Aristocracy, Fortune, and the
Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
by Kevin Phillips
Viking Books, 2003, hardcover
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961
This conjunction of an immense Military
Establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American
experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual-is
felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the Federal
Government. We recognize the imperative need for this development.
Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.
In the councils of government we must
guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether
sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential
for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination
endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take
nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry
can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military
machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that
security and liberty may prosper together.
... the twentieth-century rise of the Bush family was built on
the five pillars of American global sway: the international reach
of U.S. investment banking, the emerging giantism of the military-industrial
complex, the ballooning of the CIA and kindred intelligence operations,
the drive for U.S. control of global oil supplies, and a close
alliance with Britain and the English-speaking community.
In 2000, George W. Bush became the first president since 1888
who had not won at least a plurality of the popular votes. After
losing by more than five hundred thousand ballots, he was chosen
by a four-vote margin in the electoral college, courtesy of a
5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Family credentials and a powerful financial donor network had
been the basis of the new president's nomination, and family connections
quickly became a fount of federal appointments, including two
for children of the five pro-Bush Supreme Court justices: Janet
Rehnquist, daughter of the chief justice, became inspector general
of the Department of Health and Human Services, while Eugene Scalia,
son of Justice Antonin Scalia, became solicitor of the Department
By the late twentieth century, thinkers had begun to posit that
American voters, in ceremoniously choosing and inducting a president,
were actually in psychological hot pursuit of a king.
These were the broad tracks along which the Walker and Bush family
climbed, financially and politically. Over the years they led
the [Bush] family to an involvement with the mainstays of the
twentieth-century American national security state: finance, oil
and energy, the federal government, the so-called military-industrial
complex, and the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the rest
of the intelligence community. From just 5 to 10 percent of U.S.
gross domestic product in 1914, these sectors' share in 1950 may
have reached as high as 30 percent, bringing a parallel transformation
of America's interest-group and power structures.
Antonin Scalia, the ultraconservative justice whom George W. Bush
especially admired, had hinted at related beliefs during two separate
stages of the U.S. Supreme Court's December deliberations. On
December 8, in language better suited to a seventeenth-century
royal prerogative court, he wrote the opinion granting a stay
of the Florida recount because counting votes "of questionable
legality does in my view threaten irreparable harm to petitioner
[Bush], and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims
to be the legitimacy of his election
Then on December 11, the five-justice
minority holding for Bush declared that "the individual citizen
has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for President
of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses
a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint
members of the Electoral College." The Court then added that
even after giving the choice of electors to the public, a state
legislature could take the selection into its own hands. Harvard
historian Alexander Keyssar, author of The Right to Vote: The
Contested History of Democracy in the United States, called this
"one of the stranger developments of the post-election conflict:
the blunt expression of a legal argument denying that Americans
actually possess a right to vote in presidential elections."
Part of Scalia's objection to democracy,
amplified a year later, was that it got in the way of a return
to an eighteenth-century interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
Speaking at the January 2002 Pew Forum on Religion and Public
Life, he opined that as written in 1787 the Constitution reflected
natural or divinely inspired law that the state was an instrument
of "God. "That consensus has been upset," he said,
"by the emergence of democracy." He added that "the
reactions of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to
obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation
to it but resolution to combat it as effectively as possible "
Texanomics: Economics, Culture, and Morality
According to turn-of-the-century data,
metropolitan New York City, greater Los Angeles, and the San Francisco
Bay area were more economically stratified than Texas, because
of the extremes of wealth and income that were a product of their
finance, communications, and high-technology industries. But on
a statewide basis, most years saw Texas join Louisiana and New
York as the three states with the greatest polarization-the widest
gaps between the average family incomes of the top fifth and bottom
fifth of the population. Between the late 1970s and the late 1990s,
inequality increased in the Lone Star State, as in most sections
of the country, because incomes at the top soared while those
in the middle and at the bottom stagnated or slid.
