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The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace was established at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, a member of Stanford’s pioneer graduating class of 1895 and the thirty-first president of the United States. Created as a library and repository of documents, the Institution approaches its centennial with a dual identity: an active public policy research center and an internationally recognized library and archives.

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Spring 2017

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“Liberty Calling” is the message of a poster that urges young Americans to enlist during World War I. The Great War saw the develop- ment of many new weapons, but among the most potent was the poster. Colorful, vivid graphic images encouraged, enticed, and even shamed young Americans to join the conflict “over there.” Meanwhile, on the home front, posters recruited millions of women into unaccustomed roles, lectured Americans on the virtues of thrift and industry, and sold war bonds. See story, page 199.

and industry, and sold war bonds. See story, page 199. HOOVER DIGEST PETER ROBINSON Editor CHARLES
and industry, and sold war bonds. See story, page 199. HOOVER DIGEST PETER ROBINSON Editor CHARLES






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Stay up to date on the latest analysis, commentary, and news from the Hoover institution. Find daily articles, op-eds, blogs, audio, and video in one app.






Spring 2017




Steady and Rising

The American economy, going from strength to strength. By Edward Paul Lazear


The Human Side of Trade

In a dynamic economy, short-term pain is real. But over the longer term? Free trade leads to better, richer lives. By Russell Roberts



Friedman on Freedom

“A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.” Wisdom from the late, great Milton Friedman.


Make America Exceptional Again

The rule of law, the centerpiece of American exceptionalism, is under assault. How to halt the predations of the regulatory state. By John H. Cochrane


Rugged Individualism

Two of the gravest threats to this distinctively American value: nanny states and helicopter parents. By David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd



The Soft Bigotry of Political Correctness

President Trump has never bowed to the culture of victimization. His lack of deference could be liberating. By Shelby Steele


Winning Women

Woodrow Wilson at first found himself scandalized by protesting women, but soon he championed their cause. How President Trump and feminists might likewise make common cause. By Elizabeth Cobbs



Ten Ways to Rescue Mideast Policy

In the Middle East the previous administration established neither democracy nor security—and now Russia is on the scene. By Russell A. Berman and Charles Hill


Before Push Comes to Shove

What the president needs to learn—fast. By Peter Berkowitz



The Russia Question

American relations with Moscow have become a geopolitical mess—a mess, very largely, of our own making. By Niall Ferguson

become a geopolitical mess—a mess, very largely, of our own making. By Niall Ferguson 4 HOOVEr
become a geopolitical mess—a mess, very largely, of our own making. By Niall Ferguson 4 HOOVEr


Break Up the Bromance

Just getting along with Russia isn’t going to be good enough. If the new administration wants a “reset” of its own, it will need

to demonstrate clarity and strength. By Michael A. McFaul


“It’s Best Not to Mess with Us”

The nuclear poker game with Moscow has already begun—or, rather, resumed. By Paul R. Gregory


Chicken Soup for the Russian Soul


strongman with a messianic streak, Vladimir Putin might

almost have stepped from the pages of Russian history. By Ralph Peters


Red Dawn


hundred years ago, Russia’s last czar pondered revolution, the

modern world, and the end of the Romanovs. Historian Robert Service explores the mind of Nicholas II. By Ellie Cawthorne



Trump Versus the Spies

All presidents clash with their intelligence experts, but the hostility the new administration has displayed is unusual—and risky. By Amy B. Zegart



Energy Efficiency: Still Low-hanging Fruit

There are still plenty of ways we can use energy more efficiently. Simple changes would produce large effects. By James L. Sweeney


Time to Count the Costs—And Adapt

Environmental activists must quit playing politics and begin to practice one of the fundamental disciplines of good governance:

weighing benefits against costs. By Gary D. Libecap


Inconvenient Math?

On climate change, the uncertainties multiply—literally. By Michael S. Bernstam



Freedom for Indian Country

The federal government has long been proven unworthy of Indians’ trust. How the new administration can do better. By Terry L. Anderson



Diplomacy, Not Doomsday

When dealing with North Korea, diplomat and Hoover fellow William J. Perry advises, set aside the big stick—and the Kim regime might actually listen



License to Hate

The label of “hate crime” is used to score political points, not to end violence. It should be eliminated. By Victor Davis Hanson

political points, not to end violence. It should be eliminated. By Victor Davis Hanson 6 HOOVEr
political points, not to end violence. It should be eliminated. By Victor Davis Hanson 6 HOOVEr



“The Core of a Just Society”

Hoover fellow Condoleezza Rice calls for the transformation of our schools. By Carolyn Phenicie


A Chance for Choice

By appointing Betsy DeVos education secretary, President Trump shows he’s listening to parents. By Paul E. Peterson


Use Your Words—And Your Ideas

Arguments over education have divided America. Here’s how reformers can swap acrimony for action. By Michael J. Petrilli



Farewell to a Citizen-Scientist

Hoover fellow Sidney D. Drell worked with science’s deepest and most dangerous nuclear secrets, and generations of American leaders benefited from his guidance. An appreciation of a physicist, a scholar, and a patriot. By David E. Hoffman



Wealth, Poverty, and Politics

There’s never been a level playing field, insists economist and Hoover fellow Thomas Sowell, and we should never have expected one. By Peter Robinson



The Many Lives of Babi Yar

One of the blackest chapters of World War II: the German massacre of Kyiv’s Jews. The horror of Babi Yar, suppressed in the Soviet era, may be finding its proper place in European memory at last. By Norman M. Naimark



Hoover and the Great Outdoors

A lifelong outdoorsman, Herbert Hoover praised nature as a font of inspiration, relaxation, and American values. Naturally, Hoover played an energetic role in developing America’s national parks. By Jean McElwee Cannon


Weapon on the Wall

As World War I raged, posters encouraged, enticed, and even shamed young Americans into joining the great conflict. By Jean McElwee Cannon

and even shamed young Americans into joining the great conflict. By Jean McElwee Cannon 8 HOOVEr
and even shamed young Americans into joining the great conflict. By Jean McElwee Cannon 8 HOOVEr



Steady and Rising

The American economy, going from strength to strength.

The American economy, going from strength to strength. By Edward Paul Lazear A lexis de Tocqueville,

By Edward Paul Lazear

A lexis de Tocqueville, the French philosopher who visited Amer-

ica in the early nineteenth century and published books on his

observations, was the first to refer to America’s economy as

exceptional. “This state of things is without a parallel in the his-

tory of the world,” he wrote. “In America everyone finds facilities unknown

elsewhere for making or increasing his fortune.”

Around the time when Tocqueville was writing, England’s per-capita gross

domestic product was 50 percent higher than that of America, according to

a 2014 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Develop-

ment (OECD). But by the early twentieth century the United States had

caught up. Since World War II, the United States has maintained about a 30

percent advantage over the United Kingdom. There is no other G-7 country

that comes close to the United States. Most are about 70 percent as rich on a

per-capita basis.

A sign of economic progress is that most Americans generally do better

than the previous generation, despite some earnings declines over the recent

Edward Paul Lazear is the Morris Arnold and Nona Jean Cox Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, co-chair of Hoover’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Re- form, and the Jack Steele Parker Professor of Human Resources Management and Economics at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

past. A 2012 Pew report based on data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics reveals that 84 percent of the respondents earn more than their

parents. Admittedly, there is room for improvement, especially by address- ing those in poverty whose children do not escape that condition. But most Americans have managed to earn higher incomes than their parents earned. The same report also documents high income mobility, meaning that those who are born poor do not necessarily remain poor and those who are rich come predominantly from

less-wealthy families. Three-fifths of Americans who are now among the

The American worker is both indus- trious and mobile.

top 20 percent of earn- ers grew up in families that weren’t in the top 20 percent. The same is true for the bottom 20 percent of earners, where almost three-fifths come from families that were not in the bottom 20 percent. Another indicator of opportunity is the number of people who would like to move to the United States. From 2009 through 2014, about one million people a year succeeded in obtaining immigration status (green cards), but entry quotas typically left more than four million people waiting to get in each year, accord- ing to State Department data. In 2010 a survey conducted by the European Commission asked residents of the European Union in which other countries they would like to work. Despite the distance from Europe, the winner was the United States, with 21 percent saying they would like to work here. What makes the US economy perform well over time and be so attractive to others? First, Americans are industrious. OECD data compiled between

1991 and 2014 reveal that hours worked per working-age person is highest in America among the G-7 countries. Hours are about 45 percent higher in the United States than in France, the lowest of the G-7 countries, but Americans exceed all other G-7 countries in work effort.

Compared with other G-7 members, the United States is still a low-tax country.

The United States is a mobile country, which benefits the economy because resi-

dents move to oppor- tunity. A 2008 European Commission survey showed that at the beginning of the twenty-first century Americans were more mobile than residents of all major EU countries. Americans were more than twice as likely to move as those in the European Union and five times as likely as Italians, who were the

least mobile population.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

The American economy also reaps the benefits of a fluid labor market. Last fall’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report on job openings and labor turnover (JOLTS) revealed that in the twelve months ending in October 2016 there were 62.6 million hires and 60.1 million separations, resulting in net job gain of just over 2.5 million. The workforce consists of about 150 million workers, so these statistics imply that on average about two-fifths of the employment positions experience turnover each year. This remarkable amount of labor mobility moves workers to the jobs in which they are most productive Even with increased taxes under the Obama administration, the United States remains a low-tax country compared with other G-7 countries. The

OECD reports that the ratio of total taxes to GDP is just over 25 percent in the United States. Next lowest is Japan with 30 percent. Italy and France each have tax receipts that equal about 45 percent of GDP. The United States is a welcoming society, which also contributes to its suc- cess. One measure of integration is the proportion of immigrants employed relative to the native-born population. Immigrants have higher unemploy- ment rates than native-born people in all G-7 countries except the United States, according to the OECD. For example, Germany has the most extreme unemployment ratio, with an immigrant unemployment rate of almost 8 percent, 75 percent higher than that of native Germans. In the United States, the immigrant unemployment rate is about 10 percent lower than the rate of those born here. Americans should take pride in a successful past, but more important, our strong traditions, institutions, and work ethic provide the foundation for future achievement. For that, even members of the dismal science have reason to celebrate.

even members of the dismal science have reason to celebrate. Reprinted by permission of the Wall

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2017 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved.

Journal . © 2017 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution
Journal . © 2017 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Rules for International Monetary Stability: Past, Present, and Future, edited by Michael D. Bordo and John B. Taylor. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit www.



The Human Side of Trade

In a dynamic economy, short-term pain is real. But over the longer term? Free trade leads to better, richer lives.

the longer term? Free trade leads to better, richer lives. By Russell Roberts F ree trade

By Russell Roberts

F ree trade is on the run. The president of the United States calls

the free market the “dumb market.” He wants to renegotiate trade

deals. The death spiral of manufacturing jobs makes people won-

der if trade with China was really such a good idea. Some econo-

mists claim to have found evidence that increased trade with China causes an

increase in suicide. It is tempting to argue, then, that free trade, while good

for the economy, is not so good for human beings.

Trade has undeniable human costs—dislocated and unemployed workers,

some of whom struggle to find dignified ways to support themselves and who

may be left with dreary lives without meaning. What are the benefits? One

benefit is obvious—less-expensive clothes, toys, and gadgets. But if that’s the

end of the story, it’s a pretty bad deal.

But it’s good for the economy! It’s efficient! That’s the free market

way! These are inadequate and irrelevant justifications. What we care

about is how trade affects our daily lives as workers and consumers.

If trade is about getting cheap stuff at the price of wrecking millions

of lives, then the American people and their leaders would be right to reject it. This standard calculus—cheap toys versus lost jobs in manufacturing and elsewhere—is woefully incomplete. It leaves out the most important and positive impact on our lives that trade provides. To understand the full story, we have to understand the fundamental connection between trade, produc- tivity, innovation, and economic growth. Without that understanding you cannot understand what’s going on when we buy toys from China instead of making them ourselves within our borders.

A PARABLE OF A PILL So let’s start with a seemingly unrelated example that will help us see the unseen. Suppose a scientist invents a pill that, once you take it, lets you live until one hundred and twenty with no health issues whatsoever. Once you turn one hundred and twenty, you die a peaceful death on your birthday. Sup- pose the scientist, in a gesture of good will, charges $10 for the pill. Should we let the scientist sell the pill? Is it good for the country? It’s good for almost everyone. But it’s going to be very hard on a very large group of people immediately: doctors. Nurses. Health care administrators. People who build hospitals. People in medical school. People who teach in medical schools. People in health insurance companies. Pharmaceutical companies. Researchers. You get the idea: it’s millions of people. This is a very disruptive technology. What’s going to happen to all those people? Mass unemployment. All the skills of all those people are no longer valued. The past investments made in those skills are now wasted. Incomes of those workers will plummet over- night. True, they

also get to live to a hundred and twenty, but their incomes are very low and may stay low for a while.

They will have to find new things to do. What will they do? They face a very depressing future. There’s not much else they can do with the skills they have acquired, so they will do their best to acquire new ones. The older those workers, the smaller the chance they will find a meaningful way to spend their remaining time. Government policy to soften the blow financially would definitely be on the table, but money is only one part of the challenge facing these unemployed

If trade meant getting cheap stuff at the price of wrecking millions of lives, then people and their leaders would be right to reject it. But that view is wrong.

workers. Their sense of being important, of mattering

has been destroyed. Most people would argue that the millions of health care workers have no right to stop people from living until one hundred and twenty. And on

the surface, that’s the whole story—long life and a very tough transition for millions of people from

lives of financial well-being and deep satisfaction to a much bleaker future.

But that’s not the whole story. We’re missing a huge part of it. The other important part of the story is that everyone is suddenly a lot wealthier. All the money we once poured into health care will now be avail- able to be spent on other things. What are those other things? We can’t know. No one can. But a whole bunch of areas are going to expand and some of those are going to soak up the time, talents, and energy of former doctors, health care administrators, and so on. It will take a while for this pro- cess to work itself out. To the extent health care workers can’t do the things that are newly in demand, their struggle to adjust will be harder. But entre- preneurs will explicitly look for ways to hire the newly unemployed, knowing that their talent will be much less expensive to employ. And of course those unemployed health care workers will be eagerly looking for things to do. And young people who planned to go to medical school or become chemists in the pharmaceutical industry or nurses or data analysts in the insurance business will now turn elsewhere. What will they do instead? They will try to

find skills to invest in that lead to financially and psychologically rewarding lives. But their opportunities will now be much wider than just “something other than health care.” The areas outside health care are now broader because the increased wealth we all have can now go into new fields and opportunities. The economy may be smaller in the short run as these adjustments take place. GDP may actually fall. But in the long run we are much wealthier as a nation because we don’t have to devote as many resources as we once did to health care. Your standard of living and mine is going to go up a lot, and that doesn’t even consider the gains from living longer and with better health. We are not going to just live longer. We are going to get a bunch of addi- tional things to enjoy in our lives because we don’t have to spend as much on health as we used to. And it won’t just be more steak and less hamburger, though that will happen too. We’ll have new products and services to enjoy.

their sense of pride

Trade is just another form of creative destruction.

Those additional things might include more leisure—we may decide not to work as hard or as long. These are the things that happen when there is growth and higher produc- tivity. But that doesn’t change the challenge facing health care workers. To summarize the effects of the magic pill that lets you live to be a hundred and twenty:

All people get some benefit from this incredible discovery. For most people, the gains are enormous and there is no offsetting loss. For some people, the gains are still enormous, but there is a big loss also. They’ve lost their jobs and may struggle to find new ones. Some new products and services are now going to exist because we’re wealthier as a nation. This process is what Schumpeter called creative destruction. It is the essence of economic change driven by innovation, which is what Schumpeter was interested in. But trade is just another form of creative destruction.

LIVING CHANGE Look again at our magic health pill. Would any of our conclusions change if the person who discovered it was from Mexico or China and we imported really fantastic health care through the magic pill? Most of us

would still be immensely better off. It would still be very hard on US health care workers. You still get to live to one hundred and twenty. You still have a huge amount of money to spend on something else.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

Your standard of living goes way up. Lots of other industries expand with your newfound money that’s now available, given that you don’t have to pay for health care. There are still a whole bunch of new opportunities as Americans spend more on other things. Whoever makes those things and has the skill to pro- vide those things or services will benefit. First lesson: trade and innovation are very similar—they’re about find-

ing ways to do more with less. That is the only way to create prosperity for everyone. But find-

We fear that people with only gen- eral skills are going to struggle to find appealing and lucrative kinds of work.

ing more productive ways of acquiring good health or automobiles may be hard on individ-

uals in transition. The shorter the transition, the harder it is to adjust. The magic pill dramatizes the magnitude of the gains the abruptness of economic transition. Let’s take a real example now—the transformation of agriculture in the United States in the twentieth century, driven by innovation. Because of that innovation, farm productivity is way up. Output per acre is way up. Output per worker is way up. That has meant cheap food rather than just a lot of rich farmers. Competi- tion among farmers forced them to share the gains widely with the entire country and the world. (I know it’s not all rosy—there are complications from the fact that we’ve subsidized food production artificially through government policy with lots of unintended consequences. Let’s stick with the

productivity side here.) The productivity revolution was very tough for some farmers, especially those who wanted their kids to inherit the farm and work the land as they did. The low prices made it hard for thousands of small farmers to survive. Some couldn’t make their mortgage payments and lost their farms. Some just absorbed a lower standard of living and their children, seeing that, decided it would be better to do something else. They headed to the cities to find a path toward a meaningful life different from the one their parents chose. And the choices available to the next generation and the ones that came after weren’t the same. They were a lot better because people no longer had to spend as much on food. In 1900, about 40 percent of the American workforce was in agriculture. Now it’s about 2 percent. If you went back in time and told the 1900 farmer

that employment change was coming, that farmer would weep in sorrow at the thought of the riots in the streets and mass starvation and lack of work opportunities for their children and grandchildren. But if you could bring that farmer to the present to see the full story, everything would be different. Is there a farmer from 1900 who would be sad today to see his descendants leading longer, more interesting lives, doing things that didn’t exist in 1900 and that are able to exist because we don’t have to put 40 percent of the workforce on the farm? Having only 2 percent on the farm is a feature, not

a bug. It’s a good thing. It’s a glorious thing. It allowed the creation of all the glorious things that would amaze the farmer brought into the present—the smartphones and the artificial knees and the YouTube videos, and cross- country travel and cars and the longer life expectancy and everything else we didn’t have in 1900 that makes life more pleasant and even more meaningful for the children and grandchildren of the farmers of 1900. Bring those farmers into the present and they’d weep again, but this time for joy at the ease and wealth and safety of their descendants’ lives that they couldn’t dream of when they were living through the tough times. In 1920 or 1940, I’m sure many farmers mourned the loss of their farms and the hardships along the way, but they couldn’t see the whole story. It turned out pretty well. Would that story be

any different if it had been cheap imports of food instead of technol- ogy that made food

cheaper? Not really. Both make most of us a lot better off. Both challenge farmers to get by. Both mean fewer Americans can make a living as farmers. Both mean the children and grandchildren of farm- ers are much better off because there’s a wider array of alternatives. Those new jobs and innovations are possible only because we don’t have to have 40 percent of the population producing food. Importing cheap food would do the same thing. Just like cheap imported televisions, or all the other products that now use fewer American workers to make them.

Protectionism is a form of forced charity. And it cuts off innova- tions and products we haven’t even thought of yet.

LEARNING FOR LIFE Trade and innovation are ways to get more from less. Ways to be more productive. Ways to increase our standard of living overall, though not every single person will benefit. But when we find ways to get more from less, that

means more resources available to expand opportunities elsewhere in the economy. That expansion is unseen; you have to think through the logic to see that part of the impact on our lives. But it’s hugely important. The magic pill was overnight. The agriculture revolution took decades. The transition of that real example, while still painful, was made easier because

it took a while for it to happen. And that brings us to the latest revolution in the American economy, the transition out of manufacturing employment. In America we make a lot more stuff than we did fifty years ago, or even twenty years ago. But because the machinery and computers we use in manufactur- ing are so much better, we don’t need as many people in manufacturing, just like farming. At the same time, factories have moved overseas. Both trade and innova- tion have led to fewer manufacturing jobs in America. And the pace is some- thing between overnight and the slow transition out of agricultural employ- ment. In the past fifteen years, America has lost five million manufacturing jobs. But overall, the United States has added twelve million jobs since 2000. The worry is that not

Trade and innovation are the same thing: ways to get more from less.

enough of the manu- facturing workers have found good alternatives.

The worry is that they are more like doctors than the children of farmers in my previous examples. They are struggling to find uses for their skills. It’s not as simple as the chil- dren of farmers, who headed into the cities when they realized that farming was going to be a lot tougher than before.

I don’t think we know just how easy or how hard it has been for out-of- work manufacturing workers to find new jobs. What I do know is that the question of whether trade with China or the increased use of technology in manufacturing has been good for America isn’t just about those lost jobs ver- sus cheap toys. What we must remember is that spending less on toys (and clothes and cars and smartphones) creates a lot of opportunity elsewhere. That’s why trade and innovation and growth matter. That has allowed the American workforce to expand by twelve million jobs since 2000 even in the face of a horrific recession in 2008. But I understand that it’s not easy being an out-of-work manufacturing worker who is competing not just with Chinese workers but with robots. And the long run may be even harder. Is this a short-term problem—a mediocre recovery from the recession of 2008? Or is this a longer-term problem that might not get better for a long time?

