact that in its own time a complete revolution has taken place in the relations between government and people? It may be doubted that one college student in a thousand could even state it clearly.

The first article of our inherited tradition, implicit in American thought from the beginning until a few years ago was this: “Government is the responsibility of a self-governing people.”

That doctrine has been swept away; only the elders remember it. Now, in the name of democracy, it is accepted as a political fact that people are the responsibility of government.

The forms of republican government survive; the character of the state has changed.

Formerly the people supported government and set limits to it and minded their own lives.

Now they pay for unlimited government, whether they want it or not, and the government minds their lives—looking to how they are fed and clothed and housed; how they provide for their old age; how the national income, which is the product of their own labor, shall be divided among them; how they shall buy and sell; how long and how hard and under what conditions they shall work, and how equity shall be maintained between the buyers of food who dwell in the cities and the producers of food who live on the soil. For the last named purpose it resorts to a system of subsidies, penalties and compulsions, and assumes with medieval wisdom to fix the just price.

This is the Welfare State. It rose suddenly within the form. It is legal because the Supreme Court says it is. The Supreme Court once said no and then changed its mind and said yes, because meanwhile the President who was the architect of the Welfare State had appointed to the Supreme Court bench men who believed in it. The founders who wrote the Constitution could no more have imagined a Welfare State rising by sanction of its words than they could have imagined a monarchy; and yet the Constitution did not have to be changed. It had only to be reinterpreted in one the clause—the clause that reads: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, imposts and excises to pay its debts and to provide for the common defense and welfare of the United States.”

“We are under a Constitution,” said Chief Justice Hughes, “but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”

The President names the members of the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. It follows that if the President and a majority of the Senate happen to want a Welfare State, or any other innovation, and if, happily for their design, death and old age create several vacancies on the bench so that they may pack the Court with like-minded men, the Constitution becomes, indeed, a rubberoid instrument.

The extent to which the original precepts and intentions of Constitutional, representative, limited government, in the republican form, have been eroded away by argument and dialectic is a separate subject, long and ominous, and belongs in a treatise on political science. The one fact now to be emphasized is that when the process of erosion has gone on until there is no saying what the supreme law of the land is at a given time, then the Constitution begins to be flouted by executive will, with something like impunity. The instances may not be crucial at first and all the more dangerous for that reason. As one is condoned another follows and they become progressive.

To outsmart the Constitution and to circumvent its restraints became a popular exercise of the art of government in the Roosevelt regime. In defense of his attempt to pack the Supreme Court with social-minded judges after several of his New Deal laws had been declared unconstitutional, President Roosevelt wrote: “The reactionary members of the Court had apparently determined to remain on the bench for as long as life continued—for the sole purpose of blocking any program of reform.”

Among the millions who at the time applauded that statement of contempt there were very few, if there was indeed one, who would not have been frightened by a revelation of the logical sequel. They believed, as everyone else did, that there was one thing a President could never do. There was one sentence of the Constitution that could not fall, so long as the Republic lived.

The Constitution says: “The Congress shall have power to declare war.”

That, therefore, was the one thing no President could do. By his own will he could not declare war. Only the Congress could declare war, and Congress could be trusted never to do it but by will of the people. And that was the innermost safeguard of the republic. The decision whether or not to go to war was in the hands of the people—or so they believed. No man could make it for them.

It is true that President Roosevelt got the country into World War II. That is not the same thing. For a declaration of war he went to Congress—after the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. He wanted it, he had planned it, and yet the Constitution forbade him to declare war and he durst not do it.

Nine years later a much weaker President did.

After President Truman, alone and without either the consent or knowledge of Congress, had declared war on the Korean aggressor, 7000 miles away, Congress condoned his usurpation of its exclusive Constitutional power. More than that, his political supporters in Congress argued that in the modern case that sentence in the Constitution conferring upon Congress the sole power to declare war was obsolete.

Mark you, the words had not been erased; they still existed in form. Only, they had become obsolete. And why obsolete? Because war may now begin suddenly, with bombs falling out of the sky, and we might perish while waiting for Congress to declare war.

The reasoning is puerile. The Korean war, which made the precedent, did not begin that way; secondly, Congress was in session at the time, so that the delay could not have been more than a few hours, provided Congress had been willing to declare war; and, thirdly, the President as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the republic may in a legal manner act defensively before a declaration of war has been made. It is bound to be made if the nation has been attacked.

Mr. Truman’s supporters argued that in the Korean instance his act was defensive and therefore within his powers as Commander-in-Chief. In that case, to make it Constitutional, he was legally obliged to ask Congress for a declaration of war afterward. This he never did. For a week Congress relied upon the papers for news of the country’s entry into war; then the President called a few of its leaders to the White House and told them what had been done. A year later Congress was still debating whether or not the country was at war, in a legal, Constitutional sense.


A few months later Mr. Truman sent American troops to Europe to join an international army, and did it not only without a law, without even consulting Congress, but challenged the power of Congress to stop him. Congress made all the necessary sounds of anger and then poulticed its dignity with a resolution saying it was all right for that one time, since anyhow it had been done, but that hereafter it would expect to be consulted.

At that time the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate asked the State Department to set forth in writing what might be called the position of Executive Government. The State Department, obligingly responded with a document entitled, “Powers of the President to Send Troops Outside of the United States—Prepared for the use of the joint committee made up of the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Armed Forces of the Senate, February 28, 1951.”

This document, in the year circa 2950, will be a precious find for any historian who may be trying then to trace the departing footprints of the vanished American Republic. For the information of the United States Senate it said:*


“As this discussion of the respective powers of the President and Congress had made clear, constitutional doctrine has been largely moulded by practical necessities. Use of the congressional power to declare war, for example, has fallen into abeyance because wars are no longer declared in advance.”


Caesar might have said it to the Roman Senate. If constitutional doctrine is molded by necessity, what is a written Constitution for?

Thus an argument that seemed at first to rest upon puerile reasoning turned out to be deep and cunning. The immediate use of it was to defend the unconstitutional Korean precedent, namely, the declaration of war as an act of the President’s own will. Yet it was not invented for that purpose alone. It stands as a forecast of executive intentions, a manifestation of the executive mind, a mortal challenge to the parliamentary principle.

The question is: “Whose hand shall control the instrument of war?”

It is late to ask. It may be too late, for when the hand of the Republic begins to relax another hand is already putting itself forth.

Part Two



If you may have Empire with or without a constitution, even within the form of a republican constitution, and if also you may have Empire with or without an emperor, then how may the true marks of Empire be distinguished with certainty? What are they?

War and conquest? No. Republics may make war and pursue the aims of conquest. Continental conquest did not give the United States the character of Empire. Continental conquest was but the growth of a lively political organism, acting from its own center. The natural limits of it were geographic. Notions of Empire did at the same time arise—notions of external conquest—but they were sternly put down by the republican spirit.

Colonies, then? No, not colonies. At least, you have to say what you mean by colonies. They are of many kinds and represent diverse intentions in time and circumstance. An over-populated republic may swarm, as bees do. Colonies did not make Greece an Empire. The Greek colonists were emigrants. As they moved across the Aegean Sea to the shores of Asia Minor they took with them fire from the sacred hearth, and they were sometimes subsidized out of the public treasury as if they were children entitled to a farewell portion of the family wealth; but beyond that they were on their own, and when a colony was founded it was a sovereign state, not politically bound to the mother-state.

War, conquest, colonization, expansion—these are political exertions that occur in the history of any kind of state that was ever known, tyrannies, oligarchies, republics or democracies. But let us regard the things that belong only to empire, and set them down. Then we shall see.


The first requisite of Empire is: The executive power of government shall be dominant.

It may be dominant originally, as in the days of hereditary kingship, or it may come to be dominant by change, as when the Roman republic passed under the rule of the Caesars.

As now we use the word executive it means much more than the Constitution intended. What the Constitution created was a government of three coequal powers, namely (1) the Congress to make the laws (2) a President to execute the laws, and (3) a Supreme Court to construe the laws according to the Constitution. The Constitution was the supreme law, binding alike the Congress, the President and the Supreme Court itself. Each of the three powers could check the other two. This arrangement came to be called the American system of checks and balances.

The function of the Congress was legislative, the function of the President was executive and the function of the Supreme Court was judicial.

The President might veto a law enacted by the Congress, but by two-thirds vote the Congress could pass it again over his veto and then it stood unless the Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional.

You will ask how that could work. If three coequal powers could annul one another’s work, what would save the government from coming to an impasse?

What you are asking is, “Where in that triad was the sovereign power that could say the final word?” The answer is, “Nowhere.” Then you may ask, “Is not sovereignty a vital attribute of national power?” It certainly is. Unless somewhere there is the sovereign power to say the final word no government can long endure.

The founders gave more thought to that one problem than to all the others combined. They had to put sovereignty somewhere and they wished to make it safe, that is, safe beyond seizure. They thought it would not be safe in the hands of the President, nor in the hands of the Congress alone, and naturally it did not belong to the Supreme Court, for that was a judicial body. The solution was to put it in the hands of the people.

Only the people could say the last word. If they really wanted a law which the Supreme Court said was unconstitutional they could have it by changing the Constitution, and that they could do by a peaceable procedure set forth in the Constitution itself. For example, the Supreme Court said an income-tax law that had been enacted by Congress and signed by the Congress was unconstitutional. But the people wanted that law. They amended the Constitution. Then the Congress enacted another income-tax law and the Supreme Court was obliged to say it was Constitutional. To amend the Constitution takes time; but that also was intended, the idea being to make people reflect on what they are doing.

So, it worked, and worked extremely well, for the Republic. It would not work for Empire, because what Empire needs above all in government is executive power that can make immediate decisions, such as a decision in the middle of the night by the President to declare war on the aggressor in Korea, or, on the opposite side, a decision by the Politburo in the Kremlin, perhaps also in the middle of the night, to move a piece on the chess board of cold war.

For a century and a half the system of checks and balances worked like a self-correcting mechanism. Among the three coequal powers there was never a perfect balance; but any imbalance soon corrected itself. At one time there would be a very strong Supreme Court, as in the days of John Marshall; then again there would be a strong President and a weak Congress, or a strong Congress and a weak President.

The Federal income-tax law of 1914 gave the government unlimited access to wealth and, moreover, power for the first time to levy taxes not for revenue only but for social purposes, in case there should arise a popular demand for redistribution of the national wealth. World War I immediately followed. Looking backward we can see that these two events marked the beginning of a great rise in the executive power of government. It was slow at first, an imbalance such as had corrected itself before and might do so again. Indeed, during the 1920’s it did seem to be correcting itself. Then came in rapid succession (1) the Great Depression (2) the revolutionary Roosevelt regime, and (3) World War II, all within an arc of twenty years.

In those twenty years the sphere of Executive Government increased with a kind of explosive force. Congress received from the White House laws that were marked “must.” Its principal function was to enact and engross them. The part of the Supreme Court was to make everything square with the Constitution by a liberal reinterpretation of its language. The word executive came to have its new connotation. For all the years before when you spoke of the executive power of government you meant only the power to execute and administer the laws. Henceforth it would mean the power to govern.

A further very subtle change was taking place. Only a few years ago if you had asked such a question as, “Who speaks for the people?” or “What organ of government utters their sovereign will?” the answer would have been “The Congress of the United States.” Certainly. That was what the Congress was for.

Now it is the President, standing at the head of the Executive Government, who says: “I speak for the people,” or “I have a mandate from the people.” Thus the man who happens to be the embodiment of the executive principle stands between the Congress and the people and assumes the right to express their will.

There is more to this. Now much more than Congress the President acts directly upon the emotions and passions of the people to influence their thinking. As he controls the Executive Government, so he controls the largest propaganda machine in the world, unless it be the Russian machine; and this machine is the exclusive possession of Executive Government. The Congress has no propaganda apparatus at all and continually finds itself under pressure from the people who have been moved for or against something by the ideas and thought material broadcast in the land by the administrative bureaus in Washington. Besides the use they make of the Government Printing Office, these bureaus maintain 133 printing plants and 256 duplicating plants of their own. A further very subtle technique of propaganda is the intimate and confidential briefing of editors, writers, educators and selected social groups on the government’s point of view.

One of the task forces of the Hoover Commission looked at the government’s propaganda machine and said:

“Every agency of government maintains its public relations staff. . . . Congress has been alert for several years to the organized pressure-group activities which are sponsored, supported and stimulated by the administrative agencies themselves. After fifteen months’ work, Congressman Harness summarized his conclusions on government pressure-groups in these words: ‘Everyone in Congress is keenly conscious of the tremendous power of this government propaganda machine, for he comes in direct contact with it every day. . . . Whether the immediate purpose of government propaganda is good or bad, the fact remains that individual liberty and free institutions cannot long survive when the vast powers of government may be marshalled (sic) against the people to perpetuate a given policy or a particular group of office holders. Nor can freedom survive if all government policies and programs are sustained by an overwhelming government propaganda.’”

On “Our Most Dangerous Lobby,” Representative Christian A. Herter wrote: “Our Federal bureaucracy fought, bureau by bureau, every Congressional move to curb its innate urge to expand. Backed by its vast tax-supported propaganda machine and working through jobholders, supported also by well-meaning but misinformed citizens, it mustered almost overwhelming pressure for its continued growth. As weapons, it used distortion, misrepresentation and outright chicanery.”

Senator Douglas recently said there were three parties in Washington—a Democratic party, a Republican party, and a Government party representing the departments, agencies and bureaus of the Executive Government, and added that no pressure group was “more persistent and skilled in getting what it wants.”

It was not only that as Executive Government proliferated the authority and prestige of Congress declined; a time came when Congress realized that a fourth entity called Government, with a solitary capital “G,” was acting in a dimension of its own with a force, a freedom and a momentum beyond any control of the law-making power. Moreover, it was a thing so totally vast, so innumerable in its parts and so apparently shapeless that there was nowhere a mind able to comprehend it. That was when, in 1947, the Congress asked former President Hoover to organize a commission to study it scientifically and make it intelligible.

Such was the origin of the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of Government, Herbert Hoover chairman, now commonly referred to as the Hoover Commission. It created twenty-four task forces, each with a personnel suited to its particular task, altogether three hundred men and women. They spent sixteen months exploring and charting the domain of Executive Government. Some of it was jungle, some of it was lawless, here and there were little bureaucratic monarchies that seemed to have grown up by themselves; and yet every part of it was very much alive and exercised powers of government, touching the lives of the people.

The full report of the Hoover Commission was never published; its bulk was too repellent. You may find it all in the archives. A summary of it—hardly more than a description of the bare bones of Executive Government together with anatomical suggestions for a better articulation of them—just that, made a book of more than 250 pages.

The Commission said: “The executive branch is a chaos of bureaus and subdivisions.

“The gigantic and sudden growth of the executive branch has produced great confusion within the departments and agencies as well as in their relations to the President and to each other.

“At the present time there are sixty-five departments, administrations, agencies, boards and commissions engaged in executive work, all of which report to the President—if they report to anyone. This number does not include the independent agencies in their quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative functions.

“Some of these departments are larger than the whole government was twenty years ago.”

The Commission found in the domain of Executive Government more than thirty agencies engaged in lending money and public credit. (This number did not include social security and pension agencies.) In those more than thirty lending agencies the government had invested twelve and one-half billion dollars, and was obligated to invest nine billion more. Besides all that, the government was insuring more than eighty billion dollars of bank deposits, and had underwritten more than forty billion dollars of life insurance.

The Commission found that under the program called Grants-in-Aid the Federal government was paying two-fifths of the total cost of local government throughout the country and nearly one-sixth of the total cost of state government. “This,” said the Commission, “has enlarged the executive branch, requiring great expansion in many departments and the establishment of new administrative agencies. It has increased national taxes. And it has been responsible to some extent for the rapid development of that fourth area of government known as the regional area, serviced in large part by Federal regional agencies.”