However, stratification in Texas had some
distinctive nuances. According to the Washington-based Urban Institute,
Texas ranked worst among the fifty states in inequality among
children.' Some 3.1 million Texans-a high 15 percent of the state's
population-were officially classified by the federal government
as poor because they earned less than $15,260 a year for a family
In part, this pervasive poverty was a
result of Texan unwillingness to spend money to ameliorate the
state's rich-poor gap. Data for 2000 compiled by the U.S. Census
Bureau ranked Texas forty-ninth in state taxes and fiftieth, dead
last, in per capita state spending. Yet as the economy weakened
in 2001 and 2002, choruses of state officials called for even
further budget cuts and reductions in state services. Richard
Vedder, an economist at the business-financed Texas Public Policy
Foundation, told a conference of state legislators that "Texas
should be proud of being last in government spending per capita.
It means you're delivering state services most efficiently."
In contrast to Californians or New Yorkers,
upper-bracket Texans, especially oilmen and latter-day hacendados
in land or cattle, have worried less about these socioeconomic
divisions and been less embarrassed by them. Texan civic culture,
more akin to that of Mexico, Venezuela, or Brazil, has accepted
wealth and its benefits with minimal distraction by either guilt
or noblesse oblige.
Here it is important to note that George
W. Bush is the first president to clearly represent this kind
of low-tax, low-service, high-economic stratification brand of
southern economic conservatism since the little remembered Zachary
Taylor of Louisiana won the election of 1848.
Texas has been the Wild West of campaign finance, a 268,581 -square-mile
Dodge City, wide open to donors giving any amount of money to
any nonfederal candidate, so long as it was declared. The Texas
legislature meets for only 140 days every two years, initiating
a soapbox derby in which some fifteen hundred registered lobbyists
spend about $250 million-at least, $250 million was the sum reported
to convince 181 legislators which bills should be sped to the
The state's elected judiciary is scarcely
less available to those whose pockets jingle. According to poll
takers, some 79 percent of Texas attorneys said campaign contributions
influenced judicial decisions, either fairly or very significantly.
Between 1994 and 1998, the ten state supreme court judges facing
election raised 52 percent of their campaign kitties from lawyers,
law firms, and litigants filing appeals with the high court during
If conservatives in the Texas congressional
delegation have tried to bring the Texas attitude toward guns
and political contributions to Washington, equal attention has
been devoted to recasting the federal tax system in the (regressive)
Texas style. The latter has famously kept the income tax wolf
from the hacienda door by stinting government and raising revenues
through regressive options like the sales tax. Local progressives
blame these strictures for everything from the state's weak education
system to unrelieved child poverty ...
As the nation's leading energy producer, Texas has been responsible
for some of the nation's worst environmental problems, notably
air pollution. Houston overtook Los Angeles as the smoggiest U.S.
city in 1999-and hazardous wastes in the chemical districts alongside
the Houston Ship Channel.
Oil is high-profile stuff. Oil fuels military powers, national
treasuries, and international politics. It is no longer a commodity
to be bought and sold within the confines of traditional energy
supply and demand balances. Rather it has been transformed into
a determinant of well-being, of national security, and of international
Robert Ebel, Center for Strategic and
International Studies, 2003
It is clear that everywhere there is oil there is Brown and Root
[Halliburton]. But increasingly, everywhere there is war or insurrection
there is Brown and Root also. From Bosnia and Kosovo, to Chechnya,
to Rwanda, to Burma, to Pakistan, to Laos, to Vietnam, to Indonesia,
to Iran to Libya to Mexico to Colombia, Brown and Root's traditional
operations have expanded from heavy construction to include the
provision of logistical support for the U.S. military.
Michael C. Ruppert, From the Wilderness,
We should constantly keep in mind how recent the military ascendancy
is. During World War One, the military entered the highest economic
and political circles only temporarily, for the "emergency";
it was not until World War Two that they intervened in a truly
decisive way. Given the nature of modern warfare, they had to
do so whether they wanted to or not, just as they had to invite
men of economic power into the military. For unless the military
sat in on corporate decisions, they could not be sure that their
programs would be carried out; and unless the corporation chieftains
knew something of the war plans, they could not plan war production.
Thus, generals advised corporation presidents and corporation
presidents advised generals.
