Young Hilaire Belloc’s 1906 Open Letter on the Decay of Faith: His Polite Reply to Some Eloquent Discouragements

Dr. Robert Hickson

5 April 2021

Saint Vincent Ferrer, O.P. (d. 1419)

Blessed Juliana of Mount Cornillon (d. 1258)

Epigraphs

“The enormous evils from which we are suffering, the degradation of our fellow-citizens, the accursed domination of our plutocracy is in the act of [a complacent? or temporarily acquiescent?] settlement. But after that? Will there not remain the chief problem of the human soul? Shall we not still smell what Chesterton so admirably calls ‘the unmistakable smell of the pit,’ shall we not still need salvation with a greater need than the need for water upon a parched day? And will there not remain among us—since we are a civilized people, possessed of printing and careful of our monuments—the record of the faith? Will it not be there to return to?” (Hilaire Belloc, M.P., Open Letter on the Decay of Faith, page 13—my emphasis added)

***

“You [dear C. F. G. Masterman, a fellow M.P.] are acquainted as I am with the Gospels; you have perhaps wondered, as I have, at their astounding power of diction; there is not a book in the world that loses so little by translation.” (Hilaire Belloc, M.P., Open Letter on the Decay of Faith, page 13—my emphasis added)

***

Do not, I beg of you [dear Masterman], be oppressed by forces already dissolved. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning.” (Hilaire Belloc, M.P., An Open Letter on the Alleged Decay of Faith (March 29, 1906), page 14—my emphasis added)

***

In 1906 when Hilaire Belloc was still thirty-five years of age, he became a British Member of Parliament for almost five years. Early in his membership he wrote his Open Letter on the Decay of Faith (14 pages) which was at first addressed specifically to C.F.G. Masterman, M.P., on 29 March 1906, but it was soon also reprinted and opened to a broader audience, being then published as a compact pamphlet.1 This reprinted pamphlet also has a variant title, by its inserting the word “Alleged”: “An Open Letter on the Alleged Decay of Faith.” In either case, both titles will get us thinking—especially today over a hundred years later, and given the cumulative history of Europe and now also of the alleged United States of America.

Hilaire Belloc begins his Letter with fitting politeness and capturing benevolent simplicity:

My dear Masterman, I have just been reading some words of yours in the Speaker. They have set me thinking. And I am sorry to say they have set me writing, too. I could not but write, and when I had written I desired to make what I had written public. It is on this account that you may see, if you do see, the sentences which I print here. (3)

Belloc then goes straight to the presentation of an articulate perception of Masterman’s candid (but discouraging) claim about the abiding decay of the Christian faith. Moreover, in his initial reply, Belloc also adds some memorable vividness when he evocatively alludes to the Mediaeval Old French Epic, The Song of Roland, which depicts the strategic retreat of Charlemagne’s army from the Pyrenees Mountains of northern Spain and the treacherously effected and tragic loss of the rearguard and loyal knight, Roland:

You say there [in the 1906 issue of Speaker] that (as you conceive it) the Christian religion is in peril: nay, that the immemorial battle is now decided; that the quiet enemy has conquered and that no army will return to oust him; that we shall not hear again the horn of Roland.

Your words are clear. You speak of “the passing of a whole civilization from a Faith in which it was founded.” You speak again of “a Faith that is slipping from the horizon of mankind.” Let me detain you upon these things. (3-4—my emphasis added)

Belloc then presents a series of searching questions to Mr. Masterman, to include his use of certain metaphors or analogies:

Do you, then, really believe that this movement [of de-Christianization] of which you speak is a tide? Do you, then, really think that the things of the mind are subject to such easy, such rhythmical and such servile laws as are the things of the world around us? And do you believe that the Faith is ebbing away? (4—my emphasis added)

After some personal notes about the poetry of Matthew Arnold (“Dover Beach”) and some adventures of his maritime life in 1895 or so, Belloc returns to his earlier set of larger questions and earnestly says:

Well, then, I want to examine this question for myself. I feel, with an extraordinary vividness, the power of what you [Masterman] say: as who does not who has known or even visited this evil modern world [as of 1906]? You are right; all around us there is a sort of air, as though the fundamentals of the mind were changing, and as if the Faith, from a postulate [presupposition, axiom], were tending to be an opinion, and were in danger of becoming from an opinion a fad, from a fad to a memory. I will not deny that what you wrote struck me with a shock of recognition, and that I was disturbed by the recollection of certain mortal phrases….which are the luxury and perhaps the price of our entry into manhood. (5—my emphasis added)

After Belloc’s own honest and humble recall of some “just and rational negations which boys indulge in” (5) and “which you [Masterman] revived in me” by your “careful and significant sentences,” he especially remembers “youth’s divine hope and divine cousinship with the hills and with the morning.” (6) And he poignantly adds:

I do not mean that your mournfulness or your dread revived in me the simple and childlike denials which meant in our generation no more than this—that youth was doing what youth always does, that is, taking gaily the tragic human spirit of its time. No, your prose did much more in me that this. It re-awoke those visions of nothingness which I have suffered in the last five years, even in my own shrines [as a Roman Catholic], and which must undoubtedly haunt the soul of every man to-day who has known other things.

Well, in spite of those visions, and in spite of their poignancy, which you have recalled, I propose to examine the matter with you. (6—my emphasis added)

Belloc then begins to consider some historical analogies and their limits—as well as their capacities to mislead a later scholar inattentive to proper proportion:

As it seems to me…we exaggerate the analogy of history. Our historical knowledge is a small thing, though our tradition is a great one….since little is known by scholars… of the Dark Ages, since the Middle Ages were but a short and unfruitful [sic] dream… since the last four [post-Mediaeval] centuries have crescendoed up to an anarchy and to a tumult, all men of culture necessarily refer to the example of Rome. And surely there must have been in your mind…that parallel of the old Paganism dying, of the deserted temples, of the whining priests of Apollo,…and assaulting its own fables; of the oracles growing dumb—no prophesies, no miracles; of the sophists in the second and third centuries (who so exactly correspond to our famous Germans of to-day—the Hegels and the rest…!)…as Rome had passed through all the stages of decay; its free citizens fallen to be a proletariat; its rich men governing the world; its vices blatant; seeing these things, perhaps you thought that our religion also, the Faith, that is, was bound to fail and to go the determined course as does every limited and human thing. Now I desire to recall to you that the Faith is not of this world. (6-8—my emphasis added)

He speaks then of a certain “mood of the mind” (8)—“it is a good mood and a true [mood], it is that in which the mind [of Faith?] most nearly apprehends the ultimate realities….one can perceive at one glance Matter and Will. In such a mood no man despairs of the Faith.” (8—my emphasis added)

In this context, Belloc introduces the exemplary and heroic case of the Irish (at home and in the diasporas) under the historical conditions of protracted adversity—as of 1906, but in sharp contrast to the all-too-apostate Ireland of today, in 2021, with its growing and alluring (but often specious) prosperity.

After considering the larger case of Ireland and the Faith, Belloc anonymously mentions the current Pope (Pius X), who was still in office in 1906 (having ruled since August of 1903, and then he did continue until August of 1914):

It is said that the Pope keeps laid open before him upon a desk perpetually a page from the writings of De Maistre [Joseph de Maistre, 1753-1821]. They say he keeps this page for a short and repeated daily reading. Here is the passage.

The temples are empty or profaned; the altars are deserted. Mere reason, that powerful governor, not to be despised, which is not only the weapon of the intelligence, but is also our human power of integration, our judgement, and almost our sanity—mere reason has every temporal chance in its favour, that it will sweep the field; and if it wins it will make a carpenter’s bench of the Cross, and Jesus Christ will be partially forgotten and wholly lost, as are mere literary figures. But what if the Faith should rise and lift this Antean thing [such as the weight of mere reason], this human judgement from the earth, the common soil which is its only strength? What if the Faith, like Hercules, should lift humanity up in one of those spasmodic wrestling strains which its own history proves native to it, and should so keep it on the plane of this, that [what if] at last the Faith, and not reason, should conquer? For the Faith is a demigod. Patuit Deus[God has so revealed it].(10-11—my emphasis added)

After this first and likely true story, Belloc, in his own words, has a second and certainly true story about his own experience in the mountains of Spain:

And here is the the second story: Once in the Pyrenees I sat wakeful at night beside a companion who slept. The night was absolutely still; we were on the summits, and its was extremely cold. The pine trees were so motionless that they might have been trees of metal carved in bronze. The fire was dying, and I sat crouched close beside it with my blanket round my knees, believing that some ultimate silence had come upon the hills and me. Then there arose a little wind: the branches barely moved, but that movement was more different from the silence than I had thought one thing could be from another; the wind rose and grew with an awful rapidity; the tall trunks shook before I had heard the moaning grow strong; the sky awoke, clouds drove across the stars, and in the midst of all this noise it dawned. It is in this way that the vast changes come upon the unbounded and incalculable empyrean of the [alert and receptive] human mind. (11-12—my emphasis added)

Having prepared the way, Belloc now bears witness to the reality and uniqueness of Europe, at least as it was once, but may soon no longer be the case, Deo Volente, not even as a missionary initiative of the loyal Catholic Faith:

I desire you [Masterman] to remember that we are Europe; we are a great people. The faith is not an accident among us, nor an imposition, nor a garment: it is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh: it is a philosophy made by, and making, ourselves. We have adorned, explained, enlarged it; we have given it visible form. This is the service we Europeans have done to God. He has made us Christians. [And we adorn what we love!]….Will you [Masterman et al.] not believe that this modern phase of ours [and, perhaps, our disordered modern civilization?] is passing? I do. (12—my emphasis added)

Such are Belloc’s affirmations and encouragements, sub Gratia Divina, in the Catholic Faith.

As a Franciscan Scholar once deftly said to me: “The truth about trouble is a twofold truth. It is as Christ Himself effectively told us, as well. In the world you will have trouble, He said, but I have overcome the World.”

As magnanimous Hilaire Belloc finally said to Masterman—likely recalling not only the tragic Roland and his Horn, but especially the later Dawn in the Pyrenees that surprised and stirred our Hilary so—and we may fittingly apply it still today: “Do not, I beg of you, be oppressed by forces already dissolved. You have mistaken the hour of the night. It is already morning. H. Belloc.” (14—my emphasis added)

–FINIS–

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

1Hilaire Belloc, M.P., An Open Letter on the Decay of Faith (London: Burns & Oates, LTD.,1906), 14 pages. It contains this note at the outset: “This Letter is reprinted with the Author’s permission from the Tribune of March 29, 1906.” Further references to the fourteen-page Letter and Pamphlet will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this short essay.

The Indirect Grand-Strategic Approach in the Context of Biological Warfare and China

Author’s Note, 11 November 2020: After this 22-page-text from November 1997 was somehow discovered and read in early 1998 by General Peter Schoomaker himself, and by some of his General Staff at the Special Operations Command, I received a personal invitation to speak more thoroughly about these matters, especially about the strategic culture and capacities of China. In July of 1998, I was a visitor to the U.S. SOCOM in Tampa, Florida.

Robert D. Hickson

15 November 1997

The Indirect Grand-Strategic Approach and Context of

Biological Warfare (and Bio-Terrorism) in the Likely Near Future:

A Trenchant Strategic Challenge to American Special Operations Forces and to Our Incipient Strategic Culture

Epigraph One (and Timely Parables)i :[FOOTNOTE ONE]

They [the Spartans] had not been many days in Attica [summer, 430 BC] before the plague first broke out among the Athenians [six to seven months after Pericles’ Funeral Oration]. Previously attacks of the plague had been reported from many other places in Lemnos [an Ionian island] and elsewhere, but there was no record of the disease being so virulent anywhere else or causing so many deaths as it did in Athens. At the beginning the doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease because of their ignorance of the right methods. In fact mortality among the doctors was the highest of all, since they came more frequently in contact with the sick. Nor was any other human art or science of any help at all. Equally useless were prayers made in the temples, consultations of oracles, and so forth; indeed, in the end people were so overcome by their sufferings that they paid no further attention to such things…. I myself shall merely describe what it was like…. I had the disease myself and saw others suffering from it…. Words indeed fail when one tries to give a general picture of the disease; and as for the sufferings of individuals, they seemed almost beyond the capacity of human nature to endure…. Though there were many dead bodies lying about unburied, the birds and animals that eat human flesh either did not come near them or, if they did taste the flesh, died of it afterwards. Evidence for this may be found in the fact that there was a complete disappearance of all birds of prey…. Some died in neglect, some in spite of every possible care being taken of them…. The most terrible thing of all was the despair into which people fell when they realized they had caught the plague; for they would immediately adopt an attitude of utter hopelessness, and, by giving in this way, would lose their powers of resistance…. So overwhelmed by the weight of their calamities that they had actually given up the usual practice of making laments [prayers] for the dead…. and, living as they did during the hot season in badly ventilated houses, they died like flies…. for the catastrophe was so overwhelming that men, not knowing what would happen next to them, became indifferent to every rule of religion or of law…. and adopted the most shameless methods…. Athens owed to the plague the beginnings of a state of unprecedented lawlessness. Seeing how quick and abrupt were the changes in fortune…, people now began openly to venture on acts of self-indulgence which before they used to keep in the dark…. Money and life seemed equally ephemeral. As for what is called honour, no one showed himself willing to abide by its laws…. No fear of god or law of man had a restraining influence. As for the gods, it seemed to be the same thing whether one worshipped them or not, when one saw the good and the bad dying indiscriminately. As for offenses against human law, no one expected to live long enough to be brought to trial and punished: instead everyone felt that already a far heavier sentence had been passed on him and was hanging over him, and that before the time for its execution arrived it was only natural to get some pleasure out of life. This, then, was the calamity which fell upon Athens….

(Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War: 431-404 BC, Book II, 47-54).

***

The concept and reality of biological terrorism and longer-range biological warfare, and our adequate defense against them – to include a possible and intelligently discriminating counter-offensive – will provide a trenchant measure and test of our strategic culture as a nation; and a sobering indication of the extent to which a truly strategic culture does not, in fact, exist, much less a much needed (and increasingly needed) grand-strategic culture. For, a grand-strategic culture takes a longer view of war and peace and rootedly sustainable civilization: hence of indirect and subversive warfare, as well as more direct and immediate warfare; of deceitful peace as well as true peace; of chronic as well as traumatic dislocations and challenges; and of their combined and abiding effects on a common culture and nourishing way of life; hence on the life of children, which is marked by resilient hope, not by self-pitying cynicism nor by paralyzing and self-sabotaging despair. For, a truly grand-strategic culture thinks and selflessly acts, not in terms of mere triage, but in terms of the nobler ethos that “the more defenseless one is the more that person calls our for our defense.” Such a long-range strategic culture conduces to life, not to death, nor to spiritual death, i.e., sloth and despair.

In these long sentences, every word counts and the provocative challenges stand, to be developed further in this paper and in all of the reflective comments I propose to make during this four-day colloquium. Furthermore, I would contend that, as a result of our multiple strategic vulnerabilities, disinclinations, and vacillations as a nation, we all too often allow other nations who have a strategic culture to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative against us and to our disadvantage – nations such as Great Britain, Israel, and China who have many of their own national-security assets abroad, with strategic interior lines on our own strategic inner front and precarious strategic thresholds (like Mexico and the offshore islands, as well as Canada). The Chinese Triads are an example of such a strategic national security asset – a combination of a trans-national criminal syndicate, a strategic intelligence operation, and a form of potential (if not actual) Chinese Special Operations Forces.ii [FOOTNOTE TWO]

The subtle threat of hostile biological operations (and especially their psychological effects on the target) – both short-term and long-term biological operations – will provide an acute and unmistakably clarifying test of our purpose and resilient coherence as a nation. From my own experience over the years, however, in the military and strategic intelligence community – to include in our Special Operations Forces (SOF) – we have not been either thoughtfully taking the longer view of such bio-warfare issues, in the longer light of military history and the indirect, mentally dislocating approaches of revolutionary, subversive warfare; or anticipating (as strategists should) the indirect approaches of new forms of asymmetrical niche (or nidus) warfare which use, as weapons, selective bio-toxins or the plague. And such agents include virulent neuro-toxins, and the targets include plants, soils, foods, and animals, as well as human bodies and minds.

Therefore, a mere military strategy – even a capacious and long-range military strategy – will not be sufficient to take the measure of such a strategic (often indirect) threat and challenge especially the challenge of what I prefer to call psycho-biological warfare and terrorism.

Thus, at the outset, the strategic-minded, unflinchingly truthful, military historian B.H. Liddell Hart may help us understand the larger strategic context for the coming hostile use of, and defense against, bio-toxins. This historically considered strategic context must also include the insufficiently anticipated and very destructive aftermath of the earlier promiscuous resort to (or complicity with) the essentially lawless ethos of guerrilla warfare, especially in World War II, and its fruits in the subsequent “deceitful peace” or “camouflaged war.” Liddell Hart’s newly added, 1967 chapter on Guerrilla Warfare, added to his second, revised edition of his earlier, classic book, Strategy, will help us understand this troublesome and dangerous aftermath resulting from the illusionary pursuit of peace through total military victory alone, especially in World War II. Liddell Hart’s insights on the self-sapping resort to guerrilla warfare and its longer-term aftermath – to include his own humble admissions of his earlier errors, short-sightedness, and inordinate attachments concerning “the effective operations of T.E. Lawrence during World War I in the Middle East” – will help us to examine the current and future challenge of irregular, but strategic, biological warfare.

In his newly added Chapter XIII (Guerrilla War) for his second edition of his book, Strategy, Liddell Hart said: “If you wish for peace, understand war – particularly the guerrilla and subversive forms of war.” He saw this as a “necessary and fitting replacement for the antique and oversimple dictum, ‘If you wish for peace, prepare for war,’ which too often has proved to be not only a provocation to war, but a matter of mistakenly preparing to repeat the method of the last war in conditions that have radically changed.” (p. 361) So, too, is it the case today in the ambiguous milieu of asymmetrical niche warfare, and lesser forms of asymmetrical response, where bio-toxins and their difficult-to-discern methods of delivery may be used against us; if only as a reprisal, for example, were we to be maneuvered soon into using small nuclear weapons against Iraq and its facilities for producing weapons of mass destruction, such as the nominal “Chicken Farm.”

However, what Liddell Hart said about nuclear power in 1967 may even more soberly apply today to biological and chemical power. He said:

For, if the nuclear power now available were unleashed and not merely maintained as a deterrent, its uses would mean “chaos” not “war,” since war is organised action, which could not be continued in a state of chaos. The nuclear deterrent, however, does not apply and cannot be applied to the deterrence of subtler forms of aggression [like bio-terrorism or bio-warfare]. Through its unsuitability for the purpose [of deterrence] it tends to stimulate and encourage them [i.e., the “subversive forms of war” and “subtler forms of aggression,” like strategic psycho-biological warfare.]

Furthermore, and very important for understanding the milieu and strategic context of irregular biological warfare, we must consider the original rationale for the widespread use in World War II of “guerrilla and subversive forms of war,” and its destructive aftermath – indeed, a bitter, and embittering, harvest still. Liddell Hart says:

In the Second World War…guerrilla warfare became so widespread as to be an almost universal feature…. Its growth can be traced largely to the deep impression [T.E.] Lawrence [and his Seven Pillars of Wisdom] had made, especially on Churchill…. [I]t became part of Churchill’s war policy to utilise guerrilla warfare as a counter-weapon…instigating and fostering “resistance” movements…and …these efforts were extended wider and wider [even into Asia, and building upon what had been fermenting there already]. A more extensive and prolonged guerrilla war had been waged in the Far East since the 1920’s by the Chinese Communists…. During this struggle, the Communists also played their hand with a view to the future…so effectively that …they were better placed to profit from the result [i.e., the Japanese collapse] and fill the vacuum than Chaing Kai-Shek’s Nationalist regime. (pp.362-363, emphasis added)

And since World War II, “the combination of guerrilla and subversive war has been pursued with increasing success in the neighboring areas of South-east Asia and in other parts of the world.” (p. 363) Moreover, Liddell Hart predicted:

Campaigns of this kind are likely to continue because they fit the conditions of the modern age and at the same time are well suited to take advantage of social discontent, racial ferment, and nationalistic fervour. The development of guerrilla and subversive war was intensified with the magnification of nuclear weapons, particularly the advent of the thermonuclear hydrogen bomb in 1954, and the simultaneous decision of the Untied States Government to adopt the policy and strategy of “massive retaliation” as a deterrent to all kinds of aggression. (p. 363 – emphasis added)

What Liddell Hart then says about this illusionary policy and strategy should illuminate and desirably correct our own response today, perhaps, to the variegated and newly subtle threats from biological weapons, in the longer light of the lawless aftermath of guerrilla and subversive warfare once (and maybe still) so promiscuously and un-farsightedly resorted to. He says:

The implied threat of using nuclear weapons to curb guerrillas was as absurd as to talk of using a sledge hammer to ward off a swarm of mosquitoes. The policy did not make sense, and the natural effect was to stimulate and encourage the forms of aggression by erosion to which nuclear weapons were an inapplicable counter. Such a sequel was easy to foresee, though not apparent to President Eisenhower and his advisors…. (p. 363 – emphasis added)

For the time being passing over his profoundly discerning analysis of the principles of guerrilla and subversive war, we now focus on Liddell Hart’s unsettling, but sound, conclusions about “the dangerous aftermath of guerrilla warfare” (p. 369) or “camouflaged war” (p.367) – a term he preferred to the misleading “concept of ‘cold war’” (p. 367). He says:

This broad conclusion [that “in the atomic age guerrilla warfare may be increasingly developed as a form of aggression suited to exploit the nuclear stalemate”], however, leads to a far-reaching and deeper question. It would be wise for the statesmen and strategists of the Western countries to “learn from history” and avoid the mistakes of the past when seeking to develop a counter-strategy in this kind of [asymmetrical] warfare. The vast extension of such warfare during the last twenty years has, to a large extent, been the product of the [World War II] war policy of instigating and fomenting popular revolt in enemy-occupied countries that Britain, under Churchill’s leadership, adopted in 1940 as a counter to the Germans – a policy subsequently extended to the Far East as a counter to the Japanese. The policy was adopted with great enthusiasm and little question. (p. 367 – emphasis added)

This promiscuous and undiscriminating resort to guerrilla and subversive forms of warfare produced many “a handicap to recovery after liberation” (p. 369),

But the heaviest handicap of all, and the most lasting one, was of the moral kind. The armed resistance movement attracted many “bad hats.” It gave them license to indulge their vices and work off their grudges under the cloak of patriotism [or of socialism, or Communism, or Zionism?]…. Worse still was its wider effect on the younger generation as a whole. It taught them to defy authority and break the rules of civic morality in the fight against the occupying forces. This left disrespect for “law and order” that inevitably continued after the invaders had gone. (p. 369)

Moreover, as Liddell Hart continues to articulate his insights applicable to our issues of bio-warfare and bio-defense:

Violence takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare…. [T]he former makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules. It becomes very difficult to re-build a country, and a stable state, on a foundation undermined by such experience. (p. 369 – emphasis added)

Humbly, Liddell Hart added: “A realization of the dangerous aftermath of guerrilla warfare came to me in [belated] reflection on [T.E.] Lawrence’s campaigns in Arabia [during World War I] and in our discussion on the subject” (p. 369). Some, like Ord Wingate, had, soon after World War I, become “filled with the idea of giving the theory [of T.E. Lawrence and Liddell Hart’s own “exposition of the theory of guerrilla warfare”] a fresh and wider application” (p. 369), says Liddell Hart:

But I was beginning to have doubts – not of its immediate efficacy, but of its long-term effects. It seemed that they could be traced, like a thread, running through the persisting troubles that we, as the Turks’ successors, were suffering in the same area where Lawrence had spread the Arab Revolt. These doubts were deepened when re-examining the military history of the Peninsular War [against Napoleon] a century earlier and reflecting on the subsequent [disordered] history of Spain. (p. 369 – emphasis added)

In addition to other analogous examples from the military history of irregular warfare (to include French irregular warfare in 1870 against the invading Germans), which soon produced many “an epidemic of armed revolutions that continued in quick succession…and [later] broke out again” (pp. 369-370), Liddell Hart soberly notes, however, that:

These lessons of [earlier] history were too lightly disregarded by those who planned to promote violent insurrections as part of our [World War II] war policy. The repercussions have had a shattering effect in the postwar years on the peace policy of the Western Alliance – and not only in providing both equipment and stimulus to anti-Western movements in Asia and Africa [and Latin America]…. The military effects of the Maquis as an instrument against the Germans were outweighed by the political and moral ill effects on the future. The disease has continued to spread. (p. 370 – emphasis added)

However, to what extent, if at all, will we now learn these fuller lessons of history and apply them to understanding and countering the strategies of the indirect approach which now extend to the use of bio-toxins and of a “Fifth Column” on the “inner front” of a targeted country, like the United States? Liddell Hart concludes his chapter on Guerrilla War, in the longer light of strategy and grand strategy, with the following words:

It is not too late to learn from the experience of history. However tempting the idea may seem of replying to our opponents’ “camouflaged war” activities by counter-offensive moves of the same kind, it would be wiser to devise and pursue a more subtle and far-seeing counter-strategy. (p. 370 – emphasis added)

Given that “ubiquity combined with intangibility is the basic [psychological and strategic] secret of such a [hostile guerrilla or irregular bio-warfare] campaign,” what might such a “more subtle and far-seeing counter-strategy” look like when it is to be employed against asymmetrical (hence indirect and deceitful) forms of biological warfare and bio-terrorism, both of which are even more especially effective in “producing more cumulative distraction, disturbance, and demoralization among the [targeted] enemy, along with a more widespread impression among the [targeted] population [i.e., the psychological consequences on the people’s mentality, caused by such biological toxins]” (p. 365)? Imagine that the well-organized, highly intelligent, secret societies of the Chinese Triads were to conduct such bio-terrorist operations?

A versatile and highly gifted friend in our strategic intelligence community recently wrote me a thoughtful letter in response to an unclassified paper I sent him on the Chinese-Triad Phenomenon, especially as it is manifested increasingly in Europe, but also as a larger strategic asset of Chinese international power, working, as the Mossad also economically does, through its analogous overseas Chinese cultural communities. In the paper to which my friend insightfully and courteously responded, I had, moreover, suggested that the Chinese Triads – like the deployed Japanese Yakusa – should properly be considered as a form of Chinese “Special Operations Forces (SOF)” whose assets (location, accessibility, and talents) could be strategically activated on the “inner front” of foreign cultures while at the same time themselves retaining efficient “interior lines” as a disciplined, long-traditional secret society in the context of Chinese history and of China’s own subtly (indeed graciously) deceptive strategic culture.