Few realize in how many ways these activities of Executive Government touch our everyday business of living. Recently a writer on Time Magazine was doing an article on influence-peddling at Washington, and it occurred to him to drop into the middle of it the following paragraph:

“A big department store, for example, has to deal with some twenty Federal agencies (not to mention a score of state and municipal ones). The Bureau of Internal Revenue checks its taxes, the alcohol tax unit approves its whiskey labels, the Bureau of Customs stamps its imports, the Department of Labor’s wages and hours division inspects its working conditions, the National Labor Relations Board hears its labor disputes, the Social Security Administration collects unemployment insurance, the Federal Reserve System administers credit regulations, the National Production authority doles out scarce goods, the Securities and Exchange Commission patrols stock issues, the Federal Trade Commission scouts for mislabeling or deceptive advertising, the Post Office rules on parcel deliveries, the Selective Service Board makes passes at store executives and employees, the Interstate Commerce Commission rules on freight shipments, and if the store is hard up for capital the Reconstruction Finance Corporation has money to lend. In most of these departments, government agents have to make yes or no decisions on their own. The decisions often means (sic) hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government, to a corporation or to an industry. If one has a few friends in the right places, who could ever draw the line between a legal and illegal favor?”

The Hoover Commission said: “Thousands of Federal programs cannot be directed personally by the President.” Obviously not.

The result is Bureau Government, administered by bureaucrats who are not elected by the people.

In The Grandeur that was Rome, Stobart says that for a long time after the Republic had become an Empire a stout republican could still believe that he was governed by the Senate; yet little by little as a complete imperial bureaucracy was evolved the Senate sank into insignificance. It was really the bureaucracy of the imperial palace that governed the Roman world and strangled it with good intentions. The growth of the bureaucracy was both symptom and cause of the increasing power of the executive principle. The triumph of the system was the Edict of Prices, issued by Diocletian, fixing prices for every kind of commodity and wages for every kind of work.

The sad fact about the work of the Hoover Commission was that the necessity for Executive Government in all this new magnitude had to be assumed. That is to say, the Commission had no mandate to criticise the extensions of Executive Government in principle or to suggest that any of its activities might be discontinued. The limit of its assignment was to say how they might be organized for greater efficiency. More efficient government; not less government. An efficient bureaucracy, although it may cost less, is of course more dangerous to liberty than a bungling bureaucracy; and you may suppose that any bureaucracy, give it time and experience, will tend to become more efficient.

Aggrandizement of the executive principle of government takes place in several ways, mainly these:

By delegation. That is, when the Congress delegates one or more of its Constitutional powers to the President and authorized him to exercise them. That procedure touched a very high point during the long Roosevelt regime, when an obliging Congress delegated to the President, among other powers, the crucial one of all, namely, power over the public purse, which until then had belonged exclusively to the House of Representatives, where the Constitution put it.
By reinterpretation of the language of the Constitution. That is done by a sympathetic Supreme Court.
By innovation. That is when, in this changing world, the President does things that are not specifically forbidden by the Constitution because the founders never thought of them.
By the appearance in the sphere of Executive Government of what are called administrative agencies, with power to issue rules and regulations that have the force of law. This procedure also touched a high point in the Roosevelt regime. What it spells out is a direct delegation of legislative power by the Congress. These agencies have built up a large body of administrative law which people are obliged to obey. And not only do they make up their own laws; they enforce their own laws, acting as prosecutor, jury and judge; and appeal from their decisions to the regular courts are obliged to take their findings of fact as final. Thus the Constitutional separation of the three governmental powers, namely the legislative, the executive and the judicial, is entirely lost.
By usurpation. That is, when the President wilfully confronts Congress with what in statescraft is called the fait accompli—a thing already done—which Congress cannot repudiate without exposing the American government to the ridicule of nations. It might be, for example, an executive agreement with foreign countries creating an international body to govern trade, in place of the International Trade Organization Treaty which the Senate would probably not have approved. This use of executive agreements, which take effect when the President signs them, in place of treaties, which require a two-thirds vote of the Senate, is a way of by-passing the Senate. It raises a number of fine legal questions which have never been settled. The point is that the Constitution does not specifically forbid the President to enter into executive agreements with foreign nations; it provides only for treaties. In any case, when an executive agreement has been signed the Congress is very loath to humiliate the President before the world by repudiating his signature. Or again, it may be such as thing as going to war in Korea by agreement with the United Nations, without the consent of Congress, or sending troops to join an international army in Europe, by agreement with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Lastly, the powers of Executive Government are bound to increase as the country becomes more and more involved in foreign affairs. This is true because, both traditionally and by the terms of the Constitution, the province of foreign affairs is one that belongs in a very special sense to the President. There he acts with great freedom. It is only the President who can receive foreign ambassadors; it is only the President who can negotiate treaties. The limitations are two. The first one is that when he has signed a treaty it must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. This obstacle, as we have seen, may sometimes be avoided by signing with foreign countries executive agreements in place of treaties. The second limitation is that when the President appoints ambassadors to foreign countries they must be approved by the Senate; he may and does, nevertheless, send personal representatives on foreign errands. The restraining force of these two limitations is important only in the hands of a strong and hostile Congress. The controlling fact is that both the treaty-making power and the responsibility for conducting the country’s foreign relations belong exclusively to the President; besides which, in both peace and war, he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States. The point of putting that in the Constitution was to make civil authority supreme over the military power.

So much for the rise in the executive power of government to a colossal dimension, all in our own time. It is no longer a coequal power; it is the dominant power in the land, as Empire requires.


A second mark by which you may unmistakably distinguish Empire is: “Domestic policy becomes subordinate to foreign policy.”

That happened to Rome. It has happened to every Empire. The consequences of its having happened to the British Empire are tragically appearing. The fact now to be faced is that it has happened also to us.

It needs hardly to be argued that as we convert the nation into a garrison state to build the most terrible war machine that has ever been imagined on earth, every domestic policy is bound to be conditioned by our foreign policy.

The voice of government is saying that if our foreign policy fails we are ruined. It is all or nothing. Our survival as a free nation is at hazard.

That makes it simple, for in that case there is no domestic policy that may not have to be sacrificed to the necessities of foreign policy—even freedom. It is no longer a question of what we can afford to do; it is what we must do to survive. If the cost of defending not ourselves alone but the whole non-Russian world threatens to wreck our solvency, still we must go on. Why? Because we cannot stand alone. The first premise of our foreign policy is that without allies we are lost. At any cost therefore we must have them. If our standard of living falls, that cannot be helped.

We are no longer able to choose between peace and war. We have embraced perpetual war. We are no longer able to choose the time, the circumstance or the battlefield. Wherever and whenever the Russian aggressor attacks, in Europe, Asia, or Africa, there we must meet him. We are so committed by the Truman Doctrine, by examples of our intention, by the global posting of our armed forces, and by such formal engagements as the North Atlantic Treaty and the Pacific Pact.

Let it be a question of survival, and how relatively unimportant are domestic policies—touching, for example, the rights of private property, when, if necessary, all private property may be confiscated; or touching individual freedom, when, if necessary, all labor may be conscripted; or touching welfare and social security, when in a garrison state the hungry may have to be fed not by checks from the Treasury but in soup kitchens!

The American mind is already conditioned. For proof of that you may take the dumb resignation with which such forebodings as the following, from the lead editorial of The New York Times, October 31, 1951, are received by the people:

“. . . the Korean war has brought a great and probably long-lasting change in our history and our way of life . . . forcing us to adopt measures which are changing the whole American scene and our relations with the rest of the world. . . . We have embarked on a partial mobilization for which about a hundred billion dollars have been already made available. We have been compelled to activate and expand our alliances at an ultimate cost of some twenty-five billion dollars, to press for rearmament of our former enemies and to scatter our own forces at military bases throughout the world. Finally, we have been forced not only to retain but to expand the draft and to press for a system of universal military training which will affect the lives of a whole generation. The productive effort and the tax burden resulting from these measures are changing the economic pattern of the land.

“What is not so clearly understood, here or abroad, is that these are no temporary measures for a temporary emergency but rather the beginning of a wholly new military status for the United States, which seems certain to be with us for a long time to come.”

What a loss it would be to the Bible if the prophets had been editorial writers on The New York Times. Never before in our history, probably never before in any history, could so dire a forecast have been made in these level tones. But what they are saying is true. And certainly never before could people have felt so helpless about it, as if this were not the harvest of our foreign policy but Jehovah acting through the Russians to afflict us—and nobody else is responsible.


Another brand mark of Empire is: “Ascendancy of the military mind, to such a point at last that the civilian mind is intimidated.”

This we shall see.

The great symbol of the American military mind is the Pentagon in Washington with its seventeen and one half miles of corridor, in which admirals and generals sometimes get lost; its twenty-eight thousand people at desks, eight thousand automobiles parked outside—the largest indoor city in the world. It was built at a cost of seventy million dollars during World War II, not as temporary housing such as was built during World War I, but as a dwelling for Mars. What it represents is a forethought of perpetual war.

There global strategy is conceived; there, nobody knows how, the estimates of what it will cost are arrived at; and surrounding it is our own iron curtain. The information that comes from the inner side is only such as the military authorities are willing to divulge, or have a reason for imparting to the people. All the rest is stamped “classified” or “restricted,” in the name of national security, and Congress itself cannot get it. That is as it must be of course; the most important secrets of Empire are military secrets. Even information that is without any intrinsic military value may be classified, on the ground that if it got out it might give rise to popular criticism of the military establishment and cause bad public relations.

If you want to know how and when it happened that this nation was legally converted into a garrison state for perpetual war, and with what anxiety the civilian mind made that surrender to the military mind, you may read the story in the Congressional Record, numbers 167, 168 and 170 (September 10, 11 and 13, 1951), where the closing debate takes place on “Department of Defense Appropriations, 1952.”

The amount of money to be appropriated in that one bill was sixty-one billion dollars. But that was not all. Other appropriations would raise the total to eight-five billion.

Everybody knew that here was more money than the Department of Defense could spend in a year. Moreover, it had on hand large unexpended balances from old appropriations. The Pentagon people said yes, that was true; they couldn’t spend all that money in a year. But they wanted to have it on hand because they could make better long-term contracts if the suppliers knew for sure the cash would be there when the goods were delivered.

That was all of that.

Everybody knew the figures were miraculous. Billions could be invented on the Pentagon desks with pencil and scratch pad. It was so like doodling that a few billions could get lost when the papers were shuffled. One day when the Senate was struggling with a discrepancy in the printed figures—the difference between thirty-seven and forty-four billions—the Pentagon called on the telephone to say it had made an error of seven billion dollars. Sorry. “And,” said Senator Wherry, “we go on the theory that we know what we are talking about.”

The Pentagon’s revised figures were accepted.

All the secretaries and chiefs of staff had appeared before committees of Congress to say that their estimates had been reduced to the very granite of necessity. If Congress cut them the Department of Defense could not be held answerable for the nation’s security. If the worst happened, the wrath of the people would be terrible. Let the Congress beware.

Senator Taft indulged the skeptical side of his nature. Only eighteen months before, in March, 1950 (that was three months before the beginning of the Korean war) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Bradley, had said to the Senate: “Yes, thirteen billion dollars a year is sufficient to provide for the security of the United States. If I recommend as much as thirty billion a year for the Armed Forces I ought to be dismissed as Chief of Staff.” But now in one year they were asking for sixty-one billion. What had happened in the meantime? That was Mr. Taft’s point. The Korean war had happened. But so far as the defense of the United States was concerned, nothing else had happened.

Senator Taft went on to say: “I do not know how long this program is going to continue. My impression is that we shall have new weapons and new kinds of airplanes, and that we are embarked on expenditures of this kind for ten, fifteen, or twenty years, as one of the generals stated; and if that is so, I think it means an end of progress and the end of the freedom of the people of the United States. . . . We simply cannot keep the country in readiness to fight an all-out war unless we are willing to turn our country into a garrison state and abandon all ideals of freedom upon which this nation has been erected. It is impossible to have such a thing in this world as absolute security. . . . I think we should appoint a commission to survey the military policy of the United States, to sit down with the military authorities and find out what we are trying to do, and to determine what is the proper scope of military activity in the United States.”

Nevertheless, in the end he found himself unable to vote against the bill.

Everybody knew that a great deal of the money would be spent wastefully. The Senate had before it a report from the staff director of its own Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, saying: “This is a frank admission that waste, extravagance and duplicate services presently exist in the Army, Navy and Air Force.”

To this the Pentagon people said: “You know very well that war is wasteful. Don’t be stupid.”

Senator Douglas rose. He dreaded what he was about to do. He dreaded it because he knew how quick the Department of Defense had always been to say that those who criticized its figures were trying to impair the military efficiency of the United States. That was the last thing he had in mind. He was for more preparedness, not less. “But,” he continued, “unless we are to give up a representative democracy it is the function of Congress to scrutinize these expenditures. When we cease to scrutinize them, when we appropriate implicitly every dollar that is asked of us, then we shall have passed from being a representative democracy into being a militarized nation in which the General Staff makes the decisions.”

He proposed to confine his scrutiny to the fringes. What he undertook to do, single-handed, was to squeeze out some of the bulging waste. He had served as an officer in the Marine Corps during World War II. He knew what he was talking about when he spoke of excess personnel, service plush and gravy trains. One by one his innocent amendments were resisted by Senator O’Mahoney, who was in charge of the bill, and who kept repeating the argument of the Department of the Defense: “We cannot take every dollar of waste out of this bill. Waste is inherent in war and preparation for war.”

Then at last, with the suavity of ice, Senator O’Mahoney rose to say that he should not like the galleries (where Russian correspondents might be listening), or the people, or the members of Congress, to understand the Senator from Illinois to be saying that our men in uniform were low in character, patriotism or devotion, because he was sure the Senator from Illinois did not mean to say that—not really.

(This from the record):

Mr. Douglas: Of course I did not mean that.

Mr. O’Mahoney: If the Senator will permit me——

Mr. Douglas: And neither do I wish——

Mr. O’Mahoney: The Senator will please permit me to continue.

With that, Senator Douglas was so overcome by a sense of hopeless frustration that he ran screaming from the Senate chamber.

Three days later he voted for the bill, waste and all.

Senator Flanders moved to send the bill back to the Committee of Appropriations with instructions to cut six billion out of it. He was thinking not so much about saving the money; he was thinking that—“Unless we can set limits to the demands of the Defense Establishment it will continue to solidify its present control over our economy, over our standard of living and over our personal lives. There is no logical limit to the demands of a conscientious and patriotic Defense Establishment in times like these. No provision of arms and armaments is enough. No expenditures are too great. This must be so in the nature of the case to those who by training and experience place their full faith in armed strength.”

Senator O’Mahoney, speaking for the Committee on Appropriations, said: “Our committee will not know how to make these cuts. We shall have to call in the military again. We could not substitute our judgement for the judgement of the military men whom we have trained to do this job.”

Senator Flanders’ motion was defeated.

He voted for the bill.

Senator Wherry said: “It is very difficult for any Senator to vote against a defense bill. But I believe the American people should know what we are getting into. This program and these appropriations will not stop this year or next year. The impact will be terrific and terrible upon the entire country.”

He did not vote against the bill.

Senator Langer moved to send the bill back to the Committee on Appropriations with instructions to put a fifty-six billion dollar ceiling on it.

Senator Dirksen supported the motion, saying: “There is a lot of guesswork in these figures. There is nothing sacred about a military figure. There is no staff, no expert accountant, nor anyone else, who is able to indicate firmly and precisely whether or not the estimates are reliable. Are we going to put the United States in a strait jacket?”

Senator Langer’s motion was voted down. Later both he and Senator Dirksen voted for the bill.

Senator Case said: “There is one responsibility that rests upon every member of Congress, and that is to determine how much of the national income shall be taken in taxes or mortgaged and applied to any particular purpose. We have the responsibility of saying how much of the national income shall go to the national defense.”

Senator O’Mahoney said: “Who am I to question the judgement of an admiral?”

When it came to a final vote the entire Senate said in effect: “Who are we to question the judgement of the military mind?”

Not a single vote was cast against the bill.

The intimidation of the civilian mind was complete, and the Pentagon got its billions.

Only a few days before that the Congress had passed a bill authorizing nearly six billion dollars for a military construction project—the largest bill of its kind ever passed in peace or war. One billion was for secret overseas bases within striking distance of Russia.

Of these secret bases Senator Russell, of the Armed Forces Committee, said: “These projects are highly classified. The committee inquired into them as best we could and concluded that in the light of the evidence presented to us they were justified.”