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, 1957
By 1950, one could see the superstructure of the military-industrial
complex and the national security establishment that would still
be visible a half century later. The combined Defense Department
had ingested the old War and Navy Departments, and the $40 billion
defense budget of 1950 was two-thirds as big as the military bottom
line for 1945. The inner or E-Ring of the Pentagon had more generals
than ever. The aerospace business was huge and growing. The military
applications of high technology were becoming a regular boardroom
preoccupation. The CIA had been agreed upon in 1946 with the help
of a secret blueprint prepared by Robert A. Lovett, Prescott Bush's
partner at Brown Brothers Harriman. The National Security Agency-already
called the Taj Mahal of global eavesdropping-would emerge in 1952
from the former Armed Forces Security Agency.
The speed with which postwar U.S. military
and intelligence officers welcomed anti-Soviet Germans who had
worn Hitler's insignia throughout the war reflected the historical
preference for practicality over morality. Considerable portions
of the German Abwehr and wartime Reinhard Gehlen organization-Fremde
Heere Ost, the army intelligence group monitoring Eastern Europe
and Russia-had shifted to the employ of the United States by 1950
Bush believes in God's will-and in winning elections with the
backing of those who agree with him. As a subaltern in his father's
1988 campaign, George Bush the Younger assembled his career through
contacts with ministers of the emerging evangelical movement in
political life. Now they form the core of the Republican Party,
which controls all of the capital for the first time in a half
century. Bible-believing Christians are Bush's strongest backers.
Newsweek, March 10, 2003
To understand George W. Bush, it is crucial to understand how
the president of the United States could simultaneously be the
leader of the nation's Christian Right. Serious discussion of
that once improbable identification intensified after 9/11, but
it actually began, backstage, during the 2000 politicking.
One indispensable ingredient was the contrast
between Bush and the Right's leading bogeyman. "Bill Clinton's
moral bankruptcy created the essential need to replace him with
someone who would be closer to them' said Georgetown University
political scientist Clyde Wilcox. Bush's commitment to prayer
and born-again testimony attracted conservative Christians, who
backed him hoping that his religious beliefs would lead to policy
changes that favored faith. The confrontation in South Carolina
may have alienated some moderates; it also galvanized religious
conservative voters for Bush.
The idea that religion itself was imperiled
had been a Religious Right theme for a quarter of a century, and
now had a political payoff. Denominations that hitherto had sniped
at one another or split hairs were working together. After the
2000 election, as we have seen, polling data upheld a startling
breakthrough. In each religious category, evangelical and Pentecostal,
mainline Protestant and Catholic, the more observant who attended
church at least once a week gave the highest backing to Bush.
Religious intensity was becoming more important than denomination.
As the Republicans became the party of the godly, the Democrats
edged toward representation of secular America. Each trend seemed
to reinforce the other. Overall, Americans fell away from organized
religion between 1960 and 2000, as the proportion of voters who
said they attended services every week dropped from 38 percent
to 25 percent. Thus, even as the percentages of churchgoers who
were evangelicals or fundamentalists grew, the "secular"
share of the total U.S. population-persons never going to religious
services-jumped from ii percent of the population in 1972 to 33
percent in 2000. As these non-church-going ratios rose, so did
their relative importance to the Democratic Party. In the 2000
election, secular voters went lopsidedly for Gore and cast an
important percentage of his total vote.
Bush told one California assemblage how he knew the American people
were praying for him: "I can just feel it. I can't describe
it very well, but I feel comforted by the prayer." He asked
that Americans pray for "God's protection ... a spiritual
shield that protects the country."