The fear is that people with very general skills—the ability to show up

on time and do physical labor—are going to struggle to find appealing and lucrative kinds of work.

I once debated the North American Free Trade Agreement on the south

side of St. Louis, surrounded by autoworkers who were threatened by open

trade with Mexico. A machinist told me he had already been out of work for years. “What are you going to do for me?” he asked.

I didn’t tell him to find comfort in the fact that his children were going

to lead better lives. I wasn’t sure what to tell him. So I asked him what he wanted. Did he want a check? He said, “I want my job back.”

I think he really wanted back his pride and dignity. What makes us happy,

what makes our lives feel meaningful, isn’t money. Here’s the problem: the only way to get him his job back was to keep people from buying cars they preferred to buy elsewhere and force up the prices of those cars and have him share in that. It’s a form of charity; you just don’t see it. That’s the problem with protectionism as a way of helping those out-of-work workers. Not only is it charity, but it destroys the expansion of opportunities that trade and innovation create. That last point has been lost in the recent euphoria in some quarters over saved manufacturing jobs. It’s obvious how this creates incentives for business- es to cozy up to the president instead of trying to improve their products and please their customers. But invisible in this discussion are the jobs that will not get created if we deliberately give an artificial advantage to more-expensive products on “made in America” grounds. Protectionism and special subsidies

save certain kinds of jobs while keeping other jobs from coming into being. The easy alternative is to put workers whose skills are obsolete on some kind of welfare. This is presumably what people mean when they say “we have to spread the gains from trade more evenly.” But if people really are more likely to kill themselves when they find themselves in competition with foreign workers, I don’t think a welfare check is much of a solution. If we care about human dignity and human flourishing, we need to give people something other than just money. We need to give them the oppor- tunity to be part of the economy that is coming in this century, an economy where robots and computers may end up doing a lot of things people used to do. That opportunity requires education. Easy to say. What does that mean? I don’t know the answer to that ques- tion with any precision. It does appear that people without a college degree

seem to have fewer choices than they once did, and those choices don’t seem very fulfilling—not just financially, but emotionally. I think we must be open to a radical reimagining of education that goes way beyond fighting over the Common Core, for example. An education that prepares people to participate in an economy with limited opportunities for people who know how to do only repetitive tasks. Those tasks are going to the robots. To summarize: lately we’ve been hearing that globalization is some kind of scam to enrich corporations and international banks. I think that’s false. Trade makes most of us better off and that in turn allows for growth and innovation that benefits almost all of us, especially our children and grand- children. But it’s a bumpy road and I think we need to be aware that for some people, especially the least educated, trade and technology are creating a world that is a lot less satisfying for them to live in. Letting those people flourish is not going to be solved by sending them a check, and I doubt it’s going to be solved by trade barriers. Technology is going to make their lives challenging anyway; don’t think that’s going to be banned or stopped. That leaves education, which we ought to fix anyway. It’s time to stop treating our high schools as places to prepare people to take the SAT or ACT exams. We need more technical schools, more schools that teach people how to code, more choices for people to figure out what they like or love to do with their time and with their lives that other people value so they can prosper both financially and psychologically. Ultimately, human flourishing is all that


Ultimately, human flourishing is all that matters. Special to the Hoover Digest. Read more from Russell

Special to the Hoover Digest. Read more from Russell Roberts on (

Roberts on ( Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Inequality
Roberts on ( Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Inequality

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Inequality and Economic Policy: Essays in Memory of Gary Becker, edited by Tom Church, Chris Miller, and John B. Taylor. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



Friedman on Freedom

“A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.” Wisdom from the late, great Milton Friedman.

freedom.” Wisdom from the late, great Milton Friedman. By Milton Friedman Milton Friedman delivered this talk,

By Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman delivered this talk, titled “Say ‘No’ to Intolerance,” at the Future

of Freedom Conference of the International Society for Individual Liberty in San

Francisco on August 14, 1990.

T hank you very much. I’m embarrassed by that introduction and

by your welcoming of me, because I’m afraid that you might

not be quite so enthusiastic at the end of the talk. The virtue

of being among people with whom you agree fundamentally

is that you can talk about some of the harder issues, which you don’t want

to talk about in other circles. I want tonight to talk about basic libertar-

ian beliefs and values. (I refer to myself as a liberal in the true meaning of

that term: a believer in freedom. Unfortunately, we’ve had to use the word

Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize for economic sci- ence, was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution from 1977 to 2006. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Science in 1988. Robert Leeson was a W. Glenn Campbell and Rita Ricardo- Campbell National Fellow for 2006–7 at the Hoover Institution. Charles G. Palm is the deputy director emeritus of the Hoover Institution. Leeson and Palm are the co-editors of Milton Friedman on Freedom (Hoover Institution Press, 2017), from which this essay is derived.

“libertarian” because, as Schumpeter said, “As a supreme if unintended

compliment, the enemies of the system of private enterprise have thought

it wise to appropriate its label.”) As a long-time liberal-libertarian, I am

puzzled by a paradox. On the one hand, I regard the basic human value that underlies my own beliefs as tolerance, based on humility. I have no right to coerce someone else, because I cannot be sure that I am right and he is wrong. On the other hand—and this is the paradox—some of our heroes, people who have done the most to promote libertarian ideas, have been highly intolerant as human beings, and have justified their views (with which I largely agree) in ways that I regard as promoting intolerance. Equally important, as I have observed the libertarian movement, there’s a related strand of utopianism in the libertarian movement that I believe is also productive of intolerance and is fundamentally inconsistent with the basic values that I believe we stand for.

THE VIRTUES OF TOLERANCE Why do I regard tolerance as the foundation of my belief in freedom? How do we justify not initiating coercion? If I asked you what is the basic philoso- phy of a libertarian, I believe that most of you would say that a libertarian philosophy is based on the premise that you should not initiate force, that you may not initiate coercion. Why not? If we see someone doing something wrong, someone starting to sin (to use

a theological term), let alone just making a simple mistake, how do we justify

not initiating coercion? Are we not sinning if we don’t stop him? Only two bases for a negative answer occur to me that make any sense. One—which I regard as largely an evasion—is that there’s no virtue in his not sinning if he’s not free to sin. That may be true. But then, that doesn’t apply to me. It may be no virtue for him. That doesn’t mean I should let him sin: am I not sinning when I let him sin? How do I justify letting him sin? I believe that the more persuasive answer is, can I be sure he’s sinning? Can I be sure that I am right and he is wrong? That I know what sin is? This is a complicated and difficult problem. Let me give an extreme example. I am on the Golden Gate Bridge and I see someone getting ready to jump. He’s going to commit suicide. Am I entitled to use physical coercion to stop him, assuming that I am capable of doing so? On the libertarian basis of not initiating coercion, one would have to say no. Yet I am sure that most of you, like me, would stop him if we could. We’d grab him. We’d justify that temporarily by saying “He doesn’t really intend to do that and it’s irreversible

and we’ve got to stop him from doing something irreversible.”

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

We grab him. We hold on to him. And he gives a perfectly plausible reason why he wants to commit suicide. Are you going to let him go? In principle you should say yes. In practice, I doubt very much that many of us, assuming that we had the power to hold him, would just let him go. What this demonstrates, fundamentally, is that no simple principle is really adequate. We do not have all the answers, and there is no simple formula that will give us all the answers. That’s why humility, tolerance, is so basic, so fundamental. Because the only way that we can get a little closer to those fundamental principles is by being tolerant, by considering and respecting the opinions of people who disagree with us. And yet, as I’ve already said, how can we square that with the intolerance demonstrated by people who deservedly are heroes to libertarians? There is no doubt in my mind that Ludwig von Mises has done more to spread the fundamental ideas of free markets than any other individual. There is no doubt in my mind that nobody has done more than Ayn Rand to develop a popular following for many of these ideas. And yet there is also no doubt that both of them were extremely intolerant. I recall a personal episode, at the first meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society— the founding meeting in 1947 in Mont Pelerin, Switzerland. Ludwig von Mises was one of the people who were there. I was also. The group had a series of discussions on different topics. One afternoon, the discussion was on the distri- bution of income, taxes, progressive taxes, and so on. The people in that room included Friedrich von Hayek, Fritz Machlup, George Stigler, Frank Knight, Henry Hazlitt, John Jewkes, Lionel Robbins, Leonard Read—hardly a group whom you would regard as leftists. In the middle of that discussion von Mises got up and said, “You’re all a bunch of socialists,” and stomped out of the room. You need only read Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand, a fascinating book, to recognize that what I’ve said applies to Rand as well. Barbara Branden tells a story that refers to both Rand and von Mises: “One evening, the Hazlitts [that was Henry Hazlitt, whom I mentioned] invited Ayn and Frank to dinner with Dr. and Mrs. von Mises. The evening was a disaster. It was the first time Ayn had discussed moral philosophy in depth with either of the two men. ‘My impression,’ she was to say, ‘was that von Mises did not care to consider moral

issues, and Henry was seriously committed to

violently. At one point von Mises lost his patience and screamed at me. We did

not part enemies—except for von Mises at the moment; about a year later he and I met at a conservative dinner and his wife made peace between us.’” The important thing to me is less their intolerance in personal behavior than the philosophical doctrines on which they claimed to base their views,

We argued quite

On freedom, belief, and humility

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well: it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underly- ing most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

“Freedom to advocate unpopular causes does not require that such advocacy be without cost. On the contrary, no society could be stable if advocacy of radical change were costless, much less subsidized. It is entirely appropriate that men make sacrifices to advocate causes in which they deeply believe. Indeed, it is important to preserve freedom only for those people who are willing to practice self-denial, for otherwise freedom degener- ates into license and irresponsibility. What is essential is that the cost of advocating unpopular causes be tolerable and not prohibitive.”

“The enemies of a free society, the forces that are working against it, are so strong that the major thing, in my opinion, that prevents them from conquering is that a free society is so productive that it tends to overwhelm those other forces if given half a chance.”

“The basic virtue in a free society and the basic justification for a free society is humility, a willingness to recognize that no matter how strongly one may believe he is correct, he cannot be sure. Hence he does not have the right to force his view on someone else.”

Excerpted from Milton Friedman on Freedom: Selections from The Collected Works of Milton Friedman, compiled and edited by Robert Leeson and Charles G. Palm. ©2017 by The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

which seem to me to be fundamentally a source of intellectual intolerance. So far as von Mises is concerned, I refer to his methodological doctrine of prax-

eology. That’s a fancy word and it may seem highly irrelevant to my topic, but

it isn’t at all. Because his fundamental idea was that we knew things about

“human action” (the title of his famous book) because we are human beings. As a result, he argued, we have absolutely certain knowledge of the motiva- tions of human action and he maintained that we can derive substantive

conclusions from that basic knowledge. Facts, statistics, or other evidence cannot, he argued, be used to test those

Simple slogans like “the market will take care of it” or “noninterventionism” do not resolve the hard problems.

conclusions, but only to illustrate a theory. They cannot be used

to contradict a theory, because we are not generalizing from observed evidence but from innate knowledge of human motives and behavior. That philosophy converts an asserted body of substantive conclusions into

a religion. They do not constitute a set of scientific propositions that you can

argue about in terms of empirical evidence. Suppose two people who share von Mises’s praxeological view come to contradictory conclusions about any- thing. How can they reconcile their difference? The only way they can do so is by a purely logical argument. One has to say to the other, “You made a mistake in reasoning.” And the other has to say, “No, you made a mistake in reason- ing.” Suppose neither believes he has made a mistake in reasoning. There’s only one thing left to do: fight. Karl Popper—another Austrian, like Mises and Hayek—takes a different approach. If we disagree, we can say to one another, “You tell me what facts, if they were observed, you would regard as sufficient to contradict your view.” And vice versa. Then we can go out and see which, if either, conclusion the evidence contradicts. The virtue of this modern scientif- ic approach, as proposed by Popper, is that it provides a way in which, at least in principle, we can resolve disagreements without a conflict. So much for von Mises. That’s a very brief statement and I recognize that it doesn’t do justice to either praxeology or Popper. But that’s not relevant here. The same thing is true of Ayn Rand, as her phrase about Hazlitt’s supposed commitment to altruism suggests. Rand did not regard facts as relevant, as ways of testing her propositions. She derived everything from the basic proposition that A=A. And from that follows everything. But if it does, again, suppose two Objectivists, two disciples of Ayn Rand, disagree, or that a

disciple disagrees with her. Both agree that A is A. There’s no disagreement

about that. But for one reason or another they have different views on another subject. How do they reconcile that difference? There is no way. And that’s the basic reason for the stories that Barbara Branden tells in The Pas- sion of Ayn Rand about what happened when people disagreed in any minute detail with Ayn Rand.

GETTING FROM HERE TO THERE I believe that there’s an enormous paradox there. But don’t misunderstand

me. Nothing I say lessens my admiration in any way for the role that both von Mises and Rand played in promoting the ideas of liberty and free markets. And yet I believe that they teach both a positive and a negative lesson. The negative lesson is that we must beware of intolerance if we’re going to be really effective in persuading people. The writings of both Rand and von Mises—and much libertarian literature—take for granted that hard ques- tions have easy answers, that it’s possible to know something about the real world, to derive substantive conclusions, from purely a priori principles. Let me take a real example. How many times have you heard someone say that the answer to a problem is that you simply have to make it private property. But is private property such an obvious notion? Does it come out

of the soul?

I have a house. It belongs to me. You fly an airplane over my house, 20,000 feet up. Are you violating my private property? You fly over at 50 feet. You might give a different answer. Your house is next door. You have a hi-fi sys- tem. You play your hi-fi at an enormously high decibel count. Are you violat- ing my private property?

Those are questions

to which you can’t get

answers by introspec- tion or asking whether

A is A or not. They are

practical questions that require answers based on experience. Before there were airplanes, nobody thought of the problem of trespass through air. So simply saying “private property” is a mantra, not an answer. Simply saying “use the market” is not an answer. Let me give you two recent examples that also are relevant to the same theme—utopianism. I’ll touch on them very briefly: school vouchers and negative income tax. Schooling is, next only to national defense, the largest socialist enterprise in the United States. And it is clearly as much of a failure

Jacob Hornberger wrote, “What is the answer to socialism in public schools? Freedom.” Correct. But how

do we get from here to there?

as the socialist enterprises in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, or East Germany. It shares the characteristic features of those failures. The charac-

teristic feature of socialist failure is that you have a group, the nomenklatura, who do very well, you have masses who do very poorly, and the system as a whole is highly

It is of course desirable to have a vision of the ideal, of Utopia. But we can’t stop there. If we do, we become a cult or a religion, and not a living, vital force.

inefficient. That’s exactly the case with our school system. Those of us who happen to

live in high-income suburbs, as well as high-paid teachers and teacher-administrators, do very well out of the system. The poor suckers who live in the ghetto or who don’t have any money, they do very poorly out of the system. The system as a whole takes two or three times as many resources to operate as are neces- sary, and it doesn’t do a good job when it does. So it’s clearly a failure. In the Future of Freedom Foundation’s Freedom Daily for September 1990—again, a group that is doing good work and is making an impact— Jacob Hornberger wrote, “What is the answer to socialism in public schools? Freedom.” Correct. But how do we get from here to there? Is that somebody else’s problem? Is that a purely practical problem that we can dismiss? The

ultimate goal we would like to get to is a society in which people are respon- sible for themselves and for their children’s schooling. And in which you do not have a governmental system. But am I a statist, as I have been labeled by

a number of libertarians, because some thirty years ago I suggested the use

of educational vouchers as a way of easing the transition? Is that, and I quote Hornberger again, “simply a futile attempt to make socialism work more

efficiently”? I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that you can simply say what the ideal is. This is what I mean by the utopian strand in libertarianism. You can- not simply describe the utopian solution, and leave it to somebody else how we get from here to there. That’s not only a practical problem. It’s a problem of the responsibilities that we have. The same issue arises with respect to welfare, Social Security, and the rest. It may be that the ideal is—and I believe that it is—to have a society in which you do not have any kind of major or substantial governmental system of welfare. Again, nearly thirty years ago I suggested, as a way of promoting

a transition from here to there, a negative income tax as a substitute for and

alternative to the present rag bag of welfare and redistributionist measures.

Again, is that a statist solution? I believe not. We have participated in a

society in which people have become dependent on government handouts. It is irresponsible, immoral I would say, simply to say, “Oh well, somehow or other we’ll overnight drop the whole thing.” You have to have some mecha- nism of going from here to there. I believe that we lose a lot of plausibility for our ideas by not facing up to that responsibility. It is of course desirable to have a vision of the ideal, of Utopia. Far be it from me to denigrate that. But we can’t stop there. If we do, we become a cult or a religion, and not a living, vital force. These comments apply, I believe, to the largest socialist enterprise in the United States as well. That is, of course, national defense. Like everyone else in this room, I am appalled by the waste of the defense industry. I am sure that if you and I could only run it, we could do it for half the money, and do it a lot better. But although I have tried for many years to figure out a way in which we could run defense as a private enterprise, and despite the hopes of some anarchist libertarians, like my son, that we can, I have to admit that after some thirty years now, he’s never been able to persuade me that we could. I suppose that just shows how intoler- ant I am. At any rate, simple slogans like “The market will take care of it” or “noninterventionism” do not resolve the hard problems. We may very well agree on the direction we want to go in, but just how we’re going to go there and how far we’re going to go, that’s a much more difficult problem. Let me close by noting that admirers of von Mises seldom quote the fol- lowing of his statements: “Government as such is not only not an evil but the most necessary and beneficial institution, as without it no lasting cooperation and no civilization could be developed and preserved.” Now that’s an idea to chew over.

and preserved.” Now that’s an idea to chew over. Adapted from Milton Friedman on Freedom: Selections

Adapted from Milton Friedman on Freedom: Selections from The Col- lected Works of Milton Friedman, compiled and edited by Robert Leeson and Charles G. Palm. © 2017 by The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stan- ford Junior University. All rights reserved.

Leland Stan- ford Junior University. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is Milton
Leland Stan- ford Junior University. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is Milton

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Milton Friedman on Freedom: Selections from The Collected Works of Milton Friedman, edited by Robert Leeson and Charles G. Palm. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit


Make America Exceptional Again

The rule of law, the centerpiece of American exceptionalism, is under assault. How to halt the predations of the regulatory state.

How to halt the predations of the regulatory state. By John H. Cochrane T o be

By John H. Cochrane

T o be a conservative—or, in my case, an empirical, Pax Ameri- cana, rule-of-law, constitutional- ist conservative libertarian—is

pretty much by definition to believe that America is exceptional, and that she is perpetually in danger of losing that precious characteristic. Exceptionalism is not natural or inborn, but must be understood, cher- ished, maintained, and renewed each genera-

tion—and her garden is always perilously unattended. Like every word describing beliefs, how- ever, exceptionalism is a slippery concept.

Key points

» The ideas behind Ameri-

can exceptionalism have led to the most dramatic improvement in widely shared human well-being in history.

» The gains are not just ma-

terial but in health, lifespan, peace, and any measure of human prosperity.

» Democracy without rule

of law produces neither prosperity nor freedom, and is easily subverted.

» Basic rights are vanishing into the regulatory state.

America’s detractors often use the same word pejoratively and derisively. To them, exceptionalism means a parochial and ignorant moral superiority. We are not the first or only society to see itself as exceptional, different, or somehow better than everyone else. So why is America exceptional, in the good sense? Here, I think, economics provides a crucial answer. The ideas that American exceptionalism pro- pounds have led to the most dramatic improvement in widely shared human well-being in history. That improvement is not just material but in health, lifespan, peace, and any measure of human prosperity. Yes, despite the hor- rors we read from the world’s war zones and some of our own cities, violence remains on a steady decline. Aesop tells of a hungry wolf who meets and admires a well-fed dog. But the wolf sees the dog’s collar, says no thanks, and walks off. Fortunately, we do not face the wolf’s conundrum. We do not have to argue for a moral superiority of freedom while asking for material sacrifice: the wolf is both well-fed and free. Despite the promises of monarchs, autocrats, dictators, commissars, cen- tral planners, socialists, industrial-policy makers, progressive nudgers, and assorted dirigistes, it is liberty and rule of law that has led to this enormous progress. To the Chinese argument, say, that their ancient culture demands authoritarianism, a simple reply suffices: you, $7,000 per capita GDP and filthy air. Us: $52,000 per capita and a clean environment. I do not think this outcome was intentional. Neither our founders nor those who built the British institutions which the founders improved had any idea of the material progress their invention would father, nor that the United States would rise to lead the world to a seventy-year Pax Americana. Jeffer- son envisioned a bucolic agrarian society. Washington warned against foreign entanglements. A system designed only to defend individual liberty uninten- tionally unleashed vast material and international benefits. Of course, the foundations of this prosperity in rule of law, security of proper- ty, and internal peace, are not ours alone. America was built on British institu- tions, and the Industrial Revolution started there. Other countries have adopted many of these institutions, and joined in prosperity to the extent that they do so. Without this economic success, I doubt that anyone would call America exceptional. Imagine that China were seven times as productive per capita as we are, rather than the other way around. Or, imagine that great natural experiment, North Korea versus South Korea. North Korea also claims to be exceptional. The rest of the world regards it as an exceptional basket case. In fact, the core of exceptionalist faith describes its own undoing. If Ameri- can values are indeed universal, if America’s exceptional role is to bring these

ideas to the world, then when the world does adopt those ideas, America must become somewhat less exceptional. America is already less unusual than it was at its founding and through the eras of monarchies, of great dictators, and of Soviet communism, when America’s detractors insisted she would be just one more short-lived republic. But the process is far from over. The United States remains the essen- tial, exceptional, nation. All the great ideas for the next advances in human well-being are being made here. Computers and the Internet, biotech, genetics, the microbiome. Most important, the great ideas are being implemented here: the new companies are American.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

More darkly, any hope for dispelling the world’s gathering storm clouds resides in the United States. If we fail to revive our exceptionalism, and very soon, the consequences will be truly terrifying: chaos in the Middle East, more swarms of refugees. Forcible expansion by Russia and China. The use of nuclear weapons. Pandemics of people, animals, or crops—diseases that often follow waves of globalization. It’s time to focus on the second item of a conservative’s faith, that it’s all in danger of falling apart.

