- Kim by Rudyard Kipling
- The Persian Expedition by Xenophon
- The Art of War by Niccolo Machiavelli
- The Wilhelmstrasse: A Study of German Diplomats under the Nazi Regime by Paul Seabury
- "The Geographical Pivot of History" and other essays in Democratic Ideals and Reality
by Halford J. Mackinder
- The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories edited by Robert B. Strassler
- Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the Building of the German Empire by Fritz Stern
- The Story of Malakand Field Force by Winston Churchill
- Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler edited by Edward Mead Earle
- The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800 by Robert R. Palmer
- History of the Reign of Charles the Fifth by William Robertson
by Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907, is known today as the poet laureate of British imperialism and of the "White Man's Burden" – titles that are no longer much in fashion, although Kipling’s literary reputation has recovered in recent decades. His body of work includes the great novel, Kim, the story of an orphaned Anglo-Indian boy who is drawn into the Great Game – the geopolitical contest in the 19th century between Britain and Russia for the domination of Asia. For the British at least, this contest ultimately meant the control of India. Kim is a classic of the espionage genre – former CIA Director Allen Dulles had a well-read copy on his bedside table at the time of his death – but it is also a chronicle in miniature of the Great Game and the ethnography of the Indian subcontinent.
Kipling knew of what he wrote, or at least was sufficiently well informed to fill in the blanks for literary purposes. He was born in Bombay, the son of a teacher and artist, in the year (1865) that the great Central Asian city of Tashkent submitted to Russia. At age six, he was sent to England for his education (a common pattern among Anglo-Indians). He returned to India in 1882 to work for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore, where he covered developments on the North-West Frontier and in Afghanistan, and later for the Allahabad Pioneer. He left India in 1889.
An important point: Kim is a work of fiction. The covert side of the Great Game certainly did exist, but the centralized organization and method of British intelligence depicted in the book is exaggerated – or at least so the historical record indicates. There was, for instance, a gap or rivalry between the small British military staff devoted to intelligence, and the Foreign and Political Department of the Raj. The number of men carrying out clandestine surveys was very small, probably half a dozen or less at any given time. Kipling, of course, was in a position to know what the historical record did not show. At the very least, he anticipated many later developments in the organization and conduct of spy craft.
The action in Kim notionally takes place from 1878-1882 (or, by another calculation, 1888-1892) when the Anglo-Russian competition was at its height, although Kipling imports characters and incidents from various periods. (Kipling began to write Kim in the mid-1890s, when the Game was still very much on.) For the British Raj, the Great Game was about much more than the Russian military threat from the north – there was also the threat from within. Kipling grew up when memories of the Great Mutiny of 1857 were still fresh in the minds of Europeans. The civilian and military leaders of the Raj feared a Russian advance towards the frontiers, coupled with a foreign-inspired insurrection in the interior that would include the wholesale defection of native regiments. The Raj followed closely rumors of Russian-paid agents who were working to undermine the loyalty of problematic Indian military units and native princes who had their own private forces. British authorities, meanwhile, had their own agents at work throughout India and beyond the frontier to collect intelligence and disrupt enemy plans.
The boy Kim, by accident and choice, finds himself in the middle of the Game. He is the orphan son of Kimball O'Hara, an Irish color sergeant, and a nursemaid to a British colonel's family. Thirteen-year old Kim has gone native; he speaks the local languages and moves easily among the Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus who made up the population of Lahore, in the Punjab (which straddles modern-day India and Pakistan). Kim happens to meet a Tibetan lama on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Benares, to find a sacred river. Bored with his life in Lahore, Kim decides to join him as his chela, or disciple, who will beg for them on the road. (Tibet, when Kipling published the novel, had become the latest theater of contention between Russia and Britain.) Before leaving, Kim is asked by a wealthy Afghan horse dealer, Mahbub Ali, to take a package to a British officer in Umballa, 200 miles to the southeast, on the rail and road route to Benares. (Kim has worked for Mahbub in the past, watching men and reporting on their doings.) The package, Kim is told, contains the pedigree of a valuable horse that Mahbub has sold to the officer. He is told how to identify the man and is given a verbal message to convey, along with the reply which he is to expect. Kim, no fool, realizes that there is much more here than meets the eye. The package is hidden in a large flap of Indian bread, along with three silver rupees. At night, before departing, he observes someone rifling through Mahbub's saddle bags and other possessions.
Mahbub, as Kim will eventually discover, is actually one of most important agents of the British-Indian secret service, known as C.25.1B, or C.25 for short. His horse trading activities are a cover for reconnaissance activities along and beyond the North-West Frontier. The British officer in Umballa for whom the message is intended is the chief intelligence officer for the Raj, Colonel Creighton. Creighton runs a string of agents under his "cover" work for the Survey of India, which is tasked to produce maps of British India and the surrounding territories. Such surveys, with their potential for espionage and military reconnaissance, were not welcomed by Russia and many of the local peoples. The Survey employed specially trained natives – famously known as the "pundits" – to gather topographical and other intelligence, often in the guise of pilgrims or traders.
Kim delivers the package to Colonel Creighton but, curious and resourceful as always, he remains behind to discover what all the mystery is about. He eavesdrops on a conversation that the Colonel has with another officer, the Army Commander-in-Chief, who is based in Simla, the summer capital of British India, some eighty miles to the north. Mahbub’s message is fresh from the north and preserved despite two attacks on his caravan. There is a plot afoot among "five confederated Kings, who had no business to confederate," a "sympathetic Northern Power, a Hindu banker in Peshawar, a firm of gun-makers in Belgium, and an important, semi-independent Mohammedan ruler to the south." The Commander-in-Chief decides that a punitive expedition is in order. He instructs Creighton to signal the Rawalpindi and Peshawar brigades, about eight thousand troops, to move forward for the campaign.
Although Kipling typically drew on a number of different experiences and people to create the characters in Kim, Creighton was probably inspired by Colonel Thomas Montgomery of the Survey of India, who devised the techniques used by the pundits when they needed to conceal their work (such as drilling them to stride in a pace of known length that would remain constant whatever the terrain, while keeping count of the distance on Buddhist prayer beads). For the Commander-in-Chief, Kipling probably had in mind Field Marshall Lord Roberts of Kandahar, who held that role from 1885-1893, and who as a general in 1879 conducted the famous punitive expedition that occupied Kabul and executed over 100 men in retaliation for the slaughter of the British Resident in Kabul by rebellious Afghan troops.
All of this Kim chalks up as one of life's interesting twists, as he continues on with the Tibetan monk. Through various unrelated developments, however, he is caught as a suspected thief by one of the regiments moving forward (it happens to be his father's). When the officers come to understand his real situation, they plan to send him to a British orphanage, which is prevented only after Kim manages to send a message to Mahbub pleading for rescue. Mahbub in turn appeals to Colonel Creighton: Kim, with his extraordinary background, would make a perfect intelligence agent, a European able to pass himself off as a native beggar or in any number of other possible guises. If Kim is sent to a military orphanage, Mahbub warns, these unique attributes will be quickly drummed out of him. Creighton agrees and, as it turns out, the Tibetan monk serendipitously provides the funds necessary for Kim to attend St. Xavier's, a top-flight school in Lucknow, where Kim can be taught elementary surveying and other useful skills. When he leaves school, he will join the Survey of India as a "chain man." For his part, Kim prefers to resume his carefree days on the open road with the monk, but Creighton and Mahbub Ali warn him that they cannot protect him if he does.
While learning to be a proper sahib at St. Xavier's, Kim spends his vacations being schooled in the practical aspects of the Great Game's covert trade craft. He travels with Mahbub from Karachi to Quetta, where Kim, posing as a scullion boy in the house of suspected arms smuggler, surreptitiously copies the smuggler's coded ledger. He also secretly maps the caravan city of Bikanir, using the techniques of the pundits. He spends time in Simla in the shop of Lurgan Sahib, a dealer in precious stones and oriental antiques and Creighton's right-hand man, who trains Kim in the arts of disguise and impersonation; and who drills him in techniques of observation and recall. Kim meets R.17, Hurree Chunder Mookerjee, also known as the Babu, a fat, talkative Hindu intellectual from Bengal, who is (according to Lurgan) one of the ten best players in the Great Game. The Babu informs Kim that even Colonel Creighton is not privy to all the secrets of the "our Department," tricks employed by the non-European operatives. These include the protection provided by a native secret society called the Seven Brothers, or Sat Bhai, to get the agent out of "dam'-tight places."