Finally, if prayer also did duty in gathering
true believers, Bush's day-to-day language was a veritable biblical
message center. Besides the ever present references to "evil"
and "evil ones' chief White House speechwriter Mark Gerson,
a onetime college theology major, filled George W. Bush's delivery
system with phrases that, while inoffensive to secular voters,
directed more specific religious messages to the faithful. Examples
cited in the popular press included "whirlwind" (a medium
for the voice of God in the Books of Job and Ezekiel), a "work
of mercy" (a reference to Catholic theology's "seven
corporal works of mercy"), and phrases like "safely
home" and "wonder-working power' taken from hymns and
Biblical scholar Bruce Lincoln's line-by-line
analysis of Bush's October 7, 2001, address to the nation announcing
the U.S. attack on Afghanistan identified a half dozen veiled
borrowings from the Book of Revelation, Isaiah, Job, Matthew,
and Jeremiah. He concluded that for those with ears to hear a
biblical subtext, "by the [speech's] end America's adversaries
have been redefined as enemies of God and current events have
been constituted as confirmation of scripture." Through "strategies
of double coding," A. George W. Bush could relay one message
to secular listeners and another to the faithful awaiting their
Occasional presidential use of phrases
popular with preachers like Falwell and Robertson could be used
to give them quiet recognition. A top campaign operative told
Newsweek that during the critical 2000 primary in South Carolina,
sending Bush to ultrafundamentalist Bob Jones University had been
a calculated appeal to Christian Right voters: "We had to
send a message-fast----and sending him there was the only way
to do it ?
Bush's religious allies also responded
to the large number of top personnel and policymaking jobs given
to Christian Right appointees, especially where they would deal
with hot-button subject matter: church-state relations, federal
aid to religion, women's rights, birth control, abortion-related
drugs, family aid, and federal volunteer programs.
As head of the Office of Personnel Management,
in charge of federal workforce support, Bush chose conservative
activist Kay Coles James, formerly dean of the Robertson School
of Government at Pat Robertson-founded Regent University. David
Caprara, made head of AmeriCorps VISTA, the federal community
volunteers group, had directed the American Family Coalition,
a faith-based affiliate of Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.
By some accounts, Caprara was one of Moon's top grassroots organizers.
At the Justice Department, Attorney General
John Ashcroft was a lay activist in the Pentecostal Assemblies
of God, pious enough that before being sworn in he had himself
anointed with cooking oil in the biblical manner of King David.
Ashcroft chose Carl Esbeck, who had directed the Center for Law
and Religious Freedom run by the conservative Virginia-based Christian
Legal Society, as the first chief of the department's faith-based
office. He named Eric Treene, former litigation director at the
conservative Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, as special counsel
for religious discrimination, a new position in the Justice Department.
Added as an adviser to the department's Office of Legal Education
was Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law
and Justice, affiliated with the School of Law at Regent University.
Sekulow and other conservatives also helped draft a somewhat more
permissive set of school prayer guidelines released by the federal
Department of Education in 2003.
J. Robert Brame III, a Bush nominee for
the National Labor Relations Board, was forced to withdraw in
2001. It emerged that he had been a board member of Atlanta-based
American Vision, which favored putting the United States under
biblical law and opposed women's rights. Also obliged to step
aside was Jerry Thacker, proposed for the Presidential Advisory
Committee on HIV and AIDS. A conservative evangelical, Thacker
had called AIDS the "gay plague. 11411
Bush's selections for related positions
at the U.S. State Department and Department of Health and Human
Services dealing with abortion, family planning, and reproductive
rights were mostly staunch conservatives who opposed federal funding
of any family planning. None had Christian Right identifications;
several, however, were supporters of faith-based "abstinence"
Bush stirred a hornet's nest with his
choice of Kentucky obstetrician-gynecologist W. David Hager to
chair the Food and Drug Administration's eleven-member Reproductive
Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Hager, author of the book As
Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now, was also
the author, with his wife, Linda, of Stress and the Woman's
Body. Their book put "an emphasis
on the restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life" and
recommended specific scriptural readings and prayers for headaches
and premenstrual syndrome. Unsuccessful opponents of Hager's appointment
had emphasized how he would direct the committee's study of hormone-replacement
therapy for menopausal women and might be able to get the committee
to reconsider its 1996 recommendation of the abortion pill RU-486.
In a kindred example of choosing a proven
foe to help supervise a federal program, Bush named Nancy Pfotenhauer,
president of the Independent Women's Forum, to the National Advisory
Committee on Violence Against Women, the panel that advised the
federal government on implementing the Violence Against Women
Act. The forum had opposed the VAWA and supported a lawsuit challenging
Scholars anxious to document the turn-of-the-century importance
of fundamentalism frequently found themselves confronting the
underlying skepticism of modern secular elites: persistent doubt
that such movements could really achieve or exercise power. Fanatics,
extremists, and terrorists are a problem, cosmopolitans acknowledge.