What a phrase from the Armed Services Committee of the United States Senate!—“as best we could.” There obviously the civilian mind no longer governs.

Representative Richard B. Wigglesworth, of the House Appropriations Committee, said: “Time and time again, no breakdown is available, fundamental information is not forthcoming from the military, and witnesses are unprepared to supply simple and essential facts.”

Senator Francis Case said: “The moment anyone ventures a word of criticism or doubt of the military services requests, the easy defense is to imply that he is in some way giving comfort and aid to the enemy.”

In its report dated November 13, 1951, the Preparedness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said: “One of the more alarming trends in military organization during the past few years has been the increasing administrative topheaviness of our Armed Forces.”

But it was General MacArthur himself who uttered these devastating words: “Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense. . . . Indeed, it is a part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war.” (Italics supplied.)

The bald interpretation of General MacArthur’s words is this. War becomes an instrument of domestic policy. Among the control mechanisms on the government’s panel board now is a dial marked War. It may be set to increase or decrease the tempo of military expenditures, as the planners decide that what the economy needs is a little more inflation or a little less—but of course there is never any deflation. And whereas it was foreseen that when Executive Government is resolved to control the economy it will come to have a vested interest in the power of inflation, so now we may perceive that it will come also to have a kind of proprietary interest in the institution of perpetual war.

Yet in the very nature of Empire, the military mind must keep its secrets. A Republic may put its armor on and off. War is an interlude. When war comes it is a civilian business, conducted under the advice of military experts. Both in peace and war military experts are excluded from civilian decisions. But with Empire it is different; Empire must wear its armor. Its life is in the hands of the General Staff and war is supremely a military business, requiring of the civilian only acquiescence, exertion and loyalty.


Another historic feature of Empire, and this is a structural feature, is: A system of satellite nations.

We use that word only for nations that have been captured in the Russian orbit, with some inflection of contempt. We speak of our own satellites as allies and friends or as freedom loving nations. Nevertheless, satellite is the right word. The meaning of it is the hired guard. When people say we have lost China or that if we lose Europe it will be a disaster, what do they mean? How could we lose China or Europe, since they never belonged to us? What they mean is that we have lost or may lose a following of dependent people who act as an outer guard.

From the point of view of Empire the one fact common to all satellites is that their security is deemed vital to the security of the Empire; from the opposite point of view the common fact is that a satellite nation is one that is afraid to stand alone and wants the empire’s protection. So there is a bargain. The Empire, in its superior strength, assumes responsibility for the security and well being of the satellite nation, and the satellite nation undertakes to stand with its back to the Empire and face the common enemy. It may desert and go over to the enemy. That will be a change of position only, not a change of status. There will be one more satellite on the other side and one less on this side.

By this definition our principal satellite is Great Britain. Since that relationship began, in 1940, the American government has contributed first to her defense and then to her postwar recovery gifts and loans equal to more than one-fourth of her entire national wealth, and there is yet no end in sight. That would not have been for love. It could be justified to the American people only by the formula that the security of Great Britain is vital to the security of the United States. Nor is it sentiment that causes Great Britain to lean her weight against us, or to prefer, in the words of Lord Halifax, “a relationship which cannot be dissolved,” something like Mr. Churchill’s proposed political wedlock. If she could stand alone she would. She would sooner have more satellites of her own than to be one.

And by the same definition, all the thirteen foreign countries that adhere to the North Atlantic Treaty are satellites. First of all, the United States assumes responsibility for their security. By the terms of the treaty, if any of them is attacked, that shall be deemed an attack upon the United States itself. A fighting matter. Meanwhile, we give them billions for armaments, on the ground that if they well use the armaments to defend themselves they will at the same time be defending us. We do more than that. We underwrite their economic welfare and their solvency, on the theory that a wretched or insolvent satellite is not much good.

President Truman says: “We must make sure that our friends and allies overseas continue to get the help they need to make their full contribution to security and progress for the whole free world. This means not only military aid—though that is vital—it also means real programs of economic and technical assistance. It means helping our European allies to maintain decent living standards.”

On the other side of the world, by the terms of the Pacific Pact, we assume responsibility for the security of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines; and by treaty we undertake to protect Japan from her enemies in return for military privileges.

It is a long list, and satellite traffic in the American orbit is already pretty dense without taking into account client nations, suppliant nations and waif satellites, all looking to the American government for arms and economic aid. These are scattered all over the body of the sick world like festers. For any one of them to involve us in war it is necessary only for the Executive Power at Washington to decide that its defense is somehow essential to the security of the United States. That is how the Korean war started. Korea was a waif satellite.

This vast system of entanglement, which makes a war anywhere in the world our war too, had its origin in the Lend-Lease Act, passed by Congress in March, 1941. That was in the second year of World War II and nine months before Pearl Harbor. The American people were resolved not to get into that war. Mr. Roosevelt persuaded them that the only way to stay out of it was to adopt “measures short of war.” Churchill had promised: “Give us the tools and we will do the job.”

The Lend-Lease Act was entitled, “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States.” It was the single most reckless delegation of power by the Congress to the President that had ever been made or imagined, amounting in fact to abdication. Literally, under the law, the President could have given away the United States Navy. When at a White House press conference that extreme point was made, the President disposed of it derisively saying: “The law doesn’t forbid the President of the United States to stand on his head, but he doesn’t expect to stand on his head.”

Under this law the President was free, without limitation, without accountability to anyone, entirely by his own will—to give not only economic and military aid of any kind but secret military information also to any country “whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States,” and this “notwithstanding the provision of any other law.” On the day the bill passed the President declared the defense of Great Britain vital to the defense of the United States; four days later he added China. When the war ended Lend-Lease goods were flowing to every non-enemy port in the world. The total cost was roughly fifty billion dollars. The principle beneficiaries were Great Britain, Russia, and France, in that order.

Lend-Lease was for friends and allies during the war. After the war the American government distributed billions for the relief of human distress everywhere. Then came the Marshall Plan, which has already cost more than twelve billion dollars.

At first the Marshall Plan had no political meaning. The idea was that were willing to share our wealth with Europe as a whole, to promote her postwar recovery. All European nations were invited to participate in that supernatural windfall, Russia included. But when Russia and her satellites spurned our capitalistic dollars, and then as the Russian mask began to slip, the character of the Marshall Plan changed. Its subsidies and benefits were for those countries of Western Europe that would align themselves against the Russian menace. The Marshall Plan was to have expired in 1951. It did not expire. Its name was changed. It is now the Mutual Security Plan. The Marshall Plan countries became the North Atlantic Treaty countries, all looking to the American Empire for arms, economic aid and security.

“What we have tried to accomplish,” said the Secretary of State on returning from the first Brussels meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Council—the British, French, Belgian, Dutch, and all the other North Atlantic Treaty nations—“what we have tried to accomplish has been in the light of a clear conception which we have all held. That is that the security of each one of us is tied up with the security of all of us, and therefore strength and security is a common problem and a common task. So far as the United States is concerned, that is really national policy.”

Mr. Acheson made that statement at a press conference on December 22, 1950. That was the beginning of the first officially organized evangel of fear to which the American mind was ever exposed.

A year later Senator Flanders was saying: “Fear is felt and spread by the Department of Defense in the Pentagon. In part, the spreading of it is purposeful. Faced with what seem to be enormous armed forces aimed against us, we can scarcely expect the Department of Defense to do other than keep the people in a state of fear so that they will be prepared without limit to furnish men and munitions. . . . Another center from which fear is spread throughout our people is the State Department. Our diplomacy has gone on the defensive. The real dependence of the State Department is in arms, armies and allies. There is no confidence left in anything except force. The fearfulness of the Pentagon and that of the State Department complement and reinforce each other.”

Senator Flanders missed the point.

Empire must put its faith in arms.

Fear at last assumes the phase of a patriotic obsession. It is stronger than any political party. Any candidate for office who trifles with its basic convention will be scourged. The basic convention is simple. We cannot stand alone. A capitalist economy, though it possesses half the industrial power of the whole world, cannot defend its own hemisphere. It may be able to save the world; alone it cannot save itself. It must have allies. Fortunately, it is able to buy them, bribe them, arm them, feed and clothe them; it may cost us more than we can afford, yet we must have them or perish. This voice of fear is the voice of government.

Thus the historic pattern completes itself. No Empire is secure in itself; its security is in the hands of its allies.

At the end of World War II General Marshall, then Chief of Staff, reported to the President, saying: “The security of the United States is now in its own hands.” We had won the war and were coming home. Five years later, as Secretary of Defense, he was returning American troops and American armaments to Europe as our contribution to an international army which, it might be hoped, would defend the security of the United States somewhere between the river Rhine and the Pyrenees.


Fear may be understood. But a curious and characteristic emotional weakness of Empire is: A complex of vaunting and fear.

The vaunting is from what may be called that Titanic feeling. Many passengers on the doomed Titanic would not believe that a ship so big and grand could sink. So long as it was above water her listing deck seemed safer than a life boat on the open sea. So with the people of Empire. They are mighty. They have performed prodigious works, even many that seemed beyond their powers. Reverses they have known but never defeat. That which has hitherto been immeasurable, how shall it be measured?

So those must have felt who lived out the grandeur that was Rome. So the British felt while they ruled the world. So now Americans feel.

As we assume unlimited political liabilities all over the world, as billions in multiples of ten are voted for the ever expanding global intention, there is only scorn for the one who says: “We are not infinite. Let us calculate our utmost power of performance, weigh it against what we are proposing to do, and see if the scales will balance.” The answer is: “We do not know what our utmost is. What we will do, that we can do. Let us resolve to do what is necessary. Necessity will create the means.”

Conversely, the fear. Fear of the barbarian. Fear of standing alone. Fear of world opinion, since we must have it on our side. The fear which is inseparable from the fact—or from a conviction of the fact—that security is no longer in our own hands.

A time comes when the guard itself, that is, your system of satellites, is a source of fear. Satellites are often willful and the more you rely upon them the more willful and demanding they are. There is, therefore, the fear of offending them, as it might be only to disappoint the expectations.

Reflect on the subtle change that takes place in Anglo-American relations when we have our atomic bomb outpost in England, great bases there, a mighty air force in being, and thirty thousand military personnel. The Republic was not afraid to make the British lion roar when he was big and strong; now the State Department is uneasy if he ceases to make a purring sound. On Great Britain’s part it is assumed that the United States cannot afford to let her down. On our part there is the beginning of awareness that if security is your treasure and you bury a part of it in the garden of a friend you have given hostage to friendship.

And then at last the secret, irreducible fear of allies—not this one or that one individually, but foreign allies in human principle, each with a life of its own to save. How will they behave when the test comes?—when they face, in this case, the terrible reality of becoming the European battlefield whereon the security of the United States shall be defended? If they falter or fail, what will become of the weapons with which we have supplied them? What if they were surrendered or captured and turned against us?

The possibility of having to face its own weapons on a foreign field is one of the nightmares of Empire.

As we have set them down so far, the things that signify Empire are these, namely:

Rise of the executive principle of government to a position of dominant power.
Accommodation of domestic policy to foreign policy.
Ascendancy of the military mind.
A system of satellite nations for a purpose called collective security.
An emotional complex of vaunting and fear.

There is yet another sign that defines itself gradually. When it is clearly defined it may already be too late to do anything about it. That is to say, a time comes when the Empire finds itself—

A prisoner of history.

The history of a Republic is its own history. Its past does not contain its future, like a seed. A Republic may change its course, or reverse it, and that will be its own business. But the history of Empire is world history and belongs to many people.

A Republic is not obliged to act upon the world, either to change it or instruct it. Empire, on the other hand, must put forth its power.

What is it that now obliges the American people to act upon the world?

As you ask that question the fear theme plays itself down and the one that takes its place is magnifical. It is not only our security we are thinking of—our security in a frame of collective security. Beyond that lies a greater thought.

It is our turn.

Our turn to do what?

Our turn to assume the responsibilities of moral leadership in the world.

Our turn to maintain a balance of power against the forces of evil everywhere—in Europe and Asia and Africa, in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, by air and sea—evil in this case being the Russian barbarian.

Our turn to keep the peace of the world.

Our turn to save civilization.

Our turn to serve mankind.

But this is the language of Empire. The Roman Empire never doubted that it was the defender of civilization. Its good intentions were peace, law and order. The Spanish Empire added salvation. The British Empire added the noble myth of the white man’s burden. We have added freedom and democracy. Yet the more that may be added to it the more it is the same language still. A language of power.

Always the banners of Empire proclaim that the ends in view sanctify the means. The ironies, sublime and pathetic, are two. The first one is that Empire believes what it says on its banner; the second is that the word for the ultimate end is invariably Peace. Peace by grace of force.

One must see that on the road to Empire there is soon a point from which there is no turning back.

If it were true that our only hope of survival lay in collective security, then of course we should have to go on at any cost. If that were not true, still we should feel that we were obliged to go on for moral reasons. The argument for going on is well known. As Woodrow Wilson once asked, “Shall we break the heart of the world?” So now many are saying, “We cannot let the free world down.” Moral leadership of the world is not a role you step into and out of as you like.

What does going on mean? You never know.

On June 24, 1941, as he extended Lend-Lease to Russia in World War II, President Roosevelt said: “We will accept only a world consecrated to freedom of speech and expression—freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—freedom from want and freedom from terrorism.”

Senator Taft was one of the very few at that time who could imagine what going on from there might mean. He asked: “Will that part of the world which Stalin conquers with our airplanes and our tanks be consecrated to freedom of speech and expression? Will it be consecrated to freedom from want and freedom from terrorism? Or, after a Russian victory with our aid, must we step in with our armies to impose the four freedoms on two hundred million people, ten thousand miles away, who have never known freedom from want or freedom from terrorism?”

In October, 1951, only ten years later, Collier’s magazine devoted one entire issue to a preview of World War III, with twenty articles written by professors, military people, publicists and others who might call themselves makers of public opinion—and the sequel of it was the liberation of the Russian people. The answer to Mr. Taft’s question.

As the Eighty-second Congress blindly voted the Pentagon its billions the spectre of a garrison state was the principal witness. Moving like a mist through the entire debate was the premonition that these steps were irreversible. Nobody could imagine how expenditures of such magnitude could continue for an indeterminate time. Nobody could seriously hope they were going to be less the next year, or the year after that, or for that matter ever. For suppose the great war machine were finished in five years. What could we do but begin and build it all over again, with more and more terrible weapons, at greater and greater cost? Nobody could hope that the demands of our allies and friends were going to be less. Yet no one could imagine how to stop. No one could even suggest a way to go back.

Now the voice of persuasion, saying: “Let it be Empire. It will be Empire in a new sign. For the first time in the history of mankind it happens that the paramount power of the world is in the keeping of a nation that has neither the will to exploit others nor any motive to increase its wealth at their expense. It wants only to chain the aggressor down, and then a world in which all people shall be politically free to govern themselves and economically free to produce and exchange wealth with one another on equal terms.

“Are Americans afraid of their own power? Shall they forbear to use it to bring their vision to pass lest it react upon them adversely or do their traditions an injury? What of the traditions? We did not inherit them to begin with. We created them. Now shall our strength be bound by swaddling clothes? Or shall we have the courage to come of age in new world?”

The view may be sublime. That will not save you if, as you reach for the stars, you step in a chasm.

It is true that Empire may be a great civilizing force. The Roman Empire was. The Augustan Age was not equaled again for a very long time—not again until the Victorian Age of the nineteenth century, and that was the British Empire.

But it is true also that this is Empire in a new sign, and there lies the chasm.

Every Empire in history that endured at all, even those that did greatly advance civilization, somehow made it pay. And why not? Is there any good without price?

Rome exported peace, law and order: but not for nothing. Her imports were food, wine, luxuries, treasure and slaves. She laid her satellites under tribute, and when the cost of policing the Roman world and defending the Roman peace was more than her satellites were willing to pay, the Empire fell.

There was a price for Pax Britannica. The British Empire did not lay direct tribute upon her satellites. There was a better way. She so managed the terms of trade that the exchange of manufactured goods for food and raw materials was very profitable for England; and as year after year she invested her profits in banks and ports and railroads all over the world she grew very rich and her navy ruled the seas. Again why not? Could a few million people in the British Isles, when it came their turn, afford to police the world for nothing? When the terms of trade began to turn against them—that is, when the people who exchanged food and raw materials for the high-priced products of British machines began to revolt, the Empire was in trouble. Yet, while it lasted it was the most civilizing force the world had known since the Roman Empire.