Creighton, at the urging of Lurgan and Mahbub, removes Kim from school and allows him a six-month apprenticeship on the road to sharpen his skills. Kim's relationship with the Tibetan lama provides a perfect cover for him to wander about India (Kim, in any case, is genuinely fond of the old man and his quest). On a train, he stumbles on a badly beaten man who turns out to be Agent E.23 and who is in possession of a letter that incriminates the ruler of an independent state in the south. Agent E.23 explains to Kim that they cannot count on the Indian government for protection: "We of the Game are beyond protection. If we die, we die. Our names are blotted from the book. That is all." Kim, using the tricks of the trade that he has been taught, manages to disguise E.23 to escape detection and to ensure that the letter reaches Colonel Creighton.
R.17 (the Babu), having learned of Kim's success, urges him to accompany him on a mission to discover the identity and purpose of two Europeans (they turn out to be Russian and French) who had crossed through the passes to the north, allegedly on a shooting expedition, but known to be carrying surveying equipment and having met two of the kings implicated in the earlier conspiracy. (Signs of Franco-Russian entente and the Fashoda crisis led Kipling to introduce this new player into the Game.) The Babu, claiming to be an agent for the Raja of Rampur, ingratiates himself with the Russian party. After an apparently accidental encounter – Kim and the lama had been following the Babu at a distance – the Russian's contemptuous treatment of the lama set off a melee, during which Kim and the Babu manage to purloin the enemy's secret reports, maps and letters. Reading one of those letters from one of the northern kings, the Babu declares, "He will have to explain officially how the deuce-an'-all he is writing love letters to the Tsar." Kipling portrayed the Russian and Frenchman as crude, brutal, and insensitive to the native peoples, in implicit contrast to Kim and with the multi-ethnic and religious makeup of Colonel Creighton’s operation.
Kim, who has fallen ill during the long trek homeward, is left to decide whether he will stay with the lama or continue to play the geopolitical contest that never ends. "When everyone is dead," the Babu explains, "the Great Game is finished. Not before."
— Patrick Garrity
The Persian Expedition
(translated by Rex Warner, with introduction and notes by George Cawkwell)
Penguin Books, 1950.
To encourage fidgety school boys to pay attention to their Greek lessons, English and American headmasters would frequently assign Xenophon’s Anabasis (“The March Up-Country”), usually titled The Persian Expedition. Xenophon told the thrilling story of what became known as the Ten Thousand, a Greek mercenary contingent engaged during the summer of 401 B.C. by a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, to support his campaign to claim the throne from his brother, Artaxerxes II. These events took place shortly after the Spartan-led coalition, with aid from Persia, had defeated Athens and its allies in the decades-long Peloponnesian War. Sparta now quietly supported Cyrus’s ambitions. According to the Anabasis, Cyrus concealed his intentions to attack Artaxerxes; but he eventually persuaded the Greeks, led by the Spartan exile Clearchus, with promises of higher pay. After a march of hundreds of miles from Sardis, the two sides met at Cunaxa, north of Babylon. The Greeks dominated their portion of the battlefield–supposedly only a single Greek hoplite was wounded by an arrow–but Cyrus was killed and his troops routed. Clearchus and four senior commanders of the expedition were lured into negotiations with the Persians, and were then captured and executed. The Greeks elected new generals, including a young Athenian, Xenophon, an acolyte of Socrates, who throughout his life was at odds with his city’s democratic leadership. Xenophon played a key role in persuading the Greeks to stay together and march to safety, despite the apparently desperate situation, rather than surrendering to the Persians.
Xenophon detailed the fighting retreat of the Ten Thousand through northern Mesopotamia and the independent or autonomous lands of the Kurds, Armenians and other peoples. (The original size of the Greek expedition was slightly larger than ten thousand, and that number did not include camp followers and slaves.) The Greeks must overcome the lack of supplies, brutal weather, difficult terrain, sickness, limited and misleading tactical and strategic intelligence, treacherous allies, and resourceful enemies who possessed knowledge of the ground and were highly motivated to fight off the invaders. After weeks on the move Xenophon, in command of the rearguard, heard great shouting from the troops on the high ground ahead of him. Alarmed, he assumed that the Greek vanguard must be under attack. But as the sound made its way through the ranks, he finally distinguished the words: “thalatta, thalatta!” “The sea!” The sea!” The troops on the heights had spotted the Black Sea and the relatively safety of the coast, which was dotted by Greek settlements. Five out of six men have survived the march. Their adventures were not yet over, however. Not all their local Greeks are friendly. The Ten Thousand divided into several distinct contingents. Unable to obtain ships to sail back to Greece, they marched along the shore to reach the Bosporus. Some of the troops, including Xenophon, crossed into Europe and fought with Suethes, a Thracian warlord, to obtain the kingship of Thrace, before being incorporated into the army of the Spartan general Thibron for further battles in Asia against the Persians.
The Persian Expedition is one of the classic adventure stories and military chronicles of the ancient world. Xenophon’s Greeks walked in the shoes of Herodotus and foreshadowed the battles of Alexander the Great. (Some contemporary analysts have read Xenophon for lessons on how a Western empire might extract its forces from a difficult situation in the Middle East.) The literal accuracy of Xenophon’s account–told in the third person–and his role and importance during the campaign were challenged by his contemporaries and by later scholars. But many in Greece, recalling also their triumphs in the Persian Wars, took the lesson from Xenophon that the Greeks were so superior to the decadent “East” that its conquest was possible and desirable.
Greek chauvinism aside, serious scholars have noted the differences between the Greek and Persian worlds and have explored the reasons for the apparent advantages enjoyed by the Greek expedition. Historian Victor Davis Hanson describes the Ten Thousand as “a marching democracy”–a polis in motion. “The soldiers routinely held assemblies in which they voted on the proposals of their elected leaders. In times of crises, they formed ad hoc boards to ensure that there were sufficient archers, cavalry, and medical corpsmen. When faced with a variety of unexpected challenges both natural and human … councils were held to debate and discuss new tactics, craft new weapons, and adopt modifications in organization. The elected generals marched and fought alongside their men–and were careful to provide a fiscal account of their expenditures.” Greek successes on the battlefield, according to Hanson, had less to do with superiority in technology or tactics and more to do with their way of life. “The peculiar way Greeks killed grew out of consensual government, equality among the middling classes, civilian audit of military affairs, and politics apart from religion, freedom and individualism, and rationalism. The ordeal of the Ten Thousand, when stranded and near extinction, brought out the polis that was innate in all Greek soldiers, who then conducted themselves on campaign precisely as civilians in their respective city-states.”
As we delve into the details, however, we see that Xenophon relates a complicated story, not merely one of Greek superiority and unchallenged success. The Ten Thousand was indeed a polis in motion, one plagued by factionalism as well as civic virtue, divided by allegiances to their respective native Greek cities and roiled by personal ambitions. They were not, or were not simply, a happy band of brothers. They were often their own worst enemies. Troops struck out on their own and disobeyed orders, frequently to plunder, which endangered the expedition as a whole. The unexpected arrival of thousands of armed men was viewed suspiciously by many of the Greek communities along the Black Sea; these cities warned that they would ally with the local non-Greek peoples to oppose the expedition if it plundered them or otherwise threatened their security and interests. Xenophon often must persuade the troops under his command and the army in general to follow what he regarded as the sensible course, especially the need for discipline and unity. (This included strict observance of religious ceremonies and paying heed to omens, even when military factors indicated otherwise.) But Xenophon must overcome suspicions that he was hardly a disinterested party himself, especially given his expressed desire to found a city as a way out of the dilemma of the expedition–which was not precisely what his mercenary colleagues had in mind–and his argument that it was necessary to defer to Spartan concerns because of Sparta’s established position of leadership among the Greek-speaking world.