THE RULE OF LAW I locate the core source of America’s exceptional nature in our legal system— the nexus of constitutional government, artfully created with checks and bal- ances, and rule of law that guides our affairs. And that is also where I locate the greatest danger at the moment. Without rule of law, any American character for innovation is quickly squashed. Rule of law means the rights of the accused to know charges against them, to see evidence, to confront witnesses; the right of free speech and especially unwelcome political speech; the separation of prosecution and judges; grand juries to weigh evidence, and warrants for searches; the right to property, what that right means, and courts that will defend it; the delicate constitutional checks and balances that keep majorities from running amok and delay awful ideas until enthusiasm passes; a free press, which can expose corruption. Even democracy lives only atop rule of law. We are a republic, not a democracy, and for good reasons. Democracy is fundamentally a check on tyranny, not a good way to run day-to-day public affairs. Democracy without rule of law produces neither prosperity nor freedom. Even countries such as Venezuela and Russia go through the motions of elec- tions, but in

such places you can’t get a building permit without connections or speak out against the government without losing your job. Rule of law without democ- racy can function for a time, and tends to produce democracy. America lived for one hundred and fifty years under rule of law while still a monarchy. And without rule of law, democracy is soon subverted. Those in govern- ment are always tempted

A system designed only to defend individual liberty unintentionally unleashed vast material and interna- tional benefits.

to use the government’s power to silence opposi- tion and cement their hold on power, and ruin the economy in the pro-

cess. That’s our danger. If speaking out for a candidate or a policy question such as climate change, or working on behalf of a losing party earns you the tender attentions of the SEC, IRS, EPA, CFPB, NLRB, and increasingly the DOJ and the FBI, it does not matter who votes. The erosion of rule of law is all around us. I see it most strongly in the explosion of the administrative, regulatory state. Most of the “laws” we face are not, in fact, laws, written by a legislature and signed by an executive as we are taught in school. They are regulations, promulgated by agencies. This made sense, initially. For example, it does not make sense for Congress to write the criteria for maintaining an airliner. But now that system has spi- raled out of control. The Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank are poster chil- dren. Their enabling acts go on for thousands of pages. The subsidiary regula- tions go on for tens of thousands. The letters and statements of interpretation

and guidance, now essentially laws of their own, go on for even more. Were these rules that one could read and follow, it wouldn’t be so bad. But rules are so vague and complex that nobody knows what they really mean. Companies can’t just read those rules. They must ask for regulator approval ahead of time, which can take years and leads to arbitrary results. Hence, the “rules” really just mean discretion for the regulators to do what they want—or to coerce behavior they wish out of companies by the threat of an arbitrary and adverse decision. Anyone can be found guilty at any time—if the regulator chooses to single them out, as an Environmental Protection Agency administrator once said, for “crucifixion.” Richard Epstein calls the system “government by waiver.” The law and regulations are impossible to comply with, so business after business asks for waivers. But you would be unwise to object too loudly to the actions of the agency or the administration it serves if you want a waiver.

On top of laws, rules, and judicial interpretations, now agencies write “guidance” letters to state their interpretation of a rule, and these become laws of their own.

PREDATORY REGULATORS The basic rights that citizens are supposed to have in the law are also van- ishing in the regulatory state. The agency is prosecutor, judge, jury, appeal

court, executioner, and recipient of fine money, all rolled in to one. You do not have conventional rights to see evidence and calculations, discover informa- tion, or challenge witnesses. Agencies change their interpretation of the law, and come after their victims ex post facto. Retroactive decisions are com- mon, never mind the constitutional prohibition on bills of attainder. The expansion of the regulatory state, and disappearance of rule of law in its operation, is already having an economic impact. The long-term growth rate of the US economy has been cut in half, driven largely by anemic investment. I fear even more the political impact. The point of rule of law is to keep government from using law for political purposes. As we lose rule of law in the regulatory state, its politicization is inevitable. The drive to criminalize regulatory witch hunts and go after the executives means one thing: those executives had better make sure their organizations stay in line. ITT Technical Institute was closed down as part of the previous administration’s war on for-profit educa-

tion. (Laureate Inter- national Universities,

the for-profit college that coincidentally paid Bill Clinton $17.6 million as “honorary chancellor,” was not.) The Securities and Exchange Commission has egged on ambitious state attorneys general to sue Exxon, under securities law, for insufficient piety over climate change. Big “settlements” with banks have channeled mil- lions of dollars to left-wing and Democratic Party political advocacy groups. The classic analysis of regulation says it leads to capture: the industry captures the regulator, they get cozy, and regulation ends up being used to stifle competition in the industry. Capture is now going the other way. Health insurers, banks, and energy companies are slowly being captured by the politicized regulators. Yes, they still get protection, but they must do the regulator and administration’s political bidding. And a constant stream of

CEO show trials and criminal investigations keeps them in line.

The “rules” really just mean discretion for the regulators to do what they want.

Campaign finance law is precisely about regulating speech, and about the government deciding who can support whom in an election. Corporations will be forced to disclose contributions. Unions will not. The key attribute that makes America exceptional—and prosperous—is

that you can afford to lose an election. Grumble, sit back, regroup, and try again next time. You won’t lose your job or your business. You won’t suddenly have trouble getting permits and approvals. You won’t have alphabet-soup agents at your door. You won’t

Each division of class, race, or income is a client usefully exploited for politi- cal advantage.

see prosecutions of your political associations. In many countries, people can’t afford to lose elec-

tions. Those in power do not give it up easily. Those out of power are reduced to violence. Perhaps I am guilty of nostalgia, but I sense that once upon a time, those in American public life believed that their first duty was to keep alive the beautiful structure of American government, and the policy passion of the day came second and within that constraint. We are suffering now a devotion to outcome, to winning the momentary bat - tle at any cost. Legislation that passes by one vote? Fine. Regulations written far past enabling authority? Go for it. Executive order in place of law or regula- tion? Do it. Just write a letter of interpretation to tell them what to do. Shove it down their throats. But when policies are adopted without at least grudging consensus that the battle was fairly won, you can’t afford to lose an election. The idea of rule of law, the reverence for process over outcome, seems to be

disappearing. Few college seniors will have any notion of it; even basic civics courses are passé. Many on both sides of the partisan divide ignore it. Our many foreign policy misadventures have a common theme: forgetting that all societies need rule-of-law foundations, not just the superficial exercise of voting. Rule of law, then, depends on a culture that respects it, and that culture depends on some understanding of how it works. Like medieval peasants looking up in wonder at Roman concrete structures, having lost the recipe, our children may wonder just how the architecture of a broken system once worked its marvels. And the Romans lasted a thousand years. Pax Ameri- cana seems to be running out of steam at a mere two hundred and fifty.

OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL Our government’s purpose is set forth in the Declaration of Independence:

to secure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, period. Government

does not exist to lead us to some grander purpose: the advancement of the Christian faith or the restoration of the caliphate; the spread of communism on earth; the greatness of our kultur, or the glorious American Nation. When President Kennedy said “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” he had it precisely wrong. Yes, American exceptionalists wish to spread their ideas to the world, but not to subjugate those people to some greater cause. The goal is merely to allow those people, too, to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they see it. A central article of exceptionalist faith is that American institutions are universal. We deny that they are specific to a culture or—heavens—to a race. People everywhere want freedom, and can learn to use American institutions to get it as quickly as they can learn to use an American iPhone to order American pizza. Most of all, government to the exceptionalist does not exist to further the ethnic or religious identity of a people. Throughout the world, governments parcel out the spoils of power along ethnic and religious lines. Each losing ethnic or religious group then needs its own government to defend its simple economic and expressive rights. Multicultural and multiethnic empires have existed before. But by and large they were empires of tolerance, not right, and they extracted resources from citizens equally rather than served them equally. In the United States, the children of Serbs and Croats, of Indians and Pakistanis, of Catholics and Protestants and Muslims and Jews, live side by side and intermarry. None imagine that they need a government run by one of their own ethnic group or religion to get a business permit, for example. The idea that government serves to foster their eth-

nic or religious identity quickly becomes foreign. But how quaint this “melting pot” view

seems now! That ideal disappeared first from our foreign policy. For a hundred years, the United States has stood behind ethnic or religious governments, happily playing one against the other, and not once saying “you know, we have a better idea for managing this, one where you won’t be at each other’s throats for another century or so.” The exceptional ideal is now vanishing domestically as well. Our gov- ernment requires us to fill out forms with fine racial categorizations. The

core principle—that to be treated fairly by the law you do not need to be

A key attribute that makes America exceptional—and prosperous—is that you can afford to lose an election.

represented by a police officer, mayor, congressman, senator, or president of

your own particular racial, ethnic, or religious identity—is not only fading, but its opposite is enshrined in law. True, these measures stemmed from the overturning of the even more egregious violation of American principles in laws governing African-Americans, not only in the Jim Crow South but in the segregated North. But we still paid lip service to the ideal. A country that believes, and enshrines in law, the principle—opposed to everything in American exceptionalism—that you cannot be treated fairly by

a government unless the officials of that government share your exact racial,

ethnic, religious, and soon, gender identity, will soon fracture. Similarly, exceptional America does not recognize the concept of class. Our disavowal of aristocracy and titles set us distinctly apart from Britain in the nineteenth century. And yet we now use that language all the time—espe- cially middle class or working class. Economic law, regulation, and policy increasingly treat income as a permanent class designator, as fine and per- manent as Indian castes, and treat citizens on that basis just as monarchic England treated peasant differently from noble. Opportunity is a key part of the egalitarian credo. But a society divvied up into formal categories of class, race, and income quickly loses that oppor- tunity. As with economic regulation, though, each such division is a client usefully exploited for political advantage. Exceptional America foreswore the opportunistic politics of such divisions.

FIXING IT The final article in exceptionalist faith is optimism: that despite the gather- ing clouds, America will once again face the challenge and reform. There is

a reason that lovers of liberty tend to be Chicago Cubs fans (I am a member

of both tribes). Healing is not something to take for granted, however. There is no automatic, self-correcting force. Every scrape with disaster is a scrape with disaster. It can happen here. Hope is not a strategy. The recipe is straightforward. Rather than demand “less regulation” ever more loudly, we need to bring rule-of-law process and protections to the regu- latory state and revive them in our legal procedures as well. It’s time to pay attention to the structure of government rather than its outcome. Congress should restructure the law surrounding regulation. Stop writing thousand-page bills. Strengthen the Administrative Procedures Act describing how regulations are written and implemented. Require serious, and retrospec- tive, cost/benefit analysis. Put in “shot clocks,” time limits for regulatory deci-

sions. Give people more avenues to challenge regulation in a timely manner.

The good news is that people on both sides of the partisan divide agree that the regulatory state needs to be fixed. The “better way” plan led by Paul Ryan contains just this kind of radical restructuring of the regulatory process. It goes so far as to require that Congress must approve new major regulations—a large change in the balance of power back to Congress and away from administration and agencies. The court system plays a crucial role. Fix the court system so you’re not bankrupt and dead by the time you win. The litmus test for new judges should be their willingness to sustain rule-of-law restrictions on the regulato- ry state, not to re-fight social issues. Let the litmus test be Wickard v. Filburn, which declared a man may not grow wheat in his own yard to make his own bread without a Federal Wheat Marketing Order, and not Roe v. Wade. It’s common to bemoan the state of American politics, but we should be optimistic. The major parties are blowing up. We are in a once-in-a-genera- tion major realignment and redefinition. Only a big realignment can produce the rule-of-law and free-market coalition that I describe here. Power may shift from the once-imperial presidency to an emboldened Congress. Finally, ideas matter. An exceptional—and functional—America must understand how she is supposed to work. We are a democracy, and if vot- ers don’t respond with elemental understanding of their rights, and outrage when those rights are violated, as the founders did, we can’t expect miracle politicians to save us. As I write, I’m sitting in an exceptionally American institution, a reservoir of, as our publications say, “ideas defining freedom.” Sometimes that reser- voir is an ark, keeping ideas alive in a dark age. Sometimes it is a fountain, ready to bring those ideas to the world when it’s ready. But you, me, and the institutions we form—another brilliantly exceptional American habit—are crucial to her renewal.

exceptional American habit—are crucial to her renewal. Special to the Hoover Digest. New from the Hoover

Special to the Hoover Digest.

crucial to her renewal. Special to the Hoover Digest. New from the Hoover Institution Press is
crucial to her renewal. Special to the Hoover Digest. New from the Hoover Institution Press is

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Central Bank Governance and Oversight Reform, edited by John H. Cochrane and John B. Taylor. To order, call (800) 888- 4741 or visit




Two of the gravest threats to this distinctively American value: nanny states and helicopter parents.

American value: nanny states and helicopter parents. By David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd R ugged individualism

By David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd

R ugged individualism and American character are inextricably

intertwined, the one essentially defining the other. Perhaps no

expression better describes the uniqueness of America and its

people than rugged individualism, a key component of America’s

DNA and a vital ingredient in what makes America “exceptional.” Underly-

ing all the freedoms that the pioneers and founders sought to establish in

the new country was individual liberty. It would be the individual, not the

monarchy or the social class, who would be the essential unit of analysis and

action in the New World. Herbert Hoover, who coined the phrase “rugged

individualism” in 1928, contrasted it with the soft despotism, “paternalism,”

and totalitarianism of Europe.

As we travel the road of rugged individualism from the founding to today,

we note persistent efforts to detour from that path, or even to destroy

it. Nonetheless, we look with some optimism toward new frontiers of the

twenty-first century that may nourish this American virtue. The famous

David Davenport is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Gordon Lloyd is a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. They are the co-authors of the new book Rugged Individualism: Dead or Alive? (Hoover Institution Press,


philosopher Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” To predict the fate of rugged individualism in America, it should help to recount briefly what it is and is not. Former president Obama, no great fan of rugged individualism, acknowl- edged that nevertheless it “defines America.” It has been described as the “master assumption” of American political and economic thought. The combination of individual liberty in America’s founding and the frontier spirit provided the rich soil in which it has grown and developed. Equally, it seems important to note that American rugged individualism is not, as Tocqueville acknowledged, the selfish, isolating self-absorption of the French individualisme, since Americans temper their individualism with other qualities such as pragmatism and a disposition toward forming voluntary associations. It is not a purely economic idea, as the Progressives and New Dealers suggested, since it is grounded in a political philosophy of individual rights of many kinds. And as Hoover pointed out, it is not a laissez- faire, devil-take-the-hindmost philosophy for the wealthy since, in America, it is accompanied by equality of opportunity. It is not, as it is sometimes per- ceived to be, some form of selfishness or greed that demands it be regulated, presumably by government. It is also useful to review the environments in which it has fared well and those that have hampered and undermined it. In general, rugged individual- ism is closely tied to frontiers, not just frontiers of the Old West but econom- ic, social, and political frontiers. Where there are new frontiers to conquer, Americans are more likely to launch out in a spirit of rugged individualism. Further, those

political climates that tend to favor individual lib-

erty have been most hospitable to rugged individualism. To put it another way, when the American tension that Tocqueville observed between equality and liberty tends toward liberty, rugged individualism has prospered. When the politi- cal climate has shifted more toward equality, it has not. Indeed, one could well argue that since the rise of Progressivism and the New Deal in the early twentieth century, rugged individualism has been under rather steady attack and has often fought even to maintain a seat at the public policy table. To undertake a balanced assessment of the prospects for American rug- ged individualism, we should consider reasons to be pessimistic as well

as reasons to be optimistic. Such an evaluation might also indicate where

Americans seem content to let the gov- ernment do more and more for them.

supporters of rugged individualism might focus greater encouragement and resources, and where it seems important to stand and fight.

REASONS TO BE PESSIMISTIC The political climate in the United States provides plenty of reasons for pes- simism about the future of rugged individualism. In last year’s presidential campaign, it may have seemed encouraging that rugged individuals such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders—who seem not to care much about their party, the establishment, or the present political system—enjoyed surprising success. But one could equally be discouraged that voters were apparently less interested in being rugged individuals themselves than in supporting rugged, or even somewhat ragged, individuals for the presidency. In other words, Americans seem content to let the government do more and more for them, yet they are intrigued by contrarian individuals such as Sanders and Trump as their leaders. Neither of these men demonstrated much commitment to individual rights or moving America toward greater rugged individualism. Sanders openly described himself as a democratic socialist interested in an expanded welfare state. His campaign planks included greater government regulation and single- payer health insurance, with free college and pre-K education for everyone. He was deeply concerned about income inequality and prepared to enact signifi- cant tax increases in order to fund his expensive programs. His agenda was clearly more soft collectivism and less rugged individualism. Defeated Demo- cratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who in this campaign represented a sort of Progressivism Lite, also was all about the federal government doing and guar- anteeing more, with individualism more of a problem than part of any solution. President Trump’s political philosophy has been more difficult to ascer- tain. Perhaps it is best described as nationalism or nativism: make America great again, build physical walls along the borders and tariff walls around the economy. But it is more difficult to see how his philosophy would play out within the borders of the United States as it pertains to collectivism versus individualism and regulation versus individual freedom. It would seem that Trump’s nationalism and use of executive power generally are unlikely to rally a spirit or a political and legal climate that favors rugged individualism. The Trump nomination meant the traditional conservative wing of the Republican Party wasn’t even represented in presidential politics last year, itself a disappointment to proponents of rugged individualism. It has been difficult in recent years to find consistent support for rugged individual- ism even among conservatives. The largest federal encroachment on K–12

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

education, the No Child Left Behind law, was enacted with bipartisan sup- port and signed by self-proclaimed “compassionate conservative” president George W. Bush. Likewise, Bush supported a major, expensive expansion of prescription benefits for the aged. Although a few conservatives in Congress have fought the good fight, the federal budget, executive power, and federal regulation all seem to grow under both Republicans and Democrats. If you sought a stirring renaissance of rugged individualism, you probably would not look in Washington or among the leading national politicians or political parties. Another reason to be pessimistic about rugged individualism is that its

foundation, individual liberty, has increasingly become an abstraction in our modern society. Young people in particular have grown up in an era of big government and don’t

entirely understand or appreciate the case for less government involvement in indi-

Rugged individualism has been called the “master assumption” of American political and economic thought.

viduals’ lives. People have trouble understanding conservatives’ preference to have churches and nonprofits, rather than government, take the lead in meeting people’s needs. Occasional “liberty moments,” when people scratch their heads and won- der why government is invading their personal lives, do arise. The attempt to ban large sodas in New York was one. Many young people who expected to keep their own private health insurance policies faced an unpleasant sur- prise when those policies were declared illegal because they did not satisfy ObamaCare requirements. Still, such moments are rare and do not seem to meld into much of a liberty movement, especially among the young. Helicopter parents, who closely track their children’s lives at all ages and who intervene with their teachers, bosses, and other authorities, create a climate where rugged individualism becomes a difficult path. A college experience that now polices “trigger words” and “microaggressions,” while adopting policies to shelter students from any discomfort, leads more toward coddling than rugged individualism. The rising number of college graduates who live with their parents, are older when they find full time employment, and who marry later all contribute to a generation that will be delayed or prevented from reaching the sort of individualism experienced by their post– World War II parents and grandparents. Finally, narratives are gaining a hold on the young that will lead America

further away from rugged individualism. Robert Putnam argues in his recent

book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, that income inequality is the big problem in our democracy today, one that precludes “our kids” from realizing the American dream of upward mobility. One might praise efforts to address income inequality as enlightened commitments to help those lower on the economic ladder; yet each step in that direction mandated by government does necessarily reduce individualism. It places government squarely in the business of income redistribution, something previously the province of individuals. In fact, some polling has suggested that American young people are now more open to socialism than before. A YouGov survey in January 2016 showed that among those under thirty, socialism rated ahead of capitalism, 43 percent to 23 percent. A Reason-Rupe survey in 2014 found 58 percent in favor of socialism for those ages 18−24. All this is tempered, however, by evidence that young people do not even know what socialism means.

