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In his new book, America at the Crossroads, the always thoughtful Francis Fukuyama has been forced into some fundamental rethinking of his own role in helping to make the case for the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq. The rethinking had to be fundamental because, as Fukuyama well understands, his support of the war was predicated on some very basic notions of his about the nature of democracy and of the neoconservative political tradition of which he views himself as an inheritor. To put it plainly: something went very wrong in Iraq, and in this book Fukuyama is struggling to figure out what it was, and to rationalize these failures in a way that does not cause him to abandon any of his own basic ideological commitments.
To his credit, Fukuyama does grapple honestly with the challenges the war presents to his politics, and he does so in his usual clear-minded way. It is always a pleasure to read his prose, and to watch his supple mind at work. His new book is no exception. Whether or not one agrees with the neoconservative political theory that informs Fukuyama's work, his work is of the highest caliber, his voice a voice of reason and moderation, and his books pleasures to read. He is, in my judgment, an indispensable public intellectual, whose work simply must be engaged by anyone who aspires to be a serious and informed student of American public policy.
The book has made a political splash in the debate over the war because in order to save his ideological commitments Fukuyama has had to abandon some of his erstwhile friends in the neoconservative movement. As he reveals in the Preface (and in subsequent public interviews) he is no longer on speaking terms with some of his former neocon friends. The reason for this very public estrangement is because the basic thesis argued in the book is that the neoconservative movement (of which he provides one of the best, brief intellectual histories) has been betrayed by certain officials of the Bush administration and their advisers. So it is not his political theory that has been shown to be at fault, but rather, the purity with which some of his former colleagues pursued that theory. In other words, he essentially accuses the Bush Administration of failure to follow the principles of neoconservatism, and this is the reason, in his view, that things have gone so badly in Iraq.
Fukuyama's particular road-to-Damascus moment on Iraq came in February 2004, he reveals in his Preface, at the annual American Enterprise Institute dinner, when he heard one of the stalwarts of the Bush Doctrine, columnist Charles Krauthammer, deliver the Irving Kristol lecture. Krauthammer expressed his continuing support for the war and suggested, to Fukuyama's ear, an undiminished enthusiasm for the Bush Doctrine of preventive war and all that goes with it, along with a blindly unrealistic assessment of how the war was going.  By this time, Fukuyama had long since soured on the war, and was in grave doubt about many of the other aspects of the Bush Doctrine, doubts that he insists he harbored before the war began. His first published dissent begin being drafted the day following the Krauthammer speech, and it appeared in The National Interest that summer.  So Fukuyama can fairly claim some prescience on the matter, and should not be viewed as a merely being a timely opportunist now that the war is going so badly, as some have depicted him.
The neocon cadre in support of the war dates at least to a January 1998 open letter to President Clinton, which was co-signed by Fukuyama and 17 other conservative and neoconservative policy advocates, under the umbrella of the Project for a New American Century. The group of signers included people soon to be intimately associated with the Iraq war, such as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton. In that letter the cadre was openly advocating regime change in Iraq, and somewhat slyly finessing the question of methods, although "a willingness to undertake military action" was advised. They went on to relentlessly hector the Clinton administration for the rest of the Clinton presidency for what they viewed as its fecklessness on the issue.
As history unfolded, many in this group came into actual political power with the election of George W. Bush, and they were suddenly in the heady position of transforming their intellectual analysis into actual public policy. They dreamed big and bold dreams of easily bringing regime change to Iraq. Then, as history is wont to do, the subsequent history turned out to be not quite like the neocons expected. Things started going very badly in Iraq, almost from the moment of President Bush declaring "Mission Accomplished" from the deck of an aircraft carrier at anchor in the placid waters off San Diego, California. Explaining how and why this could be the case given the presumed validity of the basic neocon worldview is the task Fukuyama is attempting in his new book.
Advocating Realistic Wilsonianism-
Liberal critics of the Iraq war have suggested that the war is an example of a kind of adventuring conservative interventionism, and surprisingly, Fukuyama agrees. He says of the Bush foreign policy that it involves "concepts like regime change, benevolent hegemony, uni-polarity, preemption, and American exceptionalism." 
Fukuyama takes on each of these ideas in turn and explains in his patient and almost gentle way why each of them is such a very bad idea. Among other points, he concedes the skeptical critique of democracy-building in Iraq, which holds that this rationale for the war was the third in a line of reasons, which was adopted only after the other two (WMDs and a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda) had been shown to be false.
He reserves some of his most worried dissent for the idea of preventive war, which is a pillar of the Bush Doctrine. By blurring the distinction between the traditional doctrine of a preemptive strike and a preventive war, he believes the Bush administration has undermined a foundation of international diplomacy, and the consequences cannot be other than dire. As he cleverly summarizes the matter: "It is perhaps not surprising that the great German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck labeled preventive war 'committing suicide for fear of death.’”
Fukuyama concedes that the Bush Doctrine has become so hopelessly identified with neoconservatism, that he is forced to abandon this as a label to describe his own alternative viewpoint. He deploys a category-scheme with five broad options: Neoconservatives (and here he concedes the field to Bush and company); Realists (this is the traditional Cold War era foreign policy of figures like Henry Kissinger); Liberal Internationalists (who hope for a world remade by international laws and institutions so that the use of power becomes unnecessary); Jacksonian Nationalists (this is an America-first approach which disdains internationalism and in its more extreme forms becomes isolationist); and his view, which he calls Realistic Wilsonianism. Fukuyama's general explanation of the foreign policy behind the Iraq war is that a coalition of Neoconservatives and Jacksonian Nationalists each supported the war, for differing reasons, and they froze out the Realists within the Republican Party (men like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft).
As to his own view, Fukuyama describes Realistic Wilsonianism as being based on the use of various form of "soft power," as opposed to the hard military power that characterizes the Bush Doctrine and the Neoconservative approach to foreign policy generally. He also waves off as naive the traditional liberal faith in international institutions like the U.N., and especially the liberal suspicion of states as essential structures for international order. Hence, the "realistic" part of his label.
In his vision, Fukuyama sees a role for a "multi-institutional world" in which national sovereignties are respected but in which various moveable international institutions are formed to serve as "mechanisms of accountability" between the "vertical stovepipes we label states." He has in mind here such international institutions as the U.N., NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, and a whole new multiplicity of both permanent and temporary institutions which are to be formed and dissolved as needed to address particular aspects of world order and progress. The watchword for this new vision is "multiple multilateralisms." In his calm and measured way, Fukuyama makes a fairly persuasive case for his updated version of Wilsonianism. One wonders if perhaps this might be quite a bit easier said than done. But we can concede that one has to start somewhere, and this is not a bad place from which to begin.
One could reasonably express some surprise at the sight of this lion of neoconservatism expressing such "soft" internationalist views, views that sound almost, well, dare I say it, liberal. Fukuyama suggests these have been his views all along. Fair enough. It is also fair to observe that not a whiff of any of this can be found in the 1997 Statement of Principles of the Project for the New American Century, nor in the 1998 letter to President Clinton. His first published thoughts along these lines (at least as applies to the war in Iraq) appear to have come only in the summer of 2004. So it is also fair to observe that if these have been his views all along, most of us did not know it.
Purifying the Neo-Conservative Faith
In addition to his sense of moderation on the idea of forced-march democratic regime change around the world, the first part of Fukuyama's new book is given over to a fascinating account of the intellectual history of the neoconservative movement itself. This account is insightful, unsentimental, and surprisingly persuasive.
The purpose of this introductory chapter, which seems at first blush somewhat out of place in a book on foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular, is nothing short of a purge of the unfaithful. Fukuyama is seeking to explain the intellectual doctrines of neoconservatism rightly understood so as to make the case that the Bush Doctrine is in fact not neoconservative at all, but is instead a betrayal of those intellectual principles. He makes this case, I have to say, about as well as it could be made.
So, if it is a puzzle as to how someone with the liberal instincts and values of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan can also be found laboring on behalf of Nixon administration social welfare policy, or supporting Bush administration efforts to partially privatize the Social Security system, Fukuyama can make it all make a kind of sense.
If one wonders how and why neoconservatism is distinct from other varieties, or from simple-minded libertarianism, Fukuyama's chapter on The Neoconservative Legacy is your best possible guide. Especially for those liberals who believe that neoconservatism is just a Trojan-horse for some more traditional right-wing agenda, you positively are obligated to read Fukuyama's chapter on this subject. Drawn in the persuasive shadings of Fukuyama's subtle pen, neoconservatism can be seen as something meriting respect, even if one chooses in the end to withhold one's assent.
The End of History Revisited-
But there is something else involved here, something deeper, and something more intimately associated with Fukuyama's more famous work, The End of History, and the theory of the historical process that Fukuyama urged in that work.