Never in any world, real or unreal, has it been imagined before that Empire, out of its own pocket, should not only pay all costs of Empire, but actually pay other nations for the privilege of giving them protection and security, defending their borders and minding their economic welfare.

That indeed is Empire in a new sign. The chasm is bankruptcy.

Not to make sense of it, which is impossible, but only in order not to forget that you belong to a race of once rational creatures, you have to keep telling yourself that it all began when you walked through the looking glass.

That we pay Europe to let us defend European civilization; that we give steel to Europe because the European production of steel is limited for political reasons; that we give coal to Europeans when the one thing they have plenty of is coal, and do this only to save them from the alternative of either mining enough of their own coal or freezing; that we increase our own national debt to give Great Britain the money to reduce her national debt, on the ground that that will be good for her credit; that when, from buying more American goods than she can pay for, over and above what we give her, Europe goes from one financial crisis to another, called the crisis of the dollar gap, we put billions in her pocket to enable her to go on buying more than she can pay for (that is what the Marshall Plan was for)—well, even though all of this could be comprehended in the formula that the security and comfort of our friends and allies may be essential to the defense of American liberty, the Mad Hatter is still to be heard from.

The formula is not confined to Europe. It acts with a kind of centrifugal force, to scatter dollars all over the world.

Thus, we find ourselves defending the American way of life by engaging in such projects as the following:

In the colonial territories of Great Britain: Road development in Nyasaland, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, Northern Rhodesia, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Malaya; reservoir construction in Somaliland, an agricultural equipment pool in Mauritius, locust control in the Middle East and East Africa, a lumber project in British Borneo, drainage and irrigation in British Guiana, a Gold Coast railroad, and so forth.

In the colonial territories of France: Road development in French West Africa, the French Cameroons, and French Equatorial Africa; water and power distribution and workers’ housing in Casablanca, steam power plants at Bone and Oran in Algeria, agricultural services and wheat storage in Algeria, water supply in the Brazzaville area of French Equatorial Africa, irrigation and stock watering in the Masso Valley of Morocco, a rayon pulp plant, and so forth.

In the Belgian Congo: Soil survey, waterways, roads and a power project.

At Portugese Angola: A meat industry project.

In Burma: Irrigation, flood control, soil conservation, control of livestock diseases, agricultural extension work, canning, rice storage, cotton seed improvement, harbor development, low-cost housing, public health activities, education, technical assistance, audiovisual service, and so forth.

In Indo-China: Road development, Cambodia fisheries, irrigation, river transportation, water purification, fire-fighting equipment, public health, low-cost housing, a radio school, information service, and so forth.

In the Indonesian Republic: Fisheries, a forest project, control of foot and mouth disease, rehabilitation of the textile industry, improvement of native industries, public health services, and so forth.

In Thailand: Irrigation, agricultural research and development, deep freezing, harbor development, roads, a railroad shop, mineral development, planned communications, technical assistance, and so forth.

Enough of that. A complete list would be too long. These, you understand, are but the fringe activities. They represent only spillings from the great Marshall Plan pool, after it had provided dollars for industrial projects in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.

Casting out only those areas around which the Russians have drawn their hard line, if there is a country or a land in the whole world where the American government’s planners, almoners, experts and welfare-bringers are not passing miracles with dollars, it is because the State Department’s map maker either forgot it or couldn’t spell it and thought it might never be missed.

This is Imperialism of the Good Intent.

It is Empire as Franklin Delano Roosevelt imagined it when he said, of Lend-Lease: “What I am trying to do is eliminate the dollar sign.” During the next ten years one hundred billion dollars’ worth of American wealth was cast upon the waters, as gifts, grants, subsidies and unrepayable loans to foreign countries. And none of it has ever come back.

Empire of the Bottomless Purse.

Part Three



Between government in the republican meaning, that is Constitutional, representative, limited government, on the one hand, and Empire on the other hand, there is mortal enmity. Either one must forbid the other or one will destroy the other. That we know. Yet never has the choice been put to a vote of the people.

The country has been committed to the course of Empire by Executive Government, one step at a time, with slogans, concealments, equivocations, a propaganda of fear, and in every crisis an appeal for unity, lest we present to the world the aspect of a divided nation, until at last it may be proclaimed that events have made the decision and it is irrevocable. Thus, now to alter the course is impossible. If that were true, then a piece of writing like this would be an exercise in pessimistic vanity.

Who says it is impossible? The President says it; the State Department says it; all globalists and one-worlders are saying it.

Do not ask whether or not it is possible. Ask yourself this: If it were possible, what would it take? How could the people restore the Republic if they would? Or, before that, how could they recover their Constitution sovereign right to choose for themselves?

When you have put it that way you are bound to turn and look at the lost terrain. What are the positions, forgotten or surrendered, that would have to be recaptured?


The height in the foreground is a state of mind. To recover the habit of decision the people must learn again to think for themselves; and this world require a kind of self-awakening, as from a wee small alarm in the depths. This is so because thinking has been laid under a spell. The hypnotic powers are entrenched, combative and dangerous. But once the self-liberated mind had regained that first height it would see not only that there is an alternative course but that above the noxious emanations of fear and the fog of propaganda the view of it is fairly clear.

On December 20, 1950, Herbert Hoover pointed to it, saying: “The foundation of our national policies must be to preserve for the world this Western Hemisphere Gibraltar of Western Civilization. We can, without any measure of doubt, with our own air and naval forces hold the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, with one frontier on Britain (if she wishes to co-operate); the other on Japan, Formosa and the Philippines. We could, after initial outlays for more air and navy equipment, greatly reduce our expenditures, balance our budget and free ourselves from the danger of inflation and economic degeneration.

“We are not blind to the need to preserve Western Civilization on the continent of Europe or to our cultural and religious ties to it. But the prime obligation of Western Continental Europe rests upon the nations of Europe. The test is whether they have the spiritual force, the will and acceptance of unity among them by their own volition. America cannot create their spiritual forces; we cannot buy them with money.”

His words were lost on the spell-bound American mind. The government’s propaganda smothered him. He was an isolationist back from the grave.

Will you take a military authority for it, even though it, even though it speaks against itself? Addressing the American Legion at Miami on October 17, 1951, General MacArthur said:

“It is impossible to disassociate ourselves from the affairs of Europe and Asia. Major warfare in either has become our immediate military concern, lest they fall under the domination of those hostile to us and intent upon predatory incursions against our own land.”

The global thesis, as any globalist would state it. Then amazingly in the same speech, three paragraphs later, MacArthur said:

“There are many of the leaders and people of Western Europe who mistakenly believe that we assist them solely to protect ourselves, or to assure an alliance with them, should our country be attacked. This is indeed fallacious thinking. Our potential in human and material resource, in alignment with the rest of the Americas, is adequate to defend this hemisphere against any threat from any power or any association of powers.”

The fascinated American mind hardly noticed this startling discrepancy in MacArthur’s reasoning. If the American hemisphere is invulnerable, then why do we have to defend American liberty in Europe, Asia, and Africa? The question is not arguable here. The purpose of asking it is merely to show that it does exist.

In “Foreign Policy for Americans,” Senator Taft evidently thought he was discussing the principles of foreign policy, whereas in fact he was discussing only its history and its faults and how now to go on with it, saying: “I see no choice now except to rely on our armed forces and alliances with those nations willing to fight the advance of communism.”

Then he adds one sentence, as honestly he must, saying: “In my opinion we are completely able to defend the United States itself.”

There the discrepancy again. If we are completely able to defend the United States itself, then why do we have to rely upon allies?

The Pentagon itself has plotted an alternative course. That fact is not disclosed by the government, on the ground that to disclose it would be, it its opinion, contrary to the public interest. Military support for the government’s course, that may be disclosed, that is in the public interest. If it be denied that the Pentagon has an alternative plan, the answer is that in such case the people ought to fire the General Staff and get a new one. If it is still permitted for people to say what they will defend and how they will defend it—to choose, for example, whether to save the United States or save the whole world—why should they not have all the military information there is? Why should the government withhold part of it? Whose property is it? Does it belong to the government or to the people? Strategy must be secret. We do not speak of strategy. We speak of national policy.


The second height to be regained is that where of old foreign policy was submitted to public debate. How long ago that seems! And how was that height lost? There was no battle for it. The government seized it without a struggle; and now the President may say the people ought to accept the government’s foreign policy without debate.

In a speech to the National Women’s Democratic Club on November 20, 1951, President Truman said: “You remember what happened in 1920. When the people voted for Harding, that meant a tremendous change in the course the United States was following. It meant that we turned our backs on the new-born League of Nations. . . . I think most people now recognize that the country chose the wrong course in 1920. . . . Since I have been President I have sought to steer a straight course of handling foreign policy matters on the sole basis of the national interest. The people I have chosen to fill the major positions concerned with foreign policy have been picked solely on merit, without regard to party labels. I want to keep it that way. I want to keep our foreign policy out of domestic politics.”

So far had the American mind been conditioned by the infatuate phrase, bi-partisan foreign policy, that this extraordinary statement was vacantly received. What was the President saying? He was saying that because, in his opinion, the people once voted wrong on foreign policy, they ought not to vote on it at all any more. Let them leave it to the President. It follows logically that the people have no longer anything to say about war and peace.

On this height, where foreign policy once more shall be debated by the people who may have to die for it, let the wind be cold and merciless. Let those be nakedly exposed to it who have brought the country to this impasse, who so misunderstand the nature of what they have done that they find no ignominy in having brought national security to rest upon the good will of boughten allies—if it is so; who petted and nourished the Russian aggressor and recommended him to the affections of the American people as a peace-loving collaborator? If they can justify themselves to the free and disenthralled intelligence of the people, so that the people knowingly choose to go on with them, then there will be nothing more to say, or to do, but decently to perform the obsequies of the Republic. Until this is settled it will be useless to discuss domestic policies because what is at stake in the first case is the fate of the republican form of government.


On the next height lies control of the public purse. Until the people have recovered that they cannot tame Executive Government. Passing laws to control or constrain it is of no avail whatever. The only way to reason with it at all is to cut it off at the pockets. Until the Roosevelt Revolution, even from colonial days until then, no popular prerogative was so jealously guarded as this one. The colonists insisted on paying the royal governors out of colonial funds, because if they were paid by the British Treasury they would be too independent. And when it came to setting up the American government, the Constitution said that control of the purse should be in the hands of the House of Representatives because that was the popular side of the Congress. The people have not always managed the purse well. They have sometimes stuffed it with bad money; they have sometimes flung its contents around in a reckless manner. But there is a difference, that no matter how badly the people may manage the public purse it cannot control them, whereas in the hands of the government control of the purse becomes the most powerful instrument of executive policy touching the lives of the people.


There is no valley to cross to the next height. It is right there. On top of it is the nesting place of the Fallacious Serpent. The spirit of insatiable evil inhabits the serpent; the evil is inflation. Its weapon of defense is an invisible vapor, the effect of which is to cause people to become economic alcoholics, afflicted with the delusion that they can get rich be destroying the value of money. It is no good to think of cutting off its head. It has millions of heads, all in the likeness of human heads, and as fast as they are chopped off others appear in place of them. Moreover, at this point, even in the ranks of the dragon hunters, dissensions will break forth, people saying: “Don’t kill him. If he dies deflation will come, and deflation is worse. Only chain him down.” At that every one of the heads begins to grin in a most sardonic manner. The serpent thinks its life is safe and to wiggle out of chains is its morning exercise. There is only one thing to do with the monster. It can be sickened and starved, not to death, because the life in it is immortal, but to a harmless shadow. Its food is irredeemable paper money. Sound money is its poison. Victory here cannot be unconditional. You will have to leave a guard, and then someone to watch the guard, and then keep going back to see.


The positions in the lost terrain that have been named are vital. To serve the Republic they must all be stormed and captured. Others are important, but if these are taken the others can wait; but there is still one more, the last and highest of all, and as you approach it you may understand the serpent’s sardonic grin. The slopes are steep and barren. No enemy is visible. The enemy is in yourself. For this may be named the Peak of Fortitude.

What you have to face is that the cost of saving the Republic may be extremely high. It could be relatively as high as the cost of setting it up in the first place, one hundred and seventy-five years ago, when love of liberty was a mighty passion, and people were willing to die for it.

When the economy has for a long time been moving by jet propulsion, the higher the faster, on the fuel of perpetual war and planned inflation, a time comes when you have to choose whether to go on and on and dissolve in the stratosphere, or decelerate. But deceleration will cause a terrific shock. Who will say, “Now!” Who is willing to face the grim and dangerous realities of deflation and depression?

When Moses had brought his people near to the Promised Land he sent out scouts to explore it. They returned with rapturous words for its beauties and its fruits, whereupon the people were shrill with joy, until the scouts said: “The only thing is, this land is inhabited by very fierce men.”

Moses said: “Come. Let us fall upon them and take the land. It is ours from the Lord.”

At that the people turned bitterly on Moses, and said: “What a prophet you have turned out to be! So the land is ours if we can take it? We need no prophet to tell us that.”

No doubt the people know they can have their Republic back if they want it enough to fight for it and to pay the price. The only point is that no leader has yet appeared with the courage to make them choose.

The Revolution Was by Garet Garrett 1936

There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.

There are those who have never ceased to say very earnestly, “Something is going to happen to the American form of government if we don’t watch out.” These were the innocent disarmers. Their trust was in words. They had forgotten their Aristotle. More than 2,000 years ago he wrote of what can happen within the form, when “one thing takes the place of another, so that the ancient laws will remain, while the power will be in the hands of those who have brought about revolution in the state.”

Worse outwitted were those who kept trying to make sense of the New Deal from the point of view of all that was implicit in the American scheme, charging it therefore with contradiction, fallacy, economic ignorance, and general incompetence to govern.

But it could not be so embarrassed, and all that line was wasted, because, in the first place, it never intended to make that kind of sense, and secondly, it took off from nothing that was implicit in the American scheme.

It took off from a revolutionary base. The design was European. Regarded from the point of view of revolutionary technique, it made perfect sense. Its meaning was revolutionary and it had no other. For what it meant to do, it was from the beginning consistent in principle, resourceful, intelligent, masterly in workmanship, and it made not one mistake.

The test came in the first one hundred days.

No matter how carefully a revolution may have been planned there is bound to be a crucial time. That comes when the actual seizure of power is taking place. In this case certain steps were necessary. They were difficult and daring steps. But more than that, they had to be taken in a certain sequence, with forethought and precision of timing. One out of place might have been fatal. What happened was that one followed another in exactly the right order, not one out of time or out of place.

Having passed this crisis, the New Deal went on from one problem to another, taking them in the proper order, according to revolutionary technique; and if the handling of one was inconsistent with the handling of another, even to the point of nullity, that was blunder in reverse. The effect was to keep people excited about one thing at a time, and divided, while steadily through all the uproar of outrage and confusion a certain end, held constantly in view, was pursued by main intention.

The end held constantly in view was power.

In a revolutionary situation, mistakes and failures are not what they seem. They are scaffolding. Error is not repealed. It is compounded by a longer law, by more decrees and regulations, by further extensions of the administrative hand. As deLawd said in The Green Pastures, that when you have passed a miracle you have to pass another one to take care of it, so it was with the New Deal. Every miracle it passed, whether it went right or wrong, had one result. Executive power over the social and economic life of the nation was increased. Draw a curve to represent the rise of executive power and look there for the mistakes. You will not find them. The curve is consistent.

At the end of the first year, in his annual message to the Congress, January 4, 1934, President Roosevelt said, “It is to the eternal credit of the American people that this tremendous readjustment of our national life is being accomplished peacefully.”

Peacefully if possible — of course.

But the revolutionary historian will go much further. Writing at some distance in time he will be much less impressed by the fact that it was peacefully accomplished than by the marvelous technique of bringing it to pass not only within the form but within the word, so that people were all the while fixed in the delusion that they were talking about the same things because they were using the same words. Opposite and violently hostile ideas were represented by the same word signs. This was the American people’s first experience with dialectic according to Marx and Lenin.

