THE ANCIENT DESIGN
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.
PROPERTIES OF EMPIRE
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.
THE LOST TERRAIN
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.