American Dynasty

Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush

by Kevin Phillips

Viking Books, 2003, hardcover

first page
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 of Labor.

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 of three.

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 finish line.'

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 that period!

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 power.

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, 2000

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 gospel songs.

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 reassurance.

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" movements.

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 it.

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 theses.

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 years earlier.

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 needs.

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 unnecessary.

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 to deportation."

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. Bush.

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