Fukuyama's vision of the end of history begins with a simple insight of chronology. The belief in the idea of progress, he tells us, was nearly universal in the 19 th century as science and technology and modern nation-states offered the promise of utopias near to hand. Then came the twentieth century, with its two devastating world wars and its many threats of annihilation from some of that same technology and some of those same nation-states. Contemplation of the history of the twentieth century thus turned many of us into pessimists about the progress of the course of history. But then, Fukuyama happily notes, the unexpected end of the Cold War and the apparent triumph of liberal capitalist democracy renewed all our hopes and should convince us that History is truly nearing its end, and that end is mostly wonderful. Marx was wrong to believe that History would bring about the inevitable triumph of communism; instead, Fukuyama assured us, it will bring about the almost inevitable triumph of liberal capitalist democracy everywhere in the world. When that blissful stage of history arrives, the process of history as a mechanism seeking the ideal form of social organization will have arrived at its end.
His analysis is subtle, complex and plausibly complete, at least it is complete as far back as it goes in time to garner its evidence. One of the most amazing aspects of Fukuyama's theory of history is that his discussion of the evidence for it is almost all confined to the period after the end of World War II. It is a very recent sample of history indeed that he scoops out of time's stream to use in fortifying his theory. In fact, most of the analysis focuses on the lessons learned beginning with the fall of a series of military dictatorships starting in the mid-1970s and ending with the fall of communism. That happy period no doubt yields a fairly cheery theory of history.
One worries that such a tiny sliver of historical time is not really a sound basis on which to formulate a Universal History. Would the pattern he sees in recent history look different if it went back far enough to encompass the 100-years War; or the 30-years War; or even the relatively recent madness of the Spanish Inquisition? Even if we just look back to World War II itself—rather than starting the clock of theorization only after that rather large bump in the road is ruled out—things do not look all that rosy for a linear progressing Universal History like Fukuyama offers us. There were certainly stretches of time during the early days of WWII when it was unclear that liberal capitalist democracy was in fact going to survive. Within the living memory of persons still with us today, the very survival of liberal capitalist democracy was a close-run thing. How soon we forget those “lessons of history” that might prove inconvenient for our theories.
The core of Fukuyama’s argument for the looming end of history is built on a set of assumptions. He assumes that the desire for economic modernization is a universal human aspiration, and he argues that this aspiration can only be fulfilled by capitalism, hence capitalism is the end state to which modernization is driving all human culture. He assumes that the scientific method and the philosophy of the Enlightenment are again expressions of something universal in human nature. These ideas, coupled with an equally universal aspiration for "recognition," means liberal democracy is the natural end state of the political part of the historical process as well. Hence the happy conclusion: History is designed in such a way that it will barring complete catastrophe result in liberal capitalist democracy everywhere and for all time.
And we can if we can suspend belief just long enough, and click the heels of our ruby slippers together in just the right way, almost believe it. It might well be true, if only there were not such pesky disturbing factors as race; ethnicity; tribalism; religion; ideology and nationality; along with such hardy perennials as pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. In other words, if human beings were in fact rational missiles pointed always at the better future, then indeed history would almost inevitably turn out pretty much the way Fukuyama imagines it. But there are all those more problematic lesser angels of our nature, and they are drivers of history too. Which is one reason history is always so unpredictable. Over against Fukuyama's heady dreams we should pose one simple aphorism: history often disappoints, but it always surprises.
So, what we have in Fukuyama is an author who sponsored a neo-Hegelian theory of the historical process such that the transition from dictatorship to liberal capitalist democracy in Iraq (and everywhere else) is to be expected. Thus arises an almost irresistible policy temptation: the notion that since history itself is bringing about regime change in Iraq, it seems only logical that as a matter of public policy democratic governments ought to lend a helping hand to this historical process. It can almost seem an obligation, an obligation to History itself. What greater temptation could a statesman have than the grand idea that he or she is serving as partner to History?
I suggest that a very familiar form of hubris was present among Bush administration policymakers and their advisers in early 2003: the idea that statesman throughout history have had that History itself is on their side, and that their success is therefore nearly inevitable. This has proven to be one of the most durable forms of historical folly of which human beings are capable. Fukuyama's theory of history was part of the intellectual foundation of the Bush Administration's hubris in just this way. It seems fair, then, to lay some significant portion of the blame for America's Iraq policy at his doorstep. His own early support for intervention in Iraq was premised in a key way on the theory of the historical process that he articulated in The End of History.
At one of the rare public readings of his book, I was able to put to Fukuyama this very proposition. His reply went like this:
Fukuyama (paraphrasing): You could fairly describe my theory of history as a Marxist theory of history, in that it tries to describe what I think is a universal process in the unfolding of history although I do not claim this process is inevitable. So somewhat as Marx thought that communism was the natural condition in which the process of history would inevitably result, I think, on the contrary, that liberal capitalist democracy is the natural condition to which history is tending for all the reasons I describe in my book, The End of History. So the Bush Doctrine can be seen, then, as the Leninist variation on my Marxist theory. So somewhat as Lenin tried to force communism on the world through a violent variation of Marxist theory, rather than allowing communism to arise through an organic evolutionary process, in a similar way you could say the Bush Doctrine is an attempt to force liberal capitalist democracy on the world, instead of letting it arise through an organic evolutionary process.
This is an interpretation that he repeats in the new book (54-55) and that was first apparently suggested in a 2003 essay by Ken Jowitt. It is undeniably clever, and does express, in a way, the position he is now taking in his efforts to differentiate himself from the Bush administration version of neocon foreign policy.
So the Bush Doctrine is really Leninism and Fukuyama's model of history is merely Marxism. Which is, I suppose, a defense of sorts. It is true no doubt that a Leninist theory of history is worse than a Marxist one. But perhaps a Marxist theory of history is a temptation to the Leninism in all of us, and perhaps this suggests a fundamental problem with these grandiose theories of history.
But we might not want to let Fukuyama off the hook quite so easily. Successful regime change in Iraq would have been more strong evidence for his theory of history. So the failure of the American effort in Iraq (or at least its turning out so badly to date) might suggest a falsifying instance for his theory. Now that Fukuyama has backed away from the war, this ought to occasion some second thoughts about his theory of history, one would think. But he seems to have avoided making any such concession. Indeed, in the new paperback re-issue of The End of History he has authored a new Afterword in which he reasserts that he was right all along and that nothing that has happened since 1989 changes anything about his philosophy of history. He does, however, try to respond to some "misreadings" of his book, including the idea that he was describing an inevitability rather than merely a high probability. He describes his viewpoint as "weakly deterministic," to distinguish it from a hard-core Marxist model of history. True, he did not, strictly speaking, say that his version of the end of history was inevitable. What he basically said was that baring some civilization-destroying catastrophe, history would unfold as he said it would. This might be seen as pretty much the same thing, but I suppose we could not get an indictment in a court of law on the point.
The problem with a linear view of the past trending toward a predictable progressing future is that even if it is based on the most impeccably insightful analysis of the past it assumes human beings are highly rational, and that they will invariably choose to do the "right thing" when faced with their uncertain future. That is to say, the unstated premise of all historical model builders is that people will in the future behave in accordance with the historical model because it is eminently reasonable to do so. A model of the historical process like that offered by Fukuyama assumes that human beings, en masse, acting in time and circumstance under conditions of uncertainty, will act in accordance with "the lessons of history" as the historian has been graced to perceive them. While there is certainly some evidence in history that human beings sometimes act in reasonable ways, the problem is that there is at least an equal amount of evidence on the other side of the question.
One of the true “lessons of history” (and of life generally) is that people often behave in ways that are not logical, not reasonable, not in their long-term self-interest. The course of human history does not follow a consistently linear progressing pattern, in part, because human beings are not just rational animals, they are also still naked apes, to use Desmond Morris’s famous expression. The problem is that people are people, not Aristotelian reasoning engines.
Moreover, the people whom Herodotus and Thucydides wrote about are the same ones who cover the planet today. Human nature does not change in historical time, it changes only on evolutionary time-scales. Which means that all the madness and self-destructiveness, all the genocide and patricide and homicide, all the self-defeating treachery of which human beings have historically shown themselves to be capable, are all still within the behavioral repertoire of the human beings of the present day. Culture is important, no doubt; and human beings can learn to be sure; and science and democratic political systems are vital lessons for how to construct better worlds. But we cannot with any confidence predict the future based on the patterns of the recent past because human nature itself is nowhere remotely as labile as the course of cultures. Those lesser angels of human nature–the same ones written about by the authors of the Old Testament–are still burrowed deeply within the ancient brain structures of human beings. We have not–in all our cultural, scientific, technical and economic sophistication–become a different species.
To put it plainly: anything of which any human beings have shown themselves to be capable in the course of history, is something of which the human beings of today are fully capable as well. Every human character from Hitler to Gandhi is still lurking within the minds of human beings, covered only with a pitifully thin veneer of knowledge and culture. A fuller sample of the human story (not one confined to the patterns evident since the mid-1970s) usually captures this more diverse reality, and renders us less confident that the patterns of history are indeed linear and progressing. None of which is cause for despair particularly. It is just a warning against a too-smug confidence in our expectations about the future.
What Fukuyama has really succeeded in demonstrating is not that liberal capitalist democracy is the highest or final form of human culture which History can produce, but rather, that such a social arrangement is the highest form that Fukuyama can imagine. Thankfully for the job prospects of future historians, the limits of Fukuyama’s imagination are unlikely to define the bounds of the historical process.