Imagine the challenge to the U.S. national security apparatus, as a whole, if the Triads – in addition to their activities as a trans-national criminal syndicate involved in drugs, money-laundering, trafficking in illegal toxic-waste dumping, economic espionage, and illegal technology transfer (also through Canada) – were to be activated to perform information warfare (hence deception) operations and psychological operations such as “bio-terrorism” and more long-range biological warfare. The Chinese and the Chinese Triad apparatus would, in any event, provide an excellent and trenchant test case for the readiness of our defenses against strategic psycho-biological warfare – and a deeper test (and measure) of our own incipient strategic culture.

In response to such connected considerations, my friend (who has a doctorate in an advanced physical science and knows China, as well as several classes of strategic technological innovation, and foreign “research, analysis, and acquisition processes”) said to me, in part, as follows:

It [your paper] was timely, given the focus these past few weeks on the visiting Chinese governmental leaders. It prompted one to review a recent paper on the strategic culture of China. Oddly, there was no mention of the Chinese-Triad Phenomenon.

We naturally view all governments as fundamentally segregated from criminal syndicates. We recognize some element of corruption in every government, but we see only the tactical component. Criminal activities come and go, but the legitimate strategic interests of the governments persist. While the view may have been true for much of our (US) history, it certainly is a poor model for Asia. In China, the politicians come and go but the Triads persist. Their strategic objectives, operations, and methods have remained consistent, integrated in Chinese culture.

And as Chinese culture spreads throughout the world, so does the Chinese-Triad Phenomenon. Economic development in China is providing an ever stronger base for Triad operations. Advances in telecommunications and transportation technologies are providing the Triads with greater reach, enabling the expansion of their strategic objectives.

Your paper captures an element of Chinese strategic culture, The Chinese Triad Phenomenon, that has not received sufficient recognition by the Intelligence Community. Relegated to the status of tactical criminal activity, the strategic threat posed by the Triads is largely ignored. Your efforts to relate current and future threats in terms of the historical Chinese-Triad strategic culture are of utmost importance.

Given this sober analysis of a man who never flatters, but who speaks the truth as he sees it and calls things by their right names, how might we consider “the current and future threats” of bio-terrorism and deceptive psycho-biological warfare “in terms of the historical Chinese Triad strategic culture”? If we could sufficiently deal with the subtle and often gracious Chinese strategic culture’s capacities for “strategic information warfare, strategic deception, strategic psycho-biological operations and even more chronic and protracted psycho-biological warfare” (as in the Soviets’ intended use of plague), we would be in a more decisively secure position of “bio-defense” against other sophisticated or unsophisticated adversaries in this field of asymmetrical “weapons of mass destruction.” That is to say, Chinese grand-strategic culture provides us with a highly excellent “benchmark” threat, at least potentially, and the most challenging test of our adequate defense and fuller responses against bio-terrorism and fuller biological warfare.

How would our Special Operations Forces (SOF) respond to such a Chinese “Bio-Warfare” threat, in itself, or as part of a larger strategic operation, such as a strategic information warfare attack? One of the missions of our SOF – a mission, however, that many of them have told me they would prefer not to deal with, or to even think about – is “counter bio-terrorism,” in contradistinction to “anti-bio-terrorism.” The former mission requires the operatives to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative, strategically, as well as tactically and operationally. The latter implies a more strictly defensive posture of “force protection.”

Nevertheless, our properly long-range strategic response to bio-terrorism and fuller-scope biological warfare – chronic developments as well as traumatic incidents – will be illuminated and further helped by understanding, in the longer light of military history, the appropriate strategic context of such a demoralizing and intractable form of warfare: strategic psycho-biological warfare, as I designedly prefer to call it. By considering also the likely hostile application of “the grand strategy of the indirect approach” to new variants of revolutionary psychological (or psycho-cultural) warfare, such as strategic psycho-biological warfare, we shall better be able to understand the subtle strategic challenge to our nation and its way of life, and to form our adequate far-sighted counter-strategies. In the longer light of the history of revolutionary warfare – including subtle forms of ambiguous aggression and subversive warfare – B.H. Liddell Hart will again help us take the measure of certain things to which we may be initially all too inattentive or even condescendingly depreciative.

Therefore, before more specifically examining some likely future forms of asymmetrical biological warfare and strategic bio-terrorism, I propose again to examine some profound insights of this strategic-minded military historian, Liddell Hart, from his specially expanded second edition of his classic book, Strategy, wherein, as we have already seen, he treats of guerrilla warfare and other forms of ambiguous aggression and subversive warfare; and of their long-range consequences upon civilization and morale and the human spirit.

What Liddell Hart farsightedly said about World War II and the consequences of the Western illusions about victory, as well as the long-range aftermath of the unrestricted resort to guerrilla warfare, should analogously illuminate, and perhaps correct, our illusions about the purported end of the of the Cold War, our putative “fruits of victory,” and their longer-range consequences. Nuclear weapons and guerrilla warfare are to the purported victory and real aftermath of World War II as biological and chemical (or drug) warfare are to the purported victory and real aftermath of the “Cold War.” What does Liddell Hart have to say to us, after all, to elucidate the likely future forms of ambiguous and subversive asymmetrical warfare (or lesser indirect and asymmetrical responses) against the United States, especially on our home front, and given our increasingly precarious mastery of our own communications? Strategists are concerned to secure the “home base,” so that they can more fully become “master of the communications,” to include mastery over the communications of one’s opponent. But, mastery of the communications will be precarious, or altogether illusory, without first securing one’s strategic base and its own internal communications. Thus, Liddell Hart again far-sightedly has much to tell us of moment, in the longer light of history.

In his Preface to the Second Revised Edition (1967) of his book, Strategy, where, shortly before he died (1970), B.H. Liddell Hart added a new and important Chapter on Guerrilla War (Chapter XXIII), as well as a new Preface, where, in part, he said:

The last edition of this book was published in 1954, just after the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb – a thermo-nuclear bomb resulting from the development of nuclear fission into nuclear fusion. Even his first hydrogen bomb had an explosive force a thousand times greater than that of the first atomic bomb of 1945.

In Liddell Hart’s preface to his first edition, he had predicted (in 1954) that such technological innovations “would not radically change the basis or practice of strategy” and “would not free us from dependence on what are called ‘conventional weapons’ although it was likely to be an incentive to the development of more unconventional methods of applying them!” (emphasis added). Since 1954, he adds, “experience has clearly confirmed the trend predicted at that time,” and

Above all, such experience has emphatically borne out the forecast that the development of nuclear weapons would tend to nullify their deterrent effect, thereby leading to the increasing use of a guerrilla-type strategy (p. xv, emphasis added).

In his Preface to the first edition, Liddell Hart had said:

The hydrogen bomb is not the answer to the Western peoples’ dream of full and final insurance of their security. It is not a “cure-all” for the dangers that beset them. While it has increased their striking power it has sharpened their anxiety and deepened their sense of insecurity. (xvii).

Today, is this not a fortiori the case, given our dawning, yet reluctantly growing, awareness of the existence of bio-toxins as weapons, and our acute vulnerability to the unsophisticated as well as sophisticated forms of delivery against a target, civil as well as military?

Looking back to the hopeful expectations of World War II leaders in the West, Liddell Hart says:

The atomic bomb in 1945 looked to the responsible statesmen of the West an easy and simple way of assuring a swift and complete victory – and subsequent world peace…. But the anxious state of the peoples of the free world today [1952] is a manifestation that the directing minds failed to think through [emphasis original] the problem – of attaining peace through such a victory. They did not look beyond the immediate strategic aim of “winning the war,” and were content to assume that military victory would assure peace – an assumption contrary to the general experience of history. The outcome has been the latest of many lessons that pure military strategy needs to be guided by a longer and wider view from the higher plane of “grand strategy.” (xvii – emphasis added except where specifically noted)

To what extent have we properly considered “victory” in the Cold War and its aftermath from the higher plane of grand strategy, especially in light of our strategic vulnerability to biological weapons of mass destruction and bio-terrorism, against which “a pure military strategy” will be gravely insufficient.

To what extent, if at all, is there a further sobering analogy between what Liddell Hart says of World War II’s aftermath, and the purported “fruits of victory” accrued to the West from their claimed triumph in the Cold War?

Liddell Hart said:

In the circumstances of World War II, the pursuit of triumph was foredoomed to turn into tragedy, and futility. A complete overthrow [cf. unconditional surrender, Nuremberg Trials with Soviet Judges, as well, etc.] of Germany’s power of resistance was bound to clear the way for Soviet Russia’s domination of the Eurasian continent [along with Communist China after 1949], and for a vast extension of Communist power in all directions…. No peace ever brought so little security and, after eight nerve-wracking years, the production of thermo-nuclear weapons has deepened the ‘victorious” people’s sense of insecurity. But that is not the only effect (pp. xvii-xviii)

According to Liddell Hart, moreover, the hydrogen bomb and other modern weapons of destruction combine:

To make it plain that “total war” as a method, and “victory” as a war aim are out-of-date concepts. That has come to be recognized by the chief exponents of strategic bombing. Marshal of the R.A.F. Sir John Slessor recently declared his belief that “total war as we have known it in the past forty years is a thing of the past…a world war in this day and age would be general suicide and the end of civilization as we know it.” Marshal of the R.A.F. Lord Tedder earlier emphasized the same point as “an accurate, cold statement of the actual possibilities,” and said: “A contest using the atomic weapon would be no duel, but rather a mutual suicide.” Less logically, he added: “that is scarcely a prospect to encourage aggression.” Less logically because a cold-blood aggressor [willing to use, for example, biological operations] may count on his opponents’ natural reluctance to commit suicide [with nuclear weapons] in immediate response to a [bio-toxin] threat that is not clearly fatal [to national life]. Would any responsible Government, when it came to that point, decide to use the H-bomb as an answer to indirect aggression, or any aggression of a local and limited kind? (p. xvii – emphasis added)

And what are some of the consequences which Liddell Hart draws from this predicament, consequences which may include the incentive for other countries asymmetrically to resort to bio-warfare or bio-terrorism against the United States? He concludes in an interim way by saying:

So it may be assumed that the H-bomb would not be used against any menace less certainly and immediately fatal than itself. The trust which the statesmen place in such a weapon [H-bomb] as a deterrent to aggression would seem to rest on an illusion…. The H-bomb…increases the possibilities of “limited war” pursued by indirect and widespread local aggression. (xvii) – (emphasis added except for the word “increases,” which was accentuated in the original).

Moreover, he says:

We have moved into a new era of strategy…. The strategy now being developed by our opponents is inspired by the dual idea of evading and hamstringing superior air-power. Ironically, the further we have developed the “massive” effect of the [strategic, nuclear] bombing weapon, the more we have helped the progress of this new guerrilla-type [asymmetrical] strategy. (p. xix)

Given this “new guerrilla-type strategy” bent on “evading and hamstringing” our technological superiorites, “our own strategy,” therefore, “should be based on a clear grasp of this concept,” he says:

And our military policy needs re-orientation. There is scope, and we might develop it, for a counter-strategy of a corresponding kind – [a counter-strategy that could resourcefully use and, with our big weapons, not] destroy our potential “Fifth Column” assets [in other countries]. (p. xix)

Very important to our purposes in this paper, Liddell Hart further argues:

The common assumption that atomic power has canceled out strategy [to include the strategy of psycho-biological warfare and asymmetrical bio-terrorism] is ill-founded and misleading. By carrying destructiveness to a “suicidal” extreme, atomic power is stimulating and accelerating a reversion to the indirect methods that are the essence of strategy –since they endow warfare with intelligent properties that raise it above the brute application of force. [And might we not aptly consider here that such “indirect methods” would especially characterize, not “the American way of war and military culture,” but the Chinese military and strategic culture?] (p. xix – emphasis added)

“Although grand strategy was missing” in World War II, “signs of such a reversion to the ‘indirect approach’ had already become manifest in World War II where strategy played a greater part than in World War I (p. xix). Moreover:

Now, the atomic deterrent to direct action on familiar lines is tending to foster a deeper strategic subtlety on the part of aggressors [now often called “asymmetrical responses” or “asymmetrical niche warfare”]. It thus becomes all the more important that this development should be matched by a similar understanding of strategical power [to include “grand-strategical power”] on our side. The history of strategy is, fundamentally, a record of the application and evolution of the indirect approach. (p. xix – emphasis added)

Despite our arguable lack of a “strategic culture,” unlike the Chinese, Israelis, and British; and despite our liberal (and sometimes self-sabotaging) Constitutional and Juridical Order, the United States must especially understand “the grand strategy of the indirect approach” when applied to bio-terrorism and more sustained psycho-biological warfare. Is it too chimerical also to suggest that we need unflinching sobriety about this particular array of subtle threats, and hence our own grand strategy of the indirect approach, at least in counter bio-terrorism?

Liddell Hart himself, of course, acknowledged the superiority of the indirect over the direct approach,” the former often working by an “unsuspected infiltration” that “turns the flank of …opposition” and resistance. As in war, “the aim is to weaken resistance before attempting to overcome it; and the effect is best attained by drawing the other party out of his defenses.” (p. xx). “Lure and trap” or, recalling Stonewall Jackson’s motto: “Mystify, mislead, surprise.” Working on the mind of the opponent is key:

This idea of the indirect approach is closely related to all problems of the influence of mind upon mind – the most influential factor in human history. Yet it is hard to reconcile with another lesson; that true conclusions can only be reached, or approached, by pursuing the truth without regard to where it may lead or what its effect may be – on different interests…. Avoid a frontal attack on a long established position; instead, seek to turn it by flank movement, so that a more penetrable side is exposed to the thrust of truth. But, in any such indirect approach [to the frightening issues involved, for example, in psycho-biological terrorism and warfare] take care not to diverge from the truth – for nothing is more fatal to its real advancement than to lapse into untruth. (pp. xx and xxi)

Why is Liddell Hart so sensitive to the dangers of lapsing into untruth, since he is also so attentive to the strategic advantages and effects of deception? He advises us wisely to avoid “the more common fault of leaders – that of sacrificing the truth to expediency without ultimate advantage to the cause” (p. xxi) – for leaders are to be “philosophical strategists, striking a compromise between truth and men’s receptivity to it.” (p. xxi)

This “tactful deformity” is what we must resolutely avoid in the matter of defending against bio-terrorism and strategic psycho-biological warfare, given what appears to be much evasion or denial of the truth by political leaders and diplomats, and even the intelligence community. We are told, often enough, not to frighten the citizenry inordinately; nor to jeopardize sensitive ongoing diplomatic negotiations with the Russians, or Cubans, by mentioning the history and current activities of their biological warfare program. Nor are we, some tell us, even to examine too closely or candidly the dangers to public health of a neuro-toxin like pfiesteria in our domestic waters, which, unfortunately, could also be collected and further cultivated by a sophisticated adversary for their further use against us (or others) at a later time. However, we are told that such unflinching truthfulness about the public health dangers would damage a state’s business and commerce. Such a view of governance is, of course, acutely irresponsible and short-sighted. For, the discovery of the truth, and of the suppression of truth, will break trust among the citizenry. And, trust, once broken, is so hard to repair, and only after a long time. Wise men have long noted that the greatest social effect of the lie is the breaking of trust.

But, having an adequate counter-strategy and set of coherent responses to bio-terrorism or irregular bio-warfare will especially require sustained and co-operative trust, especially where psychological shock and panic could be so easily induced. The strategic psychological effects of the hostile use of bio-toxins must be kept uppermost in our minds.

A few years ago, there was a story going about that the Cubans had a bio-agent ready for use which would, focally and concentratedly, dissolve the human eye-ball – hence the eye-balls of little children. Although this report might have been mere “Rumint” – “rumor intelligence” – and untrue, consider the psychological effects of such a possibility – even as a mere speculative possibility. But, to what extent is there any public – or secretive – discussion of any of Cuba’s multi-talented, long-developed biological warfare program – to include its earlier experiments in Africa and its training facilities for foreigners, for example? Yet, there is ample discussion about our purportedly mature need now to recognize Cuba diplomatically and help her developmentally.

What are the particular challenges in this area of bio-terrorism and bio-warfare for our Special Operations Forces, which include psychological operations and civil affairs units and assets, in addition to the more well-known (or, at least, well-publicized) commando-type units that have, of course, access to some of the most advanced war-fighting and other technologies: our Special Forces, Seals, Air Commandos, Rangers, Delta Force, and the like? In response to this question, I propose to make some constructive observations, many of which should not be further developed in this un-classified context. Since “SOF” is properly supposed to be a strategic asset of U.S. national power, and potentially very important to our national security apparatus and its truly strategic intelligence community, comments intended to enhance “strategic SOF education” (as distinct from training) and the long-range, “strategic culture and intelligence assets” of our Special Operations Forces should also, therefore, aid the much needed development of our nation’s grand-strategic culture, in light of larger international developments and the likely ambiguous and deceptive milieu of future forms of warfare.

Since civilian leaders, it would seem, increasingly have had no or very limited military experience, nor savor of military culture and strategic history, their imagination and inclinations might all too readily turn to “Special Operations Forces” as “the Force of Choice” and misapply them into a mis-diagnosed milieu, or so frequently deploy them that the SOF become withered out by “ a warp-speed operational tempo.” Several of the thoughtful SOF leaders I know have already inordinately experienced the “fast-forward pace” with no clear sense of strategic purpose, and often are dubious about the long-range effects for the good. But, because the SOF have so many talented persons who are strivers, they may be able to do and sustain, in the short-term, what others could not do at all. And this kind of accomplishment might, therefore, be even more self-deceiving in the long-term. Given the acronym, “SOLIC,” special operations (S.O.) are really a very limited response to a much larger and often misdiagnosed (and intractable) milieu (L.I.C.), where we need a longer and a better preparation “to read the culture” – to understand the deeper culture of foreign nations, to include the religious culture.

Certain SOF officers told me a year or so ago, for example, that they had to be more concerned about whether their units enroute to Peru had “nine millimeter” training, than about understanding the deeper culture – including, the strategic drug culture – and whether Fujimori and some of his leaders were working with the Japanese Yakusa – Japanese trans-national criminal syndicates and also, at least historically, part of Japan’s own national security assets abroad. (A Korean colonel, in fact, recently assured me this was still the case, at least in Korea).

If we were to ask, “Where are the centers for strategic SOF education and long-range thinking today, in the longer light of SOF history and the lessons to be learned, and who are the seminal thinkers?”, what would be the true answer? When General Wayne Downing helped set up the SOF curriculum at the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey, California, was strategic SOF education the main purpose, even though General Downing has himself often emphasized that SOF are, essentially, strategic assets of the United States along the entire spectrum of conflict? Given the rate and extension of SOF’s varied foreign deployments – indeed their often fatiguing “warp-speed operational tempo” – and given the many pressing obligations of even the longer-viewed Joint Special Operations Forces Institute (JSOFI) at Fort Bragg, where and how is real strategic thinking going on in SOF, especially for the mission and implications of “counter-bio-terrorism,” and its “interface” with other elements outside of the Department of Defense?

On the one hand, the military is being given a greater assortment of quasi-military or police-like missions; and, on the other hand, several elements of our police and law-enforcement agencies – such as the FBI’s Hostage-Rescue Team (HRT) – are becoming, as it were, more “militarized.” They are trained like commandos, almost like a Delta Force, and their “rules of engagement” are increasingly ambiguous or equivocal, and difficult to execute within the Constitutional and other constraints with which they must abide. The grave case of Lon Horiyucchi, whom I know and cherish, trenchantly illustrates the matter.

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is to be given greater responsibilities and assets for dealing with the dangers and aftermath of bio-terrorism or more extensive biological operations, they will also need to be especially connected with the strategic intelligence community, and perhaps some enhanced longer-viewed resources amongst the medical-intelligence assets of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) or others.

But, once again, the judicious allocation of very limited resources into missions attentive to strategic biological warfare and bio-terrorism threats will not be adequately done, or done at all, unless there is first a sufficient understanding of the need for a truly grand-strategic culture that can take the measure of indirect strategic uses of “weapons of mass destruction,” especially the more intractable biological weapons and their paralyzing or panicking psychological effects – maybe far more destructive than combat shock-trauma. And this takes us back to our starting considerations about our purpose and coherence and resilience as a nation that is willing, able, and dedicated to protect our citizens, to include our diplomats abroad. Thus, we must be willing to form a deeply moral and protective grand-strategic culture with a fuller vision of purpose and sustainable common good, not just the narrower public interest.

To the extent that we may proceed to form our own intelligently far-sighted grand-strategic culture within our national security institutions and their “advisory organs,” how might we, in the context of this colloquium on Bio-Defense, and as a test case foresee and forestall a culturally subtle, grand strategy of the indirect approach (logistically and psychologically) aimed, first of all, at preparing our sufficient moral disintegration or breakdown before then conducting strategic operations with bio-toxins against our nation?

Grand strategy, being more inclusive and long-viewed should control strategy. Grand strategy is, more properly, the higher architectonic art, but its principles often run counter to those which prevail in the field of strategy, especially in the field of military strategy, which is often enough only “high operational art” rather than true strategy, or generalship, “the actual direction of military force” comprehensively, and co-ordinatedly. Moreover, grand strategy is “policy in application,” or “policy in execution” (322), that is, the policy governing the direction and purpose of military force, in combination with other weapons (e.g., economic, political, and psychological). “Such policy in application is a higher-level strategy, for which the term ‘grand strategy’ has been coined.” It is, therefore, especially attentive to the “post-war prospects,” and its essential aim is “to discover and pierce the Achilles Heel of the opposing government’s power to make war” (214), in the words of B.H. Liddell Hart. Grand strategy attempts to diminish the possibility of resistance – to dislocate and to paralyze the opposition’s leadership; “to exploit elements of movement and surprise, the physical sphere and the psychological sphere.” Grand strategy, not intrinsically dependent on force, aims at the opponent’s “strategic paralysis” and “the reduction of fighting to the slenderest possible proportions.” Thus, for example, “the indirect approach to the strategic rear” of an opponent aims at “a grand-strategic distraction and further indirect strokes at the [opponent’s] strategic foundations” (213). But, true grand strategy “must take the longer view” (349-350), because “its problem is winning the peace”; to “conduct the war with a view to post-war benefits and civilized life”; “to look beyond the war to the subsequent peace – to avoid damage to the future state of peace.” Thus, grand strategy, according to Liddell Hart, “tends to coincide with morality.”

With an illustrative reference to Ancient Greece (5th BC) and the Peloponnesian War, Liddell Hart says: “In contrast to a strategy of indirect approach [like the delaying “Fabian Strategy”] which seeks to dislocate the enemy’s balance [physically and mentally] in order to produce a decision, the Periclean plan [the “Periclean Strategy”] was a grand strategy with the aim of gradually draining the enemy’s endurance in order to convince him that he could not gain a decision.” (p. 10). [So, too, maybe with America’s “asymmetrical adversaries” in the near future]. Such is just one manifestation of a “theory of war with psychological weapons…. To paralyze the enemy’s military nerve-system is a more economical form of operation than to pound his flesh” (p. 219). This “way in warfare” begins “with a double D – demoralization and disorganization. Above all, [such] war would be waged by suggestion – by words instead of weapons, propaganda replacing the projectile” (p. 219). And so, instead of an artillery bombardment, “moral bombardment would be used in the future,” and “all types of ammunition [including bio-toxins] would be used, but especially revolutionary [psycho-biological] propaganda” (p. 219). In the longer view of strategy:

The object of war is to make the enemy capitulate. If his will to resist could be paralyzed, killing was superfluous – besides being a clumsy and expensive way of attaining the object. The indirect way of injecting germs into the body of the opposing nation, to produce a disease in its will, was likely to be far more effective (p. 219)

Moreover, says Liddell Hart: “It was Lenin who enunciated the axiom that ‘the soundest strategy in war [maybe even, or especially, psycho-biological warfare] is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow both possible and easy.’” (p.208). There is, Liddell Hart, continues, “a marked resemblance between this [statement of Lenin] and Hitler’s saying that ‘our real wars will in fact all be fought before military operations begin’ … and ‘How to achieve the moral breakdown of the enemy before the war has started – that is the problem that interests me’” (p. 208).

In light of the long-articulate, Chinese strategic culture of deception and psychological (and patient) indirection, not only in Sun Tzu or Sun Pin and their later commentators, how might the incipient American strategic culture – including the SOF strategic culture – adequately prepare for, and respond to, a strategic psycho-biological warfare attack, to include the desirably preparatory “moral breakdown” or “moral disintegration” of its strategic opponent. Once again, a characteristically subtle Chinese scenario, with intelligent variations and resourcefully alternative objectives, and would provide the acutest measure and test of American strategic intentions and capabilities, especially in defense and counter-offensives against biological terrorism and irregular (“high-tech” and “low-tech”) biological warfare. In light of their own strategic culture (which includes the Chinese Triad Phenomenon), the Chinese could give grand strategy of the indirect approach a new extension, logistically and psychologically, into biological operations, “both in the field and in the forum” (in the words of Liddell Hart – p. 207). How might we foresee and forestall such grand-strategic moves?

However, and by way of conclusion, pointedly to return to the personal matter of protecting our foreign diplomats from bio-toxins or psycho-tropic drugs, I have a story to tell. A few years ago when, through one of my students at the Joint Military Intelligence College (DIA) – herself in the National Security Division (Division 5) of the FBI – I tried to introduce a highly informed and deeply thoughtful man who is attentive to psycho-tropic drugs and other things that can be – and have been – directed at our diplomats and others abroad, there was so little interest that he could not even get an interview, the mission of the FBI to protect our diplomats abroad, notwithstanding. Someone else in the FBI, from the same area, but now working at the Department of State, also declared personal helplessness and the Bureau’s long-range futility; and was finally feckless himself, unable to recommend someone in the FBI who would take up these issues, and unwilling even to meet this well-informed, strategic-minded man whom I know. Such facts as these are very revealing of the state of our nation. But I still believe profoundly that truly convinced leaders – when pierced to the core by the unflinching and sober truth – can greatly help to make a “course-correction” and help us recover from this sloth and drift. We are only as courageous as we are convinced. But, in these matters of bio-terrorism and strategic bio-warfare, and their increasingly undetectable “high-tech” delivery systems, what are we truly convinced about?

We must not become “fanatics” in George Santayana’s memorable sense, and we must not, if possible, allow ourselves to come to the point that Rome did, according to the ancient historian, Livy. Without fostering and forming our own truly strategic culture – and longer-viewed grand-strategic culture – we will be more prone to correspond to Santayana’s definition of a “fanatic,” even in our generous and selfless efforts to enhance our “integrated defense in depth” against bio-terrorism or more subtle forms of strategic psycho-biological warfare. For, Santayana defined a “fanatic” as “he who, losing sight of his aim, redoubles his effort.” We must not lose sight of our proper strategic and grand-strategic aim, which is itself an issue of great moment and of currently uncertain determination in our divided nation.

Moreover, the Roman historian, Livy – like the modern Cambridge philosopher and rascal, C.E.M. Joad, in his post-World War II and final book, Decadence: a Philosophical Inquiry – was also attentive to the disordered decadence of Rome, which had lost its civic love and friendship, grown in frigidity and a spiritual congealment of soul, and had “dropped its object” and abandoned its longer-view of purpose and hope, in its new corrosive ethos of cynicism, flippancy, and superficiality. In his general introduction to his own multi-volumed history of Rome from her mythical beginnings, Livy memorably wrote that, by 19 B.C., Rome had declined and come to such a point that we could “tolerate neither our vices nor their remedies” (“nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus”). To what extent is that situation also now the case with us?