The military success of the Ten Thousand had less to do with the famous hoplite tactics than with the ability to adapt on the fly to widely different fighting conditions, especially marching while under pursuit (Xenophon, for instance, urged that they deploy in towns and villages when threatened in the rear by an attacking force, rather than engage in a fighting retreat). The Greeks jury-rigged a cavalry force and slingers to replace the capabilities lost with the destruction of Cyrus’s army. They reduced their baggage and animals, and recently-acquired slaves, to the bare minimum to ease logistical demands. Diplomacy proved to be essential to the success of the expedition. After the capture of Clearchus and the other senior Greek leaders, Xenophon and his colleagues refused further talks with the Persians, so as not to undermine the morale of their forces. But as they moved into the territories outside Persian control, they must find ways to address the “security dilemma” to avoid unnecessary battles without undue risk of being lured into a trap. They struck agreements with cities and tribes to fight their local enemies in return for safe passage, guides, and supplies. They told their prospective allies that they would never again have at their disposal such a force with which to obtain their objectives. The leaders of the expedition negotiated truces to retrieve and bury bodies, in exchange for promises not to burn villages. One of Xenophon’s fellow commanders offered this message to the Persians and other potential opponents: “we shall go through the country doing as little damage as possible, but if anyone tries to stop us on our way, we shall fight our way out as hard as we can.”
Xenophon’s overriding operational plea to his colleagues and troops was that of unity, even when they reached the relative safety of the Black Sea coast: “So long as you keep together in your present great force, you are sure both of respect and finding supplies. One of the results of power is the ability to take what belongs to the weaker. But if you became dispersed, and this force of ours was broken up into small detachments, then you would not be able to secure your food, and it would be a sad business getting away from here. … if anyone is discovered leaving us before the whole army is safe, I think he should be put on trial for misconduct.” Unity was necessary to obtain decisive victory. Unless the Greeks were seen as being absolutely superior on the battlefield, they would lose their ability to deter and coerce the local peoples, who would soon learn to play upon the factionalism among the expedition.
Throughout the Anabasis, Xenophon offers his reflections on the nature of military command. He told his newly-elected fellow commanders that they could not display any discouragement or indecision before their soldiers. “In peacetime you got more pay and respect than they did. Now, in war time, you ought to hold yourselves to be braver than the general mass of men, and to take decisions for the rest, and, if necessary, to be the first to do the hard work.” Leadership consisted in creating a sense of direction and purpose: “there will be a great rise in their spirits if one can change the way they think, so that instead of having in their heads the one idea of ‘what is going to happen to me?’ they may think ‘what action am I going to take?’” The commanders of the expedition must especially overcome despair because the quantitative advantages that the Persians possess: “You are well aware that it is not numbers or strength that brings victory in war. No, it is when one side goes against the enemy with the gods’ gift of stronger morale that their adversaries, as a rule, cannot withstand them.”
— Patrick Garrity
The Art of War
by Machiavelli (1521)
“A Prince should have no other object, nor any other thought, nor take anything else as his art but the art of war and discipline, for that is the only art which is of concern to one who commands.” Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter XIV
In The Art of War, the only one of his major writings published during his lifetime, Machiavelli sets out to consider that topic from the standpoint of the superintending military commander. The Art of War is divided into a preface and seven books (chapters), presented as a series of dialogues that take place in the garden of Cosimo Rucellai, a friend of Machiavelli, who had died two years before the book was published. Cosimo and his guests, including a silent Machiavelli, respectfully question a visitor, Fabrizio Colonna, who is treated as a military authority. Fabrizio discusses how an army should be raised, trained, organized, deployed and employed. His model is the Roman Legion of the Republic, which he argues should be adapted to the contemporary situation of Renaissance Florence.
At first glance, The Art of War, as a practical military treatise, is dated, with its discussion of medieval-style fortifications, the use of pikesmen and the hollow square, and the like. As with all of Machiavelli’s writings, we should not take the obvious for granted, for instance, by simply identifying Machiavelli’s views with those of Fabrizio. (For a careful study of Machiavelli’s deeper purposes, including the relationship of The Art of War with The Prince and The Discourses, one should consult Harvey Mansfield’s Machiavelli’s Virtue and the commentaries by William B. Allen, Hadley Arkes, and Carnes Lord in Angelo Codevilla’s translation of The Prince.) In terms of its status as a classic of strategy and diplomacy, we follow Felix Gilbert, the distinguished historian, who argued that "[modern] military thought has proceeded ever since on the foundations Machiavelli laid." Frederick the Great—the author of Anti-Machiavel—regarded it as one of as his favorite books. Napoleon and Clausewitz likewise cited its influence of their thinking
For Machiavelli, as Gilbert explains, war is natural and necessary; it establishes which countries will survive and expand or be annihilated. War, therefore, must end in a decision. A battle is the best method of reaching a quick decision, since it places the defeated country at the mercy of the victor. Because of the central importance of the battle, its issue should not be left to mere chance, but must be prepared so that, as far as possible, victory is assured. The efficient preparation for battle is the only criterion for the composition of an army. This necessitates a reexamination of the traditional methods of military organization. Political institutions, in their spirit as well as their form, must be shaped in accordance with military needs. An inner connection exists between technical military detail and the general purpose of war, and between military institutions and political organization. By forming a military organization in accordance with the laws which reason prescribed for it, it should be possible to reduce further the influence of chance. “Even if the term strategy did not exist then,” Gilbert writes, “this was the beginning of strategical thinking.”
Addendum: At the risk of reducing Machiavelli’s thought on strategy and diplomacy to a series of aphorisms, we can note some themes in The Art of War and across his writings:
Men, and polities, should either be caressed or crushed. They can avenge slight injuries, but not those that are very severe. Hence, any injury done to a man or polity must be such that there is no need to fear his revenge.
A ruler should act early and deal not only with existing troubles, but with troubles that are likely to develop. He should anticipate and acquire the means to overcome them. When the first signs of troubles develop, the medicine will be too late, because the malady will already have become incurable. The Romans never allowed troubles to develop in order to avoid fighting a war, for they knew that wars cannot really be avoided but merely postponed to the advantage of others.
As a general rule, anyone who enables another to become powerful brings on his own ruin.
A conqueror, after seizing power, must decide about all the injuries he needs to commit, and do them all at once; so as not to have to inflict punishments every day. Thus he will be able, by his apparent later restraint, to reassure men and win them over by benefitting them.
Destroying cities is the only certain way of holding them. Anyone who becomes a master of a city that is accustomed to a free way of life, and does not destroy it, may expect to be destroyed by it himself—the citizens will always able to appeal to the spirit of freedom in rebellion.
A principality that does not have its own army cannot be secure; rather, it must rely completely on luck or the favor of others, because it lacks the strength to defend itself in difficult times.
Factions can be tolerated, even encouraged, in peacetime, when they can be used to divide the people; but not in wartime.
A new ruler may decide to encourage the growth of enemies, so that he will be able to vanquish them, and thus rise higher.
If a ruler is more afraid of his own subjects than of foreigners, he should build fortresses; but a ruler who is more afraid of foreigners than of his own subjects should not build them. The best fortress a ruler can have is not to be hated by the people; if the people rise up there will never be any lack of foreign powers to help them.
A ruler is highly regarded if he is either a true ally or an outright enemy, that is, if he unhesitatingly supports one ruler against another. This policy is always better than remaining neutral, since if two powerful nearby rulers near come to blows, either the eventual victor will become a threat, or he will not. In either situation, it will always be wiser to intervene in favor of one side and fight strongly. The victor does not want unreliable allies who did not help him when he was hard pressed; and the loser will not show any favor.
A ruler should never ally with a ruler who is more powerful. If that ruler is victorious, you will be at his mercy.
In warfare as in politics, it is better to be impetuous than cautious.
Anyone who rules a foreign county should take the initiative in becoming a protector of the neighboring minor powers and contrive to weaken those who are powerful within those countries themselves.
— Patrick Garrity
by Paul Seabury.