Fukuyama's first book was a sensation when it emerged in 1989, first as an article in The National Interest, and then, three years later, as a book. Timing is everything, the old saying goes, and timing is certainly relevant here. Fukuyama's article appeared as the bricks were being taken out of the Berlin Wall, and the book came out in the hot flush of the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, at a time when American conservatives were newly intoxicated with the sweet mead of victory in the Cold War. In those heady months and early years it was easy to believe that liberal democracy was sweeping the world. Then of course came the terrorist attacks upon America, and the war on terrorism, the rise of Middle Eastern fundamentalism, both religious and secular, the rise to influence of religious fundamentalism in America, etc.—all reminders of those lesser angels of our nature, and showing Fukuyama's serene visions of the future to be the stuff dreams are made of.
Human beings have a marvelous ability to forget when times are good how near quite unpleasant futures were just a few seasons ago. Probably the only certainly recurring pattern in historiography is that by which historians confidently assert the future will take a certain course based on their reading of the past and then the future surprises them and their model of the historical process comes a cropper. Despite this repeated pattern of predictive failure, historians keep predicting the future anyway. Which is, if you think about it, more evidence on the irrational side of the equation.
In America at the Crossroads, Francis Fukuyama turns against his old comrades-in-ideology and admits he was wrong to suggest a military overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his Baathist regime. Things did not turn out quite like he expected in Iraq, so he has now changed his position on that war and the complex of policy analysis that led to it. In his next book he ought to reexamine his first book, and acknowledge that things have not turned out so well either for the theory of history announced there. In the new book he separates himself from some of his erstwhile friends. In his next book it may be high time Fukuyama produced a similar separation from his own earlier self.
 Krauthammer, for his part, published a vigorous denunciation of Fukuyama’s description of his lecture, and an oblique attack on Fukuyama and his new-found views on the Bush foreign policy. Cf. “Fukuyama’s Fantasy,” The Washington Post, Tuesday, March 28, 2006: A23.
 Francis Fukuyama, “The Neo-Conservative Moment,” The National Interest, No. 76, Summer 2004: 57-68.
 The Project is a neo-con “think-tank” founded in 1997 and Fukuyama was one of the 25 signers of its founding Statement of Principles, along with several other prominent conservative figures, including: Elliott Abrams; William J. Bennett; Jeb Bush; Dick Cheney; Steve Forbes; I. Lewis Libby; Dan Quayle; Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
 Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, (New York: The Free Press, 1992).
 Kenneth Jowitt, “Rage, Hubris, and Regime Change: The Urge to Speed History Along,” Policy Review 118 (April-May 2003): 33-42.
 The End of History, Second Paperback Edition, With a New Afterword, (New York: Free Press, 2006): 354.
Robert D. Parmet is professor of history at York College of the City University of New York. He is the author of"The Master of Seventh Avenue: David Dubinsky and the American Labor Movement.”
A friend of mine in Manhattan’s Garment District, whose business was suffering, recently complained to me that the area’s decline was so severe that a book to describe it should be written. Daniel Soyer has edited a collection of essays, A Coat of Many Colors , that achieves that goal, and much more. This volume, a product of the Sweatshop Project, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Institute sponsored by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and UNITE, covers New York’s needle trades from the nineteenth century to the present. Soyer’s introduction includes a concise narrative history of the needle trades, but the book mainly follows paths laid out by such scholars as Nancy L. Green (one of the contributors) and Roger Waldinger and focuses on geographic and ethnic dynamics, small entrepreneurs (“cockroach capitalists,” according to Soyer), and global competitors. These essays discuss workers rather than union leaders, with scant mention of the latter.
Intensely human, most of the essays discuss ordinary people. Soyer pays particular attention to the contractors, the universally despised entrepreneurs who were at the heart of the industry, and were those most closely identified with the sweatshop. Contrary to Jacob Riis and other contemporary critics, Soyer notes, the Jewish contractors and the Jews who worked for them in the 1890s were not culturally mendacious or filthy; the sweatshop arose from “the economic structure of the industry,” where levels of an “industrial hierarchy . . . ‘sweated’ profit from the level below.” In embracing industrial unions, Hadassa Kosak adds, the Jewish immigrant community adopted principles of “fairness, social responsibility, and social justice.”
As this rich volume demonstrates, the needle trades workforce was increasingly diverse. Though many Italians worked in clothing factories at the turn of the twentieth century, according to Nancy C. Carnevale, “Italian women and their children represented as much as 98 percent of all home [garment] finishers in New York City.” In later years, as Ramona Hernandez notes, Dominicans entered the industry, often as entrepreneurs, in part as a result of a Jewish and Italian exodus. To complete the picture, Margaret M. Chin describes how Mexicans, Ecuadorians and Koreans created their own niches in the garment industry, each group addressing its own economic and cultural concerns.
In the book’s third and final section, following ones on the industry’s geography, entrepreneurs and workers, Eileen Boris describes the activities, into the twenty-first century, of the National Consumers League, organized in 1898. “A champion of fair labor—an ally of, though separate from, trade unions,” the NCL has sought “to push corporate ‘social responsibility on a global level.’” “In the 1990s,” it became “a major player in the fight against the global sweatshop.” As such it collaborated with several organizations, most notably UNITE, the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, and in 1998 helped forge the Apparel Industry Partnership (AIP), which aimed at the self-regulation of United States firms. The greater problem, though, is in organizing the new global garment industry. By tracing the NCL’s attempts to raise international labor standards, Boris provides insight into some of the difficulties of that task.
A Coat of Many Colors serves as a guide to New York City’s garment industry. Its essays reveal that change, as well as the desire and ability to deal with it, have been constant. Today’s problems are real, as is the industry’s resilient heritage.
With his new book, Henry Adams and the Making of America, Garry Wills joins the fray, taking on the pleasant task of breathing life into one of the major but forgotten works of American history, Henry Adams’s nine-volume History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In doing so, Wills not only embarks on an attempt to revive the reputation of Adams as a historian, but also involves himself in a penetrating re-evaluation of both the Adams dynasty and the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
In Adams, Wills has chosen a slippery, famously evasive subject. Henry Adams (1838-1918) was an eccentric, morbidly private little man. He was idealistic and romantic, idiosyncratic, cerebral, and sensuous, always in the grip of some passion. Any account of his life must begin with the overbearing and inescapable circumstance that dominated his life: he was, for both good and ill, an Adams, a great-grandson of one American president and the grandson of another. Across his long life, Adams was a diplomat, an accomplished journalist, and a novelist of some talent. He was also a historian, a religious thinker, and a sly litterateur who deftly melded fiction, some would say lies, and autobiography. Through these endeavors, Adams became an American polymath, a ubiquitous gadfly, sometimes rising to real greatness and refreshing originality. At other times, however, and too often, he was merely an opera bouffe Herodotus, a minor Montaigne, a small-scale St. Augustine.
Apt characterization of Adams and his writings, therefore, is a treacherous task, far more frequently attempted than achieved. Both the man and his books are often unjustly reviled, and just as often unjustly praised. Much of this divergence, which unfortunately is not pursued by Wills with sufficient vigor, can be attributed to the jagged contradictions of both the man and the body of work that he left behind. This was a man who was capable of finely etched, penetrating passages, Hogarthian pen portraits, and wide-ranging social, cultural, and political analysis that rested on impeccable research; but he was also capable of pure flap-doodle, and he wrote reams of it. He was born to power, but walked away from it in mid-career. He was a promising journalist, but seems to have lacked the grit for the long haul. He was a pioneering historian, both in methodology and as creator of Harvard’s graduate history department, yet he later expressed the most despairing assessments of the entire historical enterprise. Adams entered public life as an optimistic advocate of the American democratic experiment and, by the time of his famous, autobiographical The Education of Henry Adams, he was a crusty, acerbic elitist who had lost faith in both democracy and human progress. As he mellowed with age, Adams wrote impassioned descriptions of the religious mentalité of the high middle ages in Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, but he ended his days as a hidebound atheist, bowing to materialism, nearly worshipping the power of the electric dynamo. It is small wonder that such a man could manage to be variously evaluated and so widely misunderstood.
Wills has shown wisdom, therefore, in his concentration on the historical volumes rather than the man, although that exposes him to the accusation of some superficiality in his treatment of the complicated, deeply conflicted Adams. What such an approach does permit, however, is the style that has become Wills’s forte, close reading and powerful, argumentative, unrelenting interpretation of a text. Though Wills has at times carried the method to the point of excess, no one does it better.
Wills begins his defense of Adams’s history by posing the question of why it should be so forgotten today. After all, this historical masterwork treats directly two giants of the nation’s founding, Jefferson and Madison. At a time when the shelves of the nation’s bookstores groan under the weight of similar subject matter, one could reasonably expect at least a small burst of interest in a work so assiduously researched and so elegantly written.
