SUBTLE FORMS OF STRATEGIC INDIRECT WARFARE: INFECTING “SOFT” BIOLOGICAL TARGETS

A 20 May 2020 Note of the Author: After his several conversations and studies with Plant Pathologists at home and abroad during the years 1998-1999, the author was encouraged to present some of his own candid and searching reflections — even though they were to be somewhat historical and philosophical and strategic. One manifestation of the author’s acceptance of that invitation is the following 26 July 1999 meditative essay. It is, moreover, almost 20 pages in length and intentionally challenging. 

 

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                                     26 July 1999

Professor of Philosophy, Strategy, and Classical Humanities

United States Air Force Academy

SUBTLE FORMS OF STRATEGIC INDIRECT WARFARE:

INFECTING “SOFT” BIOLOGICAL TARGETS;

SOME PSYCHOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC, AND CULTURAL CONSEQUENCES

Epigraphs:

It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the opposing government’s power to make war.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, p. 212)

His true aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that, if it does not of itself produce a decision, its continuation by battle is sure to achieve this.” (B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, p. 325)

Amidst a group of plant pathologists, how might your grateful visitor from an entirely different intellectual formation approach with practical wisdom the sensitive strategic topic of bio-terrorism and longer-range biological warfare, to include their direct and indirect, economic and psychological consequences? That is to say, the chronic, as well as the traumatic, implications of those malign and fearsome subversions of trust that may deeply affect and infect a culture and whole intimate way of lifeproducing, in the words of the poet Shelly, “the contagion of the world’s slow stain.”

Is it not fitting that I propose a challenging thesis? And should you not always beware of the Air Force, even when they come bearing gifts?

I shall argue, therefore, that, by understanding the ways and means of strategic (and grand-strategic), indirect warfare, in the longer light of military history and intentionally ambiguous cultural subversions, we may better anticipate and strategically counteract inchoate, but subtly developing, forms of bio-terrorism, and longer-range forms of psycho-biological warfare, which may also be intensely dislocating new manifestations of economic warfare.

By indirectly attacking and infecting unprotected “soft targets” such as seeds and soils, a strategic aggressor or trans-national criminal syndicate or terrorist could have many disproportionately adverse effects upon a whole culture and its way of life. This may be but one new form of “asymmetrical warfare” against sophisticated (or decadent) interdependent societies. The developments from research in molecular biology and its variety of manipulative applications in bio-technologies give many new capabilities to the malevolent. We must also therefore consider how there is now developing even a genetics-based “revolution in military affairs (RMA)” or “military-technical revolution,” both of which could be strategically and indirectly employed, also combining “cybernetics” and “biological organisms” as instrumentalities of conflictnew “cyborganizations” as some strangely call this troublesome phenomenon. We once spoke of the revolutionary “mechanization of warfare.” Will we soon also be speaking of the revolutionary “cyborganization of warfare,” with its dubious synthetic formation of “bionic commandos,” and the like?

A pervading (and provocative) question to be found, at least implicitly, throughout this whole essay is: to what extent are the logical premises and the dominant culture of scientific materialism an adequate intellectual, moral, and strategic foundation to combat the increasingly insidious forms of biological warfare and bio-terrorism?

How may we reasonably assess such threats: the risks, in light of our personal and cultural vulnerabilities, and our lack of assurance and insurance? Thucydides said that “most peoples’ character sinks to the level of their fortune!” How, therefore, do we, as a nation, defend ourselves against such subtle and fundamental psycho-biological threatsthreats to our very mental, moral, and physical existencewithout sinking to the level of our adversary, without cynically coming to resemble his moral baseness, without succumbing to this seductive “dialectic of dissolution”?

In the delicate balance between risk and insurance, avoiding too much of either, the boundaries of discourse are usefully disciplined and defined by what both philosophers and even insurance companies call “the concept of moral hazard.” Avoiding too much risk, we must also avoid too much complacency or insurance. That is to say, how do we so proportion and poise that properly “regenerative equilibrium” between “risk and assurance” that we do not actually promote and bring about what we are purportedly trying to insure against? In the words of George Gilder:

Moral hazard is the danger that a policy [or strategy] will encourage the behavioror promote the disastersthat it insures against…. Arson has for some years been among America’s most popular crimes; most of it induced by fire insurance.”i

For example, when, overstepping a certain limit, an insurance company inordinately remunerates a policy holder for the loss of his own building due to criminal arson, they soon unwittingly may provide an incentive to that policy holder himself, when he is weak and morally vulnerable, to do the very thing they are trying to insure against! So, too, it would seem, is it the case often with an overly indulgent or permissive parent, or with a pampering welfare organization or “Provider State” that fosters, sentimentally but unintentionally, a heap of enervated citizens, if not ingrate louts and parasites bereft of resilient initiative.

So, too, is it the case in national security affairs, in the realms of strategic policy and cultural politics, that such consequential moral hazards can be iatrogenic illnesses: illnesses caused by the doctor himself! We shall soon examine, for example, how the U.S.’s highly developed technological capacities can actually promote unconventional warfare and subversive indirection.

How, therefore, may we fittingly discuss the real and growing hazards of biological warfareto include bio-terrorism and bio-criminalitywithout thereby providing incentives to the wrong kinds of persons to do the very things we are seemingly trying to insure against? This is a question of great moment, requiring our trustful and trustworthy integrity and special responsibility, especially for those who have the burden of great knowledge, especially knowledge of the twentieth-century revolution in molecular biology and neuro-science, and their applied biological and medical technologies. The manipulation of neuro-peptides, for example, is so consequential.

It has come to my attention, moreover, that some of your thoughtful members and leadership have already effectively posed the trenchant question: “Why should a professional scientific association of plant pathologists be discussing strategic issues of biological terrorism, criminality, and warfare?” And besides, and for all of us, in the words of Dr. Francois Rabelais, “these are all terrible things to think upon!” Knowledge of such matters may not make us wiser, but it will certainly make us sadder!

Nevertheless, will you accept my invitation to be “Pantagruelists,” at least during the remainder of my presentation and unflinching receptivity to your questions and safe escape from your Conference? For, Rabelais, calling himself “Master Alcofribas, Abstractor of the Quintessence,” in addition to being a very learned medical doctor, scholar of Greek, and Franciscan priest, was also a Pantagruelist! As you will recall from his sixteenth-century rumbustious, comic tale, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais, “Abstracter of the Quintessence,” defined Pantagruelism as “a certain jollity of mind pickled in the scorn of fortune.” We, too, shall need such a resilient and fortifying ethos, to be sure, in order to deal with the inescapable matter of biological warfare. So, will you accept my invitation?

Encouraged by your considerate acceptance and invitation, I now propose to take a longer view of the issue: that is, to consider biological warfare in the longer light of military history, especially as a form of strategic indirect warfare (or grand strategy) which is cumulatively subversive and dislocating, both mentally and physically, both morally and materially. My intended accentuation will be made clearer, perhaps, if I were to use the phrase “psycho-biological warfare” or “psycho-cultural warfare,” where “culture” is understood to mean any “vital medium,” even when it is, paradoxically, the growth medium of a virus, a virulent medium unto death or spiritual despair.

May I encourage you to consider that, in addition to traditional, long-range strategic agents against the homeland of an adversarysuch as viral smallpox, inhalational anthrax, and pneumonic plaguemodern biological developments permit even subtler targeting against agriculture and the human mind, against economic targets and psychological targets, with anti-crop and anti-soil agents, for example, or insidious psycho-tropic and neuro-tropic agents which darkly manipulate potent neuro-peptides.

Writing in 1932, after the devastating “Carthaginian Peace” of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles and subsequently growing economic depression in the West after the financial collapse of 1929, the strategic-minded British military historian, Major General J.F.C. Fuller, prophetically and compassionately said the following about the 1914-1918 First World War, in which he was a combatant officer; and vividly observant of “the changing nature of war”:

As inundations of men, personnel warfare, had failed beyond hope of redemption, the General Staffs, still obsessed by the quantity complex, turned to matériel, seeing in shell fire a means of blasting a road to Paris or Berlin…. The attack by matériel failed ignominiously…. The enormous demands made for all types of munitions of war, however, revealed clearly to the eyes of the General Staffs the economic foundations of the war. So visible did these economic foundations become that it was not long before these Staffs realized that, if the food supply of the enemy be cut off, the foundations of the hostile nation would be undermined and, with the loss of will to endure, its military forces would be paralysed…. Thus, in the World War, the matériel attack having failed, it at once gave way to plundering operationsattacks on trade in place of the devastation of crops. To introduce this most barbarous form of war, the first military problem that the Allied Powers had to solve was the circumvallation of the Central Powers; and the secondtheir surrender by starvation: This is an attack on the enemy’s civil stomach, not only on his men but on his women and children, not only on his soldiers, but on his sick and his poor. The economic attack is without question the most brutal of all forms of attack, because it does not only kill but cripple, and cripples more than one generation. Turning men women and children into starving animals, it is a direct blow against what is called civilization…. [Then, referring to “the theory of moral warfare” and “the weapons of the moral attack,” General Fuller resumes.] Throughout the history of war treachery has proved itself a powerful weapon…. In the World War treachery was attempted through propaganda, the contending newspapers raking dirt out of the gutters of their respective Fleet Streets and squirting it at their country’s enemies. All sense of justice was cast aside, the more outrageous the lie the more potent it was supposed to be…. yet no Government appeared to realize that the attack by lies besmirched its own future….” ii

General Fuller, knowing well that the greatest social effect of the lie is the intimate breaking of trust, which, once broken, is so hard to repair, also far-sightedly commented, in one of his earlier books, written in 1920, as follows:

Today [1920] we stand upon the threshold of a new epoch in the history of the worldwar based on petrol, the natural sequent of an industry based on steam. That we have attained the final step on the evolutionary ladder of war is most unlikely, for mechanical and chemical weapons may disappear and be replaced by others still more terrible. Electricity [much less the use of psycho-tropic or electromagnetic weapons] has scarcely been touched upon and it is not impossible that mechanical warfare will be replaced by one of a wireless nature [or cybernetic, bionic, cyborgian?], and that not only the elements but man’s flesh and bones, will be controlled by the “fluid” which to-day we do not even understand. This method of imposing the will of one man [or nation] on another may in its turn be replaced by a purely psychological warfare, wherein [firepower] weapons are not even used or [physical] battlefields sought or loss of life of limb aimed at; but, in [their] place, the corruption of human reason, the dimming of the human intellect, the disintegration of the moral and spiritual life of one nation by the influence of the will of another is accomplished.iii

Speaking of such topics as “science and warfare…within the enemy’s lines,” “strategy, or the science of making the most of time for warlike ends…with time the controlling factor,” “the evolution of weapons,” and “brain and body warfare,” and of new subtle forms of “scientific warfare,” General Fuller thus illuminates also our current context of anti-crop and anti-seed (or soil) biological warfare, in light of modern neuro-science and its further capacities for intimate manipulation, even in very small, nanogram doses.

But, in response to such actual or potential, cultural and strategic threats, there are no merely technical answers that are adequate or finally protective. After all is said and done, there are no technical solutions to fundamentally moral problems. From such intrinsically moral and spiritual problems, “we may run, but can’t hide,” as the boxer, Joe Louis, once said, in a refreshingly different context! And there is the added issue of what economists call “externalities”i.e., “problems that go beyond the immediate effects of the policy” or the counter-strategy, as against biological terrorism, for example.

By way of further illustration, let us consider two aspects of the dangerous (and ambiguous) aftermath of the so-called “Cold War.” However, it seems preferable to call that struggle the “Camouflaged War” of “Ambiguous Aggression,” as the military historian, B.H Liddell Hart, himself insightfully called this phenomenon of protracted conflict.

First, I would propose to you the eloquent discernment of Whittaker Chambers, from his 1964 posthumously published book, Cold Friday. Secondly, I would offer a further insight from another strategic-minded military historian from Britain, Captain B.H. Liddell Hart himself, who was also a friend of General J.F.C. (“Boney”) Fuller.

In his moving autobiographical chapter, “The Direct Glance,” the former Communist, Whittaker Chambersto whom, in a letter, André Malraux once reverentially wrote: “You are one of those who did not return from Hell with empty hands”poignantly and piercingly said:

I write as a man who made his way back from a special experience of our timethe experience of Communism. I believe the experience to be the central one, for whichever side prevails the outcome will be shaped decisively by what Communism is and meant to be, and by the conditions that made it possible and made possible the great conflict…. A man is obligated, if he seeks to give any effect to his brief life, to tear away all mystery that darkens or distorts, to snap all ties that bind him in the name of an untruth, to push back from all limiting frontiers to the end that man’s intelligence [i.e., Logos] may be free to realize to the fullest of its untrammeled powers a better life in a better world.iv

Then, B.H. Liddell Hart, writing in 1967 on the importance of truth and “the strategy and grand strategy of indirect approach,” complements Whittaker Chambers’ insights about the liberating rejection of untruth:

When, in the course of studying a long series of military campaigns, I first came to perceive the superiority of the indirect over the direct approach, I was looking merely for light upon strategy. With deepened reflection, however, I began to realize that the indirect approach had a much wider applicationthat it was also a law of life in all spheres: a truth of philosophy.v

Liddell Hart then continues his thoughts by applying it to the practical problem of producing persuasion or, more profoundly, a true conviction, since we are only as courageous as we are convinced, truly convinced. He says:

Its fulfillment [i.e., the principle of indirect approach] was seen to be the key to practical achievement in dealing with any problem [to include plant pathologists!] where the human factor predominates, and a conflict of wills tends to spring from an underlying concern for interest. In all such cases, the direct assault of new ideas provokes a stubborn resistance, thus intensifying the difficulty of producing a change of outlook. Conversion is achieved more easily and rapidly by unsuspected infiltration of a different idea or by an argument that turns the flank of instinctive opposition.vi

Moreover, says Liddell Hart: “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,”vii as by making the U.S. centrifugally overextended, for example. This is also sometimes called the psychological preparation of the battlefield. And, “it was Lenin who enunciated the axiom that ‘the soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegration of the enemy renders the delivery of the mortal blow possible and easy’.”viii Such was the intent of Lenin’s revolutionary psychological warfare and strategic use of “semantic politics,” whereby one strategically captures the key concepts and meanings of language. Hitler also said, “our real wars will in fact all be fought before military operations begin.”ix In Hermann Rauschning’s book, Hitler Speaks, he quotes Hitler’s own conversation with him, as follows:

How to achieve the moral breakdown of the enemy before the war has startedthat is the problem that interests me. Whoever has experienced war at the front [as Hitler himself did in World War I] will want to refrain from all avoidable bloodshed.x

Given their paralyzing, if not disintegrating, moral and psychological effects, would not biological weapons themselves, subtly used, be an acutely effective (even bloodless) indirect way of achieving strategic paralysis? What if subtle, psychotropic and neurotropic bio-agents (to include bio-toxins) were used against the enemy’s (or rival’s) leadership, against his whole “command-and-control apparatus”? (Tabtoxin, for example, a plant toxin, apparently produces a multiplicity of seizures in human beings, and is rather easily confected, I have been told.)

Liddell Hart continues with his eloquent, still applicable, insights:

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 [even the special interests of plant pathologists!].xi

Then he makes an important distinction between the prophet and the leader, which may also illuminate what I, in some small way, would like to initiate and impart to your receptivity and further responsibilities of leadership. He says:

History bears witness to the vital part that the “prophets” [like General Fuller and Captain Liddell Hart themselves] have played in human progresswhich is evidence of the ultimate practical value of expressing unreservedly the truth as one sees it. Yet it also becomes clear that the acceptance and spreading of their vision [of truth] has always depended on another class of men“leaders” who had to be philosophical strategists, striking a compromise between truth and men’s receptivity to it. Their effect has often depended as much on their own limitations in perceiving the truth as on their practical wisdom in proclaiming it.xii

As one of my own memorable mentors, Major General Mickey Finn, once said to me: “intellectuals should be on tap, not on top”but for very rare exceptions. Sensitive intellectuals usually lack the decisiveness and prompt robustness of leaders.

Developing his profound distinction, Liddell Hart resumes:

The prophets must be stoned; that is their lot and the test of their self-fulfillment. But a leader who is stoned may merely prove that he has failed in his function through a deficiency of wisdom, or through confusing his function with that of a prophet. Time alone can tell whether the effect of such a sacrifice redeems the apparent failure as a leader that does honour to him as a man. At the least, he avoids the more common fault of leadersthat of sacrificing the truth to expediency without ultimate advantage to the cause [of truth]. For, whoever habitually suppresses the truth in the interests of tact will produce a deformity from the womb of his thought.xiii

The traditional Latin aphorism, “Suppressio veri, suggestio falsi” conveys the same nuance. By suppressing the truth, you suggest what is false. By way of omission, you create a deception, producing also a self-deception through this expedient distortion.

Thus, though the idea of the indirect approach is “hard to reconcile” with the pursuit (and the primacy) of the truth, it must be sustainingly sought and preserved. Liddell Hart, pursuant to this aim, asks:

Is there a practical way of combining progress towards the attainment of truth with proper progress towards its acceptance? [Or, should your guest speaker sit down now, before he be stoned?] A possible solution of the problem is suggested by reflection on strategic principleswhich point to the importance of maintaining an object consistently and, also, pursuing it in a way adapted to circumstances [to include the audience!]. Opposition to the truth is inevitable, especially if it takes the form of a new idea, but the degree of resistance can be diminishedby giving thought not only to the aim but to the method of approach. 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. [Might such a maneuver work amongst plant pathologists altogether and unmistakably contumacious concerning biological forms of strategic indirect warfare and national defense?] But, in any such indirect approach [Liddell Hart winsomely emphasizes!] take care not to diverge from the truthfor nothing is more fatal to its real advancement that to lapse into untruth.xiv

Solzhenitsyn, like Whittaker Chambers, has often effectively said a similar thing with emphatic integrity: “Don’t live the lie. Even if it means but taking one small step at a time, come out from under the rubble! Come out from under the noisome asphyxiation of untruth. And never willingly participate in, nor be in complicity with, the lie!”

Whittaker Chambers was one of Liddell Hart’s “prophets,” indeed, “who did not return from Hell with empty hands,” and who does “speak with a certain urgency both because…history is closing in…with a speed which, in general [we] do not realize or prefer not to realize, and because I [Chambers] have a sense that time is closing in on me so that, at this point, I do not know whether or not I shall be given time to complete what I have to say.”xv He adds:

I may not claim for the larger meanings of what I shall say: This is truth. I say only: This is my vision of truth; to be checked and rechecked (as I myself continually check and recheck it) against the data of experience.xvi

What does Whittaker Chambers so urgently want to tell us, which, in my judgment, is still pertinent and trenchantly true? He says:

It is pointless and, indeed, impossible to press anything upon those who are unprepared for it. I set up the proposition and left it to those who could to draw the inference…. That proposition questioned the whole materialism of the West [to include its dominant scientific materialism], and the West is heavily materialist. It is, in fact, this materialism that Communism [to include the new forms of Cultural Marxism derived from Georg Lukacs, from the Frankfurt School and its culturally subversive “Critical Theory,” and from Antonio Gramsci himself, one of the two founders of the Italian Communist Party]xvii constantly appeals to and manipulates, not in terms of any easily defined political lines of Left or Right, but in terms of a common investment in a materialist view of life, which an important section of the West shares with Communism, and which Communism has simply carried to its utmost logical conclusion in thought and action. This common interest in a common materialism…nevertheless differs in form, degree, and [illogical] reservations.xviii

At a much deeper level than economics and central state planning, Communism is a cultural system rooted in the world view of dialectical materialism (or “DIAMAT”), which is, of course, intrinsically atheistical.