University of California Press, 1954.
After World War II, former German Foreign Office State Secretary Ernst von Weizsäcker sought to draw a distinction between service of the German nation and of the Hitler regime: "As a civil servant, one does not serve a constitution, but the Fatherland. One serves whichever government and constitution is given the country by the people." In a similar vein Paul-Otto Schmidt, another senior diplomat, wrote in his memoirs: "Governments came and went, foreign ministers changed, but for German diplomatists such events signified no change in their fundamental task: to represent the Reich abroad."
Paul Seabury, Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, examined these claims in his 1954 classic, The Wilhelmstrasse: A Study of German Diplomats under the Nazi Regime. He also dealt with wider and perhaps more universal issues: the behavior and moral responsibility of the bureaucratic technician in a modern society; and the question of continuity of foreign policy under various political regimes.
The German Empire created by Bismarck inherited from Prussia a highly rationalized, professional trained, permanent bureaucracy, an important part of which was the Foreign Office (the Wilhelmstrasse). The prestige of this bureaucracy as a whole was enormous. Its personnel was recruited not only from the aristocracy but from the commercial and, later, industrial middle class. By the turn of the 20th century it represented an amalgam of the "liberal" nationalist and conservative elements of German society. The early Weimar Republic attempted to democratize German diplomacy by introducing "new blood" into lower career-service posts and appoint non-career officials into higher positions. The experiment failed. The old Imperial laws governing the civil service were carried over into the Weimar era; this made it virtually impossible for the parties of the Republic—the Social Democrats, Democrats, and the Catholic Center—to develop a genuinely Republican civil or diplomatic service.
The career diplomats under the Weimar regime resented the parliamentary oratory of democratic amateurs, yearned for the authoritarian constitutional arrangements of the past (many preferred a restoration of monarchy) and deplored the absence of unitary direction and nationalistic vigor which alone, to their way of thinking, could break the shackles that restrained German greatness. They sought to steer German foreign policy towards the traditional Prussian dream of an eastern-oriented policy of close collaboration with Russia. Together with General von Seeckt and the General Staff, and the political support of extreme nationalist elements, the Foreign Office careerists aimed to build a continental alliance which would restore German military and economic supremacy over Central Europe, and which would enable Germany to rectify Versailles, not by patient negotiation and compromise, but by force. Although some aspects of this policy were tacitly embraced by various Weimar governments, the goal of a Russian-German bloc was not one subscribed to by the Liberal and Socialist parties of the Weimer coalition. This was the foreign policy of German reaction, as expressed through the Foreign Office.
The advent of the National Socialist regime created problems and opportunities for the Wilhelmstrasse. Hitler too sought to overthrow Versailles and reestablish German greatness, but his strategic agenda, as laid out in Mein Kampf and by Nazi ideologues like Alfred Rosenberg, pointed towards a German-led European coalition against Russia. He also made clear his contempt for career diplomats. On the other hand, when Hitler came to power, Germany was strategically isolated. Any early attempt to achieve his maxim objectives without diplomatic cover would have led to disaster. Few Nazis had any awareness of political conditions outside of Germany. Their early forays abroad were clumsy and counterproductive. Consequently Hitler was forced to rely heavily on the ministerial bureaucracy. He retained Baron Konstantin von Neurath, a careerist, as foreign minister. Hitler was well aware of the peacetime utility of keeping correct, conventional, and urbane diplomats in their post, as shock absorbers between the outside world and the realities of Nazi power and purpose.
From 1933 to 1938, Hitler's successfully aggressive diplomacy could be rationalized by the Wilhelmstrasse as a modern-day application of Bismarck's strategy, one aimed at continental domination without provoking a major European war. Hitler's diplomats shared the major territorial aspirations of the Nazi regime—including the truncation and destruction of Czechoslovakia and the proposed "settlement" of the Polish Corridor question. Their preferred approach was distinguished only by caution and a sense of timing. Together with many in the Army, they had profound fears of a two-front war involving Britain, France and possibly the United States. The appropriate Foreign Office missions and division, however, swung into line to defend Hitler's diplomatic offensives of the mid and late 1930s, although a few senior officials, such as Weizsäcker, privately encouraged the British to adopt a firm line
Hitler, for his part, dispensed with the advice of his career diplomats and assumed control of the direction of German foreign policy. He wanted to remove any bureaucratic obstacles to his vision of the Thousand Year Reich. At the general level, he altered civil service laws, pressured civil servants to join the Party, infiltrated reliable party members into important administrative posts, and eliminated "unreliable elements." To counterbalance the Wilhelmstrasse specifically, Hitler attempted to cultivate auxiliary instruments to conduct foreign policy (broadly defined), which were responsible to him or to Party formations. In 1938, as part of a larger purge of government and the army, Hitler felt strong enough to appoint a Nazi crony, Joachim von Ribbentrop, to replace Neurath. By the late 1930s, Seabury writes, the Nazis had transformed the German Foreign Office into a reliable instrument of their policies. Ribbentrop himself envisioned the creation of a truly Nazi diplomatic service. He proposed that selected Aryans from the Hitler Youth and other affiliated agencies, under the auspices of the SS, would undergo a program of sports and political indoctrination, to be coupled with an internship with officials in the Foreign Office.
This process did not go very far, however. The form, if not the independence, of the professional diplomatic corps remained in place as an aristocratic anomaly. Careerists regarded their new superior with contempt, as an incompetent upstart, but for the moment they and Ribbentrop realized that they had common interests. Ribbentrop feared that if he appointed Nazis to senior posts, he would be creating rivals to his own position. Both sides stood to lose much if matters were torn from the hands of the Foreign Office by predatory bureaucratic competitors such as Rosenberg, Himmler, or Goebbels. A majority of senior career diplomats joined the Nazi Party. Some took formal rank in the SS. With the outbreak of war and the demands on manpower, Ribbentrop's plans to flood the lower Wilhelmstrasse echelons with Aryan Nazi novices were shelved.
Within two years, especially after the invasion of Russia, traditional diplomacy was liquidated, in Seabury's phrase. (Senior career diplomats privately had grave doubts about the invasion, but they had no say in the matter). The German Reich now dealt almost exclusively with satellites or enemies. The Wilhelmstrasse was still open for business—one of its principal assignments was to arrange with local officials for the deportation of Jews from occupied territories or satellite states—but it rapidly sank into insignificance and incoherence. Ribbentrop, who traveled with Hitler, was seldom in Berlin and lost interest in day-to-day operations of his Ministry. A few Foreign Office officials resigned or engaged in the plots against Hitler but most stayed the course. Contrary to later claims made at Nuremburg and in memoirs, there is no evidence that the professional bureaucracy after 1939 attempted in any way to sabotage Hitler's foreign policy or war effort.
Seabury concludes that the decline in the German diplomatic service as a self-sufficient bureaucracy was the result of conditions that were inherent in the Nazi state itself—"the disintegration of traditional administrative procedure, the intense jurisdictional wrangles, the friction between the 'new' and 'old' (pre-Hitler) officialdom, the struggle for bureaucratic self-preservation, and the tenor of the system itself. The notion, shared by many old career officials—that a self-sufficient professional diplomacy could remain as kind of 'state within a state,' managing and manipulating its own machinery for its own purposes—proved incompatible with the totalitarian regime in which it existed."
In 1942, Ribbentrop quietly expressed his personal belief that Hitler's final goal of world domination was so close that the Führer would no longer have need for a foreign policy "in the old sense," and hence no need for a foreign minister. Ribbentrop need not have worried, on that score at least.
— Patrick Garrity
by Halford J. Mackinder.
originally published 1919; republished in 1942;
Paperback version, National Defense University Press, 1996.