REASONS TO BE OPTIMISTIC On the other hand, people have been proclaiming the demise of rugged indi- vidualism for more than one hundred years, yet somehow it lives on. Planted deep in the soil of the American founding and character, it may be diminished

but is not likely to be destroyed. The more interesting question is whether it might enjoy some kind of renaissance in the twenty-first century. If, as we have argued, American individualism is especially nourished in a frontier environment, might today’s young people live on some new frontiers where individualism could be nourished? It seems so. In the information age, young people will live on

new social and business frontiers that could very well produce a revival of individualism. The social media world

in which Americans, especially younger Americans, now live is truly a new frontier. Now, rather than leaving the house to engage the collective culture, we are able to be alone and yet through technology also be connected to others. We may not be bowling alone, as Robert Putnam bemoaned, but people are communicating alone. In fact, a new term describes this frontier: networked individualism. Books such as Networked: The New Social Operating System and websites such as the Pew Internet Project describe in detail how people are able to operate with greater individualism, yet not in isolation. New and larger social net-

works are developed, new work styles are possible, new hobbies and interests

Young people have grown up in an age of big government. They don’t entirely grasp the case for less government involvement in individuals’ lives.

are pursued—all from the stance of an individual and a piece of technology. As Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman wrote in Networked,

The networked operating system gives people new ways to solve

problems and meet social needs. It offers more freedom to indi-


more capacity to act on their own.

because now they have more room to maneuver and

It is too early to evaluate the impact of networked individualism on our society and politics, and whether it represents a new boost of energy for

American rugged individualism. Social media’s effects on social relationships are debated: they may

Starting your own business, or stitch- ing together a series of portfolio or gig jobs, will certainly put more “rugged” back into the lives of young people.

extend the range of social contacts and keep some aging relationships alive, and they may reduce the depth of relationships.

But there is no question that the rise of technology has led to increases in people’s alone time and use of social media, which certainly creates the possibility for a new generation much more inclined toward individualism, or at least networked individual- ism. As the authors of Networked concluded: “The Internet allowed users to be both more networked and more assertive as individuals.” Similarly, on the business front, young people seem to be gravitating away

from careers in large corporations and toward start-ups, portfolio jobs, and

the “gig economy.” Some of this has been driven by the economic downturn starting in 2008, but it is a matter of preference as well. A survey of the college graduating class of 2015 by the consulting firm Accenture revealed that only 15 percent preferred to work for a large corporation. Professor Tomas Chamorro- Premuzic of University College London confirms this, telling Fast Company, “In the fifteen years I’ve been teaching MBA students, their career plans have changed dramatically. Until the early 2000s they aspired to work in traditional


has emerged—working for themselves or launching their own business.” As millennials make up a growing percentage of the workforce, this will be a powerful trend in the coming decades. Valuing personal freedom over mon- ey and prestige, young people’s business lives may increasingly represent a kind of rugged individualism along with their social lives. Starting your own business, or stitching together a series of portfolio or gig jobs, will certainly put more “rugged” back into the business lives of young people.

In the past few years, however, a new favorite career choice

Individualism in business leads to greater creativity and innovation, to be sure. A 2005 study by two Cornell University professors, Jack Goncalo and Barry Staw, considered collectivism and individualism in group settings. They found, for example, that individualistic groups were more creative and generated more innovative ideas. It makes sense, then, to think of companies like Uber or Lyft, which have transformed entire fields of business and cus- tomer service, as the new John Waynes of the rugged-individualism economy. It is unclear how these changes in business and social life might translate into the larger society, or how they might affect the philosophy of rugged indi- vidualism. On one hand, young people spending more time in their business and social lives in an individual role would point toward more individualism, broadly speaking. On the other hand, it is not clear that younger voters see the connection between their own increasingly individual lifestyles and support- ing rugged individualism, as opposed to collectivism, in the political realm. In general, the younger generation has been less interested in politics and more engaged in volunteer or community activities. But when they do vote, or jump onto the political bandwagon, they readily support more collectivist and liberal causes, such as Bernie Sanders’s free tuition or nationalized health care. So far the connection between individualism in one’s personal life and a political philosophy is not apparent. Still, it seems worthwhile for proponents of rugged individualism to educate young people along these lines. There is also hope for rugged individualism in the lives and businesses of immigrants who still flock to the United States. Immigrants continue to come to America, seeking a better life and more opportunity for themselves and their children. When you take a taxi ride in a major US city, your driver is frequently an immigrant who, if given the chance, will tell you how he is working hard so that his children

will enjoy the American dream. It is immigrants

who study up on American history and civics to pass the citizenship test, a commitment that few born here undertake with comparable results. As Milton Friedman pointed out, however, even the rugged individualism of immigrants is threat- ened by the growing American welfare state and the emphasis on ethnic identity. Friedman noted that his wife, Rose, was herself an immigrant, and he was a child of immigrants, but warned that the pro-American spirit of

their generation would be threatened in the future “as the melting pot has

Young people seem to be favoring social- ism. At the same time, they don’t seem to know what socialism means.

increasingly been replaced by multiculturalism, and rugged individualism by

a welfare state.” Another reason to be optimistic about the future of rugged individualism

is how people drag their feet against many of the government’s efforts at collectivist planning.

We may choose a government or church or a kind of society, but those choices are made by Americans as individuals.

In Los Angeles, for example, drivers have resisted the additions of carpool

lanes and mass transit because of an individual preference to hop in the car and drive. As former Los Angeles County Transportation Commission member Wendell Cox points out, while government planners have pressed hard for rapid transit, the user numbers have declined, costs have gone up, and traffic has increased, leading to the conclusion that “drivers have not shifted to transit despite billions in federal transit funding.” Other examples of public resistance to collectivist ideas at the federal level include opposition to the Affordable Care Act and Common Core. Indeed, Common Core and various social policies applied to schools have caused an increase in homeschooling, which is yet another grass-roots form of individu- alism resisting collectivism. Remarkably, homeschooling has grown over 60 percent during the past decade. It is wise for rugged individuals to appreciate what has been settled by the deliberate sense of the community over time and what is still open for debate, discussion, and resistance. Some things are settled: Social Security will not be taken away, unless it runs out of money, for example. Gun control, the role of God in the public square, and many other issues are not settled and are worthy of debate and resistance. Finally, we should note continuing interest by many Americans in our nation’s founding. People still flock to Mount Vernon, Monticello, the National Archives, and Philadelphia to learn about the founders and the founding. And, quite amaz- ingly, the hottest and most awarded musical on Broadway, Hamilton, explicitly celebrates the story of one of America’s founders, Alexander Hamilton. Its suc- cess suggests untapped interest in the complexities of the founding, an interest that could be encouraged by more creative civic education.


A New Testament scripture, Revelation 3:2, written to a lukewarm church in

Sardis, seems apt: “Wake up, strengthen what remains and is about to die.”

Certainly America needs to wake up to the value and importance of rugged individualism properly understood. The sheer passage of time from the found- ing and the pioneering frontier days allows Americans to fall asleep and forget some of their core values. Some think of rugged individualism as an anachro- nism and have a hard time carrying it forward to an age when, arguably, the country has evolved to become less independent and more interdependent. We also must acknowledge that rugged individualism has real enemies who have sought to undo it and replace it. The progressives, in particular, have fought rugged individualism on at least two grounds. Either they have sought to attach it to the Old West and open frontiers, rendering it irrelevant when the country was settled and people began to live together in cities, or they have shrunk it down to a set of selfish economic motives of the robber barons of yesterday, or the top 1 percent today, and have sought to attack it as unworthy of America. Americans must awake to rugged individualism as more than a John Wayne or a robber baron. It is foremost a starting point of analysis for our unique society. America did not begin with the church or the state or the king as the center of things, but with the individual. The individual is the unit of analysis in America and everything else proceeds, as a series of choices, from that starting point. We may choose a government or church or a par- ticular kind of society, but those choices are made by Americans as individu- als. We must not fall asleep on that core dimension of rugged individualism. We must also be reawakened to the centrality of individual liberty, or indi- vidual rights, at the core of rugged individualism. The Declaration of Indepen- dence declares those individual rights and the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, protects them. Such rights are not anachronisms but are active and vital. As Herbert Hoover warned when he returned to the United States from war-torn Europe, we must never give up our unique freedoms to the various forms of totalitarianism. We must be ever alert to the danger that government stands ready to limit our individual freedoms in favor of some other good—be it government takeovers of education or health care, or diminution of our freedoms of religion or speech, or allowing individual liberty to become a mere abstraction. We must be reawakened to these cornerstones of rugged individualism in each generation. As Jefferson said, the world belongs to the living, and each generation must work out its own understanding of things. We should neither have a blind veneration for the past (Federalist No. 14) nor deprive the past of its due veneration, without which government could not maintain its stability (Federalist No. 49). Then, in the words of the scripture, we must strengthen and protect what remains. The Founders thought that the checks and balances and

separations of power in the Constitution were important to protect indi- vidual rights, especially against the passions of the moment and the power of government. So rugged individualism, even today, relies on that very constitutional system for protection. Calls to break down the federalism structure—whether by strengthening executive power, turning to some kind of parliamentary system, or allowing the courts to take over our social and economic decisions—are a kind of declaration of war against individual rights. They are packaged more seductively, of course. But now, as then, we need our federalist structure to protect American individualism. On every issue we should continue to ask: is this something government should do? If so, which branch, and at which level: federal, state, or local? Moreover, when we ask the first question, we should restore individual action as the default answer. Instead, government often assumes that it must do something, even if the action is not likely to solve, and sometimes won’t even address, the problem at hand. We must deny this notion that govern - ment is responsible for everything and must, in every case, do something. Putting the public back into public policy would mean exploring what individuals, nonprofits, communities, businesses, and other nongovernmental entities might do, as well as government action. Schools of public policy have institutionalized the mistaken approach of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roo- sevelt, and other progressives: if only we had the right national experts or enlightened administrators able to run the federal system, government could always do things better than individuals left to their own devices. Improving civic education in America would also strengthen the spirit of rugged individualism. Polls consistently show that young people cannot name one of their home state US senators, nor do they understand basic elements of the Constitution. Without an understanding of the American system—or worse, with a kind of distaste for American history from misguided high school textbooks—young Americans will be hard pressed to champion constitutional governance or protect individual rights. Civic engagement has become a battle cry in education, which is fine—but it needs to be preceded by civic education. Ronald Reagan, in his farewell address, called attention to the need for an “informed patriotism” in which we teach our children “what America is and what she represents in the long history of the world.” Making certain that people are able to provide informed consent as citizens: this is very much a part of strengthening rugged individualism. Finally, we need to be open to new formulations and partnerships for rug- ged individualism. As Tocqueville pointed out, American individualism was never a purely selfish, inwardly focused phenomenon. Americans combined

their individualism with a volunteer spirit, a tendency toward forming associations, and other practical qualities. Hoover said that in America it was always combined with equality of opportunity. Even former president Obama, a critic of rugged individualism, acknowledges its place in the Ameri- can character, joined with “a sense that we are in this together.” Americans begin with individualism and then consent to various associations, beginning with the family and reaching out into the larger world. For young people especially, rugged individualism combined with a strong sense of community may seem attractive. Their experience of “networked individualism” through technology is one example of this. Their commitment to community service and civic engagement reinforces this modern combina- tion. This notion of rugged individualism combined with community could increasingly become what American individualism looks like. And what of the word rugged? Should it continue to be part of the formula? Dictionaries use words like toughness, determination, durability, and strength to define rugged. Are Americans still rugged today? Do we need to be? It could be that rugged needs a bit of updating. Might resourceful carry a similar sense with a more modern outlook? Young people indeed will need to be resourceful to build the kind of future they want. In a rapidly changing world, with difficult economic and national security challenges, resourceful- ness, even ruggedness, will be essential to survive and prosper. The new frontiers of the twenty-first century call us to rekindle the rugged individual- ism of America’s founding, frontiers, and Constitution.

ism of America’s founding, frontiers, and Constitution. Special to the Hoover Digest. Adapted from Rugged

Special to the Hoover Digest. Adapted from Rugged Individualism: Dead or Alive? by David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd (Hoover Institution Press, 2017). © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is Rugged
the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is Rugged

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Rugged Individualism: Dead or Alive? by David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



The Soft Bigotry of Political Correctness

President Trump has never bowed to the culture of victimization. His lack of deference could be liberating.

victimization. His lack of deference could be liberating. By Shelby Steele T he recent presidential campaign

By Shelby Steele

T he recent presidential campaign revealed something tragic

in the way modern conservatism sits in American life. As an

ideology—and certainly as a political identity—conservatism is

less popular than the principles and values it stands for. There

is a presumption in the culture that heartlessness and bigotry are somehow

endemic to conservatism, that the rigors of freedom and capitalism literally

require exploitation and inequality—this even though so many liberal policies

since the 1960s have only worsened the inequalities they sought to overcome.

In the broader American culture—the mainstream media, the world

of the arts and entertainment, the high-tech world, and the entire enter-

prise of public and private education—conservatism suffers a decided ill

repute. Why?

Shelby Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order. He is the author of Shame: How Ameri- ca’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country (Basic Books, 2015).

The answer begins in a certain fact of American life. As the late writer Wil- liam Styron once put it, slavery was “the great transforming circumstance of American history.” Slavery, and also the diminishment of women and all minorities, was especially tragic because America was otherwise the most enlightened nation in the world. Here, in this instance of profound hypocrisy, began the idea of America as a victimizing nation. And then came the inevi- table corollary: the nation’s moral indebtedness to its former victims, blacks especially but all other put-upon peoples as well. This indebtedness became a cultural imperative, what Styron might call a “transforming circumstance.” Today America must honor this indebtedness or lose much of its moral authority and legitimacy as a democracy. America must show itself redeemed of its oppressive past. How to do this? In a word: deference. Since the 1960s, when America finally became fully accountable for its past, deference toward all groups with any claim to past or present victimization became mandatory. The Great Society and the War on Poverty were some of the first truly deferential poli- cies. Since then deference has become an almost universal marker of simple human decency that asserts one’s innocence of the American past. Deference is, above all else, an apology. One thing this means is that deference toward victimization has evolved into a means to power. As deference acknowledges America’s indebtedness, it seems to redeem the nation and validate its exceptional status in the world. This brings real power—the kind of power that puts people into office and that gives a special shine to commercial ventures it attaches to.

THE POWER OF THE STIGMA Since the 1960s the Democratic Party, and liberalism generally, have thrived on the power of deference. When Hillary Clinton spoke of a “basket of deplo- rables,” she followed with a basket of -isms and phobias—racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. Each -ism and phobia was an opportunity for her to show deference toward a victimized group and to cast herself as America’s redeemer. By implication, conservatism is bereft of def- erence. Donald Trump’s supporters were cast as small, grudging people, as haters who blindly love America and long for its exclusionary past. Against this Clinton was the very archetype of American redemption. The term “pro- gressive” is code for redemption from a hate-driven America. So deference is a power to reckon with. And it works by stigmatization, by threatening to label people as regressive bigots. Hillary Clinton, Democrats, and liberals generally practice combat by stigma. And they have been fairly

successful in this so that many conservatives are at least a little embarrassed to “come out,” as it were. Conservatism is an insurgent point of view, while liberalism is mainstream. And this is oppressive for conservatives because it puts them in the

Since the 1960s, deference toward any group with a claim to past or present victimization became mandatory. That deference became a path to power.

position of being a bit embarrassed by who they really are and what they really believe.

Deference has been codified in American life as political correctness. And political correct- ness functions like a despotic regime. It is an oppressiveness that spreads its edicts further and further into the crevices of everyday life. We resent it, yet for the most part we at least tolerate its demands. But it means that we live in a society that is ever willing to cast judgment on us, to shame us in the name of a politics we don’t really believe in. It means our decency requires a degree of self-betrayal. And into all this stepped now-president Trump, a fundamentally limited man but a man with overwhelming charisma, a man impossible to ignore. The moment he entered the presidential contest, America’s long-simmering culture war rose to full boil. Trump was a nondeferential candidate. He seemed at odds with every code of decency. He invoked every possible stigma, and screechingly argued against them all. He did much of the dirty work that millions of Americans wanted to do but lacked the platform to do. Thus Trump’s extraordinary charisma was built far more upon what he

represented than what he might actually do as president. He stands to alter the culture of deference itself.


After all, the problem with deference is that it is never more than superficial. We are polite. We don’t offend. But we don’t ever transform people, either. Out of deference, we refuse to ask those we

seek to help to be primar- ily responsible for their

own advancement. Yet only this level of responsibility transforms people, no matter past or even present injustice. Some three thousand shootings in Chicago last year alone

“Progressive” is code for redemption from a hate-driven America.

is the result of deference camouflaging a lapse of personal responsibility with empty claims of systemic racism. As a society, we are so captive to our historical shame that we thoughtless- ly rush to deference simply to relieve the pressure. And yet every deferential gesture—the War on Poverty, affirmative action, ObamaCare, every kind of “diversity” scheme—only weakens those who still suffer the legacy of our shameful history. Deference is now the great enemy of those toward whom it gushes compassion. Societies, like individuals, have intuitions. Trump is an intuition. At least on the level of symbol, maybe he will push back against the hegemony of deference—if not as a

liberator then possibly as a reformer. Possibly he could lift the word responsibility out of its somnambulant stigma-

tization as a judgmental and bigoted request to make of people. This, added to a fundamental respect for the capacity of people to lift themselves up, could go a long way toward a fairer and better America.

As a candidate, Donald Trump did much of the dirty work that millions of Americans wanted to do but lacked the platform to do.

of Americans wanted to do but lacked the platform to do. Reprinted by permission of the

Reprinted by permission of the Wall Street Journal. © 2017 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved.

Journal . © 2017 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved. Available from the Hoover Institution
Journal . © 2017 Dow Jones & Co. All rights reserved. Available from the Hoover Institution

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Ronald Reagan: Decisions of Greatness, by Martin and Annelise Anderson. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



Winning Women

Woodrow Wilson at first found himself scandalized by protesting women, but soon he championed their cause. How President Trump and feminists might likewise make common cause.

Trump and feminists might likewise make common cause. By Elizabeth Cobbs W hen Woodrow Wilson pulled

By Elizabeth Cobbs

W hen Woodrow Wilson pulled into Washington’s Union Sta-

tion the day before his inauguration 104 years ago, the mas-

sive hall echoed emptily, as did streets outside the ornate

railway stop.

“Where are all the people?” the dismayed president-elect asked.

“Watching the suffrage parade,” the police replied.

Half a mile away, thousands of spectators mobbed sidewalks to witness the

first peaceful civil rights demonstration in American history. Approximately

eight thousand women, dressed mostly in white, paraded from the Capitol to

the Treasury Department to put Wilson on notice that they expected him to


A progressive supporter of labor and banking reform, Wilson nonetheless

opposed women’s suffrage. Women who spoke in public gave him a “chilled,

scandalized feeling,” Wilson informed his fiancee. In the 1912 presidential

campaign, the Democrat told his staff that he was “definitely and irreconcil-

ably opposed to woman suffrage,” that a “woman’s place was in the home,

and the type of woman who took an active part in the suffrage agitation was totally abhorrent” to him. Feminists despised him in return. They supported Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party, the first to formally endorse women’s right to vote. When World War I erupted, suffragists picketed the White House with placards compar- ing Wilson to the hated German kaiser. The president initially tipped his hat to the protesters he found ridiculous, but eventually had them arrested and jailed. Wilson’s re-education began with the women’s suffrage march that pre- ceded his inauguration. The 1913 parade featured nine bands, four mounted brigades, twenty floats, phalanxes of marchers carrying roses, a dozen for- eign delegations, and a climactic street performance. For the next five years, suffrage leaders tirelessly petitioned the presi- dent, hewing strictly to a single bold demand to keep their otherwise diverse coalition intact: the vote. As president, Wilson found himself forced to meet routinely with both men and women whose views on gender equality opposed his. Feminist activism gradually changed Wilson’s thinking. In 1915, he cast his vote in New Jersey to give women the vote there, though he continued to resist a federal amendment—partly for fear of alienating Southern Demo- crats who did not wish to augment the pool of black voters. World War I provided the final push. Suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt organized women to support the American war effort, for which Wilson was profoundly grateful. The Navy and Marines broke with tradition and enlisted more than thirteen thousand women, whose domestic military service freed men to go abroad. Thousands more volunteered with the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and YWCA. In addition to nurses, the Army recruited 223 women who sailed to France with the US Signal Corps and braved bombardment to handle telecommunications. Wilson did an about-face. In October 1918, he asked the US Senate to honor those who had served “upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself” by ratifying the Nineteenth Amendment. The most overtly anti-feminist presi- dent became the foremost proponent of universal suffrage. Much as it was a century ago, the United States is at a flex point in rela- tions between the sexes. The first woman nominated by a major party for the nation’s highest office was defeated by a man notorious for disparaging and even assaulting women. During his campaign, Trump called female reporters pigs and dogs, downplayed sexual harassment in the workplace, suggested women be jailed for abortions, and mocked the only woman to run in the Republican

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

primaries, Carly Fiorina. “Look at that face!” the former beauty pageant owner exclaimed. “Would anyone vote for that?” Trump’s attitude is crasser than Wilson’s, but so is our era. Likewise, the Women’s March on Washington that followed Trump’s inauguration was a less decorous affair than the 1913 parade. Can Trump redeem himself? That depends on his pressuring members of his own party to support measures aimed at gender equality, as Wilson did. Can feminists help the new president? That depends on their willingness to minimize other differences and articulate a specific demand, as their prede- cessors did—something foundational for all women, as women, that estab- lishes a moral and legal principle against which other laws may be measured. As it happens, there’s unifying legislation available for the taking: the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in 1923, to guarantee that “equali- ty of rights under the law shall not be abridged on the basis of sex.” Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but it was never ratified by the states. Perhaps this is the time to revisit it. Earlier feminists fought seventy-one years to obtain the vote. The wait proved worthwhile. Trump says his administration will be “great” for women. Let him find a suitably audacious way to show it.

for women. Let him find a suitably audacious way to show it. Reprinted by permission of

Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times. © 2017 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved.