But the idea that 20 to 25 percent of a modern national electorate
might support returning to rule by biblical (or Koranic or Torah)
law-or at least be willing to join true believers in a political
coalition-was rarely taken seriously.
Several layers of disbelief vanished in
the aftermath of 9/11: "As a result of the attacks,"
said the authors of Strong Religion, "the United States and
Great Britain, among other nations of the West, finally and fully
came to grips with the fact of religious violence in the fundamentalist
mode. Now manifested on a truly global scale, the astonishing
power of religious fundamentalism became undeniable, even within
the policymaking circles accustomed to formulating secular explanations
for a range of acts and operations that have been engineered and
enacted by self-styled true believers
By the millennium, rank-and-file U.S. Protestant fundamentalists
displayed an emphatic worldview-more proactive than a secular
layman might expect from rural Oklahoma or the South Carolina
Piedmont. In this, they were like Oliver Cromwell's seventeenth-century
Puritans, who knew more about the geography of the Holy Land than
about the English terrain two counties away. The comparable Bush-era
influence of American evangelicals and fundamentalists, and of
their churches, movements, and ministries, on U.S. Mideast policy
must ultimately elicit scores of twenty-first-century doctoral
Tom DeLay, the second-ranking Republican
leader in the House of Representatives-Houston's answer to mid-seventeenth-century
London's Anabaptist parliamentarian Praisegod Barebones-determined
to call the Palestinian territories by their biblical names "Judaea
and Samaria' flatly assigning them to Israel. DeLay confidently
assured a Texas Baptist audience that God had made Bush president
"to promote a biblical worldview."
In many cases, the United States has been busy arming opponents
in ongoing conflicts-Iran and Iraq, Greece and Turkey, Saudi Arabia
and Israel, and China and Taiwan. Saddam Hussein, the number one
"rogue" leader of the 1990s, was during the 1980s simply
an outstanding customer with an almost limitless line of credit
because of his country's oil reserves. Often the purchasing country
makes its purchases conditional on the transfer of technology
so that it can ultimately manufacture the item for itself and
others. The result is the proliferation around the world not just
of weapons but of new weapons industries.
Chalmers Johnson, Blowback, 2000
If, however, President Bush succeeds in bringing about regime
change in Iraq, he will set a historic precedent - for Iraq, which
could become the first Arab democracy; for the United States,
which will demonstrate to all the compatibility of its interests
and ideals; and for the world, which America will have made a
safer and more just place.
Neoconservative commentators William Kristol
and Lawrence Kaplan, "America's Mission, After Baghdad' 2003
Margaret Tutwiler said: "We do not have any defense treaties
with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments
to Kuwait... The next day, Saddam Hussein in Baghdad received
the same message from the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie.
She told him, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts,
like your border disagreements with Kuwait. '
The turn-of-the-century United States did not simply drift into
a dynastic bent by electing a slew of sons and daughters to Senate
seats previously filled by parents or siblings-or, for that matter,
by picking as chief executive the son of a man who had been a
president or senator long before. What the erstwhile republic
of Adams, Jefferson, and Madison did in 2000, as we have seen,
was restore to the Oval Office the eldest son and near namesake
of a president from the same party who had been ejected just eight
Even though the members of the media consortium have not admitted
such motivation, public opinion polls have continued to report
that 35 to 40 percent of Americans decline to call Bush a legitimately
elected president. In August 2003, a CBS/New York Times poll put
the figure at 38 percent.
The advent of imperial America ... goes beyond a simple response
to 9/11. The lure and pursuit of empire, John Adams found, was
corrosive of earlier republics. In Rome, an imperial spirit preceded
the actual office of emperor. In the generations leading up to
Julius Caesar, what began as a republic was remolded by expansion,
loss of virtue, luxury, concentration of wealth, extended terms
of office, and finally monarchy. Kindred changes overtook the
weakening Dutch Republic of the eighteenth century.