In 1904, British geographer Halford J. Mackinder presented a landmark paper, "The Geographical Pivot of History," to the Royal Geographic Society of London. In this and subsequent writings, Mackinder argued that changes in technology—especially the revolution in land transportation brought about by the railroad, the internal combustion engine, and the construction of a modern highway and road network—had altered the relationship between sea and land power, bringing the Columbian age of dominant sea power to a close. In this new, tightly connected global system, land power would hold the advantage. The center of emerging land power was the Eurasian core area—the geographical pivot, roughly coincident with the tsarist Russian empire—that Mackinder would come to call the Heartland. This core area was inaccessible to sea power and therefore was capable of being exploited by a land power seeking to dominate the Eurasian "World-Island" from its continental fortress. Surrounding the Heartland were two crescents: first, a wholly maritime outer crescent consisting of the Americas, the British Isles, Australia, and sub-Saharan Africa; and second, an inner crescent (partly maritime, partly continental) that extended along the Eurasian littoral, including most of continental Europe west of Russia, the Maghreb, the Middle East, and continental South, Southeast, and East Asia. Most of the world’s population, and its great civilizations, inhabited this crescent.
Because of its location, Mackinder believed that the inner crescent would be a permanent zone of conflict. If a land power expanded over these marginal areas of Europe and Asia, it would obtain vast resources for building a naval fleet capable of overwhelming the outer crescent, the ring of islands and outer continents that surrounded the World Island. World empire would then be in sight. They key to world politics in the early 20th century, as Mackinder saw it, was the struggle between Russia and Germany for control of the Heartland and adjacent areas, especially Eastern Europe. For Mackinder, Eastern Europe was the gateway to and from the Heartland, which later led him to offer his famous formulation.
Who rules Eastern Europe commands the Heartland
Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island
Who rules the World-Island commands the world
Mackinder revised his geographical definition of the Heartland several times over the next few decades. To reflect on the lessons and consequences of World War I, he published a collection of his major essays on geopolitics (a term he disliked), entitled Democratic Ideals and Reality. He later raised the possibility that the Heartland could be balanced by the powers of what he called the "Midland Basin"—Western Europe and North America—the countries that surrounded the "Midland Ocean." Mackinder’s conception of security influenced the negotiators at Versailles in 1919, the debate over British strategy in the inter-war years, and the American policy of containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
For more detailed reflections on Mackinder, geography and politics, see this essay by Professor Christopher Flannery of Azusa Pacific University.
— Patrick Garrity
Robert B. Strassler (editor), Rosalind Thomas (introduction), and Andrea L. Purvis (Translator).
New York: Pantheon Books, 2007.
"This is the publication of the inquiry of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, which he presents in hope that the achievements of men should not be obliterated by time, nor that the great and wonderful deeds of both Greeks and barbarians should be without their due fame, and also for what reason they ought each other." Thus begins Herodotus' Histories (inquiries) of the great conflict between the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire and an alliance of Greek city-states during the 5th century BC. Herodotus' outlook on human affairs falls between that of Homer's divine and heroic poetry and Thucydides' cool rationalism. He traces the Greek-barbarian hostility back into mythical times, and "digresses" in detail about the geography and peoples of the lands of the known world, many (not all) of which he investigated personally. Modern investigative science and anthropology have refuted his "tall tales" but much of our insight about the ancient world comes from his research.
The Persian Wars were a series of clashes between the two sides, and typically delineated by two unsuccessful Persian invasions of the Greek mainland in 490 BC and 480-479 BC. The first invasion, a punitive campaign led by Darius I in retaliation for Athens' support of a revolt of Greek cities against Persian rule in Ionia, was repulsed at Marathon. In the second campaign, King Xerxes' massive force overcame Greek defenses at Thermopylae, including the famous Spartan contingent of 300 under the command of King Leonidas. The citizens of Athens fled their Attic homeland and, after much debate, were persuaded by Themistocles to join with other Greeks to fight the Persian fleet in a last-ditch effort to prevent conquest by Xerxes. The overwhelming Greek naval victory at Salamis demoralized the Persians. Xerxes fled back to Asia and his army was subsequently routed and driven out of Hellas at the battles of Plataea and Mycale. The war elevated Athens to the first rank of Greek city-states, led to the creation of the Athenian Empire, and laid the foundations for the subsequent rivalry with Sparta.
Herodotus, who wrote a generation after the Persian Wars, puts these battles in the context of a great clash of civilizations, between Greek freedom and Asian despotism. He seeks to explain why and how a relatively poor, small, and divided collection of Greek-speakers were able to defeat a much larger, wealthier, and centralized empire. On the battlefield itself, on land and at sea, the Greeks were better disciplined and employed superior close-order tactics, such as staying in ranks rather than attempting to kill the greatest number of enemy soldiers in open combat. But Herodotus' generic answer reflected the views of his contemporaries and greatly influenced the West's understanding of itself: "As long as the Athenians were ruled by a despotic government, they had no better success in war than any of their neighbors. Once the yoke was flung off, they proved the finest fighters in the world." In the past, "they battled less than their best because they were working for a master; but as free men each individual wanted to achieve something for himself." This was true generally of the citizens of all Greek city-states, from Athens' relatively new democracy to the more variegated Spartan regime: the belief that freedom (eleutheria), the equality of citizens, and the rule of law represented a superior way of life, and war, to that of the non-free peoples of the East.
Herodotus' conclusion of the qualitative distinction between West and East has been challenged, of course, by postmodern, deconstructionist views. But it should be noted that his is hardly a deterministic, triumphalist narrative of inevitable Greek success. Salamis, for instance, was a damn near run thing and was very nearly not fought at all; Themistocles' opponents made a strong case for fighting on land, for living to fight another day, or for withdrawing entirely from Hellas. Themistocles himself (according to Herodotus), like many other Greek leaders, played both sides of the street. The majority of Greek cities on the mainland on the line of the Persians' march did not resist Xerxes or were quickly cowed. Herodotus believes in accounting for the power of custom, not just Greek custom, when considering relations between peoples and the limits of imperial rule. Chance, personality, and leadership matter. But the stakes unquestionably were enormous; and the narrative of the historic West runs through Herodotus.
— Patrick Garrity
by Fritz Stern
New York: Knopf, 1977 (paperback, 1979)
In 1862, shortly after taking office in the midst of a parliamentary crisis over defense spending, Prussian Minister-President Otto von Bismarck famously argued: "The position of Prussia in Germany will not be determined by its liberalism but by its power. … Prussia must concentrate its strength and hold it for the favorable moment, which has already come and gone several times. Since the treaties of Vienna, our frontiers have been ill-designed for a healthy body politic. Not through speeches and majority decisions will the great questions of the day be decided—that was the great mistake of 1848 and 1849—but by iron and blood." (This expression was popularly transposed as "blood and iron.") As Columbia University historian Fritz Stern brilliantly demonstrated in his classic Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichröder, and the Building of the German Empire, other elements were involved in Bismarck's invocation of Prussian and later German power. War and diplomacy require money. A modern economy as well as a modern armed force depends on iron. Gold and iron, furthermore, are not exclusively national products; at least in part they must be obtained, cultivated, and expended on the international stage.
The second but not subsidiary billing in Stern's drama is given to Gerson von Bleichröder, a German-Jewish banker, the Prussian Rothschild, who served as Bismarck's personal financial agent as well as an integral tool of Prussian/German statecraft. Bismarck fully understood the importance of economic tools as instruments of policy. He learned this lesson early. When the Prussian lower house refused to provide the funds to wage what became the first two wars of German unification, Bismarck defied that body and turned to Bleichröder to obtain the necessary loans. Their relationship reflected the connectedness between government and capital and diplomacy and finance, as well as public and private interest. Marx had a certain insight into this situation but misunderstood the relationship as it played out in Prussia and Germany. "One is struck by the penetration of economic power, its ubiquitous presence, but also by its limits and indeed by its inferiority to the power of the state," Stern concludes. The Bismarck-Bleichröder relationship suggests the primacy of politics, not economics.
Stern provides a thoughtful assessment of Bismarck's political and diplomatic strategy, especially in light of the financial situation (positive and negative) of Prussia/Germany. Funds were a constant worry due to the constitutional conflict between the King/Emperor, his ministers, and parliament. Bismarck knew that material prosperity enhanced the power of the state and dampened the revolutionary pressures from below that threatened the Junkers and the new industrial elite. "He forged the fatal and unprecedented union of constitutional absolutism with democratic trappings, of political nonage and economic growth that characterized the development of a powerful but illiberal Germany. … a mighty, militaristic country that would idolize power even when that power was unrestrained by intellect or moral realism."