Times . © 2017 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press
Times . © 2017 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press

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Ten Ways to Rescue Mideast Policy

In the Middle East the previous administration established neither democracy nor security—and now Russia is on the scene.

democracy nor security —and now Russia is on the scene. By Russell A. Berman and Charles

By Russell A. Berman and Charles Hill

T he Trump administration inherits a Middle East foreign policy in

tatters. The aspirations of then-president Barack Obama’s Cairo

speech of 2009 were never met. Instead, failed states prolifer-

ate, nonstate actors amplify disorder, and the stable rulers who

remain rely on shaky legitimacy. The paradigm of a system of nation-states

may be disappearing before our eyes.

The contradictions of American foreign policy are most salient about Syria

and Iran. While Washington has given reconciliation with Iran a high prior-

ity, Tehran continues on a path of unmodified belligerence toward the United

States. Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad, Iran’s puppet in Syria, remains comfort-

ably in power, despite Obama’s insistence that he depart.

Russell A. Berman is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a member of Hoover’s Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, and the Walter A. Haas Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University. Charles Hill is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and co-chair of the Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

The United States has succeeded neither in realizing its values of democra-

tization and human rights in the region nor in pursuing its security interests:

on the contrary, the relations with our traditional allies—Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—have all suffered. ISIS remains a threat throughout the region and beyond, while a revisionist Russia has taken advantage of the contraction of American power by laying claim to an ever larger role. In the wake of American inaction, a human catastrophe has unfolded. Recently the Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order of the Hoover Institution convened a group of distinguished experts to discuss the challenges to American foreign policy in the Middle East. The following proposals synthesize key aspects of that discussion.

» As a region, the broad Middle East remains vital to US national inter-

est. Because of its importance, the United States cannot disengage from it. It is not an irrelevant space that can be abandoned to our adversaries or to the chaos of state failure. The region is on the edge of nuclear weapons prolif- eration. It is a major incubator of international terrorism and a source of

instability for our European allies, particularly through mass emigration. In

addition, the Middle East includes trade routes crucial to international trade, and it is the site of key oil and gas resources that will remain central to the global economy for decades at least, no matter how energy and environmen- tal policies develop. The United States must reaffirm its commitment to the region and our role in it.

» The United States needs to develop and articulate a strategic vision

that defines its desired political outcomes in the region. During the Obama administration, the United States knowingly carried out a strategy of reduc- ing its role and influence in the Middle East. Our reliability and credibility

have declined, as we have stayed engaged but never sufficiently or steadily to the point of being successful on any significant issue, let alone in reaching ultimate strategic goals. Because of the lack of a clear strategy—other than that of withdrawal—political decisions in recent years have been inconsis- tent, and a focus on tactical and operational issues has obscured the determi- nation of long-term goals and their achievement. Yet contrary to some recent claims, the American public favors a strong US role in the world. To succeed, American policy must articulate our political ends and distinguish between them and the means deployed to attain them.

» US strategy must be defined above all in terms of US national inter-

ests. Recognition of global challenges and the parameters of international organizations can play into the understanding and pursuit of those interests, but a clear prioritization of national interest over other concerns is indis- pensable. A subordination of national interest to alternative concerns, global- ist or otherwise, is politically unsustainable and, by definition, inconsistent

with vital US goals. The definition of national interest must take into account our security, our economy, and our values.

» Iran and Russia, powers adversarial to the United States, perceive an

interest in cooperating strategically with each other militarily, politi- cally, and economically. China has begun to probe the region for opportuni- ties serving its interests. The IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) has de facto become an Iranian expeditionary force for invading strategic Arab spaces, countering many decades of US support for Arab states. The central regional conflict is Shia Iran versus Sunni Saudi Arabia, with Iran far ahead in both strategic and tactical categories. Iran and Russia are pursuing strate- gies to diminish and eliminate US influence in the Middle East. Because of vital interests in the region, US strategy must be designed to roll back Iranian and Russian ambitions in the region. This implies the imperative of

opposing Iranian client ambitions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

» Iran is a de facto caliphate without declaring itself to be such. It is

» Iran is a de facto caliphate without declaring itself to be such. It is

both a recognized legitimate state in the established international state system and a dedicated religious-ideological enemy of the established world order; it continues to play successfully on one side or the other as best suits its interests on any given issue. The US government does not appear to be aware of this double game, or simply accepts it. Iran is not a polity of moderates and hard-liners; it is a revolutionary theocracy that controls and makes use of governmental and diplomatic functions to appear to a deceived outside world as a legitimate regime. The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is the linchpin of US policy. It emerged as a one-sided “deal” under which the United States has provided legitimacy and substantial support for the regime, while leaving the regime free to take steps that exacerbate the Arab world’s instability and to employ a variety of anti-US

acts and statements which are seen around the region as humiliations to the Americans. The result of the JCPOA as it proceeds is to foster Iran’s rise to regional hegemon. While the JCPOA has suspended a part of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for a few years, it is seen from within the Iranian hierar- chy as providing it with needed time to advance its centrifuge capability and to provide the United States with a face-saving timeframe during which to extricate itself from the region. Yet US interests require ongoing presence in the region. A purported aim of the JCPOA—to find and bolster so-called moderates in Tehran—is an illusion. Relations with Iran should henceforth be based on a clear recognition of the consistently hostile character of the regime. The unraveling of the JCPOA, already under way in the last months of the Obama administra- tion, requires, secondarily, that US diplomacy make clear to the Europeans,

tion, requires, secondarily, that US diplomacy make clear to the Europeans, 66 HOOVEr D ig EST
partners in the JCPOA, that international security interests outweigh the prospects of commercial opportunities in

partners in the JCPOA, that international security interests outweigh the prospects of commercial opportunities in the Iranian market.

» Russia has used military power to replace the United States as the

most employable potent and credible outside force in the region. Current US trends toward cooperating with Russia and Assad’s military operations (nominally) against the Islamic State, while declaring American opposition to Vladimir Putin’s international actions and ambitions—and simultaneously enabling Iran’s rise to hegemony—amount to a web of contradictions. If the United States attempts to recover some of the influence it has lost over the past several years, it is likely to find itself nearly checkmated from several directions. Russia can become a significant structural obstacle to the pursuit of US interests and could develop substantial relations with traditional US allies Egypt and Turkey, reducing or possibly displacing US influence.

US strategy should limit Russian power by preventing the stabilization of

the Assad regime as a Russian client state. The Syrian state should, however, be enabled to survive within its formal borders. This requires negotiated understandings on the need for autonomous regions, so that the several distinctive communities within Syria may be able to coexist in semi-indepen- dence. It is necessary to avoid the perpetual chaos and warfare that would follow any evaporation of Syrian statehood. Ultimately, Assad will have to hand over power to a newly designed constitutional polity. Rather than stand by the side, the United States must play a defining role in this process.

» Islam is not the enemy. The enemy is jihadi Islamism. The United States

has to clarify this distinction in order not to be misperceived as an enemy of Islam. Clarity on this point is a precondition for a reaffirmation of traditional US support for Arab regimes. Furthermore, the JCPOA, understood in the region as proof of an American tilt toward Shia Iran, has left the impression that the United States is hostile to Sunni Islam. A correction is required, in particular by repairing and strengthening relations with the Sunni powers Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Similarly, relations with Israel need to be reaffirmed and strengthened. Israel is the only strong partner for the United States in the region, a fact that should be recognized and appreciated by Washington. A crucial result of the regional upheavals of the past few years has been the development of productive working relationships between parts of the Sunni Arab world and Israel. The United States should encourage this emerging cooperation and not, by its own actions regarding the issues of Jerusalem or settlements, in effect force the Arab states to turn against Israel and return to rigid rejectionist positions.

» ISIS is a threat to regional stability. Its continued existence, whether

in its territorial “caliphate” in Syria or in its worldwide terrorist activities,

has been used by Iran to draw Shia Islam under its sway. Yet the perception of a primary American focus on combatting ISIS has obscured the greater threat of Iran. US strategy, especially in Syria and Iraq, needs to rebalance these concerns. The US campaign against ISIS should not be pursued in

ways that effectively strengthen the Assad regime to the benefit of its Iranian and Russian supporters. The perception of an American pro-Shia bias has fueled Sunni radicalization. A visible American response to Iranian aggres- sion, most likely in the gulf, is needed to reduce the attraction of ISIS by undermining its claim that the United States favors Iran.

» US strength depends on military force, but also on the credibility

of our values through promotion of democratic institutions. The United States should encourage democratic reforms and support elements of civil

society that pursue them. At the same time the United States should recog-

nize that it must not impose its values in ways that undermine the stability of friendly regimes. Support for the development of democratic institutions needs to be balanced by the pragmatic concerns for alliances in a diverse world.

» Terrorism is a scourge of contemporary society, in the Middle East, in

the West, and in the rest of the world. Of particular concern is the poten- tial for large-scale attacks, another 9/11 or worse, that would lead to public calls for dramatic political consequences, such as severe restrictions on civil liberties. To forestall such events, expansive counterterrorism intelligence is necessary. In fact, US counterterrorism efforts have been impressively successful. They have been justified as necessary for the defense of the American homeland. But their success has also been misused as grounds for the United States to reduce its traditional leadership role in the maintenance of international peace and security, along with the counterinsurgency and “nation building” efforts that the latter requires. Thus, one essential part of US grand strategy, counterterrorism, has been used to justify abandoning another essential part of grand strategy, which is the indispensability of an American commitment to world order. In the context of a renewed emphasis on the responsibilities of allied powers, a clear reaffirmation of the primacy of the United States in preserving international order is needed.

United States in preserving international order is needed. Reprinted from Defining Ideas

Reprinted from Defining Ideas ( ideas), a Hoover Institution online journal. © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel
the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel Facing a New Middle East: In Search of a National Security Strategy, by Itamar Rabinovich and Itai Brun. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit


Before Push Comes to Shove

What the president needs to learn—fast.

Comes to Shove What the president needs to learn —fast. By Peter Berkowitz A s in

By Peter Berkowitz

A s in nearly every domain and for most every issue, President

about Middle East politics.

“Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major

Trump has offered blunt assessments and unequivocal opinions

foreign policy goal of the United States,” he declared. Military force may be

necessary, “but it’s also a philosophical struggle, like our long struggle in the

Cold War.”

Trump has vowed to scrap the Iran deal, which he described as “horrible

and laughable,” and re-impose economic sanctions. Otherwise, he said, the

Obama administration’s prized foreign policy achievement will continue to

enable Iran to pursue hegemonic ambitions in the region, fuel “nuclear pro-

liferation throughout the region,” and allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons

and deliver them on ballistic missiles within the decade.

He promised to team up with Russia to employ decisive military action

to defeat and destroy ISIS, which he condemns for undermining Iraq and

stealing its oil, ruining Syria, and “carrying out a genocide against Chris-

tians in the Middle East.” He would compel Saudi Arabia (and other wealthy

countries), whose security the United States guarantees, to contribute more to its own defense. He regards Israel as a “strategic ally” and a “cultural brother” bound to the United States by “unbreakable friendship.” Since “the United Nations is not a friend of democracy,” he rejects a UN-imposed resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. But because of his success in making business deals, he believes that he is just the man to broker what he charac- terized as “the ultimate deal.” Trump’s cocksure pronouncements show an instinctive appreciation for the importance in foreign affairs of standing by your friends and keeping your adversaries in check. That itself involves a welcome sea change from former president Obama’s approach to the Middle East, which indulged America’s adversaries and constrained America’s friends.


In Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East, Michael Doran provides a potent reminder that the United States has a long history of con- fusion about friends and adversaries in the region and about the policies that will best serve America’s national interests. A Hudson Institute senior fellow and former Middle East

adviser in the George W. Bush White House, Doran sure-handedly reveals the errors of

the “honest broker paradigm” that in the 1950s initially guided Dwight Eisenhower’s two-term presidency. With a sharp eye for the complex realities of Middle East politics, Doran endorses Ike’s eventual shift to the view that the United States must “manage inter-Arab conflict.” The honest-broker paradigm grew out of the dominant view at the State Department, initially shared by Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Fos- ter Dulles, that Arab resentment over Western imperialism and bitterness over American solicitousness toward Israel necessitated a distancing from the Jewish state and a balancing tilt toward Arab states. Eisenhower and Dulles also believed that Egyptian strongman Gamal Abdel Nasser—who led the 1952 overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy—“was honest, forthright, and deeply desirous of an alliance with the West.” Accordingly, Eisenhower bet on Egypt, “the largest and most influential

Arab country,” at the expense of British and French regional interests, of

The problem wasn’t what the West did to the Arabs, but what Arabs were unable to do for themselves.

Israeli security, and, at least in the short term, of other Arab states’ political ambitions. Ike wagered that the charismatic young military officer would lead not only Egypt but Arabs throughout the Middle East into an alliance with the United States in the Cold War. So Eisenhower acquiesced to Nasser’s ouster of Britain’s troops from the Suez Canal Zone and offered to finance the construction of Nasser’s Aswan High Dam project (Dulles eventually revoked the offer). After Egypt’s July 1956 nationalization of the canal, followed by the seizure three months later of the Sinai Peninsula by Israel in coordination with France and Britain, Eisenhower sided with the Soviet Union; “in a manner that was relentless, ruthless, and uncompromising,” he compelled the three democracies to withdraw. By 1959, however, Nasser was championing a belligerent pan-Arabism and had ushered Egypt as well as Syria and Iraq into the Soviet bloc.

QUESTION THE ASSUMPTIONS The consensus among historians is that American Middle East policy went astray in the 1950s because of a failure to truly appreciate, as most officials at the time believed, “that Nasser was the foremost representative of deep and inexorable historical forces” in the Arab world. Many experts today persist in thinking that America continues to botch Middle

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

East policy because it refuses to take seriously the depth of Arab and Muslim anger over Western imperialism and support for Israel.

Based on meticulous sifting of speeches, notes of official meetings, letters, diaries, and more, Doran refutes this conventional view and writes a history more in line with the facts. The problem was not what the West did to the Arabs but what Arabs

were unable to do for themselves. Eisenhower, Doran shows, was among the first to recognize that

his Middle East policy collapsed because his administration had not understood the bitter and deep divisions and strong antidemocratic tendencies that destabilized the Arab world and had not recognized Israel’s stabilizing role in the region. Doran draws five large lessons from Eisenhower’s diplomacy. First, instead of coddling enemies and demeaning friends, US leaders and policy makers—in accordance with ancient wisdom and common sense— should support friends and rein in enemies. Second, they should reject the constantly disproved assumption—dis- credited before Eisenhower left office and refuted for all eyes to see by the bloodletting sparked by the uprisings of 2011, formerly known as the Arab Spring—that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Arab world’s central stra- tegic challenge. Third, they should concentrate on inter-Arab politics and the Muslim dimensions of the fighting raging across the Middle East.

Fourth, they should adopt a “tragic perspective”: because of the ethnic, nationalist, and religious convulsions shaking the Arab and Muslim world, “American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate

American policy can exacerbate or ameliorate the major conflicts of the Middle East. It can rarely solve them.

The president’s advisers should reject one constantly disproved assump- tion: that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Arab world’s central strategic challenge.

the major conflicts” in the region “but it can rarely solve them.” Finally, American leaders and policy mak- ers must remain ever

mindful of sociologist Max Weber’s observation that while nations pursue their interests, leaders interpret those interests and devise policies for advancing them based on

often-unarticulated assumptions and overarching ideas about human nature,

morality, and politics. The successful conduct of foreign policy depends on grasping these assumptions and ideas and understanding their impact. A culminating lesson follows from these five, one that President Trump, who has relied so heavily on his instincts, should take to heart. He should appoint advisers and experts steeped in the language, culture, history, and religions of the Middle East to refine his understanding of America’s friends and adversaries there. And he will need advisers and experts of another sort as well: ones who strengthen his awareness of the unexamined and debatable notions that generate his blunt assessments and unequivocal opinions.

generate his blunt assessments and unequivocal opinions. Reprinted by permission of Real Clear Politics. © 2016

Reprinted by permission of Real Clear Politics. © 2016 RealClearPolitics. All rights reserved.

Politics. © 2016 RealClearPolitics. All rights reserved . Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel
Politics. © 2016 RealClearPolitics. All rights reserved . Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Israel and the Struggle over the International Laws of War, by Peter Berkowitz. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



The Russia Question

American relations with Moscow have become a geopolitical mess—a mess, very largely, of our own making.

mess —a mess, very largely, of our own making. By Niall Ferguson F rom the mid-nineteenth

By Niall Ferguson

F rom the mid-nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth, the “Ger-

man question” was the biggest and hardest question of geopolitics.

The German question, to put it simply, was whether or not a unifica-

tion of German speakers under one rule would create a dangerously

powerful state at the center of Europe. The answer was decided in the end, as

Otto von Bismarck had foreseen, by blood and iron. Two vast, catastrophic wars

brought violence and destruction to the whole of Europe and finally left Ger-

many defeated and divided. By the time of its reunification in 1990, demographic

decline and cultural change had defanged Berlin sufficiently that the threat of

a united Germany has receded. Germany still predominates over the European

Union because of its size and economic strength. But it is no menace.

The same cannot be said of Russia, which has become more aggressive

even as its economic significance has diminished. The biggest and hardest

question of twenty-first-century geopolitics may prove to be: what do we do

about Moscow?

Like the German question, the new Russian question is a function of the

country’s Mittellage (“central situation”). Germany’s location was central in European terms. At its height, the German Reich extended from Koblenz to Königsberg, from the banks of the Rhine to the beaches of the Baltic. Russia today is central in global terms. It was the only one of the great European empires that extended into Asia over land rather than sea. The Soviet Union died an astoundingly peaceful death twenty-five years ago. Yet the Russian Federation still extends from Kaliningrad—as Königsberg has been known since its annexation by Russia in 1945—all the way to Vladivostok, 4,500 miles and ten time zones away. In the nineteenth

century, the tension between Russia’s westward-looking metropolises and its vast Asian hinterland furnished novelists

and playwrights with wonderfully rich material. Ivan Turgenev and Fyodor Dostoevsky could debate which direction Russia should take, but no one doubted the existence of the West-East dilemma. Nor was it a purely geographical phenomenon. The institution of serfdom meant that until the 1860s—and in practice long after that—a Russian gentleman only had to take a ride through his estates to leave Europe far behind. But Russia’s West-East dilemma today is fast becoming the central prob- lem of international politics, not literature. On one side lies a China that long ago surpassed Russia in economic as well as demographic terms and increas- ingly aspires to military pre-eminence in Asia. On the other side of Russia lies a Europe that, for all its prosperity, has become politically introverted and excessively reliant on the United States for its defense. In his most recent book, World Order, Henry Kissinger contrasted four evolving and incompatible conceptions of international order: American, European, Chinese, and Islamic. Russia’s place in this scheme of things is ambiguous. “From Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin, circumstances have changed, but the rhythm has remained extraordinarily consistent,” Kiss- inger wrote. Russia is “a uniquely ‘Eurasian’ power, sprawling across two continents but never entirely at home in either.” It has learned its geopolitics “from the hard school of the steppe, where an array of nomadic hordes con-

tended for resources on an open terrain with few fixed borders.”

Henry Kissinger contrasts four evolving and incompatible conceptions of inter- national order: American, European, Chinese, and Islamic. Russia’s place in this framework is ambiguous.

Russia, it might be inferred, is the power least interested in world order. President Vladimir Putin would no doubt deny that. He would argue that the best basis for order would be for the great powers mutually to respect their spheres of influence and domestic political differences. On the other hand, Russia is clearly the power most ready to exploit the new tools of cyberwar- fare that Kissinger warned presciently about in 2014:

The pervasiveness of networked communications in the social,

financial, industrial, and military sectors has

vulnerabilities. Outpacing most rules and regulations (and indeed the technical comprehension of many regulators), it has, in some respects, created the state of nature about which philosophers have speculated and the escape from which, according to [Thomas] Hobbes, provided the motivating force for creating a political [A]symmetry and a kind of congenital world disorder are built into relations between cyber powers both in diplomacy and


conduct, a crisis will arise from the inner dynamics of the system.


Absent articulation of some rules of international

The question we need to ask now is why the Russian government was so eager to use its cyber prowess to influence the recent election in Donald Trump’s favor. The answer is not as obvious as might be thought. It is that Russia urgently—one might even say desperately—needed a friendlier presi- dent than Hillary Clinton would have been. Moscow’s meddling in American politics reflects not its strength, nor its strategic sophistication, but its weak- ness and dependence on Cold War tactics such as psy-ops.

