The distinguishing characteristic of America’s foreign policy Establishment is its inability to accept reality. We see this most clearly at present in our refusal to cooperate openly with Iran against ISIS. Realists accept that our relations with other states often involve simultaneous cooperation and competition. The World War II foreign policy Establishment was happy to cooperate with Stalin’s Soviet Union. While Hitler killed six mission, Soviet Communism, according to the Soviet archives, killed 60 million, most in the Stalin period. Then, Washington was capable of saying with a shrug, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Today, no such realism is possible.
All policy not based on reality will fail. Given the costs we have already paid for foreign policy failure, we might want to ask where the current Establishment’s worship of unreality originated. It is clearly ideological in nature. All ideologies demand that certain aspects of reality be ignored.
Two overlapping ideologies shape the present Establishment’s thinking. The first is the neo-cons’ “democratic capitalism”, which James Jatras argues is the most destructive of the three ideologies which wrecked the 20th century, the other two being fascism and communism. The second is the cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School, which became the ideology of the baby boom generation in the 1960s. Together, these ideologies demand the destruction of every traditional society and culture and their replacement with a combination of gross materialism and a secular puritanism, puritanism that mandates hedonism. That is what lies behind our offensive grand strategy, our wild foreign adventures and our repeated foreign policy failures. As Russell Kirk wrote, there is no surer way to make a man your enemy than to tell him you will remake him in your image for his own good.
Can we identify more specific sources of ideology in the foreign policy Establishment? A book recently sent to me by a friend suggests we can. The book is Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History by Carroll Quigley. The work is a wide survey of virtually the whole of military history, from the Prehistoric Period up to 1500 A.D. The author died before the book was finished and it was published by his friends, which probably explains the lack of source notes. Absent these, it is difficult to credit the author’s often broad assertions.
Quigley had some important insights. Perhaps the most important is that “The real goal of military operation is agreement.” So long as we are talking about war between states, this is true, and it is forgotten by both soldiers and diplomats. A peace the defeated state cannot accept is usually short-lived.
But Quigley’s real significance comes from a combination of his position and his ideology. As Dean Peter Krogh of Georgetown University wrote in a tribute to Quigley,
For forty years, Professor Carroll Quigley’s teaching quickened and disciplined the minds of students of the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University. His inspired lectures … literally defined the School and its brand of education…
Professor Quigley became an institution indistinguishable from the School of Foreign Service.
The School of Foreign Service is the basic training ground of our foreign policy Establishment.
Quigley’s ideology was ahistorical. His book continually projects the present onto the past, a besetting sin of the current Establishment. He often references the “ideology” of ancient societies, when they had no such thing; ideology, the word and the thing itself, are born in the French Revolution. He speaks of Bronze Age infantry fighting in “phalanxes”, which did not exist until the Classical Greeks.
More seriously, Quigley continually criticizes ancient societies for their lack of “democracy” and failure to include peasants in the political process, and he contrasts “peaceful”, goddess-worshiping, matriarchal, agrarian societies against warlike, patriarchal societies of hunters who worshiped male gods.
Historically, both positions are nonsense. Criticizing ancient worlds for lack of democracy makes as much sense as criticizing them for air pollution because they did not have catalytic converters on their chariots. The average peasant knew as much about governing as your cat does about the back side of the moon. That is true in much of today’s world as well, which is why the Establishment’s demand for universal democracy leads not to “freedom” but to anarchy.
Quigley’s other major theme has been exploded time and time again. Repeatedly, historians or anthropologists have posited peaceful, agrarian societies, only to have further research show they were anything but peaceful. The Maya were repeatedly offered as an example of such worlds without war. We now know they fought contantly, to the point where war was one reason their civilization collapsed. In the real world, war is unversal. As Martin van Creveld puts it, war exists because men like to fight and women like fighters.
Today we see the unrealistic, ahistorical views of Quigley throughout the foreign policy Estalishment. Quigley explicitly traced them down to our time, especially in his condemnation of the Indo-Europeans–the West’s ancestors–and a male god who offers personal salvation and immortality. On page 143 Quigley wrote,
We have seen that grassland hunters, from their very mode of life, are likely to be patriarchal and warlike. Among the Indo-Europeans, however, thee attributes were much intensified and distorted by their religious history … to create an almost psychopathic outlook…
These ideas are still with us … (P. 145)
Is it likely these errors of Quigley, rooted in ideology, not history, are part of the reason our foreign policy Establishment cannot accept reality? For generations, he was their teacher. Indeed, these ideas are still with us, Quigley’s ideas that are naught but castles in the air.