Ash Heap of History: Reagan’s Westminster Address 20 Years Later by Charles Krauthammer

Whenever I hear my checkered past recalled to me, I can’t decide whether I’m a retired physician or ex-psychiatrist. I’ve decided I’m a psychiatrist in remission and I’ve been doing extremely well — and haven’t had a relapse in 20 years.

I’m sometimes asked what the difference is between what I do today and what I did in my psychiatric days, and I tell people that in both professions I deal all the time with people who suffer from delusions of grandeur with the exception that the people I deal with have access to nuclear weapons. It makes the stakes a little higher and the work a lot more interesting.

I’ve been asked to talk to you a little bit about the reaction in the journalistic world to the Westminster Address and also to relate it to the Reagan Doctrine. As I recall, the response to the Westminster address was fairly restrained. There was the usual flurry of activity in the press in Washington — it did not last terribly long.

The general flavor was the usual left-right split with the left rather apoplectic about the President’s aggressiveness, with a tone of “there he goes again.” And there were the more alarmist commentators who said he really does believe it and that, of course, really was alarming for people living in Washington who found it very hard, particularly in the early years of Reagan, to believe that there were politicians and leaders who truly did have a belief system that they would act upon and not skip to the political necessities of the day.

I agree with Dr. Spalding that the Westminster speech may have received less reaction than the evil empire speech, “evil empire,” as she indicated, being the phrase that stuck rather than “ash heap of history.” And my explanation for why “evil empire” stuck more in the journalistic world is that it’s shorter, and this is, by the way, a rule that you can apply to all slogans. The shorter last because they’re easier to put in headlines. Which is, incidentally, why “axis of evil” is a brilliant turn of phrase, ten letters to encompass a lot of bad people, extremely economical.

As to what was important about the Westminster speech, many reasons have been elaborated, but I think the one thing that was so stunning about it was its optimism. It’s hard for us living 10 years after the utter eradication of communism to put ourselves back 20 years ago and to think about what it was like, particularly in the early ’80s.

Some of us think of 1975 as the nadir of the United States in the Cold War era with the collapse of Saigon. I think that’s wrong. I think it was 1979. 1979 really was the annus mirabilis. It was the lowest point of the Cold War. It was the year in which Nicaragua fell, Afghanistan was invaded, Cambodia was invaded by the Vietnamese, Iran collapsed, and just as a kind of footnote, which was entirely unnoted at the time, Grenada was taken over by Bishop and Company, something that we didn’t really notice until a little bit later. But it was all part of this pattern in which it appeared as if the policy of containment itself was in collapse.

That’s where we were starting from psychologically in the late 1970s. And here was a president who not only said this was not the way that things would have to be — we would not always be in retreat — but was confidently predicting what none of us imagined, that this rock of the Soviet Union and of communism that we had always imagined and still imagined at the time would always be with us in our lifetime would actually be destroyed and would disappear.

That I think was shocking — that psychological optimism. The idea that communism was a passing phase was the truly revolutionary idea. It took us from containment and at a time when it was a question of whether containment itself could be sustained and began speaking about rollback. That was revolutionary, that was shocking, and it spoke not only of rollback in the periphery, not only of rollback as understood in the Dulles years, meaning Eastern Europe, but Reagan essentially was saying that the rollback would go all the way to Moscow and it would end in Moscow itself.

Interestingly, however, his optimism did have a limit. It was somewhat projected into the future. There is a line in the speech where he says, “The task I have set forth will long outlive our own generation.” In fact it didn’t. It came shockingly early.

Part of the reason it came early is because of a policy that was articulated officially a few years later but that on the ground was begun to be implemented and that is the Reagan Doctrine. It was revolutionary in the sense that Reagan would not accept the premises of the past in the same way that he went from SALT to START in negotiations, from Strategic Arms Limitation to Strategic Arms Reduction, which was, again, revolutionary, in the same way that he went from Mutual Assured Destruction to SDI in nuclear theology, believing we can go beyond deterrents to defenses.

In the same way he brought this revolutionary idea that we could implement a policy that brought us from containment to rollback — but not rollback as we had imagined it in the ’50s in Eastern Europe. We would not only support Solidarity and try to assist the indigenous forces there in a peaceful revolution, but provide actual military aid to indigenous revolutionaries in the Communist outposts of the empire, that is in the Third World.

This was articulated officially in his State of the Union Address on the 6th of February 1985, almost three years after the Westminster Speech, in which he said, “We must not break faith with those who are risking their lives in every continent from Afghanistan to Nicaragua to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours since birth. Support of freedom fighters is self-defense.”

Now, I must admit that in the history of doctrines they’re generally rolled out with more fanfare. Truman delivered his in the famous address to a special session of Congress, in which he outlined the policy of containment. Nixon didn’t make a speech, but he was very interested in having the idea of the Nixon Doctrine understood and elaborated and propagated. The Reagan Doctrine was something that was, one might say, mischievously invented. I had a part in that. I saw that brazen speech and decided that it was, whether they meant it or not, an articulation of a very important principle of the foreign policy of the Reagan Administration, and that something new in the world had happened.

For 50 years, had been used to seeing pro-Western regimes under assault from communist guerillas in China, in Vietnam, Malaysia, in El Salvador, in Cuba. Just about everywhere our entire experience had been that. And here all of a sudden and rather unnoticed was a new phenomenon. There were guerillas fighting against communist regimes in Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, and Cambodia. They hadn’t been connected and here they came together in the idea of the Reagan Doctrine, which was that we would support these guerillas in the fight to overthrow proxy Soviets regimes or in the case of Afghanistan an actual Soviet-imposed regime.

What was important about the Reagan Doctrine is until then we had done it quietly and clandestinely. The Reagan Doctrine said overtly we are doing this, we are proud of this, and we’re not going to hide this. What Reagan began was the vigorous defense of the idea of democratic revolution, not just in theory, not just as a spiritual or a political movement, but an actual revolution by democrats against the Soviet empire.

And he argued, first of all, in the justice of the cause, which I think is self-evident but at the time was revolutionary. Because we had this notion of state sovereignty, that somehow we were not permitted to overthrow the regimes that had a seat in the UN or other official status. Reagan argued that that was not a correct criterion. The correct criteria were justice, human rights, democracy, and if they were regimes that were oppressing their people, acting in the name of a tyranny, we had the right and the moral duty to support those who were going to overthrow it.

The other part of this strategy which went more unstated was that it served our larger purposes of engaging in the fight against the Soviet empire by bleeding it at the periphery, and bleed it did. The fact that the Soviets had almost without cost was an important factor in their expansion. Yes, it cost them to subsidize basket cases like Cuba, but in terms of their geopolitical position, the deployment of the military, and also the prestige of an expanding communism, it was worth it.

But with the Reagan Doctrine they ran up not just against a wall, but against opposition. They ran up against real armies supported by the United States that made them spend blood and treasure in defense of these outposts and it led to a radical reconsideration in Moscow about the cost of empire.

Statements were made in the late ’80s by high members of the Soviet foreign ministry in which they explicitly questioned whether the empire which was costing them so much was more a burden than a benefit. I think the Reagan Doctrine had a very important effect in helping change the mind of the Soviets as to whether acting as an empire was really in their interest.

Now, it is true that the Reagan Doctrine and support for some of these insurgencies did not begin with the Reagan Administration. It’s true that Carter sent arms to the Afghan rebels and Congress concurred. Congress also went along with economic aid to communist resistance in Cambodia. But since the Clark Amendment in 1976, aid was prohibited to the anti-Marxist guerillas in Angola, and Congress refused to support the war against indigenous communist dictatorships no matter how heavily supported by the Soviet Union.

Reagan’s program of CIA support for the Contras, who were fighting indigenous and not overtly foreign occupation, as were the Afghans, broke post-Vietnam precedent. Interestingly, at first and for the first three years of the Reagan Administration, the policy received the flimsiest of justifications. It was officially defended as a way to interdict supplies to the Salvadoran guerillas. What was interesting and important about the State of the Union Address in 1985 was that Reagan dropped the fig leaf and made an overt statement that we would now unashamedly and, without resort to some kind of cover, support a revolution against communist regimes. What the doctrine did was to establish a new, firmer doctrinal foundation for such support by declaring equally worthy armed resistance to communism whether imposed by foreign or indigenous tyrants.

Now, at the time many tried to interpret the Reagan Doctrine as a puffed-up rationale for the support of the Contras, but I believe that that is a lot like justifying the Truman Doctrine as a puffed-up reason to support the Greeks and the Turks in the late 1940s. It was in fact much more, and in the same way that the Truman Doctrine established the basis for containment, the Reagan Doctrine established the basis for a rollback.

In a sense it was a successor to earlier doctrines. The Truman Doctrine was a doctrine of containment that had its internal political collapse in the United States as a result of the Vietnam War and the divisions over Vietnam. The first attempt to patch it up was the Nixon Doctrine, which would rely on foreign, local powers to defend our interests.

The Carter Doctrine set forth that we would intervene unilaterally by means of a rapid deployment force in defense of our interests rather than relying on proxies as the Nixon Doctrine did. But that was never a serious attempt. It was a theoretical idea. There was never, I think, any attempt either to build a military force or to actually employ it.

The Reagan Doctrine relied not on friendly regimes but on guerillas. I’m not sure in the long view of history how decisive it was. I think it was a part of several other revolutionary policies, some of which have been mentioned here, being steadfast on the deployment of the Euro missiles, the insistence on SDI, the huge buildup in defenses, that added to the pressure that we placed on the Soviet periphery, particularly in Afghanistan that I think had a decisive effect in convincing the Soviets they could not continue in the Cold War.

There’s one interesting corollary to the Reagan Doctrine, which I think ought to be mentioned. It was originally intended to justify supporting anti-communist revolutions, but it was a deeper idea than that. It really was a proclamation of democratic revolution and it saw a corollary in two events which occurred later in the 1980s.

The first was in the Philippines and the second was in Chile. The Reagan Doctrine was not invoked, but you might call it a corollary, for in both cases — particularly in the Philippines — we supported indigenous democrats overthrowing non-communist dictators as a way to bring democracy to their countries. In that sense I think it was a glorious vindication of the Reagan Doctrine because it refuted the critics who said we had a double standard. In fact, Reagan — and the Reagan — idea was dedicated to universal application of democracy and freedom.

I think it was most effective in fighting the Communist regimes, but it helped remove Marcos in the Philippines and helped bring about the ultimate change in power in Chile. Under pressure for the Reagan Administration, and later the Bush Administration, there was a democratic transition that I think spoke to a much wider and deeper idea — our support for democratic revolution.

Let me end by mentioning an incident which I think was indicative of the radicalism of what Reagan did. A few months before the Reagan Doctrine was proposed, I was speaking with a Nicaraguan friend who had been an ex-Sandinista and was here in Washington in exile. He was supporting the Contras and rather in despair for the lack of progress and support that he saw in Washington. He was saying that the struggle of democrats around the world was doomed because of an absence in the West of what he called democratic militance, speaking in the terms of the man of the left he once was.

The Reagan Doctrine was the first step in the restoration of the democratic militance. The Westminster Address was the great herald of that idea. The Reagan Doctrine was one of the many policies implemented to bring it to a reality. All of us are blessed by having lived to see it vindicate itself and win the great victory on behalf of democracy that even Reagan in Westminster never imagined would have happened in our lifetime.

Remarks at panel discussion held at The Heritage Foundation
June 3, 2002

General George S. Patton was assassinated to silence his criticism of allied war leaders

General George S. Patton

General George S. Patton

George S. Patton, America’s greatest combat general of the Second World War, was assassinated after the conflict with the connivance of US leaders, according to a new book.

The newly unearthed diaries of a colourful assassin for the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the CIA, reveal that American spy chiefs wanted Patton dead because he was threatening to expose allied collusion with the Russians that cost American lives.

The death of General Patton in December 1945, is one of the enduring mysteries of the war era. Although he had suffered serious injuries in a car crash in Manheim, he was thought to be recovering and was on the verge of flying home.

But after a decade-long investigation, military historian Robert Wilcox claims that OSS head General “Wild Bill” Donovan ordered a highly decorated marksman called Douglas Bazata to silence Patton, who gloried in the nickname “Old Blood and Guts”.

His book, “Target Patton”, contains interviews with Mr Bazata, who died in 1999, and extracts from his diaries, detailing how he staged the car crash by getting a troop truck to plough into Patton’s Cadillac and then shot the general with a low-velocity projectile, which broke his neck while his fellow passengers escaped without a scratch.

Mr Bazata also suggested that when Patton began to recover from his injuries, US officials turned a blind eye as agents of the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, poisoned the general.

Mr Wilcox told The Sunday Telegraph that when he spoke to Mr Bazata: “He was struggling with himself, all these killings he had done. He confessed to me that he had caused the accident, that he was ordered to do so by Wild Bill Donovan.

“Donovan told him: ‘We’ve got a terrible situation with this great patriot, he’s out of control and we must save him from himself and from ruining everything the allies have done.’ I believe Douglas Bazata. He’s a sterling guy.”

Mr Bazata led an extraordinary life. He was a member of the Jedburghs, the elite unit who parachuted into France to help organise the Resistance in the run up to D-Day in 1944. He earned four purple hearts, a Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre three times over for his efforts.

After the war he became a celebrated artist who enjoyed the patronage of Princess Grace of Monaco and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

He was friends with Salvador Dali, who painted a portrait of Bazata as Don Quixote.

He ended his career as an aide to President Ronald Reagan’s Navy Secretary John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission and adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Mr Wilcox also tracked down and interviewed Stephen Skubik, an officer in the Counter-Intelligence Corps of the US Army, who said he learnt that Patton was on Stalin’s death list. Skubik repeatedly alerted Donovan, who simply had him sent back to the US.

“You have two strong witnesses here,” Mr Wilcox said. “The evidence is that the Russians finished the job.”

The scenario sounds far fetched but Mr Wilcox has assembled a compelling case that US officials had something to hide. At least five documents relating to the car accident have been removed from US archives.

The driver of the truck was whisked away to London before he could be questioned and no autopsy was performed on Patton’s body.

With the help of a Cadillac expert from Detroit, Mr Wilcox has proved that the car on display in the Patton museum at Fort Knox is not the one Patton was driving.

“That is a cover-up,” Mr Wilcox said.

George Patton, a dynamic controversialist who wore ivory-handled revolvers on each hip and was the subject of an Oscar winning film starring George C. Scott, commanded the US 3rd Army, which cut a swathe through France after D-Day.

But his ambition to get to Berlin before Soviet forces was thwarted by supreme allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower, who gave Patton’s petrol supplies to the more cautious British General Bernard Montgomery.

Patton, who distrusted the Russians, believed Eisenhower wrongly prevented him closing the so-called Falaise Gap in the autumn of 1944, allowing hundreds of thousands of German troops to escape to fight again,. This led to the deaths of thousands of Americans during their winter counter-offensive that became known as the Battle of the Bulge.

In order to placate Stalin, the 3rd Army was also ordered to a halt as it reached the German border and was prevented from seizing either Berlin or Prague, moves that could have prevented Soviet domination of Eastern Europe after the war.

Mr Wilcox told The Sunday Telegraph: “Patton was going to resign from the Army. He wanted to go to war with the Russians. The administration thought he was nuts.

“He also knew secrets of the war which would have ruined careers.

I don’t think Dwight Eisenhower would ever have been elected president if Patton had lived to say the things he wanted to say.” Mr Wilcox added: “I think there’s enough evidence here that if I were to go to a grand jury I could probably get an indictment, but perhaps not a conviction.”

Charles Province, President of the George S. Patton Historical Society, said he hopes the book will lead to definitive proof of the plot being uncovered. He said: “There were a lot of people who were pretty damn glad that Patton died. He was going to really open the door on a lot of things that they screwed up over there.”


Battle of Evil Empire by Frank Warner

President Reagan’s Evil Empire Speech, often credited with hastening the end of Soviet totalitarianism, almost didn’t happen.

According to presidential papers obtained by The Morning Call, Reagan was thwarted on at least one earlier occasion from using the same blunt, anti-communist phrases he spoke from the bully pulpit 17 years ago this week.

And former Reagan aides now say it was their furtive effort in the winter of 1983 that slipped the boldest of words past a timid bureaucracy.

