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Honor in Foreign Policy

Honor in Foreign Policy

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Published by: Saint Benedict Center on Jan 05, 2013
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Dr. Robert Hickson 18 December 2012Feast of the Expectation of Mary 
Honor in Foreign Policy
After some recent historical writing on Vietnam and its strategic milieu during the years 1962-1965, I became, perhaps for the first time, much more deeply aware of the presence or absence of Honor in the conduct of modern Foreign Policy. This was moreso the case when I also recalled some of the earlier immemorial insights about the place of honor as a moral power in history and strategy,specifically as they are to be found in the trenchant writings of James Burnham (1905-1987).In Burnham’s 1967 collection of strategic and cultural essays, entitled
, herepeated in his introductory chapter what he had first published in 1947, twenty years before: “TheThird World War began in April 1944.”
1
 And he then proceeded to give “the defining incident”
2
 —amutiny of part of the Greek Navy in Alexandria, Egypt, incited by the Greek Communist Party—and itsaltogether subversive implications. That is to say, the Third World War was understood to have begun
before
the Second World War was officially terminated. Moreover, Burnham argued,In a more basic sense what began in the spring of 1944 was not so much a“new” Third World War as a new phase in a continuing war that started in November 1917, with the Bolshevik conquest of power in Russia, that mightindeed be dated most significantly from Lenin’s organization of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903: the protractedwar of the communist enterprise for a monopoly of world power. On thecoordinates of this long-term scale, the protracted war is seen as the dominanttheme of twentieth-century history, with the major phases fairly well marked,though overlapping.
3
That Protracted War was what Burnham saw taking place in the Twentieth Century, or in whatYuri Slezkine later specifically proclaimed to be “the Jewish Century,” which was itself only an aspectof a longer epoch, “the Jewish Age.” Professor Slezkine even begins his candid book with the
1James Burnham,
 (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1967), p. 9.2
 Ibid 
.3
 Ibid 
., p. 11. On the same page, Burnham clearly presents the phases of the protracted war, “from the formation andtraining of the cadres of the revolutionary army (1903-1917)” onward to “the seizure of the initial base, or beachhead(1917)” and beyond, up to 1944—and, by the end of the book, up to 1967.
1
 
following forceful (and oft-repeated) words:The Modern Age is the Jewish Age, and the twentieth century, in particular, isthe Jewish Century....Modernization, in other words, is about everyone becoming Jewish.
4
By way of further contrast of perspectives, we may also consider a memorable passage aboutthe grave moral effects of World War I, taken from a book by Professor Theodore Ropp, the Austrianand later-American Military Historian. It will lead us further into our deeper considerations of Honor,even in the coming Revolutionary Warfare in the proclaimed “Jewish Century.” In Theodore Ropp’slearned book,
,
5
he speaks about “the great journalist, C.E. Montague, who atforty-seven dyed his grey hair to enlist as a private [in World War I],” but soon regrettably came to see,in his very great disenchantment, that the cumulative and pervasive “attitudes of mingled horror anddisgust might make it far more difficult to preserve the peace which had been [apparently] won [in1918] with such suffering.”
6
 But now we come to C.E. Montague’s own unforgettable words, publishedin 1922, reminding us—dare we say it?—also of our situation today, perhaps even in Europe now:
Civilization itself...wears a strange new air of precariousness
. Even beforethe war a series of melancholy public misadventures had gone some way toawake the disquieting notion that civilization, the whole ordered, fruitful jointaction of a nation, a continent, or the whole world, was only a bluff. When theworld is at peace and fares well, the party of order and decency, justice andmercy and self-control, is really bluffing
a much larger party of egoism andgreed
that would bully and grab it if it dared....The bad men are not held down by force; they are only bluffed by the pretense of it. They have got the tipnow....The plain man , so far as I know him, is neither aghast nor gleeful at thisrevelation. For the most part he looks somewhat listlessly on....A sense of moral horror does not come easily when you have supped full of horrors onmost of the days of three or four years [on the battlefields of 1914-1918]....
Some new god, or devil, of course, may enter at any time into thisdisfurnished soul.
Genius in some leader might either possess it with ananarchic passion...to smash all the old institutions or fire it with a new cravingto lift itself clear of the wrack...
For either a St. Francis or a Lenin there is awide field to till, but of pretty stiff clay
.
7
4Yuri Slezkine,
(Princeton, New Jersey and Oxford, England: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 1.5Theodore Ropp, 
(New York: Collier Books—Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962, which isa “New, Revised Edition” of the original Duke University Book first published in 1959), 414 pages.6
 Ibid 
., p. 273.7
 Ibid 
., pp. 273-274. Theodore Ropp is here quoting from Montague’s own 1922 book, entitled
 Disenchantment 
, pp. 195-197. With such “a wide field to till,” we are also reminded of Christ’s lengthy and explained “parable of the Sower,”especially the intimate connection between the cultivation of the
 soil 
and the cultivation of the
 soul 
. (Also with Grace.)
2
 
These framing words, deftly chosen by Professor Ropp, will lead us a little further into thereflections on Honor by James Burnham, who is, like C.E. Montague, no sentimentalist, but, rather, avery realistic and courageous man of high intelligence and eloquence, and with a full human heart.Since 1964, when, as a new Second Lieutenant, I first read James Burnham’s then just- published
, I have greatlyadmired him, and his sobering, deep insights invariably presented in a manly form of lucid English prose. He had once been a Trotskyite and knew well, from the inside, the toxins of a Great Ideologyand its web of deceits and dialectic linguistic manipulations. He was especially aware of “the LanguageWeapon,” and of the Deceptive Idealistic Veils of False Rhetoric. He also therefore knew theimportance of continually combating the Lie and fostering Trust. He knew the secular, practicalimportance of forming and keeping trust in Strategic Alliances. “
 Pactum Serva
!” as the Latin once putit: “Keep Covenant.” Keep your promises, keep, especially, your Vows in the even deeper things of life,and not only in those binding and irreversible promises to God.A reflective mind, even one with my own callowness in 1964, would not only at once see thedepth of James Burnham’s words, but it would also further appreciate Joseph Sobran’s own personalwords of witness about James Burnham. For, he knew Burnham quite closely and respectfully, for almost fifteen years, from 1972-1987. Even after Joe left the magazine in 1993 under woundingcircumstances (six years after Burnham’s death), Joe always affectionately told me—and at least fivetimes—that James Burnham was the “moral core” of 
 National Review.
This is a high tribute comingfrom Joe Sobran himself about such a very different kind of philosophic and strategic thinker fromhimself, and who was a reticently cultured and highly disciplined, moral character, as well—with noattractions to anarchy!Moreover, if one also now reads in Joe’s recently published, posthumous collection of hisselected
 National Review
articles from 1974-1991, especially what he wrote briefly on James Burnham(pp. 97-99), on 11 September, soon after Burnham’s death on 28 July 1987, one may likewise glimpseBurnham’s unexpected moral intensity and rare outburst of indignation, for example when the “U.S.was withdrawing recognition from Rhodesia” and doing it with an uncalled-for and dishonorable doseof oleaginous diplomatic language, as well. In view of such a combined provocation of event andlanguage, Burnham’s sudden words (and very rare resort of profanity) were especially stunning to Joe.3

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