Wills believes that one reason these volumes are so seldom read in our era is that they have come to be entirely overshadowed by another work of Adams, the famous The Education of Henry Adams. Some view that work as the greatest American nonfiction literary work of the past century, and it has become a staple in English departments everywhere. Adams’s history, as a result, has fallen into the shadows and has been relegated to the level of a minor work by a major writer. Wills views this as shameful and spends several hundred well-researched, thought-filled pages explaining why we should go to the not inconsiderable effort of poring through hundreds of pages that have by now been appreciably superseded by more than a century of subsequent research.
Along the way, Wills addresses the attitudes of many professional historians towards Adams, which he finds more disconcerting and less honest than those of the broader public. The reputation of Adams’s history of the early republic, aside from its literary merits, has never been high among historians because so many have believed it to be an unabashed defense of two important political enemies of Jefferson and Madison, John Adams and John Quincy Adams. In that view, all criticisms that Henry Adams made of Jefferson and Madison, from his comments that Jefferson was a subject worthy of Beaumarchais, to the failure of Jefferson’s embargo, to Madison’s inept foreign policy and his stumbling direction as commander-in-chief, were all parts of a none-too-subtle attempt by Adams to retrieve family honor.
In Wills’s view, such estimations of Adams reveal deep ignorance of his real attitudes and family history. Some of that ignorance, of course, could be repaired by actually reading the texts, and Wills expresses a sense of scandal that many critics, especially those within the historical profession, seem never to have done so. This ignorance protects them from the facts. In reality, Henry always sought to be less Adamsy, hated Boston, disliked New England, and considered many in his family to be canting hypocrites. As Wills shows, Henry prided himself on what he unmathematically referred to as the quarter taint of southern blood that he believed he had inherited from his beloved part-English, part-Marylander grandmother, Louisa, who was not an Adams by birth. In addition, he had a low opinion of the political ability of John Adams and considered his grandfather, John Quincy, to have been an austere man, too cunning by half, a man willing to sacrifice all at the altar of ambition, even the well-being of his immediate family. As an adult, Henry lived out his life far from the family dysfunctions and family home in Quincy, Massachusetts, establishing himself in Washington and Paris, and carrying his family resentments to his grave. As Wills persuasively shows, any criticisms that Adams leveled at Jefferson and Madison were at least honestly held.
Wills also believes that the criticisms of Adams for his purported defense of the Adamses ignores the real admiration that he felt and expressed for the achievements of Jefferson and Madison. Adams believed that those two presidents, despite their southern penchant for decentralized government and jealously protected local rights, ironically took actions that greatly expanded the scope of the federal government, providing a unifying and modernizing effect on the nation. As Wills argues, this raised them even further in Adams’s estimation, showing them to have been pragmatists at heart rather than mere ideologues. For example, Jefferson used presidential authority that could not be found in the constitution to obtain the vast Louisiana territory from France. In a similar vein, his declaration of a trade embargo against Britain and France, as well as the overbearing steps he took to enforce it, were unprecedented and greatly expanded the power of the presidency and the role of the federal government in national life. By the end of the War of 1812, the United States had greatly increased its industrial capacity, revamped its professional military capabilities, and flexed its muscle in the international arena. Adams’s history tells why he believed that by 1817, when Madison stepped down from the presidency, the United States had become a proud and unified nation, enjoying the loyalty of its citizens, rather than remaining a backward, loosely affiliated agglomeration of bickering states, divided by distance, ideology, petty feuds, and regional loyalties.
Wills demonstrates throughout that Adams’s work on Jefferson and Madison deserves greater attention because Adams was, simply put, a superb and highly original historian. For example, he was the first to pursue the story of the Jefferson and Madison administrations from an international perspective. Adams gives us not only Jefferson and Madison, he also gives us Godoy, Bonaparte, Talleyrand, and Pitt. He was able to achieve this because he was at the forefront of an important sea change in American historical methodology, spending large amounts of his personal fortune gaining access to European archives. That is why Adams’s history is more than fluffy claims about this and that, more than weak inferences and conjecture. It is centered on documents, chased down on both sides of the Atlantic, painstakingly collected, and copied by hand. In short, Wills’s Adams was a seminal figure in the birth and development of professional American historical scholarship.
None of this, however, should obscure the chief reason for returning to Adams’s nine volumes, which is that they offer the pleasures of truly great literature, superbly imagined, written with lucidity and ease, and dripping with irony. With Henry Adams and the Making of America, Garry Wills proves himself to be a match for his subject, offering us the unusual example of one man’s history book about another man’s history books that is rich in conception, vigorous in argument, and a sheer intellectual delight.
SOURCE: H-South ()
"We're not emphasizing Emancipation. You see there's a bigger theme--the beginning of a new America. There was an entire regiment of Negroes about to be formed to serve in the Confederate Army just before the war ended. The story of the devotion and loyalty of Southern Negroes is one of the outstanding things of the Civil War. A lot of fine Negro people loved life as it was in the old South."
Half a century ago views like this were unremarkable. What was, for white supremacists, the comforting myth of black loyalty to the Confederacy held firm in spite of growing awareness inside the academy that, given half a chance (or less), enslaved southern blacks were willing to abandon their masters and, in the case of two hundred thousand adult males, enlist in the armed services of the United States to defeat the aspirant proslavery republic whose forces were arrayed against it. Half a century on, it is depressing to report that views akin to those of Karl Betts are still alive and kicking. Visitors to the Georgia Heritage Coalition website will find a recent 32-part series by Bill Vallante (a Confederate battle reenactor currently "living 'behind enemy lines'" in New York state) attempting to detail the military support given to the Confederacy by southern blacks and to debunk the efforts of "liberal" historians to undermine "the truth." Like it or not, historians of the American South are in the front line of the modern culture wars. What we need urgently, however, is not crusading history (for that will be dismissed or ignored by those without an attachment to the crusade), but good history that can be diffused effectively across the country. We are fortunate, then, that Bruce Levine is an accomplished historian and that he has fashioned a coherent and accessible analysis of the tortured Confederate debate over the military mobilization of slaves.
Levine's argument has several core strands. He contends that Rebel proposals for the emancipating and arming of slaves were the product of military necessity, that they were always fiercely contested, that they produced few concrete results, and that they were actually designed not, as some historians have suggested, to reorder southern race relations but to maintain as far as possible the unequal status quo. On each of these points Levine's evidence is generally persuasive.
Belated suggestions that the Confederacy should follow the Union policy of enlisting slaves emanated from the hard-pressed Army of Tennessee.
Shortly after the demoralizing defeat at Chattanooga in late 1863, one of the South's most able fighting men in the western theater, General Patrick R. Cleburne, broached the subject in the form of a lengthy memorandum to the army high command. Although discussion of this "abolitionist" document uncovered minimal support among Cleburne's fellow officers and was quickly suppressed by the Confederate cabinet, thoughts of a major policy shift exercised growing numbers of southern whites as the Yankee noose continued to tighten. Most of those who expressed an opinion were virulently hostile to the plan, not least because it challenged white supremacist assumptions about black capabilities and seemed a negation of everything the South was fighting to preserve. As one irate critic put it, the very idea of freeing and arming the slaves, "surrenders the great point upon which the two sections went to war" (p. 55). The loss of Atlanta in September 1864, however, imparted greater urgency to the debate.
Levine notes that by the desperate winter of 1864-65 (and partly as a result of the Lincoln administration's decision to muster blacks into the Union armies and navy), the South had only a quarter as many combatants in the field as the North. As a result, Confederate leaders such as President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee finally came to recognize that recruiting black soldiers en masse offered the only hope of national salvation. Yet even this recognition did not stir the masters. The slaveholder-dominated Confederate Congress passed a slave-enlistment bill just days before the fall of Richmond, but neither this statute nor a subsequent order from the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office guaranteed the freedom of recruits, still less that of their families. Karl Betts was not entirely wrong. A handful of black companies were being mustered into the Confederate service at the close of the Civil War. But Bruce Levine is entirely right: the vast majority of southern blacks knew that a Union victory offered them the prospect of a better future and ignored what was clearly the last-ditch recruiting drive of a doomed insurgency.
The book's most controversial thesis is that Confederate efforts to free and mobilize the slaves were intended to bolster rather than undermine the established racial order. Supporters of the policy, he argues, understood like other propertied reactionaries across the nineteenth-century globe that slavery and serfdom were not the only ways to keep a dependent labor force in check. Blacks in a post-emancipation Confederacy flush with victory would enjoy not political and legal equality with whites. Instead they would receive "a minimal amount of personal liberty," their lives severely constrained "by both the planters' monopoly of land and their control of the state apparatus" (p.
109). Levine may not have quite the weight of evidence to nail this thesis (which counters the more generous appraisal of Confederate emancipation plans advanced by scholars such as Robert F. Durden and Ervin L. Jordan Jr.), but the actions of Davis, Lee, and other Rebel leaders during Reconstruction do nothing to suggest that these men were capable, like many abolitionists and radical Republicans in the North, of envisioning a post-war polity that safeguarded the rights and personal security of former slaves.
It is always possible to quibble. The book is a relatively slim volume and Levine's argument would have benefited at certain junctures from greater elaboration. This is true, for example, of his assertion that most support for the emancipation and enlistment plan inside the Confederate Congress came from members who represented areas occupied or threatened by the enemy or in which slavery was already on its way out.