Chambers, from the bottom of his soul, adds the following about how, “even when the materialism of the West is assertively anti-Communist, it often serves Communist ends”xix:

From this propositionthat is the heart of Communism is the problem of atheismxxfollowed the second proposition which I set up in Witness [his earlier book, published in 1952], also without developing its conclusions. This proposition implied that the struggle of the West with Communism included our own solution. That is to say, in the course of its struggle with Communism, the West would develop or recover those resources (in the main, spiritual and moral), which it held to constitute its superiority to Communism or in the struggle it would go under. Going under might, I suppose, take one of two forms. The West might simply lose the war in political or physical terms. But I also allowed for the fact that the West might win the war in such terms [political and physical] and still lose it, if the taxing necessities of the conflict [and dialectic!] brought the West to resemble what it was struggling against…. A turn in this direction has been perfectly visible in the West for several decades.xxi

From the vantage point of 1999 (as distinct from 1961, when Whittaker Chambers died), I believe, also, that the West lost “the Cold War”the Guerra Friathat Camouflaged War of dialectical (or electro-magnetical) materialism which was aiming for “the freedom from religion” and for “liberation” from “the rights of God,” as distinct from the Cult of Man and his rights. Insofar as I can justly take the measure of what has historically transpired, “checked and rechecked against the data of experience,” we of the West have increasingly come to imitate what we were purportedly fighting against. In light of the concept and reality of “moral hazard,” we of the West have, in a sense, helped to bring about what we were purportedly trying to insure against. If this is so, we are more vulnerable now to biological warfare.

To the extent that I am just and justly proportionate in this judgment, the more difficult it will be for us, on essentially materialist premises, to defend against the destructive anti-human manipulations of molecular biology and its derivative biotechnologies, much less the subtler forms of biological warfare against life, even life in the womb, or through the intentionally sterilizing contamination of vaccines.

This conclusion is certainly not intended to be a moroseness, but certainly implies the need for a deeper and thoroughly strategic “course correction.” For, an effective counter-strategy requires a shared conviction about what, essentially, it means to be human. That is to say: what is man, and what is man for? What is human freedom for?

Materialist neuroscience, which reduces mind to the neurophysiology of the brain, may continue to speak of “memes” (mental genes), and the like, rather than to admit of a fuller “criterion of adequacy” to account for the mystery of man and his loves, and his hopes. Or, as Bertrand Russell once eloquently argued, is it, rather, the case that “a free man’s worship” must henceforth be based “on a firm foundation of unyielding despair,” amidst and “against the whole weight of a universe that cares nothing for his hopes and fears”? Are we then fittingly free to do evil and produce ugliness, even as an engineered devastation of ugliness? To what extent will scientific materialism, on its own premises, provide a defense against subtle and malevolent forms of biological manipulation and warfare?

On materialist premises, moreover, would not the very concept of “malevolence” be an illogicality and an illusion? Must we not squarely face where the inner logic of our premises leads, and what it may embarrassingly conduce to?

Given this context of scientific and cultural materialism, is it not also more likely that, amidst the growing cynicism of modern warfare, strategic adversaries now would be far less reluctant to manipulate and target our economic and psychological foundations, to include our food supplies, and crops, and the sustenance of our own children. As General Fuller said, “if the food supply of the enemy be cut off, the foundations of the hostile nation would be undermined and, with the loss of the will to endure, its military forces would be paralyzed.” In addition to “the devastation of crops,” the new and revengeful enemy would also “give way to plundering operationsattacks on trade” and so “introduce this most barbarous form of war,” “the most brutal of all forms of attack, because it does not only kill but cripple, and cripples more than one generation”to include the vulnerable children.

Material and moral elements will be strategically attacked, as evidence from the Soviet biological warfare program confirms, and morale is to be broken, even unto despair. Will such facts sufficiently wake us up?

In his 1951 book, The Revolt Against Reason, Arnold Lunn wrote:

If materialism be true, our thoughts are the mere by-product of material processes uninfluenced by reason. Hence, if materialism be right, our thoughts are determined by irrational processes and, therefore, the thoughts which lead to the conclusions that materialism is right have no relation to reason. The same argument invalidates Freudianism, behaviorism, and logical positivism. All that the prophets of these cults have achieved is to provide their disciples with reasons for rejecting all philosophies, including Marxism, behaviorism, Freudianism, and logical positivism.xxii

Such nihilism and anarchy are not a good foundation for any resilient counter-strategy against biological warfare, do we agree?

Moreover, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, defines “Naturalism” as “a view of the world which excludes the supernatural or spiritual,” and this reductionist scientific orientation provides the scientific materialist with no justification for the first article in the creed of the true science: “I believe that truth is to be preferred to falsehood”!

On the other hand, it would seem that “theism” of some kind is required as a working hypothesis “without which science itself has no justification,” according to both Arnold Lunn and Sir Arthur Balfour himself (the author of the famous and gravely consequential “Balfour Declaration” of 1917, concerning the future of Palestine). In his 1894 philosophical book, entitled The Foundations of Belief, Balfour profoundly and acutely says:

Theism, then, whether or not it can in the strict meaning be described as proved by science, is a principle which science, for a double reason, requires for its own completion. The ordered system of phenomena asks for a cause; our knowledge of that system is inexplicable unless we assume for it a rational author…. On the naturalistic hypothesis, the whole premises of knowledge are clearly due to the blind operation of material causes, and in the last resort to these alone. On that hypothesis, we no more possess free reason than we possess free will. As all our volitions are the inevitable product of forces which are quite alien to morality, so all our conclusions are the inevitable product of forces which are quite alien to reason.xxiii

From the above, I can only reasonably conclude that no adequate counter-strategy to the threats of biological warfare and bio-terrorism will come from a world-view and culture of naturalism and scientific materialism. If it could be otherwise, I do not yet see it. The challenge of biological warfare, in any event, will take us to the foundations of our very existence. Human superficiality will not be enough.

Nevertheless, the subsequent analysis of strategic indirect warfare on the biological front must be evaluated on its own merits, and will likely display its reasonableness to you only when sufficiently checked (and rechecked) against the data of experienceand hence in the longer light of history, too.

In his Memoirs, Liddell Hart summarized at length the main conclusions of “the military doctrine or philosophy most closely associated with [his] name, the Strategy of Indirect Approach,” which “first found full expression in 1929 in a volume entitled The Decisive Wars of History.xxiv

Let us now imagine how an intelligent strategic (or grand strategic) adversary would apply on the biological front, and with interior lines on the inner front of our own homeland, the following articulation of principles from Liddell Hart’s own Memoirs:

More and more clearly has the fact emerged that a direct approach to one’s mental object, or physical objective, along the “line of natural expectation” for the opponent [rather than “to follow the line of least expectation”], has ever tended to, and usually produced, negative results. The reason has been expressed scientifically by saying that, while the strength of an enemy country [like the USA?] lies outwardly in its numbers and resources, these are fundamentally dependent upon stability or “equilibrium” of control, morale, and supply [or logistics]. The former are but the flesh covering the framework of bones and ligaments.

To move along the line of natural expectation is to consolidate the opponent’s equilibrium, and by stiffening it to augment his resisting power. In war as in wrestling the attempt to throw the opponent without loosening his foothold and balance can only result in self-exhaustion, increasing in disproportionate ratio to the effective strain put upon him. Victory by such a method can only be possible through an immense margin of superior strength in some form, and even so tends to lose decisiveness. In contrast, an examination of military history, not of one period but of its whole course, points to the fact that in all the decisive campaigns the dislocation of the enemy’s psychological an physical balance has been the vital prelude to a successful attempt at his overthrow. This dislocation has been produced by a strategic indirect approach, intentional or fortuitous….

The art of the indirect approach can only be mastered, and its full scope appreciated, by study of [as the Chinese have especially done] and reflection upon the whole history of war. But we can at least crystallize the lessons into two simple maxims, one negative, the other positive. The first is that, in the face of the overwhelming evidence of history, no general is justified in launching his troops to a direct attack upon an enemy firmly in position. The second, that, instead of seeking to upset the enemy’s equilibrium by one’s attack, it must be upset before the real attack is, or can be successfully, launched…. Mechanized forces [tanks and airplanesand now, also, perhaps, other cybernetic or cyborgian technological innovations], by their combination of speed and flexibility, offered the means of pursuing this dual action far more effectively than any army in the past.xxv

However, there is the danger of over-reaching to the point of resembling your adversary, especially your more despotic (or tyrannical) adversary, as with the altogether unintelligent response to Adolph Hitler, in Liddell Hart’s judgment. Such an over-reaction represents another instance of coming to resemble what you are purportedly (and actually) fighting against. In this case, it was the matter of “conscription” as a dire “threat to freedom,” in imitation of National Socialist Germany, rather than of Soviet Bolshevism, as was the case later during “the Cold War.” That is to say, the Protracted Camouflaged War of Dialectical Materialism for the Hegemony of a New Order and Revolutionary Culture, which (like Hegelianism, as well as Marxism) intrinsically denies the law of contradiction (and hence the law of identity). Commenting on the English over-reaction to Hitlerian Germany’s challenge, Liddell Hart said:

The effects [of mandatory military conscription] transcend the military sphere. Bemused [i.e., confused, stupefied, deceived and seduced] by the cry of total warfare, we are trying to make ourselves totalitarianwith the maximum of inefficiency for the minimum of productivity, in proportion to the efforts…. The basic principle of Nazism [National Socialism, in slight contrast to Global, or International, Socialism] is the claim of the State [or the UN?] to determine the individual’s duty, and decide his conscience for him. Hence, in opposing the Nazi’s “New Order,” we weaken our own position if we adopt the same basis….xxvi

We are weakened by coming to resemble what we are ostensibly fighting against. We look for the enemy and it is us.

As part of the long a-growing destructive Western development of “total war,” Liddell Hart, in essential agreement with General Fuller, saw “Napoleon’s responsibility for instituting conscription,” as well as other devastating innovations. On 30 January 1943 he wrote:

Napoleon fell, but left as a legacy the chain of military conscriptionwhich dragged mankind into a series of bigger and badder wars. When Hitler passes, will he also leave the chain of civil conscription, the logical corollary of totalitarianism riveted round the necks of mankindthus establishing the reign of universal servitude [or what Hilaire Belloc called, in 1911, The Servile State]? If so, it will be an ironical reflection on the unthinking conduct of war, and on the efforts and sacrifices made by the peoples who have sought and fought to defeat him [Hitler].xxvii

The deeper challenge of the Soviet Cultural System of “democratic centralism” and “dialectical materialism” was to follow World War II, and that system of servitude we have also come, through protracted struggle, to resemble more and more. Is it not so?

Moreover, and very profoundly, Liddell Hart later added his insights about the further handicaps to recovery after World War II, as a result of Churchill’s own inordinate and promiscuous resort to “guerrilla warfare,” partly in admiring response to T.E. Lawrence’s unconventional warfare activities against the Ottoman Turks during World War I (even though Lawrence was later betrayed and saddened by the Zionist project in Palestine). Liddell Hart’s deep reflections on this matter are especially fitting in our current context of biological warfare and bio-terrorism as an even further “development” of intrusive “total warfare,” and which will be so difficult to counter without a further, self-sabotaging temptation and self-destructive over-reaction on our part, to boot!

For if the nuclear power now available were unleashed and not merely meant as a deterrent, its use would mean “chaos” not “war,” since war is organized 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 indirect, longer-range biological warfare]. Through its unsuitability for the purpose [of such deterrence] it tends to encourage them [i.e., to bring about what it is trying to insure against!]. The necessary amplification of the maxim is now “If you wish for peace, understand warparticularly the guerrilla and subversive forms of war.”xxviii

Do you, too, now see the importance of such understanding?

Moreover, “the combination of guerrilla and subversive war…. [does] fit the conditions of the modern age and at the same time [they] are well suited to take advantage of social discontent, racial ferment, and nationalistic fervour.”xxix They constitute “forms of aggression by erosion, to which nuclear weapons were [and are] an inapplicable counter.”xxx Furthermore, “the strategy now being developed by our opponents is inspired by the dual idea of evading and hamstringing superior airpower,”xxxi whose effect is achieved “by producing more cumulative distraction, disturbance, and demoralization among the enemy.”xxxii And, “thus the concept of ‘cold war’ is now [1967] out of date, and should be superseded by that of ‘camouflaged war’.”xxxiii Biological warfare is now even more camouflaged, more difficult to detect, no?

The promiscuous resort to guerrilla warfare by the Allies in World War II“the product of the war policy of instigating and fomenting popular revolution in enemy-occupied countries”xxxivalso, according to Liddell Hart, produced many “a handicap to recovery after liberation.”xxxv

But the heaviest handicap of all, and the most lasting one, was of a 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…. Worse still [like economic warfare!] was its wider effect on the younger generation as a whole. It taught them to defy authority and break the rules of civil morality in the fight against the occupying forces. This left a disrespect for “law and order” [and for the principle of authority itself] that inevitably continued after the invaders had gone.xxxvi

Why was that so, and not otherwise? Liddell Hart’s answer is that there is always a “dangerous aftermath of guerrilla warfare,” for

Violence takes much deeper root in irregular warfare than it does in regular warfare. In the latter it is counteracted by obedience to 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.xxxvii

The recent experience in the Balkans is confirmatory, with its long-term effects further conducive to the spread of revolt. The “moral hazards” are rampant. Nevertheless, in the words of Liddell Hart:

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” [or bio-terrorist] activities by counter-offensive [or counter-terrorist] moves of the same kind, it would be wiser to devise and pursue a more subtle and far-seeing counter-strategy.xxxviii

In light of your special knowledge about plant pathology, and about how crops and seeds and soils and our whole agricultural infrastructure could be undermined, how would you also farsightedly start to resist the subtler “asymmetrical” and subversive forms of strategic indirect warfare on the biological front? I leave you with this challenge. All things considered, may we now more intelligently and responsibly advance our own truly strategic, scientific discourse and protective actions concerning these psycho-biological matters of national and cultural security?

Some Concluding Considerations and Questions:

Liddell Hart made several deep points about strategy in his 1925 book with the intentionally punning title: Paris, or the Future of War. Similar to Sun Tzu, in his view, the aim of war is “to subdue the enemy’s will to resist, with the least possible human and economic loss to itself,” and “a highly organized state was only as strong as its weakest link.”xxxix Thus, if one key section of the nation, such as its agriculture, could be “disorganized and demoralized,” the collapse of its will to resist could induce the surrender of the whole, the psychological surrender of the enemy, or his strategic paralysis. Since, as was earlier cited, the aim of grand strategy was to discover and exploit the Achilles’ heel of the enemy nation (or corporation), just as the Trojan Warrior, Paris (Son of King Priam), killed the Greek champion Achilles, the key strategic principle is to strike against the enemy’s most vulnerable spot, rather than against his strongest fortifications or bulwark, such as his airpower or other forms of technological dominance.

In a later passage of Paris, Liddell Hart adds a strategic nuance concerning a specifically military target, whereby a mobile and maneuvering force properly is to be assembled and concentrated “against the Achilles’ heel of the enemy army, the communications and command centres which form its nerve system.”xl That is to say, the strategic principle applies to both military and civil sectors.

All good strategists try to establish two things: first, to secure and preserve their base; and, secondly, to achieve and sustain “mastery of the communications” in its fullest sense. Both are essential, and, thus, an intelligent adversary will try to counter these, i.e., to disrupt and dislocate that base, and his enemy’s key communications, to include his capacity for strategic mobility (which is currently so important for the United States, for example).

Given these principles, would it not be especially effective to go after the U.S.’s agricultural base and agricultural logistics and communications, so as to effect our disorganization and demoralization, and disrupt our strategic mobility as well as our international trade? According to Dr. Paul Rogers of Britain’s Bradford University, himself a plant pathologist, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) has very subtly done, during the recent past, such economic targeting against Great Britain, after they first had made a very intelligent and thorough study of Great Britain’s “economic geography,” to include its “financial nerve centers of organization.”xli Might we not also reasonably expect such targeting against our nation, or its corporations abroad, like McDonald’s? The recent case of Belgian food contamination, and its trust-breaking official concealments, may be a further sign of such likely developments.

Part of what is so unsettling about the recent food contamination in Belgium is the difficulty of discerning whether it was natural or deliberately introduced. Was it accidental or neglectful, or was it something darker and subtly designed? (Politically, it is not only the European “Green” Parties who, on principle, are against the import of all genetically engineered food from America!) The ambiguities themselves may then be malevolently manipulated, with further adverse consequences on commerce and trade, and even on the politics of the European Union itself, as well as on the domestic governments of Belgium and neighboring France. Comparably, in the United states, the accidental release of the marine neuro-toxin, pfiesteria, into the coastal waters of North Carolina has caused a similar array of difficulties, especially as pfiesteria’s effects on fishermen as well as fish have become more obvious, especially as it has spread further into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. (Apparently, even the University of Virginia Medical School is now urgently, though belatedly, studying this matter closely.) Dr. Thomas Frazier has wisely proposed a deeper, comparative study of both of these cases, and before key evidence may become more inaccessible or intentionally distorted.

It may be useful for us to consider the situation of the United States more closely, for several reasons. At least perceptions are spreading and deepening around the world that the United States is, or is becoming, a “rogue superpower.” Analogies have even been made to the earlier British Empire, especially as to the aggressive conduct of the “Liberal Imperialists,” also know as “the LIMPS.” Moreover, there is the perception that the United States is very vulnerable, as well as very provocative. In the memorable phrase of Dr. Fritz Kraemer (said to me some twenty years ago), the U.S. is in a situation of “provocative weakness,” for, “we are so weak (in some areas) that we are provocative to others.” In 1999, the U.S. is more over-extended and arguably more arrogant, as well as ignorant. Many may have a kind of Schadenfreude, if the U.S. were to be embarrassed and levelled down; and if its own growing “Cultural Balkanization” or racial tensions could be exploited. The issue of multi-cultural immigration and imiscible migrations is itself very sensitive and de-stabilizing. And Mexico is, strategically, still the “soft underbelly” of the United States.

And what of the Drug War? What if naturally growing fungi, destructive of the coca plant, or other drug crops, were deliberately and specially used to target their growth at the roots, namely, at the very stage of cultivation? Would such action be perceived as a kind of economic warfare against the poor, as well as against the power of the drug cartels, drug lords, and money-launderers of “narco-bucks,” where drugs are also viewed even as “an access to liquidity,” especially for the oligarchs and others who “manipulate national debt” for further “leverage”? And would they then take reprisals, against the perceived “initiating country’s” own crops or concentrated animal “breeding stock”? Would such vengeful activity be warfare or criminality or terrorism, or somewhere in “the interstices” or in the ambiguous “seams” between them? All of them, however, could be strategically interrelated as insidious forms of subversion? Do you see what I mean? Is my meaning clear? Our clarified and growing understanding of the principles of strategic indirect warfare may now help us take a better measure of such things, and to develop an intelligent and long-range counter-strategy.