A NEW ERA, BUT WHAT ERA? It did not have to be this way. Twenty-five years ago, the dissolution of the Soviet Union marked not only the end of the Cold War but also the beginning of what should have been a golden era of friendly relations between Russia and the West. With enthusiasm, it seemed, Russians embraced both capital- ism and democracy. To an extent that was startling, Russian cities became Westernized. Empty shelves and po-faced propaganda gave way to abun- dance and dazzling advertisements. Contrary to the fears of some, there was a new world order after 1991. The world became a markedly more peaceful place as the flows of money and arms that had turned so many regional disputes into proxy wars dried up. American economists rushed to advise Russian politicians. American multi- nationals hurried to invest.

[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]
[Taylor Jones—for the Hoover Digest]

Go back a quarter century to 1991 and imagine three more or less equally plausible futures. First, imagine that the coup by hard-liners in August of that year had been more competently executed and that the Soviet Union had been preserved. Second, imagine a much more violent dissolution of the Soviet system in which ethnic and regional tensions escalated much further, producing the kind of “super-Yugoslavia” Kissinger has occasionally warned about. Finally, imagine a happily-ever-after history, in which Russia’s economy thrived on the basis of capitalism and globalization, growing at Asian rates. Russia could have been deep-frozen. It could have disintegrated. It could have boomed. No one in 1991 knew which of these futures we would get. In fact, we got none of them. Russia has retained the democratic institutions that were established after 1991, but the rule of law has not taken root, and, under Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian nationalist form of government has established itself that is notably ruthless in its suppression of opposition and criticism. Despite centrifugal forces, most obviously in the Caucasus, the Russian Federation has held together. However, the economy has performed much less well than might have been hoped. Between 1992 and 2016, the real compound annual growth rate of Russian per capita GDP has been 1.5 per- cent. Compare that with equivalent figures for India (5.1 percent) and China (8.9 percent). Today, the Russian economy accounts for just over 3 percent of global output, according to the International Monetary Fund’s estimates based on purchasing power parity. The US share is 16 percent. The Chinese share is 18 percent. Calculated on a current dollar basis, Russia’s GDP is less than 7 percent of America’s. The British economy is twice the size of Russia’s. Moreover, the reliance of the Russian economy on exported fossil fuels—as well as other primary products—is shocking. Nearly two-thirds of Russian exports are petroleum (63 percent), according to the Observatory of Eco- nomic Complexity. Russia’s relative economic weakness has been compound- ed by the steep decline in oil, gas, and other commodity prices since 2014 and by US and EU sanctions imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea that same year.

THE BLAME Who is to blame for the recent steep deterioration in relations between Rus- sia and the United States? When, in fact, did it begin? Four years ago, then- president Barack Obama ridiculed Mitt Romney for characterizing Russia as America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” To this day, Obama’s view remains that Russia is weak, not strong. As he told Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic in

March 2016, “[Putin is] constantly interested in being seen as our peer and as working with us, because he’s not completely stupid. He understands that

Russia’s overall position in the world is significantly diminished. And the fact that he invades Crimea or is trying to prop up [Bashar al-] Assad doesn’t suddenly make him a player.” He went even further in his end-of-year press

conference, calling Russia “a smaller country

not “produce anything that anybody wants to buy.” Yet this was a very different tone from the one the Obama administration took in March 2009, when then–secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, symbolically pressed a “reset” button. (Appropriately, as it turned out, the Russian translation on the button was misspelled by the State Department so that it read “overcharged.”) Nor was the reset a complete failure. A year later, the United States and Russia reached an agreement to reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons (the so- called New START deal). One answer to the question of what went wrong is simply Putin himself. Having made my own contribution to the “blame Putin” literature, I am not about to exonerate the Russian president. I vividly remember the tone he adopted in a speech I heard at the 2007 Munich Security Conference, where he gave (as I wrote at the time) “a striking impersonation of Michael Cor- leone in The Godfather—the embodiment of implicit menace.” Nevertheless, it is important to remember what exactly Putin said on that occasion. In remarks that seemed mainly directed at the Europeans in the room, he warned that a “unipolar world”—meaning one dominated by the United States—would prove

“pernicious not only for all those within this system but also

for the sovereign itself.” America’s “hyper use of force,” Putin said, was “plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts.” Speaking at a time when neither Iraq nor Afghani- stan seemed especially good advertisements for US military intervention, those words had a certain force, especially in German ears. Ten years later, even Putin’s most splenetic critics would be well-advised to reflect for a moment on the West’s part in the deterioration of relations between Washington and Moscow. The Russian view that the fault lies partly with West- ern overreach deserves to be taken more seriously than it generally is. If I look back on what I thought and wrote during the administration of

George W. Bush, I would say that I underestimated the extent to which the

a weaker country” that does

No country has had its character more con- ditioned by its history than Russia.

expansion of both NATO and the European Union was antagonizing the Russians. Certain decisions still seem to me defensible. Given their experiences in

the middle of the twentieth century, the Poles and the Czechs deserved both the security afforded by NATO membership (from 1999, when they joined along with Hungary) and the economic opportunities offered by EU member- ship (from 2004). Yet the US decision in March 2007 to build an anti–bal- listic missile defense site

in Poland along with a radar station in the Czech Republic seems, with hindsight, more question-

able, as does the subse- quent decision to deploy ten two-stage missile interceptors and a battery of Patriot missiles in Poland. Though notionally intended to detect and counter Iranian missiles, these installations were bound to be regarded by the Rus- sians as directed at them. The subsequent deployment of Iskander short- range missiles to Kaliningrad was a predictable retaliation. A similar act of retaliation followed in 2008 when, with encouragement from some EU states, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. In response, Russia recognized rebels in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and invaded those parts of Georgia. From a Russian perspective, this was no different from what the West had done in Kosovo. The biggest miscalculation, however, was the willingness of the Bush administration to consider Ukraine for NATO membership and the later backing by the Obama administration of EU efforts to offer Ukraine an association agreement. I well remember the giddy mood at a pro-Euro- pean conference in Yalta in September 2013, when Western representa- tives almost unanimously exhorted Ukraine to follow the Polish path. Not nearly enough consideration was given to the very different way Russia regards Ukraine nor to the obvious West-East divisions within Ukraine itself. This was despite an explicit warning from Putin’s aide Sergei Glazyev, who attended the conference, that signing the EU association agreement would lead to “political and social unrest,” a dramatic decline in living standards, and “chaos.” This is not in any way to legitimize the Russian actions of 2014, which were in clear violation of international law and agreements. It is to criticize suc- cessive administrations for paying too little heed to Russia’s sensitivities and

likely reactions.

China needs stability in oil produc- tion and low oil prices as much as Russia needs the opposite.

AMNESIA HAS CONSEQUENCES “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” then-president Obama told interviewer David Remnick in early 2014. The very opposite was true. He and his predecessor badly needed advisers who understood Russia as well as Kennan did. As Kissinger has often remarked, history is to nations what character is to people. In recent years, American policy makers have tended to forget that and then to wax indignant when other states act in ways that a knowledge of history might have enabled them to anticipate. No country, it might be said, has had its character more conditioned by its history than Russia. It was foolish to expect Russians to view with equa- nimity the departure into the Western sphere of influence of the heartland of medieval Russia, the breadbasket of the czarist empire, the setting for Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard, the crime scene of Josef Stalin’s man- made famine, and the main target of Adolf Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa. One might have thought the events of 2014 would have taught US policy makers a lesson. It was arguably a mistake to leave Germany and France to handle the Ukraine crisis, when more direct US involvement might have made the Minsk agreements effective. It was certainly a disastrous blunder to give Putin an admission ticket into the Syrian conflict by leaving to him the (partial) removal of Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons. One of Kiss- inger’s lasting achievements in the early 1970s was to squeeze the Soviets out of the Middle East. The Obama administration undid that, with dire consequences. Yet I remain to be convinced that the correct response to these errors of American policy is to swing from underestimating Russia to overestimating it. Such an approach has the potential to be just another variation on the theme of misunderstanding. It is not difficult to infer what Putin would like to get in any “great deal” between himself and President Trump. Item number one would be a lifting of sanctions. Item number two would be an end to the war in Syria on Russia’s terms—which would include the preservation of Assad in power for at least some “decent interval.” Item number three would be a de facto recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and some constitutional change designed to render the government in Kyiv impotent by giving the country’s eastern Donbass region a permanent pro-Russian veto power. What is hard to understand is why the United States would want to give Russia even a fraction of all this. What exactly would Russia be giving the United States in return for such concessions? That is the question that Trump’s national security team needs to ask itself.


There is no question the war in Syria needs to end, just as the frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine needs resolution. But the terms of peace can and must be very different from those that Putin has in mind. Any deal that pacified Syria by sacrificing Ukraine would be a grave mistake. Former president Obama was right in saying that Russia is a much weaker power than the United States; his failure was not to exploit that American advantage. Far from doing so, he allowed his Russian counterpart to play a weak hand with great tactical skill and ruthlessness. President Trump prides himself as a deal maker. He should be able to do much better. Here is what he should say to Putin.

» You cannot expect relief from sanctions until you withdraw all your armed forces and proxies from eastern Ukraine.

» The political future of Ukraine is for the Ukrainians to decide, not for outside powers.

» We are prepared to contemplate another plebiscite in Crimea, given the

somewhat questionable nature of its cession to Ukraine in the Nikita Khrush-

chev era, though credible foreign representatives must monitor the vote.

» We are also prepared to discuss a new treaty confirming the neutral,

nonaligned status of Ukraine, similar in its design to the status of Finland in the Cold War. Ukraine would renounce future membership in either NATO or the EU, as well as membership in any analogous Russian-led entity such as the Eurasian Customs Union. However, such a treaty would need to include guarantees of Ukraine’s sovereignty and security, comparable with the inter- national treaty governing the status of Belgium in 1839. And this treaty would

be upheld in a way that Obama failed to uphold the Budapest Memorandum of 1994—by force if necessary.

» In return for these concessions, the United States expects Russia to

participate cooperatively in a special conference of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to establish a new and peaceful order in North Africa and the Middle East. The scope of this conference should not be con- fined to Syria but should extend to other countries in the region afflicted by civil war and terrorism, notably Iraq and Libya. It should consider questions that have lain dormant for a century, since the Sykes-Picot agreement drew the borders of the modern Middle East, such as the possibility of an indepen- dent Kurdish state. With a bold proposal such as this, the Trump administration would regain the initiative not only in US-Russian relations but also in international

relations more generally. Crucially, it would parry Putin’s aspiration for a

bilateral relationship, as between the superpowers of old—a relationship to which Russia, for all its oil and weaponry, is no longer entitled. And it would bring to bear on the problem of Middle Eastern stability the two European powers that have a historic interest in the region and an Asian power—Chi- na—that has a growing reliance on Middle Eastern energy. The Russian question itself can be settled another day. But by reframing the international order on the basis of cooperation rather than deadlock in the Security Council, the United States at least poses the question in a new way. Will Russia learn to cooperate with the other great powers? Or will it continue to be the opponent of international order? Perhaps it will choose the latter option. After all, an economic system that prefers an oil price closer to $100 a barrel than $50 benefits more than most from escalating conflict in the Middle East and North Africa—preferably conflict that spills over into the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. However, if that is the goal of Russia’s strategy, then it is hard to see for how much longer Beijing and Moscow will be able to cooperate in the Security Council. China needs stability in oil production and low oil prices as much as Russia needs the opposite. Because of recent tensions with the United States, Russia has been acquiescent as the “One Belt, One Road” pro- gram extends China’s economic influence into Central Asia, once a Russian domain. There is potential conflict of interest there, too. In the end, it is not for the United States to solve the Russian question. That is Russia’s challenge. But by re-establishing the Kissingerian rule—that the United States should be closer to each of Russia and China than they are to one another—the Trump administration could take an important first step toward cleaning up the geopolitical mess bequeathed it by Barack Obama.

up the geopolitical mess bequeathed it by Barack Obama. Reprinted by permission of Foreign Policy

Reprinted by permission of Foreign Policy ( © 2017 Foreign Policy Group LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2017 Foreign Policy Group LLC. All rights reserved. Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
© 2017 Foreign Policy Group LLC. All rights reserved. Available from the Hoover Institution Press is

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is One Day We Will Live Without Fear: Everyday Lives under the Soviet Police State, by Mark Harrison. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



Break Up the Bromance

Just getting along with Russia isn’t going to be good enough. If the new administration wants a “reset” of its own, it will need to demonstrate clarity and strength.

its own, it will need to demonstrate clarity and strength. By Michael A. McFaul D uring

By Michael A. McFaul

D uring the 2016 presidential

campaign, Donald Trump

was a whirlwind of vagaries

and contradictions when it

came to foreign policy, making it difficult

to predict how his new administration

would approach dozens of international

issues. On Russia, however, he was clear

and consistent. He praised President

Vladimir Putin often, defended many

of Putin’s policies, and declared with

enthusiasm, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we

actually got along with Russia?” Since

his election, Trump has persisted in

Key points

» Reassuring our NATO allies should come first.

» President Trump must out-

line his conditions for lifting Russia sanctions.

» We should offer smarter

economic, political, and tech- nical help to Ukraine.

» The president must define

his own objectives in the Syr- ian civil war.

» Small wins in US-Russia

relations would build mo- mentum for bigger deals.

Michael A. McFaul is the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover In- stitution, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and a professor of political science at Stanford. He recently served as US ambassador to Russia.

defending Putin, questioning in multiple tweets and comments the intel- ligence community’s assessment regarding Russia’s interference in our elec- toral process last year. In choosing Rex Tillerson for his secretary of state, Trump picked the perfect emissary for improving relations with the Kremlin. Along with Henry Kissinger and Steven Seagal, Tillerson is one of the very few Americans to have enjoyed direct and sustained access to Putin in recent years. The conditions seem set for another reset with Russia. But to what ends? While being clear about his desire to befriend Putin, Trump has been very unclear about what foreign-policy objectives he seeks to achieve in US-Russia relations. “Better relations” should never be the goal of US foreign policy toward Russia or any country. Diplomacy is not a popularity contest. Rather, better relations must always be understood as a means to advance American security and prosperity. Sometimes, coercive diplomacy is a means that helps us best pursue our foreign-policy objec- tives. Other times, disengagement or isolation is the best way to advance our national security interests. Clarifying ends versus means—the basic task when developing any foreign policy—must be the first order of business for the new Trump national security team before it prematurely gives away American leverage or undermines US security goals for the sake of a smiling photo-op in the Kremlin. Learning from the successes and failures of the last détente with Russia—former president Obama’s “reset,” which I helped to craft—would be a good first start.

DEALS TO REMEMBER As the Obama White House developed our reset policy during the 2008 tran- sition and the first months of the administration in 2009, the president never defined “improved relations with Russia” as a goal. We didn’t seek friend- ships in Moscow. Instead, we outlined a comprehensive list of foreign policy goals and then explored ways in which the Russian government might help us achieve our goals. Regarding some issues on our list—for instance, withdraw- al of US military forces from Iraq—we saw no role for Russia. But on many issues—dealing with Iran and North Korea, reducing nuclear weapons in the world, increasing trade and investment, combating terrorism—we believed that Russia and the United States shared mutual objectives. Our strategy for realizing these win-win outcomes was engagement with Moscow, both at the presidential level, but also horizontally throughout the rest of our government. We invented the Bilateral Presidential Commission, which created working groups on issues ranging from counterterrorism to innovation, to compel more interaction between our two bureaucracies.

We also promoted deeper ties between our business communities and civil societies. Presidents Obama and Dmitry Medvedev helped round-table dis- cussions with business leaders at both the 2009 summit in Moscow and 2010 summit in Washington. Obama met with Russian civil-society leaders during his first visit to Moscow in July 2009, and his administration encouraged peer-to-peer engagement between Russian and American nongovernmental leaders. But while seeking to deepen contact with the Russian government and citizens, we made explicit that we were not prepared to downgrade bilat- eral relations with other countries in Russia’s neighborhood in the pursuit of more engagement with the Kremlin. Learning from the Reagan administra- tion, we rejected “linkage.” We were not prepared to weaken ties with Geor- gia to get an arms control deal or stop talking about human rights to obtain Moscow’s cooperation on Iran. In the language of our new president, the reset produced some “really big deals.” Obama and Medvedev signed and ratified the New START agree- ment, which reduced by 30 percent the number of nuclear weapons allowed in US and Russian arsenals, while maintaining a rigorous inspections regime to implement the treaty. The United States and Russia cooperated in writing, adopting, and then implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1929, the most comprehensive sanctions against Iran ever. These UN sanctions were instrumental in pressuring the Iranian government to give up its nuclear weapons program, which culminated in the 2015 signing of the Joint Compre- hensive Plan of Action. We dramatically expanded the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a complicated transportation route through Russia and other countries used to supply US and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. NDN reduced our dependence on supply routes through Pakistan, and thereby made possible the opera- tion to kill Osama bin Laden, which violated Pakistani sovereignty. After two decades of negotiations, we helped Russia obtain membership into the World Trade Organization, an element of our larger strategy of increasing trade and investment between our two countries. From 2009 to 2012, Boeing, Cisco, ExxonMobil, and many other American companies also did some “real big deals” in Russia, as trade and investment between our two countries

ALL SMILES: At a meeting in Leningrad in 2006, President George W. Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin try to mend fences. Putin’s suspicions that America foments instability—ingrained long ago as a KGB officer—were only strengthened by events during the Arab Spring and on the streets of Moscow.

[Eric Draper—White House]

increased dramatically. We also negotiated a new visa agreement, which allowed businesspeople to obtain three-year multiple-entry visas, helping to foster economic ties. We also defused issues that earlier had caused deep frictions in the bilat-

eral relationship. Instead of fighting over missile defense, we negotiated how to cooperate, discussing

“Better relations” should never be the goal of foreign policy toward Russia or any other country. Better relations are just a means to advance US security.

in detail plans for shar- ing data about ballistic missile launches. NATO expansion also faded as an irritant. At the 2010

NATO summit, Medvedev went out of his way to signal a new era of cooperation between Russia and the alliance, saying: “The declaration approved at the end of our talks states that we seek to develop a strategic partnership. This is not a chance choice of words, but signals that we have succeeded in putting the difficult period in our relations behind us now.” In private, he was even more effusive. And when regime change occurred in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, leaving dozens dead and prompting hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks to flee the country, which looked to be on the verge of civil war, the United States and Russia worked together to defuse the crisis. During his final meeting with Obama in his capacity as president in March 2012 in Seoul, Medvedev was still very optimistic about the reset, saying on the record, “[W]e probably enjoyed the best level of relations between the United States and Russia during those three years than ever during the

previous decades.” Meanwhile, in America, citizens noticed and reacted favorably to all these deals getting done. In the summer of 2010, more than 60 percent of Ameri- cans expressed a positive feeling about Russia and a similar percentage of Russians held a positive view of the United States.

RESPECT IS OVERRATED According to Trump’s views, expressed on the campaign trail, the reset ended because Putin didn’t respect Obama. Therefore the pathway back to improved relations with Moscow seemed simple: gain Putin’s admiration. Trump’s theory is flawed. He is looking at the symptoms of the reset’s end, not the causes. Without question, the respect between Obama and Putin dwindled; the feeling was mutual. But why? Just a few years earlier, US and Russian officials—including Presidents Obama and

Medvedev—enjoyed high levels of respect and trust as they cooperated on everything from Iran to visa reform. What caused such a dramatic change in such a short time? Irritants were a factor. Medvedev was disappointed that we were not making fast enough progress on missile-defense cooperation. The Obama administration grew frustrated by Moscow’s foot-dragging regarding the commencement of new negotiations about deeper cuts in our nuclear arse- nals. The Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russian human rights abusers, ruffled Kremlin feathers. But all these issues could have been managed. The real drama in our relations came not from officials in the White House or the Kremlin but from common people demonstrating in the streets to demand greater freedoms and democratic rule in 2011: in Egypt, Syria, Libya, and

then at the end of the year, Russia. Two years later, demonstrators again, this time in Ukraine, triggered further tensions in US-Russia relations. Putin’s response to those events, first the annexation of Crimea and then interven- tion in support of insurgents in eastern Ukraine, ended for good our ability to cooperate and compelled Obama to revert to more coercive instruments to deal with Russia. Throughout this period of popular uprising in the Arab world, then in Rus- sia, and later Ukraine, Obama and the administration tried to convince our Russian interlocutors

that the United States was not fomenting revo- lution, but responding to

the actions of individuals in these countries over which we had no control. Initially, Obama persuaded Medvedev, and in so doing obtained Russian acquiescence to abstain from the vote on UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorized the use of military force in Libya. Putin, however, had a different view, both of our inter- vention in Libya and our neutrality regarding these popular demonstrations. He publicly criticized Medvedev for supporting the intervention in Libya, declaring that the UN resolution “resembles medieval calls for crusades.” Putin also berated the United States for supporting regime change in other countries in the Middle East. After I became US ambassador to the Russian Federation in January 2012, Putin blamed me personally for supporting the revolutionaries against his regime. During my time as ambassador, Russian state-controlled media con- stantly spun a wild conspiracy theory about American financial support for

Russian opposition leaders and their organizations.

Sometimes, coercive diplomacy is the best approach.