Statistical documentation would have proven beyond reasonable doubt what looks on the surface to be a plausible argument. Levine's comparative assessment, moreover, certainly yields dividends in terms of explanatory power. However, the book skates over alternative examples such as American and British enlistment of slaves during the Revolution and, perhaps more obviously, the black emancipation and enlistment policy of the Union. Both the British and U.S. comparisons involved, at some stage, the coupling of emancipation with colonization, and one is tempted to ask why transportation was not offered up at least as a rhetorical solution to the thorny racial dilemma posed by southern plans to free and arm the slaves. (Obviously getting rid of African Americans would have portended disaster for the region's labor supply, but this did not stop some former Rebels in the late 1860s and 1870s dreaming of a world in which black laborers would be supplanted with white
immigrants.) And while it might be supposed that a comparison of Confederate and Union policy could only redound to the benefit of the latter, the controversial compulsory labor system inaugurated by General Nathaniel P. Banks in Louisiana must surely have offered food for thought to some Confederates. Finally, given the importance of his subject to modern-day culture wars, Levine could have devoted more space to the combustible topic of black Confederates. Bill Vallante is not a professional historian, but he marshals enough information on the Georgia Heritage Coalition website to indicate that some free blacks did fight for the Confederacy and that at least a few body servants who accompanied their masters into battle were allowed to carry rifles and take potshots at the Yankees. It would have been useful if Levine could have shown conclusively what most H-South readers will suspect--that their numbers paled into insignificance compared with the legions who fought for the Union.
But these are minor points. This is the most reliable and convincing book ever written on a fraught topic of lingering significance. We are just five years away from the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and the contending forces are already rallying to contest the event. Mr.
Vallante and other like-minded conservatives will not be persuaded by Levine's argument (for proof just check out some of the hostile reviews of _Confederate Emancipation_ on the Amazon website). However, all conflicts have their middle ground to be fought over and the modern American culture wars are no exception. If we are not to see a resurgence of the pernicious half-truths peddled by Karl Betts, this excellent study must have an influence far beyond the groves of academe.
. Dan Wakefield, "Civil War Centennial: Bull Run with Popcorn." _The Nation_, January 30, 1960, p. 97.
. Bill Vallante, "Black History Month & 'Civil War Memory:' The 32 Part Series," Georgia Heritage Council, http://georgiaheritagecouncil.org
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SOURCE: Weekly Standard ()
SOME BOOKS ARE ALL ATTITUDE; others all balance, sobriety, and calm. This one is of the latter kind, which may come as a surprise to those who have known the author through his earlier work, especially his 1984 Chants Democratic, a superb, edgy study of the creation of New York City's working class before 1850. There, Sean Wilentz put himself on the side of the workies, and of much of the striving social history of the time, of which he proved a master. That book was part of a body of scholarship seeking to understand the history of the kind of people--the women and African Americans, as well as the laboring men, who deviated from the white, male, middle-class norm--so often overlooked in the traditional histories of the United States.
The makings of Wilentz's new work could have been detected in that first one. It was fully attentive to detail while reaching for a comprehensive perspective, and it revealed an empathetic understanding of its diverse human subjects. It was also attuned to politics, policies, and institutions--some of the attributes often missing from social history. Here, in a major book that builds out from his earlier work, Wilentz reveals the rest of himself. Less actively engaged in his material, he gives us a work that's grander and even more masterful.
The most remarkable characteristic of The Rise of American Democracy is its unblinking focus on the nation's political life and institutions between 1789 and the Civil War. It's likely that most readers won't find that remarkable at all. They'll assume that politics and political institutions should be at the center of the "master narrative" (as it's now called) of any national history. How, after all, can one write the history of democracy's emergence from the elite, deferential society of the Revolutionary era, except in political terms?
In fact, there are other ways, other emphases--so many, in fact, that during the past 40 years, when social and cultural history were making their great, historiography-shaking advances in American letters, political historians often felt that they were carrying on a rearguard campaign against the disappearance of their subject. Of course, that subject never disappeared, and was unlikely to do so. If it had, Wilentz couldn't have written this book--or at least couldn't have written it the way he has done, as he in effect acknowledges in his exhaustive citations to others' work and occasional, but unobtrusive, issue-taking with some fellow historians. A political history that appropriates social history where needed, The Rise of American Democracy should be seen as a purposeful demonstration that a grand history of politics can still bear the weight of authoritative interpretation.
The work is a summation of current understanding of the political history of the first 75 years of the republic, and it's hard to conceive of a better summary for our times, if taken on its own terms.
Wilentz insists on the centrality to the national narrative of the growth of popular government in the United States--that is, of the emergence from elite rule of participatory politics--starting in the earliest days of the republic. "The mysterious rise of American democracy," he writes, "was an extraordinary part of the most profound political transformation in modern history: the triumph of popular government--and of the proposition--if not fully the reality--that sovereignty rightly belongs to the mass of ordinary and equal citizens."
How that triumph--or at least the triumph of white, male democracy--came about by 1865 is the burden of 800 pages of text, pages that occasionally weary the reader by their detail but never by the scale or nature of their subject. And it's a sobering tale, not so much for the outcome (which, while limited by 1865, was substantial) as for the complexity of it all.
Wilentz is at great pains to analyze that complexity. The first phase of political democracy didn't leap forth, Athena-like, fully formed from the Founders' heads. An external authority didn't impose it, nor was it independent of the larger culture of religion, institution, economy, and intellect. Instead, it was built in response to events, contested every step of the way, and, as Wilentz reminds us, never uniformly envisaged or even fully understood by most participants.
Given the diversity of the American population, the grievances of those (especially women, African Americans, and natives) intentionally excluded from the franchise and from wider participation in American life, and the play of events (not all of them domestic) between the Revolution and Civil War, it's the author's supreme achievement somehow to control his materials. Just the names of the various political factions--Tertium Quids, Barnburners, Locofocos--that have walk-on parts in this drama, after confusing generations of students, are threats enough to any reader's attentiveness. But Wilentz never lets their necessary coverage get in the way of the larger tale.
So what is the principal theme? All readers will find in a tale as tangled as this what disposition and interest lead to. But one of Wilentz's indisputably signal achievements is to keep firmly in view two sets of contesting ideas of democracy that existed throughout the pre-Civil War era. Both were in evidence before 1787. Both established themselves firmly as enduring features of American politics after that. Both were fateful.
One set of opposing ideas centered on the tension between rural farmers and artisans on the one hand, and urban workingmen on the other, over the market economy: The value, supply, and control of money, the form and extent of taxation, the nature of trade and commerce, and the sale, settlement, and ownership of land. It played itself out in alternating demands by rural and urban working people for influence over the politics of these issues--demands that had, first, to be satisfied by their gaining the franchise and then by their beginning to elect to public office men who were not of the old gentry.
While it's not possible fully to pull this contest apart from the other one, it was central to the epic battles between political parties. It was also responsible for the political emergence in the 1820s of the hero of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson. Unlike Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, whose enduring political visions open and close the volume, Jackson is the figure who bestrides the book, just as he did its great predecessor, Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s The Age of Jackson (1945), whose propulsive energy is one of the very few qualities that Wilentz's book lacks in like measure.
Unlike some recent historians and biographers, Wilentz has a kind of grudging respect for Jackson, and can retain his interpretive balance even when writing of the Tennesseean's destructive and controversial Indian-removal policies. If one closes the book without sharing the author's modest weakness for this president, there's no denying either the difficult choices that Jackson's two administrations faced, and the consequences of those decisions, or the undeniable fact (as Wilentz writes) that the Jacksonians "created the first mass democratic national political party in modern history."
Many of Jackson's acts, such as his attack on the Second Bank of the United States, were localistic, pig-headed, and ideological. Others, like his response to the South Carolina Nullifiers in 1832-33, were shrewd and coldly nationalistic. Yet it's hard to imagine the triumph of popular government without Jackson and his followers. Jackson's vision, his grudges, and his combination of stout localism and unswerving nationalism faced in two directions. They emerged from Jefferson's often-mystic agrarianism and continentalism and led inexorably to Lincoln's determined unionism. Wilentz is right to place Jackson at the center of this work.
The other contested set of ideas concerned the status of labor itself, especially white laboring people's mastery over African Americans, both slave and free. As the 19th century wore on, this tension manifested itself sectionally. The South became the terrain of a kind of herrenvolk democracy, in which one race, all of whose participants mistakenly believed themselves to be engaged as free agents in politics and society, ruled over another, in this case for the purpose of exploiting that race's physical labor. Plantation owners psychologically empowered small white farmers to make common cause with them over black slave labor; southern political democracy constructed itself in racial terms.
In the North, scarcely less racist in its attitudes, a greatly lower proportion of blacks led early to gradual emancipation, and thus greatly weakened the identification of work with race. As a result, an ideology of honorable, free labor helped fuel attacks on entrenched political and other privilege, and effectively led (by the time of the Civil War) not only to white manhood suffrage but also to the growing conviction that the spread of the slave system had to halt and make way for white, laboring voters.