With clever calculation, the Evil Empire Speech eluded U.S. censors to score a direct hit on the Soviet Union.

“It was the stealth speech,” said one Reagan aide.

In the spring of 1982, the president felt the reins on his rhetoric. The first draft of his address to the British Parliament labeled the Soviet Union the world’s “focus of evil.” He liked the text. But Parliament never heard those words.

U.S. diplomats and cautious Reagan advisers sanitized the text of the speech, removing its harshest terms, according to documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

But nine months later, Reagan spoke in Orlando, Fla., and delivered many of the passages deleted from the London address. His Orlando speech is known as the Evil Empire Speech.

The speech alarmed moderates of the West, delighted millions living under Soviet oppression and set off a global chain reaction that many believe led inexorably to the fall of the Berlin Wall and to freedom for most of Eastern Europe.

The Reagan Library papers provide fascinating insights into the drafting of what may have been the most important presidential statement of the Cold War. They also reveal that, despite the unremitting influences on him, the president himself decided what he would say.
“Let us be aware that while they preach the supremacy of the state, declare its omnipotence over individual man, predict its eventual domination of all peoples of the Earth, they are the focus of evil in the modern world,” Reagan told the National Association of Evangelicals on March 8, 1983.

An audience of 1,200 was first to hear the words “focus of evil” in the Citrus Crown Ballroom at the Sheraton Twin Towers Hotel in Orlando.

And other phrases slashed from the Parliament speech were resurrected in the Evil Empire Speech.

» The 1982 first draft said, “Those cliches of conquest we have heard so often from the East are … part of a sad, bizarre, dreadfully evil episode in history, but an episode that is dying, a chapter whose last pages even now are being written.” The sentence was censored in London, but in Orlando Reagan said, “I believe that Communism is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages even now are being written.”

» The London first draft included the words of the late British novelist C.S. Lewis: “The greatest evil is not in those sordid dens of crime that Dickens loved to paint. … It is conceived and ordered … in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men.” The words were held until Orlando.

» The British were to be told that appeasement is “the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom.” The phrase was cut. In Orlando then, Reagan said, “But if history teaches anything, it teaches: simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly — it means the betrayal of our past, the squandering of our freedom.”

» Also eliminated from the London speech was the reference to the Soviet Union as a “militaristic empire” whose ideology justifies any wrongdoing. In the Evil Empire Speech, the empire concept returned in a more powerful form.

Anthony R. Dolan, Reagan’s chief speechwriter at the time, said he doesn’t remember exactly which excised parts of the Parliament speech, often called the Westminster Address, resurfaced in the Evil Empire Speech. But he said it wasn’t unusual for a White House writer to try the same words twice.

“You mean, was I recycling? Yes,” Dolan said in a phone interview. “Sure, we did that all the time.”

Dolan, now a Washington, D.C., consultant to Republican politicians, was principal author of both the Westminster Address and the Evil Empire Speech, but he doesn’t claim either speech as his own.

“They’re the president’s phrases,” he said of the Evil Empire Speech. “I wrote a draft. The president gave a speech.”

But Dolan did write the paragraph that gave the Evil Empire Speech its name. In it, Reagan called on the evangelical ministers to oppose a “nuclear freeze,” which would have prevented deployment of nuclear-tipped missiles in Western Europe to counter Soviet missiles in Eastern Europe.

The “evil empire” paragraph was never part of the Westminster Address. But in the 32-minute Orlando speech, it was the centerpiece. It was the longest sentence — so long that, on the day of the speech, only one television network, CBS, let viewers hear all 72 words:

“So in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals I urge you to beware the temptation of pride — the temptation to blithely declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”

Energized by a sentence that wrapped the entire Cold War around two radioactive words, the Evil Empire Speech defined the Reagan presidency. The words are forever linked to the man, who today is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease at his home in Bel-Air, Calif.

And as the Reagan papers show and former Reagan aides confirm, the speech was the climax of a continuing debate, in and outside the White House, about how the president should talk about the Soviet Union.

At his first news conference on Jan. 29, 1981, Reagan said of Soviet leaders, “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime; to lie; to cheat.” There was ample evidence of Soviet misdeeds then, but Reagan’s critics accused him of choosing fighting words when the world’s other superpower deserved a respectful tone.

By 1982, as Reagan prepared for a trip to Europe, the White House staff was divided over how he should approach East-West relations in the speech before Parliament. Various speechwriters submitted proposals.

But Reagan was not impressed until National Security Adviser William P. Clark Jr., his horse-riding friend from California, showed him the dauntless draft that Dolan had written on his own. Five times, the draft branded the Soviets “evil.”

Because this was to be Reagan’s first major address on foreign policy, the draft would pass through the State Department, other executive agencies and senior White House staffers before Reagan could complete it.

Reagan Library documents do not reveal what Secretary of State Alexander Haig, his State Department, or Reagan’s staff said about Dolan’s draft, but all but one reference to evil in the Soviet Union vanished from the final text. The reference that survived was not a statement, but a question: “Must freedom wither — in a quiet deadening accommodation with totalitarian evil?”

Of the written comments available on Dolan’s Westminster draft, Clark’s are the most candid and complete. Next to an introductory joke, he wrote, “Not funny.” Next to another joke, he wrote, “Too many jokes.”

And beside a proposed conclusion — not written by Dolan — reminding Britain of “the dark days of the Second World War when this place — like an island — was incandescent with courage,” Clark noted, “It is an island.” “This place — like an island” eventually was changed to “this island.”

Reagan wanted the Westminster Address to echo the themes of Winston Churchill’s March 5, 1946, “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Mo. So Dolan borrowed Churchill’s phrase, “from Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic,” for an update on Communism.

Clark checked a map and objected to “Trieste on the Adriatic.” As the southern point of the Iron Curtain, Trieste was too far west to suit him. “Avoid lumping Yugoslavia in with the Soviet bloc,” he wrote. There were Austria and Greece to keep in the Free World, too. In the end, Churchill was rewritten.

“From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea,” Reagan told Parliament, “the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 years to establish their legitimacy. But none — not one regime — has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.”

The president was accompanied to London by Clark, Haig, Chief of Staff James A. Baker and aides David R. Gergen, Michael R. Deaver and Richard Darman. Dolan flew out, too.

“They called me at the last minute, probably because they thought I was angry at the changes made,” he said.

Dolan said he believes a few senior advisers muffled the sterner words of his first draft. The problem, he said, was that “the pragmatists” in the White House were afraid to let Reagan be Reagan while they steered “the true believers” away from the president.

“The speechwriters were looked at as true believers,” he recalled. “Now Jim Baker and Gergen and Dick Darman and Mike Deaver — that group was thought of as people who wanted him to tone down his anti-Soviet rhetoric and raise taxes and sort of go back on the Reagan Revolution.”

The true believers resented the influence of the pragmatists. They saw the pragmatists as trying to remake and restrain the leader they helped elect. The true believers wanted a chance to set Reagan loose.

In early 1983, the National Association of Evangelicals invited the president to speak before its convention. “We suggested a topic: generally, religious freedom and the Cold War,” said Richard Cizik, then a legislative researcher for the NAE’s Washington office.

Tensions were building over the planned deployment of Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe. President Carter had agreed to ship the intermediate-range missiles to counter the Soviets’ SS-20 missiles, but Carter’s decision was left to his successor to implement.

Reagan offered the Soviet Union a “zero-zero option” on the missiles. If the Soviets dismantled their SS-20s, he said, he would cancel deployment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization missiles.

At the arms negotiations in Geneva, the Soviets were not taking the offer. Instead, they encouraged the nuclear freeze movement, whose leaders in America and Europe were arguing persuasively that the world already had so many nuclear weapons it would be immoral to deploy even one more.

U.S. religious leaders joined the debate. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops was considering a resolution in favor of the freeze, and the National Council of Churches, a Protestant organization, and the Synagogue Council of America already supported it.

The National Association of Evangelicals, long known for its social conservatism, nevertheless discovered increasing numbers of its membership opposed deploying the NATO missiles, even if the Soviets did not remove theirs. Many of its members were pacifists, most notably the Quakers and Evangelical Mennonites.

The association’s leaders decided a presidential speech might clarify the stakes.

Cizik wrote Reagan, asking him to speak at the NAE convention in Orlando. The invitation went out over the signature of Cizik’s boss, Robert P. Dugan, director of NAE public affairs in the capital. Reagan accepted.

At the White House, Aram Bakshian Jr., director of speechwriting, assigned Dolan, then 34 and a former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, to write a draft. Other White House aides didn’t pay much attention.

“They thought it was a routine speech,” said Dolan, a Catholic and a Reagan fan since he was 13. “It was a group of conservative ministers, and since I was the staff conservative they’d give it to me.”

At a steakhouse across the street from the White House, Dolan and fellow presidential speechwriter — and future California congressman — Dana Rohrabacher sat down in a booth with Cizik and Dugan.

“I told the speechwriters that day, ‘Look, the freezeniks are making real inroads into the evangelical heartland, and the president needs to address this issue,'” remembered Cizik.

“I told them, ‘You’ve got to understand our crowd. If you think you’re going to come down there and encounter an entirely receptive audience, no.’ I was pitching sort of a theological content.”

Dolan and other speechwriters met with Reagan on Feb. 18, 1983. They might have commented on the coming NAE speech then, but Dolan does not recall for certain. According to Reagan Library records, Gergen, Baker, Darman and Deaver also were at the meeting.

Reagan had other speeches to discuss. That night, he would speak before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. On Feb. 22, he would talk to the American Legion. And there were many smaller toasts, talking points and Rose Garden statements in between.

The president also was planning a six-day trip to California, where on March 1 he would greet Queen Elizabeth II at his mountaintop ranch near Santa Barbara. After stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oregon, he would return to Washington on March 5, three days before speaking to the evangelicals in Florida.

In the meantime, Dolan wrote his first draft at his office in the Old Executive Office Building, next to the White House. “It took a few days, maybe half a week” to write the 16 pages, he said.

The first half of the draft was on domestic policy, including abortion and school prayer. The second half was on world affairs, principally the nuclear freeze and the “evil empire.”

The “evil empire” paragraph was in the first draft, the Reagan papers show.

“Beware the temptation of pride — the temptation to blithely declare yourselves above it all,” he wrote.

Dolan now explains that, in denouncing pride, he was thinking about elitists who regularly soft-pedaled the repressions, invasions and mass killings of totalitarian regimes.

“You always had the New York Times trying to strike a neutral position and advise both sides of its lofty and higher perspective editorially,” he said. “That’s just people who are puffed up.

“Pride causes foolishness — pride in the sense of one of the deadly sins.”

In his draft, he also wrote that in the debate over the nuclear freeze, religious leaders ought not “label both sides equally at fault.” He says now he was rejecting an oft-repeated argument that Soviet totalitarianism was just another system, no worse than free and democratic systems.

“This is moral equivalence, remember?” he said. “The Left saved its real moral indignation for middle America, rather than Soviet aggression and oppression of others. It was blame America first, that was their first instinct.”

Then Dolan wrote of “an evil empire.” Today he denies the term was inspired by the 1977 hit movie “Star Wars,” in which an alliance of good guys battles the “evil Galactic Empire.” Nevertheless, the words conjured that mainstream image.

The term “evil empire” also was a form of psychological warfare.

“People who are involved in evil enterprises fear the truth,” said Dolan. “That’s why the mafioso fears the newspaper account of his wrongdoing more than jail time.”

Dolan used the word “evil” seven more times in the draft.

Two references to evil were applied to the United States: to its past denials of equal rights to minority citizens and to “hate groups preaching bigotry and prejudice.”

Dolan submitted his draft on March 3, while the president still was in California. James Baker, William Clark and other senior advisers were with Reagan.

At the White House, Aram Bakshian, the speechwriting director, went over the draft. Bakshian saw four references to the Soviet Union as evil. He particularly liked the term “evil empire.”

Bakshian and a small group of like-minded White House staffers remembered how similarly candid words disappeared from earlier Reagan speeches. They set out to save “evil empire.”

The draft began with churchly pronouncements on parental rights, school prayer and “pulpits aflame with righteousness.” As a result, Bakshian said, it didn’t appear at first glance to be anything the State Department or other senior officials would want to review.

“This was not a major speech on the schedule,” he said. “It looked like a speech for a prayer breakfast. It would have seemed like one of the lowest priority speeches.”

The Office of Speechwriting regularly placed drafts of presidential speeches in piles for circulation throughout the bureaucracy. Certain White House staffers were responsible for looking over the texts and routing them to the agencies that might want to comment. If the staffers didn’t notice the subject matter, the drafts might not go far.

“I made a point of not flagging it,” said Bakshian. “It was the stealth speech.

“If anyone in the State Department read it, they just read the first few paragraphs and set it aside. They didn’t know it was going to be a foreign policy speech. On the face of it, it wasn’t a foreign policy speech.”

Sven Kraemer, arms control director on the president’s National Security Council, was asked to review the draft, giving special attention to the section on the nuclear freeze debate.

Kraemer gave Dolan a few minor written suggestions on March 4, the Reagan Library papers show. Kraemer said he had even more to say out loud.

“Not everything that is said between friends is put on paper,” he said. He said he urged Dolan to mention Russian dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1975 description of the Soviet Union as “the concentration of World Evil.”

“A suggestion that I made was that the phrase ‘evil empire’ be correlated with Solzhenitsyn’s phrase, so that the location of those two words be linked.”

Solzhenitsyn was not added to the speech, but Kraemer joined the team dedicated to preserving Dolan’s draft.

“Relatively few people saw it (the draft), and some of the senior people saw it late in the process,” he remembered. “It got to be a pretty narrow circle, and it got to be pretty late in the day, and some of us agreed that this is wonderful that some others were not there.”

Reagan returned from his West Coast trip on March 5. His wife, Nancy, stayed in California to see her daughter, Patti Davis, and to tape a special anti-drug-abuse episode on the “Dif’rent Strokes” TV show.

By now, three days before the scheduled speech in Orlando, the West Wing “pragmatists” —David Gergen and others — had discovered Dolan’s draft and were raising objections, according to Dolan.

Memories are unclear here, but Dolan recalls his text came back with “a lot of green ink” crossing out the “evil empire” section.

“It’s not a vivid memory,” he said. “It’s just a recollection. It was not the phrase itself. It was the whole section in which all this was included.”

Whoever crossed out the section expected it to be deleted before the president saw the draft, but Dolan would not allow it.

“I said, ‘I just won’t go along with those. In this case, let’s just let the president decide on this.’ I rarely took a stand like this, but I was disgusted because this stuff was crossed out.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we just send the draft in as it is?'”

Reagan would see all the words, Dolan said, “but he was going to get the draft with people telling him, look, we don’t like this section, that section, the other section.”

Reagan received the draft, and probably worked on it the evening of March 5 and then again on March 6.

He wrote another page and a half on his opposition to providing birth control pills and devices to underage girls without the knowledge of their parents. He removed a section on organized crime. And on the foreign policy side of the speech, he added a further defense of his earlier comment that the Soviets lie and cheat.

“Somehow this was translated to be accusations by me rather than a quote of their own words,” he wrote.

After a paragraph proposing the reduction of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles, he scribbled in three sentences guaranteed to fire up a standing ovation: “At the same time, however, they must be made to understand we will never compromise our principles & standards. We will never give away our freedom. We will never abandon our belief in God.”

He also wrote two paragraphs about the faith of conservative actor-singer Pat Boone, whom Reagan did not refer to by name. And he tightened and edited other parts of the text.

When Reagan was done writing and rewriting, the Soviet Union still was “the focus of evil in the modern world.” It still was “an evil empire.”

David Gergen said six years later that he and Deputy National Security Adviser Robert “Bud” McFarlane toned down the “outrageous statements” in the draft, according to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon.

The Reagan Library documents show that the president — possibly with advice — removed parenthetical putdowns of the “intelligentsia,” the “glitter set,” the “unilateral disarmers,” the “old liberalism” and the anti-religious sectors of the news media in the United States.

“The fact of the matter is, the important stuff on the Soviet Union got in,” Dolan pointed out.

Gergen, now editor-at-large of U.S. News & World Report, could not be reached for comment for this story, either at his office at Harvard University or through U.S. News.

