To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations

To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations

by Angelo M. Codevilla

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Author Angelo Codevilla asks, What is to be America’s peace? How is it to be won and preserved in our time? He notes that our government’s increasingly unlimited powers flow in part from our statesmen’s inability to stay out of wars or to win them and that our statesmen and academics have ceased to think about such things. The purpose of

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Author Angelo Codevilla asks, What is to be America’s peace? How is it to be won and preserved in our time? He notes that our government’s increasingly unlimited powers flow in part from our statesmen’s inability to stay out of wars or to win them and that our statesmen and academics have ceased to think about such things. The purpose of this book is to rekindle such thoughts. The author reestablishes early American statecraft’s understanding of peace—what it takes to make it and what it takes to keep it. He reminds Americans why our founding generation placed the pursuit of peace ahead of all other objectives; he shows how they tried to keep the peace by drawing sharp lines between America’s business and that of others, as well as between peace and war. He shows how our 20th-century statesmen confused peace and war as well as America’s affairs with that of mankind’s. The result, he shows, has been endless war abroad and spiraling strife among Americans. Codevilla provides intellectual guidelines for recovering the pursuit of peace as the guiding principle by which the American people and statesmen may navigate domestic as well as international affairs.

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Editorial Reviews

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"[T]he writing is clear and reveals that it is well researched, making the content credible and sensible, with a balance of both idealism and reality. Codevilla’s expertise in international relations shows in his attention to detail and sound logic. He handles controversial topics calmly and methodically. To Make and Keep Peace equips peace-hungry people with the motivation from and wisdom of history." —Melissa Wuske, Foreword Reviews
Library Journal
Codevilla's (professor emeritus, international relations, Boston Univ; The Ruling Class) purpose in this book is "to recover understanding of political peace as the lodestar by which the American people and statesmen may navigate domestic as well as international affairs on any given day." The author maintains a reasonable tone as he argues that America originally kept peace by focusing on itself and staying out of the affairs of other countries. Over time this sensibility gradually morphed, ending with what the author considers today to be an America that has its military in many countries but with neither enough force to win nor a plan to strive toward peace. Codevilla lists examples of how the philosophy of this country's ruling elite segued over time from a peace-at-all-costs mind-set to a current focus on war and how that change has resulted in increased strife within America. VERDICT The title will appeal to readers interested in current events and international relations.—Krista Bush, Shelton, CT

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To Make and Keep Peace

Among Ourselves and with All Nations

By Angelo M. Codevilla

Hoover Institution Press

Copyright © 2014 Angelo M. Codevilla
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8179-1718-0


The Nature of Peace

History shows us peace — and the lack thereof — in forms and circumstances always peculiar to time and place, always temporary. Neither mankind nor any part thereof is at peace at all times, any more than it is always at war. Peace is not humanity's default state any more than the opposite. There is no such thing as peace, simply. Rather, instances of peace are states of relative satisfaction, states of rest into which some peoples settle after striving against one another. Therefore, we are compelled to ask of any instance of peace: Whose peace is it? Who created it, against whose wishes? Why are some people content to live alongside others in this peace? Who upholds it, against what alternative? Conversely, what versions of peace are at stake in any given conflict? The answers fall under the categories of force, interest, and ideas, but always in concrete circumstances and for specific reasons. Hence, the tendency of American statesmen and scholars since the turn of the twentieth century to think of peace in general terms abstracts from reality.

Most often, peace comes when one side succeeds in imposing its version of it upon another — that is, after one side has defeated or exhausted another in war — or when both of war's sides have so exhausted each other that there is no fight left in them. Then the exhausted parties tend to become subjects of others' quarrels and others' versions of peace. The truest of all truths about peace is that the character of any instance thereof depends on the war that established it and on the winners' character.

Peace as Satisfaction

History records the longest periods of peace occurring within great empires at their height. Caesar Augustus had ended Rome's civil wars, had stopped expanding the Roman limes, and had devoted the legions to maintaining peace within them — not infrequently by crucifixions. Augustus, not Jesus, was known to contemporaries as the princeps pacis, the prince of peace.

Similarly, China's Ming dynasty set aside its Mongol predecessors' expansionism and settled down to rule a peaceful empire. So also the sun never set on the British Empire's nineteenth-century version, maintained by force less exercised than consented to. Much the same can be said of the ancient Persian and other "ecumenical" empires. Such peace partakes of what St. Augustine called tranquillitas ordinis, the tranquility of order and of the winners' justice, but seldom of freedom.

Other empires, resulting from other victories, produce a kind of quiet more akin to that found in prisons: the acquiesce of the vanquished, because death is the only alternative. Neither tranquility nor order characterized the empire that resulted from the Soviet Union's victory in World War II. By contrast, the peace that settled on Western Europe after that war is prototypical of those caused by exhaustion, in which quiet is less a sign of order than of necrosis and voluntary subjection. Almost as often, though more briefly, peace comes when former enemies are pushed together by the appearance of enemies common to both. This principle, together with the totality of Imperial Japan's defeat, explains why, after 1950, three generations of peace followed two generations of hostility.