As Prussian Minister-President, Bismarck's aim was constant: the aggrandizement of Prussia in Germany and the security of Prussia's social and political system. He had no specific program when he came into office in 1862; he intended to preserve the authority of the Prussian monarchy at home and so increase its power abroad, for he saw its strength as the best protection against recurrent revolution and disorder. Under the shield of diplomacy he led Prussia into three insulated wars. But after 1872, as Chancellor of a united Germany, he realized that he could not expect to fight safely circumscribed wars again. Bismarck's Germany had been created by diplomacy and war, and his nightmare ever-after was its destruction at the hands of a victorious coalition. "He wanted peace and ever increasing power—because international affairs was not a static system and because he knew that after centuries of defeat and disunity, his own people would forgive internal disappointments for external glory," Stern writes. "To Bismarck, then, diplomacy was the essence of survival."
Bismarck's approach to diplomacy was forever flexible. "His greatness as a statesman depended on his ability to temporize, to seek and sometimes to prepare the right moment, the sudden opportunity, which he then exploited with daring speed and skill," Stern concludes. "Long-range planning would perforce have narrowed choices. He elevated the perfectly human reluctance to make choices into a supreme political virtue. His genius was at its best in devising a 'strategy of alternatives.'" Diplomacy was not only the rare moment of decision; it was the routine search for clues in ambiguous statements, in press campaigns and economic dispositions, in an imperial phrase or gesture, in armaments and troop movements. The world of diplomacy was at best one of partial knowledge and continuous search for temporary solutions to conflicting demands. "Diplomacy presupposed a vision of the interconnectedness of things: Europe was cramped and every move of every power had a hundred distant repercussions—and even small counties could create great upheavals. Above all, the scene changed continually, at least on the surface; there were always new issues and crises that threatened the precarious balance of forces. Interests and alliances shifted, and it was Bismarck's plan to anticipate and guide these changes as much as possible."
Bleichröder became an integral part of this process (although as a Jew, he would forever be an outsider). Bleichröder too had a stake, actual or potential, in nearly every country in Europe and many beyond. Contrary to common perception of war-mongering bankers, his basic interest was peace. Peace brought prosperity; war spelled uncertainty, which the financial markets abhorred, as nature abhors a vacuum. He negotiated financial deals for himself and for Berlin with foreign governments (including, famously, the French war indemnity). He formed alliances with or against other bankers or syndicates in other countries. He provided information to Bismarck about their doings, and he served as an informal conduit for the famously close-mouthed Bismarck to promote his views. Bismarck's style of diplomacy relied on deliberate ambiguity—which Bleichröder could help explicate when it was in Bismarck's interest for him to do so. The Iron Chancellor parceled out partial truths. If his subordinates could not divine his aim or policy, it was often because he himself had not set on a definite course but was pursuing many lines simultaneously. He cultivated an intimidating inscrutability that kept Europe off balance. His favorite tactic was to bully an opponent into friendship.
Bismarck, over time, learned to see the world through the eyes of his banker. Bismarck "had a pragmatic sense of the interconnectedness of high policy and every aspect of domestic policy. Precisely because of his great practicality, perhaps because of his own involvement in the economic life of a nation, he appreciated the perspective on international affairs that his banker had to offer. For Bismarck, economic matters were at once a barometer of a nation's health and disposition—a barometer over which he sometimes had limited power." Bismarck was well aware that the world was not simply divided into foreign and domestic policy. "Diplomacy was the art of obtaining the best possible ends abroad within the clear constraints at home. The two were in constant interaction and Bismarck knew that war and revolution were deeply intertwined: the Commune had reminded him of that historical lesson. The two realms most clearly interacted in economic matters. He also assumed that the state should promote business interests at home and abroad, wherever it could do so without injuring competing, higher interests."
Bismarck was particularly concerned with Bleichröder's principal business, the placing for foreign loans. The stability of Europe depended in part on a variety of loans that advanced countries made to less developed countries. Even the great powers were dependent on foreign credit. Germany's limited public and private capital, compared with that available to Paris and London, had to be invested wisely. Bismarck understood that the investment of German capital was a source of power, influence and prestige for Germany, and it enlarged German markets. On the other hand, he was concerned at times that Germany might over-invest abroad or that it might give a foreign power (specifically Russia) a strategic or political advantage. The movement of capital in and out of Germany always had a political dimension, which Bismarck monitored (and manipulated) carefully.
Bismarck became adept at economic warfare. "For Bismarck, war and peace, hostility and alliances, were not clear oppositions, but there was a vast gray area of presumed hostility where Bismarck knew that economic policies were like so many weapons in his hands. The scale of the weapons ranged from the imposition of crushing indemnities on beaten foes to the floating of loans to potential friends." In between the extremes tariffs or import prohibitions were selectively applied. "He knew them to be the fiscal analogues of war and alliance, and he valued their expert application accordingly." Money was the sinews of war but empty coffers offered no guarantee of peace. Counties could and did go to war for profits.
Sterns notes that in Bismarck's final years, "cracks in his system at home began to show, while his often bullying policy of peace abroad became less and less compatible with the political aspirations of the other great powers." This was a period of constant, almost desperate improvisations, made more difficulty by the gradual deterioration of Bismarck's domestic situation, especially with the illness and death of his protector, William I. Bismarck's Germany eventually fell to a lethal combination of instability at home and adventurism abroad. The country's margins were simply too narrow even for a genius like Bismarck, much less his successors. Bleichröder and his heirs, meanwhile, would become hostages to and later victims of the new anti-Semitism in a Germany that he had helped create.
— Patrick Garrity
by Winston S. Churchill
Various reprints; Text available at
"Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result." Thus wrote Lt. Winston Churchill, age 22, as he reflected on his experience as a member of the Malakand Field Force, dispatched in the summer of 1897 to deal with unrest on the Northwest Frontier of British India (now part of Pakistan). The British-Indian expedition confronted a force of Pashtun (Pathan) tribesmen and their allies whose lands fell astride the Durand Line, the border between Afghanistan and British India. The line had been established in 1893 as part of the Great Game with Russia for control and influence in Central Asia. The British Raj had long sought to provide security against raids by hostile tribes living in Afghanistan (which was nominally a buffer between Russia and India) as well as to prevent Russia from establishing itself in Afghanistan as a prelude to invasion of India proper. The Russians, in turn, claimed that the British aim was to annex Afghanistan in order to undermine their relatively recent control of Central Asia. Both great powers were suspicious of the intent of Abdur Rahman, the Emir of Afghanistan. The division of the Pashtun lands created considerable resistance. A Pashtun fakir, Saidullah, known to the British as the "Mad Mullah," led an army of perhaps 10,000 against the British garrisons at Malakand. Malakand held open the line of communication with the key frontier fort of Chitral, which commanded principal routes of invasion to and from Afghanistan. The siege was lifted when a relief column, led by Major General Sir Blindon Blood, was dispatched from British positions to the south. The British-Indian expedition also punished the tribes by destroying crops, driving off cattle, and burning villages.
Churchill was on leave in England from his assignment with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars in Bangalore when he learned of the revolt. He rushed back to India to seek an assignment on the personal staff of General Blood. When that proved impossible, he arranged to accompany the expedition as a correspondent for the Daily Telegraph. Due to casualties in the officer ranks, he was soon attached to the active force. His performance under fire was noted in despatches. His accounts of the campaign were published in the Daily Telegraph and quickly collected into a volume, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. Churchill's later writings on the Sudan and South Africa are better known, but this collection offers a precocious—and of course, controversial—perspective of war in Afghanistan and the tribal regions, as well as of the imperial policies of the British home government and the Raj.