As the final draft of the Evil Empire Speech was typed on March 7, 1983, Reagan asked for a list of specific reasons to oppose a nuclear freeze.

The NSC’s Kraemer wrote up a two- or three-page memo, which the president boiled down to four paragraphs. Reagan also wrote out his position in a nutshell: “I would agree to a freeze if only we could freeze the Soviets’ global desires.”

The four new paragraphs were typed onto two index cards and clipped to the main text, with a note reminding him when to pull out the cards.

March 8, 1983, was a busy day for the 72-year-old president, the Reagan Library papers show. After breakfast at 7:45 a.m., he met with 22 members of the Senate and the House to discuss the bloody conflict in El Salvador. At 10:13 his helicopter lifted off from the White House lawn for Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

As he left, 5,000 supporters of a nuclear freeze were rallying in a cold rain at the Capitol.

“Do you want to freeze the arms race?” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., asked.

“Yeah!” yelled the crowd.

“Do you think President Reagan is going to freeze the arms race?”


And the protesters cheered when U.S. Rep. Jim Leech, R-Iowa, announced that the House Foreign Affairs Committee had just voted 27 to 9 in favor of sending a nuclear freeze resolution to the full House.

At 10:38, Reagan left on Air Force One for sunny Orlando, where he arrived at 12:14 p.m. Chief of Staff James Baker was with him, but not Dolan and not one member of Reagan’s cabinet.

Walt Disney World was the president’s first stop in Orlando. At Epcot Center, he saw a program — in film and audioanimatronics — on 300 years of American history. And after meeting at Epcot with foreign exchange students, he moved to an amphitheater to talk with outstanding math and science students.

At 2:33, the president arrived by motorcade at the Sheraton Twin Towers Hotel. At 3 p.m., Arthur E. Gay Jr., president of the National Association of Evangelicals, introduced Reagan to the 1,200 attending the NAE convention.

As the evangelicals applauded, the smiling president in a dark blue suit rose from his chair, his speech papers in his left hand. He shook hands with Gay, thanked him and set his 17 pages and two index cards on the lecturn. “Evil empire” was on page 15.

Sunday, March 5, 2000

Georgia and America – Early Contacts

by Peter Bridges

The United States and the ancient kingdom, now republic, of Georgia have honorable histories as civilized nations — Georgia’s far longer than America’s. The first, unofficial contact between the two came a quarter of a century after the United States had declared independence from Britain, and at a time when Georgia was losing its independence to Tsarist Russia. It would be decades more before American consular officials were stationed in Georgia — after a visit by a famous American general.

This essay does not attempt to catalog early visitors to Georgia from elsewhere in the Western world. However, they included people from Britain, France, Italy, and other countries. Enough Germans were living in Tbilisi in the nineteenth century that they formed a German suburb there. The British alpinist Douglas Freshfield led an expedition to the Caucasus in 1870 and seems to have been the first person to climb Kazbek, elevation 16,512 feet. There were enough European alpinists in the Caucasus by the time of the First World War that the president of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society said that they had “added a new playground to Europe.”1 War and revolution of course closed that playground for a long time, for Americans as well as others.

The first recorded American visitor to Georgia was a man who bore the most common surname in America: Smith. He was, however, a most uncommon man, at least as regards travel. Joseph Allen Smith, who has been called an “American Grand Tourist,” was born in 1769 to a wealthy family in South Carolina,and, like a number of other wealthy young Americans, he went abroad.

Joseph Smith, however, did not go on the usual Grand Tour that a wealthy young Englishman might take, which was a trip of several months to France, Italy, and sometimes Germany. Smith spent fourteen years in foreign travel, and his travels took him to the Russian Empire including, briefly, Georgia, at the beginning of 1804. He went beyond Georgia into Azerbaijan, with a Russian military escort, and watched the Russian army occupy the Muslim khanate of Gandja. Smith might have returned to the Caucasus if he had become the American envoy to Russia, as he hoped would happen; but he was never named to a diplomatic post and never returned to the Russian empire.2

The next American to visit Georgia, just three years after Smith, was another wealthy young man from South Carolina, Joel Poinsett.3 Poinsett is best known as the American envoy to Mexico in the 1820s who, as an amateur botanist, discovered the shrub with beautiful red flowers which is named for him — the poinsettia. Later in life he served as a member of the U.S. Congress and as Secretary of War.

Poinsett traveled to St. Petersburg at the end of 1806, when he was 27 years old. Like Smith before him, he had a friendly audience with Tsar Alexander I. As a result, when he left the capital in March 1807 for the Volga and the Caucasus, accompanied by a 20-year-old Englishman, Lord Royston, the authorities provided them with an escort of Cossacks and sent word to Russian commanders that they should offer the two travelers all possible assistance. They traveled from Astrakhan to Baku, Tbilisi, and Erevan, where they watched the unsuccessful Russian siege of that city.

One can question how much young Poinsett, traveling with a Russian military escort, learned about Georgia and its people. However, we know from his diary that he “supped with Her Majesty the Queen of Imeretia on the roof of her house.” This was presumably outside Kutaisi, and the lady was presumably the wife of King Solomon II, who retained his throne until the Russians deposed him in 1810.4 One can only guess whether the queen gave Poinsett a briefing on Georgia and its difficulties.

Two other early American visitors to Georgia were Protestant Christian missionaries, the Reverend Eli Smith and the Reverend H.G.O. Dwight. They visited Tbilisi in 1830 in the course of a journey planned mainly to look into the condition of Christian communities in Armenia and Iran.5 They decided that there was no possibility of undertaking missionary work among the Georgians, given what they called “the thorough amalgamation of their church with that of Russia”.6

A decade after the two missionaries, a gentleman from the State of Vermont named George Ditson visited Georgia, escorted by a Georgian colonel in the Russian service whom he calls “Carganoff.” Ditson was both a good writer and an admirer of the Georgian people. He describes how two centuries earlier, “Georgia made her last grand stand against the whole Persian strength…acquitting herself with a sublimity of valor which still fires the souls of her sons….”7 When Ditson went from Tbilisi to see Mtskheta, the country’s ancient capital, he found that the beauty of the surroundings and the history of the place combined to “…give them a power over the beholder which he cannot surmount and which he can never forget.”8

As American society developed in the nineteenth century, an increasing number of Americans traveled abroad not just as tourists but as journalists and scholars. One of the more interesting American visitors to Georgia in that period was the first George Kennan. He was an elder cousin of the American diplomatist George Frost Kennan, who died in 2005 at the age of 101, after serving as American ambassador to the Soviet Union and publishing a number of notable historical works on Russian-American relations and other subjects.

The elder Kennan had first visited the Russian empire as a young surveyor for a possible telegraph line through Siberia. He came to eastern Georgia in 1870 when he was 25 years old.9 His purpose, he said later, was “partly to gratify a love of rough travel, and partly to study a comparatively unknown and highly interesting race of people — the Caucasian mountaineers.” (Besides his love of rough travel, Kennan had arranged before leaving America to give a series of lectures on his return that he was going to call “The Land of the Golden Fleece,” focusing on Georgia’s coast.10 In the event, he saw the coast but never delivered the lectures.)

Young Kennan reached Dagestan in September, coming from St. Petersburg. He decided to cross the mountains into Georgia not on the Georgian Military Highway but instead, in order to have a “novel and adventurous experience,”, to take a more southerly and far less traveled route. He spent a week in the village then called Temir-Khan-Shura (today’s Buinaksk) without finding anyone he could employ as a guide. Then, fortunately, he met a Georgian nobleman in the Russian service, Prince Giorgi Davidovich Djordjadze,11 who was returning to his home in the valley of the Alazani and who, Kennan found, was traveling with an escort of 25 armed men as well as guides and interpreters. Kennan was pleased, indeed relieved, to be invited to join him.

In early October the party passed through the last village in Dagestan, which Kennan called Bezhuta, and made their way upward along a rough snow-covered track to a pass at an elevation of twelve thousand feet, i.e. over 3600 meters. They were in a cloud, but as they descended the cloud lifted and, Kennan wrote, “beneath us lay the beautiful semi-tropical valley of Georgia…orchards, vineyards, and olive groves diversified it here and there with patches of darker green, and far away in the distance loomed the purple, snow-clad peaks of Armenia.” He was enchanted, and he remained enchanted when, hours later, the party rode into the courtyard of the prince’s white-walled mansion at Eniseli in the Alazani valley. There he spent five pleasant days. Alas, he wrote, the countryside was not what it once had been. On the prince’s estate, which was half as large as an American county, “I counted 14 churches and cathedrals, all empty and deserted….”12

In 1891 Kennan published his most famous work, Siberia and the Exile System. It was a shattering attack on the police regime of the Tsars. Unfortunately he never got around to writing a book about the Caucasus, although he planned to do so. In his index card files in the Library of Congress in Washington is a card from 1883 on which he had written “Title for my book on the Caucasus ‘Yalboos or the Great Ice-Mane,’ the Tatar name for the Caucasus range.”

So far, most Americans who were coming to Georgia were private persons and not officials. As transportation improved — including the opening of the rail line from Batumi to Tbilisi — and after the American Civil War ended in 1865 and many Americans became more prosperous, more Americans came to Georgia and other parts of the Caucasus.

Probably the most notable American who came to Georgia in the nineteenth century was not a private person but a senior military official. This was William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the top generals in the Union Army during the Civil War — the general who led the famous March to the Sea in 1864, cutting the Southern Confederacy in half. It was a march, in fact, through Georgia, the State of Georgia, for five hundred kilometers from Atlanta to Savannah on the Atlantic coast. When the Civil War ended, a composer wrote a song called “Marching through Georgia” that was often played at reunions of war veterans. They say that General Sherman heard the song so many times that he came to hate it — but that did not stop him from coming to the ancient Kingdom of Georgia.

Sherman came to Georgia in 1872, at which point he was the Commanding General of the United States Army. His visit was part of a long trip through Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea, which he had arranged after an American admiral who was going out to command the European squadron of the U.S. Navy offered to convey Sherman from New York to the Mediterranean on his frigate.13 While the official purpose of the trip was to study European military establishments, a certain element of tourism was also involved.

From the Mediterranean, Sherman and his small party — including the American envoy to Russia, Andrew Curtin — took a commercial ship into the Black Sea. After several stops they reached Batumi and took the railroad to Kutaisi. Beyond Kutaisi the line was still under construction, but Sherman and his comrades took a construction train for another hundred kilometers and then continued by carriage to Tbilisi. The road was rough, but an aide who accompanied Sherman wrote that the countryside was “splendid.” Rhododendrons were in bloom and “the whole scenery enchanting.”

When the party reached Tbilisi, Sherman was received and entertained by the Russian viceroy for the Caucasus, Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich, the fourth son of Tsar Nicholas I. At this point Sherman decided not to retrace his route to Batumi but instead to take the Georgian Military Highway across the mountains to Vladikavkaz, which he did without incident, accompanied by an escort of sixty Cossacks.14 He seems to have enjoyed the several days he spent in Tbilisi; his aide wrote that their accommodations at the Hotel de l’Europe were “quite good” and that among other pleasant sights they saw was “a fine public park.”

American visitors kept coming to Georgia, though not in great numbers. Some, at least, could appreciate the country’s culture and long history. A correspondent of The New York Times who signed himself “D.K.” wrote after a visit to Georgia in 1884 that he had found there a mingling of East and West that “defies all powers of language.” How was one to behave, he asked, among men who showed you in modern times the very rock to which Jason moored the Argo when he came looking for the Golden Fleece? Five minutes’ walk in Tbilisi took you from the nineteenth to the ninth century. Sadly, though, “The historical names of Georgia’s hereditary nobles — Shervashidze, Vatchnadze, and the like — still linger on the scene of their former greatness, but they are now to be found inscribed over the doors of wine shops or on the gateways of public offices. A tall factory chimney flings its smoke over the river bank along which the hosts of ‘Prince David the Restorer’ marched in triumph 900 years ago.”15

Lyman Abbott, a well-known Protestant clergyman and author, wrote a detailed account of his visit to Tbilisi in the spring of 1901.16 He had sailed from New York several weeks earlier, on a cruise ship that made frequent stops as it sailed through the Mediterranean into the Black Sea. Before reaching Batumi, Abbott had read a brochure — presumably not written by a Georgian — that offered the ship’s passengers the possibility of a four-day excursion to Tbilisi, which was described as “a half-European, half-Asiatic town, aptly described as a city of contrasts, Cairo alone presenting a similar mixture of Oriental poetry and decay, with some of the humble types of European society.” Abbott was intrigued, and decided to take the excursion, along with a hundred and fifty other passengers, most if not all of them presumably American. A special train was arranged to take them from Batumi to Tbilisi and back to the ship.

After going ashore in Batumi, Abbott met the American consul, J.C. Chambers, who had held his post since 1890. Chambers was only a part-time consul; his salary was paid by the Standard Oil company, owned by John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller had sent Chambers to Batumi to gather intelligence on Standard Oil’s competitor, the Nobel company, which had opened the rail line from Baku to Batumi to ship Caspian oil to Black Sea tankers.17 Fortunately for the larger American business community, Chambers, as consul, also sent commercial reports to the State Department in Washington that were made available to the public.

One may note parenthetically that at the end of the nineteenth century, the United States had relatively few diplomatic missions abroad—forty-two—since there were far fewer independent countries than today. In contrast, there were over three hundred American consulates in foreign cities like Batumi. (The Batumi consulate had been opened in 1886.) The consuls and vice consuls were often only part-time government employees, but they played a useful role, helping American citizens abroad and sending a stream of informative reports to Washington.

A high point of Lyman Abbott’s trip to Tbilisi came when his excursion train reached the top of a long ascent through arid country, went through a tunnel, and “emerged, in a garden; the fields green with verdure, the trees radiant with blossoms, the villages alive with apparent prosperity.”

Tbilisi was not quite what Abbott had expected. The hotel was pleasant, where he had expected a dirty room, and the city was less exotic, less “Oriental,” than what he had seen in Istanbul. Whether Abbott returned to America with any better appreciation of Georgia’s long history seems doubtful.

Another American visitor to Georgia, in the autumn of 1902, was a woman who wrote, under the pseudonym of “Margaret Stirling,” several articles for The New York Times that make good reading even today.18 Stirling arrived in Batumi from Odessa aboard a Russian passenger ship, after being “overjoyed” to see from the deck the “magnificent range” of the Caucasus and then the “wonderfully fine” coastal scenery as they approached the port. Stirling and another American woman took the train to Tbilisi, and several hours after their arrival set off for the Georgian Military Highway and Vladikavkaz in a private carriage pulled by four horses. On the second day of the trip they were told there had been recent skirmishes with bandits, and so they were pleased to join company with two other carriages, one of them carrying four Russian officers who were in turn pleased to be traveling with the two intrepid ladies. They crossed the mountains and reached Vladikavkaz safely, after what Stirling described as “a journey which, in beauty of scenery and events of interest, in my mind, can have no equal.”

Stirling and her friend returned to Tbilisi via Baku, and spent four days at what she described as the “delightfully clean” Hotel Ingles. Stirling was slightly disappointed with Tbilisi; it was interesting but not as “Eastern” as Tangiers; like Lyman Abbott she had hoped for something more exotic. She and her friend spent a day haggling for souvenirs in the bazaar, visited old churches and the “cool shades and quiet” of the old botanical gardens, and returned to Batumi “a little mournful at the thought of leaving the Caucasus and ending up the weeks which we could consider among the pleasantest of our lives.”

Mention was made earlier of European alpinists in Georgia. The author has found no record of American climbers in Georgia, or elsewhere in the Caucasus, in the 1800s. Some, at least, came in the 1900s, and of course a number come today. One of the climbers in the twentieth century was Lawrence Coolidge, a prominent American lawyer until his death in 1950. Coolidge went to Georgia as a young man in 1930, and later reached the summit of Elbruz alone, after a fellow-climber came down with altitude sickness.19 An American glaciologist and graduate of Harvard University, W. Osgood Field, visited the then remote region of Svaneti in 1929.20 His photographs of Svaneti and other parts of Georgia are prominently displayed today at the Hotel Tetnuldi in Mestia, the chief town in Svaneti.