Only the War for the Union could decide which form of democracy would prevail, and the North's did. Wilentz concludes with a riveting photograph of a postwar Virginia jury of 12 men, seven of whom are black. The shared responsibility for democratic society by members of both races, like those dozen jurymen, was the promise of political democracy wrested from the South by war. But it was a promise soon aborted and not fully realized until our own time.
These themes by no means make up the entire structure of the book, nor do they exhaust its virtues, of which there are many. Every history like this must take up certain basic topics. Wilentz's coverage of most is superb, his pages on the Democratic-Republican Societies of the 1790s, and the Missouri Compromise of 1820, for instance, being particularly penetrating models of their kind. A single page on John Brown is beyond compare.
Wilentz rarely takes his eyes off the states, where so much of the day's political action was located--and where readers may sometimes tire. He joins a line of recent interpretation that holds higher the presidential achievements of James Madison than earlier historians did. He fails to give enough credit to the Federalists and Whigs, the conservative political forces of their days, for their contributions to the emergence of democracy. And--signs of his old self--he occasionally falls into the trap of seeing workers allied with the Jacksonians as rational, and those voting for the Whigs as elite-led and passive. But these are small faults in such a massive work.
For all the book's achievements, it would be a mistake to think that Wilentz's presentation of the slow emergence of white manhood democracy by the time of the Civil War is the history of "the rise of democracy" in all its many possible forms. It's the history of the rise of political democracy. But what of social and cultural democracy? Here, a fuller, parallel history could have been interleaved to good effect. Yes, the book would have been even thicker and heavier. But it would have had more about voluntary associations, about reform societies and religion, about the emergence to positions of great moral authority and effective administrative capacity of thousands of women, about the great democratic literary renaissance typified by the works of Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and, especially, Walt Whitman.
To limit the story principally to political issues, movements, developments, and institutions makes it possible for Wilentz to prove his point about the robust life that remains in history told from a political perspective. But it also truncates the story and prevents it from becoming the even grander-scope saga that it might have been.
Nevertheless, the narrative Wilentz offers of the extension of political democracy is unsurpassed as the American nation's--indeed, any nation's--central narrative. For the United States, only one other such narrative is available to rival it: The stitching together of a nation from all the people on the face of the earth, the emergence of political, social, and cultural democracy for all Americans from the welter of humans and traditions that have composed the nation from its birth. That's a different tale from the one Wilentz chooses to convey; he cannot be criticized for the choice he has made. But a reader should bear in mind that there does remain the option of telling the story otherwise.
Yet do either of these narratives serve the search for what historians used to call a usable past? Surely none would dispute that, in our fractured world, both story lines can offer beacons of hope and guidance to those attempting to create democracy and comity out of the wreckage of tyranny and tribalism.
There does, however, remain one other grand way of telling the American story, one rarely ventured, even though we ourselves need to understand it. After all, other people--the British, Canadians, Australians, French, even the Germans--can teach the world about democracy and market economies. Some others can set examples of how to build multiethnic and multiracial societies. But what of the history of an open society, a society in which all that is not harmful to others is tolerated and permitted? Americans probably do about as good a job of managing an open society as can be conceived, despite our bitter battles, our stumbles, and sometimes our outright failures. Yet, alongside the number of histories of democracy, and of the peopling of the United States, one is hard-pressed to find a single history of the nation told as the history of the emergence of an open society from a closed one.
Until we have such a history, this will stand as the best available account of the growth of political democracy in the United States in the first three-quarters of a century of government under the Constitution. It is difficult to imagine a better one.
SOURCE: Nation ()
Between the world wars, Turkish schoolchildren imbibed a version of their nation's past drawn up under the close supervision of Kemal Atatürk, the Father of the Nation himself. Their four-volume history unambiguously asserted the Turks' central role in the development of world civilization; its maps displayed a fantastic array of bold red lines that snaked outward in all directions from their original home in the Inner Asia heartlands, tracing their peregrinations as far afield as China and Scotland, not to mention the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco, Sudan, India and Java. Had the Turks really left nowhere or nothing untouched? The Hittites were claimed as theirs; so were the Macedonians, Germans, Etruscans--and even for a time the Prophet Muhammad.
Today the Turkish History Thesis looks like another case study in twentieth-century nationalist myth-making, like Himmler's Tibetan Aryans, French Gauls or King Fuad's Pharaonism. Yet there was a truth at its core. As those school maps implied, Anatolia--the home of the Turkish Republic--was just one of the Turks' numerous destinations: But if so, what really was the relationship between modern Turkey and what its intellectuals once called the "Outer Turks" of Central Asia?
Until recently, this was merely a matter of antiquarian interest for most people west of Istanbul. No longer. Last year, London's Royal Academy hosted a blockbuster of a show titled "The Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years, 600-1600." Beginning on the borders of seventh-century China, with Buddhist cave paintings from Xinjiang, home today to the Turkic Uyghurs, placed next to massive Kyrgyz stone cupbearers from Central Asia, the exhibition offered a magnificent panorama of cultures and demonstrated through carpets, ceramics, carvings and miniatures how Turkic-speaking peoples acted as the intermediaries for a fusion of Chinese, Persian, Arabic and European traditions. The exhibition ended in 1600, at the summit of Ottoman power, as if to suggest that the Ottoman sultans, Europe's own Turks, were where this Eurasian world-historical process reached its culmination. But this display of Ottomania--a craze, currently sweeping Istanbul, that has branded everything from Sufi jazz bands to tourist gift shops--was very much a reflection of the present moment. A new generation of Turks is again knocking at Europe's door, and the show was obviously designed to assert--just as Atatürk's History Thesis did in the 1930s--Turkey's civilizational credentials, in a spirit simultaneously defiant and hopeful.
What the exhibition also underscored is that Europe is not the Turks' only option. Indeed, as the negotiations over European Union membership finally sputtered into life, the country announced the opening of the new billion-dollar oil pipeline from Baku to the Mediterranean, with an equally important gas pipeline not far behind. Turning itself into the hub for the vast fuel reserves of the Caspian basin, it is also looking eastward--to Azerbaijan and the Central Asian republics--and rediscovering its past. Turkish membership is the single most important issue likely to confront the EU over the next decade, and the two books reviewed here provide plenty of help in understanding what this transformation of Turkey's place in the world implies for international affairs. Carter Vaughn Findley's The Turks in World History is a panoramic and scholarly survey of the Eurasian longue durée, written by a well-respected American historian of the Ottoman Empire; Sons of the Conquerors by Hugh Pope, an experienced correspondent who runs the Istanbul bureau for the Wall Street Journal, contains incisive political and cultural reportage of the same area over the past decade. Between them, they allow us to explore the complex connection between Turkey and the Turks, and in the process to see more clearly where Europe fits in.
Who is a Turk? worried Turkish nationalists a century ago as the Ottoman Empire's European provinces slipped from the Porte's grasp. To counter Russian pan-Slavism and the weak Ottoman response, some of them came up with a new ideology: pan-Turkism. Their raw material was the hundreds of thousands of refugees who had been forced to make their way into Anatolia from the Caucasus, the Crimea and the Balkans. Racially, socially and linguistically diverse, they mainly shared their faith, and many might well have empathized with Sultan Abdul Hamid II's vision of pan-Islamic solidarity. But after World War I, with the empire on its deathbed and even its Arab provinces lost, religion was not the common denominator to which Atatürk and his fellow republicans would appeal. On the contrary, they abolished the caliphate, dissolved most of the Sufi orders and brought the ulema under close control. Seeing in secularism and state supervision of religion the route to modernity, they took their civil code from Switzerland and their criminal law from Italy, and defined belonging in the new Turkish nation-state through language--stripping Ottoman Turkish of its Arabic and Persian accretions, and writing it in the Latin script. Many refugees found themselves and their children learning a new tongue.
New to them, perhaps, but Turkish was and had long been a kind of lingua franca for merchants, political agitators and pilgrims across much of Central Asia and western China. Ironically, however, as the Turkish Republic rose from the ashes of the old empire, the simultaneous triumph of Soviet Communism curtailed such contacts. Atatürk concentrated on preserving Turkish sovereignty in Anatolia itself. And when his rival and former commander, Enver Pasha, died in battle in 1922, hopes of a pan-Turkish uprising against the Bolshevik regime died with him. Its external boundaries patrolled more rigorously than they ever had been by the tsars, the Soviet Union encompassed the Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia and cut them off from their neighbors. Later, Chinese Communist rule in Xinjiang had a similarly isolating effect so far as the Uyghurs were concerned. The twentieth century thus marked both the rise of modern Turkey and the fragmentation of a Turkic oikumene (homeland) that had existed for more than a millennium.
Among the chief creators of that Turkic Eurasia had been the Mongol khans, whose world empire rested on the twin pillars of Turkish and Islam. In 1401 the historian Ibn Khaldun was brought to meet their last great leader, Tamerlane, outside the walls of Damascus. In his works on world history, the scholar had argued that the key determinant of civilization was the endless cyclical struggle between nomadic and sedentary peoples; one could, he argued, see that process at work among the Arabs in the seventh century, for instance, or in the clash between the Berbers of North Africa and the cities of the Iberian Peninsula. Tamerlane, of course, whose conquests extended from Moscow to Delhi, provided the clearest possible illustration of the military power of a nomadic polity. Although neither of the two men could have known it, as they conversed about history, religion and business, Tamerlane was also its last major representative. In the great Mongol eruption of the early fifteenth century, the first phase of Turkic history ended and a second began. Ibn Khaldun's cycle of history was broken, and the age of Turkic wanderings was replaced by the consolidation of highly organized Turkic empires.
