SPECIAL PROVIDENCE: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.

SPECIAL PROVIDENCE: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.

By Walker Russell Mead. Knopf. 374 pp. $30

Share:
Read Time:
6m 12sec



Current Books

Jacobin mindset, exercised fully. Stalin’s extremism, Pipes argues, was the logical outgrowth of Lenin’s reign of terror. This assertion may understate the radical novelty of Stalin’s totalitarian regime, with its unparalleled efforts to destroy enemies (real and imagined), civil society, and human creativity.

Pipes maintains that Soviet communism supplied many of the ideas that animated fascism. The similarities are indeed striking. Both doctrines despised pluralism and civic individualism. Bolsheviks detested private property, peasants, social democrats, and liberal intellectuals; Nazis hated Jews, plutocrats, Marxists, and liberals. In fact, as Pipes shows, Stalin’s rabid hatred of the moderate German Social Democrats made possible Hitler’s rise to power in 1933.

Though he explores the economic elements of Marxist doctrine, Pipes spends little time on its philosophical origins. He does not mention, for instance, Hegel’s cult of history and the dialectical method as crucial components of Marx’s secular political religion. Without dialectics, one cannot understand the Marxian dream of a classless society to be achieved via revolutionary cataclysms. I emphasize this point because, unlike Pipes, I think communism was first and foremost about ideas. Marxists, Leninists, and Maoists wanted power, of course, but they also wanted to translate their utopian worldview into a new order where the forces of good (Labor) would oppose and finally defeat those of evil (Capital).

I also expected a deeper treatment of communism’s appeal to intellectuals and industrial workers, East and West alike. Pipes mentions that Stalin used antifascism to attract support but does not dwell on the seductive power of communism’s professed ideals. Once again, communism was not only about terror, but also, as François Furet showed in his great book The Passing of an Illusion (1999), about dreams, expectations, messianic fervor, and, for many, deep disillusionment. Pipes does not tell us enough about the role of disenchanted Marxists in the dissolution of Leninist myths and finally in the destruction of communism. Despite such omissions, the book provides an unsparing and timely account of the rise and fall of communist utopian radicalism in the 20th century.

—Vladimir Tismaneanu



SPECIAL PROVIDENCE: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.

By Walter Russell Mead. Knopf. 374 pp. $30

Mead, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, believes that history matters, and that those who shape today’s American foreign policy must understand the decisions of their predecessors. Only by studying the past, he writes, can we recognize what has made the United States "the most powerful country in the history of the world."

In the book’s intellectual core, Mead sets forth a typology of four "basic ways of looking at foreign policy" that, he argues, have informed the nation’s foreign affairs debates since the founding. "Hamiltonians" seek to link the national government with business and to integrate the country into the world economy. "Wilsonians" believe in upholding the rule of law and in spreading democratic values throughout the world, while "Jeffersonians" are less concerned with democratizing others than with preserving democracy at home. Finally, "Jacksonians" seek above all to maintain the country’s physical security and economic well-being.

Often engaging, Special Providence is filled with details that will be new to many readers. Mead is incisive, for example, on the "special relationship" between Great Britain and the United States, and luminous in discussing the "missionary tradition" that has long informed America’s engagement with the world. And who can quarrel with the notion that policymakers and citizens alike would benefit from knowing more about the American past? Mead’s typology, though, may not offer much of a shortcut to understanding a messy world that cannot readily be reduced to a handful of discrete categories.

More fundamentally, is the past still prologue? When terrorists are willing to use commercial airliners to kill thousands of civilians, when opening a letter can send hundreds rac

122 Wilson Quarterly

ing for antibiotics, and when the United States is forging partnerships with Russia and China, we are in uncharted waters. Mead’s book demonstrates just how starkly the world has changed.

—Jonathan Rosenberg



ILLINOIS JUSTICE:
The Scandal of 1969 and the
Rise of John Paul Stevens.

By Kenneth A. Manaster. Univ. of Chicago Press. 332 pp. $27.50

In this account of an obscure, threedecade-old political scandal, Manaster crafts a compelling morality play around a theme that’s more timely than ever: the often unseemly, but sometimes noble, intersection of law and politics. An attorney with a supporting role in the original events, Manaster provides a well-researched history of a 1969 scandal involving two Illinois supreme court judges. An up-and-coming Chicago litigator named John Paul Stevens investigated the allegations for a court-appointed commission. His effective work, which ultimately led to the resignation of both judges and significant reform of the Illinois legal system, helped him gain appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1970 and then to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1975.

The Stevens connection may give this fine book its national significance, but the story of Illinois politics in the 1960s, "a culture that thrived on the fruits of influence and the enjoyment of clout," is compelling in its own right. The cast of characters is sometimes overwhelming but always fascinating. We have the original complainant, Sherman

H. Skolnick, a thorn in the side of the political establishment with his frequent accusations of corruption in the justice system. There are reporters competing to break the story, plus disturbing indications that the culture of influence led the Chicago Daily News to downplay the allegations. There are the state supreme court justices, Ray Klingbiel and Roy Solfisburg, under investigation for accepting bank stock from a lawyer whose criminal appeal was before them. Any good scandal has a supporting cast of wheeler-dealers and hangers-on, and they are all here as well. Finally, there are the attorneys who sat on the special commission and those who conducted the investigation. The 1969 experience, Manaster observes, influences Justice Stevens’s work on the Supreme Court today.

After our experience with independent counsel investigations that take years to complete, as Justice Stevens notes in the foreword to the book, it seems remarkable that the special commission in this case completed its work in just six weeks, the deadline set by the Illinois supreme court. Certainly there are differences between the two types of investigations, not the least of which is that independent counsel are charged with prosecution as well as investigation, while this commission had only the duty to investigate and report. But perhaps there is a lesson here. The criminal law may be the most complicated and least satisfying tool for addressing abuses of the public trust.

The Illinois supreme court justices were not prosecuted for their lapses. But they were forced to resign, and the public learned about the intricate web of influence in the justice system of the state. One finishes the story believing that this was enough.

—Katy J. Harriger



Religion & Philosophy


THE RECKLESS MIND: Intellectuals in Politics.

By Mark Lilla. New York Review Books. 216 pp. $24.95

This elegant little book is a victim of its own success. Moving briskly from one denunciation to another, taking sure aim at a gallery of 20th-century intellectuals who entangled themselves in practical matters, Lilla, a professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, leaves readers convinced but unhappy. His suggestion that intellectual flirtation with politics all too often leads to pathological results—tyran-


Winter 2002 123



More From This Issue