Georgians began to come to America in the nineteenth century although, as best the author can ascertain, no Georgians reached the United States until some years after the first Americans visited Georgia. Givi Kobakhidze has written that the first Georgian immigrants in the United States and Canada arrived as early as the 1820s. More began to come, especially from the poorer mountainous regions of Georgia, in the 1860s, after the abolition of serfdom in the Russian empire and the end of civil war in America. A group of a dozen horsemen led by Prince Ivan Rostromov Marcheradze came in 1890, hired by the famous Buffalo Bill Cody and his Western show, the Wild Congress of Rough Riders. It is not clear how Buffalo Bill obtained the services of Georgian riders, but he had performed in Europe and his show included riders from various countries. A second group of Georgian riders, both male and female, came to America in 1910 and performed with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

It is difficult to ascertain how many Georgians may have come to America in the 1800s. Indeed, as Elene Medzmariashvili has made clear, it is difficult to be sure exactly how many Georgians have emigrated to America even in recent decades.21

The first well publicized account of Georgians in America was the first book published by George Papashvily and his wife, called Anything Can Happen. It told about his experiences as a penniless immigrant in this country in the 1920s, and it sold six hundred thousand copies in the United States alone. Papashvily became famous in America not only as a writer but as a sculptor. From what Papashvily wrote, there may have been no more than two or three Georgians in all of New York City at the time he arrived there. However, Givi Kobakhidze reports that by the 1930s a considerable number had come. A “Community of Georgian Emigrants in the United States” was founded in New York in 1931 on the initiative of Vano Kobakhidze and Pavle Kvaratskhelia.22

By the middle of the twentieth century a number of Georgian immigrants had become famous in America. Among them were the choreographer George Balanchine (born Giorgi Balanchivadze), the perfume manufacturer Prince Georges V. Matchabelli (Giorgi Machabeli), and the aircraft engineer Alexander Kartveli (Kartvelishvili), designer of the P-47 and F-84.

As to official contacts between the two countries, there were none, to the author’s knowledge, before Georgia was incorporated into the Russian empire at the beginning of the 19th century. The story begins when a man named Frederick Edison Gibbins was appointed part-time American consular agent at Batumi in 1883. Three years later, in 1886, came the opening of the American consulate there. As noted earlier, our consuls abroad sent periodic commercial reports to Washington, but for some years our consuls at Batumi were only part-time employees of our government and it does not appear that they were able to promote much American trade with Georgia.

One of the more interesting reports from Georgia, in 1910, was written not by a consul but by Frank Meyer, an American who was sent to the Caucasus by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find plants of possible economic value. He found that a factory in Georgia called Argo was manufacturing a product from roasted soybeans that was intended as a substitute for coffee. Meyer tasted the product, and found it better than a well-known coffee substitute called Postum that was sold in the United States until 2007. However, there is no indication that the Georgian product was ever imported into America.

Perhaps the most notable American consul in Georgia in the years before World War I was Felix Willoughby Smith, who was a native of the Black Sea region; he had been born in Odessa in 1872 when his father was the American consul there. Smith was an experienced member of what had by now become a career American consular service. Before entering the service he had practiced law in America for fourteen years, and he had served as a consular officer at Catania, Warsaw, Beirut, and Aden before coming to Batumi in 1914. He spoke fluent Russian and French, but no Georgian.

The World War broke out in August 1914. By November, Turkish forces were threatening Batumi. The Russian commandant there informed Consul Smith, on instructions from the Viceroy in Tbilisi, that all foreign consuls in Batumi and their staffs were to leave Batumi immediately for Tbilisi. Smith telegraphed the embassy in Petrograd to ask whether he should comply, and the embassy replied that he should “Accede to wishes of Viceroy.”23 Soon it seemed safe enough for consulates to return to Batumi. In May 1915, however, Smith was told by the commandant that he must again move to Tbilisi. He moved unwillingly — he saw no immediate threat — but he soon decided that Tbilisi was a better site than Batumi for his post. Tbilisi had greater wealth and political importance; it was the seat of the Russian Viceroy and “The powers of the Viceroy are absolute, few cases are referred to Petrograd or decided there contrary to his wishes.” The Caucasus offered wide opportunities for American-made goods. Smith was confident — and, he added, the Viceroy hoped — that the volume of trade would increase. Finally, Smith noted, all the major powers except for the Americans and the British had their principal consular offices at Tbilisi. 24

Thus began the official American presence in what would become, in 1918, the capital of a new Georgian republic. Smith did a competent job at Tbilisi. A consular inspector reported in November 1916 that “Smith is discreet officer and linguist and is well liked at this post. It is recommended that he be retained there until end of war unless his health demands transfer.”25 It seems he was already suffering from the unspecified condition that was to bring about his death in 1920 at the age of 47.

After the Bolsheviks seized power in St. Petersburg and Moscow in 1917, American officials focused their attention on the question of anti-Bolshevik forces in southern Russia. Consul Smith reported to Washington that in the Caucasus, the population and the army were refusing to join the Bolsheviks, and he recommended that the United States aid the anti-Bolshevik forces. The State Department was doubtful about this; it did not want to encourage what it called “sectionalism or disruption of Russia.” Smith responded that the new “temporary” Trans-Caucasus government in the process of formation was expressing “full loyalty to Russia.”

George Kennan, the diplomatist, has suggested that Smith was closely acquainted with many of the “local figures prominent in political developments” and as a result lacked objectivity in analyzing and reporting on these developments.26 Neither Smith nor any other American official, it seems, foresaw that very soon, in May 1918, the Transcaucasian Republic would be succeeded by independent republics in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. (American officials’ inability to predict what was going to happen in the Caucasus is perhaps not surprising when one recalls how few experts predicted the demise of the Soviet Union.)

Before Georgia proclaimed independence, conditions in Georgia were seriously disturbed and it appeared that the Turkish army might occupy Tbilisi. In March 1918 Willoughby Smith moved his consulate across the mountains to Vladikavkaz.27 Smith soon went on to America. Eventually the consular staff returned to Tbilisi. Smith too later returned there, but left for good after several months, as his health worsened. In January 1920 a new consul arrived, another experienced officer, Charles K. Moser.

Unfortunately Moser’s relations with the new republican government of Georgia proved far less than satisfactory. He blamed this in good part on the Minister of Supply, Giorgii Eradze, in the government led by Noe Zhordania, a Menshevik politician and journalist. Moser reported to Washington that Eradze was the dominant figure in Zhordania’s cabinet and that “He is credited with being the implacable foe of ‘capitalism’ and of ‘capitalistic government,’ in short, a pronounced Bolshevik.”28

There was, however, another problem. Georgia was now an independent republic and, as such, it expected—or at least hoped—that other governments would send to Tbilisi not just consular but diplomatic representatives. The fact was that the United States did not want to recognize the independence of Georgia or other nations that had been incorporated in the Russian empire, with the exception of Finland, Poland, and later Armenia. The State Department made clear that while Washington opposed the Bolsheviks it did not want to “prejudice…the principle of Russian unity.”29 In contrast, President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points of January 1918 had urged “autonomous development” for the peoples of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and had later backed the creation of new republics like Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, despite American failure to recognize Georgian sovereignty, by January 1921 Consul Moser was able to describe his relations with the Georgian government as “amicable.”30

Alas, this situation did not last. The next month the Soviet army invaded Georgia and occupied Tbilisi. The American consulate was closed. This was, however, not quite the end of an American official presence in Georgia. For another eighteen months an officer of the U.S. Department of Commerce maintained an office in Tbilisi, and the official American Relief Administration carried out a relief operation in Georgia, as it did elsewhere in the former Russian empire, saving an estimated ten million lives. Finally, in September 1922, the pressures from the Soviet authorities had become intolerable. Secretary of Commerce (and future President) Herbert Hoover informed the Department of State that he was closing the office at Tbilisi.31 Almost seven decades were to pass before American officials were again stationed in Tbilisi, after Georgia declared its independence from the USSR in 1991.

1. The Geographical Journal (Royal Geographical Society, London), 45:3 (March 1915), 201.

2. For an account of Smith’s life see McNeal, R.A. “Joseph Allen Smith, American Grand Tourist.” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 4:1 (Summer 1997), 64-91.

3. For Poinsett see Stillé, Charles J. “The Life and Services of Joel R. Poinsett,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 12:2 (July 1888), 129-164, and Charles Lyon Chandler and R. Smith, “The Life of Joel Roberts Poinsett,” op. cit., 59:1 (1935), 1-31.

4. A modest royal residence stands today in Kutaisi on the bank of the River Rioni, but one could not sit on its slanted roof.

5. Anderson, Rufus. History of the Missions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Oriental Churches (Boston: Congregational Publishing Society, 1872), 1:77-87.

6. Smith, Eli. Researches of the Rev. E. Smith and Rev. H.G.O.. Dwight in Armenia: Including a Journey through Asia Minor, and into Georgia and Persia (Boston: Crocker and Brewster, 1833), 1:245.

7. Ditson, George Leighton. Circassia, or, A Tour to the Caucasus (New York: Stringer & Townsend, 1850), 287.

8. Op. cit., 341.

9. Kennan, George. “The Mountains and Mountaineers of the Eastern Caucasus.” Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York 5 (1874), 169-193. Years later Kennan published a more detailed account of his 1870 trip to Dagestan and Georgia in “An Island in the Sea of History,” The National Geographic Magazine, Washington, DC, 24:10 (October 1913), 1087-1139.

10. Maier, Frith. “The Forgotten George Kennan: From Cheerleader to Critic of Tsarist Russia.” World Policy Journal 19:4 (Winter 2002/2003), 80.

11. This prince may have been related to Prince Dimitri Jorjadze (1898-1985), who emigrated to America and became a hotel executive in New York. For an account of Giorgi Djordjadze’s modern descendants in Georgia see the Afterword by Frith Maier in Vagabond Life: The Caucasus Journals of George Kennan, ed. Frith Maier (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003), 243-246.

12. Vagabond Life, 161.

13. Sherman, William Tecumseh. Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman (New York: Literary Classics, 1990), 2:942-943.

14. Audenreid, Col. J.C. “General Sherman in Europe and the East.” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 47:281 (October 1873), 652-671.

15. “At the Frosty Caucasus,” The New York Times, November 2, 1884, 4. I assume the reference is to King David IV.

16. Abbott, Lyman. Impressions of a Careless Traveler (New York: The Outlook Company, 1907).

17. Chernow, Ron. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. (New York: Random House Digital, 2004), 246.

18. The articles in the The New York Times are “American Woman’s Trip through the Black Sea,” October 26, 1902, 26; “No Use Trying to Hurry Crossing the Caucasus,” November 2, 1902, 26; “Soldiers Guard Women on Rough Mountain Drive,” November 16, 1902, 33; “On the Highest Peak of the Green Caucasus,” November 23, 1902, 31; and “Perils of Train Travel in Russia,” November 30, 1902, 26.

19. “Lawrence Coolidge, 1905-1950.” American Alpine Journal (New York: American Alpine Club), 1950, 7:488.

20. Field spoke to the Harvard Travellers Club on April 22, 1930 on “The Swanetia, a District in the Mountains of Central Caucasus.” See Harvard Travellers Club,

21. Medzmariashvili, Elene. “Third Wave Georgian Immigrant Women in the USA: Problems of Americanization,: in Spekali,

22. Information kindly provided to the author by Prof. Avtandil Nikoleishvili, former Rector of Akaki Tsereteli State University in Kutaisi.

23. Embassy Petrograd telegram 97 to Department of State, November 5, 1914. National Archives & Records Administration (hereinafter NARA), Washington, Records Group 59, Records of Foreign Service Posts. .

24. Consulate Batum (Temporarily at Tiflis) dispatch, June 10, 1915, to Department. NARA, RG 59, Records of Foreign Service Posts.

25. Embassy Petrograd dispatch to Department, November 27, 1916, signed by the inspector, Nathaniel B. Stewart, adding that Smith “understands consular work very well and is familiar with both political and commercial conditions in his district.” NARA, loc. cit.

26. Kennan, George F. Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1920. Vol. 1. Russia Leaves the War. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956.

27. Legation Teheran telegram, unnumbered, to Department, March 11, 1918, NARA, loc. cit.

28. Consulate Tiflis dispatch to Department, April 29, 1920, loc. cit.

29. Letter, January 7, 1920, from Secretary of State Robert Lansing to representatives of Provisional Government of Lithuania. Text in “No Recognition for Lithuania,” The New York Times, February 10, 1920, 17. Lansing made clear that the United States was refusing to recognize not only Lithuania but other republics that, like Georgia, had declared independence from Russia.

30. Consulate Tiflis dispatch to Department, January 5, 1921, NARA, loc. cit.

31. Letter, Hoover to Secretary of State, September 28, 1922. NARA, RG 59.

Ambassador Peter Bridges, a U. S. Foreign Service officer from 1957 to 1986, received assignments abroad at Panama, Moscow, Prague, and Rome, in addition to a posting as US envoy to Somalia. He is the author of Safirka: An American Envoy, a memoir of his service in Somalia, and Pen of Fire: John Moncure Daniel, the first biography of an American diplomat who became the most influential Confederate editor, both published by Kent State University Press. In 2012 Kent State will publish his Donn Piatt: Gadfly in the Gilded Age, the biography of an American diplomat who became famous as a Washington editor in the 1870s. The book has been selected for inclusion in the ADST-DACOR series on Diplomats and Diplomacy.

Conservative Case for Freedom

By M. Stanton Evans

There is widespread agreement nowadays that, somewhere along the way, Western society has taken a wrong turn – that it has strayed from the values which once made it strong and informed it with purpose. Unfortunately, there is considerably less agreement as to what, exactly, those values are.

Those who have been most vocal in decrying our fallen state have usually been identified as “conservatives” – a term which conceals a number of deep and inhibiting disagreements. In the case of anything so vast and disorderly as modern error, it is only natural that there should be some confusion as to what is the matter. And while the question is difficult and philosophical, it is of more than academic interest; until we have some kind of agreed analysis, those concerned to correct things can hardly marshal the resources necessary for the job.

The confusion is greatly increased by the forces which error has thrust into power. Understandably enough, the ruling collectivists and “liberals,” so called, have tried to conjure the protest movement out of existence. A whole school of literature has been developed attempting to define present-day conservatism either as revenant classical liberalism, or else as a form of mental disorder. In either case, the point is to dispose of it as something too silly to be of much account. The more damaging of these criticisms, because the one more nearly containing a suggestion of truth, is the identification with classical liberalism. All those objecting to the growing dominance of government and the contraction of individual freedom are lumped together as descendants of Spencer and Sumner, and thus, presumably, disposed of. While labeling someone a classical liberal is necessarily an insult, it must be pointed out that today’s conservatives, while opponents of statism, are generally not Manchesterians. There are, to be sure, some classical liberals in the conservative camp, just as there seem to be some Metternichian strong men. Yet there are still other conservatives who are neither statists not Manchesterians; and it is this three-way babel of ideas, now and again punctuated by a helpful shout from the far left, which has sundered conservative effort and diffused its strength.

The fundamental disagreement occurs over the problem of man and his nature: specifically, whether the imperatives of individual freedom can be reconciled with the Christian conception of the individual as flawed in mind and will, with its demand for individual subordination to an objective, non-secular order. Critics of the protest movement delight in pointing to what they consider an insoluble dilemma. They are joined by sectarians within the movement itself, urging on the one hand that we give up our Christianized view of man. The two, we are repeatedly informed, are simply not compatible. For the purposed of this essay, I shall call those who choose the first alternative “authoritarians,” those who choose the “libertarians.”*

The authoritarian believes in the objective order, and is generally ready to limit individual freedom to follow its prescriptions. He prefers a hierarchical to a fluid society, conceiving some men as destined to rule, others to obey-all ordained by the objective order. The libertarian finds the idea of such an immobile society repugnant, and rejects the principles which have been used to sanction it. It is the argument of this essay that both positions rest on the form of illicit conversion-that they have not properly related first principles and conclusions. Patient inquiry will disclose, I think, that affirmation of a transcendent order is not only compatible with individual autonomy, but the condition of it; and that a skeptical view of man’s nature not only permits political liberty, but demands it.