Interest, Honor, and Ideas

Material interests are, if not inherently compatible, then surely inherently adjustable by peaceful means. However, neither compatibility nor adjustability of material interests reliably constitutes a sufficient cause of peace. Were it otherwise, human beings would be far more peaceful than they are. Demonstrating that peace pays better than war has always been as unproblematic as showing that honesty is the best policy.

War, as the German language reminds us, is kriegen, or taking. But humanity did not need eighteenth-century economics to discover that the toil and trouble necessary to take from others is greater than what is required to make things for one's self or freely to trade for them. Norman Angell's 1910 The Great Illusion: A Study of the Relation of Military Power in Nations to Their Economic and Social Advantage showed without doubt that modern war would destroy far more than any winner might possibly gain from it. Therefore, he concluded, it was impossible. The Socialist movement of that age assured the world that common people had "no fatherland" and hence would not fight wars. Yet in 1914–18 Socialist workers slaughtered one another for their fatherlands' sakes. In our time, the New York Times' Thomas Friedman's best selling The Olive Tree and the Lexus: Understanding Globalization argues that the Middle East's peoples will stop fighting for their neighbors' olive trees when they realize that peace can let them enjoy the global economy's bounties. They have not done so.

Human beings routinely sweep aside reason about interest. In this regard, today's Middle East is no different from Europe, 1914. Some cultures — Russian and Arab, for example — understand economics itself as exploitation of forcefully established terms of trade, of rent-seeking rather than production. Also, because human beings in general are susceptible to the argument that foreigners are taking unfair advantage of us, Alexander Hamilton's remark in Federalist #6 that commercial rivalries and personal factors always have produced, and always will produce, wars, is as valid today as it ever was.

Interest is a shaky basis for peace, because the interest of any people as a whole seldom if ever trumps that of powerful individuals and parties within each. Strife may serve these particular interests better than peace. Again, Hamilton's warning in the same Federalist is to the point: "the attachments, enmities, interests, hopes and fears of leading individuals ... assuming the pretext of some public motive, have not scrupled to sacrifice the national tranquility to personal advantage or personal gratification ... the influence which the bigotry of one female, the petulancies of another, and the cabals of a third had on the contemporary policy, ferments, and pacifications of a considerable part of Europe are topics that have too often been descanted upon not to be generally known." In short, particular interest trumps general interest, short-term interest trumps longterm interest, and sin often trumps virtue in human affairs.

Heeding the counsel of reason about the country's interest in peace over one's own and one's friends' personal interests and passions takes calculation. But minds controlled by ideas foster peace only to the extent that the ideas being calculated do so. In short, enlightened self-interest requires enlightenment. But oh, the darkness! Our civilization abounds with accounts of ideas and mentalities that utterly exclude peace. Homer's Achilles so embodies the notion of honor that he well-nigh made it impossible to war rationally, much less to imagine peace. (Not so Homer's Odysseus, who longs for family life in his bucolic home.) Roman ideas, vide the Eniad, are far more about glory than peace.

Closer to our own time, Napoleon showed us how easily glory may warp and wrap a people's mind around wars, precluding thought about wars' end. Marxism-Leninism, its eschatological overlay notwithstanding, was a doctrine of eternal strife for all practical purposes. In this it was indistinguishable from any number of late-medieval Christian heresies, including the ones that animated the crusades as social revolution on the basis of the pretense that "Deus le veult," God wills it. Islam originally and fundamentally divides humanity between dar al-Islam, those who have accepted Islam and thus won a claim to living in peace, and those who have not and hence who yet live in "the realm of war," dar al-harb. To this realm Muhammad restricted the ghzaw, the theretofore-universal Arab practice of killing other tribes' men, raping the women and leaving them to die in the desert. Old Testament Judaism makes a similar distinction, at least as it applies to the Promised Land.

All of the above proceed from the fact that primacy — who kowtows to whom — is more important to human beings than is peace, important enough to kill and die for. That in turn is possible to the extent that one does not conceive of anything that may be done in peace that is more important than mere primacy.

Ideas that value peace do so because they value the things that may be done only in peace, or done best in peace, and conversely that human primacy is not so important. Thus, famously, Socrates forfeited his life, telling the Athenian Assembly: "Men of Athens I love you, but I must obey the god rather than you." Jesus Christ, after telling the Pharisees to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's," told Pontius Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world."

Hence for Socrates's and Christ's followers, who rules on earth and to what end is not as important as conforming personal behavior to divine command. Socrates carried his spear in Athens's phalanx, and Christians have fought in their countries' wars. But Platonists and Christians are biased toward peace because they believe that their souls are more important than any war's results. Something similar may be said of Buddhism, which focuses the mind on man's interaction with himself, and with nature. Peaceful, individual cultivation of moral and spiritual virtue trumps the collective pursuit of glory.