It has been wisely observed by my friend and colleague at the Air Force Academy, Colonel Chip Franck, that there are three main ways that a “rival” or “competitor” has historically (and strategically) responded to a perceived opponent or antagonist: emulation, off-setting, or by-passing. One can either try to match and exceed the rival’s strengths, nullify or weaken his advantages or privileged strengths, or evade them “asymmetrically,”xlii or by using a kind of jujitsu, thereby even using his own strengths or “virtues” against him. The economic and psychological aspects of the full range and spectrum of biological warfare may be helpfully considered as both an “off-setting” and “by-passing” counter-strategy.

Also, in this context, I commend your deeply reflective attention to one of the last books of Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, written in 1961 and considered by many to be his best. It is entitled The Conduct of War, 1789-1961: A Study of the Impact of the French, Industrial, and Russian Revolutions on War and its Conduct.xliii His chapter on “Soviet Revolutionary Warfare” (Chapter XI) is especially discerning and brilliant, and is still very applicable, to include his insights about strategic psychological and political warfare.

In deference to General Fuller, and very consciously so, this essay has tried to initiate us into thinking more deeply about the inchoate and growing impact of the biotechnical revolution on war and its conduct, rooted as it is in the prior scientific revolutions in molecular biology, neuro-science, and information or computer science. Furthermore, as Dr. Malcolm Dando recently suggested during my visit with him at Bradford University, there is a growing conjunction or convergence, or consilience (in the sociobiologist E.O.Wilson’s concept),xliv of several scientific and technological developments, coming to a sharper focus in the whole biological and bio-engineering realm, all of which is all too easily applicable to subtle new forms of warfare. General Fuller’s book on earlier revolutions and their consequences on “total warfare” should be read with these later developments and analogues in mind.

In his recent book, understandably controversial and intentionally provocative, Fighting for the Future, the strategic-minded Ralph Peters has some concluding remarks which are less measured and discerning, but also similar to what the neuro-physiologist, Malcolm Dando, has written and recently said to me about chemical “calmative agents” and about the equivocal (and threatening) manipulation of potent “neuro-peptides,” and other “regulatory peptides” recently discovered. In one of his concluding sections, entitled “Inevitable Weapons,” Ralph Peters says:

The greatest opportunity for us, and the greatest danger to us, will come with the development of behavior-control weapons by the middle decades of the next century, if not sooner. On the one hand, these will be the weapons most horrible to our civilization, but we will be unable to prevent their development. In their perfected form they will permanently alter the perceptions and beliefs of men and women. On the other hand, they offer the first opportunity in history to pacify humankind without violence.xlv

These words recall the foresight of General Fuller, cited at the beginning of this essay, (on page 6, and footnote 3), although Fuller would be much more deeply troubled by, and altogether resistant to, such a de-humanizing “development,” and barbaric regression.

Much more unequivocally and serenely and confidently, Ralph Peters says:

In the first half of the next century, postmodern weapons may allow us to “outlaw” war. In subsequent decades, behavior-control mechanisms finally may let us stop genocide, oppression, fanaticism, and even criminality.xlvi

We may well wonder “who is the ‘us’?” Who will be the “humane” controllers in this Utopian or Dystopian vision or actuality? Who will be the Guardian of “the Guardians”?

Moreover, he says:

[T]his discussion is about a more rarefiedand ultimately more frighteninglevel of manipulation [in contrast to a “bullet,” which is, in a sense, also “a very good behavior-control weapon”]. Weor our enemies, should we fail to actwill develop behavior-control weapons that change the mind without invading the body…. Imagine a weapon, directed at an individual or a mass, that compacts a lifetime’s worth of carefully tailored signals into a microsecond broadcast. Imagine another weapon that targets specific nodes, or simply processes, in the brain.xlvii

Even more disconcerting in this context of psycho-biological warfare, Peters says:

The insidious [.i.e., “ambush”] feature of such weapons is that the victim not only doesn’t know what hit him but doesn’t realize he has been hit by anything at all…. The dark side is that such weapons could permanently alter the perceptions of individuals and entire cultures. xlviii

To me, this sounds like a further “development” of Soviet “penal psychiatry,” as with the research done at the Serbiensky Institute in the dreaded Lubianka. Psycho-tropic and neuro-tropic agents and weapons are now, however, even more likely, “given the current developments in fields as diverse as neurobiology, anthropology, sonics, digital engineering, marketing, and complexity studies.”xlix

Admitting his limitations and ability “to imagine the future,” Ralph Peters nevertheless all too plausibly concludes:

The only thing of which I am certain is that the next century’s revolution in weaponry will involve forms of behavior control and mental intrusion. Attacking the human body has been a sloppy and inefficient means of making war. Attacking the mind may prove the culmination of military history.l

More dubiously, if not altogether dementedly, he adds: “If there is any technology that we must first master and then prohibit elsewhere, it is the means to alter human thought.”li Since these words are not intended to be a self-parody nor an updated satire of “Dr. Strangelove,” I hope they will stir you to your fuller responsibilities and counter-action as scientists very knowledgeable of the new and growing biotechnologies, and their equivocal potential for misapplication.

May I also encourage you to read, in this context, the following additional books, which, even when they hardly (or not at all) mention “biological warfare” or “strategic indirect warfare,” constitute an unmistakable and altogether important array of thoughtful texts:

  1. Jeremy Rifkin, The Biotech Century: Harnessing the Gene and Re-Making the World (1998)
  2. John Harris, Wonderwoman and Superman: The Ethics of Human Biotechnology (1992)
  3. Malcolm Dando, Biological Warfare in the 21st Century: Biotechnology and the Proliferation of Biological Weapons (1994).
  4. Malcolm Dando, A New Form of Warfare: the Rise of Non-Lethal Weapons (1996)
  5. Malcolm Dando, Biotechnology, Weapons, and Humanity (1999)to include his brave chapter 4 on “Genetic Weapons.”
  6. John B. Alexander, Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First Century Warfare (1999), who is much more sanguine than Dando and I about such developments.
  7. Ken Alibek, Biohazard (1999)(An important and revealing discussion of the secret Soviet/Russian biological warfare program, written by the former Deputy Director of Biopreparat himself, and a defector in 1992.)

Have I been at all effective in conveying to you how these equivocal and unmistakably challenging developments may be applied to subversive warfare and to national defense, and how, in part, they derive from the twentieth–century revolution in molecular biology and biotechnologies in “consilience” with other scientific discoveries and applications?

Taking the longer view, to include the light shed by the multi-cultural history of unconventional and revolutionary warfare and strategic thought (especially indirect deceptive forms of strategic warfare), can you now better appreciate, as scientists and plant pathologists, how the spectrum of biological warfare, bio-terrorism and bio criminality has broadened and deepened?

To what extent have I allowed the value of the strategic indirect approach to emerge in your own growing and discerning consciousness, and to clarify your understanding of warfare, especially subversive forms of warfare against economic and agricultural targets?

Are you also now convinced that surprise, which produces shock (or shock trauma) rather than mere strain, is the best weapon of war, for it throws the enemy off his balance (psychologically and often logistically or physically) as well as secures a position for oneself, which makes the enemy’s situation very dangerous? Have not some keen thinkers even said that “there is no virtue in an indirect approach” as a method unless it secures this end: namely, surprise, which may be itself the higher and prior principle.lii

May we now further collaborate to foster trust in our sustaining (and sustainable) culture, and to mitigate the destructive consequences and deeper implications of “technological surprise” and “strategic surprise” on “the psycho-biological front” of insidious and subversive indirect warfare?

I thank you.

Finis

©Robert D. Hickson 1999

i George Gilder, Wealth and Poverty (New York; Bantam Books, 1981), p. 132.

ii J.F.C. Fuller, War and Western Civilization (London: Duckworth, 1932), pp. 228, 230, and 234. My emphasis added.

iii Brevet-Colonel J.F.C. Fuller, Tanks in the Great War, 1914-1918 (London: John Murray, 1920), p. 320. My emphasis added to the original.

iv Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday (New York: Random House), pp. 67,68,69.

v B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (Second Revised Edition) (New York: MeridanPenguin, 1967), p. xx (Preface).

vi Ibid.

vii Ibid.

viii Ibid., p. 208. My emphasis added.

ix Ibid. My emphasis added.

x Ibid. My emphasis added.

xi Ibid., p. xx (Preface). My emphasis added.

xii Ibid. My emphasis added.

xiii Ibid., p. xxi (Preface). My emphasis added.

xiv Ibid. My emphasis added.

xv Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday, p. 67.

xvi Ibid.

xvii The evidence has recently been de-classified and made shockingly public in Germany, namely the extent to which the Soviet KGB financially (and otherwise) supported the Frankfurt School, and its projects of promoting Kulturpessimismus and cultural subversion: “the Long March through the Institutions,” “the Long March through the Culture.”

xviii Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday, p. 69. My emphasis added.

xix Ibid., p. 70.

xx Earlier, on pp. 68-69, Chambers had said: “The crux of this matter is the question whether God exists. If God exists, a man cannot be a Communist, which begins with the rejection of God. But, if God does not exist, it follows that Communism, or some suitable variant of it, is right.” Some collective arrangement for regimented and vengeful “economic justice” will likely be proposed even unto the inner levelling of the human person and his higher faculties. Another name for it would be “sleepwalking into servitude.”

xxi Whittaker Chambers, Cold Friday, p. 70.

xxii Arnold Lunn, The Revolt Against Reason (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951), p. 85.

xxiii See Arnold Lunn, The Revolt Against Reason, p. 85.

xxiv Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1977), p. 54.

xxv See Brian Bond, Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought, pp. 54-55, for an easily accessible, extended citation of Liddell Hart’s Memoirsuseful, despite Bond’s often insufferable condescension. See also the original text of the Memoirs (2 vols.) (Cassell: London, 1965), pp. 162-165.

xxvi See the whole citation in Brian Bond’s Liddell Hart, p. 127.

xxvii Brian Bond, Liddell Hart, pp. 127-128. My emphasis added.

xxviii B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (2nd Revised Edition), p. 361. My emphasis added. See the whole new chapter on “Guerrilla War” (Chapter XXIII), added to this edition, specifically.

xxix Ibid., p. 363.

xxx Ibid. My emphasis added.

xxxi Ibid., p. 364.

xxxii Ibid., p. 365.

xxxiii Ibid.

xxxiv Ibid., p. 367.

xxxv Ibid.

xxxvi Ibid.

xxxvii Ibid., 369.

xxxviii Ibid., p. 370

xxxix See B.H. Liddell Hart, Paris, or the Future of War (London: Kegan Paul, 1925), pp. 12-13.

xl Ibid., p. 79 (and following). My emphasis added.

xli Paul Rogers discussed this matter with me during my recent visit with him at Bradford University, but he has also written some monographs on this subject.

xlii See the excellent article by Colonel Raymond Franck and Dr. Gregory Hildebrandt entitled “Competitive Aspects of Contemporary Military-Technical Revolution: Potential Military Rivals to the U.S.” in Defense Analysis (1996-Volume 12, No. 2), pp. 239-258.

xliii Reprinted by Rutgers University Press; New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1962. Originally, it was published in London, England by Eyre and Spothswoode, in 1961.

xliv See Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1998). Consilience means “the interlocking of causal explanations across disciplines.”

xlv Ralph Peters, Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph? (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1999), p. 207.

xlvi Ibid., pp. 207-208.

xlvii Ibid., p. 208.

xlviii Ibid., The emphasis is in the original text.

xlix Ibid., p. 209.

l Ibid.

li Ibid..

lii See Brian Bond, Liddell aHaHHHHHHHHHH Hart, p. 56. Major General W. H. Bartholomew suggested such things to Liddell Hart himself, in his letter of the late 1920’s (1928-1929)

Infecting Soft Targets: Biological Weapons and Fabian Forms of Indirect Grand Strategy — Some 20 Years Later

A 16 May 2020 Note from the Author: This 1999 strategic-cultural essay (below) was originally published on pages 108-117 of a searching and candid book of 233 pages, entitled Food and Agricultural Security: Guarding Against Natural Threats and Terrorist Attacks Affecting Health, National Food Supplies, and Agricultural Economics (New York, New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Volume 894—December 1999)

December 1999

ROBERT D. HICKSON

Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts, U.S. Air Force Academy, 2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 6K12, U. S. Air Force Academy, Colorado 80840-6238, USA. [Some twenty years later now, this 1999 address is no longer a valid address for the then-visiting professor, who is also the author here.]

*****

Underlying the exposition of subtle deception and strategic indirect warfare that follows is the theme of trust, to include: the grave personal and cultural consequences of intimately broken trust and how the intimate effects of broken trust may themselves be strategically and grand-strategically manipulated by a deft opponent. The greatest social consequence of the lie is that it breaks trust. And trust, once broken, is so hard to repair, even with forgiveness, even with graceful mercy and the healing of the memory. Such a poignancy—such a fragility and vulnerability—is one of the unmistakable themes of all the world’s great elegiac and tragic literature. It also pertains to the world of strategy and grand strategy, which also takes the longer view and goes to the roots of things.

As in a tragically fragmented family, a culture of broken trust, especially when it involves an intimately broken trust, is likewise self-sabotaging and often deeply destructive. Such a riven and wounded culture is thereby also more vulnerable to strategic exploitation and external maneuver by a subtle adversary. If, for example, an intelligent long-range adversary perceives the United States to be a “rogue superpower” and a “hectoring hegemon,” but also a “declining hegemon” marked by a loss of purpose, decadence, and broken trust, he will likely also perceive how an exploitable weakness has favorably manifested itself, even as a “provocative weakness”—“so weak that it is provocative to others” (in the memorably accented words of Dr. Fritz Kraemer). When, moreover, increasingly untrustful American citizens are fearful of the safety of their food and their water, to include the long-range safety of genetically modified foods; and when the military culture itself is increasingly untrustful of the limited or experimental vaccines they are dubiously obliged to receive, others will likely notice our “internal contradictions” and “exploitable weaknesses,” which all, at root, derive from a cumulative and innermost broken trust. Such adversaries, desiring to limit or to “level down” the United States, as well as Israel, for example, might well the “seize, retain, and exploit the initiative” strategically and grand-strategically, and thus further maneuver to subvert domestic trust.

Reality is that which doesn’t go away, even when you stop thinking about it. If somebody is at war with you, even if you don’t know it, you’re at war! Furthermore, every assessment of a threat is correlative to the vulnerability of the target—to include the “target culture” and the target’s vulnerable trust in its agriculture and sustainable agricultural infrastructure. All strategy and responsive counterstrategy must first be attentive to the “security of its base,” before it can also adequately achieve “mastery of the communications,” which is itself a strategic indispensability, as well as a part of the maneuvering “preparation for the strategic advantage” (or what the Chinese call shi’h).

The use of biological weapons to infect food supplies, blood supplies, vaccines, water and other “soft targets” would constitute a formidable challenge to our nation and political culture, especially if it were also to be intelligently harnessed to Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy. This conjunction is a terrible thing to think upon, and yet we must do so, because history shows that indirect grand strategy, with its use of surprise, delay, and psychological dislocation, has been used repeatedly and effectively against militarily more powerful adversaries.

Fabian strategy is named for the Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus (d. 203 BC), who defeated Hannibal by avoiding direct conflict. His long-range strategic indirection and evasiveness countered Hannibal’s military genius and sapped the energy of his forces. (The Fabian Society, founded in nineteenth-century Britain, also adopted the strategy in an attempt to introduce socialism gradually and indirectly.)

If Fabian strategy were now to be used in intentionally incongruous and shocking combination with more immediately traumatic forms of bio-terrorism, this could rightly be understood as a new form of psychological or political warfare—for it specifically targets the human mind and the weakened or despairing will, especially of one’s vacillating political leadership or fractious allies. For the purposes of this paper, I will discuss this form of warfare not just as an effective weapons system (albeit without conventional fire-power), but as an even larger new phenomenon that is more fittingly called strategic psycho-biological warfare, which exploits current revolutions in molecular biology and genetic engineering while aiming to manipulate the fears, broken trust, and uprooted hope of a modern citizenry at the end of a dark century.

Psycho-biological warfare, with its technical manipulations, ethical equivocations, and purposive confusions, could take us, finally, to the foundations of what it means to be a human person, as distinct from a mere artifact to be experimentally engineered and impersonally discarded. This could compel us, as well, to answer some trenchant questions: “What is a human person?” and “What is a human person for?” For how we see human life and its moral purposes1 will profoundly affect the limits we set in warfare, especially in the fearsome and far-reaching realm of warfare considered here. Any adequate American grand strategy to counter psycho-biological warfare must first consider such moral limits; it must also consider the long-range aftermath of such warfare, which is so likely to stain the nature of the subsequent peace and have even deeper after-effects on civilization.

To appreciate these larger issues more fully, we must first turn to history and, specifically, to Israeli military history. When, in September 1949, the Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli Forces, General Yigael Yadin, wrote his strategical analysis of the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War, he eloquently accentuated his understanding of and successful dependence on B. H. Liddell Hart’s theory of indirect strategy, especially its psychological subtlety and efficacy.2 What if, fifty years later, keen-minded anti-Israeli and anti-American strategic thinkers were to apply Liddell Hart’s strategic principles against Israel and America? That is to say, what if adversaries now applied the 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 imagined or actual effects of bio-terrorism and longer-range biological warfare? The words of Liddell Hart should concentrate our attention: “It should be the aim of grand strategy to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the opposing government’s power to make war.”3 In our own case, the aim could be to discover and pierce the Achilles’ heel of the U.S. government’s power to carry out what is sometimes perceived as its undefined, provocative, and increasingly resented “policy of engagement and enlargement” abroad. And indeed as with other great powers in history, the perception of our strategic policy as overbearing is likely to provoke “political jujitsu,” as Saul Alinsky called it, and other Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy against us, is it not?