It is difficult to build on rotted wood. It is more difficult, without love and love’s willingness to suffer and protractedly sacrifice, to recover from deep decadence, a loss of purpose and meaning, especially within our growing “narco-democracies” and “narco-cultures” that conduce to despair. It is from within such a milieu, and growing, that our own sacrificial strategic culture must resist the infiltration and permeation of bio-toxins, strategically designed and employed, with especially grave psychological and moral consequences which, without a deeper responsive love and wisdom on our part, will further conduce to despair, to include the despair of the children. “Blessed be he who has saved a child’s heart from despair” – which is itself a deep protective disposition that comes from the heart of chivalry.

“Chivalry in war,” says the un-quixotic Liddell Hart, “can be a most effective weapon in weakening the opponent’s will to resist as well as [in] augmenting [one’s own] moral strength” (p. 322). And such chivalry – hence the protection of the defenseless and “the little ones” – is unmistakably linked to true grand strategy. For, it is the case, says Liddell Hart, that:

Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also the moral resources – for to foster the people’s willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power. Grand strategy, too [especially in dealing with bio-terrorism and strategic bio-warfare against the home front and our communications], should regulate the distribution of power between several services, and between the services and industry. Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy – which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, of diplomatic pressure, of commercial pressure, and, not least, of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent’s will. A good cause [“likewise, chivalry in war”] is a sword as well as armour. (p. 322 – emphasis added).

In this daunting context of bio-defense against bio-terrorism and irregular biological warfare strategically designed and applied, let us keep in mind a final long-range insight of Liddell Hart; lest we, losing sight of our aim, redouble our effort, but effectively sleepwalk into hebetude and even strut to our confusion. He says that:

[while] chivalry in war can be a most effective weapon in … augmenting moral strength; furthermore, while the horizon of strategy is bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace. It should not only combine the various instruments, but so regulate their use as to avoid damage to the future state of peace – for its security and prosperity. The sorry state of peace, for both sides, that has followed most wars can be traced to the fact that, unlike strategy, the realm is for the most part terra incognita – still awaiting exploration, and understanding. (p.322)

Even moreso is this the case, and not otherwise, in the realm of grand strategic defense and counter-offense against the subtle psychological threats and aftermath of bio-terrorism and biological warfare – and especially for the defense of the children, for whom we must create a habitation and not a ruin. Nor are we to make what Tacitus saw and feared: “Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant (Where they make a desolation, or wasteland, they call it peace).” Such sophistry, too, especially for the sake of the children, must be unremittingly combated. For that, too, – the “strategic culture of sophistry,” and pervasive propaganda – is part of the larger psycho-biological war we are in. Words matter. The truth matters.

Finis

© 1997, 2020 Robert D. Hickson

i [FOOTNOTE ONE CONTINUED] Epigraph TWO:

Civil War in Corcyra, 427 BC:

Misuse of Language, Misuse of Power;

Factional Anarchy in the Cities

… They [the Corcyraeans] seized upon all their [domestic] enemies whom they could find and put them to death …. They went to the [sacred] Temple of Hera and persuaded about fifty of the suppliants [seeking asylum in the sanctuary] there to submit to a [judicial] trial. They then condemned every one of them to death. Seeing what was happening, most of the other suppliants, who had refused to be [treacherously] tried, killed each other there in the Temple; some hanged themselves on the trees, and others found various means of committing suicide. During the seven days… the Corcyraeans continued to massacre those of their own citizens whom they considered to be their enemies. Their victims were accused of conspiring to overthrow the democracy, but in fact men were often killed on grounds of personal hatred or else by their debtors because of the money they owed. There was death in every shape and form. And, as usually happens in such situations, people went to every extreme, and beyond it…. So savage was the progress of this revolution, and it seemed all the more so because it was one of the first which had broken out…convulsed with rival parties…democratic leaders…and oligarchs…. In the various cities these revolutions were the cause of many calamities – as happens and always will happen while human nature is what it is, though there may be different degrees of savagery…. In times of peace and prosperity cities and individuals alike follow higher standards…. But war is a stern teacher; in depriving them of the power of easily satisfying their daily wants, it brings most people’s minds down to the level of their actual circumstances [or “ most people’s character sinks to the level of their fortune”].

So revolutions broke out in city after city, and in places where revolutions occurred late the knowledge of what had happened previously in other places caused still new extravagances of revolutionary zeal, expressed by an elaboration in the methods of seizing power and by unheard of atrocities in revenge.

To fit in with the change of events, words, too had to change their usual [customary] meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future [to be prudent, provident] and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant one was totally unfitted for action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect. To plot successfully was a sign of intelligence, but it was still cleverer to see that a plot was hatching. If one attempted to provide against having to do either, one was disrupting the unity of the party and acting out of fear of the opposition. In short, it was equally praiseworthy to get one’s blow in first against someone who was going to do wrong, and to denounce someone who had no intention of doing any wrong at all. Family relations were a weaker tie than party membership, since party members were more ready to go to any extreme for any reason whatever…. and the members of these parties felt confidence in each other not because of any fellowship in a religious communion, but because they were partners in crime….Revenge was more important than self-preservation…a victory won by treachery gave one title for superior intelligence. And indeed most people are more ready to call villainy cleverness than simple-mindedness honesty. They are proud of the first quality and ashamed of the second.

Love of power, operating through greed and through personal ambition, was the cause of all these evils. To this may be added violent fanaticism which came into play once the struggle had broken out…. They were always ready to satisfy their hatreds of the hour. Thus neither side had any use for conscientious motives; more interest was shown in those who could produce attractive arguments to justify some disgraceful action [i.e., sophists]. As for the citizens who held moderate views; they were destroyed by both extreme parties, either for not taking part in the struggle or in envy at the possibility that they might survive.

As a result of these revolutions, there was a general deterioration of character throughout the Greek world. The simple way of looking at things, which is so much a mark of a noble nature; was regarded as a ridiculous quality and soon ceased to exist.

Society had become divided into two ideologically hostile camps, and each side viewed the other with suspicion. As for ending this state of affairs, no guarantee could be given that would be trusted, no oath sworn that people would fear to break; everyone had come to the conclusion that it was hopeless to expect a permanent settlement and so, instead of being able to feel confident [trustful] in others, they devoted their energies to providing against being injured themselves as a rule those who were least remarkable for intelligence showed the greater powers of survival. Such people recognized their own deficiencies and the superior intelligence of their opponents; fearing they might lose a debate or find themselves out-maneuvered in intrigue by their quick-witted enemies, they boldly launched straight into action; while their opponents, overconfident in the belief that they would [strategically] see what was happening in advance, and not thinking it necessary to seize by force what they [like good sentimental liberals?] would secure by policy, were the more easily destroyed because they were off their guard….

They [the “arrogantly oppressed” avengers] were swept away into an internecine struggle by their ungovernable passions. Then with the ordinary conventions of civilized life thrown into confusion [as in guerrilla war and irregular, subversive forms of warfare], human nature always ready to offend even where laws exist, showed itself proudly in its true colors, as something incapable of governing passion, insubordinate to the idea of justice, the enemy to anything superior to itself [the envious essence of rootless, mass democracy and atomization?]; for, if it had not been for the pernicious power of envy, men would not have exalted vengeance above innocence and profit above justice.

Indeed, it is true that, in these acts of revenge on others, men take it upon themselves to begin the process of repealing those general laws of humanity which are there to give a hope of salvation to all who are in distress, instead of leaving those laws [of humanity] in existence, remembering that there may come a time when they, too, will be in danger and will need their protection….

The people of Corcyra were the first [in the Peloponnesian War] to display in their city the passions of civil war….

(Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War: 431-404 BC, II 81-85)

[FOOTNOTE ONE CONTINUED]

Epigraph THREE (and Another Timely Parable)

Sacrifice Amidst the Luxurious and Promiscuous Milieu

of the Fourth Freedom in America

I [Tom Wolfe] think that above all, the 20th century will be remembered as the era of the fourth phase of freedom, which is the phase this country [the U.S.] is in right now. It is the most bizarre form that freedom has ever taken, and I think this should be of particular interest to the officer corps of the American armed services. I think you will find this fourth phase very frustrating. It may even bring you grief…. But, as I say, we are today in the fourth phase of American freedom, and it is the strangest of all. The fourth phase is freedom from religion. It is not freedom of religion; it is freedom from religion….

DeTocqueville said, in 1835 [in Democracy in America], … that American society would have come apart had it not been for the internal discipline of the American people. This internal discipline, he said, was rooted in their profound devotion to religion. What we are now seeing is the earnest rejection of the constraints of religion in the second half of the 20th century; not just the rules of morality but even simple rules of conduct and ethics … Today, you in the military are going to have to confront, in this really quite marvelous manic fourth phase of freedom in America, the most amazing pulls upon your motivation – as you see the money, the freedom, the luxuries that are so easily available. You are going to realize that everyone else – not you – is living in the age of Everyman an Aristocrat [a decadent Aristocrat]. That is the fourth phase of freedom in America. For the first time in the history of mankind, everyone, every man and woman, now has the capability of availing himself or herself of the luxuries of the aristocrat, whether it be a constant string of young sexual partners or whether it be the easy access to anything that stimulates or soothes the mind or the nervous system or simply the easy disregard of rules of various sorts…. I marvel at it, and I wonder at it, and I write about it. But you [in the military] will have to deal with it. You are going to find yourselves required to be sentinels at the bacchanal. You are going to find yourself required to stand guard at the Lucullan feast against the Huns approaching from outside [and from within – on the inner front]. You will have to be armed monks at the orgy.

If I use religious terminology, I use it on purpose. One of the most famous addresses ever delivered in this century by an American was the address on 12 May 1962, by Douglas MacArthur at West Point, in which he enunciated the watchwords of duty, honor, country. The rest of the speech is less well remembered. He said that the soldier, above all other men [and especially “the Christian soldier”], is expected to practice the greatest act of religion: sacrifice.

(Tom Wolfe, “The Meaning of Freedom,” Parameters: U.S. Army War College Quarterly (March, 1988), pp. 2-14. An adaptation of his 1987 lecture to the cadets of West Point – The Meaning of Freedom” (8 October 1987))

ii [FOOTNOTE TWO]

[FOOTNOTE TWO]: Secret societies are very important in Chinese Culture, and with a long history, but scholars have long tended to ignore them. In his 1980 revised and expanded edition of his The Chinese Looking Glass (1966-1st edition), Dennis Bloodworth has some excellent chapters on the history and importance of secret societies in China: from the philosopher Mo Tze (5th-century BC); to the “Red Headbands” of the proto-Triad “Red Eyebrows” (30AD); to the 7th-century AD “Yellow Turbans”; to the 17th-century “White Lotus Society” in North China and the “Hung Society” (Hung Men) in south, West, and Central China, and more. The Triads – implying a restored threefold harmony between Heaven, Earth, and, Man this “Heaven and Earth Society” (T’ien-Ti Hui) or “Triple Harmony Society” (San-Ho Hui) has a rich and often obscure history as the “Triad Society” (San-Tien Hui) or, in the USA, the “Chih Kung Tong” (Society to Bring About Justice). Bloodworth says, for example: “Esoteric history that no one dared to put in writing at the time has it that the Triad was founded in the seventeenth century by an abbot of Shao-Lin [Buddhist] monastery [in Fukien Province] who had raised an invincible company of 128 warrior-monks [cf. The Western Templars] . . . and the [Manchu] Emperor agreed that the monastery should be set on fire and blown up. This was achieved with the help of an unfrocked traitor who was number seven in the Shao-Lin hierarchy, so that even today these secret-society gangsters never use this number in their ritual.” (Bloodworth, The Chinese Looking Glass, p 146). Bloodworth and others have eloquently described how these historic societies of Triads “secretly organized for Revolution.” The Triads were also involved in the 19th-century Taiping Rebellion, as well as in the earlier uprising of 1774. They supported this 1911 revolution under Sun Yat Sen, combated Yuan Shih-K’ai in the 1915 attempt to become a new emperor (after the Manchus fell in 1912), and the Triads fought the Japanese (especially from 1937-1945). Other famous secret societies had such names as: “ the Double Sword Society,” “the Dagger Society,” “the Clear Winter Society,” “the Elders Society” (Ko-Lao Hui)and “the Harmonious Fists Society” (the famous “Boxers” of the North China Rebellion of 1899–1900).

FINIS

© 1997, 2020 Robert D. Hickson

APPENDEX

Dr. Robert D. Hickson

October 1996

National Security Education and Strategic Intelligence

Given the conditions of modern life and culture – and the reality of spreading “narco-democracies” and other regimes of opiate dullness and danger – our adequate education in national security and strategy (or in strategic intelligence and cultural security) must include an examination of hitherto often unconsidered realms of knowledge, and in combination: e.g., finance, psychology, and deep culture.

True National Security Education and Strategic Intelligence should be able to understand, especially today, and apply the counterpointed meanings of “indirect warfare (and strategy), inner front, interior lines, and inner revolution.” For example, we shall be able to take the measure of much reality of strategic import – and not just in the Mid-East or Far-East – if we consider in combination, and in the longer light of military and cultural history, the concepts of: “the strategy of the indirect approach; the strategic inner front; oligarchic (or factional) interior lines; and the mind’s inner revolution” (or psycho-cultural revolution; in part, the Hegelianization or Marxization of the “inner man,” dialectically). And then it is important that we apply such concepts to illuminate our own innermost and deepening national-security vulnerabilities and grand-strategic needs.

To what extent is it so, for example, that “organized crime is protected crime” – protected by political and financial elites – and not just the so-called “Russian Mafia” or the more subtly organized crime of the Chinese Triads, which are strategic assets of Chinese intelligence (perhaps analogous to, but deeper than, the KGB’s trans-national corporation NORDEX). And the dangerous question about protected “organized crime” is, especially sometimes, “protected by whom, how so, and why?” What, finally, is their philosophy (their racial-biological or cultural ideology, or implicit theology)?

For, it has been wisely said that “all human conflict is ultimately theological,” and especially, perhaps, long-range, grand-strategic, human conflict, as in the Middle East. Strategists – military and psycho-cultural strategists – must increasingly, therefore, understand both theology (and religious culture) and counter-theology and its culture; and hence the deeper meaning and implications of “narco-democracy” and its “opiate sophistries,” as well as its cruder forms of “drugged language” and “bread and circuses” (as in the entertainment and advertising “industry,” the “cult of athletics,” and mass “government education,” or numbness and increased entropy). Most dangerous, however, are the strategically induced and subtler “opiate sophistries” of psycho-cultural revolution, which is the deeper front of “narco-democracy” or the “pharmacological revolution.” Sophistry itself often implies the strategic corruption and subversion of language (and logos), and thus of rationality. Sophistry, too, is a form of “information warfare.”

Strategic sophists, essential to psycho-cultural revolution, are always not only “iconoclasts,” but also “logoclasts.” By way of symbolic subversion and deceitful euphemism, they are “de-constructionists” of a people’s most essential language and living memory; and subverters, finally, of human reason (including attentive and receptive, silent contemplation).

For, truth matters, and it its entirety. According to the most continuous, long, articulate tradition of Western philosophy – the philosophia perennis (itself a philosophy of substance not just of process and change and emergence) – truth is both “the conformity of the mind (intellect) to reality;” and, from another perspective, “reality manifesting itself – unveiling or disclosing itself – to a knowing mind.” Revolutionary psycho-cultural warfare, with its strategic sophistries and seductive illusionary liberations, distorts and subverts – and deeply strives to destroy – such an understanding of truth. And such psycho-cultural revolution thus distracts and corrupts man’s truly strategic intelligence (logos) and his national-security institutions of strategic intelligence. Our National Security Education and Strategy today must be responsively aware of the subtle varieties of such psycho-cultural revolution, to include the sometimes fevered, over-technical “Revolution in Military Affairs (R.M.A.).”

A scholarly book on Mainland China some six years ago had a trenchant and suggestive title, in the longer light of history, as well: China Misperceived: American Illusions and Chinese Reality (1990, by Stephen Mosher). As military and cultural history teach us, strategic deception most effectively depends on – and manipulates – an adversary’s self-deception (actual and potential) especially his long-term cultural, ideological, and strategic self-deception. Our Strategic National Security Education should be informed, I believe, by such widely applicable considerations.

Strategic Education and “The Indirect War” – to Include Psycho-Biological Warfare

Author’s Note: This 8 July 1998 text (7 pages) is part of my response to the personal invitation I received from the Commanding General of the U.S. Special Operations Command, General Peter Schoomaker. The contributory text focused on the desirably strategic education of the Special Operation Forces (SOF). The 2 October 1998 Annex (3 pages) is a brief and partial introduction and a further elaboration of psycho-biological warfare itself, especially in its various targeting, not only against hardened targets, but also in its infections of “soft targets.

General Schoomaker invited me to expand some of such biological-strategic matters for the Special Operations Command, after he had personally read a 15 November 1997 (22-page-long) paper that I had prepared for an earlier civilian conference and that was given to him shortly thereafter.

This post of 6 November 2020 is dedicated to Professor Josef Pieper, who died on this day in 1997 at 93 years of age.

Robert D. Hickson

U. S. Special Operations Command

MacDill AFB – Tampa, Florida

8 July 1998

SOF Strategic Education and “The Indirect War”:

Psycho-Biological Warfare (and Terrorism) in a Grand-Strategic Context1

How we respond to bio-terrorism and longer-range biological warfare – both the threat and its actuality – will be the test and measure of many things, many intimate and ultimate things – personally, professionally, sacrificially, in defense of the common good, hence the true good of our children. Much true virtue will be required to preserve and sustain the common good in this milieu of warfare and psycho-cultural disorder – camouflaged and subversive forms of direct and indirect warfare, sometimes known as “Low Intensity Conflict” (LIC). (Notice that I did not say the “public interest” or the “common interest,” but, rather, the “common good” – bonum commune. We only truly love what is good.)

In the face of promiscuous biological warfare, even more than promiscuous and lawless guerrilla warfare, so much of what is loved and beloved is vulnerable, and not just the little children and not just temporarily. As the boxer, Joe Louis, said about those who got into the ring with him, “they may run, but they can’t hide.” Likewise, from the issues of indirect and intimately subversive psycho-biological warfare, we, too, may run, but we can’t hide. It most inwardly touches the mind and man’s heart. The realities of human nature, combined with the cumulative history of revolutionary warfare and modern technology, have brought us to this point. The slow and painful death of our little children, and beloved, through maliciously (hence deliberately) induced plague, anthrax, and smallpox, or worse, will take us to the foundations of life, meaning, purpose, and hope – or to hate, revengeful rage, cynicism, and despair. The modern scientific revolutions in molecular biology, genetic engineering, and bio-technology will also be likely instruments in the hands of evil and malignancy, and they are difficult to limit and to contain. Do you believe it? Are you yet convinced? Will we still sustain hope and magnanimity? Will we be courageous? For we are only as courageous as we are convinced. But, what are we truly convinced about – especially as to the nature and new varieties of indirect camouflaged warfare, “La Guerre Indirect”, especially indirect psycho-biological warfare, which will attack life at its core, even the animating life of the soul?

It has been said that, when someone is at war with you, even if you don’t know it, you’re at war! Reality is that which does not go away even when you stop thinking about it. So, too, with the deeper war we are in: the psycho-cultural and psycho-biological war, actual or impending. One of Sun Tzu’s own profound statements about war is that “the acme of skill is to defeat your adversary without having to fight him.” That is to say, to deceive, to distract psychologically, to dislocate, and otherwise to obscure and confuse his mind, and thereby break his will. (Sixty years ago, Mao Tse-Tung further developed these themes of modern “command and control” warfare in his 1938 book, On the Protracted Conflict). Dim down his intelligence, fracture his indispensable language of thought, and equivocally obscure his clarity of meaning, and you will paralyze him and sap his will. This is true “command and control warfare,” true “information warfare” – disruption, destruction, and deception. Especially the psychological deception.2 Lure and trap. Mystify, mislead, surprise. Paralyze the nervous system, and the mind, as if with neuro-toxins!

Analogously, one of the most important insights of Carl von Clausewitz, in my view, is to be found in his statement that:

The first, the supreme, the most far-reaching act of judgment [an act of virtuous prudence, the first of the cardinal virtues] that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish … the kind of war on which they are embarking, neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature [i.e., its essence]. That is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive [emphasis added].3

In light of the concept and reality of bio-terrorism and biological warfare, I ask you, therefore, at the outset, what is the kind of war we are in? What is the most discerning and comprehensive way of understanding the kind of war we are in today, and have been protractedly in – maybe even when we did not know it, nor think of it as war, a real war that gnaws at the roots of our civilization and its sustainingly essential world-view and view of man (his nature and his purpose)?

May I propose now, perhaps provocatively, my own brief formulation of the deeper war we are in, and, at the outset, before specifically considering some of the lesser included strategic manifestations of this deeper war, in and through biological warfare (and bio-terrorism) and their varieties of grave consequence and implication? I propose to you that the most adequate way of naming the truly grand-strategic revolutionary war that we in Western Civilization have been protractedly in is to call it La Guerre Indirect, Psycho-Culturelle – indirect, psycho-cultural (revolutionary) warfare. Intending to break the most intimate forms of trust, this form of warfare is intrinsically deceptive, deceitful, camouflaged, and deeply subversive of life and love. Love is the willingness to sacrifice, to suffer, for the beloved, with the beloved, and – most painfully – from the beloved – and thus our own fellow man at arms.

I hope that, after my specific discussion of potentially strategic psycho-biological warfare today, as seen in the longer light of military history, you may then also see a little more of what I mean and imply by indirect psycho-cultural warfare, and why, therefore, SOF especially needs to foster its own strategic education and its longer-range strategic intelligence, along with its already very demanding operational and tactical training and preparatory foreign area studies.

Now let us look at biological cultures and their weaponization – a terrible thing to think upon.

The concept of “culture” itself always means a “cultivated vital medium,” not only the cultivation of the soil (as in agriculture), but also in the cultivation of the soul (as in a person’s distinctive literary or musical or philosophical culture). Even in a medical sense, as in the culture of a virus or bio-toxin, culture means a vital medium, even when, paradoxically, it is a vital medium of something virulent and lethal – at least lethal to man, also by contaminating his livestock, soils, food, and water. And, hence, today we properly hear about spreading “narco-cultures,” as well as destructive “narco-democracies,” which some people insidiously enjoy, like opiates, while it is destroying them. The promotion of drug cultures may, in itself, also be understood as a form of chemical warfare, and not only when it is directed by an “outside” hostile power, but also when done subversively from within, and the consequences are grave and more and more manifest, even to the “dim-bulbed” optimists. But, the potentialities and consequences of biological warfare are, alas, even worse – for example, as a form of venereal pandemic or contagion of public ill-health, or, as a form of economical warfare, psychological warfare, or even spiritual warfare, in order to break the human spirit into despair, final despair. Why did the Soviet Union have such a large and varied and genetically engineered offensive BW program which was, as we discovered only in 1992, according to the State Department’s Gary Crocker (of I and R), twelve times larger than our intelligence community had known? And their underground programs (and maybe also China’s) are still, apparently, continuing – with unsettling strategic implications in the current milieu of disorder, especially in the Caspian Sea area, where so many strategic thresholds and vulnerabilities interact.

And, yet, part of SOF’s own strategic mission is counter-“bio-terrorism”, a formidable challenge against those who may try to use biological warfare (and bio-terrorism) as low-cost, low-risk, strategies intended to exploit American weaknesses, and maybe also American virtues, as in the Oriental “judo principle,” whereby somebody’s own virtue – or force – is deceitfully used against him, to throw him and down him. Consequently, and deterrently (or preventively), how do we create “a fearful doubt in the mind of a potential aggressor [using biological weapons] that any likely gain is simply not worth the inevitable risks”? (These words are the essence of British Fleet Admiral Peter Hill-Norton’s own 1978 definition of “deterrence,” which he originally used in the context of nuclear, not biological, weapons.4)

There will, however, be no deterrence, no integrated defense in depth, no effective counter-strategy against the growing threat of bio-terrorism and biological warfare, unless we are very honest about our own vulnerabilities and limitations – unless we are unflinchingly truthful and unless we refuse to live the lie. As Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Vladimir Bukovsky have courageously and eloquently said, we must “come out from under the rubble” and “refuse in any way to participate in the lie” – to include the crippling self-censorship inflicted by “political correctness” and other “democratic” deceptive forms of “newspeak” and protracted disinformation, which corrupt our own public discourse as well as our personal exercise of reasoned judgment based on true and properly proportioned facts – not “factoids.” Lies and deceptive half-truths may, for a while, seduce, but they cumulatively conduce to the breaking of trust, which, once broken, is so difficult to repair. We, as a nation, may even be dissolving because of the pervasive and intimate and cumulative breaking of trust, on many fronts, public and private, secular and religious. Like an unexercised arm or leg inside a cast, the higher faculties of man – and, finally, his soul – also wither from atrophying self-censorship which fears the demanding truth and its consequences, and which knowingly participates in the lie.

Especially as military guardians of the patria and the common good, let us therefore help each other resist the culture of the lie, the culture of sophistry, the culture of death. Let us come out “from under the rubble” of much strategic disinformation, even if it means taking only one step at a time – but always refusing the asphyxiation of what the Russians call “utter bullshitsky.” Otherwise we are not likely to resist the deeper evils of biological warfare and bio-terrorism – and its profound psychological effects of distrust – which are unmistakably rooted in the ambiguous and equivocal revolutions of modern biological science, bio-technology itself, and engineering. All of this – to include the ethics of human bio-technology – will cause even the most unreflective of men to consider what it means to be a man, and what man, finally, is for. What is man and what is man for, or is he just a “sophisticated beast” to be materially manipulated and re-engineered? When we truly realize that biological agents and their weaponization can affect the genetics of our own offspring and leave our posterity intimately mutilated and distorted, our attentiveness shall be mightily concentrated.

When, as a new second lieutenant, back in 1964, I was first “read in” to some parts of our own then existing offensive biological warfare program, I was deeply shaken – very profoundly shaken by what was even then intentionally possible to do to man and to the most intimate things that sustain his life. Now, almost forty years later, these capacities have, through modern science and its applied

technologies, increased many-fold, perhaps exponentially. We need only consider the manipulative work that has already been done on our endocrine and immunological systems, and, especially, on the neuro-physiology of the brain. It is for such reasons as this that I wish to discuss this issue of bio-terrorism and bio-warfare, strategically, with a longer view – and to keep certain questions in mind – and constantly before your minds – for you to consider subsequently – and abidingly – so that they may eventually be more fruitful of good, and even productive of a “course correction” that is strategically helpful to the missions of our Special Operations Forces.