We tried to convince Putin and his government otherwise. We explained that the CIA was not financing demonstrators in Cairo, Moscow, or Ukraine;

that it was not in the US national interest to provoke such instability. But Putin’s theory of American power—ingrained long ago as a KGB officer (and confirmed, it must be admitted, by previous American actions in Iran, Latin America, Serbia, and Iraq)—was only reconfirmed by events during the Arab Spring and espe-

cially on the streets of Moscow in the winter of 2011 and spring of 2012. In his view, people don’t

rise up indepen- dently and spontaneously to demand greater freedom. They must be guided, and the Obama administration was the hidden hand. On that, we profoundly disagreed; our bilateral relations never recovered. Putin is not alone in advancing this theory about the Obama administra- tion and US foreign policy more generally. At times, candidate Trump argued the same, promising to end (phantom) Obama policies of regime change. Some Trump advisers echoed Putin’s false claims, blaming Obama’s so-called regime-change policies for renewed tensions in US-Russia relations. (There was a time, not long ago, when Republicans criticized Obama for not doing enough to promote freedom in the world, but that era seems over.) Trump also made clear that he worried little about defending human rights or advancing democracy abroad. When challenged on MSNBC’s Morning Joe by host Joe Scarborough for defending Putin’s violent ways, Trump responded:

“I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe.” Putin loves this kind of moral equivalency.

During my time as ambassador, Russian state-controlled media constantly spun a wild conspiracy theory about US support for opposition leaders.

A BRIEF WINDOW Obviously, the change from Obama to Trump creates the first condition for a possible détente with Russia. But a second condition also exists: the end of popular mobilization against autocracies. In Russia, Putin has crushed and contained the opposition. In Ukraine, the new government is struggling to advance democratic and economic reforms while still fighting Russian-sup- ported insurgents in eastern Ukraine. In Syria and Egypt, autocrats are reas- serting their control, at least for now. In short, the main cause of increased tensions in US-Russian relations in 2012 is now absent.

President Trump must use this moment wisely. Above all else, he must reject Putin’s formulation of ends and means for a new reset. Putin seeks several very concrete objectives from the new American president: lift economic sanctions; endorse his way of warfare in Syria; acknowledge a Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union; suspend missile defense deployments in Europe; and, in his dream of dreams, recognize Russian-Crimean “unification.” In return for these concrete outcomes, Putin would give Trump his ephemeral, empty goal of “better relations with Russia.” Obtaining these concessions from the president of the United States also would help nurture Putin’s image as a powerful global leader, which in turn might embolden him to pursue even more aggressive policies in the former Soviet Union and eventually regarding European institutions. With Trump on his side, Putin’s brand of conservative nation- alism could begin to rival liberal democracy as a competing ideology with global appeal. That’s a bad deal for America. Instead, Trump first needs to develop his own list of foreign-policy objectives, and then try to use this new opportunity to engage Putin to achieve some of these outcomes in which Russia can be a cooperative partner. But Trump must also be ready to ignore Russia’s desires and even contain Russian behavior when such policies serve American national interests. The first move of his administration’s policy toward Russia should be the reassurance of our NATO allies. Endorsing recent NATO decisions to enhance deterrence against Russian threats would signal needed continuity with more than a half century of American foreign policy. In doing so, Trump will incentivize our allies to spend more on defense without even uttering a word about burden-sharing. During the honeymoon phase, Putin is less likely to threaten a NATO ally. Obtaining sanctions relief or recognition of his policies in Syria and Ukraine are much more immediate priorities; Putin understands that these goals will be less likely

achieved if, for instance, Russia increases ten- sions with the

Baltic states. The unfolding tensions within the European Union and, to a lesser extent, NATO are unfolding very nicely from Putin’s perspective. Why rock the boat now? A

Trump declaration of support of NATO will not hinder his Putin courtship.

In Putin’s KGB-developed view, people don’t rise up independently and spontane- ously to demand greater freedom.

Second, Trump must outline his conditions for lifting sanctions. To do so unilaterally, without consultation with our European allies and partners, and without getting anything in return from Russia, would be complete capitulation—a really bad deal. Such a decision would effectively condone annexation and intervention, and thus have negative consequences for the

stability of the entire international order. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Obama successfully worked together to impose sanctions against Rus- sian individuals and

Failure of Ukraine’s economic and political reforms would hand Moscow a giant victory.

companies in response to Russian military intervention in Ukraine. While the response to

the annexation of Crimea was slow, subsequent sanctions in reaction to Russian support for separatist movements in eastern Ukraine were extensive and costly for individual Rus- sian officials and companies. So far, Putin has not changed his position at all regarding annexation and intervention in Ukraine. Consequently, one obvious strategy would be to maintain the status quo— sanctions will be lifted when Russia implements its commitments in the Minsk Agreement, including first and foremost restoring control of the state border between Ukraine and Russia to the Ukrainian government. If, how- ever, the Trump administration concludes that Minsk will never be imple- mented, it must engage with Moscow, Kyiv, Berlin, and Paris to replace this agreement with something else. Simply walking away while lifting sanctions would equal total victory for Putin and validate the notion that the strong

can invade the weak without penalty. Third, the Trump administration must provide smarter economic aid, political assistance, and technical help for Ukraine to succeed both as a market economy and democracy. Putin supports the continuation of low-level conflict in eastern Ukraine as a means to undermine Kyiv’s legitimacy and slow reforms. The Trump administration must do more to seek the opposite outcome, including using a change in administration to put additional pres- sure on Kyiv to reform. If Ukraine’s economic and political reforms failed again, it would hand Moscow a giant victory. Conversely, democratic consoli- dation and economic growth in Ukraine would constitute a major setback for Putin’s hegemonic agenda in the region. Fourth, Trump must not simply endorse Putin’s military intervention in Syria but define his own objectives regarding this tragic civil war. Trump wants to join forces with Russia to fight the Islamic State, but Putin seems

perfectly content to watch the United States and our allies do the major fighting against this terrorist organization in Syria and Iraq. In another departure from Obama’s policy, Trump has called for the creation of safe zones in Syria. Maybe he could use his powers of persuasion with Putin to

persuade him not to violate the borders of these no-fly zones, or, even better, to contribute relief aid to those living in these safe areas. Fifth, the Trump administration must develop a more effective cyber-secu- rity policy, which would include deterring Russia but also other countries. Trump’s first move toward this end must be to recognize the problem: it’s time to stop doubting the overwhelming evidence marshaled by our intelli- gence community that Russian actors stole information from the Democratic Party and party leaders and then released this information with the intent to influence our democratic process. We will never be safe until the Trump administration acknowledges this violation of our sovereignty and then takes action to prevent such attacks. In parallel, the new administration must increase our cyber-

defenses and resilience to protect the homeland from Russia, as well as other countries and domestic actors. Down

the road, Trump should consider engaging Putin to agree to some basic norms about cyberwarfare. Sixth, Trump should consider pursuing some smaller, quick wins to demonstrate the virtues of his rapprochement with Putin, and thereby build momentum for doing bigger deals. For instance, Trump could ask Putin to lift the ban on American parents adopting Russian orphans, a policy that only punishes innocent children. Given that both Trump and Putin seem uninterested in deeper nuclear weapons cuts—in fact Trump has argued for expanding our nuclear arsenal—the two presidents could instead endorse an extension of the New START agreement to keep the treaty’s limits in place and, equally important, maintain the rigorous inspections regime codified in this agreement. Or, now that the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe has lapsed, the two presidents could agree to provide greater trans- parency to each other about military training exercises and deployments in Europe. Seventh, Trump has to begin to disentangle some of the contradictions in his policy statements during the campaign and transition. His pledge to rip up the Iran nuclear deal will not win favor with Putin. The Russian president

Putin supports continuing low- level conflict in eastern Ukraine as a means to undermine Kyiv’s legitima- cy and slow reforms.

will never agree to impose new sanctions on Iran because Russia is seeking to expand economic ties and military sales to the Islamic Republic and has allied with Tehran in the Syrian war. In addition, Trump’s embrace of Russia creates more tension in our bilateral relations with China. Trump’s promise to “look into” recognition of Crimea as part of Russia completely contradicts his vow to review America’s one-China policy. Trump’s most recent pledge to strengthen and expand our nuclear weapons arsenal eventually will complicate his pursuit of other cooperative policies with Moscow. And Russian military officials are waiting anxiously for greater clarity on Trump’s approach to missile defense. If his campaign promise to increase military spending also means new enhance- ments for our missile defense systems in Europe and Asia, the honeymoon with Russia could be a short one.

and Asia, the honeymoon with Russia could be a short one. Reprinted by permission of Foreign

Reprinted by permission of Foreign Policy ( © 2017 Foreign Policy Group LLC. All rights reserved.

© 2017 Foreign Policy Group LLC. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is
© 2017 Foreign Policy Group LLC. All rights reserved. New from the Hoover Institution Press is

New from the Hoover Institution Press is Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military, edited by Kori N. Schake and Jim Mattis. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



“It’s Best Not to Mess with Us”

The nuclear poker game with Moscow has already begun—or, rather, resumed.

game with Moscow has already begun—or, rather, resumed. By Paul R. Gregory P resident Trump’s tweet

By Paul R. Gregory

P resident Trump’s tweet last December that “the United States

must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until

such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes”

ignited a meltdown among his critics. The media outrage mul-

tiplied when he later declared: “Let it be an arms race.” The United States,

he wrote, “will outmatch them [our nuclear adversaries] at every pass and

outlast them all.”

Although the Trump tweet is in the spirit of Barack Obama’s trillion-dollar

nuclear modernization program, Trump’s critics accused him of threatening

peace and stability, encouraging nuclear proliferation, violating nonprolifera-

tion treaties, backtracking on Ronald Reagan’s nuclear policy, and having a

very scary misunderstanding of nuclear warfare.

The tweet came shortly after Vladimir Putin spoke about strengthening

Russia’s nuclear triad—the strategy of relying on nuclear weapons based on

land, in submarines, and on long-range bombers—in his traditional year-end

press conference. Such words are not new. In August 2014, Putin reminded

one and all that “Russia is one of the largest nuclear powers. This is a reality, not just words.” He added: “Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleash- ing a large-scale conflict with Russia.” At a meeting in Germany of retired US and Russian generals, the Russian participants warned that any attempt to retake Crimea, or any military clash in the Baltic republics, which have siz- able Russian minorities, could be met with “nuclear force.” We could perhaps dismiss the Kremlin’s nuclear saber rattling as just words were pre-emptive nuclear strikes not part of the official Russian Revised Military Doctrine of 2014 as analyzed by the Swedish Defense Research Institute in its triannual Russian Military Capability in a Ten-Year Perspective. Paragraph 27 states: “The Russian Federation reserves the right to utilize nuclear weapons in response to the utilization of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and (or) its allies, and also in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation involving the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is under threat. The decision to utilize nuclear weapons is made by the president of the Rus- sian Federation.” That a nuclear Russia invokes its right to retaliate against a nuclear strike is standard operating procedure, but that official Russian military doctrine allows for a nuclear first strike if an opponent, using only conventional weap- ons, threatens the “existence of the state” should evoke considerable alarm. The risk of a nuclear conflict may be higher today than at any time since the 1980s,” warns a Russia expert at Washington’s Georgetown University.

“Unfortunately, societies and political establishments unaware that this truly existential threat” has returned.

Russia’s 2014 Revised Military Doctrine designates two threats that the Russian state faces. One is the internal threat of a color revolution—by domestic opponents—that

seem in large part

The Kremlin could decide that any number of threats rise to the level of nuclear deterrence.

overthrows “the Rus- sian state.” The other is the external threat from foreign forces. According

to the Revised Military Doctrine, the domestic threat is to be dealt with by internal repression, pro- paganda, and a pervasive police state. The external threat is to be countered by conventional and nuclear weapons. The external and internal threats are closely linked: a Russian color revolution, like Ukraine’s Maidan, must be the result of planning, support, and execution by hostile powers, according to

Russian doctrine.

Note that, according to Russian military doctrine, conventional weapons and nukes are there to protect the “Russian state,” a.k.a. the Putin regime,

not the Russian people. It is therefore up to the Russian state to decide what external and internal threats constitute a threat to the Russian state. The outer aggression and the inner repression reinforce each other. The Swed- ish Defense Research

Institute’s Ten-Year Perspective concludes that “there is a political determination of the Russian leadership to use nuclear weapons as a

primary tool for foreign policy coercion.” By combining domestic and external threats, the Kremlin could decide that

any number of threats rise to the level of nuclear deterrence. At the height of the crisis over Crimea in 2014, Vladimir Putin ominously declared, “It’s best

not to mess with

nuclear powers.” Putin’s public representatives regularly engage in nuclear saber rattling, such as his propagandist-in-chief’s warning that “impu- dent behavior”—such as NATO troops in the Baltic—might have “nuclear consequences.” Meanwhile, Russian media are preparing the population for nuclear war. In one Moscow district, local authorities asked residents to contribute to build- ing bomb shelters “because of the growing international tensions, particular-

ly the expected nuclear aggression against Russia by unfriendly countries.” To reinforce the seriousness of intent, Russian nuclear bombers are regularly sent to challenge NATO and US air space. Insofar as Russia’s launching a tactical nuclear attack will likely lead to nuclear retaliation, Russia must make its threat sufficiently credible to persuade its external opponent to cease and desist on its “hostile” action. Russia will therefore use its primary instrument of foreign policy coercion— its nuclear threat—to frighten off NATO countries, including the United States. According to Russia’s new National Security Strategy, the threat of nuclear weapons can be used to prevent a local war from escalating into a regional war. Although Russia has doubled its military spending since 2008 (largely on equipment and technology), today it spends the equivalent of 15 percent of the US military budget and 40 percent of NATO’s. If Russia invaded a Baltic

Official Russian military doctrine allows for a nuclear first strike if an opponent, using only conventional weapons, threatens the “existence of the state.”

I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading

state, it could occupy the country within a short time. But it would suffer severe losses and probably have to retreat if there were a concerted NATO counterattack. Any invasion decision would therefore have to depend upon the success of strategic deterrence. Could it frighten away NATO with the threat of nuclear strikes? Vladimir Putin has demonstrated that he can run roughshod over the NATO countries and over a US president. Now he faces a new president in a game of the highest-stakes poker possible. We can only wait to see how this will work out.

possible. We can only wait to see how this will work out. Special to the Hoover

Special to the Hoover Digest.

see how this will work out. Special to the Hoover Digest. Available from the Hoover Institution
see how this will work out. Special to the Hoover Digest. Available from the Hoover Institution

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is Women of the Gulag: Portraits of Five Remarkable Lives, by Paul R. Gregory. To order, call (800) 888-4741 or visit



Chicken Soup for the Russian Soul

A strongman with a messianic streak, Vladimir Putin might almost have stepped from the pages of Russian history.

might almost have stepped from the pages of Russian history. By Ralph Peters A skilled miner

By Ralph Peters

A skilled miner is useless without a seam of ore. President Vladi-

mir Putin, Russia’s czar in all but name, has a genius for mining

the ore of Russian nationalism but the crucial factor is that the

ore was there, waiting to be exploited. A ruler perfectly fitted

to Russian tradition, Putin is the right man at the right time to dig up Rus-

sia’s baleful obsessions, messianic delusions, and aggressive impulses.

The short answer to the question “Why is Putin so aggressive?” is because

aggression works. The twenty-first century is revisionist: after the collapse of

European empires in the twentieth century, old imperial and crusading (a.k.a.

jihadi) forces have reawakened in Orthodox Russia, in post-Ottoman Turkey, in

Shia Persia, and among Sunni Muslims entranced by romanticized caliphates.

History didn’t end. It just rolled over. The human chronicle reverted to forms

dating back millennia (the geographic aspirations of today’s rulers in Iran match

those of Cyrus the Great). Racial and religious hatred are back in vogue, and

brutalities we view as transgressive are merely a return to form for humankind.

Putin’s Russia is a perfect fit.

THE RUSSIAN DNA As for why Russians respond so well to Putin’s smirking belligerence, naked corruption, and growing tyranny, the short answer is “Because they’re Rus- sians!” Assigning national characteristics may be politically incorrect, but it’s strategically essential if we hope to understand the depths of emotion, the ingrained responses, and the social DNA that have allowed Putin to become the most successful leader in Moscow since Josef Stalin (a figure currently undergoing rehabilitation in Russia’s media). Putin’s invocation of strong leaders reaches back beyond Stalin, however, through the early eighteenth century’s Peter the Great to the late sixteenth century’s Ivan the Terrible, both ferocious empire-builders and Russian to the core. Catherine the Great, whose military conquests outshone those of Ivan and Peter, remains absent from Putin’s gallery of heroes, though: Cath- erine was born a German princess, and only Russians need apply to Putin’s pantheon—with the Georgian Stalin the sole and alarming exception. Western observers—even many familiar with Russian affairs—refuse to recognize either Putin’s brilliance or the innate predilections of Russians. As to the first, Putin didn’t go to the right prep school and, literally, lacks table manners. So Western elites long dismissed him and still attempt to explain his success away. Even now, in the wake of Putin’s unchallenged interfer- ence in a US presidential election, Washington insiders decline to credit his genius. Regarding the second point, the Russian predilections, a chaotic burst of freedom after the Soviet Union’s collapse didn’t convert Russians to our liberal values; rather, it terrified them. Meanwhile, our disregard of the profoundly different historical experiences that molded the Russian mental- ity amounts to self-congratulatory and self-deluding folly. So what are the key historical ingredients that combine to give us Putin and a Russia once again militant? What political qualities make Russians Russian? What has allowed a state composed of eleven time zones of desola- tion, poverty, and disease to reclaim its status as a superpower? » Dread of chaos. If Germans revere order (and they do), Russians crave it. The threat of smutnoye vremya, a “time of troubles” of political and social breakdown, is more unnerving to Russians than plague or fire (both of which often accompanied troubled times in the filthy, wooden Moscow of the czars). Deadly upheavals—generally the result of a power vacuum—have unleashed anarchic demons time and again, permanently scarring the “Russian soul,” the Russkaya dusha, so deeply that even the two greatest Russian operas, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, both deal with such periods of disorder, while the Soviet-era novels most revered in the West, Doctor Zhivago and

Quiet Flows the Don, both emerged from another time of troubles. And then there was Akhmatova, the poet of fracture and loss, who lived through hor- rors beyond Hieronymus Bosch or H. P. Lovecraft. While every extant nation has had crises, in just the past hundred years

Russia has suffered military defeat, revolution, civil war, repeated famines, multiple insurgencies, the most devastating invasion of modern times, mass repression and vast concentration camps, the loss of empire and economic chaos, and a swift col- lapse from superpower

status to shame and lawlessness. In one

century, from 1917 to 2017, at least fifty million and perhaps twice that many Russians and subject peoples died violently, or of starvation, or of epidemic disease, a loss propor- tionate to the Black Death of the fourteenth century, the last time Europe suffered so great a demographic catastrophe. Given the tales still told by Russian grandmothers, the average Russian will choose Putin over liberty. And one must note: Putin had a powerful insight that eluded the past cen- tury’s totalitarians: it doesn’t matter if people complain around the kitchen table or in the bedroom, as long as they hold their tongues when they step outside. Previous dictators, from Stalin and Mao through Orwell’s fictional Big Brother, tried to control every thought—an impossible task, given human fractiousness. Human beings need a realm in which they can revile the government clerk or even the czar—in Putin’s Russia, that’s your apartment

Brutalities we see as transgressive are merely a return to form for humankind.

or dacha, once the door is shut. Go on, get drunk, pity yourself, blame the bureaucrats, and beat your wife—Putin only requires that you toe the line in public (hungover or not). Given Russia’s history, it’s a bargain.