The problem can best be examined if we divide it in two: first, the question of freedom as related to the existence of objective value; second, the question of freedom as related to the nature of man. The “libertarian,” or “classical liberal,” characteristically denies the existence of a God-centered moral order, to which man should subordinate his will and reason. Alleging human freedom as the single moral imperative, he otherwise is a thoroughgoing relativist, pragmatist, and materialist. He puts considerable emphasis on economics. Man and his satisfactions, the libertarian maintains, are themselves the source of value-and other values cannot be imposed from without. Because the free economy best serves man, and best supplies his material needs, it is moral. It works.

There seem to be a number of reasons for libertarian devotion to these views. One no doubt is that some present-day libertarians are genuine descendants of Spencer and Sumner, and proceed-logically, as they believe-from relativist premises to a vindication of freedom. But I believe the more common occurrence is that other considerations, largely unspoken, incline the libertarian to his particular brand of relativism. I think many attacks on the idea of a transcendent order can be traced to fears about the uses to which any particular affirmation of truth may be put. The libertarian suspects that commitment to this or that ethical judgment will imply the need for having it enforced by the political authorities. Additionally, there seems to be considerable confusion between value, as received from tradition and the counsels of religious teaching, and conformity imposed by the pressures of the group. The two may of course coincide-specifically, when group pressures aim at enforcing traditional value. But the fact that they may appear in conjunction does not mean they are the same; and in a time of triumphant revolution, inability to make the distinction constitutes failure at the most elementary level of analysis.

The problem is akin to that created by obscurantists of the “new conservative” variety, who tell us that since conservatives are opposed to change, they should be in favor of the New Deal. The argument empties conservatism of all value content, and makes it simply a matter of technique. But conservatives who wish to conserve value generally have some particular value in mind, and must oppose any particular status quo which denies it. The libertarian falls into the converse error. Because he is opposed to the status quo of New Dealism, he determines that he must not be a conservative, and battles those who so call themselves. It is hard to believe anyone interested in conserving historic American institutions could become reconciled to the patchwork collectivism of the last 25 years. The conformity of statism represents a radical break with American tradition; those who wish to affirm the values embodied in the tradition must perforce be nonconformists and rebels, ready to brave the censure of the group. Moreover, it is only if they are motivated that they can manage to do so. So far are “value” and “conformity” from being identical that the second can rise to its current distasteful height only when the first declines. A man without the interior armor of value has no defense against the pressures of his society. It is precisely the loss of value which has turned the “inner-directed” citizen of the 19th century America into the “other directed” automaton of today.

Man, Ortega wrote, “is a being forced by his nature to seek some higher authority. If he succeeds in finding it of himself, he is a superior man; if not, he is a mass-man, and must receive it from his superiors.” To exist in community, men must harmonize their desires; some kind of general equilibrium has to prevail. Men who lose the “inner check,” as Babbitt called it, must therefore submit to an outer one; they become mass men, ruled by their “superiors.”

The erosion of value is doubly destructive. As it promotes statism by creating the need for an external force to order conflicting desires, it simultaneously weakens the individual’s ability to withstand the state. Men without values are more than willing to trade their freedom for material benefits. That the loss of moral constraint invites the rule of power is surely one of the best established facts of 20th-century history. Indeed, a number of quite unconservative witnesses have pointed out that the vigor of civilization is dependent on people who are guided by some internalized system of value, and who are thus capable of initiative of self-reliant behavior. This is the burden of David Riesman’s celebrated study, The Lonely Crowd (in which the terms “inner-directed” and “other-directed” were coined), and the message of such critics of modern society as Pitirim Sorokin, William H. Whyte, and Professor Richard LaPiere.

The authoritarian, like the libertarian, believes that value and enforcement go hand in hand; unlike the libertarian, however, he accepts both. He merely wants to be the person doing the enforcing. The conservative, as I conceive him, rejects the common analysis. While he does not share the authoritarian’s readiness to coerce his fellow men into virtue, neither does he share the libertarian’s commitment to freedom at virtue’s expense. The conservative believes man should be free; he does not believe being free is the end of human existence. He maintains that man exists to form his life in consonance with the objective order, to choose the Good. But “choice” for the Good can take place only in circumstances favoring volition. Freedom is thus the political context of moral decision; it is the modality within which the human mind can search out moral absolutes. In the conservative view, then, right choice is the terminal value; freedom an instrumental and therefore subsidiary value.

To the conservative, economic and political freedom per se are not “moral”; only willed human actions have moral content, and freedom dictates no particular actions. A freely acting man may or may not be moral, depending on what he does. But while freedom is morally neutral, the possible alternatives, i.e., varying forms of coercion, are not. By their nature, all coercive systems require certain actions which we hold immoral: arbitrary exercise of power over men by other men. The free economy permits morality, but does not guarantee it; the coerced economy guarantees immorality. This formulation may prove distasteful to authoritarians accustomed to identifying all defenders of economic freedom as Manchesterians. Yet I can conceive of no other which can maintain the conditions of moral choice. It may prove equally distasteful to libertarians, accustomed to seeing all “true believers” as enemies of liberty. Yet I can conceive of no other that will insure the sanctity of freedom. If there is no value system with which we may rebuke the pretensions of despots, what is to prevent the rule of force in the world? If there are no objective standards of right and wrong, why object to tyranny?

The last argument needs to be taken a step further. The Manchesterians allege that man’s self-interest, which flourishes under a regime of freedom, is sufficient sanction to keep liberty intact. But that calculus of desires is too subtle for most of mankind. It is the immemorial habit of man to be unable to see his ling term interest when a short-term one looms before him. When he thinks he can achieve an immediate benefit, he is willing to give up some of his freedom to obtain it. Surely the entire trend of modern politics has demonstrated this point with disturbing finality. Only when there is one which sanctions the continuance of freedom, can freedom endure. As freedom is the condition of value, so is the value the guarantor of freedom.

When we have examined the question of value to determine whether or not freedom is desirable, we must turn to the problem of man’s nature to decide what political arrangements offer the best promise of sustaining it. Metaphysically, freedom is the context of choice-the ground of decision where one seeks to break through to transcendence. Politically, it is a physical condition existing between and among men. In conventional discourse, “freedom” usually means the absence of constraint by one man upon another. Since some form of constraint is necessary to let men live together, the degree to which it can be relaxed, and the conflict of what are variously defined as “freedoms,” are problems for which there are almost as many answers as there are theorists.

But whatever our difficulties in defining it, freedom is obviously a product of the way men behave toward one another. If we want to maximize freedom, we can begin to do so only after examining the motives of human behavior; and the first task in the pursuit of political freedom is therefore to reach a reasoned position about the nature of man.

Again, there is a division of opinion on the right. The “libertarian,” or classical liberal, affirms the natural goodness, or-in the more scientistic forms-the non-evil, of human nature. He views government as the source of evil, the unfettered individual as the source of good. He has considerable faith in “progress” as the natural creation of free men, and tends to believe that material success and moral virtue are closely akin, if not identical. For all of these reasons, he has concluded that government should let people alone to employ their natural goodness. In his extreme form, the modern-day libertarian is a philosophical anarchist-a free-enterprise Utopian.

The authoritarian holds precisely the opposite view. He believes people in their natural state are not good, but evil. Viewing human will as perverse and human reason as limited, he does not believe at all in automatic “progress.” He does not accept the Darwinian equation of morality and economic prosperity, with its subordination of value to the observable relation of forces. Like Henry Adams, he thinks things more probably than not are tending to unravel-which is only to be expected if the natural direction of human choice is downward. For all these reasons, the authoritarian believes in strong government. Because man is feckless, he needs aristocratic guidance to force him to be good.

The conservative, again, believes the two schools have reached their positions through a shared mistake in analysis; they fail to relate the question of man’s nature to the problem of government. Concretely, they fail to see that government cannot be treated as something apart form “men”-in the one case as the source of evil, in the other as the source of moral guidance. For what is government, after all, but men in the exercise of power? In the case of the libertarian, if men are naturally good, whence comes the evil of government? In the case of the authoritarian, if men are fundamentally evil, how does government become a force of virtue?

The conservative agrees with the authoritarian that men are not to be trusted, and his constant concern is to restrain the destructive tendencies he discerns in a fallen humanity. But he does not agree that such a judgment means man should be rules by an aristocracy. For if men are evil, then potential aristocrats are evils too-and no man, logically, can be said to have a commission to coerce another. “Absolute monarchs,” in Locke’s phrase, “are but men”-and as such heirs to the same weaknesses of the human kind as are their subjects. Moreover, their ability to inflict evil on others obviously increases with the amount of power they wield. The conservative wants political freedom precisely because he fears the fundamental nature of man.

I concede there is little difference between what I call the “conservative” philosophy on this point and the views of a number of men sometimes thought of as “classical liberals”-Adam Smith, Lord Acton, de Tocqueville. The position of this “liberal” school, if such it be, is best suggested by F. A. Hayek’s characterization of himself as an “old-fashioned Whig.” Such “liberals” fear big government because they fear man-and on the technical point of the relation between man’s nature and the kind of government appropriate to him are indistinguishable for the conservatives.

Hayek divides the people we think of as “classical liberals” into two camps-the “true” and the “false” individualists. “True” individualism may or may not come coupled with the deeper moral affirmations of the conservative position, but it is a far cry from the alternately sentimental and mechanistic notions about man which convert themselves so easily to the uses of collectivism.

“THE CULTIVATED MAN,” said Renan in a celebrated flight of false individualism, “has only to follow the delicious incline of his inner impulses.” This was the kind of fatuous self-love which prompted Jacob Burckhardt to reflect that mankind was losing its conception of the need for external standards-”whereupon, of course, we periodically fall victims to sheer power.” The “true” individualist sides not with Renan but with Burckhardt. His chief concern in seeking freedom is not to liberate the “natural goodness” of man, but to localize as much as possible man’s tendencies toward evil. “It would scarcely be too much to claim,” Hayek says of Adam Smith, “that the main merit of the individualism which he and his contemporaries advocated is that it is a system which bad men can do the least harm.”

The mutual regard that existed between Smith and Edmund Burke is, of course, a matter of record. The similarity of their ideas suggests that, on the point of fearing man and his behavior in power, the camps of “true” individualism and “conservatism” are indeed one; and the rapprochement suggests, in turn, that a view of freedom as compatible with mistrust of human nature is recommended by a broad tradition as well as by the homely counsel of clear thought.

The conservative’s task, then, is to insure that enough governmental authority exists to suppress criminal outcroppings of human weakness, but at the same time to insure that no man, or group of men, is vested with too much political power. It has proved, down the centuries, to be quite a task. There is very little difficulty in establishing either the authoritarian’s ideal of a strong government, or the libertarian’s contrary ideal of complete (if therefore temporary) freedom. The great problem is to set up a system of “free government,” providing both order and freedom; and, as Burke said, “to temper together these opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistent work requires much thought, deep reflection, a sagacious, powerful and combing mind.”

This was, as it happened, the very problem which preoccupied the founders of the American nation, and the problem which achieved its highest resolution in the compact on which the United States was based. The dilemma of government, as our Constitution-makers saw it, was to restrain power in the very act by which it was granted: to establish an authority which could be used for certain limited purposes, but for those only; which would be hedged about by alternative centers of decision, jealous of their own prerogatives, and by constitutional proscription. The object was for power to be so diffused and equilibrated that each source of authority would limit and restrain another, while having sufficient strength to perform the tasks appropriate to it.

In a word, the model answer to the dilemma of “free government” is the American Constitution-founded in the counterpoise of interests of colonial North America, and fused in the sagacious, powerful and combing mind of James Madison. It is noteworthy that neither the “authoritarian” ideas of Hamilton nor the “libertarian” notions of Jefferson dominated the Constitution. Instead, the great conceptual balance struck by Madison prevailed in that document, and, for a time, in the nation. “The great desideratum of government,” Madison said, “is such a modification of sovereignty as will render it sufficiently neutral between the different interests and factions, to control one part of the country from invading the rights of another, and at the same time sufficiently controlled itself, from setting up an interest adverse to that of the whole society.”

Being itself a product of fallible men, and administered by others still more fallible, the Constitution has of course achieved less than perfection. But it has maintained a shifting equilibrium, and it is testimony to the founders’ intentions that they are even today the center about which our political controversies revolve. Certainly, whatever its imperfections and whatever its current ravaged condition, the American Constitution has proved that the practice of “conservatism: beginning from a profound mistrust of man, and of man panoplied as the state, can well serve the ends of freedom.

* { I want to emphasize that my use of the word ‘libertarian” signifies the chemically pure form of classical liberalism, with all of its metaphysical implications. The term is sometimes used in a different sense, to identify those who insist on limited government and political freedom, without implying acceptance of the anti-religious philosophy here associated with it. I have used the authoritarian-conservative-libertarian terminology in order to establish a recognizable continuum of ideas, and intend no derogation of “libertarians” of the second sort. Indeed, I believe many of the people who call themselves “libertarians” would accept the position I describe as “conservative”-which its dual emphasis on freedom and moral authority. To the extent they do, I trust my terminology with not obscure the fact that the argument of this essay is not an attack on such “libertarians,” but a vindication of them.}


Problem of Tradition

by Russell Kirk

Why, when all is said, do any of us look to the interest of the rising generation, and to the interest of the generations which shall exist in the remote future? Why do we not exhaust the heritage of the ages, spiritual and material for our immediate pleasure, and let posterity go hang? So far as simple rationality is concerned, self-interest can advance no argument against the appetite of present possessors. Yet within some of us, a voice that is not the demand of self-interest or pure rationality says that we have no right to give ourselves enjoyment at the expense of our ancestors’ memory and our descendants’ prospects. We hold our present advantages only in trust.

A profound sentiment informs us of this; yet this sentiment, however strong, is not ineradicable. In some ages and in some nations, the consciousness of a sacred continuity has been effaced almost totally. One may trace in the history of the Roman empire the decay of belief in the contract of eternal society, so that fewer and fewer men came to sustain greater and greater burdens; the unbought grace of life shrank until only scattered individuals partook of it-Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, here and there a governor or a scholar to knit together, by straining his every nerve, the torn fabric of community and spiritual continuity; until, at length, those men were too few, and the fresh dedication of Christian faith triumphed too late to redeem the structure of society and the larger part of culture from the ruin that accompanies the indulgence of present appetites in contempt of tradition and futurity.

Respect for the eternal contract is not a mere matter of instinct, then; it is implanted in our consciousness by the experience of the race and by a complex process of education. When the disciplines which impart this respect are imperiled by violence or by a passion for novelty, the spiritual bond which joins the generations and links our nature with the divine nature is correspondingly threatened. Mr. Christopher Dawson, in his little book Understanding Europe, expresses this better than I can:

Indeed the catastrophes of the last thirty years are not only a sign of the bankruptcy of secular humanism, they also go to show that a completely secularized civilization is inhuman in the absolute sense-hostile to human life and irreconcilable with human nature itself. For … the forces of violence and aggressiveness that threaten to destroy our world are the direct result of the starvation and frustration of man’s spiritual nature. For a time Western civilization managed to live on the normal tradition of the past, maintained by a kind of sublimated humanitarian idealism. But this was essentially a transitional phenomenon, and as humanism and humanitarianism fade away, we see societies more and more animated by the blind will to power which drives them on to destroy one another and ultimately themselves. Civilization can only be creative and life-giving in the proportion that it is spiritualized. Otherwise the increase of power inevitably increases its power for evil and its destructiveness.

For the breaking of the contract of eternal society does not simply obliterate the wisdom of our ancestors: it commonly converts the future into a living death, also; since progress, beneficent change, is the work of men with a sense of continuity, who look forward to posterity out of love for the legacy of their ancestors and the dictates of an authority more than human. The man who truly understands the past does not detest all change; on the contrary, he welcomes change, as the means of renewing society; but he knows how to keep change in a continuous train, so that we will not lose that sense of gratitude which Marcel describes. As Burke puts it, “We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature, and the means perhaps of its conservation. All we can do, and that human wisdom can do, is to provide that the change shall proceed by insensible degrees. This has all the benefits which may be in change, without any of the inconveniences of mutation.”
The outward fabric of our world must alter, as do our forms of society; but to demolish all that is old, out of a mere contempt for the past, is to impoverish that human faculty which yearns after continuity and things venerable. By such means of measurement as we possess-by such indices as suicide-rate, the incidence of madness and neurosis, the appetites and tastes of the masses, the obliteration of beauty, the increase of crime, the triumph of force over the law of nations-by these signs, it seems clear, all that complex of high aspiration and imaginative attainment which makes us civilized men is shrinking to a mere shadow of a shadow. If indeed society is governed by an eternal contract, then we may appeal to the Author of that covenant; but words without thoughts to Heaven never go, and the continuity which pertains directly to society must be repaired by those means which still are within the grasp of man.