First, a few questions in brief, and then some elaborations and expansions upon them. These are questions of the “what,” of the “why,” and of the “how”:

1. What does it mean to be strategic? Does it not, at least, mean to become “master of the communications,” after securing and preserving one’s own vulnerable “base” (and “culture”)? Is not part of the essence of strategy to meet the enemy under advantageous conditions, thus without fragmentation or “Cultural Balkanization or Lebanonization”?

2. Why, if at all, should Special Operations Forces (SOF) – especially their leadership – have strategic education? And, if not, why not?

3. How, given its already “warp-speed operational tempo,” should SOF receive adequate strategic education, lest, losing sight of the adversary’s strategic psycho-revolutionary aim, they merely redouble their effort? (Recall George Santayana’s definition of a “fanatic”: “a fanatic is he who, losing sight of his aim, redoubles his effort.”)

More elaborately, I ask you to consider:

4. What does it mean to be strategic in the specific context of counter “bio-terrorism,” as a form of psychological and political warfare, given the additional need for SOF to understand foreign “strategic cultures” such as China, Israel, and Great Britain, who will also likely try to penetrate and to manipulate us?

5. Why should Special Operations Forces (SOF), as strategic assets of U. S. policy, foster their own strategic education and their own strategic intelligence assets, to include reliable sources of strategic medical intelligence?

6. Why, in the longer light of history – especially the history of revolutionary, cultural, and religious indirect warfare – should SOF cultivate their own strategic psycho-cultural studies of deceitful, camouflaged warfare and their own formative education concerning alien and immiscible cultures – “cultural viruses,” as well as biological viruses? Or, is this too impractical and etherealized and repellantly utopian? Can SOF – should SOF – resist being “useful idiots” in the ongoing cultural and psychological war, at home and abroad, on the “inner front,” as well as on the “outer fronts,” on “interior lines,” as well as “exterior lines”? Is this not part of the grand-strategic context of bio-warfare, too?

7. How should SOF practically and adequately foster such strategic cultural and psychological education amidst their often “warp speed,” if not dissipative and fragmenting, operational tempo? Is not such preparatory education indispensable, if only to aid our economy of effort, and our distinctions between the essential and the inessential, which capacity is itself the hallmark of intelligence?

8. To what extent will the threat of strategic psycho-biological warfare (and terrorism) itself, as a form of “command and control” or “information” warfare, not be a very fitting and vivid test of the above implicit recommendations about the need for SOF strategic education, lest SOF be psychologically dislocated and vulnerably over-extended, especially under the challenge of China – a graciously deceptive, biologically and culturally cohesive nation and subtle strategic culture?

I wish now to turn to some recent trenchant examples, in order to bring my series of tendentious questions and suggestions into sharper focus and “punchability,” so that they may be more easily counter-argued and validly refuted, or improved upon:

1. The recent concatenation of biological misfortunes in the Republic of China on Taiwan – suspect and consequential diseases in their livestock, soybean crops, and a deadly and epidemically spreading virus that is killing their new-born children.

2. The spread of the neuro-toxin, pfisteria, in the seacoast waters of North Carolina and beyond.

3. The Mossad’s attempted assassination, in Jordan, of the political head of Hamas, employing the bio-toxin, ricin – and some of its immediate consequences and further implications.

4. The operational challenges for SOF leaders in preparing their units for deployment on missions of counter-bio-terrorism, and for their return – for example, the medical intelligence needed, the problems of vaccination and medical logistics, and the contamination and de-contamination of aircraft and other equipment, and of the personnel themselves.

And, there is more to be explored, time permitting and when, and if, there be interest, especially about effective and subversive “hoaxes” (deceptions and long-range disinformation) in this subtle and un-nerving realm of psycho-biological warfare; most especially when it is considered in proper proportion and thus with a greater sense of the whole: the strategic and grand-strategic context of war and flourishing peace, of the sustaining life of civilization and its more intimate (and important) cultural order – the inner order of the soul, as well as the external order of the commonwealth (or, the common good of the Republic). The bonum commune of the res publica is, once again, primary, but often vulnerable.

As our country, however – if not our military and its own culture – seems to be, more and more, becoming a “centrifugal” and “confused” multi-national state, partially kept together by arrangements among somewhat publicly unaccountable oligarchies and “chaos managers” who are “cosmopolitan” and “globalizing” in outlook, if not also “imperial,” “de-racinating,” and “multi-culturally (or religiously) syncretistic” – and hence deeply destructive of the spiritual and cultural life of historical nations – the Special Operations Forces, as guardians of the long-term (and strategic) common good of our patria itself, must especially resist the alluring revolutionary “dialectic of dissolution” (solve et coagula)5and not only in the subtly deceptive and easily feverish (or panicking) realm of psycho-biological warfare (and terrorism), but in the larger cultural war for the mind. Such an insidious realm of psychological warfare is fertile for new forms of “perception management,” and for the manipulative incitements of a new “permanent crisis.” Much discernment and wisdom will be required, and true wisdom always requires patient cultivation and is marked by slow fruitfulness, not frenzy. “An integrated defense in depth” against bio-terrorism and biological warfare will also require love – true love of our nation and of our citizens, and of the helplessly vulnerable. The more defenseless someone is, the more that person calls out for our defense. That is the mark of true military chivalry, which must be rendered with true prudence – hence with strategic providence, or far-sightedness – the first of the cardinal virtues. And, the virtue of prudence itself soberly requires the attentive and strategic transformation from the prerequisite knowledge of reality (i.e., truth) to the realization of the good – to include the common good, for whose patient cultivation sacrifice – noble suffering – is also and unmistakably indispensable. Such a vision of virtue, and of gratitude for noble sacrifice, will help sustain a truly strategic culture in our Special Operations Forces, which will be severely tested by the cultural and psycho-biological threats we face in an increasingly faithless, hopeless, and loveless world marked by cynicism and reckless abandon. But, I believe, we shall finally be judged by how we have loved – and have selflessly sacrificed for that love. Do we agree?

2 OCTOBER 1998 ANNEX ABOUT “SOFT” TARGETS

Robert D. Hickson

2 October 1998

Visiting Professor

William Simon Center for Strategic Studies

United States Air Force Academy

The Phenomenon of Psycho-Biological Warfare (Direct and Indirect) in Grand-Strategic Context and the Light of History

Some Lessons for the U. S. Military and for Our Growing Culture of Broken Trust and Intimately Uprooted Hope

Introduction:

The suggestive analogies and counterpoint between information warfare and biological warfare, as well as between “info-technology” and “bio-technology” (such as genetic engineering), will illuminate our understanding of strategic reality and of the current Kulturkampf, which implies competing views of man and of his purpose. An analogy is a well-proportioned relationship and comparative understanding between two things whose similarities are relative and whose dissimilarities are absolute. And so, too, is it the case in the proportional comparison, for example, between an indirect strategy of biological warfare and an indirect strategy of information warfare both of which intelligently attack less defended and surprisingly vulnerable “soft targets” while intending to effect disruption, destruction, or, most insidiously, deception – or some subversive and psychologically dislocating or paralyzing combination of all three.

Analogous to the hostile, indirect strategy of effectively infecting soft targets in biological warfare (or bio-terrorism), there is also an important, reinforcing, sobering lesson to be learned from recent “red team” operations against U. S. assets (the “blue team”) during several war games focused on “information warfare,” in which the greatest strategic surprises and disruptions, and sapping psychological dislocations, were caused by the effective targeting of “soft” targets in the critical information infrastructure, namely: the pay systems; food logistics; medical supplies; the transportation nodes for fuel and repair parts; and many other conveniences on which personnel inordinately depend. So, too, would it be the case – and, likely, even moreso – with indirect, gradual, and insidious biological-weapons attacks on domestic seed sources and storage, on concentrations of animal breeding stock, on blood supplies and vaccines.

The following, intentionally formatted, set of essential questions, drawn in progressive sequence from the following chapter, will not only focus our attention for a further consideration of that chapter, but will also frame an important set of issues which will be examined, or alluded to, throughout this monograph:

INFECTING SOFT TARGETS:

Biological Weapons and Fabian Forms of Indirect Grand Strategy

The Essential Questions Posed in the Paper, in Sequence and Purposive Order

1. “What if adversaries now understood and applied on a higher strategic plane the deep insights of Liddell Hart, in order to produce, both in Israel and in the United States, strategic surprise, shock trauma, psychological dislocation, and paralysis, especially by manipulating the fearfully imagined or actual effects of bio-terrorism and longer-range biological warfare?” (p. 3)

2. “[Is it not] the aim to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the U. S. government’s power to carry out its suspiciously undefined, provocatively overbearing, and increasingly resented “policy of engagement and enlargement” abroad?” (p. 3)

3. “Such a growing perception of our overweening strategic policy is likely indeed, as against other great powers in history, to provoke “asymmetrical” “political jujitsu”, and Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy against us, is it not?” (p. 3)

4. “To what extent will the United States, as well as Israel, also now have to face Periclean, Hannibalic, or Fabian forms of the indirect approach – and insidious forms of this “asymmetrical” indirection which also use biological agents to achieve an even more devastating psychological effect of subversion and dislocation upon the citizenry, as well as the soldiery?” (p. 5)

5. “To what extent will biological warfare (and bio-terrorism) on our own home front now be – or be perceived to be – the USA’s “Achilles’ heel” and, perhaps, become an asymmetrical form of retribution for our obtrusive policy of “engagement and enlargement,” which is, often enough, seen as overweening and always suspiciously vague (except perhaps in the Middle East, where our alignment and commitment are more obviously one-sided)?” (p. 6)

6. “Given our current form of “liberal democracy” in its Constitutional provisions, how may we, therefore, reliably discern and counteract a strategic-minded adversary with biological weapons who also possesses strategic “interior lines” on the “inner front” of our homeland, so as to infect such vulnerably soft targets as vaccines, water, food and blood supplies?” (p. 6)

7. “How will our own defense of the homeland – our bases – counter such subtle penetration and indirection assembled against our “communications” (to include our fevered and inciting “mass media”)?” (p. 6)

8. “What is our own strategic freedom of action today in the United States, both psychologically and militarily, against the foreign and domestic threats of bio-terrorism and longer-range psycho-biological warfare?” (p. 7).

9. “And, how might our adversaries, at home and abroad, be preparing to distract and dislocate us, physically and psychologically?” (p. 9)

10. “Who is the enemy, what (or whom) are we trying to protect, and why?” (p. 9)

11. In the face of biological weapons today, how would we ourselves now decide and answer this strategic priority: ‘to decide how great the freedom of action is for oneself and what is available to the enemy’?” (p. 9)

12. “But, as to our own responsive strategic policy, should U.S. counter-initiatives resort to immediate, though proportionate, reprisals similar to the actions and well-known policy of the Israelis? Or, would such a U. S. orientation be self-defeating, or at least exacerbating and dissipating?” (p. 11)

13. “But, ‘how is the strategic [or grand strategic] dislocation produced’…?” (p. 15)

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

1 “SOF” is the common abbreviation for the U. S. Special Operations Forces, a strategic asset of U. S. National Security.

2 In the memorable words of a British SAS officer, spoken to me as a visiting cadet many years ago, the most succinctly stated principle of deception is, as follows: “find out what someone wants to be deceived in, and then set about deceiving him in it.” Nations and people, too. Vulgus vult decipi, as the Latin motto and aphorism put it – “the people want (will) to be deceived” – also in a “democracy” (and have their pride especially flattered!). That is to say, the principle of deception implies the manipulation of someone’s self-deception (actual or potential), or his propensity to embrace illusion. The artful deceiver may practice such manipulative deception promptly or gradually – tactically or strategically, at once or by slow and cumulative disinformation.

3 Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Vom Kriege), translated by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 596.

4 See Admiral of the Fleet Sir Peter Hill-Norton, No Soft Options: The Politics-Military Realities of NATO (Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1978), p. 27.

5 Solve et Coagula is a Latin formula, using two imperative verbs, which means “dissolve (or fragment) and coagulate (or re-aggregate),” itself an intrinsic process of destruction and manipulation. It always implies the breaking of bonds – usually intimate and indispensable bonds.

FINIS

The Psycho-Cultural Effects of Biological Terrorism And Warfare: A 1998 Strategic Perspective

Author’s Note: This essay is the third essay in a sequence of strategic studies on biological and psychological warfare (see footnote 1 below). The earlier articles were written on 15 November 1997 and 8 July 1998, this third one being dated 22 August 1998. We plan to re-publish these studies in light of the current situation in the world with the Coronavirus and the psychological effects on mankind.

22 August 1998

THE STRATEGIC DECEITS AND THREAT OF BIO-TERRORISM AND LONGER-RANGE PSYCHO-BIOLOGICAL WARFARE:

THE NEW BATTLE FOR THE MIND

IN CULTURES OF UPROOTED HOPE AND BROKEN TRUST

Unprecedented Risks In The Defense Of The Common Good And

The Need For Heroic Virtue

Where does one find his hope in a culture of broken trust? How does one abidingly form a well-rooted and sustaining culture of hope amidst a political and financial or religious milieu of deceit and sophistry? Even more specifically, in a medical and military culture of broken trust and deception, how should one form a homeland defense-in-depth against short-range or long-range biological warfare and terrorism?i Given their needed protection against even graver biological agents (in light of the still mysterious “Gulf War Syndromes”), what does it mean and portend, for example, when American military and naval officers and men refuse to take even the newly required, but, in their perception, untrustworthy vaccines, which are, moreover, purportedly effective only against anthrax? It appears to be the case, and not otherwise, that fear and mistrust abound. Gravely consequential and certainly true it is that the greatest social effect of the lie – deliberate falsehood, and even apparently deliberate falsehood – is the breaking of trust.

But, even before resolute corrective action, how should one think and speak about intimately insidious, immediate as well as indirect (and longer-range) forms of biological warfare and strategic bio-terrorism, without thereby inducing what we are attempting to prevent, namely: paralyzing mistrust, apathy, futility, and despair? The eloquent and wise, ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, also faced this challenge, but with respect to a purely natural calamity, namely: how to speak the stark truth without breaking people down into despair, or without numbing them into cold callousness and slothful indifference; or how to discern the proper poise and relation between fear and hope, between true knowledge and despair. Speaking of the plague in Athens during the crowded summer of 430 BC, Thucydides, who himself had been actually present and had contracted the disease, said:

Indeed, in the end people were so overcome by their sufferings that they paid no further attention to such things [i.e., prayer or the consultation of divine prophecy]…. The most terrible thing of all was the despair into which people fell when they realized they had caught the plague; for they would immediately adopt an attitude of utter hopelessness, and, by giving in this way, would lose their powers of resistance. (The Peloponnesian War: 431-404 BC, Book II, 47-54) ii

A modern epidemic of virulent and disfiguring smallpox (which can even leave a survivor permanently blind!) or a more intimate outburst of pestilential venereal disease, even if it were not maliciously introduced or manipulated, would also likely produce terror and maybe also despair. Moreover, under the increasingly demoralizing conditions of modern cultural fragmentation and oligarchically manipulated “mass democracy” (or “people’s democracy”), and especially under the self-dramatizing mass media’s deceptive “perception management” and more subtly infectious sophistry, many good and sensitively intelligent people might also be “overwhelmed by the weight of their calamities” and by the cumulative effects of intimately broken trust. And they, too, could, in their vulnerability, so easily lose their powers of moral resistance, and give up. This is truly a terrible thing to think upon. The subject matter – the concept and the reality of biological warfare and pestilence – is intrinsically fearsome, intractably elusive, and subversively (often deliberately) ambiguous. One may not know what the truth is, what to trust, or whom to trust. Thus, one will be drawn, or more forcibly taken, to the foundations of his strength – his fortitude and his hope. The ambiance of biological warfare will be a test and measure of his intimate and ultimate world-view, and of our own intelligently responsive, but now often equivocal, strategic culture.

Therefore, in dealing with this intimidating topic, we must ourselves also embody and resolutely live, from the outset, the virtue of prudenceiii – the first of the four cardinal virtues, all of which (i.e., prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance) are voluntarily perfected human capacities and prompt human dispositions: objective perfections of deeply human, intellectual and moral faculties, and not mere “values,” nor preferentially subjective “tastes.” We must, of consequence, be truly prudent in this matter of biological warfare and not overwhelm people who are already overburdened and perhaps even feverishly expectant of further, altogether intractable catastrophes in our disordered world. Such sadness or moroseness can also be cruelly and destructively manipulated by an adversary, as a part of psychological warfare. The realm of biological warfare is itself so easily productive of fear and panic, both of which can be resentfully and maliciously – and strategically – manipulated, as an unmistakably diabolical instrumentality making use of deception and conducing to despair.

Nevertheless, although we may impulsively, and delusively, try to run, we cannot finally hide from the risks of biological warfare, nor from the more encompassingly contagious, circumambient culture of death. Nor can we hide from the unprecedented risks of defending the common good (bonum commune) against such intimate dangers. We shall need, and we shall need to cultivate, truly heroic virtue – especially the virtues of fortitude and hope – or we shall soon ourselves fail to implement even the most far-sighted strategic prudence or winsome practical wisdom, or the other, higher, intellectual virtues. Without robust fortitude and hope-full perseverance, even the slow fruitfulness of true wisdom, strategic wisdom, will be in vain. Thus, I shall return to this topic at the very end of my reflections on the concept and reality of strategic psycho-biological warfare, both in its indirect forms and its direct forms, to include “selective” as well as “mass-scale” bio-terrorism.

Moreover, it should be remembered and freshly considered that the more indirect, and at least initially non-lethal, forms of “bio-weapons” and “high-tech weaponization,” which could use biological toxins and subtler bio-agents, may be even more disruptive and destructive and psychologically shattering than the more obvious and direct “mass-scale” uses of biological agents like bubonic plague, inhalational (pulmonary) anthrax, or smallpox (whether it be genetically engineered or in more virulently unmodified and “purer” strains). If the targeted minds are only partly and gradually modified – poisoned, deformed, demented – the effects are likely to be more cumulatively dislocating and, when recognized, also more suddenly shocking and paralyzing or numbing. It must suffice, for this paper, not to be more specific or explicit; but some of the technologies may be usefully imagined in light of the modern scientific revolution in molecular biology, genetic engineering, and other forms of bio-technology.

An analogy with modern “absurdist” literature and drama might be helpful, in this context, to bring out my meaning more vividly and forcefully. In contrast to the more blatantly absurdist of the modern nihilist dramatists, the subtlety of the English dramatist, Harold Pinter, for example, in his play, The Homecoming, is much more disorienting, demoralizing, and dislocatingly subversive of order, meaning, and purpose. In this mentally unsettling play, Pinter takes a deeply resonant archetypal theme, a homecoming – as with Homer’s Odysseus or the other “nostoi” (returns) of the Greek heroes, like Aeschylus’ Agamemnon – and artfully makes things seem “almost right,” almost human, but subtly modifies and gradually reveals bizarre and inappropriate expressions of language and conduct. Given that the deep vibrational and emotional intensity of a homecoming touches upon many intimate and ultimate matters – to include matters of trust and possible betrayal – the subtle “absurdist” manipulations of such a theme and of such a touching scene are even more psychologically devastating, and abidingly staining. So, too, would be the case, if a person were gradually and but partly modified by bio-agents that affected his endocrine system or the neuro-physiology of his brain, or by subtly destructive “psycho-tropic” drugs which slightly modified a spouse’s intimate behavior or emotions. The sudden or gradual recognition of such malicious insidiousness would be very destructive indeed. Consider also, as treacherous forms of “biological warfare,” the gradual or partial contamination of food or medicine and other “soft targets,” or the insidious and deliberate introduction of “sterility serums” or “population-control agents” into a broader class of ostensibly humane and merciful “public health inoculations” against real infectious diseases (as distinct from neo-Malthusian or Manichaean views of “pregnancy” and “managed reproductive health”). Given the increasingly controversial issues of “forced sterilizations” in Peru and “forced abortions” in China (especially against female babies), and the controversy of making foreign “developmental aid” to a country contingent upon that country’s “population-control measures,” to what extent, therefore, are these indirect manipulations and deceptions not also a form of biological warfare, and even a form of biological terrorism, at least from the point of view of the “target country” or the mind of the “target mother”?

How does one properly, prudently, and courageously discuss such explosive topics? How does one honestly examine such explosive strategic topics, which have deep and long-term consequences that are not easily altered or corrected, even if one – or his “progressive country” – is willing to make the humble “course correction”? If the “lesser developed countries” perceive that a country like the United States is deceitfully mixing into its vaccination programs certain perverse agents that sterilize a woman, either temporarily or permanently, what might be the range of repercussions? What might be the desperate reprisals and the terrible vengeance? When other countries, moreover, see the further deceits and effects of the American state of Oregon’s now “legal” and purportedly “public” and “open” lethal actions to “assist the suicide” or “euthanasia” of its own citizens, persons old or young, and especially the poor, what will they fittingly expect from us? What will they suspect of us – and how will they react or take strategic counter-initiatives of self-protection? Moreover, against such frankly intimate evils of deception and broken trust, how will we deliberately, if at all, make a true “course correction”? Or, will we, rather, then be unable or unwilling to do so. Or, have we come to such a point, like the ancient Romans, where we can tolerate neither our vices nor their remedies? Would not that moral condition of paralysis also be a “provocative weakness” to others? Is it not the case that, sunk in such sloth, we may also thereby help bring about the very things we are purportedly trying to insure against: the unjust and insidious culture of death and craven terrorism? Or, do we subtly and willfully (and shamelessly) promote, at home and abroad, the despairing and increasingly desperate “culture of death” against children?

Moreover, how does one not inattentively or unwittingly bring about the very thing that we were, once at least, trying to insure against: the destruction of physical, moral, and spiritual life? Such is our new vulnerability, such is the added risk. That is the meaning of “moral hazard.” That is our moral risk, especially when countries like America are increasingly perceived (and resented) as a hubristic culture of “engagement and enlargement” or a tumescence of self-aggrandizement and corruption.iv

There is also the moral risk of having any such rational discourse about such a sensitive and precarious topic, namely the often subtly ignored or denied forms of our own indirect and deceptive biological warfare against others, and their grave psychological effects, also on ourselves. By speaking too much disingenuously about it, or even unwisely, we may actually provide further incentives to others to perpetrate and perpetuate the evils of biological warfare or vengeful bio-terrorism – if only by way of reprisal and the embittered rage that comes from broken trust.

Let us now consider further the concept and reality of “moral hazard.” What happens, for example, when, in its generous arson insurance against the risks of fire-damage, an insurance company over-remunerates an owner (and policyholder) for a loss due to accidental fire or malicious arson? Such “over-insurance” may provide an incentive or temptation for the insured person himself to burn down his own building, under certain conditions of personal difficulty or desperation. Hence, an imprudent insurance company, insufficiently attentive to certain aspects of human nature, could thereby help bring about the very situation it was purportedly trying to insure against! The proper proportion and inter-relation between risk and insurance, fear and hope, danger and trust, must always be wisely considered, not only in “actuarial” or “fiducial” structures of insurance companies and legal bequeathals or trust funds, but within the entire moral realm and long-range strategic arena, as well. As it were, when one is either over-insured or under-insured (either over-assured or under-assured) against risks, one is vulnerable and often dangerously tempted. Wise leadership, however, understands this inherent fragility of the human condition and human nature’s selfish propensities to disorder; and it also understands the need for the proper proportion between risk and insurance (or assurance) – hence the proper poise of alacrity and “regenerative equilibrium” – lest man, or his uprooted and unsustaining culture of broken trust, fearfully despair or too comfortably de-compose by way of complacency and sloth.

This essay, as proposed, has designedly concentrated on the psychological and intimately cultural – hence spiritual – aspects and consequences of biological warfare and bio-terrorism, especially as they may effect, along with natural, not man-made, epidemics, various human cultures of broken trust. Over the last several years, my thought has often focused more broadly on the immediate and long-term consequences of broken trust. For, it is a sad fact of the human condition and the vulnerable human heart that trust, once broken, is so hard to repair. It is so difficult to restore an intimately betrayed and broken trust, even for the most magnanimous and forgiving of men, and even with the help of grace (which, some people believe, actually heals and elevates our wounded nature). This psychological fact, of course, is one of the most vivid and poignant themes of world literature. And to the extent that one’s larger circumambient culture, or essential way of life, is also characterized by deception and broken trust, a man under the threat of bio-weapons is very vulnerable, indeed, especially under the actuality of metastasizing biological warfare, or under the psychological shock-traumas of subtle and ambiguous bio-terrorism.

Moreover, to the extent that our nominal Western democracies themselves have increasingly become “narco-democracies” or more deeply permeated by various kinds of “narco-cultures,” to include those forms of entertainment and advertising, or “mass education” and the pampered “cult of athletics” (and steroids) that “narcoticize” the mind and “dull, dim, and dumb it down,” we shall be even more vulnerable to the varieties of biological warfare, such as genetic engineering, eugenics, and other forms of bio-technology which propose to “develop” a “superman” and “superwoman.” Even to have adequate diagnostics to detect naturally occurring, or maliciously manipulated, biological agents, one must have a very discerning intellect, an unbenumbed intelligence, and much intellectual and moral discipline, lest panic or futility overwhelm one or one’s “tribal sub-culture.” Would our “mass media” or our “Internet Culture” have such discipline or restraint? Under hostile “bio-weaponized” attack or amidst a mutable public health crisis, to what extent are we spiritually prepared or morally ready to live by even the most foundational elements of chivalry as an ethos of honor, namely the principle that “the more defenseless someone is – women, children, the elderly, the broken and despairing – the more that person calls out for our defense. Chivalry was essentially the code of the Christian soldier (miles Christi). For Christian soldiers, Christ Himself was the Good Samaritan – a despised man himself reaching out to the misery of another, even to a Jew, to alleviate and to heal. Christian chivalry was formed to imitate their Founder, to sacrifice oneself out of love. For, love is the willingness to suffer for the beloved, with the beloved, and – most painfully – from the beloved, and even a neighbor who might infect you with a virulent disease. Chapters 34 and 35 of Alessandro Manzoni’s, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi), like the conclusion of Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, memorably depicts such an ethos in action, embodied in actuality, not merely in idealistic fantasy.

Furthermore, according to the testimonies and the lives of those most widely considered to be men and women of great, if not heroic, virtue, the imagination, though not a cognitive faculty, is the hardest thing to discipline, much less to mortify, especially under the press and stress of the passions – the passions of erotic pleasure, protective anger, and fear. Imagine how human imaginations could be strategically manipulated in view of their tremulous expectations or actual subjection to unmistakably repulsive biological warfare or to the diabolical cravenness of the bio-terrorist themselves. Only a deep culture of virtue – of strategic and heroic virtue, to include the virtue of trust – is likely to resist, much less alleviate or overcome, such intimately destructive forms of warfare which could even be able to alter the genes of one’s own progeny, irreparably. And, this, too, is a terrible thing to think upon! Even to think about it, much less to face it. When, in our growing moral and cultural relativism and cynicism (or frigidity of heart and the congealment of lovelessness), we trivialize evil and deny even the reality of temptation (i.e., attractive incentives to evil), we may more easily be overcome by sloth and hopelessness. Is this not so? Do we not need the virtue of fortitude and fiducia spei (the trust – the confidence – that comes from hope). Is this not also to be considered in our realistic counter-strategy and integrated defense-in-depth? Our homeland – our home – is likely to be the future battlefield.