» The strong czar. For all the reasons above (and there are far more

historical justifications), Russians admire and support leaders who guaran- tee security. On the sunniest day, Russians expect it to rain. And the czar is their umbrella. To a greater extent than in Western Europe, Russian rulers were viewed, however incorrectly, as the people’s champion and a check on

the voracious, capricious nobility, the boyari. The clichéd sigh of the Russian peasant, “If only the czar knew!” in the face of the aristocracy’s depredations was psychologically essential: the czar as future savior and redeemer. If only he

» A sense of divine mission. Just as beautifully educated Western chat-

mongers dismiss Islam as a source of Islamist terrorism, so they write off

Putin’s embrace of the Orthodox Church as politically expedient. That reads the man, his people, and the church utterly wrong. Even if Putin doesn’t fit our conception of a believer (although William James wisely pointed out that belief takes many forms), he is imbued with a mythic sense of mission. The idea of Moscow as the “Third Rome” is the Russian version of our “city on a hill,” only stronger in tone and far more aggressive in practice. Possessed by our kiddie-car version of realpolitik, we dismiss religion’s role in strategic affairs. But faiths burrow deep into the consciousness of men and nations. Stalin is gone, but the Orthodox Church he sought to crush remains. Czars consistently viewed themselves as defenders of their faith against not only their immutable enemy, the Turk, but against the Catholic Pole, the Bal- tic or Swedish Lutheran and, of course, the Jew. In the nineteenth century, Russia’s militant foreign policy was driven by the goal of liberating and pro- tecting Orthodox nations and by pan-Slavism—even at the cost of strategic

self-interest. In the end, Russia found itself paralyzed by its embrace of this destiny, first because fellow Slavs (not least the Poles) had their own quar- rels and would not unite under Moscow’s tutelage, but also because the key Orthodox states, Serbia, Bulgaria, and (non-Slav) Greece, no sooner gained full independence than they engaged in a round of wars with each other that drew Russia deeper into Balkan affairs and, consequently, into the Great War. Time and again, imperial Russia leapt before it looked—a literal “leap of faith.” The same pattern

Go on, get drunk, pity yourself, blame the bureaucrats, and beat your wife— Putin only requires that you toe the line in public.

is alive and well today, with Putin’s vision of a restored empire of the czars and hegemony over all lands possessed of a

Slavic heritage or that embrace the Orthodox faith. Do not seek logic here: humanity is governed by emotion. As a relevant note on the Orthodox faith: it’s utterly unlike the rational organizations that most Western Protestant churches and, increasingly, papal Catholicism have become. The Orthodox faith is mystical and millenar- ian, far closer to the pre-Christian “mystery religions” of the Near East than to, say, Episcopalianism. The iconostasis is the gateway to Asia. » Insularity. After just over a decade of relative freedom of the press, Putin began to put an end to media criticism of his government. And the only Russians who have objected are pallid members of the intelligentsia,

which has ever been out of touch with the common people. The result is that

despite the vaunted power of the Internet, Russians today are astonishingly insular—as they always have been. And Putin knows how to serve up delecta-

ble propaganda that bolsters the national ego and, even better, blames others for all of Russia’s mistakes and misfortunes. Because our “Rus-

sia experts” generally meet only well-educated counterparts, they have no sense of the weight of centuries of ignorance on

Russian minds. Suspect books were banned under czars and Soviet leaders alike (the brief czarist liberalization of the press after the 1905 revolution proved catastrophic). Propaganda has always been effective—and often exported (“Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” anyone?). Prince Potemkin didn’t invent the false facade, he was merely its first true master. In the nineteenth century, even Russian nobles needed government per- mission to travel abroad. Russia’s vastness, too, its stunning remoteness, hindered factual awareness of all that was not Russian—and of much that was. On the positive side of Russia’s isolation, Russians didn’t suffer the wide- spread devastation of the syphilis epidemic that ravaged Europe for over four centuries—Russia’s few, awful roads and trackless expanses held the spiro- chete at bay until the railroad came; today, of course, Russia is AIDS-ridden, thanks to the advantages of modernity. » Egalitarianism. Karl Marx did not think Russia would lead the com- munist revolution because he didn’t know Russia. A bourgeois German panhandler living in London, he had no idea of the traditional communalism among Russian peasants or of the proto-communist egalitarianism preached by the Orthodox Church (along with respect for authority, of course), espe- cially among the Old Believers and other offshoot cults. Again, clichés exist because they capture truths. Russians can stomach a great deal of misery, as long as the misery is shared equally by all (ruling classes get a pass, until the next peasant uprising). The daily degradations of the Soviet era remained acceptable long after other nations would have rebelled because life was more or less equally wretched for everyone. Then came the uproar of the 1990s. Some Russians got rich quick (and some of the best-known oligarchs were Jews, reinforcing Russian anti- Semitism). The compact was broken. Suddenly, haves and have-nots were

neighbors, and friends left friends behind in their gilded wake. Guaranteed

Analysts write off Putin’s embrace of the Orthodox Church as politically expedient. That reads him, his peo- ple, and the church utterly wrong.

jobs disappeared. Savings became worthless as foreign products tantalized.

Warned for seventy years that capitalists were gangsters, Russians abruptly were told to become

Despite the power of the Internet, Russians today are astonishingly insular—as they always have been.

capitalists—and became gangsters. The nuclear superpower lay humili- ated. And Big Macs were insufficient consolations

for the sense of failure, betrayal, and shame. Putin understood. Perhaps his greatest gift is his ability to read presidents and populations. Former president George W. Bush believed that he had seen into Putin’s soul, but Bush saw only his own reflection. Putin saw deep into Bush, though, as he later saw through President Obama, and as he grasped the weakness of a European political order in its dotage, and as he felt the wounds of his own people. He began by giving Russians back their pride. Now he is giving them the gift that Russian culture values above all else: revenge.

ONCE AND FUTURE TERRITORIES For all that, he’s one czar in a long line. He longs for empire, to regain eastern and central Ukraine (the western sliver was part of Austria-Hungary and can wait), territory that was brought under czarist rule only in the mid- eighteenth century and remained subject to popular revolts, some of them, such as the Pugachev uprising, hugely destructive. Catherine the Great’s generals conquered Crimea only in the 1770s (she annexed it in 1783, and Premier Khrushchev “gave” it to Ukraine in 1954, but that’s another story). Much of the Caucasus wasn’t subdued until the mid-nineteenth century, and Central Asia’s khanates, imperial Russia’s “wild east,” fell in the same decades that saw the United States subdue its Western plains. The territories of the Baltic states, which Putin longs to recapture, have been subject to dispute

Now Putin is giving his people the gift that Russian culture values above all else: revenge.

between various powers since the Middle Ages, long before the current states existed. As Russia

gobbled up the ground previously ruled by a German nobility (peasant ethnicities didn’t matter to anyone), its Baltic possessions became of special importance.

Add to these age-old conquests and reawakened ambitions Russia’s renewed pan-Slavic, neo-Orthodox mantle and the persistent longing for warm-water ports and access to the world’s seas, and you have only to substi- tute the United States for the German-speaking empires of yesteryear to see a formula for the Great War Redux. The salient difference? In 1914, Russia had a weak czar. Today, Russia has a strong czar accustomed to winning.

czar. Today, Russia has a strong czar accustomed to winning. Subscribe to the online Hoover Institution

Subscribe to the online Hoover Institution journal Strategika (www. for analysis of issues of national secu- rity in light of conflicts of the past. © 2017 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.

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Red Dawn

A hundred years ago, Russia’s last czar pondered revolution, the modern world, and the end of the Romanovs. Historian Robert Service explores the mind of Nicholas II.

Historian Robert Service explores the mind of Nicholas II. By Ellie Cawthorne Ellie Cawthorne, BBC History:

By Ellie Cawthorne

Ellie Cawthorne, BBC History: Your new book looks at the final months of

Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II. Nicholas was a very controversial figure. What

made you want to re-evaluate or re-examine him?

Robert Service: Well, the real reason, the honest reason, is that I accidentally

came across some new material. I had just finished a book on the end of the

Cold War and I wanted to do something different, and I find that if you yo-yo

between one end of Russian history and the other, it’s refreshing. Suddenly I

came across these amazing files that were the original inquiry into the death

of Nicholas II, plus a lot of correspondence, which I don’t think anyone has

looked at properly before, relating to the judicial discussions that went on in

Siberia about the inquiry itself. And as a jobbing historian, I thought this is

a gold mine, this is not a chance to be missed. I looked at the period after his

fall from power and you might ask, what is interesting about that, apart from

the personal tragedy and the family tragedy? Because Nicholas was shot,

along with his immediate family, in July 1918.

I thought that if I look at his diary and if I look at the conversations he had

with the people of his entourage and his jailers at a time when he’s out of

power and he’s not trying to impress anyone, when he’s not having to pretend any more, when he doesn’t have to deceive ministers or policemen who are acting on his behalf or advisers on the agrarian question or whatever, I’ll get somewhere nearer to what he really did think about life and politics in Russia. So that was the real incentive for writing the book. It was a political incen- tive as well as a psychological and personal incentive. It’s not just about the way that Nicholas lived for the last sixteen months of his life, it’s about what Nicholas thought about Russia, about Europe, about foreigners, about the war, about revolution, and it’s all there.

Cawthorne: Can you just run us through what happened in those last months? How did we get from Nicholas’s abdication to his execution?

Service: Nicholas II was based at the eastern front by choice from 1915 onwards, and he was at the front or near the front when political demonstra- tions took place in the Russian capital, Petrograd, hundreds of miles away. And the parliament, the Duma, had a leadership that made it very clear that if there was to be tranquility behind the front lines for Russia to pursue the war effort, then he had to step down. Now, politicians had often said that he should step down before. Liberals and a lot of conservatives wanted to see the back of him, but this time the high command agreed. And Nicholas had a very deep affection for his military, and this broke his spirit. When he found that politicians whom he

totally despised wanted to see the back of him, he ignored them, but when his best generals said the same thing—they didn’t put it in an impertinent way, but they did say that

there wouldn’t be peace in the country until he abdicated—then he suddenly abdicated. He stepped down from the throne, amazing everyone around him, and he became a private citizen. He became Nicholas Romanov, and he was taken into custody in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo outside Petrograd, where he lived in pretty comfortable circumstances until August 1917, when for reasons of political security, the provisional government thought it best to transfer him to somewhere more distant. So they sent him to Western Sibe- ria. Then the Bolsheviks took power in the October Revolution, and it was

“He was exhausted as a wartime He felt that by stepping down he would remove himself as an obstacle to national unity among Russians. And he was a Russian national patriot above all else.”

no longer a matter of indifference to the new government as to how Nicholas and his family were confined. They decided, partly to make sure that nothing untoward happened to him but mainly because they wanted to have more control over the conditions of his confinement, to move him to Yekaterinburg in the Urals, and he went on a helter-skelter train ride. There was, for a day or two, a suspicion that the people escorting him were going to try to enable him to escape across the Far East. So there was a real harum-scarum day or two when the train went east and then it went west again before it finally arrived in Yekaterinburg. There they stayed until July 1918, when the order was given to shoot them—and not just shoot the Romanovs but shoot the retainers, even shoot some of the pet dogs, and they were thrown down a mine shaft after being burnt on a funeral pyre out in the countryside away from the gaze of peas- ants. There their remains existed until the end of the last century.

Cawthorne: Your book draws on some new material from Nicholas himself and the things that he was reading. What insights do you get from this mate- rial about how Nicholas took this momentous decision?

Service: What these documents tell us is that he was exhausted as a wartime leader, that he was committed to the army, that he felt that by stepping down he would remove himself as an obstacle to national unity among Russians, and that he was a Russian national patriot above all else. Although he was an emperor who ruled Ukrainians and Uzbeks and Georgians, he identified him- self above all with the Russians—very strongly with the sort of Russia that had existed before Peter the Great had Europeanized it. So he introduced the court, forming a ceremonial that he thought had existed before the year 1700. So he was a bit of a nostalgic. He was really, literally, a reactionary, and he felt very deeply that his dynasty or at least he couldn’t rule the country in a way appropriate to this way of thinking about Mother Russia.

Cawthorne: We are of course coming up to the centenary of the Russian Rev- olution. To what extent was Nicholas to blame for everything that unfolded?

Service: Nicholas II was a very reluctant reformer who had allowed a parlia- ment to exist in Russia because of the revolutionary disturbances of the year 1905, but he never reconciled himself to that—and he annoyed those moder- ate conservatives who got elected to the state Duma who might have worked cooperatively with the Duma. So Nicholas II didn’t have very much chance of avoiding a future with much more drastic reforms in it than he had already

INGLORIOUS MASTER: This formal portrait shows Nicholas II as the ruler he wanted to be:

INGLORIOUS MASTER: This formal portrait shows Nicholas II as the ruler he wanted to be: steady, assured, regal. After he abdicated, the czar lived as a private citizen until the Bolsheviks, concerned about keeping control over the former royal family, ordered the Romanovs executed. [Hoover Institution Archives

Historic Poster Collection]

conceded. But he stood next to no chance of surviving when this rather rick- ety political system was put under the pressure of total war. Nicholas had been intransigent. He compromised as little as he possibly could. He brought a certain amount of scandal on the dynasty by his liaison with Grigori Rasputin. There were rumors that Nicholas’s wife was having an affair with Rasputin. It wasn’t true, but it was an indication of the general annoyance with Nicholas that a scandal like that could take off so readily. This would have been difficult enough a storm to weather if the war hadn’t occurred and if the war hadn’t gone on so long, and it put everything under strain: administration, transport, food supplies, housing. Russia was in a mess behind the lines, and in an angry mess. His failure to confront the ques- tions of daily life that affected ordinary workers, ordinary peasants, these people were not having an easy life in wartime—his preoccupation with the army, while understandable, was disastrous. So he did bring this revolution upon his own head. I think he was also an exhausted man. You almost get the feeling from his diary and from his entou- rage that he was relieved to lay down the burdens of office. You don’t get the feeling that he regretted losing power; you get the feeling that he regretted the way that he lost power and the consequences for the politics of the coun- try. But there doesn’t seem to have been any personal regret.

Cawthorne: So, as you say, he was somewhat blind to a lot of the problems that his people were facing. Was he aware of all the issues and ignoring them, or was he just ignorant of them?

Service: I don’t think Nicholas II had the slightest idea about how a peas- ant lived in Russia before the First World War. The peasants that he saw were devout Christians on pilgrimages, people who were going to be defer- ential and not say anything rambunctious to him. He didn’t really know the peasants. Actually, there’s a very interesting thing about the period after he fell from power. One of his jailers was an ex-convict who had been imprisoned for shooting a policeman in a political incident in the 1890s. A man called Pan- kratov. They just loved talking to each other about Siberia, about peasants,

TWILIGHT: In his final years, the last czar tried earnestly to learn about the people and the land he once ruled. He spent hours talking to a jailer about the realities of Russia and read books that his own government had censored. Eventually he came to brood about the power of the Jews, who he decided had destroyed his empire. [Library of Congress]

about reindeer, about the climate. Now, Nicholas had been through Siberia

as the heir to the throne in the 1890s, and of course he only saw crowds of people who loved the

“It’s about what Nicholas really thought about Russia, about Europe, about foreigners, about the war, about revolution. It’s all there.”

Romanovs. Pankratov told him about the other Siberia—the physical, political, social, and economic—and to do him

justice, Nicholas wanted to learn this from this remarkable old man, and so they had endless conver- sations. They used to lock themselves in a room and talk about Siberia, and if you look at the books that Nicholas read in Tsarskoye Selo, then Tobolsk, then Yekaterinburg, a lot of them are about sections of the population with whom he had very little contact.

Cawthorne: Does that suggest that after he had been forced to abdicate, he recognized that he didn’t fully understand Russia?

Service: He was a very proud, self-confident man, but he knew there were gaps in his knowledge. I know that sounds contradictory, but I don’t think he ever went around dolefully saying to anyone, I really messed it up. He never said that to anyone, even though he had. Most of the country thought he was a ruler who had messed up the economy and politics and all the rest of it. He did know that there were things about Russia that he didn’t know enough about—that he hadn’t had enough time to know about. So he read, for example, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Again, there’s an irony here:

“Russia was in a mess behind the lines, and in an angry mess.”

Tolstoy was regarded by the Orthodox Church as

a heretic. His works were subject to censorship

before the 1905 revolu- tion, and whose government was running the censorship? Nicholas II. He was plugging the gaps in his own education and in the education that he’d given his children.

Cawthorne: Perhaps to give Nicholas his due, what redeeming qualities did he have as a leader? Do you think there’s any way he could have pulled it back from the brink?

Service: I can’t think of any serious redeeming qualities, because Nicholas was a very poor leader. It would have taken an amazingly talented leader to

rule Russia, keep the peace, and reform Russia without disintegrating Rus-

sia. It was going to take a political genius, and he certainly wasn’t a genius. He was a limited man. He didn’t recognize this in himself though because he was surrounded by toadies, people who just said the right thing to him (and if people didn’t say the right thing to him they didn’t get invited back to court). Nicholas II had lots of time to think about the consequences of his abdica- tion and who was to blame for the travails that affected the country in the rest of 1917 and then into 1918, and there he

revealed himself defini- tively as having an idea about politics that was very close to what later became known as fas- cism. He really believed

“You don’t get the feeling that he regretted losing power; you get the feeling that he regretted the way that he lost power and the consequences for the politics of the country.”

that the Jews were an alien, dark force dedicated to the breakup of the Russian empire and to the ending of what he saw as Russian, Christian civilization. His idea was that Russia was steadily falling into the hands of Jews, and he thought the proof of this was what happened in the October Revolution when the Bolsheviks took power. He wrote in his diary a list of the Bolshevik leaders, some of whose names he got wrong, and then he put alongside them their original names, because all of them had revolutionary pseudonyms, and he was convinced that all the Bolsheviks were Jewish.

Cawthorne: How did it go from Nicholas being in exile to Nicholas being executed?

Service: Ultimately they hoped to put on a show trial. They hoped to bring him back and hold a trial that would arraign him for all the political, economic, and military difficulties that the country had fallen into. Why didn’t they do that? The conventional reason given for this is that the Yeka- terinburg Bolsheviks, in partial consultation with Lenin back in Moscow, took the initiative and pressed the Moscow leadership to accept the need to execute the Romanovs before they fell into the hands of the anti-Bolsheviks. But I’ve come to conclude that it wasn’t just the military situation in Yeka- terinburg; it was also the military situation in Moscow that played a part. This explains why Lenin was so ready to approve a decision to shoot them all at that moment. The Bolsheviks were nothing if not ruthless. If you had

people who might be put at the head of a counterrevolutionary force, then you liquidated them. Nicholas II has become a useful historical object in the hands of those

in Russia who would like to have seen a restoration of the monarchy. Well, that’s obvious, but he’s also being treated as a

“It would have taken an amazingly talented leader to rule Russia, keep the peace, and reform Russia without disintegrating Russia. It was going to take a political genius, and he certain- ly wasn’t a genius.”

martyr: he’s been can- onized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Even Vladimir Putin has shown elaborate respect toward the memory of Nicholas II. And Nicholas II has

started to be roman- ticized even by many Russians who don’t politically share his ideas about public affairs. What I’ve tried to do in my book is bring back the historical Nicholas II. A man who was a decent family man, a complacent ruler, and a far-right political thinker, a more complex man than the rather romantic figure that appears in Russian publications and appears widely in Western books to this day.

and appears widely in Western books to this day. Reprinted by permission from History Extra

Reprinted by permission from History Extra (, in association with BBC History magazine. © 2017 Immediate Media Com- pany Ltd.

History magazine. © 2017 Immediate Media Com- pany Ltd. Available from the Hoover Institution Press is
History magazine. © 2017 Immediate Media Com- pany Ltd. Available from the Hoover Institution Press is

Available from the Hoover Institution Press is A Memoir of the Missile Age: One Man’s Journey, by Vitaly Leonidovich Katayev. To order, call (800) 888- 4741 or visit


Trump Versus the Spies

All presidents clash with their intelligence experts, but the hostility the new administration has displayed is unusual—and risky.

new administration has displayed is unusual—and risky. By Amy B. Zegart A few months back, something

By Amy B. Zegart

A few months back, something stunning happened on Capitol Hill:

Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Armed

Services Committee practically stood shoulder to shoulder

with senior officials from the US intelligence community as

they declared that America’s spies were right after all: the Russian govern-

ment had sought to interfere in the US presidential election by hacking into

election-related e-mail and leaking information. It was a striking bipartisan

rebuke to the president-elect, who had consistently cast skepticism on allega-

tions of Russian involvement and seemed to disparage the intelligence com-

munity. Perhaps in anticipation of that committee hearing, Donald Trump

was already backpedaling on Twitter before it started, declaring, “The media

lies to make it look like I am against ‘Intelligence’ when in fact I am a big fan!”

This “never mind” tweet is unlikely to repair the dangerous breach between

the president and the intelligence agencies that serve him. Presidents often

Amy B. Zegart is a Davies Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, co- chair of Hoover’s Working Group on Foreign Policy and Grand Strategy, and a member of the Hoover task forces focusing on Arctic security and intellectual property and innovation. She is also the co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

throw intelligence agencies under the bus when they fail. Never before had a president-elect thrown them under the bus for succeeding. But that’s exactly what Trump had been doing for weeks. He called the CIA’s assessment of the Russian government’s role in election hacking “ridiculous” and insisted repeat- edly that the culprit could be anyone, including “somebody sitting in a bed some place.” His transition team disparaged and discredited the CIA as “the same people who thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction”—even though they aren’t the same people, Russian cyber hacking isn’t the same intel- ligence target as Iraqi WMD, the Iraq failure was fourteen years ago, and intel- ligence agencies have radically overhauled their analytic process since then. The president also said before taking office that he wouldn’t bother getting daily intelligence briefings—making him the first president since 9/11 to skip them—because he’s smart. And just a day before Trump declared himself an intelligence fan, the Wall Street Journal reported that his team was cooking up a Nixonesque scheme to purge the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence of suspected politicization in the ranks by trimming and reorganizing both agencies. (The Trump team denied this report, which was based on the accounts of sources “familiar with the planning,” including at least one close to the transition.) With fans like this, who needs enemies?

SILENT WARRIORS Some skepticism toward intelligence is healthy. And tension between presidents and their intelligence agencies is nothing new. Bill Clinton met so infrequently with his CIA Director, Jim Woolsey, that when a plane crashed on the White House lawn, aides joked that it was Woolsey trying to get a meeting. (Woolsey, incidentally, had been advising the Trump transition team until resigning in early January, reportedly because of “growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies.”) Nearly all presidents leave office disappointed and disgruntled with their intelligence apparatus, for two reasons: because presidents want crystal balls and even the CIA’s smartest people don’t have them; and because presidents resort to covert operations for the toughest of problems, when all else fails—which is why covert opera- tions usually fail, too. But no president until now has entered office with such a profound, publicly vented distrust of his own intelligence establishment. Trump’s doubts are both understandable and alarming. Understandable because we live in an era where threats are moving faster than bureaucrats, and where hacks, tweets, leaks, and Internet “news” (both real and fake) make information availabl