This brings us back to my hill above the mill-pond. The eternal contract, the sense of continuity among men, has been made known to succeeding generations, from the dawn of civilization, by the agency of tradition. Tradition is the process of handing on beliefs, not so much through formal schooling or through books, as through the life of the family and the observances of the church. Until the end of the eighteenth century, no one thought it conceivable that most men could obtain most of their knowledge in any other way than this; and though cheap books and eleemosynary schooling have supplanted to some extent the old functions of traditionary instruction, still tradition remains the principal source of our moral beliefs and our worldly wisdom. Young persons do not acquire in school to any considerable extent, the sense of continuity and the veneration for the eternal contract which makes possible willing obedience to social order; children acquire this sense from their parents and other elders, and from their gradual introduction to religion, if they obtain any; the process is illative, rather than deliberate. Now let us suppose that parents cease to impart such instruction, or come to regard tradition as superstition; suppose that young people never become acquainted with the church-what happens to tradition? Why, its empire is destroyed, and the young join the crowd of the other-directed whom Mr. David Riesman describes.

In a looser sense, by “tradition” we mean all that body of knowledge which is bound up with prescription and prejudice and authority, the accepted beliefs of a people, as distinguished from “scientific” knowledge; and this, too, is greatly weakened in its influence among the rising generation by a growing contempt for any belief that is not founded upon demonstrable “fact.” Almost nothing of importance really can be irrefutably demonstrated by finally ascertained “facts”; but the limitations of science are not apprehended by the throng of the quarter-educated who think themselves emancipated from their spiritual heritage. When we confront these people, we are dealing not merely with persons ignorant of tradition, but actively hostile toward it.

Now cheap books and free schooling are not the principal reasons for this decay of the influence of tradition. The really decisive factors are the industrialization and urbanization of modern life. Tradition thrives where men follow naturally in the ways of their fathers, and live in the same houses, and experience in their own lives that continuity of existence which assures them that the great things in human nature do not much alter from one generation to another. This is the mood of Ecclesiastes. But the tremendous physical and social changes that have come with the later stages of our industrial growth, and the concentration of population in raw new cities, shake men’s confidence that things will be with them as they were with their fathers. The sanction of permanence seems to have been dissolved. Men doubt the validity of their own opinions, founded upon tradition, and hesitate to impart them to their children-indeed, they may thrust all this vast obligation upon the unfortunate school-teacher, and then grow annoyed when the teacher turns out to be incapable of bestowing moral certitude, scientific knowledge, and decent manners upon a class of fifty or sixty bewildered and distracted children. Most natural keepers of tradition, in short, abdicate their function when modern life makes them doubt their own virtue.

Though of course I did not understand all this at the time, it was this decay of the force of tradition which was sweeping away the old mill-pond almost before my eyes, as I lay on the hill under my oak. For my part, I still was a tradition-guided boy; but the planners who altered the landscape, presently, were Benthamites confident in the sufficiency of pure rationality, and the man who demolished the octagon-house was an other-directed individual who positively dreaded identification with anything dead and gone, and longed to be associated, however vaguely, with the milieu of Beverly Hills. The Utilitarians and the other-directed people were using up the moral and intellectual capital which had been accumulated by a traditionary society, I came to realize much later; and that process has been in the ascendant, with an increasing velocity, throughout the United States, for more than a generation now.

It cannot continue forever. Our guardians of tradition have been recruited principally, although not wholly, from our farms and small towns; the incertitude of the cities disturbs the equanimity of the tradition-guided man. And our great cities have been swelling at the expense of our country and village population, so that the immense majority of young people today have no direct acquaintance with the old rural verities. Our reservoir of tradition will be drained dry within a very few decades, if we do not deliberately open up once more the springs of tradition. The size of the United States, and the comparative gradualness of industrial development in many regions, until now saved us from a complete exhaustion of tradition, such as Sweden seems to have experienced. At the beginning of this century, Sweden had seven people in the country for one in the city; now that ratio is precisely inverted; and one may obtain some hint of what the death of tradition means to a people from the fact that the Swedes, previously celebrated for their placidity and old-fashioned heartiness, now have the highest rates of abortion and suicide in the world, dismayed at the thought of bringing life into this world or even of enduring one’s own life.

I do not want our traditions to run out, because I do not believe that formal indoctrination, or pure rationality, or simple mutation of our contemporaries, can replace traditions. Traditions are the wisdom of the race; they are the only sure instruments of moral instruction; they have about them a solemnity and a mystery that Dr. Dryasdust the cultural anthropologist never can compensate for; and they teach us the solemn veneration of the eternal contract which cannot be imparted by pure reason. Even our political institutions are sustained principally by tradition, rather than by utilitarian expediency. A people who have exhausted their traditions are starved for imagination and devoid of any general assumptions to give coherence to their life.

Yet I do not say that tradition ought to be our only guide, nor that tradition is always beneficent. There have been ages and societies in which tradition, stifling the creative faculty among men, put an end to variety and change, and so oppressed mankind with the boredom of everlasting worship of the past. In a healthy nation, tradition must be balanced by some strong element of curiosity and individual dissent. Some people who today are conservatives because they protest against the tyranny of neoterism, in another age or nation would be radicals, because they could not endure the tyranny of tradition. It is a question of degree and balance. But I am writing of modern society, especially in the United States; and among us there is not the slightest danger that we shall be crushed beneath the dead weight of tradition; the danger is altogether on the other side. Our modern affliction is the flux of ceaseless change, the repudiation of all enduring values, the agonies of indecision and the social neuroses that come with a questioning of everything in heaven and earth. We are not in the plight of the old Egyptians or Peruvians; it is not prescription which enslaves us, but the lust for innovation. A young novelist, visiting George Santayana in his Roman convent in the last year of the philosopher’s life, remarked that he could not endure to live in America, where everything was forever changing and shifting. Santayana replied, with urbane irony, that he supposed if it were not for kaleidoscopic change in America, life there would be unbearable. A people infatuated with novelty presently cannot bear to amble along; but the trouble with this is that the pace becomes vertiginous, and the laws of centifugal force begin to operate.

I know that there are people who maintain that nothing is seriously wrong with life in the United States, and that we need not fret about tradition one way or the other; but I confess, at the risk of being accused of arrogance, that I take these people for fools, whether they call themselves liberals or conservatives. They have a fondness for pointing to the comfortable routine of our suburbs as a demonstration of our mastery over the ancient tragedy of life. Now I am not one of those critics of society who look upon residence in suburbia a stain worse than the mark of the beast; but neither am I disposed to think that a commuter’s ticket and a lawn-sprinkler are the proofs of national greatness and personal exaltation. And I am convinced that, if the reservoir of our traditions is drained dry, there will not be ten thousand tidy little suburbs in America, very long thereafter; for the suburbs are dependent upon an older order of social organization, as well as upon an intricate modern apparatus of industrial technology, for their being.

When tradition is dissipated, men do not respond to the old moral injunctions satisfactorily; and our circumstances and national character differing from Sweden’s, I do not think we would experience the comparative good fortune to slip into an equalitarian boredom. The contract of eternal society forgotten, soon every lesser form of contract would lose its sanction. I say, then, that we need to shake out of their complacency the liberals who are smug in their conviction of the immortality of Liberal Democratic Folkways in the United States, and the conservatives who are smug in their conviction of the abiding superiority of the American Standard of Living. Political arrangements, and economic systems, rest upon the foundation of moral prejudices which find their expression in tradition.

Men who assail smugness cannot hope to be popular, in any climate of opinion; so the conservative ought not to expect to be thanked for reminding his age of the contract of eternal society. When he protests against the reduction of the mass of men to a condition below the dignity of true humanity, he will be attacked as an enemy of democracy, and ridiculed as a snob-when, in truth, he is endeavoring to save a democracy of elevation, and to put down the snobbery of a rootless new managerial elite. Mr. Wyndham Lewis, in Rude Assignment, refers to the abuse which many professors and publicists heap upon anyone who presumes to suggest that there is something wrong with modern minds and hearts: “To keep other people in mental leading-strings, to have beneath you a broad mass of humanity to which you (although no intellectual giant) can feel agreeably superior: this petty and disagreeable form of the will-to-power of the average ‘smart’ man counts for much in the degradation of the Many. And there is no action of this same ‘smart’ man that is more aggravating than the way in which he will turn upon the critic of the social scene (who has pointed out the degradation of the Many) and accuse him of ‘despising the people.”‘ Nothing is more resented than the truth, and, as Mr. Lewis says, “people have deteriorated. They have neither the will nor common sense of the peasant or guildsman, and are more easily fooled. This can only be a source of concern and regret, to all except ‘the leader of men.”‘
Wherever human dignity is found, it is the product of a conviction that we are part of some great continuity and essence, which elevates us above the brutes; and wherever popular government is just and free, it is in consequence of a belief that there are standards superior to the interest of the hour and the will of a temporary majority. If these things are forgotten, then indeed the people will become despicable. The conservative, in endeavoring to restore a consciousness among men of the worth of tradition, is not acting in contempt of the masses; he is acting, instead, out of love for them, as human persons, and he is trying to preserve for them such a life as men should lead.

*As appeared in A Program for Conservatives (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1956).


Western Civilization

Frank Straus Meyer

Arose in southern and western Europe on the ruins of the Roman empire, the final political form of Classical civilization. It is and has always been unique among the great civilizations of the past five thousand years, whose existence is the substance of recorded history. It is unique not simply in the sense that each civilization-the Egyptian or Chinese or Classical-is manifestly different from all the others, but in a much more profound sense. In its most important characteristics it stands apart not merely from each of them but from all of them; it is differentiated from them by almost as sharp a leap as differentiated the other civilizations from the precivilization cultures of the Neolithic age. This is, I know, a disconcerting, even a shocking, statement by the standards of the cultural relativism that prevail in twentieth-century historical thought. I can only ask my readers to bear with me while I attempt to sustain it with a brief discussion of the civilization history of mankind and the place of the West in the sweep of that history.

The significance of any civilization order derives from the way in which it organizes the life and outlook of the individual persons who compose it in their relations to the universe in which they live that is, in the way it relates the person to moral values, spiritual forces, the material environment, the other persons who make up the society. The various civilizations have done this in discernible styles. It is that style which defines their specific character.

For the first twenty-five hundred years of recorded history men lived in civilizations of similar styles, a style for which the Egyptian may stand as the type. These cosmological civilizations conceived of existence so tightly unified and compactly fashioned that there was no room for distinction and contrast between the individual person and the social order, between the cosmos and human order, between heaven and earth, between what is and what ought to be. God and king, the rhythms of nature and the occupations of men, social custom and the moral imperative, were felt not as paired opposites but as integral unities. The life of men in these civilizations, in good times and bad, in happiness and unhappiness, proceeded in harmony and accord with nature, which knows no separation between what is and what ought to be, no tension between order and freedom, no striving of the person for individuation or the complement of that striving, the inner personal clash between the aspirations of the naked self and the moral responsibilities impressed by the very constitution of being.

Exceptions, modifications, to this basic mode of human life there undoubtedly were. Man in his essence has always been, as Aristotle long ago saw, part animal, part spiritual. The clash at the center of his nature was never totally stilled. We have indeed documents from Mesopotamia and Egypt which show the stirrings of the impulses that shaped later ages. Nevertheless these are but stirrings; they do not express the age or affect the essential character of the cosmological civilization. They are but premonitions of what is to come.

When it came, it came with historic suddenness. It came in different ways and for different reasons among two peoples of two new civilizations-the Greeks of Classical civilization and the Jews of the Syriac civilization. The way of its coming was as different as the character of these two peoples was different, but the new understanding was in essence the same. It shattered the age-old identity of the historic and the cosmic. It burst asunder the unity of what ought to be and what is. It faced individual men for the first time with the necessity of deep-going moral choice. In a word, it destroyed the unity of what is done by human beings and what they should do to reach the heights their nature opens to them. And, in doing so, this understanding created, for the first time, the conditions for individuation, for the emergence of the person as the center of human existence, by separating the immanent from the transcendent, the immemorial mode of living from its previous identity with the very constitution of being. The arrangements of society were dissociated from the sanction of ultimate cosmic necessity; they were desanctified and left open to the judgment of human beings. But that transcendent sanction remained the basis of the judgment of human life. The transcendent was not destroyed; it was reaffirmed in terms more profound and awesome than ever. The earthly immanent and the transcendent heavenly remained, but how were they to be related each to each?

The nexus, the connecting link between the transcendent and the immanent, between the eternal and the historical, could be no other than the human person. Living in both worlds, subjected by the demands of his nature to transcendent value and at the same time maker of history and master of society, he was suddenly (suddenly as historical process goes) revealed to himself as a creature whose fate it was to bridge this newly yawning gulf.

I am not saying, of course, that the multitudes who made up Hellenic and Judaic society thought in these terms or even dimly glimpsed them conceptually. I do maintain two things: first, that the inspires of the two societies, the prophets of Judah and Israel and the philosophers of Greece, grasped this new condition of mankind, grasped it in fear and trembling, and, secondly, that their understanding shaped the enduring ethos of their societies as surely the ethos of the Pharaoh God-King shaped the society of Egypt.

This common understanding of the Judaic and Hellenic cultures was expressed, of course, in radically different forms– so different, indeed, that these cultures have been more commonly conceived as polar opposites than as different expressions of the same stupendous insight. This is not to deny what is sharply opposed in the two cultures, most especially their different understandings of the relationship of man to the transcendent. But the overriding fact is that in both these cultures, at their highest level, there emerged a clear distinction between the world and transcendent, as well as the startlingly new concept of a direct relationship between men and the transcendent.

In the Hellenic civilization it was the philosophical movement culminating with Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle that raised to the level of the consciousness this new understanding of the nature of men and their relations to ultimate things. The sense of the individual, the person as over against society had been inherent in the ethos of the Greeks from the dim beginnings of Hellenic civilization. Such a sense is apparent already in Hesiod and Homer. It inspires the human scale of the archaic temples, as contrasted with the monstrous inhumanity of scale of ziggurat, pyramid, and sphinx. But this inherent tendency of the Greek spirit did not, for a number of reasons, decisively shape Hellenic society. In the beginning, in the Northern war bands from which it arose, the collectivity of the pack contended always against the individual spirit; also, from that heritage it drew a religious practice and a pantheon of gods almost devoid of transcendence. Further, Hellenic civilization developed in its youth under the looming influence of the great cosmological civilizations of the East, and when the aridity of its inherited pantheon drove men to search further, the mystery religions which arose were saturated through and through with Eastern concepts. Finally, when the civilization reached maturity, the classical social form it assumed was the polis, the city-state, which was a tight unity of society, government, and religion. Despite the fact that within that form there was immeasurably greater room for the development of the individual personal consciousness than in the older civilizations, the shadow of the past and the limiting shackles of the life of the polis smothered and distorted the full emergence of the new consciousness.

It was the contradiction between the inherent Hellenic awakening to the possibilities of the new state of being and the trammels of the inherited old with which the Greek philosophers wrestled. What they created out of their struggles was the first systematic intellectual projection of an independent relationship between free men and transcendent value. (I stress “intellectual” because nearly simultaneously, in the Israel and Judah of the Prophetic age, there emerged another form of the same understanding, expressed not in intellectual but in existential and historic terms–a development I shall be discussing shortly.) The power and analytical depth of the Hellenic intellectual achievement were so great and profound that it has remained ever since a firm foundation for the philosophical and political thought of men who have been concerned with the freedom of the person and the authority of transcendent truth. But, as essential as the work of the Hellenic philosophers has been to the growth of this understanding, they were limited and their thought was distorted by two factors, the first, the problem of what might be called Utopianism, is best considered after we have discussed the Judaic Prophetic experience, since it is factor that affects it as well as the Hellenic philosophical experience. The second factor was the effect of the life of the polis upon the consciousness of the Greek philosopher.