It had all begun, as Findley makes clear in The Turks in World History, about eight centuries earlier. Turks were in demand for their military skills, and many became mercenaries in the Arab armies of the Middle East. In the tenth century, they started to settle in significant numbers in Iran and Syria; soon they were pressing upon the borders of Byzantine Anatolia. In 1071 the Seljuk Turks succeeded where Arab armies had failed, and by defeating a Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert, they gradually conquered the Anatolian highlands, pushing the zone of Christendom back to the coast. Since these Turkic invaders had adopted Islam, their victory opened Anatolia to Muslim settlement as well. In fact, Islam was the overwhelmingly favored religion of those tribes that moved south and west, though some Turkic tribes adopted Christianity and others Judaism and Buddhism. (One eighth-century Uyghur ruler became Manichean, testimony to the enduring influence of Persian culture.) But religious conversion was only part of the transition from a nomadic, pastoralist, tribal-based polity to a more sedentary urban state. As groups of tribes made this transition, they allied their own military skills with the bureaucratic and administrative techniques of those they conquered--whether Chinese, Persian or Byzantine. Far from destroying the states they overran, in other words, the Turks were in some respects if not conquered then deeply influenced by those they had defeated. The Mamluk rulers of Egypt ended up speaking Arabic; the Moghuls, Persian and later Urdu.
For nomad dynasties, as Ibn Khaldun stressed, the challenge was not so much conquest as managing to hold on to power for more than one or two generations. Turkish settlement in Anatolia did not immediately bring political stability, and the Seljuks themselves were soon pushed aside as the region was carved up among powerful emirs. The family that became known as the Ottomans was one of the lesser of these dynasties, stationed on the northwestern border with the Byzantines. Starting in the early fourteenth century, they pushed westward, taking over Christian lands in Anatolia and then moving to the European shore. Among their allies were disillusioned Byzantine generals, Catholic-hating Orthodox bishops and Balkan princes, while dynastic marriages brought Christian princesses into imperial harems. From the start, therefore, the Ottoman state was associated, to an extent unmatched by any other Turkic polity, with the world of Eastern Christendom. Even if we do not go as far as the Romanian historian Nicolae Iorga, who claimed that the Ottoman Empire was a kind of "Byzantium after Byzantium," it certainly owed much to its predecessor. Following the conquest of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed's proud claim to be the emperor of the Romans reflected this European orientation.
Tamerlane had nearly put an end to the Ottomans' dizzying ascent to world power. Shortly after his meeting with Ibn Khaldun, his Turkic-speaking Mongol army inflicted the worst defeat in Ottoman history, plunging the empire into a two-decade succession crisis. When the empire re-emerged, it was into a very different era. Gunpowder now gave the upper hand to highly organized imperial polities and doomed nomadic dynasties like Tamerlane's that were unable to adjust. As his successors argued among themselves, the steppe peoples lost their lethality and fell under the control of the empires of Russia and China; the last to go were the picturesque khanates of Bukhara and Khiva in the mid-nineteenth century. Where Turkic states survived, it was because they made the transition to a different form of imperial government--in the Ottoman lands but also in Safavid Persia and Moghul India.
Findley's lucid exposition mines a rich vein of historical comparison. Although all three dynasties were of Turkic origin, only under the Ottomans were Turkish speakers sufficiently numerous to preserve their tongue as the linguistic foundation of the empire. The fate of Islam in the three empires was very different too: In India, the Moghuls quickly stretched the letter of the religious law in order to come to terms with a predominantly Hindu population; in Safavid Persia, at the other extreme, the dynasty forced Twelver Shiism upon the largely Sunni population. The Ottomans, who conquered Syria, Egypt and the holy places of the Hijaz as their Safavid rivals seized power to their east, reacted by emphasizing the Sunni character of the state and claimed the caliphate for further legitimacy. Of these three dominant powers of southern Eurasia, the Ottomans were the oldest and most successful, easily outlasting the others before finally succumbing in the aftermath of World War I.
Findley leaves no doubt as to the massive impact of Turkic tribes on the history of Eurasia, whether in the earlier phase of nomadic raiding empires or in the later transition to settled dynastic and bureaucratic states. But what--aside from language--did the Turks have in common? Sometimes it seems as if both authors are searching for a set of special racial characteristics of one kind or another. Pope talks a trifle unnervingly about "a universal Turkic look," a certain recognizable physical type, and he even suggests, buying perhaps a little too readily into the mythology of the Atatürkist military, that the Turks have a special genius for war. For his part, Findley sees a metaphorical carpet being woven on the loom of Turkish historical experience, binding the Turkic world together. But does it really hold? A language of quasi-racial unity that would be shouted down if applied to any European people--who spends much time pondering the unity of the Slavs?--still, it seems, holds an appeal for Turkish specialists.
Not surprisingly, given today's obsessions, another way of identifying what makes the Turks special involves highlighting their attitude to Islam. Both Pope and Findley, like other contemporary commentators, want to suggest that there is a Turkic form of Islam, more flexible, tolerant and adaptable to the modern world than its Arab counterparts. They see the roots of this in Central Asian shamanism, Mongol religious syncretism and Sufi traditions, and find its political expression in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP, his moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party. To my ears this explanation is unconvincing. If we are interested in the differences between Turkey and the rest of the Middle East, it is probably neither necessary nor accurate to talk in terms of some benign syncretism--as though external influences are required to drain an essentially belligerent faith of its venom. Such an approach involves a question-begging definition of what Islam "really" is. History and politics are surely more relevant. By preserving Turkish independence and preventing Anatolia from being carved up after 1918, Atatürk marked Turkey out from the less fortunate Arab provinces to the south and gave his successors a unique legacy in the Middle East and fewer grievances vis-à-vis the West. More recently too, as Pope observes, the Turkish regimes and states of the post-cold war era have found that unlike the Arabs, their interests have largely coincided with the policies of the United States. As so often, what we pose as a question of religion is really a matter of geopolitical fortunes.
The truth is that religious and linguistic kinship binds Turks together about as much as it does the Slavs, which is to say not at all. Pope's adventures around the Turkic world chart its--and his--gradual disenchantment with the vision of a common cultural and political space that briefly seized hold of Turkish politicians after the collapse of the Soviet Union. For a moment, the end of the cold war made it look as though the legacies of Atatürk and Enver could be combined. In the early 1990s, President Ozal tried to persuade the rulers of the newly independent Central Asian republics of the benefits of Turkey's hegemony. But their new political elites were keen to enjoy their newfound freedom. They wanted Turkish know-how and capital; the Azeris wanted Turkish arms in Nagorno-Karabakh. But none wanted to sacrifice independence for a pan-Turkish dream. Since 1993 the pan-Turkish summits have gone nowhere. The Eastern option, driven as late as 1997 from Ankara after the humiliation of being rebuffed for early membership by Brussels, now looks moribund.
In a sequence of superbly reported episodes, Pope explains why. New despots rule most of the Central Asian republics with an iron hand and try to buy off the populace with the proceeds of oil, gas and mineral exploitation. Meanwhile, the legacy of Soviet-era pollution and ecological devastation continues to haunt the region. Despite its vast natural wealth, Azerbaijan has been unable to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh from the equally impoverished Armenians--so much for Turkic military prowess. Turkey itself keeps aloof, providing the Azeris with a lesson in the difference between the rhetoric of racial solidarity and the reality of national interest; Pope describes an Enver Pasha garage that stands forlornly on the way to Moscow Prospekt. As a result, the prospect of Moscow, weakened beyond what anyone could have imagined in 1989, is paradoxically less frightening to the Central Asian republics: After a lot of talk about introducing the Latin alphabet, Cyrillic still rules.
If Pope's picture of the stagnation of life in Central Asia is deeply depressing, Turkey itself seems to be a country transformed. Starting with the economic liberalization of the 1980s and accelerating with the move toward Europe in the past decade, the country appears galvanized by new energy. Pope hails the provincial entrepreneurs whose goods are Turkey's chief influence eastward and a powerful reason why Turkey still outweighs Iran as a regional power. This group underpins the rise of Prime Minister Erdogan's AKP and shows, he argues, the compatibility of Islam with capitalism and democracy. Meanwhile, the old state apparatus fights anything more than cosmetic change: At the Aydin police station--whose chief is an honorary mayor of Baton Rouge--they are playing Leonard Cohen through the public address system, but Pope is still kept away from the antiterrorist cells.