That is to say, strategic thinkers opposed to Israel and the United States may by now have “grasped what the soldier, by his very profession, is less ready to recognize—that the military weapon is but one of the means that serve the purposes of war; one out of the assortment which grand strategy can employ.”4 Once this larger and more inclusive understanding is grasped by an adversary, “the military principle of ‘destroying the [enemy’s] main armed forces on the battlefield’…fits into its proper place along with the other instruments of grand strategy—which include the more oblique kinds of military action as well as economic pressure [or economic warfare], propaganda, and diplomacy [or what General Beaufre, as we shall see, called the mentally dislocating ‘exterior maneuver’].”5

In this view,

Instead of giving excessive emphasis to one means,…it is wiser to choose and combine whichever are the most suitable, most penetrative, and most conservative of effort —i.e., which will subdue the opposing will at the lowest war-cost and minimum injury to the post-war prospect. For the most decisive victory is of no value if a nation be bled white in gaining it.6

Liddell Hart also proposed a complementary insight: “[T]his decisive strategic victory…was rendered indecisive on the higher strategic plane [i.e., of grand strategy].” 7 Even an effective indirect approach to the enemy’s strategic rear, for example, may be nullified by a larger failure in grand strategy, to which lower, more physically decisive military strategy must always be subordinated, adds Liddell Hart:

For, if the government has decided upon a limited aim or “Fabian” grand strategy [i.e., one of protracted indirection, delay, and evasion], the general who, even within his strategic sphere, seeks to overthrow the enemy’s military power may do more harm than good to the government’s war policy.8

In the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens (431–404 BC), the Spartans initially had to face a kind of “Fabian” strategy and

were foiled by Pericles’s war policy, of refusing battle on land while using the superior Athenian navy to wear down the enemy’s will by devastating raids. Although the phrase “Periclean strategy” is almost as familiar as the “Fabian strategy” in a later [Roman] age, such a phrase narrows and confuses the significance of the course that war pursued [after the 430 BC Plague in Athens]. Clear-cut nomenclature is essential to clear thought, and the term “strategy” is best confined to its literal meaning of “generalship”—the actual direction of military force, as distinct from the policy governing its employment and combining it with other weapons: economic, political, psychological. Such policy is in application a higher-level strategy, for which the term “grand strategy” has been coined. In contrast to a strategy of indirect approach which seeks to dislocate the enemy’s balance in order to produce a decision, the Periclean plan 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. Unluckily for Athens, the importation of plague tipped the scales against her in this moral and economic attrition campaign. Hence in 426 BC, the Periclean strategy was made to give place to the direct offensive strategy of Cleon and Demosthenes.9

He also adds that “through the exasperation and fear that this [Spartan counteroffensive strategy] generated [i.e., “by taking an economic objective,” the “Athenians’ ‘national’ lines of communication”], he [the enemy Spartan general, Lysander] was able, thereby, also to produce conditions favorable to surprise and to obtain a swift military decision.”10 Later, ironically, the altogether weaker city-state of Thebes was able, gradually, to “[release] herself from Sparta’s dominion by the method later christened Fabian, of refusing battle….”11 Is it not also reasonable to suppose that the U.S.’s adversaries today might have similar incentives to resort to Periclean or Fabian indirection?

It is also important to consider that “the strategy of Fabius [known, interestingly, as the “Cunctator,” or “Delayer”] was not merely an evasion of battle to gain time, but calculated for its effect on the morale of the enemy—and, still more, for its effect on their potential allies” and thus “was…primarily a matter of war-policy or grand strategy.”12 Says Liddell Hart:

The key condition of the strategy by which this grand strategy was carried out was that the Roman army should keep always to the hills, so as to nullify Hannibal’s decisive superiority in cavalry. Thus this phase became a duel between the Hannibalic and the Fabian forms of the indirect approach.13

To what extent will the United States, as well as Israel, now have to face Periclean, Hannibalic, or Fabian forms of the indirect approach—and other insidious forms of “asymmetrical” indirection that use biological agents to achieve an even more devastating psychological effect of subversion and dislocation on the citizenry and soldiery? To what extent will biological warfare (and bio-terrorism) on our own home front now be—or be perceived to be—the U.S.’s “Achilles heel” and perhaps become an asymmetrical form of retribution for our obtrusive policy of “engagement and enlargement”? Given our current form of government and Constitutional provisions, how can we discern and counteract an adversary with biological weapons who also possesses strategic “interior lines” on the “inner front” of our homeland, so as to infect such vulnerable soft targets as vaccines, water, and food and blood supplies? A good strategist must first reliably secure his own base and become “master of the communications,” especially the strategic lines of communication, both interior and exterior, the mass media, and the communications of his enemy. How will our defenses counter such subtle penetration?

We can gain insight into these questions from a noted French military strategist, General André Beaufre, writing in 1963 on indirect strategy and the psychological factor in war. His thoughts have trenchant implications for our situation in America today. Learning from the humiliations he had known both as a Frenchman and as a combatant commanding officer, he warned and instructed us about the insidious methods of indirect strategy.14 America has much to learn from him.

Beaufre says that even though strategy can be played two ways, directly and indirectly—like the major and minor keys in music—the object of strategy remains the same: “a struggle for…freedom of action” leading to “a decision arrived at through the psychological surrender of the enemy,” The object is “to produce a climax—the point at which the enemy’s morale cracks.” When, according to Beaufre, one is able “to strike terror, to paralyze, and to surprise” one’s adversary—“and all these objects are psychological”—then one can limit or remove his freedom of action and his security, often by seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative and by “the strategy of guile.” But, always in strategy, “the touchstone is freedom of action,” especially when, as is usually the case, “psychological action must precede military action” and prepare for military action by a psychological “artillery barrage,” which includes diversion and deception.

What is our own strategic freedom of action today in the United States, both psychologically and militarily, against foreign and domestic threats of bio-terrorism and longer-range psycho-biological warfare? How might our adversaries, at home and abroad, be preparing to distract and dislocate us, physically and psychologically? Since, according to Beaufre, strategy is “a thought process” and “the art of the dialectic of [at least] two opposing wills” in order to “reach the other’s vitals by a preparatory process,” how might U.S. strategists anticipate the use of biological weapons by such preparatory and insidious indirection?

Beaufre uses the forceful metaphor of “an incubator war,” such as “the lethal but insidious infections of the Cold War or ‘war in peacetime’ (la Paix-Guerre).” He says that “in an incubator war, psychological infection [including the infection of panic] is not unlike that produced by biological warfare,” for, “once launched, it is difficult to control,” just as “the virus of Bolshevism rebounded upon her” after Germany enabled Lenin to arrive in 1917 at Finland Station in St. Petersburg to start his revolution. Beaufre proposes that the Soviet’s revolutionary dialectic of dissolution against its enemies was, like biological warfare, “a method of slow creeping diffusion of chaos under the umbrella of an insidious threat.” By using “psychological technology…partly camouflaged by an anesthetizing propaganda campaign,” and by using Alinsky’s “political jujitsu,” the indirect strategy of the Soviets, says Beaufre, aimed “to disorganize the enemy by disrupting…[mental] cohesion…[and] loosening…moral ties.” This strategic “enervation or erosion method,” a part of the “new style of war,” says Beaufre, is itself like “the creeping infection of an illness”—a gradual titration and permeation of an infection. Beaufre’s metaphors are even more forceful when applied to the modern realm of psycho-biological warfare.

Against psycho-biological forms of warfare, as well as against new forms of Marxist or Gramscian revolutionary warfare (as seen for example in the Trans-National Radical Party in Europe today), there is a grave need for what Beaufre calls “inoculation and counter-infection,” because they are part of a new battle for the mind. In the context of our vulnerable democratic culture, the challenges in forming an integrated defense-in-depth against psycho-biological warfare are great indeed.

In forming such a defense, it is important to note that even the best of tactics or operations (i.e., “the sum total of the dispositions and maneuvers”) are “rendered nugatory,” says Beaufre, “if used to further an erroneous strategy.” Tactics “must be the servant of strategy,” but the “choice of tactics is, in fact, strategy,” as when deciding, for example, “whether to use force or subversion” as a subordinate part of one’s own larger or grand “strategy of guile.” As Beaufre says, “how total [i.e., how inclusive] the art of strategy must be”—because it involves politics, economics, finance, and psychology, among other things. “The strategic priority” must always be “to decide how great the freedom of action is for oneself and what is available to the enemy.” In the face of biological weapons today, how would we ourselves make this decision?

We must also answer such questions as these: Who is the enemy? What (or whom) are we trying to protect? And why? The amount of access to our “interior lines” (i.e., to our interior dispositions, communications, and maneuver room) that is unwittingly provided to our adversaries, including trans-national criminal syndicates, is very great.

In my experience over the last three years, all too many people, when considering bio-terrorism and indirect biological warfare, have been cynically (or flippantly) inclined either to a kind of “pre-emptive futility” or to various forms of denial, both of which already constitute “pre-emptive psychological surrender”! “What can we do?” was the question put to me often enough. However, those whose special duty of leadership it is to provide for the common defense are called to a higher standard of foresight and determination.

It has been with these considerations of duty in mind that Dr. Thomas Frazier has worked so selflessly and indefatigably, despite discouragement and disincentives, to bring so many scientists, specialists, analysts, and thinkers together for candid discourse and a call to action. For merely passive forms of defense against psycho-biological weapons will likely be insufficient and perhaps even ruinous.

But, as to our response policy, should U.S. counter-initiatives be immediate and proportionate, like the well-known counter-initiatives of Israel? Would this be self-defeating for the U.S., exacerbating or only dissipating, given our diverse and vulnerable extensions abroad as well as our cultural politics at home?

One of the reasons, therefore, I am focusing our attention on Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy to make psychological use of bio-agents and bio-technologies is to make us more aware of the dangers of over-reaction, which might not only increase our vulnerability, but could even help unite additional hostile elements against us. That is to say, in the gathering disillusionment and resentment against the United States, many are likely to say “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The consideration of Fabian indirection will also likely make us more vigilant to the rash and reductive “terrible simplifiers,” those who might wish to use the pretext of a biological threat to implement Emergency Executive Orders or new “global arrangements” favorable to essentially unaccountable international oligarchies or NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but potentially unfavorable to national or local authority. I make this contention on the premise that a humane and proportionate scale—or scope of command—must be maintained when trying to deal with the threatened or actual conduct of psycho-biological warfare, because it specifically tries to destroy intimate trust, both in a community and in the individual mind.

In light of some fundamental axioms of strategy and grand strategy that will now be further elucidated by Liddell Hart, we will be able to consider more concretely how grand-strategic Fabian bio-warfare might operate and have its psychologically dislocating and paralyzing effects. Let us assume that an adversary or coalition of adversaries might wish to “revive the art and effect of strategy”15—especially long-range indirect grand strategy. The culture of China, for example, with its remarkable cultural cohesiveness over time and space, might be especially adept at grand-strategic deception. Certain European governments and Euro-socialists wishing for the diminishment of U.S. influence and enhancement of the euro as an international reserve currency might indirectly co-operate with China and others to add to America’s discomfiture, by omission at least if not by commission. In the London Mail, for example, Allan Piper and Richard Grant write:

The introduction of the Euro in January [1999] threatens to trigger the worst global economic crisis since the Second World War. It could even signal the breakdown of the global financial system, according to the City’s [London’s financial district’s] most respected economist. Stephen Lewis, who provides daily advice to the Square Mile’s leading institutions, blames the advent of the Euro for the present turmoil in world markets, and warns that massive currency movements created by its introduction will make matters worse. He predicts that, because European governments are determined to break the power of the U.S. dollar, it will encourage a worldwide proliferation of nationalistic policies, force widespread introduction of currency exchange controls, and lead to a sharp slowdown in global economic growth… . Lewis’ remarks follow an announcement from Beijing last week that the Chinese government wants to offload dollars from its $140 billion foreign currency reserve to buy the Euro… . Lewis warns: “One of the reasons there is a crisis at all is that the governments sponsoring the Euro are seeking to overturn the dollar’s supremacy. They do not want the dollar to survive as the world’s leading currency. A large part of the global economic problem over the past year has arisen from attempts by policy-makers to assert the Euro’s role in the scheme of things. This challenge is the biggest since 1945.” Last week, Wang Jian, economist of China’s State Development Planning commission, said that the country’s government would cut the proportion of dollar holdings to 40% so that it could build Euro holdings to the same level… . He [Stephen Lewis] said: “The movement of capital will devalue the dollar sharply and cause economic recession in the U.S. The significant point about Wang’s comment is that it came days after German bankers had been in Beijing seeking to persuade the authorities to shift their reserves from the dollar to the Euro.” (Emphasis added.)16

In this context, additional disruptions from the use of actual or feigned bio-agents could be traumatic and dislocating. With this example in mind, Liddell Hart’s axioms become even more cogent and sobering as we consider the Fabian use of biological weapons.

Liddell Hart is fundamentally opposed to two theses: (1) that “battle is the only means to the strategical end” and (2) that “in war every other consideration should be subordinated to the aim of fighting decisive battles.”17 He thinks it wise, instead, often “to enjoin a strategy of limited aim”18 and especially “a limited aim or ‘Fabian’ grand strategy.”19

He says:

The more usual reason for adopting a strategy of limited aim is that of awaiting a change in the balance of force—a change often sought and achieved by draining the enemy’s force, weakening him by pricks instead of risking blows. The essential condition of such a strategy is that the drain on him [e.g., the U.S.] should be disproportionately greater than on oneself. The object may be sought by raiding [or infecting] his supplies;…by luring him into unprofitable attacks [i.e., “lure and trap” or “mystify, mislead, surprise”]; by causing an excessively wide distribution [or centrifugal overextension] of his force; and, not least, by exhausting his moral and physical energy.20

When strategy, from its etymology, is considered as “generalship,” it is “the art of distributing and applying military means to fulfill the ends of policy” (as well as the ends of grand strategy) by “the movement of forces” and “its effect,” particularly when “the effect was [or will be] insidiously harmful.”21 The purpose of strategy, as well as grand strategy, is “to diminish the possibility of resistance” and “to fulfill this purpose by exploiting the elements of movement and surprise.”22 Says Liddell Hart:

The role of grand strategy—higher strategy—is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object…the goal defined by fundamental policy. Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations… . Also the moral resources—for to foster a people’s willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power…. 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.23

Even when it pertains to the lower level of strategy, Liddell Hart argues—and our new adversaries may have listened to him—that “strategy not only stops on the frontier [of the province of fighting], but has for its purpose the reduction of fighting to the slenderest possible proportions” and, if fighting is unavoidable, “to bring about battle under the most advantageous circumstances.”24 And sometimes, as in the case of the Greek Byzantine general, Belisarius, in Syria, “the national object” was fulfilled by “pure strategy,” for, “in this case, the psychological action was so effective that the enemy surrendered his purpose without any physical action at all being required.”25 Liddell Hart comments:

While such bloodless victories have been exceptional, their rarity enhances rather than detracts from their value—as an indication of latent possibilities, in strategy and grand strategy. Despite many centuries’ experience of war, we have hardly begun to explore the field of psychological warfare.26

With respect to the military strategist or grand strategist, Liddell Hart says, by way of summary:

His true aim is not so much to seek battle as to seek a strategic situation so advantageous that, if it does not of itself produce a decision, its continuation by battle is sure to achieve this.27

Now, with reference to those who would use biological weapons to effect “psychological action,” we must remember that “dislocation is the aim of strategy” and the intended sequel is “the enemy’s dissolution or his easier disruption in battle.”28 But “how is the strategic [or grand strategic] dislocation produced?”—by, for example, “a move directed towards the enemy’s rear,” “a menace to its [interior] line of communication,” or seeking to gain “a decisive advantage previous to battle.”29 It may also be produced by “menacing [or ambushing] the enemy’s [or the “first-responder’s”] line of retreat,” “menacing the equilibrium of his dispositions,” or “menacing [or contaminating] his local supplies [including his medical supplies].”30

The proper strategic intention is not so much to produce strain, but rather to produce shock—suddenness and surprise. “Psychological dislocation fundamentally springs from the sense of being trapped.”31 Also, the “strategy of an indirect approach [is] calculated to dislocate the opponent’s balance,” physically or logistically but, especially, mentally. In fact, “paralyzing the enemy’s action” is “what constitutes a strategic indirect approach,” which is itself “preceded by distraction [i.e., “to draw asunder” the opponent], so as “to deprive the enemy of his freedom of action” and to give him the sense of being trapped. Such a preparatory distraction also seeks “the distention” and “the diversion” of the opponent’s forces, with the result that they are “too widely distributed and committed elsewhere”32 so as not to be able to regroup and effectively concentrate against one’s own forces—that is to say, “not giving your opponent freedom [of action] and time to concentrate to meet your concentration.”33

Given modern conditions and mobile weaponry, says Liddell Hart, “the need for [preparatory] distraction” has grown. The “most economic method of distraction” is to force on one’s enemy a choice of disconcerting “alternate objectives” along a single line of operations—striving to constantly “[put] the enemy on the horns of a dilemma” (as Sherman did in his “deep strategic penetration” of Georgia).34 Citing the two correlative principles of “concentration of strength against weakness” and “dispersion of the opponent’s strength,” Liddell Hart emphasizes that “true concentration is the fruit of calculated dispersion.”35

Liddell Hart thinks it essential to “adjust your end to your means,” after a sober assessment of one’s means, and to “think what it is least probable that he [i.e., the enemy] will foresee and forestall.”36 Since “a single objective is usually futile,” he says, it is important to “take a line of operations which offers alternative objectives.” This is also “the basis of infiltration tactics,”37 which today could include biological weapons, to exploit the opponent’s confusion, mental dislocation, disorganization, and demoralization—and to exploit them before he or his society can recover. However, certain cautious and unstrategic minds, inordinately focused on tactics, tend to promote “the common indecisiveness of warfare,” to “obscure the psychological element,” and “to foster a cult of soundness rather than of surprise.”38

One must bear in mind “the necessity of making the enemy do something wrong” and, “by compelling [his] mistakes,” to “find in the unexpected the key to a decision.”39 For “a man unnerved is a highly infectious carrier of fear, capable of spreading an epidemic of panic.”40 Although strategy “should seek to penetrate a joint [or critical communications node] in the harness [or networks] of the opposing forces,” Liddell Hart emphasizes that “a strategist should think in terms of paralysis, not killing.”41 But again, a “decisive strategic victory” can be “rendered indecisive on the higher strategic plane” of grand strategy.

Given the new face of terrorism, as seen for example in the Aum Shinrikyo cult, there is, it seems, a growing “fanaticism unmixed with acquisitiveness” and “infused with the courage of desperation.”42 This new enemy seeks only to destroy, not to conquer —and biological weapons will serve him well.

By taking the measure, in the larger grand-strategic context, of both the capacities of biological weapons today (actual and potential) and the resentful intentions of terrorists or transnational criminal syndicates, our judgments and responses will be more disciplined and wiser, more prudent and proportioned. We must not think of biological weapons or bio-terrorism in merely tactical or operational terms, or in isolation. We must anticipate and consider them in the context of Fabian forms of indirect grand strategy, which may subtly employ new biotechnologies and discoveries from neuroscience, such as psychotropic and neuro-tropic bio-agents, to infect the human mind and weakened will. Such subtle forms of strategic indirection against “soft targets” aim to subvert trust, the most intimate forms of trust, thereby producing, if not our despair and desolation, then, at least, our demoralization and strategic paralysis.

(Address correspondence to [not anymore valid as of May 2020]: Dr. Robert Hickson, Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts, HQ USAFA/DFEG Hickson, 2354 Fairchild Drive, Suite 6K12, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado 80840-6238; Telephone: 719-333-8716; Fax: 719-333-7137. )

REFERENCES [43 Footnotes]:

1. HARRIS, J., 1992. In Wonderwoman and Superman: The Ethics of Human Biotechnology. P. Singer, Ed. Oxford University Press. New York.

2. LIDDELL HART, B.H. 1967. Strategy. 2nd edit. Meridian Books. New York.

3. Ibid. p. 212.

4. Ibid. pp. 211-212.

5. Ibid. pp. 211-212.

6. Ibid. p. 212.

7. Ibid. p. 237.

8. Ibid. p. 321.

9. Ibid. p. 10.

10. Ibid. p. 13.

11. Ibid. pp. 13-14.

12. Ibid. p. 26.

13. Ibid. p. 27

14. BEAUFRE, A. 1965. An Introduction to Strategy, Praeger. New York. Quoted text from pages 1, 23-24, 30, 34-35, 42, 47, 55-57, 59, 80, 83, 86, 99, 100, 102-104, 108-110, 121-122, 127-128, 133, 135, 137-138.