The mode of being of men living in the polis was effectively constrained by the character of that community. As I have said, the polis was at once state, society, and religious cult, all wrapped up in one. The citizen of such a state was truly, as Aristotle called him, “a political animal,” that is, an animal of the polis. It was the polis that gave him stature; outside of it, he was only potentially human. Such men the Greeks call ‘barbarians’–making little distinction between uncivilized tribal peoples and the subjects of the great civilized empires of the Middle East.

There was reason in this disdain in which the men of the polis held the cosmological civilizations of the Middle East. Although the form of the polis stood between its citizens and their full achievement of freedom by independent realm of value, it did so in a different way and to a far less degree than did the cosmological societies. Hellas had broken loose from a world in which human existence was completely absorbed in the cosmos, in which the earthly and the transcendent were so merged that the person could not stand free, clearly and sharply delineated from the surrounding universe. But this new consciousness of the Hellenic spirit was bound still by the necessity of expressing itself through a collectivity–no longer the cosmic collectivity, the polis. It was, indeed, a great leap forward towards men’s consciousness of their personhood and their freedom, because now the limiting form on individual freedom and individual confrontation of transcendent destiny was a collectivity composed of the subjective spirit of men, not the objective, totally external, force of iron cosmic fatality. Nevertheless, the Hellenic philosophers who expressed this spirit at its highest level always had to struggle, in their farthest penetrations towards the meaning of human existence, against the circumstances of being and thought created by polis society.

The Judaic experience was extraordinary parallel to the Hellenic, although its content was very different. The Hebrew prophets, like the Greek philosophers, expressed, at the highest level, the consciousness of a people broken loose from cosmological civilization to confront transcendence. As Exodus is the symbol of that breaking away, the content of the Judaic experience of transcendence is the belief in a unique, personal, revealed God.

But here also, as among the Greeks, a social structure distorted the individual experience of transcendence. The potentialities for full individuation inherent in the concept of a God of Righteousness were collectivized. The concept of the b’rith, the compact between God and the Chosen People, placed the collectivity of the Judaic people, rather than the individuals who made up that collectivity, as the receptor of the interchange with transcendence. The Prophets strove mightily with these circumstances, as the Greek philosophers struggled with the circumstances of the polis. Future events have taken from them both an inspiration and an understanding that are derived from the thrust of their struggle towards individuation, but neither the philosophy of Hellas nor the prophecy of Israel ever completely threw off the conditioning influence of their social and intellectual heritage.

At the heights of the philosophical and Prophetic endeavors, in a Plato or a proto-Isaiah, as occasionally among their predecessors and followers, the vision cleared and a simple confrontation between individual men and transcendence stood for a moment sharply limned. But at these heights of understanding another problem arose, one I have referred to above when discussing the Hellenic experience and have called the problem of Utopianism. A clear vision of the naked confrontation of individual men with transcendence created a yawning gap in human consciousness. It was something of the effect of eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. On the one hand stood the perfection of transcendence, and on the other the imperfection of human existence. The temptation was enormous to close that intolerable gap, to grasp that understood transcendent perfection and by sheer human will to make it live on earth, to impose it on other human beings–by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary.

The same temptation beset the Hellenic philosophers at their highest reach of vision. The effect of this temptation was portentous for the future, because of its continuing impact upon both the Hellenic and the Judaic traditions, the twin sources from which our Western civilization derives so much of its content. Its effects can be perceived in the most diverse areas: in the effect on Western thought of the concepts of molding human life implicit in the Utopian society of Plato’s Republic or in the dictatorial powers of the Nocturnal Council in his somewhat less rigid Laws; or in the actual political absolutism, derived from the Judaic tradition, of such politics as Calvin’s Geneva or Spain of the Inquisition of Cromwell’s England. Secularized with the passage of time, the Utopian desire to impose a pattern of what the imposers considered perfection becomes ever more rigid, total, and terrible, as in the all-powerful Nation of the French Revolution or the Dictatorship of the Proletariat of the Communists.

The Utopian temptation arises out the very clarity of vision that tore asunder the cosmological world-view. Released from the comforting, if smothering, certainties of identification with the cosmic order, men became aware of their freedom to shape their destiny–but with that freedom came an awesome sense of responsibility. For the same leap forward that made them fully conscious of their own identity and their own freedom made them conscious also of the infinite majesty and beauty of transcendence and of the criterion of existence that perfection puts before human beings, who in their imperfection possess the freedom to strive to emulate perfection. A yawning gulf was opened between infinity and finity.

There are two possible human reactions to the recognition of this reality.

On the one hand, it can be accepted in humility and pride–humility before the majesty of transcendence and pride in the freedom of the human person. That acceptance requires willingness to live life on this earth at high tension, a tension of men conscious simultaneously of their imperfection and of their freedom and their duty to move towards perfection. The acceptance of this tension is the distinguishing characteristic of the Western civilization of which we are a part, a characteristic shared by no other civilization in the world’s history.

On the other hand, the hard and glorious challenge of reality can be rejected. The tension between perfection and imperfection can be denied. Men conscious of the vision of perfection, but forgetting that their vision is distorted by their own imperfection, can seek refuge from tension by trying to impose their own limited vision of perfection upon the world. This is the Utopian temptation. It degrades transcendence by trying to set up as perfect what is by the nature of reality imperfect. And it destroys the freedom of the individual person by forcing upon him conformity to someone else’s limited human vision, robbing him of freedom to move towards perfection in the tension of his imperfection. It is in form a return to the womb of the cosmological civilization, in which the tension of life at the higher level of freedom was not required of men, in which they could fulfill their duties in uncomplicated acceptance of the rhythms of the cosmos, without the pain or the glory of individuation. But Utopianism is only similar to cosmological civilizations in form; in essence it is something different, because cosmological civilization was, as it were, a state of innocence, while Utopianism comes after the eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of the persons of God and men. It is a deliberate rejection of the high level at which it is now possible for men to live, and as such it distorts and oppressed the human spirit. Yet it has remained, ever since the Hellenic and Judaic break through the cosmological crust, an ever prevalent historical factor. In particular, as Western civilization is the civilization that accepts and lives with the tension of spirit, Utopianism has been a constantly recurring destructive force within it.

Indeed, the history of Western civilization is the history of the struggle to carry forward its insight of tension, both against the remaining inherited traumas of the cosmological attitude in its social structure and in its intellectual outlook and against the continuing recrudescence of Utopianism. For Western civilization inherited, as the Hellenic and Judaic did before it, much continuing influence from the long eons of cosmological life. And, although the forms of its thought and the content of its spirit rise directly out of the Hellenic and the Judaic themselves, it broke as far beyond them as they broke beyond the cosmological civilization. It founded itself, in its inmost core, on acceptance of the tension between the transcendent and the individual human person and on the reconciliation of that tension implicit in the great vision of the Incarnation–the flash of eternity into time.

The history of Western civilization, since it came into being out of the fermenting remnants left behind by the death of Classical civilization, is distinguished by a preeminent regard for the person. This is not to say that this regard has always, or indeed generally, been ideally reflected in its institutions and social reality; but it is to insist that, at the heart of the concept of being that forms the limiting notions by which the West has lived, the preeminence of the person has prevailed. And this is true of no previous civilization. It is of course a concept, a view of reality, at the opposite of the scale from that of the cosmological civilizations. But it also goes radically beyond the intermediate experience of the Hellenic and Judaic civilizations. Although they, each in its own way, broke through the cosmological unity, they did so not in the name of the person as such but rather in the name of collectivities of persons, the polis and the Chosen People.

It was given to the West to drive to fruition the insights glimpsed in Greece and Israel. Its consciousness founded upon the symbol of the Incarnation placed the person at the center of being. From this very deepening of the understanding of the person there arises, even more than in Greece and Israel, a Utopian temptation, and that Utopianism has been expressed right down to our own day in more and more extreme forms. But while the factors we have discussed, which lead to Utopianism, are by the very nature of the Western concept of transcendence more intense than ever before, the symbol of the Incarnation that has made possible that concept and the temptation ensuing there from, also offers a resolution of the pressures leading to Utopianism, a resolution that did not exist in Greece and Israel. The simultaneous understanding that there exists transcendent perfection and that human beings are free and responsible to move towards perfection, although incapable of perfection, no longer puts men in an intolerable dilemma: the dilemma either, on the one hand, of denying their freedom and their personhood and sinking back into cosmological annihilation within a pantheistic All, or on the other hand of trying by sheer force of will to rival God and, as Utopians, to impose a limited human design of perfection upon a world by its nature imperfect. The Incarnation, understood as the “flash of eternity into time,” the existential unity of the perfect and the imperfect, has enabled men of the West to live both in the world of nature and in the transcendent world without confusing them. It has made it possible to live, albeit in a state of tension, accepting both transcendence and the human condition with its freedom and imperfection.

It is that tension which is the distinguishing mark of Western civilization. Of course, to say that for the West alone has it been possible to live in that state of tension, to rise above both cosmic absorption and the temptation of Utopianism, is not to say that either the men of the West or the institutions of the West have always, or even generally, existed at the heights that were open to them. It is only to say that in our civilization alone has such a conquest of these twin pitfalls of human history been possible. Further, its is to say that the direction of the understanding of the West has been towards a grasp of this insight, that the institutions of the West at their best reflected it, and that the men of the West at their highest moments were inspired by it. The West has strayed often, indeed constantly, towards the false paradise of Utopianism. The history of the straying in the one and the other direction is the history of the West. But always there remained in the reservoirs of Western consciousness a solution not given to other civilizations, a way out from the impasse of previous human history, the way of its genius–life at the height of tension.

The characteristic concepts, institutions, and style of the West, where they stand in the sharpest contrast to those of other civilizations, are shot through and through with tension. And this is true from the most matter-of-fact levels of existence to the most exalted. Everywhere, impossible contradictions maintain themselves to create the most powerful and noble extensions of the Western spirit. At the most mundane level, the economic, the Western system takes leave of hard matter, etherealizing money, the very foundation of production and exchange. The Gothic cathedral, thrusting to the heavens, denies the weighty stone of which it is built, while rising from the center of its city it affirms the beauty of materiality. The doctrine of the Lateran Council, central to the philosophical tradition of the West, proclaimed, after a thousand years of intellectual effort, the pure tension of the Incarnational unity, in radical differentness, of the material and the transcendent. This is the mode of the West at its highest and most typical. But always the human heritage of the cosmological civilizations has pressed upon it, distorting its understanding, exerting a pull dragging it down from the height of its vision.

Nowhere was the effect of this force more profound in stifling and destroying the development of the Western genius than in the political sphere. It is here that the vision of the West should have been translated into actual relations of power that would have made the revolt from cosmologism real through and through the lives of individual men.

The state in the cosmological civilizations, reflecting the overall world-view of these civilizations, was the sanctified symbol of the cosmos. In it resided both earthly and transcendent meaning, unified in a grand power that left to the individual person little meaning or value beyond that which adhered to him as a cell of the whole.

In radical contrast, the vision of the West, splitting asunder the transcendent and the earthly, placed their meeting point in tension, in the souls of individual men. The individual person became, under God, the ultimate repository of meaning and value. That world-view demanded a consonant political structure, one in which the person would be primary and all institutions–in particular the state–secondary and derivative. But Western civilization in Europe never achieved this in serious measure, either in practice or in theory. The continuing heritage of cosmologism, which again and again, in all spheres, arose to resist, weaken, and destroy the Western vision, here, in the political sphere, combined with the natural lust of men for power to maintain in large measure the age-old sanctification of the state as enforcer of virtue.

The Western spirit broke through, of course, so that neither the state nor thought about the state was purely cosmological. In their thought, Christian men could never fully divine the state; and in their practice, they early created two sets of tensions which divided power, thus effectively preventing the full reemergence of the cosmological state and creating room for the existence of the person to a degree impossible in cosmological civilization. Those two sets of tensions were, on the one hand, the separate centers of power represented by the Church and secular political power–empire or monarchy — and, on the other hand, the broad decentralization of secular power inherent in the feudal system. Nevertheless, both the holders of hierarchical churchly power and of secular power (first, the Holy Roman Emperors and the emerging territorial monarchs) moved with all their strength to reestablish cosmological unity. The inner spirit of the West resisted and for long centuries the issue swayed back and forth in the balance. Only, indeed, in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, with the subordination of church (whether Protestant or Catholic) to state, with the increasing subordination of feudal and local rights to central authority, with the emergence of the absolutist monarchies of Bourbon, Tudor, and Habsburg, was the Western drive towards diversity and separation of power tamed. But never, in fact, was cosmologism, even in the political sphere, established in the West. It took cosmologism’s twin, Utopianism, in the form of the mass egalitarian nationalism of the French Revolution, to make the decisive break towards mystical statism, to sow a harvest which was fully reaped by the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century.

All this is not to maintain that the political forms of the West were ever in a deep sense cosmological or even that the Utopian state in its grim parody of cosmologism, approached totalism until the emergence of the Communism and Nazism of our time. It is, however, to assert that Western civilization in its European experience did not achieve political institutions fully coherent with its spirit.

Likewise, the basic thrust of Western political theory on the European continent (and in England, though to a lesser degree) was bound always within categories of the Hellenic philosophers and the Hebrew prophets. Neither of these influences allowed the expression of the full drive of the Western spirit towards the primacy of the person and the limitation of political powers. The one, bounded by the polis, could only conceive of full freedom of the person in the emancipated flight of the philosopher beyond temporal conditions; the other, inheriting the concept of the Chosen People–even when it enlarged that concept to all humanity in the manner of a proto-Isaiah, could grasp the freedom of the person only in other-worldly relationships between man and God. Both the Hebrew and the Hellenic influences bore strongly against the development of a political philosophy that would provide the basis for a political structure solidly based towards achieving he greatest possible freedom of the person.

It is true that the underlying ethos of the West again and again moved in this direction. Much of the thought of medieval political philosophers and legal theorists, some of the arguments of writers on both sides of the Papal-Imperial struggle, the tradition of the common law of England, drive in this direction. But these efforts, while they broke ground for the future, never rose to the creation of a truly Western political philosophy of freedom. And when , in the ferment that culminated in the French Revolution, it seemed as though such a concept might break through, it was swallowed up in the communitarian outlook typified by Rousseau, in the egalitarianism of the collective Nation, and by the Revolution itself and the nationalisms that followed in its wake throughout the continent.

In England, both in practice and in theory, there arose out of the conflicts of the seventeenth century and the realization of the eighteenth, something closer to a society of personal freedom and limited government. But the drag of established ideas, institutions, and power held that society back from achieving the political potentiality towards which it was moving.

Thus the stage was set when the American experience reached its critical point and the United States was constituted. The men who settled these shores and established an extension of Western civilization here carried with them the heritage of the centuries of Western development. With it they carried the contradiction between the driving demands of the Western ethos and the political system inconsonant with that ethos. In the open lands of this continent, removed from the overhanging presence of cosmological remains, they established a constitution that the first time in human history was constructed to guarantee the sanctity of the person and his freedom. But they brought with them also the condition, which is tempted always by the false visions of Utopianism.

The establishment of a free constitution is the great achievement of America in the drama of Western civilization. The struggle for its preservation against Utopian corrosion is the continuing history of the United States since its foundation, a struggle which continues to this day and which is not yet decided.

As appeared in Modern Age, Spring, 1968


Sharon Statement

IN THIS TIME of moral and political crises, it is the responsibility of the youth of America to affirm certain eternal truths.

WE, as young conservatives believe:

THAT foremost among the transcendent values is the individual’s use of his God-given free will, whence derives his right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force;

THAT liberty is indivisible, and that political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom;

THAT the purpose of government is to protect those freedoms through the preservation of internal order, the provision of national defense, and the administration of justice;

THAT when government ventures beyond these rightful functions, it accumulates power, which tends to diminish order and liberty;

THAT the Constitution of the United States is the best arrangement yet devised for empowering government to fulfill its proper role, while restraining it from the concentration and abuse of power;

THAT the genius of the Constitution – the division of powers – is summed up in the clause that reserves primacy to the several states, or to the people in those spheres not specifically delegated to the Federal government;

THAT the market economy, allocating resources by the free play of supply and demand, is the single economic system compatible with the requirements of personal freedom and constitutional government, and that it is at the same time the most productive supplier of human needs;

THAT when government interferes with the work of the market economy, it tends to reduce the moral and physical strength of the nation, that when it takes from one to bestow on another, it diminishes the incentive of the first, the integrity of the second, and the moral autonomy of both;

THAT we will be free only so long as the national sovereignty of the United States is secure; that history shows periods of freedom are rare, and can exist only when free citizens concertedly defend their rights against all enemies…

THAT the forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to these liberties;

THAT the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with this menace; and

THAT American foreign policy must be judged by this criterion: does it serve the just interests of the United States?