But what is the way of life we are defending? What is the true homeland we are protecting – and transmitting?

Even when we discount the over-fevered imaginings about the “Y2K” (Year 2000) Problem involving our cyberspace computers, and even when we rationally mitigate the forecasts of chaos to come in “cyberculture” and to our national and international life, the predicted disruptions of essential services will likely also be exploited by the malevolent, to include bio-terrorists, who might thereby have more anonymity and maneuverable undetectability – or less accountability. Concerning “information warfare” itself, especially strategic information warfare, it is very difficult to know even whether you are actually under attack, especially if you are under a subtly and gradually prepared information-warfare attack.

What, for example, are the “indications and warnings”? Since “information warfare” is essentially defined as inflicting “disruption, destruction, and [most difficultly] deception in information systems,” it can also be fittingly understood as a form of psychological warfare, as well as a more technical form of “command-and-control warfare,” which targets an adversary’s leadership cadre, his “command-and–control apparatus.” Consider how such “information warfare” could be combined with actual (or feigned) bio-terrorism or longer-range biological warfare, in order to attack and dislocate the mind, and to paralyze the will. If, therefore, we do not have – and continually cultivate – a public culture of trust (and of the fiducia spei), we shall be even more vulnerable to these fearsome effects upon the human soul, especially despair, to include what Sören Kierkegaard called “the despair of the weak,” or “sloth.”

Given their own premises and operative principles, can the Western liberal democracies themselves sufficiently resist their own internally growing and spreading “cultures of broken trust”? What will be the prerequisites for such a strategic “course correction” against the culture of sophistry, sloth, and broken trust – for such a moral, spiritual, and innermost cultural transformation?

Or, are such questions themselves properly to be considered chimerical, and not only by the cynical and worldly wise and the decadent? Moreover, do we have enough love – hence animating desire for real virtue – to sacrifice for the common good (bonum commune)? Or, will we resort to various “flights from reality” – to include flights into drugs, or into “Chaos and Cyberculture” (the title of one of the last two books of Timothy Leary, who was apparently discovering in “electrons” and “electronic culture,” and the whole electro-magnetic spectrum, many more “psychedelic” (mind-expanding) possibilities than in “drugs”; Leary’s last book is significantly entitled Surfing the Conscious Net).

Along with the above-mentioned possibilities and psycho-effects of deception (or self-deception) in information warfare, we must remember that those countries and groups which themselves have worked elaborately on biological weapons (to include the proximate Cubans) have also been masters of masking their own programs – employing those techniques and capacities that are known as “D and D” (Denial and Deception). Such capacities and manipulations add to our unsettling uncertainties and “psychological mystification and dislocation.”

What is so potentially and inwardly devastating about these various forms of “psycho-biological warfare” is that “false alarms” and “hoaxes” themselves can also be effectively manipulated – and very strategically – to attack the mind and the will of an adversary, not only the leadership, but also the larger citizenry or amorphous immigrant (and “Balkanized”) populace. In a culture of broken trust, moreover, people will naturally act more selfishly and less sacrificially on behalf of the common good. And the common good (bonum commune) is much deeper and more abiding than the mere “common utility” or “public interest”  and a very demanding or arduous good (a bonum arduum).

For example, guerrilla warfare, as strategically promoted by Winston Churchill in World War II, was very effective in the short term, but in the long term very destructive – very destructive upon civilization, seen in the longer-view of the war’s aftermath, i.e., its effects on the subsequent “peace” or “deceitful peace” (the “Cold War”). Speaking candidly of the long-range evil consequences of the over-enamored, promiscuous resort to guerrilla warfare, the great strategic-minded military historian, B. H. Liddell Hart, has the following to say:

The material damage that the guerrillas produced directly, and indirectly in the course of reprisals, caused much suffering among their own people and ultimately became a handicap to recovery after liberation. But the heaviest handicap of all, and the most lasting one, was of a moral kind. The armed resistance movement [like the terrorist networks and trans-national criminal syndicates today] attracted many “bad hats.” It gave them license to indulge their vices and work off their grudges under the cloak of patriotism, thus giving fresh point to Dr. [Samuel] Johnson’s historic remark that “patriotism [like certain distorted forms of contemptuous and haughty, cultural or religious or racial “nationalism”] is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Worse still was its wider effect on the younger generation as a whole. It taught them to defy authority and break the rules of civic morality in the fight against the occupying [or usurping] forces. This left disrespect for “law and order” that inevitably continued after the invaders [or “dispossessors”] had gone. Violence takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare. In the latter it [i.e., deeply rooted violence] is counteracted by obedience to a constituted authority, whereas the former makes a virtue of defying authority and violating rules. It becomes very difficult to rebuild a country, and a stable state, on a foundation undermined by such experience. (B. H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, 2nd revised edition, pp. 368-369 – emphasis added)

In Liddell Hart’s profound understanding, therefore, the inordinate and imprudently promiscuous resort to guerrilla warfare violated the proper poise and proportion of the “moral hazard,” and thereby helped bring about what the leaders of the West were purportedly trying to insure against: the spread of lawlessness and immoral cruelty (while also seemingly blind, despite fair warning, to the Soviet Gulag System).

Even moreso is it a danger today that we, too, shall over-react to the threat and the actuality of bio-terrorism and biological warfare, both by resorting to them ourselves, or by implementing the extreme “Continuity-of-Government (C.O.G.)” “emergency measures,” and at least some, seemingly dubious, presidential “executive orders,” even to the point of creating Martial Law and its more permanent institutions (and “Praetorian Guard”) of enforcement. Such an over-reaction, however, is exactly what our intelligently strategic adversaries would seek to provoke in us, further to dislocate us mentally and morally, and to sap us spiritually. The more undisciplined and un-virtuous our citizens and imiscible immigrant populace are, and the more that our way of life and public order are perceived by our own members and others as an unlovely and cynical “culture of broken trust,” then the more likely it will be that extreme measures of rule will be needed and, perhaps, tragically, resorted to, even promiscuously. As cinema character, “Dirty Harry” (Clint Eastwood) once said, or implied, “if you can’t have law and order, you’ve got to have order without law!” – even if it is an eventually subversive “pseudo-order.” People will often prefer tyranny to open anarchy. (However, when the spiritual and moral anarchy are more concealed, and even deliberately concealed from themselves by themselves, the people often then seem to prefer sloth or enervating decadence.)

These deep matters being said, what are, if any, the stark epidemiological possibilities and realities which we must also soberly face, independent of the deliberate tactical operations of bio-terrorism or more subtle forms of strategic biological warfare? For example, what are some of “the realities of epidemic smallpox,” in the forceful (yet calm) words of the world-renowned epidemiologist, Dr. Donald A. Henderson, of Johns Hopkins University, who has himself personally dealt with this infectious and disfiguring virus – in Pakistan (in the 1960’s), in the USA (in 1962), in Yugoslavia (February 1972), and in Germany (1972)? I encourage you to read and deeply consider his sobering, eight-page paper presented at our 4 December 1997 Conference of “Bio-Defense and Urban Terrorism,” which was inspired and organized by Dr. Thomas Frazier, a modest and selfless man. Dr. Henderson’s paper – as well as his very effective oral presentation – is acutely entitled: “Biological Terrorism – Epidemiological Realities.” After your reading and deep savor of Dr. Henderson’s trenchant words and “reports from reality” – to include ineluctable historical reality – then my own special considerations in this essay will be, I believe, more cogent and forceful – and, perhaps, also a more inspiring summons to help defend the common good.

Dr. Henderson, by his own account, was also present at a meeting at the U. S. National Academy of Sciences in 1994, when Dr. Vorobyev, “a Russian bioweapons expert, presented to the Working Group on Biological Weapons Control a paper summarizing the Russian conclusions as to the most likely biological agents to be used. The top three were, in order, smallpox, plague, and anthrax” (p. 1). But, Dr. Henderson continues: “Based on experiences with inhalation anthrax at Sverdlovsk [to include their earlier deadly accident in 1979, which became a lethal (but dishonestly misrepresented) epidemic], I think that anthrax would now be rated more highly than plague” (p.1). Dr. Henderson’s interpretive views are independently supported by the testimony of the 1992 Soviet-Russian defector, Dr. Kanatjan Alibekov (now Anglicized as “Ken Alibek”), who was himself the deputy-director (second in command) of Moscow’s massive biological warfare development program, BIOPREPARAT.

Thus, throughout our reflections on man-made bio-terrorism and other forms of biological warfare, we must never forget the impact of unmistakably natural (much less ambiguous) epidemics. Furthermore, before concluding this essay with a deeper examination of the third cardinal virtue of fortitude, as a form of truly heroic virtue needed today in the face of subtly strategic forms of psycho-biological warfare, I wish to pose some potentially sensitive, but suggestive and directive questions for your further inquiry, and maybe also your illumination and consequently resolute prudential action:

  1. What are the implications of the spreading presence of the neuro-toxin, pfisteria, in the coastal waters of North Carolina, and now also in the Chesapeake Bay, an issue which is now being belatedly studied by the University of Virginia’s Medical School, among others, after much denial or trivialization?
  2. What are the implications of the Israeli Mossad’s clandestine use of the bio-toxin, ricin, in their attempted assassination, last year, of a hostile foreign leader resident in and operating out of the sovereign country of Jordan?
  3. Are the earlier and current diseases in Taiwan’s pigs and soybeans man-made or natural, and, in any event, do they not have the consequence (if not also the deliberate intention) of economic warfare? And, what are the causes and implications of the recent virus which has sadly taken a significant death toll of Taiwanese newborn babies? Were these grave afflictions only an accidental collocation of natural misfortunes?
  4. What is the nature of the various diseases that are ambiguously (or equivocally) associated with “the Gulf War Syndromes”? Who first discovered these problems honestly (and some of their causes), and then took them very seriously? And, what will be the longer-term psychological aftermath for those (military and civilian) who may have to go back into such ambiguous milieus of combat, either in the Middle East or elsewhere?
  5. To what extent do certain countries still have highly secure and “masked” “underground programs” for research and development of bio-weapons, and related chemical devices, such as powerful, psycho-tropic “synthetic drugs”?
  6. What, if any, is the “new face of terrorism” (and their deeper motivations), and to what extent might bio-terrorists now make use of trans-national criminal syndicates and dubious international “conglomerates” (e.g., Nordex); drug cartels and their cosmopolitan financial support apparatus; new “private security” and intelligence organizations (e.g., Executive Outcomes in South Africa, and elsewhere); and, finally, perhaps most demandingly, those older, “multi-purpose,” traditional Asiatic “secret societies” (e.g., the Chinese Triads and the Japanese Yakusa) operating at home and abroad, sometimes as strategic assets of foreign powers, and maybe, also, of international oligarchies?
  7. If smallpox virus is readily grown on the “chorioallantoic membrane of embryonated hens’ eggs” (in Dr. D. A. Henderson’s words, p. 4), then how difficult would it be to prepare a smallpox weapon?
  8. To what extent do we have strategic medical intelligence on such matters, or even a sufficient “Epidemic Intelligence Service,” to help us defend the common good and the public health of nations? To what extent are our new vaccines contaminated or defective, and to what extent can they be manipulated and contaminated by others?
  9. To what extent, if at all, is there a pattern or tendency for certain countries (e.g., Cuba, the USA, or other medically “progressive” countries) to export, through their research labs, very dangerous vaccine-resistant strains of diseases like resurgent tuberculosis (the greatest killer of the nineteenth century), especially among hitherto unexposed, “virgin” populations?

Such a sampling of questions, especially in light of what I have earlier presented in this paper, might further help focus thoughtful minds. Do we agree? And we may also come to discuss many other related issues and implications, should there be the interest, perspicacity, and pertinacity.

But, now for some implications – and elucidations – of the life of real virtue (not mere values), and some traits of heroic virtue, especially fortitude and the type of world-view that deeply sustains it in persevering hope.

What, after all, is “true” heroism? Do we “conceive of this mainly, or exclusively, as exceptional ability, developed through extraordinary effort in any sphere”?v Similarly, do we “demand of the ‘hero’ exceptional success, the brilliant fortune of a general, the surgeon, and the politician that captures the popular imagination” (p. 194)? My beloved mentor, Josef Pieper, will himself now help us, I believe, to think through this important matter more deeply. He says, by way of further clarification and challenge:

But what if we conceive it [i.e., heroism] otherwise? What if we recognize and accept the fact that the essence of true heroism is the virtue of fortitude – that it is through this virtue, indeed, that the hero differs from the average man?…. And if we concede that this is so, we shall understand better than we are otherwise likely to do how it is that the image of the hero in the great literature of the world (which is based to a large extent upon the idea of fortitude) is instead bewilderingly ambiguous (p. 194 – emphasis added).

As mentioned earlier, fortitude is one of the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance), and “for more than two thousand years these virtues have been looked upon, in the tradition of Western thought, as a kind of four-color spectrum in which the concept of the good person fans out” (p. 194). Moreover, says Josef Pieper:

The concept of fortitude will be misunderstood if the world-view that underlies it is not clearly comprehended. Fortitude, Augustine says in The City of God [c. 430 AD], is a testimony to the existence of evil – by which he means that fortitude is necessary because, in the world, evil is powerful, is even at times a superior force. In view of this, to be brave can be taken to mean that something must be risked whenever the obviously weak offers resistance to evil. And nobody who wishes to be a good human being and is unwilling to commit an injustice, can avoid this risk (p. 195 – emphasis added).

What does he then say about the nature of this necessary risk? His clarifications may also present us with a surprise, for he says:

What is risked, if the occasion arises, may be something less than life itself. It may instead be a question of immediate well-being, of daily tranquillity, possessions, honor, or face-saving. On the other hand, what is required may be the surrender of life, or more exactly, the acceptance of death at another’s hands. The martyr is the ultimate symbol of fortitude (p. 196 – emphasis added).

That is to say, in this conception, “fortitude is both a virtue fundamentally required of everyone and the essence of heroism” (p. 196 – emphasis added). The underlying world-view that supports the robust (and resilient) orientation of fortitude says, in part, as follows:

The world, along with existence itself, has lost the primordial order; but, like existence, it still remains capable of good [capax boni] and is directed toward it [toward the good, hence also to the bonum commune – the common good, which is also a “steep good” (bonum arduum)]. At the same time, the good is not realized by itself, but requires for that end the effort of an individual who is willing to struggle and if necessary to sacrifice on its behalf (p. 195).

By way of clarifying contrast, Josef Pieper adds:

It is simply a liberalistic illusion to believe that one can be consistently just, for example, without having to risk something for it. That is why fortitude is necessary (pp. 195-196 – emphasis added).

However, it must also be said that:

Fortitude is not an absolute ideal, nor is it even foremost among the cardinal virtues. Its realization is linked to several requirements. A brief adage of Saint Ambrose states: “Fortitude must not trust itself.” It matters little that we “live dangerously,” according to Nietzsche’s maxim, but rather that we live a good life. For this the virtue of prudence is the first necessity…. Sigmund Freud’s assertion that most heroism stems from an instinctive [sic] conviction that “Nothing can happen to me” is true in a sense that possibly he did not perceive – the deep sense in which it is seen that for one who loves good, death cannot be entirely evil (as Socrates, along with Saint Paul, realized and affirmed). Another requirement of true fortitude is justice. The fortitude of a criminal is a misconception; there are no criminal heroes. Our generation is aware that the fruits of fortitude can be corrupted by injustice, chiefly by the injustice of political power. We have come to know firsthand the truth of the old adage: “The praise of fortitude is contingent upon justice” (pp. 196-197 – emphasis added).

But, it is in the treatment of war that “the complexity of the relationship between heroism and fortitude comes to the fore most dramatically,” since fortitude “manifests itself in combat, though combat does not necessarily mean war” (p. 197). Moreover, says Dr. Pieper:

The surrender of one’s life, which can be demanded of a soldier in the just defense of the community, can scarcely be expected without the moral virtue of fortitude. On the other hand, we are more apt to perceive and honor the hero in the figure of conqueror than in one who merely suffers [or, even endures with nobility an injustice he cannot apparently then overcome]. And since fortitude means precisely to endure wounds incurred on behalf of justice (from loss of reputation or well-being to imprisonment or bodily harm), we are really looking, when we contemplate someone who has manifested this virtue, at the antithesis of the “conqueror.” Such a person [of fortitude] does not vanquish, he sacrifices (pp. 197-198 – emphasis added).

Then, by way of further surprise, Josef Pieper says:

In the ultimate test of fortitude, which is martyrdom, there is absolutely nothing of the victorious, though this characteristic is essential to our more usual conception of the hero as conqueror. Nor is there any [usual] supposition that fortitude or heroism will be spoken of in true cases of martyrdom (p. 198 – emphasis added).

Again, on the premise that contrast clarifies the mind, Pieper offers us a contemporary example:

When it comes to a pornographic novel, which may be hailed as “daring” or “bold,” the author in reality risks nothing. Far more courage and perhaps genuine fortitude is required to call such a product repugnant, or to say in public that purity is a fundamental element of human dignity (p. 198 – emphasis added).

Again, to the roots or heart of the matter, he adds:

In the act of fortitude itself, such a person [i.e., the apparently helpless sufferer] does not appear to be a martyr but is rather the accused, the prisoner, the crank, or the lone wolf, abandoned and ridiculed; above all, he proves himself to be mute…. Thus fortitude is, according to its very nature, not the virtue of the stronger but instead of the seemingly vanquished…. It should be remembered that in the eyes of the ancients the decisive criterion for fortitude consisted primarily in steadfastness and not in attacking…. To be sure, the…mortal steadfastness of the martyr has always been understood as a victory and celebrated as such, not only from the Christian standpoint but from that of Plato’s Socrates (pp. 198-199).

And, to bring it closer to home, we may further consider another insight of truth:

In spite of everything the martyr is truly a hero, and so is every unimposing or unknown individual who risks his life for the sake of truth and good, whether in the pointedly dramatic act of martyrdom or in lifelong devotion – in acquiescence to the absolute will of God at the cost of one’s worldly comfort (p. 199 – emphasis added).

Near the end of his discerning reflections, Josef Pieper presents a few more surprises:

Strangely enough, the great teachers of Christianity have regarded the virtue of fortitude in much the same way [i.e., “as inseparable from honor and glory”], designating as one of its fundamental elements magnanimitas [i.e., magnanimity], which seeks high honor before all else and makes itself worthy of it. [But] is this in keeping with the conception of that virtue [of fortitude], the highest act of which is supposed to be martyrdom before the triumphant force of evil? (p. 200)

Pieper answers his own question:

It is consistent with that conception, under one condition, that one is capable of realizing the idea of gloria…or “becoming acknowledged publicly,” the attainment of recognition through God Himself [thus, through the mediated ecclesiastical declaration of sainthood]…. I fear that whoever, for whatever reason, is incapable of accepting this dimension of reality – the life beyond death – will have to be on his guard against the danger of being fascinated by a pseudo-hero borne on the acclaim of the entire world…. [Perhaps] his almost irresistible allure and universal fame will overshadow all other false heroes of history, while his global tyranny will force true fortitude into the most merciless of trials. It will further render totally unrecognizable this fortitude, the essence of all genuine heroism – the virtue of martyrs (p. 200).

And such fortitude can only be sustained by the higher virtue of hope – the hope of martyrs. For, such martyrs, though apparently helpless before disfiguring evil, do not despair. They do not fall into devouring self-pity, nor cynically embrace the corrosion of hopelessness. And, despite the overwhelming evil, they never blaspheme the goodness of God or the fundamental goodness of His Creation or of His temporal world. This virtue of hope and final perseverance is itself a great gift (magnum donum), under grace (sub gratia), and also a steep good, a “demanding arduous good” (bonum arduum) which is difficult, but possible of attainment and which calls for profound gratitude, as well as magnanimous fortitude. Such hope always requires an oblation of gratitude – in life, and at the moment of death.

I believe that only by the further cultivation of such heroic virtues of fortitude and hope, wherever they may be found, will we be promptly (and strategically) ready to defend our children and the larger common good (bonum commune) against the threat and actuality of bio-terrorism and longer-range psycho-biological warfare which will incite us to despair, especially within a deep and spreading culture of broken trust, sloth, unrooted hope, and sophistry.

In this context, and by way of conclusion, the words of Hilaire Belloc may now also have deeper and decisive meaning for us:

The corroboration by experience of a truth emphatically told, but at first not believed, has a powerful effect upon the mind. I suppose that of all the instruments of conviction it is the most powerful. It is an example of the fundamental doctrine that truth confirms truth. If you say to a man a thing which he thinks nonsensical, impossible, a mere jingle of words, although you yourself know it very well by experience to be true; when later he finds this thing by his own experience to be actual and living, then is truth confirmed in his mind: it stands out much more strongly than it would had he never doubted. On this account, it is always worth while, I think, to hammer at truths which one knows to be important, even those which seem, to others, at their first statement mere nonsense. For though you may die under the imputation of being a man without a sense of proportion, or even a madman, yet reality will in time confirm your effort. And even though that confirmation of your effort, the triumph of the truth, should never be associated with your own name, yet is it worth making for the sake of the truth, to which I am sure we owe a sort of allegiance: not because it is the truth – one can have no allegiance to an abstraction – but because whenever we insist upon a truth we are witnessing to Almighty God. (Hilaire Belloc, The Cruise of the “Nona” (1925, republished in 1956 by The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, p.51))

Finis

© 1998 Robert Hickson

i This essay, though standing on its own insights and argumentation, builds upon two earlier studies, which were delivered at academic and strategic conferences soon after they were written. The first study, written on 15 November 1997, and twenty-two pages in length, is entitled: The Indirect Grand-Strategic Approach and Context of Biological Warfare (and Bio-Terrorism) in the Likely Near Future: A Trenchant Strategic Challenge to American Special Operations Forces and to Our Incipient Strategic Culture. The second study, written 8 July 1998, and seven pages in length, is entitled SOF [Special Operations Forces] Strategic Education and “The Indirect War”: Psycho-Biological Warfare (and Terrorism) in a Grand-Strategic Context. This third and current essay proposes to accentuate the psychological and cultural effects of biological warfare (and bio-terrorism) when it is strategically employed, both in the short-term and over the long-term and more indirectly (and often more deceitfully). This essay also proposes to consider the analogous psychological effects of natural as well as malicious and ambiguous epidemics.

iiTwo other vivid ancient depictions of plague or pestilence, both of which drew upon Thucydides’ Greek prose account, are to be found in the Latin poetry of Lucretius (c100 – c55 BC) and Virgil (70-19 BC). Lucretius concludes his elevated, epic-metered poem, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Reality, On the Nature of the Universe) with an explanation of the nature of epidemics (Book VI: lines 1090-1138) and then a highly colored and intensely charged depiction of the same 430 BC plague in Athens, to include the manifestations of fear, reckless abandon, lawlessness, and despair (Book VI: lines 1138-1286). The purpose of Lucretius’ climactic passage on the plague is to reinforce one of his own major themes as an materialist philosopher (and follower of Epicurus) who denied the immortality of the soul and of human personhood, and who saw everything in terms of “matter in motion” (to include “swerving motion,” or the “clinamen,” his metaphor for “free will” as a moral indispensability). Lucretius was compassionately trying to remove from man both the fear of death and the fear of despair, or spiritual death. Virgil, who deeply admired Lucretius and whose poem, The Georgics, has often been called by scholars “a submerged dialogue with Lucretius,” also made a vivid poetic depiction of a plague and its effects. Virgil describes the Noric animal plague at the very end of his Book 3 – on Animals, lines 475-566. The basic framework of the Georgics consists of four poetic books (Book I – Field Crops; Book II – Trees; Book III – Animals; and Book IV – Bees). In dealing with the plague, Virgil’s subject involved him in dealing chiefly with animals as “victims of contagion,” but man was also affected. In this context of the literary depiction of plague and its consequences, the reader should also consider and contrast the powerful presentation of the plague in Milan, Italy in the early seventeenth–century, as shown in Alessandro Manzoni’s great historical novel, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi), the greatest novel in Italian literature. Rather than showing mere desolation and cruelty and despair, Manzoni uses the plague as an occasion to draw out healing mercy and human forgiveness and other forms of reconciliation, and to manifest human virtue through his characters’ various and vivid acts of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, selfless generosity and self-sacrificial charity. Manzoni affirmed a deeply Christian world-view and hence the reality of grace and gift of trustful hope as a virtue (not just a yearning passion) of the soul. Moreover, Sigrid Undset’s great historical novel of the fourteenth–century medieval Norway, Kristin Lavransdatter (a trilogy), shows another example of how a strong and willful character is transfigured by humble suffering. Helping the victims of the Black Plague which had reached Norway, Kristin, grown more selfless as a nun after the death of her husband and several of her eight children, finally shows the flowering of generous charity without self-pity or any bitter pride. The depiction is of great spiritual beauty. (See the end of the trilogy, Vol. III – entitled The Cross.)

iii Josef Pieper, the recently deceased (6 November 1997) German philosopher who spent his long life (of 93 years) illuminating the meaning and the life of the virtues, said that, in order to live a good life, “the virtue of prudence is the first necessity,” for one must move decisively and resolutely from “the knowledge of reality” to “the realization of the good,” embodied in actuality:

That is to say, we must be able to recognize the elements of life as they really are and to translate this recognition into resolution and action [unto “the realization of the good”]. Otherwise, because the fearful [or the fearsome] is encountered as a stark reality in the world, we may be fearless in a manner that should not be confused with true fortitude [the third cardinal virtue] – as, for example when we make a false evaluation of danger, or when we are reckless from an inability to love anything or anyone. (See Josef Pieper, Problems of Modern Faith – Title of the German original Über die Schwierigkeit Heute zu Glauben – Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985, p. 196.)

Manzoni, in his above-mentioned great novel, had the following to say:

Ignorance often inspires courage at a time for caution, and caution at a time for courage. Now it [ignorance] added distress to distress, and filled men’s hearts with unfounded terrors as a poor compensation for the sensible and beneficial alertness to danger of which it had robbed them at the beginning of the pestilence. (See Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi), Penguin Classics translation, chapter 34, pp. 637-638.)

iv Sun Tzu might say that we are strategically weak, and gravely so, because our moral leadership has lost the Tao (the Way – the way of spiritual wisdom and integrity). And there is the old saying, “a fish begins to stink from the head down” or “a fish begins at the head to stink” (“Der Fisch beginnt am Kopf zu stinken”). This malodorousness is also a “provocative weakness” – provocative to others, who would use not only our vices but also our virtues against us in the exploitation of a biological weapon (“the Judo Principle”).

v Josef Pieper, The Problems of Modern Faith: Essays and Addresses (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985, pp. 193-194). All subsequent quotes will be from his little essay entitled “Heroism and Fortitude” (pp. 193-201).