15. LIDDELL HART, op. cit. p. 332.

16. PIPER, A. & R. GRANT.1998. London Mail (6 Sept.): 1.

17. LIDDELL HART, op. cit. p. 319.

18. Ibid. p. 320.

19. Ibid. p. 321.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid. pp. 321, 319.

22. Ibid. p. 323.

23. Ibid. p. 322.

24. Ibid. p. 324.

25. Ibid. p. 325.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid. p. 326.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid. p. 328.

33. Ibid. p. 334.

34. Ibid. p. 339.

35. Ibid. p. 334.

36. Ibid. p. 335.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid. p. 336.

39. Ibid. p. 336 (Emphasis added).

40. Ibid. p. 212.

41. Ibid.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid. p. 359.

Finis

 

The 1571 Meetings of Miguel Cervantes and Don Juan of Austria: Louis de Wohl’s 1956 Historical Novel, The Last Crusader

Dr. Robert Hickson 15 March                             2020 Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer (1820)

Saint Longinus (1st century A.D)

Epigraphs

“[Admiral of the Papal fleet] Marc Antonio Colonna, Duke of Pagliana, was a handsome man of no more than thirty-five….The sight from the [conquered] Sultana’s poop deck was never to be forgotten. Colonna had a few light guns trained on the [Turkish] galleys and brigantines still hovering near, and the two nearest surrendered without a shot, the first Turkish warships ever to do so. The flag from holy Mecca in the hands of the Christians and Ali Pasha’s head on a Spanish pike seemed to be more than they could bear.

Colonna started firing at the others [of the Turkish navy]. His ship, too, showed a good deal of damage.

Juan [overall Christian commander Don Juan of Austria himself] thought of the young man [also 24 years of age] on board there [with Colonna], what was his name? Cervas or Cervantes. Good luck, señor poet, he thought.” (Louis de Wohl, The Last Crusader (1956, 2010), pages 431 and 473)—my emphasis added

***

“Hope only becomes virtue as theological hope, however, meaning a hope moving toward salvation, which does not exist in the natural world.

Even so, Christian hope does not fail to keep our historical created world in sight as well. One can read this, too, from the character of the Christian martyr. The Christian martyr is something truly incomparable. It is not enough to look at him as a man who dies for his conviction – as if the truth of this conviction did not matter. The distinction and the uniqueness of the Christian witness lies in the fact that in spite of the terror befalling him, from his mouth ‘no word against God’s creation is heard’ (E. Peterson).

In the martyr’s hope three elements are joined together. The one thing truly hoped for is eternal life and not happiness found in the world. This is the first element. The second is the active ‘yes’ to the created world in all its realms. The third element is the acceptance of a catastrophic end to the world of history.

The connection of these three elements is, logically, filled with dynamic tension; it is not easy to hold these tensions together and endure them.” (Josef Pieper, Josef Pieper: An Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 26—my emphasis added. This excerpt is from an essay that was originally published in 1963 in Tradition als Herausforderung [Tradition as Challenge] (Munich 1963).

***

Earlier this year, after I had discussed and slowly read aloud to my wife and two young children around our glowing kitchen hearth Cervantes’ Don Quixote in its entirety, they unexpectedly requested that I then also read to them The Last Crusader: A Novel about Don Juan of Austria by Louis de Wohl.1 Approximately fifty pages before the end of that almost 500-page book, we had a good surprise. It is this nuanced and touching surprise that I wish now to share with the reader, for it shows us how the future author of Don Quixote (1605 and 1615) met, warmed, and even charmed the heart of Don Juan of Austria himself in 1571—just before and then again the day after the 7 October naval battle of Lepanto in which the courageous Miguel Cervantes was gravely wounded in action.

Cervantes is shown to have been a volunteer soldier under the immediate command of Admiral Colonna, “the papal admiral” (442).

We shall introduce the meetings of Cervantes and Don Juan by first discussing the then-recent 5 August 1571 surrender of Famagusta on the strategic island of Cyprus and the cruel aftermath of that defeat, especially the deliberate and protracted Turkish tortures of Marc Antonio Bragadino, the military governor of Famagusta.

As Captain Barola now reports the grim early August 1571 situation to Don Juan and Admiral Veniero (the close friend of Bragadino), we shudderingly hear (but only in part):

“As soon as the town surrendered Mustapha [the conquering Ottoman Turk General] broke his word. All Christian captives were chained to the galleys—those over age were killed. Bragadino was tortured for twelve days…”

“Santa Madonna,” Veniero said. He was as white as the chalked wall of the desecrated church….

“Mustapha told him [Bragadino] that the cathedral would be transformed into a mosque. He told him how he was going to die. He would have him flayed alive. Then he screamed at him: ‘Where is your Christ? Why doesn’t he free you, if he’s so powerful?’ They began to flay him then and there, and they started at his feet. He began to pray the Miserere [Psalm 51—a lamentation and prayer for mercy]. That was his whole answer….”

He died a martyr,” Juan said. He crossed himself, and the others followed his example. “I command that this story be told to every man in the fleet. I take it that you are certain about your facts, Captain Barola?”

“Quite certain, Your Excellency, I am sorry to say.”

As soon as Juan was back on board [of his flagship] again, he made sure that his last order was obeyed. Within a few hours every man in the fleet knew about the fate of Famagusta [the consequence of its surrender on 5 August 1571] and of Marc Antonio Bragadino….

Juan conferred with Colonna. Veniero had excused himself and the commander in chief respected his grief.” (441-442—my emphasis added)

Shortly after this extended and provocative presentation, Admiral Colonna said to Don Juan, his 24-year-old superior, as follows:

“You seem to be very sure that we shall get hold of the Turk, Your Excellency.”

“I am very sure. Wherever they are, I am going to look for them until I find them.”

Colonna led his commander in chief through the ship. Juan found the discipline on board faultless, equal, if not superior to that of the Spanish ships. He particularly liked the admiral’s bodyguard, twenty-five men of the Pope’s [Pius V’s] own Swiss Guards under their young commander, a giant of a man, Hans Noelle by name.

The sword of Peter,” Juan said, smiling. “Mind you Messer Noelle, this time it will have to cut off more than just an ear.”

Noelle grinned cheerfully and said something in a Italian so grimly Swiss that Colonna had to translate it to Juan. ‘He says he wants a Turkish flag to send home to Switzerland….’

“Well, I hope he’ll get his flag. Who is that man there?” (443—my emphasis added)

Now we shall come to encounter and more fully to appreciate the future author of Don Quixote:

A tall, thin soldier was standing in the gangway and somebody was trying to drag him away by his coat. He resisted stoutly and at the same time saluted; his eyes fixed on the two great commanders [both Juan of Austria and Admiral Colonna]. (443—my emphasis added)

There appears now to have occurred an unexpected commotion and Admiral Colonna promptly responds in the presence of his own superior:

“What’s going on here?” Colonna barked.

The [unnamed] man behind the [dragged and resisting] soldier emerged, saluting sheepishly. “Physician’s mate, sir. This young gentleman is ill with fever, and ought to be in bed, sir.”

“It isn’t much of a fever, Your Grace,” the soldier said eagerly. “And I just heard what happened at Famagusta. I beg Your Grace’s pardon for intruding like this—I would like to ask a favor of Your Grace.”

“What’s your name?” Colonna asked, frowning.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, at Your Grace’s service.

“A Spaniard,” Juan said. “Where from?”

“I was born in Alcalá, Your Excellency.”

“I know it well. Where in Alcalá?”

“Our house was just next to the kitchen garden of the Capuchin monastery, Your Excellency. I was christened in Santa Maria Mayor. We went to Sevilla and then to Madrid.”

“You are a volunteer, I take it?” (444—my emphasis added)

Miguel Cervantes’ immediate reply to Don Juan’s previous question robustly articulates a wise and memorable vision and motivation, especially for a man of just twenty-four years of age:

“Yes [I am a volunteer], Your Excellency. That is to say, I am the kind of madman [like a certain Don Quixote?] who still believes that nobility of heart, courage, and poetry are the three things that matter most, next to the grace of God.”

You are a poet, then?” Juan said with that grave charm that won the heart of every man. (444—my emphasis added)

Don Juan’s question and manner drew forth a larger presentation of the Spaniard’s life and abiding ethos:

“Yes [I am a poet], Your Excellency. I went to Rome in the [clerical diplomatic] retinue of the Most Reverent Guilio Acquaviva de Aragon. But what is life at the most magnificent court when the bugle calls for battle against the infidel? Poetry can remain poetry only so long as it is paired with courage and nobility of heart.”

I wish all Spaniards thought as you do,” said Juan.

Miguel de Cervantes smiled deprecatingly. “There is need for the other type as well,” he said. “Has it ever occurred to Your Excellency that there are two types of Spaniards and two only?

[At this subordinate’s perk and spunkiness] Colonna cleared his throat [once again!] impatiently, but Juan was not to be deflected. “Two types only? What are they señor poet?” (444-445—my emphasis added)

Will our poet also still now make room for a Sancho Panza? Let us now consider the implicit possibility of such a pair and companionship!

The first,” Cervantes said, “is slim and dreamy and full of enthusiasm for all things great, sacred, and brilliant. The lady he loves is invariably the most beautiful in the world, and if she is not a queen she should be. He thinks the world is the field God gave him in which to perform shining deeds in the service of a great cause and so he is a hero and a fool, a poet and a knight.”

Like you,” Juan smiled. (445—my emphasis added)

After his “expression of politely hidden irony in his dark eyes,” Cervantes unfolds for Don Juan his own vivid and charming understanding of that second of two enduring types of Spaniard:

“The second type,” he said, “is intensely practical and knows the value of a maravedí, a real and a ducat, A woman to him is a very useful creature, and if she is pretty too, so much the better. He thinks the world is a field in which he must find a small place where he can live with a minimum of discomfort. You only have to look at a Spaniard and you will always know to which of the two types he belongs.”

Once more Colonna cleared his throat.

Thank you, señor poet,” Juan said, “I will certainly think about your theory. But what about the favor you were going to ask?” (445—my emphasis added)

And here is the favor Miguel Cervantes requests from the commander and chief:

“It is, Your Excellency, that I may be freed from the well-meaning but clumsy services of the physician’s mate and permitted to command a dozen soldiers in battle—preferably at bows [at the prow, or forecastle].”

“He’ll be killed there, most likely,” Colonna said.

“But, if he isn’t, he will reach Parnassus,” Juan said, and Cervantes’ eyes lit up. “Let him have his twelve men, Your Grace [i.e., Colonna], as a favor to me.”

“Very well, Your Excellency. You’d better go back to bed, messer poet, and come out only when it’s time to fight.” (445—my emphasis added)

A short time later—now after the decisive and won naval battle—and when Juan was festively about to sail along and salute the line of his assembled victorious fleet, “Colonna accompanied the commander in chief to the gangway.” (494) But then something unexpected was again to transpire:

A tall thin soldier appeared on it [the gangway], his left armed bandaged and in a sling. Somebody, a physician’s mate, was trying to drag him away by the coat, but he resisted stoutly and at the same time saluted, his eyes fixed on Don Juan.

Señor poet,” Juan exclaimed, smiling. “Leave him alone, you there! I am glad to see you still alive, although it looks as if you’ve been fighting as you said you would.”

“He did, Your Excellency,” Colonna affirmed. “And very bravely.”

“I lost the movement of my left hand for the glory of the right,” said Miguel de Cervantes. “And I want to thank you, Your Excellency. Yesterday [Sunday, 7 October 1571] was the most beautiful day of the century.”

So he knows, too, that there will not be another, Juan thought. “I thought of you once,” he said, “during the battle.”

Deeply moved, Cervantes said, “With or without a crown—you, sir, are a true king.”….

A true king, Cervantes thought. A magnificent young king. A crusader. Perhaps…the last crusader. (495—my emphasis added)

In the last few lines of his book (on page 495), Louis de Wohl considered the likelihood of a later tragedy, perhaps also to occur in Don Juan of Austria’s own young life, but also more broadly:

But those who were shouting “Hosanna” today might well be shouting “Crucify” tomorrow. Yesterday’s conquerer was today’s victim and tomorrow’s fool….Glorious fool! Glorious folly! Was there not someone who had spoken even of the Folly of the Cross. Saint Paul, of course. To whatever height a poet [has] soared, always a saint had been there before. (495—my emphasis added)

And the saints—especially the blood martyrs—knew the importance, and lived out the reality, of the virtue of hope, the hope of the Christian martyrs. A gift of grace, a theological virtue.

Miguel Cervantes knew well and later depicted the sorrows and tragedies of life, and he also cherished a virtuous hope: the hope of eternal life. May his companion, Don Juan of Austria, also have come to that sensitive awareness and virtuous conduct by the end of his short, but heroic life.

–Finis–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Louis de Wohl, The Last Crusader: A Novel about Don Juan of Austria (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010—first published in 1956). All further references to this 495-page book will be to the paginations of the 2010 edition; and they will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this essay. This essay will especially counterpoint the brief and graciously subtle relationship between Miguel Cervantes as a combatant volunteer soldier, and Don Juan of Austria as the Commanding General of the Fleet—both of whom are 24 years of age.

Josef Pieper on The Virtues of the Human Heart and the Test of Temptation

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                              28 January 2020

Saint Peter Nolasco (d. 1256)

Saint Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274)

Second Feast of Saint Agnes (d. 304)

Epigraphs

***

“A temptation wouldn’t be a temptation if it weren’t attractive.” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J. to R. Hickson)

***

“If we be in the state of grace while also in the face of a grave temptation, we may not always have at that moment the sufficient grace to resist that temptation, but we always then still have the grace to pray for the grace we need.” (Father John A. Hardon, S.J. to R. Hickson)

***

“Virtue is the utmost of what a man can be; it is the realization of the human capacity for being.” (Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart, page 9)

***

In “A Retrospective Preface,” Josef Pieper’s historical and moving personal four-page introduction to the 1991 English translation of his little book—A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart—a reader will discover that this reissued German-language book had first been published fifty years earlier, in 1941, during World War II.1

Moreover, says Pieper himself, this little book, despite its being “a persistently exclusive production of plainly Christian religious literature” (7), was somehow allowed and even “provided with the official stamp of the ‘responsible’ political offices and placed on the list of officially permitted literature for mass distribution on the front lines” (9). (Germany, we may recall, was to attack the Soviet Union on Sunday 22 June 1941.)

In this short essay on this fresh and fine work, I therefore propose to concentrate on what Dr. Pieper writes as a young man of 37 about the virtue of courage (fortitude), the virtue of inner discipline, and those aspects of moral purity that aid our perception of reality and of the Christian virtue of hope.

At the end of his discussion of the virtue of justice, and just before young Josef Pieper’s examination of the virtue of fortitude (which itself presupposes the existence of moral evil), we also see how he carefully dares to speak of and to the National Socialist Regime in the midst of War:

In the human world there is hardly any worse or more hopeless calamity than unjust governmental rule….It is good to be forewarned that the mightiest embodiment of evil in human history, the Antichrist, could indeed appear in the form of a great ascetic….The worst corruption of the natural man is injustice….Above all, he [“the deceived natural man”] would be incapable of recognizing the [Antichrist in] the historical prefigures of that final condition; while he [the inattentive natural man] is looking out for the powers of corruption in a mistaken direction, they establish their rule before his eyes. (24—my emphasis added)

So, too, today.

When one cannot overcome at all (or at once) an unjust evil, one must—and should—learn to endure it while one is also learning to suffer well. Such is part of the quality of virtuous fortitude and endurance and the great gift of final perseverance. Thus, Josef Pieper will now prepare us, gradually, to face the meaning of certain virtues, such as the third cardinal (hinge) virtue of Fortitude:

Fortitude presumes vulnerability; without vulnerability there is no possibility of fortitude….To be brave means to be ready to sustain a wound. Since he is substantially vulnerable, man can be courageous. (24-25)

When one attentively reads Josef Pieper’s slowly developing insights in his little book’s final thirty pages (24-54), one gradually notices the artfully intertwined interrelationships between bravery (fortitude, courage) and patience and discipline (moderation, temperance) and purity and hope (as a virtue). It is this progression that I now hope to follow selectively. It is to be recommended that the reader read all of these pages himself, so as even to understand much better the meaning of a feast and the strict meaning of prudentia (the indispensable first cardinal virtue of prudence).

Dr. Pieper is honest and unflinchingly steady in his presentation of inescapable reality:

Every wound of the natural being tends toward death [not only in war]. Thus every brave deed draws its sustenance from preparedness for death as from its deepest root….A fortitude that does not extend to the depth of readiness to fall is rotten in its root and lacking in effective power.

Willingness to be wounded constitutes only the half, [namely,] the forefront of fortitude. The courageous person is not willing to sustain a wound for its own sake. Rather, through it [his willingness] he wants to protect or gain a deeper, more substantial freedom from harm.

To be brave is not the same as to have no fear. To be sure, fortitude excludes a certain kind of fearlessness, namely, when it is based on a mistaken appraisal and evaluation of reality [i.e., a lack of sober and virtuous prudence]. (25—my emphasis added)

Moreover, he says, as he presents some further illuminating nuances:

Anyone who has lost the will to live does not fear death. This dispirited indifference, however, is remote from authentic fortitude….Fortitude apprehends, acknowledges, and protects the natural order of things. The brave person is perceptive: he realizes that the wound he gets is an evil. He does not falsify reality or alter its value: it “tastes” to him as it really is. He does not love death, nor does he despise life.

That person is brave who does not allow himself to be brought by the fear of secondary and transient evils to the point [as in the case of final despair] of forsaking the final and authentic good things [even Eternal Life], and thus [thereby] of taking on himself the ultimate and unlimited horror. This fear of the definitive terror belongs, as the “negative” of the love of God, to the plainly necessary foundation of fortitude (and of any virtue). (26—my emphasis added)

It should be further helpful to our own grateful understanding now—as we also imagine the 1941 German soldiers of World War II in their own savoring of wisdom—to see what Josef Pieper wrote in 1941 concerning the proper order and distinctive purpose of fear, especially “fear of the Lord” (47) as a guard against “presumption” (one of the two forms of hopelessness and sin against hope, along with despair):

One of the scarcely examined principles from which our age’s governing image of humanity is drawn asserts that it is not fitting for man to be afraid. In this attitude the waters from two sources are mingled, The one is Enlightenment liberalism [with its presumption!], which relegates fearfulness to the realm of the unessential, and, in its view of reality, room and place are assigned to fear only in an unessential sense. The other source is an un-Christian stoicism with a concealed link to impudence [and presumption] as well as to despair; it opposes the fearful things of existence, which are clearly seen, with defiant immobility, without fear, but also without hope….

Nonetheless, the Christian inquires after the ordo timoris, the order of fear; he inquires about what is genuinely and ultimately fearsome….What is truly fearsome, however, is nothing else than the possibility that man might separate himself from his Ultimate Ground of Being voluntarily through his guilt…. This fearsomeness, which accompanies as a real possibility the life of every man, including the saints—the fearsomeness and this fear are not surmountable by any mode of “heroism”; on the contrary, this fear is a prerequisite for any genuine heroism….