Until it was too late, few understood one like Julius C. Smith, of the American Bar Association, saying,

Is there any labor leader, any businessman, any lawyer or any other citizen of America so blind that he cannot see that this country is drifting at an accelerated pace into administrative absolutism similar to that which prevailed in the governments of antiquity, the governments of the Middle Ages, and in the great totalitarian governments of today? Make no mistake about it. Even as Mussolini and Hitler rose to absolute power under the forms of law … so may administrative absolutism be fastened upon this country within the Constitution and within the forms of law.

For a significant illustration of what has happened to words — of the double meaning that inhabits them — put in contrast what the New Deal means when it speaks of preserving the American system of free private enterprise and what American business means when it speaks of defending it. To the New Deal these words — the American system of free private enterprise — stand for a conquered province. To the businessman the same words stand for a world that is in danger and may have to be defended.

The New Deal is right.

Business is wrong.

You do not defend a world that is already lost. When was it lost? That you cannot say precisely. It is a point for the revolutionary historian to ponder. We know only that it was surrendered peacefully, without a struggle, almost unawares. There was no day, no hour, no celebration of the event — and yet definitely, the ultimate power of initiative did pass from the hands of private enterprise to government.

“In a revolutionary situation, mistakes and failures are not what they seem. They are scaffolding.”

There it is and there it will remain until, if ever, it shall be reconquered. Certainly government will never surrender it without a struggle.

To the revolutionary mind the American vista must have been almost as incredible as Genghis Khan’s first view of China — so rich, so soft, so unaware.

No politically adult people could ever have been so little conscious of revolution. There was here no revolutionary tradition, as in Europe, but in place of it the strongest tradition of subject government that had ever been evolved — that is, government subject to the will of the people, not its people but the people. Why should anyone fear government?

In the naive American mind the word “revolution” had never grown up. The meaning of it had not changed since horse-and-buggy days, when Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Revolutions are not made by men in spectacles.” It called up scenes from Carlyle and Victor Hugo, or it meant killing the Czar with a bomb, as he may have deserved for oppressing his people. Definitely, it meant the overthrow of government by force; and nothing like that could happen here. We had passed a law against it.

Well, certainly nothing like that was going to happen here. That it probably could not happen, and that everybody was so sure it couldn’t made everything easier for what did happen.

Revolution in the modern case is no longer an uncouth business. The ancient demagogic art, like every other art, has, as we say, advanced. It has become in fact a science — the science of political dynamics. And your scientific revolutionary in spectacles regards force in a cold, impartial manner. It may or may not be necessary. If not, so much the better; to employ it wantonly, or for the love of it, when it is not necessary, is vulgar, unintelligent, and wasteful. Destruction is not the aim. The more you destroy the less there is to take over. Always the single end in view is a transfer of power.

Outside of the Communist Party and its aurora of radical intellectuals, few Americans seemed to know that revolution had become a department of knowledge, with a philosophy and a doctorate of its own, a language, a great body of experimental data, schools of method, textbooks, and manuals — and this was revolution regarded not as an act of heroic redress in a particular situation, but revolution as a means to power in the abstract case.

There was a prodigious literature of revolutionary thought concealed only by the respectability of its dress.

Americans generally associated dangerous doctrine with bad printing, rude grammar, and stealthy distribution. Here was revolutionary doctrine in well-printed and well-written books, alongside of best sellers at your bookstore or in competition with detectives on your news-dealer’s counter. As such, it was all probably harmless, or it was about something that could happen in Europe, not here. A little Communism on the newsstand like that might be good for us, in fact, regarded as a twinge of pain in a robust, somewhat reckless social body. One ought to read it, perhaps, just to know. But one had tried, and what dreary stuff it had turned out to be!

To the revolutionary this same dreary stuff was the most exciting reading in the world. It was knowledge that gave him a sense of power. One who mastered the subject to the point of excellence could be fairly sure of a livelihood by teaching and writing, that is, by imparting it to others, and meanwhile dream of passing at a single leap from this mean obscurity to the prestige of one who assists in the manipulation of great happenings; while one who mastered it to the point of genius — that one might dream of becoming himself the next Lenin.

A society so largely founded on material success and the rewards of individualism in a system of free competitive enterprise would be liable to underestimate both the intellectual content of the revolutionary thesis and the quality of the revolutionary mind that was evolving in a disaffected and envious academic world. At any rate, this society did, and from the revolutionary point of view that was one of the peculiar felicities of the American opportunity. The revolutionary mind that did at length evolve was one of really superior intelligence, clothed with academic dignity, always sure of itself, supercilious and at ease in all circumstances. To entertain it became fashionable. You might encounter it anywhere, and nowhere more amusingly than at a banker’s dinner table, discussing the banker’s trade in a manner sometimes very embarrassing to the banker. Which of these brilliant young men in spectacles was of the cult and which was of the cabal — if there was a cabal — one never knew. Indeed, it was possible that they were not sure of it among themselves, a time having come when some were only playing with the thought of extremes while others were in deadly earnest, all making the same sounds. This was the beginning of mask and guise.

The scientific study of revolution included, of course, analysis of opportunity. First and always, the master of revolutionary technique is an opportunist. He must know opportunity when he sees it in the becoming; he must know how to stalk it, how to let it ripen, how to adapt his means to the realities. The basic ingredients of opportunity are few; nearly always it is how they are mixed that matters. But the one indispensable ingredient is economic distress, and, if there is enough of that, the mixture will take care of itself.

The Great Depression as it developed here was such an opportunity as might have been made to order. The economic distress was relative, which is to say that at the worst of it living in this country was better than living almost anywhere else in the world. The pain, nevertheless, was very acute; and much worse than any actual hurt was a nameless fear, a kind of active despair, that assumed the proportions of a national psychosis.

Seizures of that kind were not unknown in American history. Indeed, they were characteristic of the American temperament. But never before had there been one so hard and never before had there been the danger that a revolutionary elite would be waiting to take advantage of it.

This revolutionary elite was nothing you could define as a party. It had no name, no habitat, no rigid line. The only party was the Communist Party, and it was included, but its attack was too obvious and its proletarianism too crude; and moreover, it was under the stigma of not belonging. Nobody could say that about the elite above. It did belong, it was eminently respectable, and it knew the American scene. What it represented was a quantity of bitter intellectual radicalism infiltrated from the top downward as a doctorhood of professors, writers, critics, analysts, advisers, administrators, directors of research, and so on — a prepared revolutionary intelligence in spectacles.

There was no plan to begin with. But there was a shibboleth that united them all: “Capitalism is finished.”

There was one idea in which all differences could be resolved, namely, the idea of a transfer of power. For that, a united front; after that, anything. And the wine of communion was a passion to play upon history with a scientific revolutionary technique.

The prestige of the elite was natural for many reasons, but it rested also upon one practical consideration. When the opportunity came a Gracchus would be needed. The elite could produce one. And that was something the Communist Party could not hope to do.

Now given —

  1. the opportunity,
  2. a country whose fabulous wealth was in the modern forms — dynamic, functional, nonportable,
  3. a people so politically naïve as to have passed a law against any attempt to overthrow their government by force — and,
  4. the intention to bring about what Aristotle called a revolution in the state, within the frame of existing law —

Then from the point of view of scientific revolutionary technique, what would the problems be?

They set themselves down in sequence as follows:

  • The first, naturally, would be to capture the seat of government.
  • The second would be to seize economic power.
  • The third would be to mobilize by propaganda the forces of hatred.
  • The fourth would be to reconcile and then attach to the revolution the two great classes whose adherence is indispensable but whose interests are economically antagonistic, namely, the industrial wage earners and the farmers, called in Europe workers and peasants.
  • The fifth would be what to do with business — whether to liquidate or shackle it.

(These five would have a certain imperative order in time and require immediate decisions because they belong to the program of conquest. That would not be the end. What would then ensue? A program of consolidation. Under that head the problems continue.)

  • The sixth, in Burckhardt’s devastating phrase, would be “the domestication of individuality” — by any means that would make the individual more dependent upon government.
  • The seventh would be the systematic reduction of all forms of rival authority.
  • The eighth would be to sustain popular faith in an unlimited public debt, for if that faith should break the government would be unable to borrow; if it could not borrow it could not spend; and the revolution must be able to borrow and spend the wealth of the rich or else it will be bankrupt.
  • The ninth would be to make the government itself the great capitalist and enterpriser, so that the ultimate power in initiative would pass from the hands of private enterprise to the all-powerful state.

Each one of these problems would have two sides, one the obverse and one the reverse, like a coin. One side only would represent the revolutionary intention. The other side in each case would represent Recovery — and that was the side the New Deal constantly held up to view. Nearly everything it did was in the name of Recovery. But in no case was it true that for the ends of economic recovery alone one solution or one course and one only was feasible. In each case there was an alternative and therefore a choice to make.

What we shall see is that in every case the choice was one that could not fail:

  1. to ramify the authority and power of executive government — its power, that is, to rule by decrees and rules and regulations of its own making;
  2. to strengthen its hold upon the economic life of the nation;
  3. to extend its power over the individual;
  4. to degrade the parliamentary principle;
  5. to impair the great American tradition of an independent, Constitutional judicial power;
  6. to weaken all other powers — the power of private enterprise, the power of private finance, the power of state and local government;
  7. to exalt the leader principle.

There was endless controversy as to whether the acts of the New Deal did actually move recovery or retard it, and nothing final could ever come of that bitter debate because it is forever impossible to prove what might have happened in place of what did. But a positive result is obtained if you ask, Where was the New Deal going?

The answer to that question is too obvious to be debated. Every choice it made, whether it was one that moved recovery or not, was a choice unerringly true to the essential design of totalitarian government, never of course called by that name either here or anywhere else.

How it worked, how the decisions were made, and how acts that were inconsistent from one point of view were consistent indeed from the other — that now is the matter to be explored, seriatim.

Problem 1: To Capture the Seat of Government

There was here no choice of means. The use of force was not to be considered. Therefore, it had to be done by ballot. That being the case, and the factor of political discontent running very high, the single imperative was not to alarm the people.

Senator Taft says that in the presidential campaign of 1932, “the New Deal was hidden behind a program of economy and state rights.”

That is true. Nevertheless, a New Dealer might say, “How could we tell the people what we were going to do when we ourselves did not know?” And that also may be true — that they did not know what they were going to do.

Lenin, the greatest theorist of them all, did not know what he was going to do after he had got the power. He made up plans as he went along, changed them if they did not work, even reversed them, but always of course in a manner consistent with his basic revolutionary thesis. And so it was with Hitler, who did it by ballot, and with Mussolini, who did it by force.

There was probably no blueprint of the New Deal, nor even a clear drawing. Such things as the A.A.A. and the Blue Eagle were expedient inventions. What was concealed from the people was a general revolutionary intention — the intention, that is, to bring about revolution in the state, within the form of law. This becomes clear when you set down what it was the people thought they were voting for in contrast with what they got.

They thought they were voting for less government, not more; for an end of deficit spending by government, not deficit spending raised to the plane of a social principle; and for sound money, not as the New Deal afterward defined it, but as everybody then understood it, including Senator Glass, formerly Secretary of the Treasury, who wrote the money plank in the Democratic Party platform and during the campaign earnestly denounced as akin to treason any suggestion that the New Deal was going to do what it did forthwith proceed to do, over his dramatic protest.

The first three planks of the Democratic Party platform read as follows:

We advocate an immediate and drastic reduction of governmental expenditures by abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagance to accomplish a saving of not less than twenty-five per cent in the cost of the Federal Government. …

We favor maintenance of the national credit by a federal budget annually balanced on the basis of accurate executive estimates within revenues, raised by a system of taxation levied on the principle of ability to pay.

We advocate a sound currency to be preserved at all hazards and an international monetary conference called on the invitation of our government to consider the rehabilitation of silver and related questions.

Mr. Roosevelt pledged himself to be bound by this platform as no president had ever before been bound by a party document. All during the campaign he supported it with words that could not possibly be misunderstood. He said,

I accuse the present administration [Hoover’s] of being the greatest spending administration in peace time in all American history — one which piled bureau on bureau, commission on commission, and has failed to anticipate the dire needs or reduced earning power of the people. Bureaus and bureaucrats have been retained at the expense of the taxpayer…. We are spending altogether too much money for government services which are neither practical nor necessary. In addition to this, we are attempting too many functions and we need a simplification of what the federal government is giving to the people.

This he said many times.

Few of the great majority that voted in November, 1932 for less federal government and fewer federal functions could have imagined that by the middle of the next year the extensions of government and the multiplication of its functions would have been such as to create serious administrative confusion in Washington, which the president, according to his own words, dealt with in the following manner:

On July eleventh I constituted the Executive Council for the simple reason that so many new agencies having been created, a weekly meeting with the members of the Cabinet in joint session was imperative…. Mr. Frank C. Walker was appointed as Executive Secretary of the Council.

Fewer still could have believed that if such a thing did happen it would be more than temporary, for the duration of the emergency only; and yet within a year after Mr. Roosevelt had pledged himself, if elected, to make a 25 percent cut in federal government by “eliminating functions” and by “abolishing many boards and commissions,” he was writing, in a book entitled On Our Way, the following:

In spite of the necessary complexity of the group of organizations whose abbreviated titles have caused some amusement, and through what has seemed to some a mere reaching out for centralized power by the federal government, there has run a very definite, deep and permanent objective.

Few of the majority that voted in November 1932 for an end of deficit spending and a balanced federal budget could have believed that the president’s second budget message to Congress would shock the financial reason of the country, or that in that same book, On Our Way, he would be writing about it in a blithesome manner, saying,

The next day, I transmitted the Annual Budget Message to the Congress. It is, of course, filled with figures and accompanied by a huge volume containing in detail all of the proposed appropriations for running the government during the fiscal year beginning July 1,1934 and ending June 30,1935. Although the facts of previous appropriations had all been made public, the country, and I think most of the Congress, did not fully realize the huge sums which would be expended by the government this year and next year; nor did they realize the great amount the Treasury would have to borrow.

And certainly almost no one who voted in November 1932 for a sound, gold-standard money according to the Glass money plank in the platform could have believed that less than a year later, in a radio address reviewing the extraordinary monetary acts of the New Deal, the president would be saying, “We are thus continuing to move toward a managed currency.”

The broken party platform, as an object, had a curious end. Instead of floating away and out of sight as a proper party platform should, it kept coming back with the tide. Once it came so close that the president had to notice it. Then all he did was to turn it over, campaign side down, with the words

I was able, conscientiously, to give full assent to this platform and to develop its purpose in campaign speeches. A campaign, however, is apt to partake so much of the character of a debate and the discussion of individual points that the deeper and more permanent philosophy of the whole plan (where one exists) is often lost.

At that the platform sank.

And so the first problem was solved. The seat of government was captured by ballot, according to law.

Problem 2: To Seize Economic Power

This was the critical problem. The brilliant solution of it will doubtless make a classic chapter in the textbooks of revolutionary technique. In a highly evolved money economy, such as this one, the shortest and surest road to economic power would be what? It would be control of money, banking, and credit. The New Deal knew that answer. It knew also the steps and how to take them, and above all, it knew its opportunity.

It arrived at the seat of government in the midst of that well-known phenomenon called a banking crisis, such as comes at the end of every great depression. It is like the crisis of a fever. When the banks begin to fail, pulling one another down, that is the worst that can happen. If the patient does not die then he will recover. We were not going to die. The same thing had happened to us before, once or twice in every twenty years, and always before the cure had brought itself to pass as it was bound to do again.

In his inaugural address, March 4, 1933, the president declared that the people had “asked for discipline and direction under leadership”; that he would seek to bring speedy action “within my Constitutional authority”; and that he hoped the “normal balance of executive and legislative authority” could be maintained, and then said,

But in the event that Congress shall fail … and in the event that the national emergency is still critical … I shall ask Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis — broad executive power to make war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.

It is true that people wanted action. It is true that they were in a mood to accept any painkiller, and damn the normal balance of authority between the executive and legislative authority. That was an emotional state of mind perfectly suited to a revolutionary purpose, and the president took advantage of it to make the first startling exposition of New Deal philosophy. Note his assertion of the leadership principle over any other. Discipline under leadership. Note the threat to Congress — “in the event that Congress shall fail.” But who was to say if the Congress had failed? The leader, of course. If in his judgment the Congress failed, then, with the people behind him, he would demand war powers to deal with an economic emergency.