Secular humanism is ambivalent about peace. To the extent that ever-more pleasant living is its summum bonum, secular humanism is peaceful to the point of pacifism. But secular humanism is also about managing humanity's march toward a higher state of being. That Darwinian march does require at least some violence. Imagining themselves the scientific managers of the planetary ecosystem's evolution, secular humanists see mankind at once as a work-in-progress and as the planet's problem. So, while they view traditional political struggles (abstractly) as less significant than even Christians or Platonists do, in practice they are downright eager to use whatever power may be at hand to trim the planetary garden of humans they judge to be excess or otherwise dysfunctional, to regulate who may eat or otherwise consume what.

Much preferring economic and bureaucratic regulation to naked force, secular humanists are nevertheless not averse to using force to suppress resistance to progress, that is, to themselves. Secular humanism's peace, then, is less a choice to forego strife for the sake of higher concerns than it is the rulers' satiation and the peace of the prison for the rest.


Peace, Civilization, and War

Because war's passions raise stakes to inherently uncontrollable heights, regimes that engage in war, no matter how small the war may be at first, thereby place their own lives — and the life of civilization itself — in the balance. Because all manner of civilization is rooted in peace, no regime, no nation, no civilization is immune from this liability. The certainty that departures from peace corrode the place on which statesmen stand makes it incumbent on them constantly to evaluate the gains for which they hope from any given war. They seldom do.

Civilized ways, Thucydides tells us, blossomed in Greece before Homeric times when the legendary king Minos of Crete suppressed the Aegean pirates, at once providing physical safety and delegitimizing life by rapine. The Greeks, no longer having to wonder whether strangers were pirates, moved about more confidently and soon stopped wearing arms. Commerce increased, and manners eased. They invested in the future by building permanent structures, including city walls. Luxury followed peace. Its advent was especially advantageous to the people of Attica. Increased mutual trust made possible the laws of Solon that recognized neighbors as fellow Athenians. Until after the Persian wars, Athens and similar cities maintained peace by moderating their quarrels.

Sparta was rooted in a very different type of peace. The Spartiates conquered the Helot tribes of the Peloponnesus, made them into slaves who fulfilled all economic functions, and devoted themselves to maintaining military mastery over them. Whenever a new Spartan king took office, he would re-declare war on the Helots. Sparta never built walls because the Spartiates were full-time professional warriors, in arms at all times. Sparta's was the peace of an armed camp. The Spartiates too moderated their quarrels with neighbors, but that was because they had to stay close to home lest the Helots rebel. Fear of a slave revolt also made this warrior class averse to hazarding serious losses and hence biased toward international peace.

Whatever the source of moderation, the roughly three centuries that preceded the Persian wars of 480–470 BC produced a civilization of widespread wealth, attachment to law, and unprecedented intellectual sophistication. Thus, the Greeks' distinction between themselves and those they termed "barbarians," of whom Aristotle wrote that they could be ruled only by tyrants, was objective, factual. Just as factual was the destruction of that civilization by the loss of peace.

The Fall of Greece

By the mid-fifth century, Athens had transformed its leadership of Greek seafaring cities into empire over them, and had become dependent on tribute from them for domestic welfare as well as for the splendors still visible today. Sparta worried about Athens's growing greatness, and gave comfort to whatever Greek cities chose to oppose Athens. The great powers' rivalry heightened the normal strife among factions within the smaller cities. In turn, these rivalries fired the fears and ambitions of the great powers' leading personages. Thus, what had begun as a contest between Athens and Sparta for leadership in keeping the Persian Empire at bay eventuated into the Peloponnesian War, a war that became an end in itself, ended up destroying the Greek world's peace, undermined its civilization, and erased the very distinction between Greeks and barbarians.

Arguably Thucydides's most poignant lesson is that none of the war's participants, especially in Athens, were moved by any notion of the peace that might result from their sacrifices.

Thucydides's account of Pericles's funeral speech sums up what peace had meant to Greeks who had learned from Athens, "the school of Hellas":

The freedom we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life ... all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens ... our chief safeguard ... that code which although unwritten yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace ... where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger ... we cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy...."

In short, Athenian civilization had achieved a happy balance between opposing human qualities: self-seeking and public spiritedness, duty and pleasure. But war upset that balance. It usually does.

Growing, all-consuming ferocity did the upsetting by leading men to think more of the struggle itself than of what might come of it. Within Athens itself, partisan passions made for war among leading citizens. Many conducted public business for private motives. A faction of the Assembly ended up carrying out a coup against the rest. A few joined the city's enemies. Elsewhere, the loss of international peace so inflamed domestic factions that they literally consumed one another while overturning every aspect of human decency. Thucydides's paradigm for how "the whole Hellenic world was convulsed" was the revolution in Corcyra:

[W]ords had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which now was given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question incapacity to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self defense ... until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve ... revenge was held of more account than self preservation. ... Oaths ... only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand ... success by treachery won the prize for superior intelligence. ... The cause of all these evils was ... lust for power arising from greed and ambition.

Greed, cruelty, and ambition had existed always. But, Thucydides tells us, wartime conditions had elevated first honor and then fear above calculations of self-interest.


Excerpted from To Make and Keep Peace by Angelo M. Codevilla. Copyright © 2014 Angelo M. Codevilla. Excerpted by permission of Hoover Institution Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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