One view offered by Pulitzer Prize-winning Japan specialist John
W. Dower compared Bush-era America with the right-wing Japanese
regime symbolized by Emperor Hirohito and World War II prime minister
Hideki Tojo-a regime of triumphant nationalism that first took
over Manchuria and part of China, then seized Southeast Asia and
attacked Pearl Harbor. It, too, was terrorist suppressing, military
in orientation, given to patriotic cultism, and caught up in the
East Asian equivalent of Manifest Destiny. A second parallel,
drawn by Anatol Lieven of the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, perceived U.S. projects and attitudes as little resembling
sophisticated British imperialism but rather "much more reminiscent
of Wilhelmine Germany"-the saber-rattling era of Kaiser Wilhelm
II (1888-1918), a militarist with more than a tinge of megalomania.'
Unfair as these analogies may seem in brief capsules, they furnish
a balance to the Anglo-Roman self-conceptions of the Bush, Cheney,
and Rumsfeld advisers.
Parallel concerns about the United States'
becoming a garrison state, for most of the late twentieth century
a bugbear imagined by the Left, developed an aura of at least
partial truth. The overwhelming shadow that the $400-billion-a-year
U.S. military establishment casts over any conceivable international
rival-be it the growing European Union or a hypothetical combination
of Russia, China, and the Axis of Evil-is matched by the preponderance
of the U.S. intelligence community. By one expert account, "The
estimated 2000 intelligence budget of $30 billion was larger than
all Russian military expenditures combined, and it dwarfed the
puny amount Moscow spent on its relatively effective intelligence
services. The United States spent five times as much on intelligence
as the whole of Europe combined, and no other region of the world
could begin to compete with that level of expenditure."'
With no Soviet-type great-power rival
to stave off, the impulse has become protoimperial-Pax Americana
in the mold of Pax Romana. The strain on the domestic institutions
of the U.S. Republic is already a developing corollary. Here,
too, appropriate and necessary national responses to terrorism
have been major contributors. Even so, the expansion of military
jurisdiction within the United States and the growing argument
for mercenary and paramilitary forces seem to draw as much on
viceregal and proconsular mind-sets as on manifest national security
It may be salutary, then, that the Department
of Defense has decided to set up Northcom, a military command
for the domestic United States. But it may also be an unfortunate
augury. Yet, just as with the Department of Homeland Security,
what could develop is the question mark. Civil libertarians worry
about the military patrolling streets, making arrests, and conducting
house-to-house searches, hitherto a great nightmare of AngloSaxon
law and politics. Fears also sharpened following the government's
mid-2003 decision to use military commissions to try terrorism
suspects. One conservative-leaning publication flatly deplored
how the president was "setting up a shadow court system outside
the reach of either Congress or America's judiciary, and answerable
only to himself."'
Disapproval also met the widening domestic
reach envisioned in Bush administration proposals for additional
"antiterrorist" legislation to be called the Domestic
Security Enhancement Act. The New York Times had earlier pointed
out that "the CIA is now permitted to read secret grand jury
testimony without a judge's prior approval. It can obtain private
records of institutions and corporations seized under federal
court-approved searches."" Further extension seemed
The Center for Public Integrity, which
leaked a draft of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, explained
that the act would authorize secret government arrests, wiretaps,
and searches. It would also provide that any citizen, native born
as well as foreign born, who supports even the lawful activities
of an organization labeled "terrorist" by the executive
branch would be presumptively stripped of citizenship and subject
Mounting demands for mercenary forces-which
even Niccolà Machiavelli thought ill advised-have also
stirred unease. There is a reasoned thesis, to be sure. Lieutenant
Colonel Eugene Smith, a CENTCOM (Middle East Command) officer
writing in a recent military quarterly, discussed this issue in
"The New Condottieri and U.S. Policy: The Privatization of
Conflict and Its Implications?' His broad premise is that "niche
wars, for instance, are on the rise around the globe, pitting
governments and nongovernment forces against each other?' As such
forms of armed conflict multiply and spread, the lines between
public and private, government and people, military and civilian
become as blurred as they were in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. "Already, the new era is marked by a decrease
in conventional warfare with large armies and an increase in conflicts
characterized as Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW).
MOOTW, alas, appears to be bureaucracy-speak
for the dissolution of lines between the military, business, and
civilian sectors that President Eisenhower warned against in 1961.