The word emergency was then understood to mean what the dictionaries said it meant — namely, a sudden juncture of events demanding immediate action. It was supposed to refer only to the panic and the banking crisis, both temporary.

But what it meant to the president, as nobody then knew, was a very different thing. Writing a year later, in his book, On Our Way, he said,

Strictly speaking, the banking crisis lasted only one week…. But the full meaning of that word emergency related to far more than banks; it covered the whole economic and therefore the whole social structure of the country. It was an emergency that went to the roots of our agriculture, our commerce, our industry; it was an emergency that has existed for a whole generation in its underlying causes and for three-and-one-half years in its visible effects. It could be cured only by a complete reorganization and measured control of the economic structure. It called for a long series of new laws, new administrative agencies. It required separate measures affecting different subjects; but all of them component parts of a fairly definite broad plan.

So, what the New Deal really intended to do, what it meant to do within the Constitution if possible, with the collaboration of Congress if Congress did not fail, but with war powers if necessary, was to reorganize and control the “whole economic and therefore the whole social structure of the country.” And therein lay the meaning — the only consistent meaning — of a series of acts touching money, banking and credit which, debated as monetary policy, made no sense whatever.

The first step, three days before the new Congress convened, was an executive decree suspending all activities of banking throughout the country. Simply, every bank was shut up. The same decree forbade, under pain of fine and imprisonment, any dealing in foreign exchange or any transfer of credit from the United States to any place abroad, and that was to slam the door against the wicked rich who might be tempted to run out.

The second step was an act of Congress, saying, “Acts of the President and Secretary of the Treasury since March 4, 1933, are hereby confirmed and approved.”

That made everything legal after the fact: and it was the first use of Congress as a rubber stamp. The same act of Congress provided that no bank in the Federal Reserve System should resume business except subject to rules and regulations to be promulgated by the Secretary of the Treasury, gave the president absolute power over foreign exchange and authorized the federal government to invest public funds in private bank stock, thereby providing banks with new capital owned by the government. And that was the act that authorized the president to require people to surrender their gold. Congress did not write any of these acts. It received them from the White House and passed them.

The third step was a decree by the president requiring all persons and corporations whatever to divest themselves of gold and hand it over to the government. The law authorizing him to do that had fixed the penalty of noncompliance at a fine equal to twice the value of the gold. The executive decree added the penalty of imprisonment.

In view of further intentions not yet disclosed it was imperative for the government to get possession of all the gold. With a lot of gold in private hands, its control of money, banking, and credit could have been seriously challenged. All that the government asked for at first was possession of the gold, as if it were a trust. For their gold as they gave it up people received paper money, but this paper money was still gold-standard money — that is to say, it had always been exchangeable for gold, dollar for dollar, and people supposed that it would be so again, when the crisis passed. Not a word had yet been said about devaluing the dollar or repudiating the gold standard. The idea held out was that as people surrendered their gold they were supporting the nation’s credit.

This decree calling in the gold was put forth on April 5. There was then an awkward interlude. The Treasury was empty. It had to sell some bonds. If people knew what was going to happen they might hesitate to buy new Treasury bonds. Knowing that it was going to devalue the dollar, knowing that it was going to repudiate the gold-redemption clause in its bonds, even while it was writing the law of repudiation, the government nevertheless issued and sold to the people bonds engraved as usual, that is, with the promise of the United States Government to pay the interest and redeem the principal “in United States gold coin of the present standard of value.”

The fourth step was the so-called Inflation Amendment attached to the Emergency Farm Relief Act. This law made sure that the Treasury need not be caught that way again. It forcibly opened the tills of the Federal Reserve Bank System to three billions of Treasury notes, authorized three billions of fiat money to be issued in the president’s discretion, and gave the president power in his own discretion to devalue the dollar by one-half.

The fifth step was the act of repudiation. By resolution June 5, 1933, the Congress repudiated the gold redemption clause in all government obligations, saying they should be payable when due in any kind of money the government might see fit to provide; and, going further, it declared that the same traditional redemption clause in all private contracts, such, for example, as railroad and other corporation bonds, was contrary to public policy and therefore invalid.

The sixth step was a new banking act giving the federal government power to say how private banks should lend their money, on what kinds of collateral and in what proportions, and the arbitrary power to cut them off from credit with Federal Reserve Banks. This arbitrary power to cut them off from credit was a stranglehold, and it was gained by changing one little word in the country’s organic banking law. From the beginning until then the law was that a Federal Reserve Bank “shall” lend to a private bank on suitable security. This word was changed to “may.” Thus a right became a privilege and a privilege that could be suspended at will.

The seventh step — and it was the one most oblique — was to produce what may be described as monetary pandemonium. This continued for six months. To understand it will require some effort of attention.

When by the Inflation Amendment the dollar was cut loose from gold it did not immediately fall. That was because, in spite of everything, it was the best piece of money in the whole world. Well then, when the dollar did not fall headlong of its own weight the government began to club it down, and the club it used to beat it with was gold.

In the president’s words the procedure was like this:

I am authorizing the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to buy newly mined gold in the United States at prices to be determined from time to time after consultation with the secretary of the treasury and the president. Whenever necessary to the end in view we shall also buy or sell gold in the world market. My aim in taking this step is to establish and maintain continuous control. This is a policy and not an expedient.

Each morning thereafter the Treasury announced the price the government would pay for gold in paper dollars, one day 30 paper dollars for one ounce of gold, the next day 32 dollars, two days later 34 dollars, and so on; and not only the newly mined gold in this country but anybody’s gold anywhere in the world. Thus day by day the president and the Secretary of the Treasury determined the value of gold priced in American paper dollars, or the value of American paper dollars priced in gold, which was the same thing; and how they did it or by what rule, if any, nobody ever knew.

The spectacle of a great, solvent government paying a fictitious price for gold it did not want and did not need and doing it on purpose to debase the value of its own paper currency was one to astonish the world. What did it mean? Regarded as monetary policy it made no meaning whatever. But again, if you will regard it from the point of view of revolutionary technique, it has meaning enough.

One effect was that private borrowing and lending, except from day to day, practically ceased. With the value of the dollar being posted daily at the Treasury like a lottery number, who would lend money for six months or a year, with no way of even guessing what a dollar would be worth when it came to be paid back? “No man outside of a lunatic asylum,” said Senator Glass, “will loan his money today on a farm mortgage.”

But the New Deal had a train of federal lending agencies ready to start. The locomotive was the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. The signal for the train to start was a blast of propaganda denouncing Wall Street, the banks and all private owners of capital for their unwillingness to lend. So the government, in their place, became the great provider of credit and capital for all purposes. It loaned public funds to farmers and home owners to enable them to pay off their mortgages; it loaned also to banks, railroads, business, industry, new enterprise, even to foreign borrowers.

Thereby private debt was converted into public debt in a very large and popular way. It was popular because the government, having none of the problems of a bank or a private lender, with no fetish of solvency to restrain it, with nothing really to lose even though the money should never come back, was a benevolent lender. It loaned public money to private borrowers on terms and at rates of interest with which no bank nor any private lender could compete; and the effect was to create a kind of fictitious, self-serving necessity. The government could say to the people, and did say to them: “Look. It is as we said. The money changers, hating the New Deal, are trying to make a credit famine. But your government will beat them.”

In a fireside chat, October 22, 1933, the president said,

I have publicly asked that foreclosures on farms and chattels and on homes be delayed until every mortgagor in the country shall have had full opportunity to take advantage of Federal credit. I make the further request, which many of you know has already been made through the great Federal credit organizations, that if there is any family in the United States about to lose its home or about to lose its chattels, that family should telegraph at once either to the Farm Credit Administration or to the Home Owners Loan Corporation in Washington requesting their help. Two other great agencies are in full swing. The Reconstruction Finance Corporation continues to lend large sums to industry and finance, with the definite objective of making easy the extending of credit to industry, commerce and finance.

The other great lending agency to which he referred was the one that dispensed federal credit to states, cities, towns, and worthy private organizations for works of public and social benefit. In the same fireside chat he urged them to come on with their projects. “Washington,” he said, “has the money and is waiting for the proper projects to which to allot it.”

Then began to be heard the saying that Washington had become the country’s Wall Street, which was literally true. Anyone wanting credit for any purpose went no longer to Wall Street but to Washington. The transfer of the financial capital of the nation to Washington, the president said, would be remembered, as “one of the two important happenings of my Administration.”

What was the source of the money? Partly it was imaginary money, from inflation. Largely it was the taxpayer’s money. If the government lost it the taxpayer would have to find it again. And some of it, as the sequel revealed, was going to be confiscated money. By this time the New Deal had got control of the public purse. The Congress had surrendered control of it by two acts of self-abnegation. One was the Inflation Amendment and the other was an appropriation of $3,300,000,000 put into the hands of the president to do with what he liked as the architect of recovery.

All through the commotion of these unnatural events one end was held steadily in view, and that was a modern version of the act for which kings had been hated and sometimes hanged, namely to clip the coin of the realm and take the profit into the king’s revenue.

The eighth step was the act of confiscation. At the president’s request the Congress, on January 30, 1934, passed a law vesting in the federal government absolute title to all that gold which people had been obliged to exchange for gold-standard paper dollars the year before, thinking as they did that it was for the duration of the emergency only and that they were supporting the nation’s credit. They believed the statement issued at the time by the secretary of the Treasury, saying, “Those surrendering the gold of course receive an equivalent amount of other forms of currency and those other forms of currency may be used for obtaining gold in an equivalent amount when authorized for proper purposes.” Having by such means got physical possession of the gold, it was a very simple matter for the government to confiscate it. All that it had to do was to have Congress pass a law vesting title in the government.

The ninth and last step was to devalue the dollar. In his message to Congress asking for the law that confiscated the gold, the president said, “I do not believe it desirable in the public interest that an exact value be now fixed.” Nevertheless, on January 31, 1934, the day after the act of confiscation was passed, he did fix the exact value of the dollar at 59 per cent of its former gold content. The difference, which was 41 cents in every dollar of gold that had been confiscated, was counted as government profit and took the form of a free fund of two billions in the Treasury, called a stabilization fund, with which the president could do almost anything he liked. Actually it was used to take control of the foreign exchange market out of the hands of international finance.

Control of money, banking, and credit had passed to Washington. Thus problem number two was solved.

The reason for giving so much attention to it is that it was the New Deal’s most brilliant feat; and certainly not the least remarkable fact about it was the skill with which criticism was played into making its fight on false and baited ground. Each step as it occurred was defended, and therefore attacked, on ground of monetary policy, whereas the ultimate meaning was not there at all.

Consider first the logical sequence of the nine steps; consider secondly that if national recovery had been the end in view many alternative steps were possible, whereas from the point of view of revolutionary technique these nine were the imperative steps and the order in which they were taken was the necessary order. Then ask if it could have happened that way by chance.

Not even a New Dealer any longer maintains that the four steps directly involving gold, namely, the seizure of it, the repudiation of the government’s gold contracts, then the confiscation of the gold, and lastly the devaluation of the dollar, were necessary merely as measures toward national recovery. In the history of the case there is no more dramatic bit of testimony than that of Senator Glass, formerly Secretary of the Treasury, who in April, 1933, rose from a sick bed and appeared in the Senate to speak against the Inflation Amendment. He said,

“I wrote with my own hand that provision of the national Democratic platform which declared for a sound currency to be maintained at all hazards…. With nearly 40 per cent of the entire gold supply of the world, why are we going off the gold standard? With all the earmarked gold, with all the securities of ours they hold, foreign governments could withdraw in total less than $700,000,000 of our gold, which would leave us an ample fund of gold, in the extremest case, to maintain gold payments both at home and abroad…. To me the suggestion that we may devalue the gold dollar 59 per cent means national repudiation. To me it means dishonor. In my conception of it, it is immoral…. There was never any necessity for a gold embargo. There is no necessity for making statutory criminals of citizens of the United States who may please to take their property in the shape of gold or currency out of the banks and use it for their own purposes as they may please. We have gone beyond the cruel extremities of the French, and they made it a capital crime, punishable at the guillotine, for any tradesman or individual citizens of the realm to discriminate in favor of gold and against their printing press currency. We have gone beyond that. We have said that no man may have his gold, under penalty of ten years in the penitentiary or $10,000 fine.”

And when the “gold cases” went to the United States Supreme Court — the unreconstructed court — the judgment was one that will be forever a blot on a certain page of American history. The Court said that what the government had done was immoral but not illegal. How could that be ? Because the American government, like any other government, has the sovereign power to commit an immoral act. Until then the American government was the only great government in the world that had never repudiated the word engraved upon its bond.

Problem 3: To Mobilize by Propaganda the Forces of Hatred

“We must hate,” said Lenin. “Hatred is the basis of Communism.” It is no doubt the basis of all mass excitement. But Lenin was not himself the master propagandist. How shall the forces of hatred be mobilized? What are the first principles? These are questions that now belong to a department of political science.

The first principle of all is to fix the gaze of hatred upon one object and to make all other objects seem but attributes of that one, for otherwise the force to be mobilized will dissipate itself in many directions.

This was expounded by Hitler in Mein Kampf, where he said, “It is part of the genius of a great leader to make adversaries of different fields appear as always belonging to one category. As soon as the wavering masses find themselves confronting too many enemies objectivity at once steps in and the question is raised whether actually all the others are wrong and their own cause or their own movement right…. Therefore a number of different internal enemies must always be regarded as one in such a way that in the opinion of the mass of one’s own adherents the war is being waged against one enemy alone. This strengthens the belief in one’s own cause and increases one’s bitterness against the attackers.”

How in a given situation to act upon this first principle of strategy is a matter to be very carefully explored. You come then to method and tactics, studies of the mass mind, analysis of symbols and slogans, and above all, skill of manipulation.

Lasswell and Blumenstock, in World Revolutionary Propaganda, define propaganda as “the manipulation of symbols to control controversial attitudes.” Symbols they define as “words and word substitutes like pictures and gestures.” And the purpose of revolutionary propaganda “is to arouse hostile attitudes toward the symbols and practices of the established order.”

It may be however that people are so deeply attached by habit and conscience to the symbols of the established order that to attack them directly would produce a bad reaction. In that case the revolutionary propagandist must be subtle. He must know how to create in the mass mind what the scientific propagandist calls a “crisis of conscience.” Instead of attacking directly those symbols of the old order to which the people are attached he will undermine and erode them by other symbols and slogans, and these others must be such as either to take the people off guard, or, as Lasswell and Blumenstock say, they must be “symbols which appeal to the conscience on behalf of symbols which violate the conscience.”

This is an analytic statement and makes it sound extremely complex. Really it is quite simple. For example, if the propagandist said, “Down with the Constitution!” — bluntly like that — he would be defeated because of the way the Constitution is enshrined in the American conscience. But he can ask: “Whose Constitution?” That question may become a slogan. He can ask: “Shall the Constitution be construed to hold say it is.” And that creates an image, which is a symbol. He can ask: “shall the Constitution be construed to hold property rights above human rights?” Or, as the president did, he may regretfully associate the Constitution with “horse-and-buggy days.”

The New Deal’s enmity for that system of free and competitive private enterprise which we call capitalism was fundamental. And this was so for two reasons, namely: first, that its philosophy and that of capitalism were irreconcilable, and secondly, that private capitalism by its very nature limits government.

In Russia capitalism, such as it was there, could be attacked directly. The people were not attached to it in any way. In this country it was very different. Americans did not hate capitalism. They might criticize it harshly for its sins, most of which were sins of self-betrayal, but its true symbols nevertheless were deeply embedded in the American tradition; and, moreover, a great majority of the people were in one way or another little capitalists. To have said, “Down with capitalism!” or, “Down with free private enterprise!” would have been like saying, “Down with the Constitution!” The attack, therefore, had to be oblique.