Churchill's account of the expedition makes for great reading simply as a war story—exciting, colorful, yet sobering. At a somewhat higher level, he offered his prescriptions for fighting in parts of the world caught up with Islamic fanatics who felt themselves impinged upon by the non-believers—and who had hopes of plunder and welcomed the joys of fighting. "The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is better armed." He recorded the difficulties in negotiating with the tribes, whose delegations (Jirgahs) did not necessarily have authority to settle matters; what was agreed to one day was often reversed the next. He described the critical importance, and complexity, of transportation and logistics. He observed that "while it is usually easy to advance against an Asiatic, all retirements are a matter of danger." He noted the difficulties of fighting guerrillas in the mountains. If a sustained policy were possible, he would recommend that strategically-placed garrisons coerce the tribes into taking the offensive by patrolling the main valleys and stopping agriculture, which would force their accommodation or a fight on British terms. Slow and steady wins the race if not the palm of honor: "The general who avoids all 'dash,' who never starts in the morning looking for a fight and without any definite intention, who does not attempt heroic achievements, and who keeps his eye on his watch, will have few casualties and little glory. For the enemy do not become formidable until a mistake is made."
As for the larger Malakand campaign itself, which went beyond the relief of the garrison to pacify tribes not immediately engaged in the revolt but which resisted the British incursion, Churchill believed that the operational logic of empire demanded no less. In one case, a tribe had captured some rifles from dead British soldiers and refused to give them up. "It was obvious that the British Raj could not afford to be defied in this matter. We had insisted on the rifles being surrendered, and that expensive factor, Imperial prestige, demanded that we should prosecute operations till we got them, no matter what the cost might be. The rifles were worth little. The men and officers we lost were worth a great deal. It was unsound economics, but Imperialism and economics clash as often as honesty and self-interest. We were therefore committed to the policy of throwing good money after bad in order to keep up our credit; as a man who cannot pay his tradesmen, sends them fresh orders in lieu of settlement."
Churchill also stepped back to look at the larger questions of Empire and the proper strategy for its health and maintenance. He contrasts the three main options for the defense of India. First, stay on the Indian side of the line of the mountains and respond to the inevitable tribal raids by fighting them off in place. Second, engage in a policy of punitive raids without becoming deeply involved in the tribal politics of the frontier and Afghanistan—"butcher and bolt." Third, adopt a "Forward Policy" of holding the line of the mountains by securing the passes and controlling the frontier directly—Gilgit, Chitral, Jelalabad, Kandahar. Britain had been drawn into the last course principally by the danger of Russian control of Afghanistan; or the emergence of a strong Emir, able to stir up trouble with the Muslims along both sides of the frontier in order to blackmail the Raj.
In pursuance of that policy we have been led to build many frontier forts, to construct roads, to annex territories, and to enter upon more intimate relations with the border tribes. The most marked incident in that policy has been the retention of Chitral. This act was regarded by the tribesmen as a menace to their independence, and by the priesthood as the prelude to a general annexation. Nor were they wrong, for such is the avowed aim of the "Forward Policy." The result of the retention of Chitral has been, as I have already described, that the priesthood, knowing that their authority would be weakened by civilization, have used their religious influence on the people to foment a general rising.… So far then we have advanced and have been resisted. The "Forward Policy" has brought an increase of territory, a nearer approach to what is presumably a better frontier line and—war. All this was to have been expected.
Churchill did not embrace this course in his own name but he argued that, having thrown their hat over the wall, the British had no choice but to follow it. "We have crossed the Rubicon. In the opinion of all those who know most about the case, the forward movement is now beyond recall. Indeed, when the intense hostility of the Border tribes, the uncertain attitude of the Amir, the possibilities of further Russian aggression and the state of feeling in India are considered, it is difficult to dispute this judgment. Successive Indian Administrations have urged, successive English Cabinets have admitted, the necessity of finding a definite and a defensible frontier. The old line has been left, and between that line and an advanced line continuous with Afghan territory, and south of which all shall be reduced to law and order, there does not appear to be any prospect of a peaceful and permanent settlement."
From a purely military standpoint, Churchill had no doubt of the best course: "Mobilize… a nice field force, and operate at leisure in the frontier valleys, until they are as safe and civilized as Hyde Park. Nor need this course necessarily involve the extermination of the inhabitants. Military rule is the rule best suited to the character and comprehension of the tribesmen. They will soon recognize the futility of resistance, and will gradually welcome the increase of wealth and comfort that will follow a stable government. Besides this, we shall obtain a definite frontier almost immediately."
Unfortunately, as Churchill recognized, the Empire lacked the troops and funds to carry out such a "full speed ahead" strategy. "The inevitable alternative is the present system, a system which the war has interrupted, but to which we must return at its close; a system of gradual advance, of political intrigue among the tribes, of subsidies and small expeditions. Though this policy is slow, painful and somewhat undignified, there is no reason that it should not be sure and strong. But it must be consistently pursued. Dynamite in the hands of a child is not more dangerous than a strong policy weakly carried out." Many small reforms can add up to a major improvement. For instance, "from a general survey of the people and the country, it would seem that silver makes a better weapon than steel. A system of subsidies must tend to improve our relations with the tribes, enlist their interests on the side of law and order, and by increasing their wealth, lessen their barbarism."
We are at present in a transition stage, nor is the manner nor occasion of the end in sight. Still this is no time to despair. I have often noticed in these Afghan valleys, that they seem to be entirely surrounded by the hills, and to have no exit. But as the column has advanced, a gap gradually becomes visible and a pass appears. Sometimes it is steep and difficult, sometimes it is held by the enemy and must be forced, but I have never seen a valley that had not a way out. That way we shall ultimately find, if we march with the firm but prudent step of men who know the dangers; but, conscious of their skill and discipline, do not doubt their ability to deal with them as they shall arise.
— Patrick Garrity
by Edward Mead Earle, editor, with the collaboration of Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert
Princeton University Press, 1943
"When war comes it dominates our lives." So Edward Mead Earle introduced Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler, first published in 1943. War had indeed come and was dominating American lives. Makers of Modern Strategy was a collection of essays based on a 1941 seminar on American foreign policy and security issues sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University. A revised and updated volume, edited by Peter Paret, was published in 1986 to take into account new research and topics, such as unconventional warfare and nuclear strategy. The wartime context and impact of the original volume, however, merits its particular reputation as a modern classic of strategy and diplomacy.
Makers of Modern Strategy brought together many of the leading historians of the period, including Craig and Gilbert, R.R. Palmer, Hajo Halborn, Stefan T. Possony, and Margaret Sprout. The contributors considered those writers, statesmen, and military officers who had thought most seriously about the art of controlling and utilizing the resources of a nation or a coalition of nations, to promote and secure their interests against enemies, actual, potential, or presumed. These resources included not only the armed forces but a variety of nonmilitary factors, economic, psychological, moral, political, and technological. The highest type of strategy—sometimes called grand strategy—so integrates the policies and armaments of the nation that the resort to war is rendered unnecessary or is undertaken with the maximum chance of victory.
Those who made the list of makers of modern strategy included Machiavelli; Vauban; Frederick the Great, Guibert, and Bülow; Jomini; Clausewitz; Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton and Friedrich List; Engels and Marx; Moltke and Schlieffen; Du Picq and Foch; Bugeaud, Gallieni, and Lyautey; Delbrück; Churchill, Lloyd George, and Clemenceau; Ludendorff; Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin; Maginot and Lidell Hart; Haushofer; Mahan; Douhet, Mitchell, and Seversky; and Hitler.
According to Earle, certain well-defined themes ran through the story from Machiavelli to Hitler. Among these are the concept of lightning war and the battle of annihilation; the war of maneuver vs. the war of position; the relationship between war and social institutions and between economic strength and military power; psychology and morale as weapons of war; the role of discipline in the army; the question of the professional army vs. the militia. Although the development of strategy cuts across national lines—as do ideas and ideologies related to war—the national factors in strategy are frequently the determining factors. In part they grow out of differences in the character and psychology of peoples, as well as their standards of values and their outlook on life. In part they are the consequence of political, social and economic institutions; even more they are the political and military expression of geographical situation and national tradition.