If this natural human fear, contemplating nothingness, is not fulfilled through the fear of the Lord, then this anxiety erupts “unfulfilled” and destructive into the realm of spiritual and mental existence. (46-47—my emphasis added)

Earlier, the reflective young Pieper had presented his analysis and nourishing affirmations:

Whoever in such a situation of unqualified seriousness [near death or protracted torture], in the face of which…every heroic gesture becomes crippled, nonetheless advances toward the horror and does not allow himself to be prevented from doing the good, specifically for the sake of the good and thus finally for the sake of God, not out of ambition or out of fear of being taken for a coward: that person is truly courageous.

What is essential to the virtue of fortitude is not aggression or self-confidence or wrath but rather steadfastness and patience….because the real world is so structured that it is in the most extreme emergency [like blood martyrdom], where the only resistance possible is steadfastness, that the final and most profound spiritual strength of the person can become manifest….

[He] who is patient…does not allow himself thereby to be drawn into disordered sadness. To be patient means not to allow the serenity and discernment of one’s soul to be taken away….The virtue of fortitude protects a person from loving his life [natural life] in such a way that he loses it [i.e., sanctifying grace and supernatural life and Vita Aeterna].

The Christian prototype of the “heroic downfall” is the testimony of blood, the martyr’s death….The same can be said concerning the foundation of Christian readiness for suffering…asceticism….[which] contains for the Christian believer a mystery-filled opportunity for the affirmation of Being in itself: namely, the opportunity of devotion to the community of the suffering Son of Man. (27-29—my emphasis added)

After this preparation, we may better consider the apt relation between justice and fortitude:

Without a “just cause” there is no fortitude. The decisive element is not the wound but the cause. “A man does not expose his life to the danger of death except in order to secure justice. Therefore the praise of bravery is contingent upon justice,” says Thomas Aquinas. And in his book On Duties, [Saint] Ambrose says, “Courage without justice is a lever of evil.”

For the moral virtue of fortitude, the old tenet of classical Western rules for living holds true: every virtue must always be tied with all others at their core; thus there is no bravery without truthfulness, without justice, or without discipline. It is a bourgeois illusion to think that a person can be just without ever being required to demonstrate this courage as well. It is no less a distortion of meaningful order that one can be brave even though he knowingly fights on the side of injustice; the bravery of the criminal is a contradiction in terms. Likewise, fortitude as a moral virtue can have no bond with indiscipline. In [Wolfram von Eschenbach’s] Parcival [of the early thirteenth century chivalric poem, Parzival ] it is said, “Never have I heard that a man was praised for undisciplined bravery.

Discipline [part of the Fourth Cardinal Virtue of Temperance and Moderation] is selfless self-preservation. Indiscipline is self-destruction through selfish debasement of powers intended for self-preservation. (30-31—my emphasis added)

As we prepare to present Josef Pieper’s mature meaning of hope and the existential structure of the act of hope, we shall also selectively touch upon other encouraging matters: for, example, his treatment of anger, magnanimity and humility, man’s inner order and significant “cheerfulness of heart” (“hilaritas mentis”(32, 35)) in contrast to “hebetudo sensus” (“dullness of the interior understanding in grasping spiritual realities” (36)) and destructive “curiositas,” in contrast to disciplined “studiositas.”

Dr. Pieper further develops his vivid and revealing thoughts—about an inner discipline of human faculties—by first considering the mystery of a certain ordinary fact:

It is an everyday but no less mysterious fact that the inner order of man is not…a merely given and obvious reality but rather that those same powers by which human existence sustains itself could subvert that interior order even to the point of the destruction of the spiritual moral person. It is especially hard to conceive that it is truly the innermost human self that can bring itself to self-destruction in disorder….We ourselves alone are always the agents of discipline and indiscipline, of self-preservation and self-destruction. (32—my emphasis added)

Hence our abiding need for the fourth cardinal virtue (temperance, moderation, discipline).

Indeed, Pieper affirmatively and winsomely adds—and it “especially applies when the love of truth or some other noble virtue is ready and eager to dare the utmost” (32):

Cheerfulness of heart…is the seal of selflessness….Cheerfulness of the heart is the unmistakable sign through which the inner authenticity of discipline as selfless self-preservation becomes manifest. (32—my emphasis added)

Even in this context of “an affirming cheerfulness” (33), Josef Pieper brings up the matter of anger:

The common Christian thinking, whenever there is a question of anger, seeks only to point out the unruly, the unspiritual, and the negative in anger. Still, just like “sensuality” and “desire,” the power of becoming angry belongs to the basic powers of man. In this power of becoming angry the energy of human nature speaks most clearly. This power is aimed at what is hard to achieve, at that which eludes easy grasp; it is always readily available where a bonum arduum [“a steep good”], a difficult good waits to be won….

Precisely with regard to overcoming licentiousness in pleasure, the power of becoming angry assumes particular gravity.

Thomas [Aquinas] is of the opinion that affirmation must be stronger than negation. It is his opinion that the degradation of mental power must be capable of being healed by the still undamaged core of some other power. Therefore it must be possible to overcome and, so to speak, quench the flabby licentiousness of a lecherous desire for pleasure, so that a difficult task might by undertaken by the willing resistance that the full power of anger can engender.

The connection of the licentiousness of the desire for pleasure with the indolent inability to get angry is the distinctive mark of complete and genuinely hopeless degeneration. It shows itself wherever a social class, a people, or a culture is ripe for ruin. (34-35—my emphasis added)

Since true humility might help the recovery of such a situation, Dr. Pieper surprises us again with his insight about magnanimity and robust and generous humility:

Nothing shows the way to a correct understanding of humility so clearly as this: that humility and magnanimity not only are not mutually exclusive but also near to one another and intimately connected; both together and in opposition to pride as well as to faintheartedness. What indeed does magnanimity mean? Magnanimity is the expansion of the spirit toward great things; one who expects great things of himself and makes himself worthy of it is magnanimous….In the Summa Theologica [of Saint Thomas] it is stated, “If one disdains glory in such a manner that he makes no effort to do that which merits glory that action is blameworthy.” On the other side, the magnanimous one is not broken by disgrace; he looks down on it as unworthy of himself….Undaunted uprightness is the distinctive mark of magnanimity, while nothing is more alien to it than this: to be silent out of fear about what is true.

Magnanimity encompasses an unshakable firmness of hope…and the thorough calm of a fearless heart. The magnanimous person submits himself not to the confusion of feelings or to any human being or to fate—but only to God. (37-38—my emphasis added)

Moreover, Pieper again draws up the wisdom and repeated convictions of the Summa Theologica where somewhat surprisingly, for example:

It is stated in the Treatise on Humility several times that humility does not conflict with magnanimity. One can now consider what this sentence, uttered as a warning and a precaution, truly means to say. It means nothing else than this: that a “humility” that would be too narrow and too weak to bear the inner tension of coexistence with magnanimity is no humility. (38-39—my emphasis added)

After his interwoven and sobering set of reasoned affirmations, Pieper presents to us some negative examples, as if to say that “such contrast will further clarify the mind”:

There is a lust for seeing that perverts the original meaning of sight and casts a person into disorder. The meaning of sight is the perception of reality. However, “concupiscence of the eye” does not seek to perceive reality but rather just to see [as is “the itch for innovation”)….The degradation into curiositas [curiosity] of the natural desire to see can thus be substantially more than a harmless confusion on the surface. It can be the sign of one’s fatal uprooting. It can signify that a person has lost the capacity to dwell in his own self; that he, fleeing from himself disgusted and bored with the waste of an interior that is burnt out with despair, seeks a thousand futile ways with selfish anxiety that which is accessible only to the high-minded calm of a heart disposed to self-sacrifice and thus in mastery over itself: [in and towards] the fullness of being. (39-40—my emphasis added)

Moreover, we must also consider the effects of unchastity, not just the destructively “extirpative power” (40) and “restlessness” (40) stirred up by “the concupiscence of the eye”:

In a very particular way, unchastity destroys this self-possession and behaving oneself by man. Unchaste abandonment and prostitution of the soul to the sensual world wound the fundamental capacity of the moral person: to hearken in silence to the call of the real and out of this recollected silence within himself to make the decision appropriate [as in virtuous prudence] to the concrete situation of concrete action.

For us men and women of today, who are of the opinion that in order to know the truth one need more or less strain the brain, and who scarcely regard as sensible the concept of an ascesis of the intellect—for us, the deeply intrinsic connection that links the knowledge of truth to the condition of purity has vanished from our consciousness. [Saint] Thomas notes that the firstborn daughter of unchastity is the blindness of spirit. An impure and selfish degraded will for pleasure ruins both the decision-making power and the inmost resource of the soul to give silent heed to the discourse of reality.

To be open to the truth of real things and to live by perceived truth: these constitute the essence of the moral person. Only one who sees and affirms this objective reality is also able to recognize how deeply the ruin penetrates that an unchaste heart allows to happen within itself. (42-43—my emphasis added)

In his sincere consideration of the deeper meaning of purity, Josef Pieper shows an intimate part of his own heart and elegiac sense of irreparable loss:

Purity means that crystalline, morning-fresh artlessness and selflessness in relation to the world, as it becomes a reality when the shock of a deep pain [such as the death of the beloved] brings him to the the limits of existence or when the nearness of death touches him [as in war]….This sobriety belongs to the essence of purity….Tragedy achieves purification, catharsis. The donum timoris, the spiritual gift of fear, which Thomas subordinates to temperantia [i.e., the fourth cardinal virtue], also cleanses the disposition as the blessed experience of the innermost peril to the person [perhaps one’s damnation]; it has that purity as its fruit in virtue of which one renounces [as in the sacrament of penance] the selfish seeking after deceptive and false fulfillment. Purity is the unreserved openness of the entire being, for which alone the word can be spoken: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” (Luke 1:38)….This supreme realization of purity is expressed…in an image of immaculate beauty and radiant authenticity: “Untroubled, the undaunted rose/ stays open in hope.” (Konrad Weiss)

Here a new depth becomes manifest: namely, that purity not only is the fruit of purification but also comprises in itself the readiness to accept God’s purifications, perhaps terrible and deadly, with the brave openness of a trusting heart and so experience its fertile and transforming power. (45-46—my emphasis added)

We may now consider the last portion of Josef Pieper’s gracious and modest little book: namely, his youthful and sober treatment of hope: the meaning and effects of hope, as well as the deadly and corrosive two forms of hopelessness (presumption and despair). We may then also better understand how this pure book might well have touched and formed the hearts of the men at war in 1941 who first read its grace-filled words of wisdom.

Before Pieper discusses natural hope and then the indispensable uniqueness of supernatural hope (implanted Christian hope), he more abstractly and theoretically presents his deep understanding of the structure of the act of hope. We shall attempt to convey his more philosophical grasp of hope’s intrinsic structure after we first try to articulate his position about the two forms of hopelessness, which are also the Catechism’s classic two sins against hope:

In the two forms of hopelessness, in despair as well as in presumption, this [distinctive] youthfulness of the hoping person comes to nothing all the same, but in different ways: in despair, in the way of the senile; in presumption, in the way of the infantile. (50—my emphasis added)

After I first met Dr. Pieper in Spain in the summer of 1974, he often compactly expressed to me the essence of presumption and despair. These are his words and as exactly as he incisively taught me:

Presumption is the premature anticipation of final fulfillment. Despair is the premature anticipation of final non-fulfillment.

In The Virtues of the Human Heart, he wrote, moreover:

In despair as in presumption, the truly human [and “youthful”] quality stiffens and congeals, and only hope is able to preserve it in radiant litheness. Both forms of hopelessness are in the real sense inhuman and deadly. “These two things kill the soul: despair and perverted [presumptuous] hope,” says [Saint] Augustine. (50—my emphasis added)

As to the structure of hope, in general, Pieper somewhat densely says the following:

For man who, in statu viatoris [in the condition of a wayfarer], in the state of being on the way, experiences the [his!] essential creatureliness, the “not yet really existing being” of his existence, there is only one appropriate answer to this experience [of dependency and vulnerability]. The answer cannot be despair—for the meaning of creaturely existence is not nothingness but rather is being, which means fulfillment. The response also cannot be the comfortable security [and assurance] of possessions—for the creature’s “being as becoming” still borders in peril on nothingness. Both of these, despair and assurance of possession [i.e., presumption], militate against the truth of real things. The only answer that is suitable for man’s authentic existential situation is hope. The virtue of hope is the first appropriate virtue of the “not yet.” In the virtue of hope, before all others, man understands and affirms that he is a creature, a creature of God.

Human nature and everything that immediately pertains to it have “the structure of hope.” We are viatores [wayfarers, and not yet comprehensores], on our way, “not yet” beings….Who could say that he already possesses the being intended for him, that he has comprehended anything (to comprehend means to know something as much as it is knowable, to perceive something completely), that he has taken the measure of all existing things? (47-48—my bold emphasis added)

And, as usual, Dr. Pieper acutely and candidly presents the darker matter of certain deceptions, self-deceptions, and camouflages of hope and despair:

Yet never can a pagan be tempted to such deep despair as a Christian and, so it appears, precisely [even in] the great Christians and saints.

Hope and despair can each differ in depth. Above a hope that is rooted in the soul’s innermost depth of being, there can be varieties of despair near the surface, so to speak. Yet they [these superficialities] do not touch the more profound hope [espérance, as distinct from espoir], and they have no definitive meaning. Furthermore, a person, who in the final analysis is in despair, can appear to be a thorough-going optimist in the penultimate concerns of existence, such as the naturally cultural, to others and to himself, as long as he is able to seal off radically the innermost chamber of despair, so that no pain can erupt outward (and it speaks volumes that the contemporary man of the world has made a real art of this [concealment]). (50-51—my bold emphasis added)

Reinforcing these sobering insights and psychological truths, Josef Pieper approaches and presents the last two pages of his book, and deftly touches upon nonchalance and complacency (or spiritual acedia), and presumption:

It is easy to flatter oneself [and especially one’s pride!] that one hopes for eternal life; however, it is hard truly to hope while in the midst of temptations to despair. In the situation of utmost bravery it becomes evident whether the hope is authentic. No one knows more deeply than the one who is truly brave that and how greatly hope is “virtue” and thus not “to be be had” casually and, as it were, “without charge”; no one experiences more clearly that the hope for eternal life is a grace. (52-53—my emphasis added)

These matters are so important for Josef Pieper—and for us—that he adds some earnest and manly additions especially helpful for those in war (to include even the valorous Ernst Jünger):

It can happen that, in a period of temptations to despair [for example, in the winter on the Russian Front, and in captivity], all inner prospects for a “happy ending” grow dark. It can also happen that, for a person confined to the natural, nothing else remains than the hopeless bravery of the “heroic downfall.” Indeed, this possibility will present itself as the only one to the true gentleman, since he is just the one who is able to forego soothing self-deception and narcosis along with, as Ernst Jünger notes [who himself later loyally became a Roman Catholic!], “the outlet [or gift] of luck.” In a word, it can also sometimes happen that supernatural hope remains simply the only possibility of hope at all….The sentence from Sacred Scripture [Job comes to mind here]—“Even were he [God] to kill me, I have no other hope that him. (The Book of Job 13:15)….Christian hope is first and foremost an existential direction of man toward the perfection of his being, toward the fulfillment of his essence, thus toward his ultimate realization, toward the fullness of being….

If, then,…at times all natural hopes become meaningless, then that means that, at times, supernatural hope remains simply the only possibility for man to align himself toward Being. The depressing bravery of the “heroic downfall” is fundamentally nihilistic; it looks toward nothingness; it presumes that it is able to endure nothingness. The bravery of a Christian, however, thrives on the hope in life’s abundance of reality, in eternal life, in a new heaven and a new earth. (53-54—my emphasis added)

Would that I (and many others) had had this little book with us in the 1960s in Vietnam and nearby, as the Germans first saw it in 1941 and kept it afterwards.

May we now at least remember anew and gratefully act upon my beloved mentor Josef Pieper’s words, supernatural hope included: “Virtue is the utmost of what a man can be; it is the realization of the human capacity for being.” (9)

–Finis–

© 2020 Robert D. Hickson

1Josef Pieper’s 1988 republication of the earlier 1941 book is entitled Kleines Lesebuch von den Tugenden des menschlichen Herzens (Ostfildern bei Stuttgart: Schwabenverlag AG, 1988). The 1991 English translation is entitled A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991). All further page references will be to this translation and placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay and selective commentary.

Cervantes at Lepanto and the Aftermath: In Captivity and with Don Quixote

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                         6 November 2019

Saint Leonard of Limoges (d. 559)

Saint Leonard of Reresby (d. 13th century)

The Death of Professor Josef Pieper (d. 1997)

Epigraphs

There are times when to open Don Quixote after closing Hamlet is like an escape from a clinic into a bracing gale in the High Pyrenees. Has it been said before? It can be said again.” (D.B. Wyndham Lewis, The Shadow of Cervantes (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1962), page 189—my emphasis added)

***

“Truly will Cervantes say as he lays it [his pen] down at last [in 1616], ‘Don Quixote was made for me, and I for him.’….’For me alone was Don Quixote born, and I for him; his to act and mine to record.’” (The Shadow of Cervantes, 174 and 178—my emphasis added)

***

It may be too that Cervantes felt, as many must feel on skimming one of these dusty folios [of chivalric romances], a nostalgia for that lost aroma, pure and lovely and fragrant, the true quintessence of chivalry, to be found in a thirteenth-century masterpiece like La Quest del Sainct Graal [The Quest for the Holy Grail]. Malory [i.e., Thomas Malory, the late medieval English knight and author] well conveys its [chivalry’s own] exaltation. ‘And when he came to the sacring of the Mass and had gone, he called Galahad, and said to him: Come forth, servant of Jesus Christ, and thou shalt see what thou has most desired to see. And then he began to tremble right hard when the deadly flesh (la mortel char [mortal flesh]) began to behold spiritual things….’ Throughout the Quest runs the golden thread of knightly reverence for womanhood in honour of the Immaculata which is native to the Grail Cycle, Celtic and French, and was in truth one of the saving graces of a rough and bloody age. ‘Then were the natural charities exaled/Afresh from out the blessed love of Mary…,’” (The Shadow of Cervantes, pages 120-121—my emphasis added)

***

“But Hamlet is a pale sceptic feigning madness, whereas the Don’s logic [Don Quixote’s logic] is the sanity of the genuinely and gloriously crazy. Amid the metaphysical gymnastics of the learned [like Hamlet] one may easily lose sight of the key to Cervantes’ achievement. It is that gentility, in the noble obsolete sense, already remarked on. The old soldier Miguel Cervantes, a man with his normal share of sins and weaknesses, much battered by life, finds the springs of mirth in the clash between the ideal and the actual, and his amusement is mixed with tenderness for all his kind. ‘Qui creâsti me, miserere mei!‘….The Don is pre-eminently lovable; the most gallant and courteous of crackpots, endearing even in his rages; perpetually thwacked and tumbled in the mud by a gibing [and often cynical] world; perpetually rising again with his dream unimpaired, heart and courage high, a radiance in his poor crazy eyes; an hildalgo at every turn of fortune, a blood-brother to Parsival [one of the Grail Knights, like Galahad], the pure and guileless Fool.