In his first inaugural address, March 4, 1933, the president said,

Values have shrunk to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; … the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no market for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return…. Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance…. Nature still offers her bounty. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, … have admitted their failure and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous moneychangers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men…. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers…. Yes, the moneychangers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

There was the pattern and it never changed. The one enemy, blameable for all human distress, for unemployment, for low wages, for the depression of agriculture, for want in the midst of potential plenty — who was he? The moneychanger in the temple. This was a Biblical symbol and one of the most hateful. With what modern symbol did this old and hateful one associate? With the Wall Street banker, of course; and the Wall Street banker was the most familiar and the least attractive symbol of capitalism.

Therefore, capitalism, obliquely symbolized by the moneychanger scourged out of the temple, was entirely to blame; capitalism was the one enemy, the one object to be hated. But never was it directly attacked or named; always it was the old order that was attacked. The old order became a symbol of all human distress. “We cannot go back to the old order,” said the president. And this was a very hateful counter symbol, because the old order, never really defined, did in fact associate in the popular mind with the worst debacle in the history of capitalism.

It was never the capitalist that was directly attacked. Always it was the economic royalist, the brigand of the skyscrapers, the modern tory — all three hateful counter symbols. The true symbols of the three competitive systems in which people believed were severely let alone. The technique in every case was to raise against them counter symbols. Thus, against the inviolability of private property was raised the symbol of those who would put property rights above human rights; and against all the old symbols of individualism and self-reliance was raised the attractive counter symbol of security.

To bring hatred to bear upon the profit motive there were two techniques. One was to say, as the president said in his first inaugural, that social values were more noble than mere monetary profit, as if in any free scheme you could have social gains without plenty of mere monetary profit; the other was to speak only of great profits, as if in a free profit and loss system you could have little profits and little losses without big profits and big losses.

It is not unnatural for people to think envious thoughts about large profits, and envious thoughts are very easy to exploit, as every demagogue knows. But no government before the New Deal had ever deliberately done it. In a homecoming speech to his Dutchess County neighbors, in August, 1933, the president explained why it had seemed necessary for the New Deal to limit personal liberty in certain ways. It was to make all men better neighbors in spite of themselves; and as if this were no new thing he said,

Many years ago we went even further in saying that the government would place increasing taxes on increasing profits because very large profits were, of course, made at the expense of the neighbors and should, to some extent at least, be used for the benefit of the neighbors.

Large profit as such becomes therefore a symbol of social injury, merely because it is large; moreover, it is asserted that large profit had long been so regarded by the government and penalized for that reason.

Of all the counter symbols this was the one most damaging to the capitalistic system. Indeed, if it were accepted, it would be fatal, because capitalism is a profit and loss system and if profits, even very large profits, are socially wrong, there is nothing more to be said for it. But it was a false symbol, and false for these three reasons, namely: first, there is no measure of large profit; second, large profits are of many kinds and to say simply that large profits are “of course made at the expense of the neighbors” is either nonsense or propaganda, as you like; and, in the third place, the history is wrong.

When the federal government many years ago imposed a graduated income tax — that is, taxing the rich at a higher rate than the well-to-do and taxing the poor not at all, the idea was not that large profits or large incomes were gained at the expense of one’s neighbors, not that the rich were guilty because they were rich. The idea was to impose taxes according to the ability to pay. The well-to-do could afford to pay more than the poor and the rich could afford to pay more than the well-to-do, and that was all.

What made it all so effective was that this was the American people’s first experience with organized government propaganda designed “to arouse hostile attitudes toward the symbols and practices of the established order” — and that, if you will remember, was the most precise definition of revolutionary propaganda that Lasswell and Blumenstock could think of in their scientific study of World Revolutionary Propaganda.

Problem 4: To Reconcile and Attach to the Revolution the Two Great Classes Whose Adherence Is Indispensable, Namely, the Industrial Wage Earner and the Farmer, Called in Europe Workers and Peasants

This is the problem for which revolutionary theory has yet to find the right solution, if there is one. The difficulty is that the economic interests of the two classes are antagonistic. If you raise agricultural prices to increase the farmer’s income the wage earner has to pay more for food. If you raise wages to increase the wage earner’s income the farmer has to pay more for everything he buys. And if you raise farm prices and wages both it is again as it was before. Nevertheless, to win the adherence which is indispensable you have to promise to increase the income of the farmer without hurting the wage earner and to increase the wage earner’s income without hurting the farmer. The only solution so far has been one of acrobatics. The revolutionary party must somehow ride the seesaw.

In Russia it was the one most troublesome problem. The peasants understood at first that there was to be a free distribution of land among them. When the Bolshevik regime put forth its decrees to abolish private property and nationalize the land the peasants went on taking the big estates, dividing the land and treating it as their own; and for a while the government had to let them alone. To have stopped them at once would have hurt the revolution. And when at length the government did come to deal with the peasants as if they were its tenants, whose part was to produce food not for profit but for the good of the whole, the revolution all but died of hunger.

The American farmer was a powerful individualist, with a long habit of aggressive political activity. His complaint was that his relative share of the national income had shrunk and was in all reason too little. This was from various causes, notably, (1) the worldwide depression of agriculture, (2) the low level of farm prices in a market where competition acted freely, and (3) the relative stability of industrial prices in a market that enjoyed tariff protection against world competition. Everything the farmer sold was too cheap; everything he bought was too dear. What he complained of really, though he did not always put it that way, was the economic advantage of the industrial wage earner.

The New Deal was going to redistribute the national income according to ideals of social and economic justice. That was the avowed intention. And once it had got control of money, banking, and credit it could in fact redistribute the national income almost as by a slide rule. The trouble was that if it gave the farmer a large share and left the wage earner’s share as it was it would lose the support of labor. And if it used its power to raise all prices in a horizontal manner, according to the thesis of reflation, the economic injustice complained of by the farmer would not be cured.

The solution was a resort to subsidies. If the prices the farmer received were not enough to give him that share of the national income which he enjoyed before the worldwide depression of agriculture, the difference would be made up to him in the form of cash subsidy payments out of the public treasury. The farmer on his part obliged himself to curtail production under the government’s direction; it would tell him what to plant and how much. The penalty for not conforming was to be cut off from the stream of beautiful checks issuing from the United States Treasury. The procedure was said to be democratic. It is true that a majority of farmers did vote for it when polled by the federal county agents. The subsidies were irresistible. More income for less work and no responsibility other than to plant and reap as the government said. Nevertheless, it led at once to compulsion, as in cotton, and it led everywhere to coercion of minorities.

The total subsidy payments to farmers ran very high, amounting in one year to more than eight hundred million dollars. And beside these direct subsidy payments, the government conferred upon the farmer the benefit of access to public credit at very low rates of interest with which to refund its mortgages.

Actually, the farmer’s income was increased. That was statistically apparent. Whether his relative share of the national income was increased, beyond what it would have been, is another matter. On the whole, probably not. For when the New Deal had done this for the farmer it had to do the equivalent or more for labor, and anything it did to increase labor’s share would tend to raise the cost of everything the farmer bought. There was the seesaw again.

What the New Deal did for labor was to pass a series of laws the purpose of which was to give organized labor the advantage in its bargaining with the employer. As these laws were construed and enforced they did principally three things. They delivered to organized labor a legal monopoly of the labor supply; they caused unionism to become in fact compulsory, and they made it possible for unions to practice intimidation, coercion, and violence with complete immunity, provided only it was all in the way of anything that might be called a labor dispute. The underlying idea was that with this power added to it, together with a minimum wage and hour act that made overtime a way of fattening the pay envelope, organized labor could very well by its own exertions increase its share of the national income enough to equal or to overcome the farmer’s new advantage. And this organized labor proceeded forthwith to do.

But there was at the same time an indirect subsidy to organized labor much greater than the direct subsidy paid to the farmer. Federal expenditures for work relief, amounting in the average to more than two billions a year, must be regarded as a subsidy to organized labor. The effect was to keep eight or ten million men off the labor market, where their competition for jobs would have been bound to break the wage structure. Thus union labor’s monopoly of the labor supply was protected.

Both the subsidies to agriculture and those to labor came out of the United States Treasury, and since the money had to be borrowed by the government and added to the public debt, you would hardly say the solution was either perfect or permanent. But from the point of view of revolutionary technique, that did not matter, provided certain other and more important ends were gained. What would those other ends be? One would be the precedent of making the federal government divider of the national income; another would be to make both the farmer and the union wage earner dependent upon the government — the farmer for his income and union labor for its power. Neither the farmer who takes income from the government nor the union wage earner who accepts from the government a grant of power is thereafter free.

Problem 5: What to Do with Business — Whether to Liquidate or Shackle It

There was a director of the budget who was not at heart a New Dealer. One day he brought to the president the next annual budget — the one of which the president afterward said, “The country, and I think most of Congress, did not fully realize the large sums which would be expended by the government this year and next, nor did they realize the great amount the Treasury would have to borrow.”

At the end of his work the director of the budget had written a paragraph saying simply and yet in a positive manner that notwithstanding the extraordinary activities indicated by the figures and by the appropriations that were going to be made, the government had really no thought of going into competition with private enterprise.

Having lingered for some time over this paragraph the president said, “I’m not so sure we ought to say that.”

The director of the budget asked, “Why not, Mr. President?”

The president did not answer immediately, but one of his aides who had been listening said, “I’ll tell you why. Who knows that we shall not want to take over all business?”

The director of the budget looked at the president, and the president said, “Let’s leave it out.” And of course it was left out.

It may have been that, at that time, the choice was still in doubt. Under the laws of Delaware, the government had already formed a group of corporations with charter powers so vague and extremely broad that they could have embraced ownership and management of all business. They were like private corporations, only that their officers were all officers of the government, and the capital stock was all government owned. The amount of capital stock was in each case nominal; it was of course expansible to any degree. Why they were formed or what they were for was never explained. In a little while they were forgotten.

Business is in itself a power. In a free economic system it is an autonomous power, and generally hostile to any extension of government power. That is why a revolutionary party has to do something with it. In Russia, it was liquidated; and although that is the short and simple way, it may not turn out so well because business is a delicate and wonderful mechanism; moreover, if it will consent to go along it can be very helpful. Always in business there will be a number, indeed, an astonishing number, who would sooner conform than resist, and besides these there will be always a few more who may be called the quislings of capitalism. Neither Hitler nor Mussolini ever attempted to liquidate business. They only deprived it of its power and made it serve.

How seriously the New Deal may have considered the possibility of liquidating business we do not know. Its decision, at any rate, was to embrace the alternative; and the alternative was to shackle it.

In his annual message to Congress the president said,

“In the past few months, as a result of our action, we have demanded of many citizens that they surrender certain licenses to do as they please in their business relationships; but we have asked this in exchange for the protection which the State can give against exploitation by their fellow men or by combinations of their fellow men.

Not even business would be asked to surrender its liberties for nothing. What was it going to receive in exchange? Protection against itself, under the eye of the Blue Eagle.

That did not last. The Blue Eagle came and went. Gen. Hugh Johnson, the stormy administrator of the NRA, said afterward that it was already dying when the Supreme Court cut off its head. Yet business was not unshackled. After all, one big shackle for all business was clumsy and unworkable. There were better ways.

Two years later the president was saying to Congress, “In thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of public power.” Who had opposed this extension of government power? He asked the question and answered it. The unscrupulous, the incompetent, those who represented entrenched greed — only these had opposed it. Then he said, “In the hands of a people’s government this power is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets, of an economic autocracy, such power would provide shackles for the liberties of the people.”

There, unconsciously perhaps, is a complete statement of the revolutionary thesis. It is not a question of law. It is a question of power. There must be a transfer of power. The president speaks not of laws; he speaks of new instruments of power, such as would provide shackles for the liberties of the people if they should ever fall in other hands. What then has the government done? Instead of limiting by law the power of what it calls economic autocracy the government itself has seized the power.

Problem 6: The Domestication of the Individual

This was not a specific problem. It was rather a line of principle to which the solution of every other problem was referred. As was said before, in no problem to be acted upon by the New Deal was it true that one solution and one only was imperative. In every case there was some alternative. But it was as if in every case the question was, “Which course of action will tend more to increase the dependence of the individual upon the federal government?” — and as if invariably the action resolved upon was that which would appeal rather to the weakness than to the strength of the individual.

And yet the people to be acted upon were deeply imbued with the traditions and maxims of individual resourcefulness — a people who grimly treasured in their anthology of political wisdom the words of Grover Cleveland, who vetoed a federal loan of only ten thousand dollars for drought relief in Texas, saying, “I do not believe that the power and duty of the general Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering…. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people…. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our National character.”

Which was only one more way of saying a hard truth that was implicit in the American way of thinking, namely, that when people support the government they control government, but when the government supports the people it will control them.

Well, what could be done with a people like that? The answer was propaganda. The unique American tradition of individualism was systematically attacked by propaganda in three ways, as follows:

Firstly, by attack that was direct, save only for the fact that the word individualism was qualified by the uncouth adjective rugged; and rugged individualism was made the symbol of such hateful human qualities as greed, utter selfishness, and ruthless disregard of the sufferings and hardships of one’s neighbors;

Secondly, by suggestion that in the modern environment the individual, through no fault or weakness of his own, had become helpless and was no longer able to cope with the adversities of circumstances. In one of his fireside chats, after the first six months, the president said, “Long before Inauguration Day I became convinced that individual effort and local effort and even disjointed Federal effort had failed and of necessity would fail, and, therefore, that a rounded leadership by the Federal Government had become a necessity both of theory and of fact.” And,

Thirdly, true to the technique of revolutionary propaganda, which is to offer positive substitute symbols, there was held out to the people in place of all the old symbols of individualism the one great new symbol of security.

After the acts that were necessary to gain economic power the New Deal created no magnificent new agency that had not the effect of making people dependent upon the federal government for security, income, livelihood, material satisfactions, or welfare. In this category, its principal works were these:

  • For the farmer, the AAA, the FCA, the CCC, the FCI, the AMA, and the SMA, to make him dependent on the federal government for marginal income in the form of cash subsidies, for easy and abundant credit, and for protection in the market place;
  • For the landless, the FSA, making them dependent upon the federal government for a complete way of life which they did not always like when the dream came true;
  • For union labor, the NLRB, making it dependent on the federal government for advantage against the employer in the procedures of collective bargaining, for the closed shop, and for its monopoly of the labor supply;
  • For those who sell their labor, whether organized or not, the FLSA-WHD (minimum wages and minimum hours), making the individual dependent on the federal government for protection (1) against the oppressive employer, (2) against himself lest he be tempted to cheapen the price of labor, and (3) against the competition of others who might be so tempted. Thus for better or worse the freedom of contract between employee and employer was limited.
  • For the unemployed, to any number, the WPA, making them directly dependent on the federal government for jobs, besides that they were kept off the labor market;
  • For the general welfare and to create indirect employment, the PWA, causing states, cities, towns, counties, and townships to become dependent upon the federal government for grants in aid of public works;
  • For home owners in distress, the HOLC, making them dependent on the federal government for temporary outdoor employment, rehabilitation, and vocational training, besides that these too, were kept off the labor market;
  • For bank depositors, the FDIC, making them dependent on the federal government for the safety of their bank accounts;
  • For the investors, the SEC, making them dependent on the federal government for protection against the vendors of glittering securities;
  • For the deep rural population, the REA and the EHFA, making them dependent on the federal government for electrical satisfactions at cost or less;
  • For those who live by wages and salaries the SSB, making them dependent on the federal government for old-age pensions and unemployment insurance; also for stern protection against the consequences of their own personal thriftlessness, since half of what goes into the social security reserve fund is taken out of their pay envelopes by the government, whether they like it or not, the government saying to them, “We will save it for you until your winter comes.” And since there is no saying anything back to the government this becomes compulsory thrift.

No individual life escaped, unless it was that of a desert rat or cave dweller.

It was thus that the hand of paternal government, having first seized economic power, traced the indelible outlines of the American Welfare State.

In the welfare state, the government undertakes to see to it that the individual shall be housed and clothed and fed according to a statistical social standard, and that he shall be properly employed and entertained, and in consideration for this security the individual accepts in place of entire freedom a status and a number and submits his life to be minded and directed by an all-responsible government.

When New Dealers speak in one breath of a welfare economy and with the next breath bitterly denounce pressure groups it may seem that they involve themselves in an ironical dilemma. It is easy to say, “What would you expect, since you have made division of the national income a matter of political bargaining where before it had been always a matter of economic bargaining?”