Hilaire Belloc’s 1936 Insights on “The Modern Man”

Dr. Robert Hickson

12 October 2020

Our Lady of the Pillar (36 A.D.)

Epigraphs

“Lest my title should mislead I will restrict it by definition.” (Hilaire Belloc, Who Own America? (1936, 1999), page 431.)

***

“That this new worship is vigorous and real may be proved by the test of sacrifice: that which a man worships is that for which he will sacrifice not only his comfort but, in extreme cases, his life.” (Hilaire Belloc, Who Owns America?, pages 434-435—my emphasis added.)

***

“Social energy is a function of the zest for living…The remedy can only be found in a change of philosophy; that is, of religion….But those that see this are few….But it is also their duty not to deceive themselves upon the conditions of their task….that the difficulty is increasing and that therefore they must bear themselves as must all those who attempt a creative effort at reform: that is, as sufferers who will probably fail.” (Hilaire Belloc, Who Owns America?, pages 440-442—my emphasis added.)

***

In 1936, when he was sixty-six years of age, Hilaire Belloc accepted an invitation to write an essay entitled “The Modern Man,” which was the final essay of a 21-chapter book, entitled Who Owns America?A New Declaration of Independence,1 a sequel to the 1930 Agrarian Manifesto, I’ll Take My Stand—The South and the Agrarian Tradition, as written by twelve prominent southern authors.

We propose now to consider Belloc’s mature essay on the modern man more closely in order to understand its own principles and then, fittingly, also to apply his gracious insights still today, though some of them may seem to be a little too ethereal for us, and impractical. Yet Belloc, as a Distributist, robustly stands between large-scale corporate, industrial capitalism and large state socialism and with both their own managing oligarchs (including the money power and financiers). For Belloc always tried to keep a proper proportion and humane scale of things in human affairs (not just in the economy). The test of humane scale was always a good criterion to aid and to measure his responsible judgments.

Belloc starts off by focusing on the limits and proportions of his analysis:

I write not of contemporary man in his infinite variety nor even of the modern European, but of the modern man under industrial capitalism—man as he has been formed through long association and particularly as he has been formed in Great Britain; but not Ireland save in the industrialist northeast corner of that island. (431)

Moreover, as Belloc’s special differentiations more concretely continue to develop, he says:

I write of modern man as you see him today [in year 1936—three years before the outbreak of World War II], not only in the streets of [the cities, variously named]…but in the villages; for the whole of our State has by this time arrived at much the same type of citizen (if citizen he can be called). The countryman has become a townee: to put it more elegantly, he has “acquired the urban mind.”

So defined, the modern man would seem to have three characteristics. (431-432—my emphasis added)

In an abbreviated manner, Belloc first summarizes those three characteristics, and then elaborates:

First, he has lost the old doctrinal position on transcendental things….Second, as a consequence of this [loss] he has lost his economic freedom, or, indeed, the very concept of it [economic freedom]. Third, there has been produced in him, by the loss of economic freedom, coupled with the loss of the old religious doctrines, an interior conception of himself which molds all his actions.

Let us develop these three characteristics and see how they are worked up to make the subject of our inquiry: the matter of the modern capitalist State. (432—my emphasis added)

It will be especially fruitful of truth for us if we now examine Hilaire Belloc’s candid assessment of England’s selective religious history and its present situation just before the Second World War, where Belloc will lose another son, Peter, in 1940. (Belloc’s eldest son, Louis, an aviator, was lost in 1918 near the end of the war, and his body was never recovered.)

Belloc now reveals a few other personal matters (without mentioning the loss of his beloved wife Elodie on 2 February 1914, on the Feast of Candlemas, just before the outbreak of World War I):

With all those of my own generation (I am in my sixty-sixth year) I knew extremely well an older generation which was in all ranks of society fixed upon certain transcendent doctrines chosen out of the original [Catholic] body of Christian doctrines inherited from the conversion of the Roman Empire and its development in the Middle Ages, though England has been changed in its religious attitude by the great philosophic revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and was positively a Protestant country (as she still is negatively a Protestant country). Those ancient doctrines which were retained were strongly and, I repeat, always universally held. They include the doctrines of free will, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul (that is, a permanent personality) surviving death forever; the doctrine of the Incarnation—that is, the doctrine that God had become Man—which gave to the personality of man an infinite value since it was so regarded by its Creator; and the doctrine of eternal reward and punishment—reward for right and punishment for wrong-doing. (432-433—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

Belloc, as we shall see, is also especially attentive to the sometimes dire and disordered consequences after just one or more of these above certitudes and affirmations are no longer believed to be true and, therefore, binding.

There is also the matter of one’s sense of honor and moral code, or what Belloc calls, traditionally, “a certain code” (433):

There was also retained a certain code in declaring what was right and what was wrong; for instance, if you had a wife still living it was wrong to marry another wife. It was wrong to take away another man’s property in order to advantage your self. It was wrong for a public man to take a bribe and so forth, or to blackmail and so forth. (433)

Being an honest man himself, Belloc anticipates and answers some objections to his own position:

It may be objected by some that the old religious doctrines have been retained into our own day [1936]; no: not by the average man as doctrines—that is, certitudes. Some parts have been retained, but not the same parts by the mass of men. You will still find a minority attached to one or the other of these doctrines. There is a large body which still holds to the doctrine of immortality divorced from the conception of eternal punishment for wrong-doing—and indeed from any punishment other than that suffered in this life.

The doctrine of the Incarnation has gone by the board. You may count up a large number of men and women who still maintain it, but most of these are in the minority—a small minority—of educated men, at least, outside the Catholic body. Most of them, moreover (outside the Catholic body), hold it as an opinion, not as a certitude; moreover, they give to it, each of them, any interpretation they choose, while the masses around them have stopped thinking of the thing altogether, let alone holding it even as an opinion. What does remain of it is a sort of vague aroma which concedes that a long-dead individual who may or may not have really existed and who is, anyhow, long dead, provided an excellent model for conduct. This model is again a figment of the individual’s imagination supported occasionally by fragmentary recollections of ancient documents in themselves fragmentary. (443-434—my emphasis added, in order to help sharpen for us Belloc’s own very fine irony!)

Before moving on to examine his characterizing “second point, the political consequences of a change of religion,” (435—emphasis added) Belloc logically considers, by way of further preparation, “the doctrine of free will” (434):

The doctrine of free will, though inseparable from practical action, has been battered down. The conception of inevitable tendencies, of an inevitable chain of cause and effect, has superseded it. The code of right and wrong has gone, too, and with it, necessarily, the conception of eternal reward and eternal punishment. (434—my emphasis added)

After further lines of argument, Belloc then says: “with the loss of this old religion, the modern man has also lost the obvious truth that a culture is based upon the philosophy it holds.” (435—my emphasis added) For example:

If you believe in the transcendent importance and permanence of personality (that is, the immortality of the soul) and in the supreme sanctions attaching to a particular code of morals (that is, heaven and hell), you act more or less accordingly, by which it is not meant that an ideal is reached or even maintained, but that it remains an ideal and, therefore, permeates society. Thus, a man today [1936] most evil in other respects will not [usually] betray his own country nor deny the validity of its laws, though he will deny the divine authority lying behind those conceptions. (435—my emphasis added)

For the remainder of his essay (436-442), Belloc will concentrate on the last of his three specified characteristics of modern man upon which he has already so openly focused. In his introductory words Belloc now says:

As to the third characteristic, which is the most practically important for our analysis, the effect of all these [characteristics and grave losses!] on modern man’s conception of himself, it has by this time become glaringly apparent.

We note in the first place that with a loss of the sense of free will the modern man has lost the sense of economic freedom. We notice that temporal good has taken the place of other values. We note that a moral code, including property as a right—not as a mere institution—has disappeared. (436—italics in the original; bold emphasis added)

Just as now (in the year 2020) thoughtful and attentive people properly fear being, or becoming, dependently ensnared in some kind of manipulated “technological servitude,” so, too, did Hilaire Belloc warn against (and himself fear) the inhuman scale of servility and the dreaded combination of “insufficiency and insecurity” (438) where a man thereby dependently, if not desperately, surrenders his own economic freedom in order to have more economic security as well as to his having more of a sufficiency of wealth and protective insurance.

The proper way to face the combined risk of “insecurity and insufficiency” is a theme, or even the pervasive “sub-text,” throughout the last part of Belloc’s essay. The temptation to surrender remains: to sacrifice one’s modest integrity and economic freedom for the sake of more stably gaining a more guaranteed security and sufficiency—even for one’s family, for example, despite the further surrender and loss of a more humane scale of life, without any coarsening oligarchic over-centralization. In this light, let us consider Belloc’s own progression of words and insights.

Speaking of the growing ill consequences of “unlimited competition” as if it were itself a destructively wielded “sword,” Belloc resorts to an unexpected, yet helpful, metaphor:

The profound truth contained in the phrase “they that take the sword [of “unlimited competition”] shall perish by the sword” is no where more clearly apparent than here. Temporal good means in practice, wealth, and the pursuit of wealth as an end, and as almost the only end, has resulted in the destruction of all those safeguards whereby the individual wealth of the many was guaranteed. As a consequence there has arisen, through the action of unlimited competition, a polity in which a few control the means of production and the many have become wage-slaves under those few. Whether the few who control the means of production will form a stable class or no may be debated. In the immediate past and on into our own day the pursuit of wealth as the supreme god has made even the wealth of the most wealthy unstable. But there are signs that this state of affairs is ending and that the strongest of those who control the means of production are creating an organization [financial, with debt bondage and management, too?] which will render their domination permanent.

A test of all this may be discovered in the conception of “success.” That idea is now almost wholly confined to the attainment of a position among those who control the means of production and are to that extent secure. (436-437—my emphasis added)

After speaking of “the strong attitude of mind” (437), Belloc speaks of several “derivatives” of this overall “attitude.” He gives several concrete examples, and then says, indeed:

It has become difficult or impossible for the modern man to dissociate the conception of virtue and greatness from the possession of much wealth.

But the most practically derivative of this attitude is the acceptation by the great mass of modern men of a quasi-servile position….To be secure in the reception of these [“regular enjoyment of payments”] is his chief aim, the loss of such support his chief dread. The modern man is not controlled in his actions by the fear of any ultimate spiritual effect of his actions, but of their effect upon the likelihood of his maintaining or losing this livelihood which he enjoys at the will of his economic masters….(through the orders of their own financial masters…). (437-438—my emphasis added)

After he discusses “plutocracy” and the instrumental “parliamentary system” and its ways of thwarting “direct popular action by the pretense of representation” and other “illusions” to which the modern man “submits,” Belloc candidly says:

Now it should be clear to anyone who will think lucidly and coldly upon the direction in which all this must move that it is moving toward the establishment of slavery. Industrial capitalism, as we now have it [in 1936], the control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange (and the control of the modes, therefore, by which production, distribution, and exchange are conducted) by a few, must mean that the many are compelled to work for the profit of the few. When this state of affairs has produced INSUFFICIENCY and INSECURITY, the obvious remedies, if we proceed upon the line of least resistance, would be found in giving to the dispossessed (who have come to form the vast majority of those who were formerly economically free) security and sufficiency on condition that they work under the orders of the few.

To be compelled to work, not by your own initiative, but at the initiation of another, is the definition of slavery.

Whether slavery shall come first in the form of slavery to the State before it arrive at the final and natural and stable form of slavery to individuals—slavery it still is, and the modern man accepts such slavery in the unshakable belief that it is in the nature of things. (438-439—my emphasis added)

Throughout his writings, also in this essay, Belloc emphasizes his incisive presupposition that “economic freedom…can only coexist with private property well distributed.” (439—my emphasis added) But, he also argues that the modern man doubts the validity of such a well-reasoned claim:

He will tell you that the system is impossible, giving as his reasons all manner of external conditions (such as the rapidity of communication, the concentration of the banking system, the cost of great units of machinery, and so forth), but having for his real reason the mere experience of his life. He has never known economic freedom. He has not seen it in action; and without experience of a thing, one cannot make a mental image of it. (439)

Moreover, as Belloc summarizes: not only is it so that “modern man is heading for slavery,” (439) but it is also a fact that “he is heading for the consequent decline of our civilization.” (439)

In conclusion, Hilaire Belloc briefly, but elegiacally, mentions first the degrading effects of “the modern mind” and then the proposed reforms and remedies that are fittingly to be nobly attempted now, without self-deception, and in the face of our approaching servitude and our declining civilization:

It is customary to ascribe to the influence of the press the cause of this development [a coming slavery and the companion decline of our civilization], but….the press in its present degradation…is but a function of the modern mind….

The few who have perceived these truths, the few who can contrast the modern man [and contrast the current man in 2020] with the immediate ancestry of his age, but have forgotten, know that the remedy can only be found in a change of philosophy; that is, of religion. They know further that the material test of this change and at the same time the prime condition which would foster the change would be the reinstitution of private property and its extension to a determining number of the community.

But those who see this are few. It is their duty to work upon the lines which their knowledge of the trouble suggests, but it is also their duty not to deceive themselves upon the conditions of their task….Therefore they must bear themselves as must all those who attempt a creative effort at reform [in religion and philosophy, too]: that is, as sufferers who will probably fail.

Such are Hilaire Belloc’s memorable elegiac tones, along with his characteristically poignant, but also very realistic, ending.

He braces us lesser men for the protracted combat—with robustness, and without sentimentality.

What we have is Nature, what we need is Grace.


–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1See the 1999 re-print of the 1936 original text of Who Owns America? (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 1999, 1936). Hilaire Belloc’s essay, “The Modern Man,” will be found on pages 431-442 (Chapter 21) of the ISI text. Henceforth, all references to this 1936 essay (from the Houghton Mifflin Company, originally) will be placed above in parentheses in the re-printed text of this brief essay and appreciative commentary.

The Concept and Reality of a Prolonged Self-Censorship and Its Effects: Alexander Nekrich’s Germinal Insights in the 1970s

Dr. Robert Hickson

29 September 2020

Saint Michael the Archangel

Epigraphs

“The censor’s sway is felt most acutely in the social sciences, especially in the sphere of history. Soviet censorship begins in the head of the historian.” (Alexander Nekrich, “Rewriting History” (1980)—my emphasis added)

***

“For the conscientious researcher, work loses all point if the censor asks him not only to delete this or that fact, but also to reach conclusions that are acceptable in the current political scene. And this is where self-censorship comes into play, the most important forms of censorship in socialist society. Self-censorship exerts a profound influence not only on the quality of the research done, but also on the researcher himself. If censorship is an essential element of the structure of the USSR,…then self-censorship is an essential quality of Homo Sovieticus—especially the sub-species of writer[s?] specialising in history and social and political sciences…. Usually the author is governed by self-censorship and the censors.” (Alexander Nekrich, “Rewriting History” (1980)—my emphasis added)

***

It was from Alexander Nekrich, a Russian emigre and former Soviet historian—who once was an esteemed member in the Soviet Academy of Sciences and History—that I first heard of the word and special concept of “self-censorship.” And then, with his further brief help, I more gradually came to understand some of the atrophying consequences of any protracted self-censorship, as distinct from more obvious and forthright public censorship.

An analogy might be helpful here. If an arm-muscle is inside of a plaster cast for too long, it starts to shrink or shrivel up due to the lack of exercise and of nourishment. So too comes the diminishment or attenuation of the higher range of human faculties when they, too, are deprived of sufficient exercise and nourishment.

One of my most precious forms of admiration and gratitude for Aristotle is to be seen especially in one of his definitions of happiness: “happiness is the exercise of the full range of human faculties along lines of excellence [i.e., virtue].” (I cannot now find the source of those words I once read and memorized at once.)

In the latter part of the 1970s, Professor Alexandr Nekrich visited the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and gave a learned talk. After this talk I had occasion to speak with him, just the two of us. In my callowness I asked this solemnly earnest man what it was like to be an historian in the Soviet Academy of Science when the past is, as it were, always changing in accordance with the Dialectic—dialectical materialism and historical materialism, with its varying and desirably safe temporary interpretations. How, I added, did you enduringly live with such censorship? Professor Nekrich looked at me gravely and said : “You are naive. The greatest censorship is self-censorship.” And he told me more. I do not know why he opened up to me. Perhaps because he knew that I was a military officer.

We discussed the elements of fear and trust and how they shaped the protective resort to self-censorship. I then remarked that such self-censorship would also likely lead to the atrophy of human faculties.

Professor Nekrich then became interested in my word “atrophy” in this context of censorship, although he knew at once of the Greek roots and etymological meaning of that vivid word. I then used a more arcane expression—“atrophying self-censorship”—and he was pleased with it, and said that he would make use of it. Thus we started to consider how that concept could—and should—be applied effectively. We agreed that one of the ill fruits of prolonged self-censorship was the subtle atrophy of one’s indispensable human faculties, leading to a kind of paralysis and debilitation.

I was never to see Alexander Nekrich again, but I shall always remember his earnest and contemplative face and searching questions and insights, to include his mention of the important “SECOND Nazi-Soviet Pact,” which got him into trouble with the censors and supporters of Stalin. I later learned that he (with Mikhail Heller) wrote a lengthy book entitled Utopia in Power (1985) about the 1917-1985 history of the Soviet Union. Only recently, however, was I to discover that Nekrich also wrote an earlier 5-6 page essay on censorship, in 1980, and entitled “Rewriting History” (as translated by Marjorie Farquharson in Index on Censorship 4/1980) which is still to be found on the Internet. It would be of worth to read and discuss that essay still. But a few words now might be apt given the spreading autocratic and enforced rules about protective masks and social distancing and confusing “lockdowns” and all that. Fear and distrust abound, it seems, and so does increasing self-censorship.

One may recall that one test of real power—as distinct from mere formal power—is who controls what may be said, and what may not be said, in public.

As in the former Soviet Union, some things are so taboo that one may not even say that they are taboo.

François Furet, for example, once said that “modern democracy is dependent upon a hidden oligarchy which is contrary to its principles, but indispensable to its function.” That is to say, modern democracy is based on a deception. However, who would be able and allowed to discuss that matter in depth and openly? What would the oligarchs permit? And, specifically, who are they?

Solzhenitsyn urged us “not to live the lie” and also warned us “not to participate in the lie.”

Nekrich warns us to be careful about the destructive and abiding effects of too much and deceitful “self-censorship.” It is a form of living the lie. And the greatest effect of the lie is the breaking of trust—even the most intimate trusts. And once they are broken, they are so hard to repair and re-build.

For sure, Dr. Alexandr Moiseyevich Nekrich (1920-1993) has incipiently inspired us to consider more deeply the phenomenon of “atrophying self-censorship” and some of its formidable ramifications.

What is happening today, not just in the United States but throughout the world, even the manifestations of chaos and censorious “democratic despotism,” may be correctively helped along a little by Nekrich’s own illuminating experiences in the Soviet Union and his later insightful, articulate writings as a 1976 Russian emigre. He is a sobering guide for us, as his 1980 essay on “Rewriting History” will confirm.1 We should study and savor that compact 1980 essay further, and in the light of current and recurring events.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1https://marjoriefarquharson.blog/2020/03/31/rewriting-history-by-alexander-nekrich-1980/

Josef Pieper on the Sophist Phenomenon and Its Recurring Temptations

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                2 August 2020

Our Lady of the Angels

Saint Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787)

Saint Peter Julian Eymard (d. 1868)

Epigraphs

“What indeed did Plato have against the sophists? His objection could tentatively be summed up in these brief terms: corruption of the word—you are corrupting the language! Still the core of the matter is not yet identified with this. The specific threat, for Plato, comes from the sophists’ way of cultivating the word with exceptional awareness of linguistic nuances and utmost formal intelligence, from their way of pushing and perfecting the employment of verbal constructions to crafty limits, thereby—and precisely in this—corrupting the meaning and the dignity of the very same words.” (Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, pages 14-15.)

***

“This timeless character of the sophistic phenomenon, transcending any particular age, prompted certain important, indeed disturbing, comments by Hegel….He called the sophists of Socrates’ time ‘extremely refined and learned people’; but such praise…sounds somewhat ambiguous. It is precisely such learned refinement and unmoored questioning that plucks apart any object and dialectically discredits everything; it is such ‘refined reasoning’…—an expression repeatedly used by Hegel [“gebildetes Raisonnement”]–that poses the true danger. It almost inevitably leads us, says Hegel, to the conviction that everything can be justified if we look hard enough for reasons. To quote Hegel: ‘You need not have advanced very far in your learning in order to find good reasons even for the most evil of things. All the evil deeds in this world since Adam and Eve have been justified with good reasons.’ Hegel, therefore, sees here a danger clearly intrinsic to the human mind, being part of its nature, a danger that can perhaps be overcome but never entirely avoided.” (Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, pages 8-9—my bold emphasis added)

***

“It is one of my favorite questions in tests…: Can a lie be taken as communication? I tend to deny it. A lie is the opposite of communication. It means specifically to withhold the others’ share and portion of reality, to prevent his participation in reality. And so: corruption of the relationship to reality, and corruption of communication—these evidently are the two possible forms in which the corruption of the word manifests itself.” (Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, page 16—my emphasis added)

***

Josef Pieper published a short book in English in 1992 that is subtly entitled Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power.1 Because of its timelines, as well as its timelessness, I propose to consider the first section of that profoundly insightful book, which was first published in German in 1974 and which will now be found on pages seven to thirty-nine of the 1992 English translation, almost twenty years later.

The first page of Dr. Pieper’s 32-page enquiry clearly discloses his thesis and its motivation:

The topic of this essay can also be stated as “the abuse of language in its relation to the abuse of power.” I intend to approach this subject from two different directions: though they are two distinct considerations, I shall nonetheless try to show their intrinsic connection.

One of these considerations is a phenomenon of classical antiquity [Socrates, Plato, Gorgias, Protagoas, Aristotle and such]….To be sure, historicity…is not my concern in this. It is rather Plato’s position—and this indeed is the other [second] consideration—which shall be taken as a paradigm showing, I believe, something directly relevant for us and our own situation today [also in 2020 A.D.]. The case can be made that Plato recognized, identified, and battled in the sophistry of his time a danger and a threat besetting the pursuits of the human mind and the life of society in any era….

Anything that may at first sound like a mere critique of the present, aimed at our own situation, should also be taken as pointing to a timeless temptation that since the beginning of history has always required mankind’s resistance and will require it forever. This [is the] timeless character of the sophistic phenomenon, transcending any particular age…. (7-8—my emphasis added)

In their own respective meditations, both Plato and Josef Pieper are persistently attentive to “the art of twisting words” (7) and “the sophistry of [our own] day” (7) and the concealed disguises of some “such learned refinement” (8) and “such a deceptive illusion” (19) as is characteristically hidden as part of “the sophist mentality” (10).

Pieper’s meditation of thirty-two pages deserves to be slowly and carefully read so as to savor his multiple interrelations and enduring substance. For example: “the incommensurability” (11) of money and spirit (or of money and mind); “the sophists’ way of cultivating the word” (14); “to know reality with the aim of communication” (16); “the sophists’ rhetoric, that artistry with words” (16-17); “verbal artistry and linguistic form” (18) which are “nevertheless sham and foul” (19)—that is to say, “unless the linguistic artist [is also] a speaker of truth” (19). Pieper raises good questions such as the recurrent “by what standard?” (12) and comes even to ask: “To what purpose are you in this world?” (48—my emphasis added). Therefore, in this context: “What is it that makes the sophists so dangerous?” (34—my emphasis added).

And we wonder: “what is a well-ordered language?” (36) Dare we say in response that: “a language is well ordered when its words express reality with as little distortion and as little omission as possible”? (36—my emphasis added)

Continuing his fresh perceptions and keen discernments, Pieper says such additionally challenging things as: he who “explicitly disregards reality ceases to have communication” (20-21) and thus one must fittingly be “explicitly committed to the truth” (20-21); by way of contrast,“flattery intends not to communicate, but to manipulate” (22-23) while often “having an ulterior motive” (23) such as “domination” and especially by deftly flattering our pride. Moreover, as Pieper then properly counter-argues and contends: “Academic must mean anti-sophistic” (38) and we must be found “taking an anti-sophistic stance” (35). Moreover, as others also say: “The lingo of the revolution is a form of modern sophistry.” (32—my emphasis added) And Pieper even later refers to “the jargon of the revolution” (39) as a form of “bondage,” as well. That is to say, the jargon-lingo of the revolution itself appears to be the cramped and stifling product of self-deluded, fevered opinions and “mind-forged manacles.”

After such a selective summary of Josef Pieper’s variety and compactness—and of his multiple challenges to us—it is fitting that we now return to an examination of some of Dr. Pieper’s longer passages. For example:

Word and language, in essence, do not constitute a specific or specialized area; they are not a particular discipline or field. No, word and language form a medium that sustains the common existence of the human spirit as such….And so, if the word becomes corrupted, human existence itself will not remain unaffected and untainted.

What, however, does “corrupting the word” mean?….Human words and language accomplish a twofold purpose….Since this accomplishment is twofold, we may already here suspect that the word’s degeneration and corruption can also be twofold. First, words convey reality. We speak in order to name and identify something that is real, to identify it [something] for someone, of course—and this points to the second aspect in question, the interpersonal character of human speech. (15—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

After some further observations about Socrates and Gorgias the Sophist, Dr. Pieper says:

And with this we have identified the other [the second] aspect of the corruption of the word: the destruction of its nature as communication….The very moment, as I have stated, that someone in full awareness employs words yet explicitly disregards reality, he in fact ceases to communicate anything to the other. This the reader may more or less have accepted. But an instrument of power? Is this not too strong and too overbearing an expression? It really implies that from one moment to the next the human relationship between the speaker and the listener changes….From that moment on, to be precise, all conversation ceases; all dialogue and all communication comes to an end. But what, then, is taking place? The very question is answered by Socrates with an old-fashioned term: flattery….

What, then, is flattery?….The decisive element is this: having an ulterior motive [not the truth]….What I say to him is designed to get something from him!….He [the seeming conversational partner] has become for me an object to be manipulated, possibly to be dominated, to be handled and controlled….I concentrate on his weaknesses and on those areas that may appeal to him—all in order to manipulate him, to use him for my purposes….The word is perverted and debased [i.e., such “sophisticated language, disconnected from the roots of truth” (20)] to become a catalyst, a drug, as it were, and is as such administered. Instrument of power may still seem a somewhat strong term; still, it does not seem so farfetched any longer. (20-23—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Moving forth some seven illuminating pages, Pieper resumes some of his earlier thoughts:

Be that as it may—this much remains true: wherever the main purpose of speech is flattery, there the word becomes corrupted, and necessarily so. And instead of genuine communication, there will exist something for which domination is too benign a term; more appropriately we should speak of tyranny, of despotism. On the one side there will be sham authority, unsupported by any intellectual superiority, and on the other a state of dependency, which again is too benign a term. Bondage would be more correct….[That is,] a pseudoauthority [in combination with]…a state of mental bondage.