“Life had treated his [Don Quixote’s] creator little less roughly. Its [life’s] buffets could not impair an inviolable sweetness of nature and an unquenchable valiance of spirit, based on eternal verities, which stamp Miguel Cervantes as being all that has ever been meant by the word ‘gentleman’. Nobody could teach him anything about the bitterness of this world. In his seventieth year, just able to pen his very last piece of writing, he takes leave of it as such a man would.—’Farewell, graces; farewell, elegances; farewell, my jovial friends, for now I find myself facing death and desiring to see you soon, happy in the other life.’ Thus in his own story as in that of his Don, Cervantes offers a cordial to a fainthearted posterity on the brink of a new Dark Age.

Untainted by what is known as the Pelagian [Heresy] or British heresy, the dogma of the Fundamentally Decent Fellow in no need of any divine grace, he recognizes a spark of goodness in the worst of us. It has often been observed that of the nearly seven hundred characters in his enormous comedy [Don Quixote] not a single one is wholly bad….” (The Shadow of Cervantes, pages 22-23—my emphasis added)

***

In his mid-sixties late in his life, Miguel Cervantes—the beloved author of Don Quixote—wrote the following brief and vivid description of himself and his earlier life, especially about his military service and combative presence at the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571— as well as its aftermath, to include his Turkish captivity and ransom. Cervantes wrote his modest self-description in a third-person narrative:

He is commonly called Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. He was a soldier for many years and a captive for five and a half, an experience that taught him patience in adversity. In the naval battle of Lepanto [7 October 1571] he lost his left hand as the result of a harquebus shot, a wound which, however unsightly it may appear, he looks upon as beautiful, for the reason that it was received on the most memorable and sublime occasion that past ages have known or those to come may hope to know; for he was fighting beneath the victorious banner of the son [Don John of Austria] of that thunderbolt of war, [Emperor] Charles V of blessed memory.1

Cervantes became a soldier at twenty-two years of age, in 1569, two years before Lepanto. He first enlisted in an infantry regiment where a few years later at Lepanto “his conduct in battle won encomiums from his officers, followed by extra pay and the ultimate offer of a commission [as an officer].”2 Moreover:

His motive for enlisting was not (as some troglodytes have surmised) dissatisfaction with Aquaviva’s service [with “the young prelate-diplomat Guilio de Aquaviva”(68)]. His patron, now a cardinal, was one of the most agreeable and cultivated of patricians, on the easiest terms with his entourage….We have to look elsewhere for the spring of his impulse to arms. It is not far to seek. He was fired with a chivalrous ardency of which the first volunteers of 1914 [at the outset of World War I] knew something, though in Cervantes’s case the motive was a nobler one than patriotism.

In 1570 the fate of all our civilization was at stake. A divided Christendom saw its doom advancing from the East like a thunder-cloud and heard a loud trumpet calling from Rome. The peril was nothing new. (71—my emphasis added)

Wyndham Lewis proceeds to give some apt details concerning these earlier and current perils:

Forty years previously [in 1530 or so] the Emperor Charles V, quoting the late fall of Byzantium [in 1453] and the current perfidy of [King] François I of France, Mahound’s ally, had predicted that without Almighty God’s intervention the Turk would before long be master of Europe. By the autumn of 1569 the process was seen to be actually taking shape. Sultan Selim II was now ready to take Cyprus from the Venetians as a preliminary to more far-reaching operations. Though a sot steeped in monstrous vices, the son of Suleiman the Magnificent was advantaged by inherited Oriental skill in exploiting the divisions of the Christian world, by vast resources, first-class armaments, and very capable commanders. (71—my emphasis added)

(Who, after reading this paragraph, does not also think of the strategic and moral situation today? Even the political divisions and the perfidy?! And not only in Europe.)

We shall now more closely follow and selectively quote Wyndham Lewis’ own compact and eloquent presentation of the history: especially the envious and fearful political factions and their resentfully stubborn divisions. We may thereby better follow the 7 October Lepanto battle itself and its discouraging aftermath:

Charles IX of France and Catherine de’ Medici, embroiled with [Admiral] Coligny and his Huguenots [Calvinists], were disinclined in any case to fall foul of the Turk. At Vienna Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, a genial nonentity, was sulking over the recent title of Grand Duke conferred by the Holy See on Cosimo of Florence, the first to suggest a league against Islam, and took no action. Elizabeth Tudor, recently excommunicated, was hardly likely to respond to any papal call; in fact her record as a businesswoman moved Selim’ Grand Vizier to assure the Emperor’s ambassador laughingly that after the first Turkish victory she and the English nobility would turn Mahometan overnight. Young Sebastian I of Portugal would have been eager to respond, but a severe recent plague-epidemic had put out of action his army, his galleys, and his munition factories alike. As for the Venetians, who had a reputation for neutrality [sic] in previous clashes with the Turk, they were in a chaotic state of alarm and shifting policy. At the Vatican conference on July 1, 1570, attended by representatives of the Holy See, Spain, and Venice, there was considerable wrangling over expenses as well. (72—my emphasis added)

Despite all of these varied, and often paralyzing, disputations, an unlikely but good surprise was to come from a gifted man of 23, which was also then the closely proximate age of young soldier Cervantes himself:

Laughing in the sun, Mustafa Pasha took Cyprus in September of that year [September 1570], except for the [Venetian Christian] garrison of Famagusta, which held out gallantly and might have been relieved under Colonna, but for the quarrels of the Venetians and the Genoese under his command. At the last moment a leader emerged: a man, as Pius V quoted thankfully later from the Gospel, sent by God, whose name was John [Juan]; twenty-three-years-old John of Austria, natural son of the Emperor Charles V by Barbara Blomberg, a soldier with a fearlessness matching his looks and his brains. Under his command as generalissimo of the forces of the Holy League some two hundred galleys and caravels sailed from Messina [in northeastern Sicily] to meet the Turk on September 15 and 16 [1571]. Among the troops aboard the Marquesa galley in Giovanni Andrea Doria’s squadron was Miguel de Cervantes. Don John engaged the Turk, coming from Cyprus and Crete, at Lepanto, in the gulf of Patras, 150 miles north-east of Athens, and after a day’s fierce battle [on 7 October] sent him reeling to the ropes [but not knocked out]. (72-73—my emphasis added)

We now hear about the moral and spiritual preparations for the momentous naval battle:

As befitted men sworn to save Christendom or perish, the entire army and fleet from Don John down to the smallest cabin-boy went to Confession and received the Blessed Sacrament at Messina before sailing, fortified likewise by a special indulgence dispensed by a papal legate and equal to that granted for the Crusades. (73—my emphasis added)

At the end of the day of 7 October 1571, “Uluch Ali turned with what survived of the Turkish fleet and fled” (74) and

Away in Rome that same evening St Pius V turned from the open window of his study to praise God for the great victory just won a thousand miles away…commemorated in the Roman Calendar thence-forward by Rosary Sunday….The great ode of Fernando de Herrera called Song of Praise to the Divine Majesty for the Victory of Señor Don Juan [John] is at once a silver fanfare and a humble breast-beating….“Blessed be Your clemency, Lord, for that [because] despite suffering our injuries, despite our punishable crime, You have broken the ruthless yoke of the enemy’s ancient pride.”….

On that day, away on the extreme left wing in the Marquesa galley under the immediate command of Francisco de San Petro, Miguel de Cervantes acquitted himself, as his officers testified, most valorously before being put out of action. When the Christian fleet sighted the Turk he was half prostrate with fever and ordered below. Appearing on deck as battle was joined, vowing that he would rather die in action for God than skulk under cover, and begging for a post of danger, he was given command of twelve men in a longboat from the San Petro galley and sent to an exposed position. Here, later in the day, he was knocked out in heavy fighting by three gunshot wounds; two in the chest, one in the left hand. On Don John’s triumphal return to Messina amid the banging of cannon and the pealing of bells Cervantes went into the hospital with the other wounded. Three months later he was still under the surgeon….How any soldier of the period survived even an ordinary bullet-wound is at times a matter for wonderment. (74-75—my emphasis added)

Soon after this admirable description of a “tough age” (74), Wyndham Lewis speaks to us of the combat-presence there of the future Saint Camillus de Lellis:

Cervantes never apparently encountered at Lepanto, or in Corfu, or in any subsequent campaign against the Turk, the big, cursing, brawling Italian soldier, later canonized as St Camillo de Lellis, who launched the first field-ambulance service of nursing brothers, with the Red Cross badge, in 1582. Nor can he [Cervantes] have seen, like de Lellis, his comrades reduced by hunger in one crisis to devouring dead Turks’ livers. He would certainly have enshrined such a recollection in the Captive’s story [in Don Quixote—Part I].

As for Lepanto, he [Cervantes] will never be able to forget it, and why should he? Did not Don John in person recommend him for a commission [as an officer] not long afterward? (75-76—my emphasis added)

Now we dare to approach some of the discouraging strategic aftermath of the tactical victory at Lepanto, and we now propose to consider the extent to which it was also a strategic victory. It is not long until Miguel Cervantes and his meritorious brother Rodrigo are also to be captured by the Turks:

And the Cervantes brothers returned with their regiment to resume garrison-duty in Naples, surely as dashed in spirit as their Commander-in-chief [John of Austria]. Worse was imminent. Before long all the heroism and glory of Lepanto were seen to be wasted. That swinging blow to the Turk was not to be followed by a knockout. In March 1573 the Venetians ratted [deserted]. On the day when their minister in Rome was pledging renewed loyalty to the [Holy] League [against the Turk] their minister in Constantinople was signing a treaty giving up Cyprus, returning the Albanian port of Sofoto—the only Venetian capture from the Turk so far—and engaging the Sublime Porte 300,000 ducats’ compensation. This act of treachery has been ascribed solely to terror. It might indeed be said in the Venetians’ behalf that the Turk’s first Christian objective had always been Venice; moreover it would take the Venetians some time to forget the fate of Marcantonio Bragadino after the storming of Famagusta [in Cyprus] on the eve of Lepanto; the fiendish torturing and flaying alive of their envoy, arrested during the negotiations for a capitulation, the stuffing of the disembowelled corpse with straw, and its final derisive hoisting to the yardarm of the Turkish admiral’s galley. Nevertheless the Venetian double-dealing and surrender shocked all Catholic Europe from the Holy See down. Pius V had died just in time to be spared seeing his hopes destroyed by this perfidy. His successor, Gregory XIII, minced no words. The Venetians had mortally wounded the League which had been formed to save them, and the blow fell of course most heavily on Don John of Austria, who, it now seemed, had swiped the Turk in vain. He, too, spoke his bitter mind. (77—my emphasis added)

Now we consider the beginning of another surprise and consequently bitter challenge: the capture and protracted retention in Algeria of the Cervantes brothers cruelly held by the Turk:

Miguel de Cervantes began bestirring himself vigorously [in the early autumn of 1575]….Backed by his commanding officer he was at length granted leave by G.H.Q. [General Headquarters] to return to Spain and apply for a captain’s commission in one of the new infantry regiments being raised for foreign service. A couple of letters of recommendation signed by Don John and the Viceroy in person accompanied the grant and testify to Cervantes’ standing in his superiors’ eyes. On September 20, 1575, we find him at Naples accompanied by his meritorious [elder] brother Rodrigo and, one may imagine, in the highest spirits, boarding the Sol galley, one of the flotilla bound for Spain under Captain Sandro de Leiva.

He must have been still in high feather when six days later, off the Provençal coast near Les Saintes Maries, three fast Turkish galleys captained by an Albanian renegade swooped of the Sol, which had been temporarily separated from the rest, and after a brisk hand-to-hand fight [the Turk] fled from the onrush of Leiva’s [Christian] main flotilla, carrying with them to Algiers a score of Spanish prisoners, the two brothers Cervantes among them. Those precious letters [of recommendation] carried by Miguel were shortly to prove no blessing. (79-80—my emphasis added)

For, in Algeria, as we are soon to be told in Chapter 3, the situation was cruelly bleak:

The sight everywhere of ragged Christian captives chained for transit or working under the lash—all these tokens, like a bad dream, of the presence and power of Mahound must have chilled even the stout blood of Miguel de Cervantes as he tramped that October day [in 1575], hustled by guards and linked to his fellow-prisoners, from quay to gaol [from the wharf to his jail]. (81—my emphasis added)

It is so that Wyndham Lewis’ Chapter 3—“Nor Iron Bars a Cage” (81-117)—will thoroughly and quite vividly present to the reader what Cervantes himself largely had to endure during his long captivity (and his several resourcefully attempted escapes) until his eventual ransom, which was achieved with the indispensable help of the chivalric order of the Trinitarians.

And yet, despite his cumulative suffering, Miguel Cervantes’ later writing in Don Quixote is so warm and generous—and so graciously forgiving and splendidly magnanimous.

We may recall now afresh what Cervantes intimately wrote near the end of his life: “Don Quixote was made for me and I for him….For me alone was Don Quixote born, and I for him; his to act and mine to record.”

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1 See Samuel Putnam’s edition and translation of Cervantes’ Prologue to his own Exemplary Novels, in The Portable Cervantes (New York: The Viking Press, 1951), page 706.

2D.B Wyndham Lewis, The Shadow of Cervantes (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1962), page 70. Henceforth all references to this excellent and detailed work of some 190 pages will be placed in parentheses above in the main body of this essay. Our focus in this essay will be on two of the five chapters of this book: Chapter II—“Drum, Trumpet, and the Turk”; and Chapter III—“Nor Iron Bars a Cage.” Although we shall not be able to present a fuller depiction of Cervantes’ Captivity by the Turks (especially in Algiers) and his belatedly successful ransom back to Spain (indispensably helped by the chivalrous, self-sacrificing Trinitarian Order), we earnestly recommend to the reader a thorough savoring of Chapter III.

Augustin Cochin and Igor Shafarevich: The Revolutionary Phenomenon of the “Lesser People” in France and Elsewhere

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                             10 August 2019

Saint Lawrence (d. 258)

Epigraphs

“It is interesting to compare that [i.e., the principled Russian attitude of a religious resistance to the temporal ruling regime, in contradistinction to the overall “submissiveness” of England] to a similar situation in the classic country that has affirmed the principle of personal freedom and human rights—England. Henry VIII created an utterly new religious faith by taking something from Catholicism and something from Protestantism, and he even altered it several times, so toward the end his subjects did not even know clearly what they were supposed to believe in. And yet Parliament and the clergy proved submissive, and the majority of the people accepted the faith that had been concocted out of political and personal considerations [i.e., keeping their ill-gotten gains from their widespread monastic plundering and chantry looting!].” (Igor Shafarevich, Russophobia (Nationality Issues, 22 March 1990, JPRS-UPS-90-015: Section 2 of 9, on page 4 of 39 pages)—bold emphasis in the original.)

***

“’Messianism,’ that is, the belief by a certain social group (nation, church, class, party) that it is destined to determine the fate of humanity and become its savior, is a very old phenomenon. The classic example, from which the name itself is derived, is the teaching contained in Judaism [hence in some forms of “Jewish Nationalism”] concerning the Messiah (the Anointed King) who will establish the ‘Chosen People’s’ rule over the world. Such a concept has arisen in a great many social movements and doctrines. The Marxist doctrine concerning the special role of the proletariat belongs to the tradition of ‘revolutionary messianism’ that developed in the 19th century. Recent very thorough research into this tradition describes its various stages (Saint-Simon, Fourier), but it mentions Russia only at the very end of the book in connection with the fact that toward the end of the century Western ‘revolutionary messianism’ also swamped Russia.” (Igor Shafarevich, Russophobia, page 5—my emphasis added.)

***

“Here it must be stressed once again that in this work [Russophobia] we do not intend to condemn, accuse or exonerate anyone….Does the humiliation of the Germans under the Peace of Versailles justify National Socialism? We [Russians] would merely like to get an idea of what took place in our country [as of 1988-1989], which social and national factors [including “Jewish Nationalism”] influenced history, and how.” (Igor Shafarevich, Russophobia, page 36—my emphasis added.)

***

In his attempts to understand with integrity certain revolutionary parts of Russian history—especially in the 19th and 20th centuries—Igor Shafarevich gratefully discovered the little-known insights of Augustin Cochin, a French historian of the French Revolution who died on the battlefield in World War I, in 1916. In Russophobia,1 Shafarevich first introduces us to him and to one of his fruitful insights, as follows, especially his concept of the “lesser people” as “a universal historical phenomenon” (15):

One of the most interesting students of the French Revolution (in terms of both the freshness of his ideas and his remarkable erudition), Augustin Cochin paid special attention in his works to a certain social, or spiritual, stratum he called the “Lesser People.” In his opinion, the decisive role in the French Revolution was played by a circle of people that had been established in the philosophical societies and academies, Masonic lodges, clubs and sections. The specific features of that circle consisted in the fact that it lived in its own intellectual and spiritual world: the “Lesser people” among the “Greater People.” He could have said the antipeople among the people, since the world view of the former was based on the principle of the obverse of the latter’s world view. It was there [in such select, exclusive, and privileged circles] that the type of person necessary for revolution was developed, a person for whom everything that constituted the nation’s roots, its spiritual backbone—the Catholic faith, honor of the nobility, loyalty to the king, pride in one’s own history, and attachment to the distinguishing features and privileges of one’s native province, one’s estate or one’s guild—was alienating and disgusting. The societies that brought together the representatives of the “Lesser People” created a kind of artificial world for their members, a world in which their entire life took place. Whereas in the ordinary world everything is tested by experience (for example, historical experience), there [in those subtly managed circles] general opinion decided everything [i.e., “the general will” and even “democratic centralism”]. What was real was what others believed; what was true was what they said; what was good was what they approved of. The ordinary order was reversed: doctrine [the ideology] became the cause, rather than the effect of life. (14—italics in the original; my bold emphasis added)

Before returning to some other proposed examples of the conduct of the “Lesser People,” we shall be helped by Shafarevich’s larger views about the process of history. At the beginning of his Section 4 on “The Lesser People,” he says, for instance:

The views [of Russia and history] examined in the previous sections [Number 2— “View of Russian History” and Number 3—“Plans for Russia” by the “cosmopolitan managers” and the “Western intellectual community”] merge into a single system. Moreover, they are based on a whole philosophy of history—a particular view of the nature of the historical process. It is a question of whether history is an organic process similar to the growth of a living organism or to biological evolution, or [rather] whether it is deliberately designed [and engineered] by people, like some sort of mechanism. In other words, the question is how society is to be viewed—as an organism or a mechanism, as living or dead. (12-13—my emphasis added)

Shafarevich resumes his understanding of how the “Lesser People” are formed:

The mechanism by which the “Lesser People” is formed is what at that time [of the French Revolution] was called “liberation from the dead weight” [of the past and tradition], from people who were to [be] subject to the laws of the “Old World”: people of honor, deeds and faith. To that end, “cleansings” (corresponding to the “purges” of our era) were continually being conducted in the societies. As a result, an increasingly pure “Lesser People” was created, a “Lesser People” which was moving toward “freedom” in the sense of increasing liberation from the concepts of the “Greater People”: from such superstitions as religious or monarchical sentiments, which can be understood only through the experience of spiritual communion with them. Cochin illustrate this with a fine example—the image of the “savage” that was so widespread in the literature of the Enlightenment….Usually this [“savage”] was a person who possessed all the material accouterments and formal knowledge represented by civilization but who had absolutely no understanding of the spirit that gave all of that life, and for that reason everything in life shocked him and seemed stupid and illogical. In Cochin’s view, this image was not an invention but was taken from life, except that these “savages” were found not in the forests of Ohio but in the philosophical academies and Masonic lodges: this was the image of the sort of person they wanted to create, a paradoxical creature for whom the environment in which he lived was a void, just as for others it constituted the real world. He [the “savage”] saw everything and understood nothing, and abilities among these “savages” were measured precisely by the depth of their incomprehension….But that had an obverse side: he could no longer live apart from the “Lesser People”; in the world of the “Greater People” he suffocated like a fish out of water. In this way, the “Greater People” became a threat to the existence of the “Lesser People,” and the struggle between them began….That struggle, in Cochin’s opinion, occupied the years preceding the French Revolution and the revolutionary period. The years of the Revolution (1789-1794) were five years of the “Lesser People’s” power over the “Greater People.”(14-15—my emphasis added)

It has now become even desirable, if not also necessary, to consider Shafarevich’s own honest inferences from Augustin Cochin’s careful and well-disciplined analysis, which also touches upon religious matters and ecclesiastical history, as well:

We are encountering [with Cochin in Section 4] a world view remarkably similar to the one [in Sections 2 and 3 concerning Russia] that has been the subject of our analysis in this work [on Russophobia]. This includes the view of one’s own history as complete savagery, coarseness and failure—all those “Henriades” [like Voltaire’s own 1723 epic poem, La Henriade in honor of Henry IV of France] and [his satirical epic sequel] “Maids of Orleans” [recalling Joan of Arc]. And the desire to break all the ties, even external ones, that linked one with historical tradition [as with the case of the traditional Catholic Church]: the renaming of cities [and saints’ feasts], the change in the calendar. And the conviction that everything rational had to be borrowed from without [like “liberation theology”]—at that time [the 18th century] from England [after its own earlier English 16-17th century reformation and revolution]; this conviction suffuses, for example, Voltaire’s “Philosophical Letters” (sometimes called “Letters from England”). And, in particular, the copying of a foreign political system—English parliamentary government.