Yet they are right, the New Dealers. In the welfare state pressure groups, representing wilful political action, cannot be tolerated. They will have to be suppressed at last, because in the welfare state the government cannot really guarantee social security until it goes to the logical end, which is to ration the national income in time of peace just as all goods and satisfactions are rationed in time of war.

Problem 7: To Reduce All Rival Forms of Authority

The attack on this problem was progressive, with changing features, but the strategy throughout was consistent. The principal forms of rival authority were these four:

  1. The Congress,
  2. The Supreme Court,
  3. Sovereign States, and,
  4. Local Self-Government, for which we may take the symbol to be the County Court House.

The Congress is the lawmaking power. Under the Constitution, which is the supreme organic law, there is no federal lawmaking power but the Congress. What it represents is the parliamentary principle in free government.

It is the function of the Supreme Court, representing the judicial principle, to interpret the laws when the question is raised whether or not an act of Congress is contrary to the supreme organic law, which is the Constitution, and which only the people can change.

It is the function of the president, representing the executive principle, to execute the laws.

Lastly, each state in the Union has certain sovereign rights; these are rights which in the beginning no state was willing to surrender to the federal government.

Such is the form of the American government. The idea was that it should be a government of law, not a government of men.

In the special session called by the president to launch the New Deal, the Congress for the first time was under the spell of executive leadership and embraced the leadership principle. It did not write the New Deal laws. It received them from the White House, went through the motions of passing them, engrossed them, and sent them back to the president. That was called the rubber stamp Congress. So long as it was content to keep that role everything was lovely. In the book On Our Way the president wrote,

In the early hours of June sixteenth, the Congress adjourned. I am happy once more to pay tribute to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives of both parties who so generously and loyally co-operated with me in the solution of our joint problems.

Loyalty of the lawmaking power to the executive power was one of the dangers the political fathers foretold. In that special session the Congress had surrendered to the president its one absolute power, namely, control of the public purse; also in creating for the New Deal those new instruments of power demanded by the president, it delegated to him a vast amount of lawmaking power — so much in fact that from then on the president and the agencies that were responsible to him made more law than the Congress. The law they made was called administrative law. Each new agency had the authority to issue rules and regulations having the force of law. After that for a long time nobody knew what the law was or where it was, not even the government knew, because the law might be a mimeographed document in the drawer of an administrator’s desk. When this confusion became intolerable a rule was made that all pronouncements of administrative law should be printed in a government publication called The Register. That was some improvement, because then if you wanted to know what the law was it was necessary, besides consulting the statute books, only to search the files of The Register.

In the next regular session of Congress, the spell began to break, and ever since, with increasing anxiety, it has been running after the power and prestige it surrendered. But the minute it began to do that, all the New Deal’s power of propaganda was turned against it, in derision, belittlement, and defamation; and in every struggle over principle it was adroitly maneuvered into the position of seeming to stand against the people for wrong reasons, on mere pretense of principle. The attack upon Congress was designed both to undermine the parliamentary principle and to circumscribe the political rights of people.

It is a long story, but well summarized in the report of a special committee of the House of Representatives appointed to investigate un-American activities. It said,

The effort to obliterate the Congress of the United States as a co-equal and independent branch of our government does not as a rule take the form of a bold and direct assault. We seldom hear a demand that the powers with which Congress is vested by the Constitution be transferred in toto to the executive branch of our government, and that Congress be adjourned in perpetuity. The creeping totalitarianism by which we are menaced proceeds with subtler methods. The senior United States Senator from Wyoming has called attention to the work of men who “in the guise of criticizing individual members of Congress are actually engaged in the effort to undermine the institution itself.” Many of the efforts to purge individual members of Congress are based upon an assumption which reflects discredit upon the entire legislative branch of government. That assumption consists of the view that the sole remaining function of Congress is to ratify by unanimous vote whatever wish is born anywhere at any time in the whole vast structure of the executive branch of Government down to the last whim of any and every administrative official…. Over a large part of the world today democracy has been long dead. Political processes which once assured the common man some degree of genuine participation in the decisions of his government have been superseded by a form of rule which we know as the totalitarian state. The essence of totalitarianism is the destruction of the parliamentary or legislative branch of government. The issue simply stated is whether the Congress of the United States shall be the reality or the relic of American democracy.”

No one can have forgotten the bitterness of the struggle over the New Deal’s attempt to pack the Supreme Court after it had killed the Blue Eagle. Nor can anyone who saw it forget the spectacle of C.I.O. strikers, massed in Cadillac Square, Detroit, intoning with groans the slogan prepared by New Deal propagandists: “Nine old men. Nine old men.” That was collaboration.

At this point, the president suffered his first serious defeat. The Congress would not pass his court-packing law. It did not dare to pass it. Public opinion was too much aroused. Nevertheless, it was possible two years later for the president to boast that he had won. Vacancies on the bench caused by death and retirement enabled him to fill it up with justices who were New Deal–minded, and so at last he did capture the judicial power.

Reduction of the sovereign power of states was accomplished mainly in four ways, as follows:

One, by imposing federal features on the social security systems of the states and making the administration of old-age pensions and unemployment insurance a function of the federal government;

Two, by enormous grants in aid out of the federal Treasury to the states on condition in every case that the states conform to federal policies, the state governments, under popular pressure to accept federal funds because they looked like something for nothing, finding it very difficult to refuse;

Three, the regional design for great federal works and the creation of regional authorities like the T.V.A., with only a trivial respect for the political and property rights of the overlaid states, and,

Four, by extreme and fantastic extensions of the interstate commerce clause.

The Constitution says that the Congress shall have the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.” That is the famous clause. Commerce among the several states is of course interstate commerce. Now, when the New Deal undertook to regulate wages or hours or labor conditions in the nation, it did not write a law saying that such should be the minimum national wage or such the minimum national day’s work, nor that the rules of the National Labor Relations Board should govern all employee-employer relations throughout the nation. Not at all. It could hardly say that without first tearing up the Constitution. What it did say was that only such goods as were produced under conditions that conformed to the federal law — only those and no other — should be permitted to move in interstate commerce. And then the New Deal courts stretched the definition of interstate commerce to the extreme of saying that the federal government may regulate a wheat farmer who feeds his own wheat to his own chickens, on the ground that if he had not raised his own wheat he would have had to buy wheat for his chickens and buying it would be in the way of interstate commerce; or, that the federal government may regulate the hours and wages of elevator operators, janitors, and charwomen in a Philadelphia office building because some of the building’s tenants are engaged in interstate commerce.

On the reduction of local self-government, hear the governor of Kansas. He was visiting Iowa and made a speech in Des Moines. Twenty years ago, he recalled, the county — for example, the one in Kansas where he began to practice law — offered an almost perfect example of responsible self-government.

We were able, I believe, to do a reasonably good job of local government. In meeting and solving our problems we looked to the state government very little and to the national government not at all. The citizens of the county knew who their elected officers were. They came and talked with us frequently. We knew their difficulties. We dealt with them across the desk, over the counter, and sometimes down at the corner drug store. They had definite opinions about the affairs of the county. They spoke their minds freely and they registered their approval and disapproval directly at the polls on the second Tuesday of the next November. There was no doubt and no uncertainty about it.

Now, that has been a matter of only about twenty years — a short time indeed in the history of people. But in that twenty years there has taken place a most astonishing change. The court house is the same. The theoretical structure of county government is unaltered. But in practical operation the picture now is very different. Federal agencies are all around us. There is scarcely a problem presented to the county officials of today which is not either directly or indirectly involved with implications and issues related occasionally to state, but more often to federal, regulation. There are federal offices in the basement and in the corridors on the second floor. Except during the regular term of court there are extra employees of some federal agency in the court room. A couple of federal auditors or investigators are usually using the jury room. The whole warp and woof of local government is enmeshed in the coils of bureaucratic control and regulation.

And that is only the story so far as county government is concerned. You know that parallels could be drawn in our cities, in our educational districts, and even more clearly in our state capitals. Let me cite just one example. In 1874 the western part of Kansas suffered a very severe calamity in the form of a horde of grasshoppers. Our state was young, only thirteen years old. The ravages of the grasshopper threatened the livelihood of many of the settlers. Upon that occasion the governor called a special session of the legislature. It met, considered the problem and enacted proper legislation for relief and aid … and a disaster was averted.

If that same situation should occur today we all know what would happen. It would take practically a photo finish to determine which would land first — the grasshoppers or a horde of federal agents. The state and the county would have absolutely and exactly nothing to say about it. The policy and the means and the method of dealing with the problem would all be determined in Washington, D.C. The benefits, all from the federal treasury, in such manner and such form as Washington should dictate, would come to the farmers without their scarcely knowing what it was about — and we take it for granted. The other day a great number of farmers in my state did receive federal checks, and dozens of them were wondering what in the world they were for, as they knew of no payment that was due under any of the existing programs in which they were participating.

Problem 8: To Sustain Popular Fair in a Spiral Increase of the Public Debt

This problem has its greatest importance in the first few years. Ultimately the welfare state outgrows it because the perfect welfare state must in the end ration the national income, and, when it does that, money comes to be like coupons in a wartime ration book. At first, however, the government must borrow heavily. In order to transfer wealth from the few to the many — wealth in the modern forms, so largely imponderable and nonportable — it must be able to borrow and spend, and unless people who have savings to lend believe in the public credit and trust it, the government cannot borrow. If it cannot borrow in order to spend, the revolution will be bankrupt in the preface. That is why in the second and third months, with the Treasury empty, the New Deal was obliged to sell government bonds under the false promise to pay the interest and redeem the interest in gold dollars — a promise it was preparing to repudiate.

Well, the rest is simple because the method was simple.

For a while, and to the limits of credulity, the New Deal kept saying it was going to balance the federal budget — honest to goodness it was, and anybody who said to the contrary belonged to darkness. In July of the first year the president said, “It may seem inconsistent for a government to cut down in regular expenses and at the same time to borrow and to spend billions for an emergency. But it is not inconsistent, because a large portion of the emergency money has been paid out in the form of sound loans which will be repaid to the Treasury over a period of years; and to cover the rest of the emergency money we have imposed taxes to pay the interest and the installments on that part of the debt.”

If true, that would mean a solvent government with a balanced budget; but it wasn’t true.

At the beginning of the second year, going to the Congress with a budget that stunned all old-fashioned ideas of public finance, the president blandly postponed a balanced budget for two years, and said afterward to the people, “Nevertheless, the budget was made so clear that we were able to look forward to the time, two years from now, when we could hope the government would be definitely on a balanced financial basis, and could look forward also to the commencement of reduction of the national debt.” And that was the end of that line.

The second line was a resort to the European device of double bookkeeping. There were two budgets. The one representing the ordinary expenditures of government was balanced. The other one, representing extraordinary expenditures, for recovery and so on — that one would have to be regarded separately for a while. It would be balanced when recovery had been really achieved and when the national income could stand it. That was the line for several years.

The third line was the idea of the investment state. The government’s continued deficit spending, with enormous additions to the public debt, was not what it seemed. Actually, whether you could account for it physically or not, the debt was balanced by assets. The government was investing its borrowed funds not only in the things you could see everywhere — beautiful and socially useful things that were not there before; it was investing also in the health and welfare and future happiness of the whole people. If there was any better investment than that, or one likely in time to pay greater dividends, what was it? In a while that line wore out, and although it was never abandoned it was superseded.

The fourth line was a doctrine invented and promulgated by New Deal economists — the doctrine of perpetual unlimited public debt. What difference did it make how big the debt was? It was not at all like a debt owing to foreign creditors. It was something we owed only to ourselves. To pay it or not to pay it meant only to shift or not to shift money from one pocket to another. And anyhow, if we should really want to pay it, the problem would be solved by a rise in the national income.

Many infuriated people wasted their time opposing this doctrine as an economic fallacy. But whether it was a fallacy or not would be entirely a question of the point of view. From the point of view of what the New Deal has called the fetish of solvency it was a fallacy. But from the point of view of scientific revolutionary technique it was perfectly sound, even orthodox. From that point of view you do not regard public debt as a problem of public finance. You think of it only in relation to ends. A perpetual and unlimited debt represents deficit spending as a social principle. It means a progressive redistribution of wealth by will of government until there is no more fat to divide; after that comes a level rationing of the national income. It means in the end the cheapening of money and then inflation, whereby the middle class is economically murdered in its sleep. In the arsenal of revolution the perfect weapon is inflation.

(And all of that was before the war, even before the beginning of the defense program.)

Problem 9: To Make Government the Great Capitalist and Enterpriser

Before coming to regard the problem, let us examine a term the economists use. They speak of capital formation. What is that? It is the old, old thing of saving.

If you put a ten-dollar bill under the rug instead of spending it, that is capital formation. It represents ten dollars’ worth of something that might have been immediately consumed, but wasn’t. If you put the ten-dollar bill in the bank, that is better. Hundreds doing likewise make a community pool of savings, and that is capital formation. Then thousands of community pools, like springs, feed larger pools in the cities and financial centers. If a corporation invests a part of its profit in new equipment or puts it into the bank as a reserve fund, that is in either case capital formation.

In a good year, before the war, the total savings of the country would be ten or twelve billions. That was the national power of capital formation. These saved billions, held largely in the custody of the banking system, represented the credit reservoir. Anybody with proper security to pledge could borrow from the reservoir to extend his plant, start a new enterprise, build a house, or what not. Thus the private capital system works when it works freely. Now regard the credit reservoir as a lake fed by thousands of little community springs, and at the same time assume the point of view of a government hostile to the capitalistic system of free private enterprise. You see at once that the lake is your frustration. Why? Because so long as the people have the lake and control their own capital and can do with it as they please, the government’s power of enterprise will be limited, and limited either for want of capital or by the fact that private enterprise can compete with it.

So you will want to get rid of the lake. But will you attack the lake itself? No; because even if you should pump it dry, even if you should break down the retaining hills and spill it empty, still it would appear again, either there or in another place, provided the springs continued to flow. But if you can divert the water of the springs — if you can divert it from the lake controlled by the people to one controlled by the government, then the people’s lake will dry up and the power of enterprise will pass to government. And that is what was taking place before the war; notwithstanding the war, that is what still is taking place.

By taxing payrolls under the social security law of compulsory thrift and taking the money to Washington instead of letting the people save it for themselves; by taxing profits and capital gains in a system that is, or was, a profit and loss system; by having its own powerful financial agencies with enormous revolving funds, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation being incomparably the great banking institution in the world; by its power to command the country’s private bank resources as a preferred borrower, and by its absolute ownership of more than twenty billions of gold, which may be one-half of all the monetary gold in the world, the federal government’s power of capital formation became greater than that of Wall Street, greater than that of industry, greater than that of all American private finance. This was an entirely new power. As the government acquired it, so passed to the government the ultimate power of initiative. It passed from private capitalism to capitalistic government. The government became the great capitalist and enterpriser. Unconsciously business concedes the fact when it talks of a mixed economy, even accepts it as inevitable. A mixed economy is one in which private enterprise does what it can and government does the rest.

While this great power of capital formation was passing to the government, the New Deal’s economic doctors put forth two ideas, and the propagandists implanted them in the popular imagination. One was the idea that what we were facing for the first time in our history was a static economy. The grand adventure was finished. They made believe to prove this with charts and statistics. It might be true. No one could prove that it wasn’t, because all future belongs to faith. The effect of this, of course, was to discourage the spirit of private enterprise.

The other idea was that people were saving too much; their reservoir was full and running over, and they were making no use of their own capital because the spirit of enterprise had weakened in them. There was actually a propaganda against thrift, the moral being that if the people would not employ their own capital the government was obliged to borrow it and spend it for them.


So it was that a revolution took place within the form. Like the hagfish, the New Deal entered the old form and devoured its meaning from within. The revolutionaries were inside; the defenders were outside. A government that had been supported by the people and so controlled by the people became one that supported the people and so controlled them. Much of it is irreversible. That is true because habits of dependence are much easier to form than to break. Once the government, on ground of public policy, has assumed the responsibility to provide people with buying power when they are in want of it, or when they are unable to provide themselves with enough of it, according to a minimum proclaimed by government, it will never be the same again.

All of this is said by one who believes that people have an absolute right to any form of government they like, even to an American welfare state, with status in place of freedom, if that is what they want. The fi