Plato evidently knew what he was talking about when he declared the sophists’ accomplished art of flattery to be the deceptive mirage of the political process, that is, the counterfeit usurpation of power. (29-30—italics; my bold emphasis added)

Moreover, a few pages later, Pieper chooses to make a clarifying interim summary once again;

The common element in all of this is the degeneration of language into an instrument of rape. It does contain violence, albeit in latent form….This lesson, in a nutshell, says: the abuse of political power is fundamentally connected with the sophistic abuse of the word, indeed, finds in it the fertile soil in which to hide and grow and get ready, so much so that the latent potential of the totalitarian poison can be ascertained, as it were, by observing the symptom of the public abuse of language….The relationship based on mere power, and thus the most miserable decay of human interaction, stands in direct proportion to the most devastating breakdown in orientation toward reality.

I spoke [earlier] of public discourse becoming “detached from the notions of truth and reality.” This brief characterization may still be too mild; it does not yet express the full measure of devastation breeding within the sophistic corruption of the word. (32-33—my bold emphasis added)

With a glance to contemporary societies in the twentieth century, Josef Pieper adds a note or so:

It is entirely possible that the true and authentic reality is being drowned out by the countless superficial information bits noisily and breathlessly presented in propaganda fashion. Consequently, one may be entirely knowledgeable about a thousand details and nevertheless, because of ignorance regarding the core of the matter, remain without basic insight. This is a phenomenon in itself already quite astonishing and disturbing….“a fundamental ignorance [said Arnold Gehlen], created by technology and nourished by information.” But, I wanted to say, something more discouraging is readily conceivable as well: the place of authentic reality is taken over by a fictitious reality;…a pseudoreality, deceptively appearing as being real, so much so that it becomes almost impossible any more to discern the truth.

Plato’s literary activity extended over fifty years, and time and again he asked himself anew: What is it that makes the sophists so dangerous? Toward the end he wrote one more dialogue, the Sophist, in which he added a new element to his answer: “The sophists,” he says, “fabricate a fictitious reality.”….This Platonic nightmare, I hold, possesses an alarming contemporary relevance. For the general public is being reduced to a state where people not only are unable to find out about the truth but also become unable even to search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions, satisfied with the fictitious reality created by design through the abuse of language. This, says Plato, is the worst that the sophists are capable of wreaking upon mankind by their corruption of the word.

There is now the ancient saying, corruptio optimi pessima, “the best, corrupted, becomes the worst”….Plato is not simply taking an anti-sophist stance….his unwavering strong opposition…[is] in view of this own position regarding the overriding importance of the good that is endangered and threatened by the sophists. With this, indeed, we touch on those most basic convictions relative to the value and meaning of human existence as such. (33-34—italics; my bold emphasis added)

With his characteristic politeness, Josef Pieper inserts his further good words near the end of his essay: “the well-ordered human existence…is essentially based on the well-ordered language….when its words express reality with as little distortion and as little omission as possible.” (36—my emphasis added)

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Josef Pieper, Abuse of Language, Abusive of Power (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992). The German text was first published in 1974, and then again in 1988; and the original German title was: Mißbrauch der Sprache, Mißbrauch der Macht. The second portion of Josef Pieper’s longer 47-page book in its entirety is entitled “Knowledge and Freedom” and is to be found on pages 41-54, although it will not be discussed in this essay. With one exception (48), all future references will be to the pages 7-39, and placed above in parentheses in the main body of this brief essay.

G.K. Chesterton’s 1920 Insights on “The Story of the Vow”

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                   11 July 2020

Saint Pius I (d. 167)

Saint Benedict of Nursia (d. 543)

The Hicksons’ Sacramental Anniversary

Epigraphs

The civilisation of vows was broken up when Henry the Eighth broke his own vow of marriage. Or rather, it was broken up by a new cynicism in the ruling powers of Europe, of which that was the almost accidental expression in England. The monasteries, that had been built by vows, were destroyed. The guilds [of the pledged craftsmen and tradesmen], that had been regiments of volunteers, were dispersed. The sacramental nature of marriage was denied; and many of the greatest intellects of the new movement, like Milton [the poet John Milton], already indulged in a very modern idealisation of divorce.” (G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920), page 96—my emphasis added.)

***

“Such, in very vague outline, has been the historical nature of vows; and the unique part they played in that medieval civilisation out of which modern civilisation rose—or fell.” (G. K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (1920), page 93—my emphasis added.)

***

“But when this saner view of history is realised, there does remain something more mystical and difficult to define. Even heathen things are Christian when they have been preserved by Christianity. Chivalry is something recognisably different even from the virtus of Virgil. Charity is something exceedingly different from the plain pity of Homer.” (G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (1920), page 86—my emphasis added.)

***

In 1920, two years before he was received into the Catholic Church at forty-eight years of age, G.K. Chesterton published a book entitled The Superstition of Divorce,1 in which there is to be refreshingly found a variegated and unexpected twenty-page chapter entitled “The Story of the Vow.”

It is our intention in this brief essay to concentrate on some parts of that one chapter so that we may better understand and circulate Chesterton’s reviving insights on the meaning of a vow, and on some of the consequences of a vow, as distinct from a mere contract or an unfair “leonine contract.” For, it is so that a vow is not always a solemn act and grave promise made also as an irreversible promise to God. But sometimes it is: for example, as is the case in a sacramental marriage or in a sacred calling to the religious life, as in the pledges of a monk, or those of a knight.

Moreover, says Chesterton:

The whole of what we call chivalry was one great vow. Vows of chivalry varied infinitely from the most solid to the most fantastic; from a vow to give all the spoils of conquest to the poor to a vow to refrain from shaving until the first glimpse of Jerusalem. As I have remarked, this rule of loyalty, even in unruly exceptions which proved the rule, ran through all the romances [as with beloved Don Quixote!] and songs of the troubadours; and there were always vows even when they were very far from being marriage vows….

I mean here to emphasise the presence, and not even to settle the proportion, of this new notion [of vows] in the middle ages….When we come to workmen and small tradesmen, we find the same vague yet vivid presence of the spirit that can only be called the vow. In this sense there was a chivalry of trades as well as chivalry of orders of knighthood. (89-91—my emphasis added)

Returning to another portion of his earlier analogies with the classical pagan world, Chesterton says:

Even our patriotism [now] is something more subtle than the undivided love of the city [like Athens]; and the change is felt in the most permanent things, such as the love of landscape [in Belloc’s Sussex and the Sea!] or the love of woman.

To define the differentiation in all these things will always be hopelessly difficult. But I would here suggest one element in the change [from the Ancient World] which is perhaps too much neglected: the nature of a vow.

I might express it by saying that pagan antiquity was the age of status; that Christian mediævalism was the age of vows; and that sceptical modernity has been the age of contracts; or rather has tried to be, and has failed.

The outstanding example of status is slavery. (86-87—my emphasis added)

Later alerting us to the consequential breakup of families (and hence to the wounding of the vulnerable little children), Chesterton had also earlier warned us of something else: “The point is that every philosophy of sex must fail which does not account for its ambition of fixity, as well as for its experience of failure.” (83—my emphasis added) For, as he later also politely and quite fairly adds:

The point here, however, is that the trade and craft [guilds] had not only something like the crest [of aristocratic heraldry], but something like the vow of knighthood. There was in the guildsman the same basic notion that belonged to knights and even to the monks. It was the notion of the free choice of a fixed estate. [That is to say, with reference to the free choice of the knight or the monk: “He is not bound to be bound” (83)!] We can realise the moral atmosphere if we compare the system of Christian guilds, not only with the [unfree] status of the Greek and Roman slaves, but with such a scheme as that of the Indian castes. The oriental caste has some of the qualities of the occidental guild; especially the valuable quality of tradition and the accumulation of culture. (91-92—my emphasis added)

As Chesterton said about the slow transition from pagan antiquity to a wider Christian civilisation: “It marks at least a special stage of transition that the form of freedom was essential to the fact of service, or even of servitude. In this way it is not a coincidence that the word homage actually means manhood.” (89—my emphasis added)

Looking back at all of this evidence, Chesterton said:

But we can never judge it [the idea of the vow] fairly till we face, as I have tried to suggest, this main fact of history: that the personal pledge, feudal or civic or monastic, was the way in which the world did escape from the system of slavery in the past. For the modern break-down of mere contract leaves it still doubtful [as of 1920] if there be any other way of escaping it [i.e., an effective, even subtle, form of slavery] in the future.

The idea, or at any rate the ideal, of the thing called the vow is fairly obvious. It is to combine the fixity that goes with finality with self-respect that only goes with freedom. (94—my emphasis added)

In light of Henry the Eighth’s and John Milton’s sense of marital license, Chesterton said:

The progress of this sort of emancipation advanced step by step with the progress of that aristocratic ascendancy which has made the history of modern England [along with an inordinate dominance by the money power with “the sign of golden usury” (91)]; with all its sympathy with personal liberty, and all its utter lack of sympathy with popular life. Marriage not only became less of a sacrament but less of a sanctity. It threatened to become not only a contract, but a contract that could not be kept [as with “no-fault divorce” today]….It began with divorce of a king; and it is now ending in divorces for a whole kingdom.

The modern era that followed can be called the era of contract; but it can still be called the era of leonine contract. The nobles of the new time first robbed the people, and then offered to bargain with them. It would not be an exaggeration to say that they first robbed the people, and then offered to cheat them….The object of the whole process was to isolate the individual poor man in his dealings with the individual rich man; and then offer to buy and sell with him, though it must be himself that was bought and sold. (96-98—my emphasis added)

Moreover, says Chesterton, and in an increasingly earnest way:

Unless the tendency [as seen from the vantage point of 1920] be reversed, he [the vulnerable and isolated poorer man] will probably become admittedly a slave [also in debt-bondage and facing usurious compound interest]. That is to say, the word slave will never be used, for it is always easy to find an inoffensive word; but he will be admittedly a man legally bound to certain social service, in return for economic security. In other words, the modern experiment of mere contract has broken down….The substitute for it may be the old one of status; but is must be something having some of the stability of status. So far history has found only one way of combining that sort of stability with any sort of liberty. (98—my emphasis added)

Now Chesterton comes to his main concern in his entire book on the family and divorce:

There is only one form of freedom that they [the “captains of industry” (99) and theirs managerial elites] tolerate; and that is the sort of sexual freedom that is covered by the legal fiction of divorce.

If we ask why this liberty is alone left, when so many liberties are lost, we shall find the answer in the summary of this chapter. They are trying to break the vow of the knight as they broke the vow of the monk. They recognise the vow as the vital antithesis to servile status; the alternative and therefore the antagonist. (99-100—my emphasis added)

Now returning to the sanctity of marriage, Chesterton becomes even more specific and robustly affirmative, ending his Chapter 3 with a deft and realistic literary allusion about one of those gravely ill effects of one conspicuous historical form of slavery:

Marriage makes a small state within the state, which resists all such [inordinate and intrusive] regimentation. That [marital] bond breaks all other [lesser positive-law] bonds; that [marital] law is found stronger than all later and lesser laws.

They [the modern state] desire the democracy to be sexually fluid, because the making of small nuclei is like the making of small nations. Like small nations, they are a nuisance to the mind of imperial scope….

It is so difficult to see the world in which we live [in 1920], that I know that many will see all I have said here of [often camouflaged] slavery as a nonsensical nightmare. But if my association of divorce with slavery seems only a far-fetched and theoretical paradox, I should have no difficulty in replacing it by a concrete and familiar picture. Let them merely remember the time when they read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and ask themselves whether the oldest and simplest of the charges against slavery has not always been the breaking up of families. (100-101—my emphasis added)

In this context it was also significant for a just and magnanimous man like G.K. Chesterton to discover that the printed subtitle of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1851-1852 widely influential pre-war novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is Life Among the Lowly.

The novel’s subtitle also recalls G.K. Chesterton’s keenly discerning and paradoxical wit in his Orthodoxy: “Without humility you can’t enjoy anything, even pride.”

We may better now also appreciate what Chesterton’s dear friend Hilaire Belloc had published eight years earlier in his 1912 book, which was also subtly entitled The Servile State.

–FINIS–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1 G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce (London: Chatto & Windus, 1920), containing 151 pages in length overall, with five chapters and a brief conclusion. All future references to this book, especially to Chapter 3 (“The Story of the Vow”) will be placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay and commentary.

Remembering Louis Blanqui and the Leninist Concept of “Enlightened Terror”

(Author’s June 2020 note: This essay was written and published in early January 2013.)

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                              6 January 2013

Feast of the Epiphany

Saint Andre Bessette

Epigraphs:

“He agreed with my view that the means governed the end, ill means distorting the end.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Lawrence of Arabia.)1

***

“The manipulation of language was one of the salient characteristics of Leninism, particularly in the de-coupling of words from the reality they were supposed to represent.” (Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression.)2

***

“The war we are in is particularly characterized as being omni-dimensional, but it perhaps is even more sharply distinctive for the fact that within the omni-dimensional deployment psycho-political operations have been raised to the level of a primary weapons system.” (James Burnham, The War We Are In (1967), Chapter I—“The Decade Past,” p. 14)

***

On 4 June 1960, one month before I was to enter the United States Military Academy as a seventeen-year-old New Cadet, an article was published that was later to illuminate much reality for me as a military officer—especially about the strategic and tactical manipulation of mobs by well-trained, disciplined cadres who sought “command of the streets.” The 1960 article was entitled “Student Riots and Blanqui’s Legacy” and the writer was the former Trotskyite, James Burnham.

Burnham’s well-informed article was originally published in his regular bi-weekly column in National Review under the heading “The Third World War.” But, it was later published again in 1967, in one of James Burnham’s strategic-cultural books, entitled The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next.3

Moreover, if one considers Burnham’s 1960 article also in light of advanced modern communication-technologies some fifty years later, and in light of such recent, purportedly spontaneous manifestations as “the Arab Spring,” one may freshly see again some enduring principles and applications of effective indirect warfare. We may also come to see how this matter of indirection is itself related to strategic and tactical deception and to the difficult matter of detecting and countering “False-Flag Operations.”

Since this essay proposes to be intelligible to the general reader, as well as urgently pertinent to the reader’s actual needs for discernment and counter-action, it is fitting to make a clarification and a slight over-simplification. By tactical, in this essay, we should understand something as being directed toward more short-term and partial objectives. By strategic, we should understand something as being directed toward more long-term and decisive objectives. The choice of tactics is also a part of strategy. Moreover, in the introductory section of his book’s Chapter VIII, entitled “The Forms of Modern Warfare,” written in 1967 amidst the keen challenges of that era, Burnham thoughtfully says:

Military theorists tell us that the principles of warfare never change. This may be so, if the principles are formulated in general enough terms, but practical strategy as well as weapons and tactics are of course continually changing. The war we are in is not the first in which political, psychological and other “unconventional” methods have been employed. Their use goes back to the beginning of warfare—that is, to the beginning of man’s social history. We take the term “Trojan Horse” from three thousand years ago to describe certain types of contemporary infiltration behind enemy lines. Thucydides makes clear the important role of political warfare in the Peloponnesian conflict. In gaining his sweeping victories at the end of the fourteenth century, the Mongol leader, Tamerlane, made political and psychological measures a major weapons system…. Very often this method of psychological terror attained Tamerlane’s objective—the conquest of a city—without any need of overt fighting. The two surrenders of Czechoslovakia—to Hitler in 1938 and to Stalin in 1947—are not so very different from the surrenders by the Asian cities to the Mongol conqueror….Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points, particularly his stress on self-determination, were an important factor in bringing about the downfall of the German and especially the Austro-Hungarian governments in the First World War. Hitler took control of the Rhineland, the Saar and Austria, as well as Czechoslovakia, by political warfare methods without fighting by the main elements of his armed forces.4

After his brief conspectus of relevant history, Burnham brings us closer to the specific challenge of Leninist-Stalinist-Maoist communism and the revolutionary methods which its strategic-and-tactical “Conflict Apparatus”5 variously employed:

There is, thus, ample precedent for the communist use of political and psychological warfare methods, together with the many sorts of guerrilla, partisan and paramilitary methods, and the lesser but increasing use of these methods by the anti-communist camp. However, as I have remarked earlier, no previous conflict has displayed as great a variety and number of methods—of dimensions—as the war we are in. From the communist point of view, every institution in the camp of the enemy is a battleground: churches as well as armies; business corporations and trade unions alike; art, literature and science; Boy Scout troops along with intelligence agencies; communications media just as much as political parties. The front, as Colonel William R. Kintner has insisted through the title of one of his books, is everywhere. And since the enemy attacks everywhere, we must either resist everywhere, or succumb.6

Let us now turn to Burnham’s consideration of Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), whom Vladimir Lenin himself thoroughly studied and greatly admired. Burnham will thereby lead us to other deeper considerations by first examining “the political pattern” that “emerges unmistakably” when we observe the worldwide, and often simultaneous, “student riots” of 1960.

Burnham first presents some facts and, then, some of the cumulative effects of these often concurrent, but geographically separated, events—all of them also occurring, we should note, in strategic locations:

During the past two years [1958-1960] there have been mass riots in the streets of many major cities of the non-communist world: Caracas, Montevideo, Lima, Baghdad, Havana, Capetown, Léopoldville, Algiers, Seoul, Ankara, Tokyo, San Francisco, among others. In these, students are usually prominent. Nearly all of these riots, with the notable exception of Algiers, have been directed against political friends of the United States.7

Moreover, lest we think these disruptions to be mere trifles, Burnham adds:

These riots have been remarkably successful. They played an essential role in the overthrow of no less than five governments that were firm allies of the U.S.: in Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, South Korea and Turkey. South Korea and Turkey have been thrown into domestic turmoil.8

Then making a partial review of the geographically distributed, representative effects, he says:

Riots in the Latin American capitals prevented Vice President Nixon’s visit from yielding positive results, marred the President’s [Eisenhower’s] subsequent trip, and degraded U.S. prestige in the eyes of the Latin American masses. The fierce riots now sweeping through the street of Tokyo may smash the pro-United States Kishi government, and compel both repudiation of the U.S.-Japan security treaty and cancellation of Mr. Eisenhower’s scheduled visit.9

With careful probabilistic reasoning, Burnham raises a few questions and gives his reflective judgment and the reasons for his conclusion, in light of earlier historical operations of “the conflict apparatus”:

Do the communists have a hand in these events? When we fit them together, the political pattern emerges unmistakably. Cui prodest?—to whose benefit—the old rule tells us to ask. Invariably the answer is, to the benefit of the communists and the policies they favor. Where are the street riots against a pro-communist regime or policy? Coincidences so multiple, both positive and negative, simply do not occur in politics.10

After giving the likely “left-Liberal and socialist” objections to his view—and he eloquently states them in a whole, lengthy paragraph, and without any caricature or mocking distortion—he proceeds gradually to refute them, by first understanding some other ways of thinking about the usefulness of crowds and uproars. For example:

The Bolshevik approach to mobs, riots and “command of the streets” is rather more serious. In his design for the revolutionary party—the conflict apparatus—Lenin, like Bakunin [the Anarchist] and Nechayev [the Russian Nihilist] before him, incorporated the ideas of Louis Auguste Blanqui, a French revolutionist who lived from 1805-81. Blanqui first became prominent in the 1830 revolution, and devoted the rest of his life, in and out of prison, to revolutionary conspiracy. He believed that the key to successful revolt was the development of a small, secret,“cadre” organization. Normally the cadres would remain underground, abstaining from political affairs. They were to be trained in the manipulation of crowds and the use of the small arms and improvised weapons accessible to crowds.11

For our further instruction and strategic edification, Burnham gives some additionally specific history:

Blanqui assumed that the normal course of modern mass society would periodically bring crowds into the streets. Unguided, they would mill around to no particular purpose. The trained cadres could, however, deploy through the mass and take leadership. In the 1848 and 1870 revolutions [in France] the practical cogency of Blanqui’s ideas was proved. In 1870 it was his cadres—4,000 strong—who were primarily responsible for the overthrow of the Third Empire and establishment of the Paris Commune—history’s first revolutionary, proletarian, Soviet dictatorship. Unguided mobs may shake but they do not overthrow regimes. They do not produce consistent slogans and select strategic targets. [That is, as the earlier “Comintern”—Third Communist International Apparatus 1919-1943—had done, and even as the follow-up “Cominform”—the 1943-1956 Communist Information Bureau—did, though in a more mitigated, speciously conciliatory, way]. The coordinated operations of these recent [1958-1960] riots, and their high measure of success, are the product of trained Bolshevik neo-Blanquists who, once the masses take to the street, supply the guidance and slogans, point to the targets, and foment the violence.12

Supporting his analysis further, Burnham returns to specific riots then occurring in Japan and Uruguay—and even, in a more incipient way, in California:

This [disciplined guidance] is true not only in Tokyo, where the Bolsheviks work through the wild Zengakuren hoodlums, or in Montevideo, where the communists openly control the student clubs, but in our own San Francisco at “an earlier stage” of the revolutionary process [to be further developed on “the Inner Front” during the Vietnam War?]. The police investigation proved the communist leadership of the student mob that took command of the center of the city….Americans smile incredulously, but it is the simple truth that the HUAC [House Un-American Activities Committee] riots last month [in May of 1960] were not a student prank but a rehearsal for revolution.13

What Marguerite Higgins later showed in her 1965 book, Our Vietnam Nightmare,14 poignantly confirms Burnham’s analysis, especially with the manipulation of the “select” Buddhist mobs against President Diem and his regime, helping the agents and complicitors of the 2 November 1963 assassination of the President and his brother Nhu, and thereby the calamitous overthrow of the Diem Regime. Speaking of the Revolutionary and effectively “neo-Blanquist” Cadre-Chief, the Buddhist monk Thich Tri Quang, for example—who himself had immense contempt for the American dupes who courted him and who fatuously thought they could “reform” him—Marguerite Higgins so modestly (and very humble as to her own insufficiency of discernment) wrote the following in her 1965 book:

It seems strangely unreal, looking back on the summer of 1963 [a few months before the assassinations and following coup], that anybody could have still been in doubt about short-term Buddhist aims. “What do the Buddhists want?” I wrote at the end of my Vietnam tour. “What they want is Diem’s head, and not on a silver platter, but wrapped in an American flag.” What I did not foresee was that “Diem’s head wrapped in an American flag, was precisely what the Buddhists would get.15

As we shall soon see, this outcome closely resembles, not only a form of the deceitful “Judo Principle” (using someone’s own force and vices, as well as his moral virtues, against him), but also another part of Leninist doctrine, namely the concept of “enlightened terror.”

In the May 1960 riots and revolutionary rehearsals in San Francisco, some three years before the Diem assassination, however, even then:

The cadre chiefs were well pleased with the exercise [or the “rehearsal”]. For several hours, screened by student-innocents, (in the protective role of the proletarian wives that the Bolsheviks pushed to the front of the 1917 Petrograd mob), they held control of the streets against all the power [police and military] of the enemy. They compelled the local sovereign, Mayor George Christopher, to capitulate….And they bent the courts to their will. Judge A. Axelrod, with a fatuous statement about not wanting to “cause a stigma,” dismissed all charges against all the rioters, Blanquists and dupes. They flung his sentimentality back in his face with a scornful declaration that they “still stand firmly” by their aims and actions. Would that our mayors and judges might say as much!16

Almost three and a half years later, on 5 November 1963—only three days after the Diem assassination—James Burnham wrote another important strategic, and morally discerning, article, entitled “The Revolution on the Mekong.” It was another one of his regular columns in National Review, coming under the heading, “The Third World War,” but also reproduced, on only three incisive pages, in his book The War We Are In.17

As a complement and counterpoise to Marguerite Higgins’ later book, Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965), Burnham’s analysis is, however, more geopolitical, strategical, and doctrinal. He begins his column with stern and sobering words which swiftly catch our attention, without his even mentioning the assassinations on All Souls’ Day three days before:

The first two communist objectives in the South Vietnamese sector of “the revolution on the Mekong”—the phrase is Ho Chi Minh’s—have now been attained. Le Duan, secretary of the Communist Party of North Vietnam, listed the early stages when, in September 1960 [three months after Burnham’s earlier-discussed article on Louis Blanqui], he announced formation of the “National Liberation Front” (FLN) of South Vietnam: “This Front must take as the principal objectives the overthrow of the Diem regime, the abolition of the present Constitution, the orientation of the South Vietnam foreign policy toward neutralism, and the establishment of normal [sic] relations between the South and the North.”18

Moreover, and very importantly to our deeper understanding of these forms of warfare, Burnham then says:

These objectives have been achieved by “enlightened terror,” which aims at bringing about a situation, chiefly by psychological means, in which the active opponents are destroyed by their own camp.19

I believe that these words should be carefully considered, especially because such insidious operations always break intimate trust “within our own camp,” a demoralizing breach which is so difficult to repair.

Burnham then gives supporting documentation for this Doctrine of “Enlightened Terror”:

A remarkable document found on the body of a dead NKVD officer [a Soviet security-and-intelligence officer] explained: “In the concept of enlightened terror the terror subject [the perpetrator] not only remains in the shadows, but acts and applies the terror not in his own name but in the name of his opponent [the target]….In the system of enlightened terror nearly all the efforts of the terror subject are directed at converting the [human] environment into a spontaneous assistant and accessory, in ignorance of its role.” The terror subject indeed [says Burnham] must be congratulating himself today, in his shadows, for the psycho-political manipulation by which he led the Government of the United States to act as his “spontaneous assistant and accessory, in ignorance of its role.”20

At this point of his apparent knowledge of the fuller Vietnam “environment,” Burnham is still unaware of (or at least does not mention) the probability of conscious, culpable complicity, as well, on the part of some U.S. actors, civilian and military.