The rise of such conflicts would also recall the warfare that
destroyed most of the remaining municipally centered republics
such as Florence and Siena as it spread across fifteenth- and
sixteenth-century Italy. The republican institutions of the United
States could also be expected to suffer.
Latter-day imperialists show little concern.
In 2003, neoconservative writer Robert Kaplan enthused over the
prospect for achieving supremacy by stealth warfare. Global imperial
efficacy, he said, would require the CIA and Special Forces to
"operate in the shadows and behind closed doors." Congress
and the rule of domestic and international law should be quietly
ignored, democratic consultations minimized. Propaganda, in turn,
should be perfected. The model should be successful late-twentieth-century
U.S. activity in Latin America-in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras,
and Chile. Even Cuba was a learning process."
Of course, it is hard to know whether
Kaplan is a Bush apologist, or George W. Bush is a Kaplan exemplar.
One can fairly call the Bushes a CIA dynasty; three generations
of their line have thrilled to the romance of Langley-funded soldiers
of fortune parachuting into Central American valleys, upending
"unacceptable" governments, airlifting weaponry to deserving
warlords, or charging through the Cuban surf.
... the changing vein of analysis since the horrors of 9/11, together
with the unexpected U.S. embarrassments and difficulties that
followed the second Iraq war in 2003, appears to have renewed
attention to blowback-the local backlash against half a century
of U.S. policy in the Middle East and its environs. By one thesis,
the seemingly successful insurgency that chased the Soviets from
Afghanistan ultimately produced the Taliban and Al Qaeda. By another,
the controversial U.S. military presence in Islam's Saudi Arabian
holy lands helped breed Osama bin Laden and the men who attacked
the World Trade Center. In Iran, the CIA coup that stymied the
Iranian political upheaval of 1953 and restored the shah may have
strangled an early opportunity for some regional democratic evolution
and eventually led to the ayatollahs. The supposed liberation
of Iraq in 2003 unleashed guerrilla warfare and produced a massive
anti-American surge in Islamic nations from North Africa to Indonesia.
One side effect may have been to print recruiting posters for
a generation of suicide bombers.
With respect to the future of the American
Republic-the suggestion of not a few of the historical perils
that John Adams cataloged back in the 1780s-it is all too easy
to imagine our own era as a watershed. In 1975, the historian
J. G. A. Pocock wrote a book, The Machiavellian Moment, pointing
out that the Florentine had penned his great works, The Prince
and The Discourses, in the early sixteenth century at a time when
his beloved republic was confronting its own philosophical and
governmental finitude. French, German, and Spanish imperial power
was overrunning Europe, including Italy, through a scale of wealth
and military capacity that doomed many of the old city-states.
16 Florence, one such, surrendered its republican status in the
1530s and took the Medici as hereditary rulers.
The possibility that the United States
could edge toward its own Machiavellian moment in an early-twenty-first-century
milieu of terrorism, this is not far-fetched.
... Machiavelli's advice that the Prince should lie but must "be
able to disguise this character well, and to be a great feigner
and dissembler." Moreover, "to see and hear him, he
[the Prince] should seem to be all mercy, faith, integrity, humanity
and religion. And nothing is more necessary than to seem to have
this last quality . . . . Everybody sees what you appear to be,
few feel what you are."
Other advice dwells on the merits of fraud,
hypocrisy, faithlessness, and related practices, and twentieth-century
academicians have noted Machiavelli's appeal to leaders like Hitler,
Stalin, and Mussolini." Doubtless there are also hundreds
of copies of The Prince at the CIA. Which makes it revealing,
and arguably ill advised, that the two political advisers to the
two Bush presidents should claim it as a bible of sorts.
Even in religion, Machiavelli's advice
to emphasize it is relevant to the early-twenty-first-century
United States. His career in Florence overlapped that of Friar
Girolamo Savonarola, the Religious despot who ruled the gasping
republic from 1494 to 1498 with a politics of fighting sin and
immorality. Doubtless the youthful Machiavelli absorbed how close
Savonarola came to achieving a theocracy even in republican Florence.
Not a few Americans see a little bit of Savonarola in George W.