And what of Europe, accustomed for so long to see itself as the Turks' opposite? The historical irony that leaps out of Findley's invigorating survey in particular is that the inhabitants of present-day Turkey and of its predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, were and are in fact the most Europeanized of the Turks, as deeply marked by their proximity to Christendom as Khublai Khan was by China. Indeed, today's second-generation Turkish immigrants in Germany and the Netherlands, interviewed by Pope, feel more at home there than in Anatolia. They have no difficulty accommodating their religious views--in fact, they find the atmosphere freer in some ways than it was back home, and as the generations pass, the clash between village ways and the new habits of urban life is attenuated. There are thus many reasons to welcome the EU's recent decision to open negotiations with Turkey. But as Austria's resistance to this suggests, old stereotypes die hard: It is not only the Turkish History Thesis that needs revision.
Reprinted with permission from the Nation. For subscription information call 1-800-333-8536. Portions of each week's Nation magazine can be accessed at http://www.thenation.com.
SOURCE: WSJ ()
The Iranians, post-takeover, had painstakingly reassembled most of the embassy's CIA cables and diplomatic telegrams--paper that had been insufficiently burned or shredded by the besieged American diplomats. (The U.S. government developed much better shredders in response.) At Langley six years later, an old woman--a real-life, chain-smoking Le Carré sort who had amazing recall of the CIA's operations--was reviewing the volumes for sensitive material. No one else on the Iran desk seemed to care.
The desk was plastered with posters of Khomeini and various references to nefarious clerical behavior, but the Islamic Revolution's defining moment was mostly forgotten history. And little wonder. Officers who had served in Iran before the revolution--the CIA station had once been fairly large--were usually disconnected from the place, since virtually none of them spoke any Persian and most, in the course of their time in Tehran, had pursued "third country" targets (Soviets, East Europeans, communist Chinese), not Iranians.
In "Guests of the Ayatollah," Mark Bowden revivifies this crucial episode by parachuting us back to 1979 and enveloping us in the thoughts and experiences of the American hostages--the diplomats, security officers, U.S. Marines and spooks seized and abused by the "Students Following the Line of the Imam," as they called themselves. The hostages numbered 66 in all; 14 were released before the end of the crisis, which lasted 444 days. Three were held in the more civilized confines of the Iranian Foreign Ministry. (Mr. Bowden does some of his finest writing recounting the increasingly surreal existence of this second small group, who became "guests"-cum-prisoners.)
Mr. Bowden subtitles his book "The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam"--and he is certainly right in underscoring the entire saga as a formative moment for contemporary Islamic militancy. Sunni fundamentalism, as an ideology inclined to see terrorism as a legitimate activity, predated the rise of the Shiite Khomeini. But the ayatollah's triumph over the shah and over his primary foreign backer--the U.S.--globally supercharged Islamic radicalism....
SOURCE: newsobserver.com ()
Something about George W. Bush drives opponents bananas. Especially many of America's "best and brightest" are reduced to sputtering madmen -- and women -- when discussing the president. This Bushophobia has produced dozens of hysterical jeremiads convincing to those already convinced Bush is a disaster but alienating to many, more neutral, Americans. Kevin Phillips' sad metamorphosis from visionary political analyst to dyspeptic partisan polemicist demonstrates just how self-defeating this blind hatred can be.
Four decades ago, the 29-year-old Phillips' prescient book "The Emerging Republican Majority" marked a remarkable public debut. Part analysis, part blueprint, the 1969 book charted Republicans' course in wooing the once solidly Democratic South, resulting in the Reagan Revolution. Twenty-one years later, with "The Politics of Rich and Poor," Phillips demonstrated a refreshing political independence and intellectual creativity that working in Washington usually destroys. In this iconoclastic analysis of the 1980s, and other books, Phillips revealed that, neither Republican nor Democrat, he was a populist, lambasting America's growing concentration of wealth.
Alas, George W. Bush, as a subject, has defeated this formidable thinker -- along with many others. Following and partially recycling his withering 2004 family history, "American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush," Phillips now claims the Bush pathology threatens all of America.
Bush does not dominate Phillips' new book, "American Theocracy." The president is more a nightmarish apparition haunting a work that claims that Bush's persona and policies epitomize and intensify the "three major perils" to the nation's survival: the religious right, ballooning debt and oil addiction.
Phillips roots his contemporary political analysis in an historical analysis of fallen empires. Yet his Bush-inspired hysteria consistently undermines his scholarly erudition.
The opening section "Oil and American Supremacy" discusses "fuel and national power." Phillips argues that America's thirst for oil distorted its foreign policy, making America unduly vulnerable to foreign suppliers, just as the Dutch trading empire of the 1590s to 1720s was, and the British empire of 1760 to 1914 proved to be.
The second section, "Too Many Preachers," simultaneously mourns radicalized evangelicals' rising influence and America's "Southernization." Here, he claims that modern America is plagued by the toxic combination of fear, cultural decay, "growing religious fervor," trusting faith over reason and hubris that led to the collapse of the Dutch, British, Roman, Spanish and Hapsburg empires.
Finally, the section on ""Borrowed Prosperity" warns that America's financial bubble is about to burst -- as others' have.
Unfortunately, Phillips' important warnings are lost amid an attack which is so undisciplined, frantic, excessive and amoral in its false comparisons as to lose credibility. For starters, the title, "American Theocracy," is simply stupid -- a word I have never before used in two decades of reviewing. Suggesting that modern America with its secular democratic political, economic and entertainment systems, its array of constitutionally protected freedoms, is in any way a theocracy reveals a stark ignorance of the term. Using it reinforces Phillips' false, malicious comparisons with the Taliban, the Iranian Khomeineists, Osama Bin Laden and other disreputable Islamicist jihadists, foolishly blurring together "Islamic, Christian, and Jewish fundamentalism."
When assessing the role of religion, particularly the evangelicals, Phillips simply gets unhinged. Linking "radical religion" with "oil and borrowed money" in his apocalyptic trinity makes his argument more readable and sellable. Most Americans prefer screaming about Pat Robertson's latest outrage or Terry Schiavo's right to die than thinking about oil depletion allowances and the prime rate.
But Phillips' analytical barometer seems broken as he jumps to more extreme -- and damning -- conclusions than his evidence, or realities, allow. True, historians have underestimated the role of religion in America, but that does not mean that either the American Revolution or the Civil War was "in many ways a religious war." True, Southerners enjoy growing national influence today, but to imply that somehow the South ultimately won the Civil War is the kind of characteristic rhetorical overkill that substitutes hysterical punch lines for historical truths.
And true, evangelicals exercise growing influence in the Republican party, but that does not prove that "a national Disenlightenment" has occurred or make America "the world's leading Bible-reading crusader state, immersed in an Old Testament of stern prophets and bloody Middle Eastern battlefields." Moreover, describing post 9/11 American policy as "seizing the fundamentalist moment" is crudely reductionist, disrespecting the thousands of innocent victims murdered that day in an unprovoked attack by the only lethal fundamentalists posing a major threat to the world today.
For good measure, and to feed his false, amoral comparison between Western entities such as the United States with its Islamicist enemies, Phillips occasionally clumps America with another evangelical favorite and, thus to Phillips, another foe, Israel. "The excesses of fundamentalism, in turn, are American and Israeli, as well as the all-too-obvious depredations of radical Islam," Phillips claims in his preface. Revealingly, amid hundreds of footnotes, the only citation even referring to Israel mentions an Israeli newspaper article about American Jewish voting. Nowhere does Phillips document his allegations against Israel or show upon what they are based, beyond echoing many intellectuals' prejudice against the Jewish state. This impression is reinforced by the claim that "Orthodox Jewish females cannot even study the Torah," an absurd assertion so incorrect and nasty as to impeach the author's integrity along with his credibility.
The sections on "Western fuelishness" and America's financial house of cards are more convincing. It is inexcusable that we remain mired in the same debates from the 1970s' oil crisis and that our scientific wizards have not invented synthetic alternatives to foreign oil. And it is unnerving that America has shifted from a nation that produced products on a grand scale, exported real goods worldwide and tried to balance a budget to a country filled with financial acrobats who juggle numbers all day, feed a growing trade deficit and ignore a national debt that seems destined to doom our spoiled lifestyles. Still, even in these more data-driven sections, Phillips overstates.
Alleging Richard Nixon was in the oil companies' grip because "Nixon had an oil-state childhood himself" makes as much sense as labeling all New Yorkers Wall Street brigands or all North Carolinians tobacco-addicted smokers. Phillips is too much the deterministic Chicken Little historian, convinced the sky is falling because other empires collapsed. It is one thing to point out that "Natural resources, religious excess, wars and burgeoning debt levels have been prominent causes of the downfall of the previous leading world economic powers." But history is not a crystal ball. Remembering how different empires fell will not guarantee America's demise.
America needs some wake up calls. We need an intelligent, critical conversation about how we devour resources, where our economy is heading, how much longer we can sustain gargantuan trade and budget deficits -- even when the supposedly fiscally responsible party rules. We also need an intelligent, critical conversation about religion's role in politics, America's broader values crisis and how politics have turned so ugly. As President Bush's administration winds down, perhaps the grip of Bushophobia will loosen and analysts like Kevin Phillips will be able to produce the prescient, incisive and balanced commentaries they once did. Until then, alas, the long awaited national consciousness-raising will be delayed by the ever more vicious partisan shouting matches.