After Burnham gives an excellent, lucid summary of the strategic geography of the Mekong River as “one of the dozen greatest rivers in the world” from the Tibetan plateau to the China Sea south of Saigon, he affirms that, therefore, as seen through the eyes of the enemy, “the revolution on the Mekong” is “conceived as a vast integrated strategic campaign that will carry communism to the South Seas.”21

Showing first how almost the entire strategic theater—not sufficiently appreciated by the Americans—is already under predominant communist influence or is at least resisted by an “anti-Western “’positive neutrality,’” as in Cambodia, he concludes:

The South Vietnam sector is now the only remaining obstacle of consequence….[Thus,] an anti-communist South Vietnamese regime has been a road block that must be breached or undermined. To that end a varied mix of weapons has been directed: paramilitary, terrorist, psychological and political….In the middle of 1960 the main slogans of the propaganda campaign—many of them destined to make their way through the layers of underground agents, fellow travelers, collaborators, dupes, silly journalists and innocents all the way to the White House [especially, from the outset, to the January 1961 White House of John F. Kennedy]—were launched: “Overthrow of the reactionary U.S.A.-Diem clique!”; “An end to the policy of repression and terror!” etc.22

Concerning President Diem and his regime, specifically, Burnham adds:

The Diem regime represented the only serious and cohesive anti-communist formation in South Vietnam—nor is it by mere chance that Christians were so prominent within it. That regime and that formation are now shattered. The communists and pro-communists are dancing in the streets, schools, and pagodas, along with the naïve and heedless. Some of the officers who took part in the coup are sincerely anti-communist, but they have no “social base” for an anti-communist policy. Moreover, they have the insuperable disadvantage that the whole world knows them—as Moscow immediately named them—for the American puppets they really are.23

Concluding his trenchant article with a consideration of the ideologically Liberal John F. Kennedy Administration and Kennedy’s chosen array of progressive “New Frontiersmen,” Burnham says:

The socio-political process that President Kennedy initiated [in early 1961] can be predicted with near certainty [although President Kennedy’s own imminent assassination on 22 November, only some two weeks later, could not be comparably extrapolated nor reasonably expected]. The new regime, or rather succession of regimes [in South Vietnam], will begin disintegrating at once. Its leftward elements will inevitably make contact with the National Liberation Front (are doubtless already in contact)….And is John F. Kennedy, flying [now himself] the [detente] Treaty of Moscow at the masthead of his ship of state, the man to reject the claims of Peace?24

(Burnham’s sharp irony here about the true nature of “the Peace” will not be easily missed.)

Whether knowingly or not, whether as knaves or dupes, Liberalism tends to give a free hand to its own assassins, even, at times, hands the weapons over to its own assassins. Burnham came to see this sad fact very well.

Less than a year later, during the new Lyndon B. Johnson Administration, James Burnham was, in fact, to publish his long-germinating and profound and still-unrefuted analysis of Liberalism and of its inherent consequences. It is entitled Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (1964).

Burnham also knew what Alexander Solzhenitsyn himself, again and again, argued in his own writings and critiques: the Girondins give way to the Jacobins; the Mensheviks give way to the Bolsheviks; Stalinism is not at all a corruption of Leninism, but rather a continuation and further fulfillment of Leninism (even in its own disciplined “strategy of terror”). Stalinism, moreover, is not a corruption of some pure deposit of Marxism-Leninism: the monster is in the doctrine itself. Moreover, Lenin’s and Stalin’s views of power and expansion and the sophistic deceits of dialectical-and-historical materialism (and thus its ongoing manipulations of the purported “contradictions at the very heart of reality”) are entirely different from historical “Russian Nationalism,” despite the latter’s own aggressive and imperially expansive initiatives.

In his own 11 September 1987 essay on James Burnham (shortly after “Jim” had just died on 28 July 1987), Joseph Sobran recalls Burnham’s revealingly important, earlier article from the early 1940s, in the Leftist intellectual journal, Partisan Review, a provocative article entitled “Lenin’s Heir.” In Sobran’s words:

Jim did like to shock. The Machiavellians [first published in 1943, after his break with Trotsky] belongs to the same period as “Lenin’s Heir,” a piece he wrote for Partisan Review to “épater les Trotskyistes” [to “floor” or “flabbergast” the Trotskyites], as he told me once smiling. He épatered them, all right. He called the holy martyr Trotsky a “Platonic Communist” and said that Stalin, not Trotsky, was Lenin’s true successor. Stalin had fulfilled it in its real essence: power.25

That is to say, “Power without Grace,” in Helena’s words to her son, Emperor Constantine.26 She then amplifies her theme in that same conversation alone with her son, and gives her further counsel with a view to the future and even to the coming reality of mass democracies:

“Sometimes,” Helena continued, “I have a terrible dream of the future. Not now, but presently, people may forget their loyalty to their kings and emperors and take power for themselves. Instead of letting one victim [like you] bear this frightful curse [the burden of responsibility of an Emperor’s lonely Rule], they will take it all on themselves, each one of them. Think of a whole world possessed of Power without Grace.”27

So, too, will there likely be misery and loutishness and spreading disorder stemming from “Democratic Centralism,” “Bureaucratic Collectivism,” and the theories of Revolutionary Naturalism, such as the dialectical doctrine, power, and disciplined deceits of “Enlightened Terror” which still may come forth from Neo-Leninist Neo-Blanquist Cadres and their coherent “Conflict Apparatus” so deftly prepared and variously able to conduct covert, tactical and strategic, crowd or “mass” manipulation.

Should we not expect that these effective traditions and principles are still being transmitted and subtly adjusted to current actualities (and technologies), and applied, at least by Neo-Bolsheviks or Neo-Jacobins, some of them even religious and imperial Neo-Conservatives or Neo-Zionists?28 Messianic Politics is still a formative (and “deformative”) and fevered factor in our world.

May we, therefore, at least learn from the varied experience and tested wisdom of James Burnham,29 which we now, in part, have seen in this little essay. Thus, we may also now analogously remember the subtle and effective practices of Louis Blanqui himself, and consider how he would likely employ the new electronic, “radio-frequency” instruments and bio-nano technologies of “perception management”—and even “psycho-neuro-linguistics”—today in his covert oligarchic guidance of mobs (and even magistrates). Also by using the “trust-shattering” methods of “enlightened terror.” And even especially so (as with the slower cultural strategy of Antonio Gramsci) against the Catholic Church.

FINIS

© 2013 Robert D. Hickson

1B.H. Liddell Hart, Lawrence of Arabia (New York, New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1989), the Postscript, p. 369—this book was originally published, in 1934, 1935, and 1937, as Colonel Lawrence: The Man Behind the Legend.

2Stéphane Courtois, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 739. The full clause, with an added, but likewise pertinent, sentence, says as follows :“The manipulation of language was one of the salient characteristics of Leninism, particularly the de-coupling of words from the reality they were supposed to represent, as part of an abstract vision of society in which people lost their real weight and presence and were treated as no more than pieces in a social and historical erector set. This process of abstraction, closely linked to ideology, is another key factor in the birth of the terror.” (pp. 739-740—my emphasis added)

3James Burnham, The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1967), pp. 254-256. This essay is to be found in the Section of the book which is entitled “The Forms of Modern Warfare” (Chapter VIII), pages 240-284. Burnham’s own National Review column,“The Third World War,” his regular column since the magazine’s first issue in November 1955, was re-named “The Protracted Conflict” in 1970 and remained so thereafter until his retirement in 1978, regrettably for reasons of impaired health.

4Ibid., pp. 240-241—my emphasis added. See, also, the excellent study by James Chambers, entitled The Devil’s Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe (New York: Atheneum, 1979), a vivid and applicable book of 200 pages.

5Ibid., p. 255.

6Ibid., p. 241—my emphasis added. Burnham refers to Colonel William Kintner’s 1950 book, The Front Is Everywhere.

7Ibid., p. 254.

8Ibid.

9Ibid.

10Ibid., pp. 254-255.

11Ibid., p. 255—my emphasis added.

12Ibid., pp. 255-256—my emphasis added. We also may now better imagine what Pontius Pilate himself, the Roman Procurator, had to face, especially when he encountered the manipulated, and increasingly furious mob with their strident calls for the criminal, Barabbas—which constitutes, as it seems, another part of “that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent! ” in Evelyn Waugh’s memorable words. (Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), Chapter 11 “Epiphany,” p. 223—which is the penultimate page of that Chapter).

13Ibid., p. 256—emphasis in the original.

14Marguerite Higgins, Our Vietnam Nightmare (New York: Harper &.Row, Publishers, 1965). See, also, “Giving a Free Hand to the Assassins” (13 December 2012—8 pp.), by Robert Hickson, which is now also posted on the website, Catholicism.org.

15Ibid., p. 33—my emphasis added. On the same page, Higgins quotes the specific words of the arrogant Manipulator-Chief, Thich Tri Quang, from his private interview with the Saigon Press, as recorded in detail, specifically in the Saigon Post: for example,With the Americans, it is not so interesting any more. They are too easy to outwit….Some of them persist in thinking they can ‘reform’ me into agreeing with them….It is useful to smile sometimes and let them think so….We will use the Americans to help us get rid of the Americans.” (p. 33—my emphasis added).

16James Burnham, The War We In, p. 256—my emphasis added.

17Ibid., pp. 232-234.

18Ibid., p. 232.

19Ibid.—my emphasis added.

20Ibid.—my emphasis added, except for the bracket within the phrase “the [human] environment” which is James Burnham’s own original and clarifying insertion.

21Ibid., pp. 232-233.

22Ibid., p. 233.

23Ibid., pp. 233-234—my emphasis added. President Diem, however, was not a puppet, but, rather, a distinctive and independent Catholic Mandarin and protective Nationalist, also against the French, who also resented him, and likewise betrayed him.

24Ibid., p. 234—my emphasis added.

25Joseph Sobran, Joseph Sobran: The National Review Years, 1974-1991 (Vienna, Virginia: FGF Books, 2012), p. 98. Sobran’s 11 September 1987 article is entitled “James Burnham, 1905-1987: Editor, Thinker, Colleague,” pp. 97-99.

26Evelyn Waugh, Helena (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1950), p. 185. It comes near the beginning Waugh’s Chapter Nine, entitled “Recessional.”

27Ibid., p.186—my emphasis added. A little later, Constantine says, once again, “If I wish to live, I must determine to rule—And that is [still] true today”; and his mother, once again, immediately replies:“But not without Grace, Constantine.” (p. 186—my emphasis added).

28In this context about the deceitful dialectical mutations of dynamic communism (with its always more stable and dully viscous, underlying “socialist phenomena”), the words of the gifted scholar, William Thomas Walsh might help us to be even more attentive and responsive. Professor Walsh, shortly after the formal conclusion of World War II, met in person with Sister Lucia, then Sr. Maria das Dores (Mary of the Sorrows), for “a long conversation” in Northern Portugal, near Porto. It was “on the afternoon of Monday, July 15, 1946.” In the Epilogue to his 1947 book, Our Lady of Fatima, Walsh spoke of how Sister Lucia of Fatima said “more than once, and with deliberate emphasis” that a certain, very specific, consecration of Russia to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart must be done; and “If it is not done, the errors of Russia will spread through every country of the world.” When he asked her: “Does this mean, in your opinion, that every country, without exception, will be overcome by Communism?”she said “Yes.” This may appear but a visionary folly to many, but maybe not. W.T. Walsh Our Lady of Fatima (Garden City, N.Y.:Image Books, 1954; first ed. in May 1947), p. 221.

29See also the recent essay, “Honor in Foreign Policy” (9 pp.) by Robert Hickson, which text is largely a tribute to the insights of James Burnham. It is dated 18 December 2012, and is now also posted on the website and Electronic Journal of Catholicism.org.

“The Art of Not Yielding to Despair”: Josef Pieper’s 1972 Reflections on Final Hope

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                    5 June 2020

Saint Boniface (d. 755)

Epigraphs

“Whoever does not appreciate the significance of signs and symbols will never understand the essence of a sacrament, and only those who realize what constitutes a sacred action will find the way open to a deeper understanding of the Christian cultus and mystery [as in the Actio Sacra of the Mass].” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), page 164—this is a cited portion of his own “Foreword” to his earlier 1974 book, Über die Schwierigkeit Heute zu Glauben (About the Difficulty of Having Faith Today))

***

“Apparently Immanuel Kant had something like this theological aspect of hope in mind when he said [with his own Prussian Academy of Sciences’ citation to his Vol. ix, 24] that the fundamental philosophical (!) question, ‘What may I hope for?‘ is answered not by philosophy but by religion.” (Josef Pieper, “The Art of Not Yielding to Despair,” in his 1985 book in English, Problems of Modern Faith, page 186—my bold emphasis added; italics also in the original)

***

“And yet… the beginning and the end, the primal Origin of the Creation and the ultimate Consummation of the creative process, meet and touch in Christ; this closing of the ring….[i.e., with] God’s Incarnation….

“Let me repeat once again that anyone who, for whatever reasons, does not accept the historical reality of this primordial event—the Incarnation of God and the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ—must inevitably fail to understand the mystery celebrated in Christian worship [i.e., in the sacred Mass]. For, as I have stated, what ‘happens’ in the liturgical worship [the cultus] of the Church derives from that primordial event [Creation-Incarnation]. It [the public worship] is by nature a secondary phenomenon.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1989), pages 188-189—my emphasis added)

***

“For example, the idea of the Incarnation of God, in which the ultimate work of the Creation was linked with the Origin of that Creation to form a circle, might appeal to a ‘Gnostic’ philosopher who saw in it the unlooked-for confirmation of a world view based of a single all-embracing principle. But the facts that, within that framework, mankind hated and killed the God-made-man ‘without cause’ (John 15:25) and that yet this same death effected the salvation of man, who had committed the murder: these theological truths explode any tidy formula which anyone might conceive about the world.

“Another example: a philosophy of history which takes into account the possibility of a catastrophic end of history within time and yet, on grounds of the same apocalyptic theology, is opposed to the conclusion, born of despair, that existence is therefore absurd, must inevitably prove [to be] far more arduous, more complex, and, so to speak, ‘less satisfying’ than any philosophy of progress (whether based on idealist [e.g., Kantian or Hegelian], Marxist, or evolutionary conceptions) or any metaphysics of decline and fall. Thus a person who engages in a philosophic act appears to derive a handicap from his collaboration with theology, but simultaneously he derives an enrichment which can be summed up in the term higher truth. For the essential thing in philosophy is neither the avoidance of knotty problems nor the bewitchment of the intellect with plausible or conclusive proofs. Instead the essential thing is that not one single element of reality be suppressed or concealed—not one element of that unfathomable reality the vision of which is synonymous with the concept of ‘truth.’” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (1989), pages 178-179—my bold emphases and italics added)

***

In his 1985 book in English, entitled Problems of Modern Faith, 1Josef Pieper has a seventeen-page essay surprisingly called “The Art of Not Yielding to Despair: Reflections on ‘The End of History,’” which was first published in 1972 in Munich, Germany to honor another professor.

There are portions of this candid and searching essay which—especially toward the end of the essay—are not only timeless, but quite timely in this already eventful year of 2020. Although variously fervent, even destructively revolutionary, hopes (in the plural) may not come to be achieved, there is still—sometimes—a more fundamental, existential hope (in the singular) that remains vividly alive as a gift and, thus, as an infused supernatural virtue. Moreover, despair and presumption are both sins against that virtuous supernatural hope. (However, many persons still do not trust these claims to be a reliable and important part of the truth.)

Briefly now, before Josef Pieper will come to answer a second of two proposed and primary questions, he will fittingly speak of the prior question: “Let us first address the question of what internal evidence exists for the probability or improbability of a catastrophic end to history.” (175-176—mt emphasis added)

Consequently and conditionally, he adds: “If one’s answer to this [first] question [about final catastrophe] is ‘Yes,’ then the second question is: What is to become of man’s hopes for the future, and is not the only appropriate response to human history one of despair?” (175—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

That we may appreciate more fully the methods and tones of his fair-minded enquiries and their spacious unfailing magnanimity, we now consider how he begins his essay:

If one accepts or even is willing to seriously ponder that concept of the temporal end of human history which has been an active feature of Western historical thought from the days of [Apostle-Evangelist] John on Patmos down to the time of [the Russian philosopher] Vladimir Soloviev [d. 1900], who in the final year of the nineteenth century published his myth of the Antichristi.e., the notion that the end of history (we should bear in mind that we are speaking of history within the framework of time!) will be characterized not by a triumph of “reason” or justice or Christianity, but rather by something in the nature of a universal catastrophe for which one of the most appropriate name is “the reign of the Antichrist,” a term implying the worldwide dominion of evil, a pseudo-order [deception] maintained by violence, and so on—if, I say, one regards this concept of history as something which at least merits serious thought, then of course one is immediately confronted by certain questions, and by two questions in particular.

First, does this conception of a catastrophic end to history within time possess any degree of internal probability, given our empirical knowledge of the historical process and of historical trends? In other words, do things [in 1972 or in 2020] “look as if” they might turn out that way? If one’s answer to this question is “Yes,” then the second question is: What is to become of man’s hopes for the future, and is not the only appropriate response to human history one of despair? (175—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

While presenting a set of then-contemporary examples of vaunted material progress and its sometimes ambiguous attainments (as of 1972), Dr. Pieper says:

Most remarkable of all are the great advances which have been made in the sphere of technological domination of nature and the exploitation of its resources. Of course in this area there are a “but” and a “nevertheless” to consider. Technological advances have always possessed the character of opportunities; and as we all know, it is possible to take advantage of an opportunity;….I will cite two examples of the ambivalence of technological progress, both of which relate to the theme of this discussion. The first example is that of research into the psychosomatic or psychophysical reality of man. Never before has investigation in this field revealed as many new techniques for healing man’s ills as it is doing today. However, it is equally true that these same techniques have created unprecedented potentialities for man to seduce, enslave, and forcibly modify the nature of other men.

A second example is that of atomic energy. At this point [in 1972] no one can predict whether the dangers of physical destruction and political abuse inherent in man’s control of atomic energy will eventually be outweighed by the potential of putting it to some meaningful use.

We have asked whether there exist any clues or signs which indicate the possibility, or even the probability, of a catastrophic end of history within time. In attempting to answer this question, I would like, for the time being, to refrain from expressing my own views, and instead present for our consideration statements drawn from other contemporary writers. (178—my bold emphasis added; italics in the original)

After considering, for example, “modern nihilism” (179) and such a man’s “yearning for self destruction” (179) and [as of 1972] the widespread “materialistic hedonism” (181) and even whether it is “no longer possible for man to maintain control over these factors on which his future fate depends” (179), Pieper presents the views of Aldous Huxley and, especially, his 1961 book, Brave New World Revisited.

Huxley himself is now quoted as follows as he is first shown to be explicitly re-examining his original 1931 book “thirty years later” (182):

“In 1931, when Brave New World was being written, I was convinced that there was still plenty of time. The completely organized society…, the abolition of free will by methodical conditioning, the servitude made acceptable…—these things were coming all right, but not in my time, not even in the time of my grandchildren….In this third quarter of the twentieth century…I feel a good deal less optimistic [now in 1961]….The prophecies made in 1931 are coming true much sooner than I thought.”

Then Huxley reviews his earlier [1931] book point by point and, on the basis of his experience of historical events which took place during the intervening years, predicts a future in which one of the most important elements will be a “scientific dictatorship” in which “there will probably be much less violence than under Hitler and Stalin,” and in which individuals “will be painlessly regimented by a corps of highly trained social engineers.” To be sure, “democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial, but, “the underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism….“Non-violent totalitarianism” is the most inhuman form of totalitarianism—among other reasons because it can always cite what appear to be valid arguments to prove that it is not what it in fact is. This consummate mendacity must inevitably result in the atrophy of communication between human beings, which is essentially built on trust. (182-my emphases added)

To emphasize this factor of trust and distrust, Josef Pieper adds these insightful words from another experienced and understanding author:

Martin Buber attempted to express this fact [of a consequential atrophy] in the following terms: “In the future we may expect the total reciprocity of existential distrust to develop to a point at which speech will revert to silence [or to muteness].” (Of course [comments Pieper] not only does this breakdown of communication fail to eliminate “idle chatter” and mere verbiage (verbositas), but it actually encourages them.) The possibility of such a breakdown of communication, Huxley says, never for a moment occurred to the early advocates of universal literacy and the freedom of the press. “They did not foresee what in fact has happened….the development of a vast mass communications industry, concerned…neither with the true or the false, but with the unreal, the more or less totally irrelevant.” (182-183—my bold emphasis added)

By way of closure of this preparatory introduction, Pieper assures us of something important: “Of course not one of the authors I have just quoted speaks so much as a syllable about the ‘Antichrist.’” (183) But, as he had earlier reminded us, as well: “Christians have never abandoned apocalyptic prophecy.” (179) Therefore, to such a matter we now fittingly turn—the second and last part of Josef Pieper’s overall and forthright structure.

Dr. Pieper makes the transition to his part two with the following words:

Tradidit mundum disputationi eorum, (Ecclesiasticus 3:11); God has turned the world over to men to do with [it] as they see fit. This is the terrible dowry of freedom, which necessarily involves the possibility of abuse. “Everything clearly indicates,” says Gabriel Marcel [in his The Mystery of Being], “that we ourselves have been given the authority to build the walls of the prison in which we want to live. This is the terrible price we pay for the unfathomable power which has been entrusted to us and which, moreover, is the foundation of our selfhood.” (183-184—my emphasis added)

Framing his final four points to be candidly accented in part two, Pieper then searchingly asks:

At this point we are in a position to experience the full impact of the second question we posed at the beginning of this discussion: What reason do human beings have for hope if we must expect temporal history to end in catastrophe? Would not the acceptance of such a view necessarily paralyze, and deprive of value, all active engagement in the historical process? How, under such conditions, can we expect a young person to “set to work with a will”? I will attempt to answer this question in several [four] successive stages. (184—my emphasis added)

The final [six] pages of this Pieper essay [pages 184-194] ought now to be closely read and savored by the reader, for there are many nuances of his thought that are modestly, yet forcefully and artfully, presented. I shall now attempt to convey the substance of his four main points and conclusion.

In his “Point One,” Pieper first argues for a certain distinction between what we ardently desire and thus hope for, and what we objectively and alone, however, cannot attain; and therefore: “We must learn this distinction from the inherent wisdom of language itself, which tells us that hope is always directed toward something which we cannot achieve ourselves.” (184—bold emphasis added; italics in original) And Pieper adds:

Furthermore—and this is the most important fact to bear in mind—human hope (not hopes, but hope, which is always singular) is directed toward an ultimate and perfect satiation of desire. What we truly hope for is, as Ernst Bloch quite accurately states: fullness of life; the restoration or healing of man; a homeland, “coming home”; a kingdom; “Jerusalem” [a Visio Pacis]; the absolute satisfaction of all our needs; beatitude of a kind we have never known before. (184-185—my emphasis added)

Our modest mentor then poses another sobering question that “we must ask ourselves”:

Does anyone really believe that he has a right [a claim in justice, or an entitlement] to regard all engagement in the historical process as meaningless, or to deny its value, simply because it will not ultimately create a world without suffering and injustice, a heaven on earth? This question clearly parallels the question of whether we can reasonably maintain that everything we do in this corporeal existence is deprived of value by the fact that in the end we all must die. (185—my emphasis added)

In his “Point Two,” he continues with a lengthy and substantive conditional sentence:

If our historical existence in this world is totally defined by hope and possesses the inherent structure of the “Not-Yet”…; if, until the very moment of death, man is really a viator or traveler “on his way” [“in via”] to something; and if, even in the final instant of his life, the essential thing, fulfillment, still lies before him—then either this hope, which is identical to existence, is simply absurd, or the satisfaction of this hope lies on the other side of death! (185-186—my bolt emphasis added; italics in original)

Since this following passage reminds us vividly of some of the professed anarchists and nihilists who are prominent and also in destructive activities today, I propose to present some thoughts from 1972 or so:

Thus anyone who deliberately restricts his vision to the domain which lies of this side of the boundary of death, quite understandably sees nothing but futility and absurdity. C.S. Lewis says that the truly unfortunate man is the high-minded unbeliever who is desperately trying not to lose what he calls is his faith in man. On the other hand, the ability not to yield to despair when confronted with the fact of death, as well as with the prospect of the catastrophic end of temporal history, is a matter of great practical concern to us all. Even in the midst of catastrophe, a person who possesses this ability remains capable of affirmation, which in turn makes it possible for him to engage in activity on the historical plane: to engage, in other words, in “political” activity—activity directed toward the realization of justice—as well as artistic activity, whose purpose is to praise the Creation. As Erik Peterson [a Catholic theologian] has stated, the mouth of the martyr does not utter a word against God’s Creation. Despite everything which befalls him [the Christian martyr] and despite how the world of man must “really” look to him, he still persists in saying: The Creation is good, very good! (186—my bold emphasis added; italics in original)

As to his briefer “Point Three,” Pieper will have us consider that:

Viewed in the context I have outlined, the emphatic conviction of Christians that hope represents a “theological” virtue may appear, if not plausible, at least somewhat more plausible than before. Apparently Immanuel Kant had something like this theological aspect of hope in mind when he said that the fundamental philosophical (!) question, “What may I hope for?” is answered by religion. (186—my emphases added)

Later, moreover, Josef Pieper says that the unique and infused theological virtue of hope “aims at true fulfillment, which, if it happens at all, will take place ‘beyond’ our corporeal and historical existence, and of which we ‘know’ only through faith.” (187—my emphasis added)

The last three pages consider his “Point Four” as he comes to lead us gradually to the acknowledging of a gift, and thus to invite our gratitude.

Pieper begins his “Point Four” with this sentence and then follows it up with a few more considerations:

The object of the theological “supernatural” hope [an infused virtue in the order of Grace] of the Christian must not be conceived as something wholly divorced from the human existence in this world….When apocalyptic prophecy [of Saint John, for example] speaks of the resurrection of the body and of the “New Earth,” it is in fact telling us that not one iota, not one jot or tittle of everything in this life which was good and right, just, true, and beautiful, fine and salutary will ever be lost. (187)

Nonetheless—and now recalling the practical wisdom of one of his own gifted mentors when he was a young man after World War I—Josef Pieper says:

Of course, the mere fact that two groups ‘have something in common’ [as is the case with certain proposed syncretisms, and even currently official “ecumenisms”] does not make them identical, and what Romano Guardini calls the task of ‘distinguishing that which is Christian’ from what is not, is a never-ending one, of particularly pressing importance at the present time [1972].” (189—my emphasis added)

Furthermore, and as a sort of conclusion, Pieper summarizes some substantive distinctions to carry with us, as part of our grateful acknowledgment of another portion of both “ordo et mysterium”:

Two elements are involved in this task [of fitting distinctions]. The first is the need to confirm and maintain awareness of the crucial insight that precisely because of the irrevocable “Not-Yet” structure of historical existence, the ultimate fulfillment of human hope (not hopes) cannot be realized this side of death. Second, it must be made clear that (and why) the object of this hope, which is at bottom identical with our existence itself,…cannot be formulated in terms of clearly defined plans and goals, or eschatological schemata. Instead, the man who hopes, like the man who prays, must remain open to a fulfillment of which he knows neither in what hour nor in what form it will finally come….

The art of not yielding to despair [or to prideful presumption!] is not something which one can simply learn. Like all other arts, and indeed to a far greater degree than any other [art], it is a gift.

Nevertheless, it is possible [for a creature who is Gratiae Capax] to specify certain conditions [and thus receptive dispositions] which, whether by means of conscious reflection or not, must first be fulfilled, if we are to prove capable of receiving this gift. (189-190—my emphases added)

What a challenge and abundance and risk-full adventure Josef Pieper has so deftly offered to us. In addition to our responsive gratitude, which he has elicited, may we now persevere to the end, which is itself a “magnum donum,” as our sound Catholic doctrine teaches us.

–Finis–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1See Josef Pieper, Problems of Modern Faith: Essays and Addresses (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985—originally published in German in 1974). The essay on “The Art of Not Yielding to Despair” will be found on pages 175-191 of this English edition. All future page-reference to this essay will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this commentary.