Adopted by the Young Americans for Freedom Conference at Sharon, Conn., September 11, 1960



New York Times (1923-Current file); May 20, 1951; p g. 20

Georgian Church Head Talks to Correspondent and Urges Efforts Toward Peace.

TIFLIS, Georgia, Soviet Union, May 18 – Eighty-five-year-old Patriarch Kallistrat Tzintsadze of the Georgian Orthodox Church, whose flowing white hair and beard, and twinkling blue eyes make him look like an child’s vision of St. Nicholas, is an alert and active man despite his years.
He lives in a pleasant second-story apartment on the grounds of Zion cathedral, which, since the seventeenth century, has been the principal Georgian Orthodox Church, and which houses the church’s most sacred relic – the cross of St. Nina, who introduced Christianity to Georgia in the fourth century.
After discussing the state of ecclesiastical affairs in Georgia, the Patriarch invited this correspondent to join him in a little food and drink. Despite the fact that he celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday April 24, the Patriarch poured out glasses of fine Georgian brandy with steady hand and drank a toast to the friendship of the United States and Georgia with frank relish. This toast was followed by many others, drunk in rich Georgian wine from the district of Tsinandali.
100 churches in Georgia
The Patriarch is well satisfied with the present state of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He said relations with the government were good and the congregations had remained at an excellent level achieved in wartime. There are more than 100 Orthodox churches now operating in Georgia, and eleven in Tiflis alone.
He is preparing an report to the government on the need for reestablishing an seminary for the training of Georgian Orthodox priests. He pointed out that the Russian Orthodox Church had a large seminary in Zagorsk, and his report will stress the need for training priests in Georgian service.
The Patriarch lives and works in an office whose walls are covered almost completely with icons and church emblems. His bare white-painted iron bed is in the same room. On one shelf are seven little elephants carved of Ural stone, the traditional Russian symbol of good luck. A white and gray kitten sunned itself in the window.
The table heaped by the patriarch was typical of Georgian hospitality, which he frankly described as the best in the world.
Offers Variety of Food
On the table were heaping mounds of spring strawberries as big as apricots, dishes of candied plumbs, preserved grapes, preserved melon rind, candies and cakes.
But the thing of which the Patriarch perhaps was most proud was his new car – a zim.
“The other day I got a present” the Patriarch said. “ It was a new Zim. It is the first Zim in Tiflis.”
The thing that interests the Patriarch most these days is peace. His one request was that this correspondent report objectively his wish that there be no war between Russia and the United States.
“Educated people everywhere must do everything possible for peace” he said. “ the atom bomb would kill millions and smash the world. My message to America is this : I will do everything possible for peace. I pray to God for peace. I ask only that America do the same.”

WikiLeaks: Ambassador John Bass on Situation in Georgia


1. (S) Summary. Georgia is calmer and more stable than at any time since the war, but those improvements are far from durable. A palpable sense of insecurity still permeates society and politics. Miscalculations and provocations – domestically, in the territories or north across the mountains – could easily spark renewed crisis. With a more stable economy and no viable rival, President Saakashvili is stronger politically, but paradoxically more insecure, burdened by the fear history will judge him to have lost irrevocably the occupied territories. He is also concerned our measured approach to defense cooperation and engagement with Moscow presage a deeper reorientation of U.S. interests. These concerns are reinforced by a steady drumbeat of Russian accusations about the legitimacy and behavior of his government and comparative silence from the West about Moscow’s consolidation of its position in the territries. In this hothouse environment, your visit is an important, visible manifestation of the depth of our partnership, and of the enduring commitment of the United States to support Georgia’s aspirations to move west.

2. (S) Much of the government and society are still motivated by the lure of Euro-Atlantic integration. Fears that Georgia will remain in the West’s waiting room in perpetuity have sparked a minority to begin discussing the viability of a deal with Moscow in order to reintegrate the territories. These trial balloons, and Moscow’s ongoing efforts to de-legitimize the government and create more palatable alternatives, further polarize a political environment that encourages zero-sum thinking and hinders deeper democratic and economic reforms. Saakashvili continues to cast about for the “one big thing” that will secure Georgia’s place in the west, recently adding an offer to NATO and the U.S. to provide a logistics hub for Afghanistan to his substantial troop commitment over the next two years. Our challenge is to convince President Saakashvili that he risks losing the enormous goodwill generated by Georgia’s extraordinary contributions in Afghanistan if he fails to combine them with a new push to deepen Georgia’s democratic development. Your visit gives us a chance to thank Georgia publicly for its contribution, providing reassurance of our support, and thereby creating space for Saakashvili to feel secure enough to do the right thing. End Summary.

3. (C) The upcoming deployment to Afghanistan is arguably the most visible example of President Saakashvili’s continued determination to anchor Georgia firmly in the west. The two-year deployment commitment follows an extant deployment of a reinforced light infantry company (173 troops) under French command and anticipates a likely additional partnership with the UK. The Georgians did well in their mission-readiness exercise last month; U.S. evaluators determined that the Georgian troops are sufficiently trained “to conduct the full spectrum of combat operations in a counter-insurgency environment” with their parent Marine Expeditionary Brigade. The battalion is continuing its training program (which you will observe) for an expected deployment in April.

4. (C) Despite the substantial commitment Georgia has made to Q4. (C) Despite the substantial commitment Georgia has made to the effort in Afghanistan, public discussion of Georgia’s involvement has been limited. President Saakashvili has made the case that the commitment is directly linked to Georgia’s own security, arguing publicly that “as soon as the Afghan situation is resolved and the war is over in Iraq, Georgia will be more protected.” He has also pointed out that serving in Afghanistan will give Georgian soldiers useful combat experience. Officials have avoided suggesting that the contribution will help Georgia get into NATO, saying instead that it will help Georgia demonstrate itself as a contributing partner, with the apparent implication that NATO allies will then take Georgia more seriously. Foreign Minister Vashadze, for example, described Georgia’s efforts as “our contribution to the tasks the alliance is trying to resolve in Afghanistan . . . the fight against terrorism, the fight against drug trafficking.” Opposition members have been mostly silent on the topic and offered little public criticism of the contribution, either on its own terms or as a strategy for moving toward NATO membership, although parliamentary opposition leader Giorgi Targamadze expressed support for the deployment to Deputy Secretary Steinberg during his February 5 visit to Tbilisi. Another opposition TBILISI 00000203 002 OF 004 leader, Irakli Alasania, even used language similar to the government’s when he said, “We should not be only consumers of security, but we also should be contributors to international security.” Overall, your visit provides an opportunity not only to raise the profile of Georgia’s involvement, but to frame the discussion in a helpful context.

5. (C) The training program — the Georgian Deployment Program-ISAF (GDP-ISAF) — has been in progress since September 1, 2009. Training includes broad hands-on training, from marksmanship to identifying and safely disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). This hands-on training is supplemented by classroom seminars, ranging from cultural familiarization to medical officer training. Rather than remaining in a static position like in their current mission with the French, these Georgian troops will share “battlespace” with the U.S. Marines and be responsible for conducting the same combat mission as the U.S. Marines, without national caveats to the rules of engagement. The Georgians will also send two Georgian staff officers to ISAF under Turkish command, providing liaison to the Afghan MOD and National Defense Staff for one year.

6. (C) Whether they make the connection explicit or not, the Georgians see their contributions to Afghanistan as a down payment on their admission into NATO. Support for NATO remains high in Georgia. After the Alliance’s declaration at Bucharest in April 2008 that Georgia would eventually be a member and after the war in August, NATO has been intensifying relations with Georgia under the aegis of the NATO-Georgia Commission (NGC). Through the NGC, Georgia and the Alliance have worked closely on an Annual National Program (ANP), which is designed to help Georgia advance reforms in areas key for membership, including political, economic, and defense reforms. Georgia continues to be a strong supporter of NATO operations and is a contributor to international security missions, including in particular ISAF in Afghanistan. The challenge is to express our appreciation for those efforts, but deliver the candid message that such contributions are a helpful, but insufficient step toward membership without the concomitant progress on the civilian side.

7. (C) It is hard to overestimate the extent to which an intense climate of insecurity permeates Georgian society and political culture. Russian forces, located as close as 25 miles outside of Tbilisi, are building permanent bases and Georgians hear a steady drip of Russian statements alleging Georgian aggression or announcing the latest step in incorporating Abkhazia into Russia’s economy. Moscow’s statements suggesting that Georgia is planning provocations in the North Caucasus have raised fears among Georgian officials that Russia is looking for another pretext. Tbilisi, in turn, is overly focused on weapons acquisition as an antidote to its jitters. It fears our approach to defense cooperation (heavily focused on developing the structures and processes to assess threats, develop appropriate responses and make informed decisions about use of force before moving to acquisition) is a trade-off to secure Russian cooperation on other issues, such as Iran. Your discussion of our Qon other issues, such as Iran. Your discussion of our broader efforts with Moscow will help reinforce with Saakashvili that we do not see this as a zero-sum equation – and that Georgia also benefits from Moscow’s cooperation on the wider agenda.

8. (C) The immediate security environment has stabilized, with fewer incidents along the administrative boundaries. Shootings and explosions still occur, but much less frequently; in the age-old tradition of the Caucasus, detentions have become the major source of tension, especially around South Ossetia. The Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) established by the Geneva talks have helped increase communication and decrease the volatility of individual incidents, especially in Abkhazia; the South Ossetian de facto authorities have refused to participate in their IPRM since October 2009, pending the resolution of three missing persons cases. Overall the Abkhaz de facto authorities are more interested in engaging with partners other than Russia and are therefore more constructive in the IPRM and in Geneva; they continue to allow international partners to operate inside Abkhazia. The South Ossetians are steadfastly uncooperative, even when TBILISI 00000203 003 OF 004 proposals would benefit their own residents. Local residents still face limitations on movements and other human rights concerns in both regions.

9. (C) A maturing Georgian policy on the territories reflects growing recognition that there is no short-term – or military – path to reintegrate them into Georgia, but implementation may founder on Abkhaz or Russian insistence on first discussing the status of the two regions as a way to gain international acceptance of Russia’s recognition of both. A key question is the extent to which the de factos control their own fate versus Russia orchestrating the immediate security ups and downs; the Georgians are convinced the Abkhaz/South Ossetian good cop-bad cop routine is played at the behest of the Russians. No one expects much constructive reaction to the strategy from South Ossetia, but a positive response from Abkhazia, even on relatively modest activities, could indicate sincere interest in moving away from Moscow’s orbit and finding some accommodation with Tbilisi. We are currently developing ways the United States will support the strategy’s objectives through our own activities.

10. (SBU) Even in Abkhazia, however, the underlying situation remains fundamentally unstable. Georgia and Russia disagree profoundly over the source of the instability and the direction the parties must take toward resolution of the conflict. This impasse has become more and more apparent in Geneva, where Georgia sees Russia as a party to the conflict and an existential threat, while Russia sees itself as a keeper of the peace analogous to the EUMM. The Geneva co-chairs have tried to square this circle by combining Russia’s demand for a non-use of force agreement (between Georgia and the regions) with Georgia’s demand for new international security arrangements, but Russia refuses to contemplate any new international presence. Even the Georgians agree that the talks provide a useful forum for engagement among the parties, but if we continue to see no progress on what should be simple issues, we will have to reconsider the usefulness of Geneva.

11. (SBU) The Saakashvili-led United National Movement (UNM) continues to hold a constitutional majority in Parliament, and its current poll numbers reflect broad popular support. The government’s restrained handling of the months-long opposition protests in 2009 reinforced Saakashvili’s and his party’s popularity throughout the country and reduced support for opposition leaders. A rapidly shrinking economy, Saakashvili’s sharpest challenge in 2009, seems to have stabilized beginning in late 2009. Although consumer indicators are improving, the economy remains a concern, as unemployment is up and investments and government revenues have fallen. International assistance, particularly the U.S. provision of USD one billion in aid following the August 2008 conflict, helped insulate Georgia from the worst of the global financial crisis and has provided a significant base for recovery. The EU, other donors and international financial institutions are providing an additional USD 3.5 billion in post-conflict assistance to Georgia.

12. (SBU) The government has made some tangible democratic progress in a number of areas, including passing a new Qprogress in a number of areas, including passing a new electoral code on December 28, 2009, which will set rules for upcoming May 2010 municipal elections. The divergent positions and motives of the opposition (which ranges from “responsible” parties who sit in parliament to “irreconcilable” ones who insist on Saakashvili’s early departure or removal before engaging in any dialogue) precluded the kind of grand bargain which could have turned the electoral code into an engine for new democratic reforms. In the current zero-sum environment, the government did not stretch itself, either. The revised election code has been sent to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission for legal comment on whether it meets international standards; the Georgians expect to receive a response by March. President Saakashvili agreed to allow for the direct election of the Tbilisi mayor, giving the opposition a chance to control this politically important post in Georgia’s most opposition-minded city. However, substantial government influence, if not outright control, over broadcast and other media steepen the slope the opposition needs to climb. In addition, the government has formed a constitutional commission to review ideas for constitutional change to TBILISI 00000203 004 OF 004 lessen the power of the president.

13. (SBU) Opposition leaders, representing parties both inside and outside of Parliament, generally urge the United States and international community to do more to level the electoral playing field in Georgia by emphasizing the importance of U.S. support to strengthen civil society, improve the media climate, and foster increased political pluralism. Much of the public is still looking for the government to make good on its promises of a new wave of democratic reform as articulated by Saakashvili after the August 2008 conflict. The opposition argues that Saakashvili has consolidated power over the past seven years and is increasingly moving in an authoritarian direction. However, there is little agreement among opposition forces as to what needs to be done or what a good alternative political program would be.

14. (SBU) Georgian media at present reflect the polarized political environment in the country, largely divided into pro-government and pro-opposition operations. Nationwide television channels remain the main source of information for most people. Television content is limited, resulting in a majority of the population which is poorly informed about a variety of issues and everyday concerns. Limited news programming by the Georgian Public Broadcaster in Azeri, Armenian and Russian leaves members of ethnic minorities poorly informed about developments in Georgia; many receive news via satellite from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. There are no hard walls separating the editorial and management sides of media organizations. The media market is small, creating financial challenges. Journalists are low-paid and tend to practice self-censorship.

15. (SBU) While official relations between Russia and Georgia remain contentious, the two governments reached a preliminary agreement in December to reopen a border crossing for transit traffic to Armenia and limited access for Georgians, and the government has indicated that it could be willing to sign a protocol as early as March. Georgian Airways ran a few charter flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg in January — the first direct commercial flights since a brief period in 2008 — and is negotiating for permission for more regular flights.

16. (C) Georgia is also concerned by a significant increase in military supplies from Russia to Armenia planned for 2010 primarily via overflights between Russia and Armenia. Although Georgia has continued to allow the flights to maintain a good relationship with Armenia, it does not believe Armenia has the capacity to use these shipments itself and fears that such armaments as large-caliber ammunition for aircraft could be intended for Russian forces in Armenia, instead of the Armenian military. Not only could such shipments disrupt the balance in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, but they could potentially be used to squeeze Georgia from the south as well should there be a future conflict with Russia.

17. (S) Georgia is also trying to manage its relationship with Iran. Georgia agrees with many of our concerns about Iran’s policies, and has been willing to raise those concerns directly with the Iranians. Georgia still faces lingering Qdirectly with the Iranians. Georgia still faces lingering anger from Tehran for extraditing an Iranian arms smuggler to the United States several years ago. At the same time, it cannot afford to alienate a powerful regional neighbor and major commercial partner — especially as it seeks to prevent any further recognitions of the breakaway regions.