I think that this remarkable concept [of a dynamic minority of the “Lesser People”] is not only applicable to the age of the French Revolution but sheds light on a much wider range of historical phenomena. Evidently, at every critical turning point in a people’s life there emerges the same sort of “Lesser People” whose essential beliefs are OPPOSITE to the world view of the rest of the people. For whom [i.e., for such an estranged “Lesser People”] everything that has organically grown up over the course of centuries, all the roots of the nation’s spiritual life—its religion, its traditional state system, its moral principles and its way of life—are all hostile and seem to be ridiculous and dirty superstitions that need to be relentlessly eradicated. Being totally cut off from any spiritual connection with the people [with the “Greater People”], the “Lesser People” regards it as material and regards its processing as a purely TECHNICAL problem, so its solution is not restricted by any moral norms, compassion or pity. This world view, as Cochin notes, is vividly expressed in the fundamental symbol of the Masonic [i.e., a Judeo-Masonic] movement, which played such a role in paving the way for the French Revolution—in the image of the construction of the Temple in which individual people appear in the role as stones that are mechanically laid side by side according to the “architects’” blueprints.

[On pages 15-17] We shall now cite several [three] examples [(1.)“CALVINISM” in the form of the Huguenots’ movement in France and the Puritans’ movement in England”; (2.) “the 1830s and 1840s in Germany”; and (3.) “Russia in the second half of the 19th century”] in order to support our guess that we really are dealing here with a universal historical phenomenon. (15—my emphasis added; the full capitalizations of “OPPOSITE” and “TECHNICAL” are in the original text.)

Amidst all of Shafarevich’s research and his open discussions of various “Nationalisms”—and of “Nationality Issues” more generally, especially in the Soviet Union—he also, though only to a limited extant, faces the more contentious matter of the intellectual and spiritual energy and special coherence of “Jewish Nationalism,” both in Russia and abroad or in exile (as in the émigré communities in Paris or elsewhere in the West). And he thus even mentions for our further examination even the matter of “religious Zionism” in Russia, and Jewry’s place within the often uprooted and dissident Russian Intelligentsia and, hence, the “Lesser People” in Russia or abroad.

Because Igor Shafarevich deeply loves his suffering homeland of Russia, he decided to conclude his 38-page monograph on Russophobia—the fear and hatred of Russia and of things Russian—in an unexpected and deeply touching manner:

Starting with the post-reform years of the 1860s in Russia, the word “revolution” was on everybody’s lips. This was a clear sign of an impending crisis. And as another sign of it, the “Lesser People” started to be formed with all its characteristic features. A new type of person was created…. It must be admitted that the crisis in our history took place at an absolutely unique moment. If at the moment that it broke out Jews had been living the sort of isolated way of life that they had, for example, in France during the French Revolution, [then] they would not have exerted a significant influence on its course….But we were scarcely given a single year; the influx of Jews into the terrorist movement coincided almost precisely with the “emancipation,” with the breakup of Jewish communities, and with their emergence from isolation…..The coincidence of the two crises had a decisive influence on the nature of that era. Here is how it was seen by a Jewish observer (from that, the aforementioned book, “Russia and the Jews”):

“And of course, it was no accident that Jews, who are so inclined to rationalistic thinking, who for the most part were not connected by any traditions with their surrounding world, and who often saw in those traditions trash that was not only useless but even harmful for the development of humanity, found themselves in in such proximity to those revolutionary ideas.”

And as a predictable result:

“We [Jews] were struck by what we expected least of all to encounter in the Jewish milieu: cruelty, sadism and acts of violence that were seemingly alien to a people that was remote from a physically militant life; people who only yesterday had not known how to use a gun found themselves today among the directors of the cutthroats.”

This remarkable book [Russia and the Jews] ends with the words: “One of two things [is there now for the Jews to decide]: either foreigners without political rights [“metics,” resident aliens], or Russian citizenship based on love for the homeland. There is no third possibility.”

But a school has turned up that has chosen precisely a third path, which from the author’s viewpoint [from Shafarevich’s viewpoint] is “impossible.” Not only dislike for the homeland, but complete alienation and active hostility toward its spiritual foundations: not only the repudiation of political rights, but the concentration of all one’s will and efforts to influence the country’s life. Such a combination has proven strikingly effective; it has created a “Lesser People” that in its effectiveness has surpassed all other versions of that phenomenon that have appeared in History [i.e., to include the French Revolution].” (36-37—my emphasis added)

What a noble and fine way to defend his homeland, and with such an admirably differentiated intelligence and loyal heart. “The arguments set forth above lead to the following conclusion: the literary school that is being examined in this work is the manifestation of the ideology of the ‘Lesser People’ and a reflection of its war against the ‘Greater People.’”20—italics in original; my bold emphasis added)

What a way, also, to help us thereby to defend our own homeland and gratefully cherish its own true spiritual foundations.

We honor the fair way that Igor Shafarevich (d. 19 February 2017) has faced his difficult mission of establishing well-proportioned historical truth concerning some still-controversial matters of moment to man.

Would that I could so justly apply Shafarevich’s own criteria and standards of judgment so that I might faithfully and generously defend, sub gratia, the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church today. The “Lesser People” are actively present and subversive there, too— both within as well as without the Church.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

Picture: Augustin Cochin

1This English translation and densely formatted 38-page text of Russophobia has been made and presented by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (F.B.I.S.), which is a part of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the U.S. Government. This longer text is specifically published by the FBIS’s Joint Publication Research in its issue of 22 March 1990: JPRS-UPA-90-015: JPRS Report—Soviet Union—Political Affairs. Russophobia is categorized by them as being pertinent to “Nationality Issues.” See here a link to the full text: https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a335121.pdf. The JPRS introductory note says: “Shafarevich Decries ‘Russophobia,’ Jewish Nationalism,” and their English version is to be found on pages 2-39 of the report. All future references to Russophobia will be placed above in parentheses in the main body of this essay. (Shafarevich’s Monograph was first published in Moscow in NASH SOVREMENNIK in Russian and in two parts: both in June of 1989 (No. 6) and in November of 1989 (No. 11), on pages 167-192 and pages 162-172, respectively. A note from the Russian Editors says: “The article is published in abbreviated form. In order to save space, its scholarly apparatus has also been reduced. However, let us inform readers that all the quotations were checked by the author against their original sources.” (26))

Strategic Bombing and the Innocents: Considering Gertrud von Le Fort and Pope Pius XII in Response to World War II

Dr. Robert Hickson                                                                                        8 September 2019

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Epigraphs

“I was…thinking…about the nights in the city when the sirens had wailed so horribly to say: The foreign airplanes are coming!….That was eight years ago, and the [1939-1945] war has been over for a long time. I am not a little child now; I am a big boy—twelve years old soon. Yet even today, Mommy never talks to me about airplanes—I know she wishes I would forget all about the sirens and the airplanes. But I cannot forget them, although my thoughts always go only up to the edge of the memory—when I try to think of the most terrible moments, then suddenly there is a big hole, as dark as the cellar where we were sitting then, and there is such a terrible droning noise that I can no longer think about anything. Then all I hear is Mommy’s voice, loud and clear as a shout through all the other shouting: ‘Mary, take my child into your arms!’….

“When I began to think and see again, I thought at first that it really was the Virgin Mary holding me in her arms because Mommy’s face was as black as the picture of Our Lady of Altötting that hung in her room. But soon I noticed that it was Mommy’s face, covered with smoke and soot, completely frozen with fear and terror….” (Gertrud von Le Fort, “The Innocents” (7-46) in The Innocents and Other Stories (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2019—first published in 1960 in German and entitled “Die Unschuldigen”), see now pages 7-8 for the above-cited passage.)

***

“Several days later the Church celebrated the Feast of the Holy Innocents, to whom the castle chapel is dedicated….The priest said that the [Psalm 124:7] verse expresses the voice of the Holy Innocents.

“Suddenly one of the refugee women began to whimper audibly. ‘But the children did not escape at all; they froze! They lay motionless and stiff on the ice when we fled across the lagoon [as was our coming from East Prussia]. They threw them into the water like dead fish!’ She moaned so loudly that the priest had to interrupt his sermon until they had led the woman out.

“Later when we left the chapel, Mommy was standing on the stairs holding in her arms the woman who had whimpered before. She had nestled her head on Mommy’s bosom and wept very gently and quietly. Later Grandmama told Mommy that she would like to explain to the woman [refugee] the psalm verse she had misunderstood. But Mommy just shook her head.” (Gertrud von Le Fort, “The Innocents,” pages 28-29—my emphasis added)

***

“Mommy [Melanie, Heini’s mother] never goes with Grandmama to church in Niederasslau. Since she lost her rosary, she does not go to Mass anymore, either—she does not even go to the castle chapel when one is said there. But Mommy cannot stand the castle chapel at all because it is dedicated to the Holy Innocents. On the chapel wall to the right of the altar is a painting of the massacre of the children in Bethlehem.” (Gertrud von Le Fort, “The Innocents,” page 18)

***

“I think that Grandmama was much fonder of Uncle Eberhard than of my father [Karl], who was also her son, after all….But there is something else that Grandmama has against my father.

“’You hold Karl’s death [by suicide] against him, Mother,’ Mommy recently said to her—Karl was my father–‘and yet it was a noble, heroic death,’

“’But not for a Christian,’ Grandmama replied. ‘A Christian must find another way out.’ Grandmama, I think, is very pious….

“But then she [Mommy] told me honestly and decisively, ‘No, Heini, your father shot himself, but his death was nevertheless a noble one. Your father preferred to die rather than to kill the innocent.’” Gertrud von Le Fort, “The Innocents,” pages 15-16 and 33—my emphasis added)

***

“’Karl [my officer husband] did not fear certain death,’ Mommy insisted. ‘He feared God, and you claim to be a pious woman.’

“’But you are unwilling to be one,’ Grandmama replied, ‘and that is at bottom the reason for all your trouble and unrest. God permitted this terrible event [a massacre in 1944 France at Oradour]; if you could believe in Him, you would soon find peace.’

“’No, on the contrary, then I most certainly would not find peace,’ Mommy said stubbornly, ‘because if God existed, He would have to be as indignant as I. But there cannot be a God, because the whole world is full of the suffering of the innocent!

“’That is precisely how the world was redeemed,’ Grandmama said calmly. ‘The guilty merely get their just punishment, but the sight of innocent people suffering softens hearts—Christ suffered, too, although He was innocent. Until you accept that, you cannot be a Christian woman.’

“’And I do not want to be one,’ Mommy protested, again looking quite desperate.’…I thought, ‘What Grandmama just said really sounded beautiful and mysterious. Why, then, will Mommy not accept it?’ But then I recalled what Herr Unger recently said to her: ‘But what could be the reason why people today no longer believe the piety of pious people?‘ (Gertrud von Le Fort, “The Innocents,” pages 30-31—my emphasis)

***

“’But why, then, did Grandmama weep so bitterly at my bedside [after again Heini’s having been wounded by the fall of the tower-bell, but not a bomb]? I never knew she [in her poised dignity] could still weep like that! And why did she then tell you that she can now understand why you no longer want to pray?‘….

“’Well, does Uncle Eberhard not want to marry you anymore?’

“’No, my poor child rescued me from that.’

“’Oh, then I am glad, Mommy. But why are you kneeling down all of a sudden? Can you pray again now? And why are you praying downstairs in the chapel? Is there another Mass today for the Holy Innocents?

“’It is the domestics and the refugees, darling [and all the “children of Oradour” in France (46)]. I think they are praying for you.’….

“’So, now I want to go to the children—but suddenly I can no longer stand up—someone has to carry me. Ah, Mommy if you can pray again [as on page 8], then please say once again: Mary, take my child in your arms…’

“’Mary, take my child…‘” (45-46—my emphasis added) [Finis]

***

Introducing Gertrud von Le Fort’s 1960 poignant and at times very disturbing novella, “The Innocents,” has seemed a fitting way to speak of Allied strategic bombing in World War II, as well as of the later 24 January 1943 Allied demand for unconditional surrender. It may also lead us to wonder what Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church first specifically thought and then did about these two major moral decisions and the consequential actions. (Pope Pius XII, who knew German well, died on 9 October 1958, not long before Gertrud von Le Fort published “The Innocents,” which was dedicated to the lost children: “In memory of the children who died in World War II.”1 )

Moreover, Gertrud von Le Fort—by her vivid fiction—has intimately depicted some of the deep and longstanding effects of the promiscuous and often cynical aerial bombing, to include the ill fruits of revenge that such bombing so often incited and aggressively reciprocated, especially after the innocent were deliberately or negligently slaughtered. Culpable ignorance and culpable negligence were frequently present, as it appears—and as I have been told by pilots and naval aviators.

In this short reflection, I therefore propose to discuss, without any apparatus of learning, some of what I have learned over the years, to include oral history, beginning with my time as an eager cadet at West Point from 1960-1964.

The theorists of strategic bombing all essentially claimed that such a method would shorten the war, and avoid the stalemate-situation and moral horror of the Trenches of World War I, especially in Western Europe.

But, a declaration of unconditional surrender would—and did—protract the war, especially in light of the earlier vengeful “Carthaginian Peace” of Versailles (and the related stark Trianon Treaty and such). The enemy would also become more resolute as well as much more distrusting and deceptively mistrustful. That is to say, an already betrayed enemy was all too likely to “hunker down” intransigently and try to endure.

The strategic air power theorists had a set of presuppositions—fundamental premises—on which to base their confidence and their practices: the “industrial web theory” (about a vulnerable interdependent society of modernity); the belief that the bombers could get though to their targets without a fighter escort; their confidence that they could find, and in a timely way, the most important long-range strategic targets (such as the key nodes and choke points in the infrastructure of Romanian oil fields, so indispensable for sustained logistics); the reliable and continuous employment and precision of the new Radar); and their pilots’ ability to handle safely unexpended ordnance after an incomplete bombing mission over Germany, for example. But, almost all these assumptions were false. (My former father-in-law, a combatant bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force, told me calmly that, of course, he, like the other crews, often just dumped unused bombs anywhere he could—on cities or on the countrysides—before he returned to England and safely landed without any active munitions. He also landed in the Soviet Union twice, both times because of near emergencies, but, he reported, it was not a welcoming place or “ally” to be visiting, even briefly.)

Stalin first said that he wanted the capitalistic Western societies to fight each other and thereby to deplete each other, and then he would arrive into their own dissolution and take charge. Later, he did not want his putative Western allies to come up through Northern Italy into Austria. He even made some suggestions that, if the West did that, he just might have to make a Separate Peace with Germany, instead, another Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty (on 3 March 1918, late in World War I). But, this time, he said, to the advantage of the Soviet-Russians and not to the Germans. Stalin slyly wanted his Western allies to attack as far west as possible, instead, for example starting in western France so that the Soviet Army could more easily advance into eastern and central Europe (like the Mongols, but even further). Here was the country who had made an August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, and then invaded Poland on 17 September 1939, after losing to the Poles the decisive August 1920 Battle of Warsaw,2 which occurred only two years after Brest-Litovsk Surrender (in March of 1918). To appease their new Soviet ally (soon after 22 June 1941), England, on 6 December 1941, even declared war on heroic, anti-Bolshevist Finland, opening the way to the Soviet conquest of the three Baltic Republics.

From all things I have read down the years—and from all the searching questions I have asked—I have never discovered that Pope Pius XII ever even mentioned his warning or cautious assessment of “Strategic Bombing” and of the moral and immoral effects of effectively unlimited “Unconditional Surrender,” which Stalin himself hesitated to accept and to proclaim openly and then also to apply.

If anyone could give me evidence of Pope Pius XII’s analysis and resistance to Strategic Bombing and Unconditional Surrender taken together, and mercilessly applied, I would be very grateful—and even consoled.

Father John Anthony Hardon, S.J. once tested me orally by asking: “Is evil within the Divine Providence?” I said “Yes” but that didn’t get me very far, nor help my understanding very much. But Father then slyly said: “If you had said ‘No,’ however, we would have a problem!”

Then we spoke about the Mystery of the Permissive Will of God. For, Father said that God allows certain evils to avoid a greater evil or sometimes to enable a greater good to come forth and to abide. Then I said: “Papal Diplomacy certainly is a Test of your larger and manifold insights about the Providence of God.” What Pope Pius XII did or did not do—nor mention—during World War II is another Test about the purposes and allowances of the Divine Providence. No matter what, World War II was not—is not—“the Good War.” Gertrud von Le Fort has helped us to realize and to spread this true fact with empathy and with compassion.

–Finis–

© 2019 Robert D. Hickson

1Gertrud von Le Fort, The Innocents and Other Stories (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2019), page 7 for her Dedication. All further references to “The Innocents” will be to this recent edition, and will be placed above, in parentheses, in the main body of this brief essay.

2For the conduct and the strategic implications of this battle and victory against the great Soviet Marshal Toukhatchevsky, see the excellent book by Viscount Edgar Vincent D’Abernon (d. 1941), entitled The Eighteenth Decisive Battle in the World: Warsaw, 1920 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931—or its later 1977 Reprint by Hyperion Press in Westport, Connecticut.)