Earle and his contributors were particularly interested in an enduring strategic topic: the relative merits of offensive and defensive warfare. "If one were to generalize," Earle writes, "one could say that the defensive usually enjoys a technical advantage over the offensive. But there are times when the offensive sweeps the defensive entirely aside, overwhelming it as a flood overwhelms all natural and artificial barriers in its path. This is true when a fundamental social revolution occurs, such as that in France in 1793 and in Germany with the advent of Hitler in 1933. The revolution not only adopts the Dantonian policy of audacity, again audacity, and always audacity, but it demoralizes the older order by a confusion of counsels and a conflict of ideologies." Technological or other military innovations, such as gunpowder or the tank and airplane, can also give the offense precedence over the defense; or, as with the machine gun and the submarine, the defense may benefit. As society and warfare become more highly industrialized, logistical and tactical factors may condition strategy more highly than in the past.
Makers of Modern Strategy was compiled not just for scholars or senior military officers. "It would be folly to leave the comprehension of war policy to soldiers alone or statesmen alone or to soldiers and statesmen together," Earle writes. Even in a democratic society, strategy must be set and implemented by responsible officials, but "the strategy determined upon can succeed only if it has the support of enlightened and determined citizens; they must dedicate to the success of that strategy their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor." Democracies require great leaders and heroic figures like Washington, Lincoln, Churchill, and FDR, "but the wellsprings of such leadership come from deep in the heart, the will, and the conscience of the people. Even the private soldiers and junior officers of an embattled democratic society"—and such was the case for the United States when Makers was written and published—"must know the purposes for which they risk their lives." The book was intended to provide the broader canvas, over a longer period of time, to explain the manner in which the strategy of modern war had developed. "Since it is the concern of all the people, all the people must realize that it is their concern. In wartime this involves a total effort; in time of peace, as in time of war, it demands wide understanding." Walter Lippmann, who had just published his own classic monograph, U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic, recognized that Makers "is destined to exert a deep and long influence.…Only a deep seriousness, of which Mr. Earle’s book is so fine an example… can give the nation the men who know how to guard the Republic."
— Patrick Garrity
by Robert R. Palmer
Princeton University Press, 1959, 1964
Robert R. Palmer, professor of history at Princeton and Yale, was one of the 20th Century's most influential scholars of modern European history. His textbook, A History of the Modern World, now in its 10th edition, with associates Joel Cramer and Lloyd Kramer, has long been the standard in high school and university classrooms. His two-volume The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760–1800 established Palmer as a pioneer of the now-burgeoning fields of international and comparative Atlantic history. Palmer's Age of the Democratic Revolution is an encyclopedic account and interpretation of the political and social upheavals in Europe and the Americas during the latter half of the 18th century. Palmer's conclusions were and remain controversial, but all serious students of strategy and diplomacy are in debt to his indefatigable spadework and his search for a theme in this great historical and intellectual pudding.
The French Revolution, in Palmer's account, was part of a much broader historical current of political and social change that swept up the American colonies, the British Isles, and most of the European continent. Palmer drew on his own reading knowledge of French, German, Italian and Dutch, and enlisted assistance for such languages as Hungarian and Polish. His main conclusion in Volume I, The Challenge: "These events of the 18th century were a single movement, revolutionary in character, for which the world 'democratic' is appropriate and enlightening; a movement which, however different in different countries, was everywhere aimed against closed elites, self-selecting power groups, hereditary castes, and forms of special advantage or discrimination that no longer served any useful purpose. These were summed up in such terms as feudalism, aristocracy and privilege, against which the idea of a common citizenship in a more centralized state, or common membership in a free political nation, was offered as a more satisfactory basis for the human community."
Palmer argued that the major impediment to democratic political change was not absolute monarchy—which in many cases favored modernization and meritocracy, if not political liberalization—but various "constituted bodies," oligarchies that ranged from the unreformed British Parliament to the Estates of the Netherlands and the Parlements of France. In resisting the monarchy or the church, these bodies could be liberal or even revolutionary. But such progressive inclinations were secondary to the efforts of aristocrats to exclude all others from membership in the ruling elite. The common challenge for democratic political reformers was how to break the stranglehold of these bodies with their defense of traditional privileges. In this struggle, "the effects of the American Revolution, as a Revolution, were imponderable but very great," Palmer writes. "It inspired the sense of a new era. It added a new content to the conception of progress. It gave a whole new dimension to ides of liberty and equality made familiar by the Enlightenment. It got people in the habit of thinking more concretely about political questions. It made them more readily critical of their own governments and society. It dethroned England, and set up America, as a model for those seeking a better world. It brought written constitutions, declarations of rights, and constituent assemblies into the realm of the possible. The apparition on the other side of the Atlantic of certain ideas already familiar in Europe made such ideas seem more truly universal, and confirmed the habit of thinking in terms of humanity at large. … America made Europe seem unsatisfactory to many people of the middle and lower classes, and to those of the upper classes who wished them well. It made a good many Europeans feel sorry for themselves, and induced a kind of spiritual fight from the Old Regime."
In the larger scene, however, it was the French Revolution of 1789 that represented the decisive breakthrough in this battle against the constituted bodies of the ancien regime. Palmer disagrees with the argument of John Quincy Adams and Edmund Burke that there was a difference in principles between the French and American Revolutions. In his view, the two revolutions shared a great deal in common with each other, and with the sentiments of various peoples and movements in other countries. "The difference is that these principles were much more deeply rooted in America, and that contrary or competing principles, monarchist or aristocratic or feudal or ecclesiastical, though not absent from America, were, in comparison to Europe, very weak." The same principles provoked much more conflict in France than in America. In other words: the stronger the forces of conservatism, the more radical and violent democrats would have to become in order to supplant them.
Volume II, The Struggle, considered the Wars of the French Revolution and the domestic violence in France and elsewhere, including Britain, Ireland, the Low Countries, Italy, and Poland. For many modern diplomatic historians, these struggles were the manifestation of French imperialism under the guise—sincere on the part of some French leaders, opportunistic on the part of others—of defending France's democratic allies and exporting liberty. For European conservatives such as Barreul, Burke and de Maistre, these conflicts were driven by an underlying conspiracy: "It is not France extending a foreign empire over other nations; it is a sect aiming at universal empire, and beginning with the conquest of France." According to Palmer, however, the great division was not between imperialistic or conspiracy-driven France and a coalition of hostile states, but a conflict of groups within various states—revolutionary patriots or democratic forces struggling against conservative, counter-revolutionary, or traditional forces. For the revolutionary and democratic forces to succeed, the French Revolution had to be internationalized. But there was never any concerted international organization directed from Paris or anywhere else. Palmer acknowledges that radicals or revolutionaries in other countries accomplished nothing except in conjunction with the French armies. Revolutions failed where they were attempted without French military support, as in Poland and Ireland. They succeeded where, and as long as, they could make use of French power, as in the Netherlands and Italy. But the sister republics were not French satellites. They represented significant indigenous democratic forces and were not mere byproducts of the French invasion. They arose everywhere out of local, genuine, and specific causes; and they reflected conditions that were universal throughout the Western world (as set out in Volume I). They were not mere imitators of the French; or at least they did not imitate them blindly.
According to Palmer, a distinguishable pattern emerged as early as 1792-1793. The populations of the invaded territories would greet the arrival of the French with enthusiasm, set about introducing liberty and equality, and hope to enjoy an independent republic. They wanted the French to protect them against their old regimes but were unwilling or unable to share in the war effort; and they objected to French exploitation of their resources for this purpose. They become disillusioned with the French, who in turn became contemptuous of them. Some become more dependent on the French, even subservient, than they originally meant to be. Some of those who originally hailed the invaders, or who were at least willing to accept them, begin to regret the disappearance of the old order; while still others remained revolutionary in spirit while turning anti-French. There was also, for the French government, the problem of control over the military command, the fear that a successful French general in the field, enjoying the prestige of a sensational victory, and building a base for himself in an occupied country, through keeping control of its resources in his own hands, and directing the loyalties of local sympathizers, might become independent of the government in Paris, overshadow his own civilian superiors, and emerge as a military dictator over the revolution.
Despite this, the French Republic, even under the imperfect regime of the Directory, continued to exert an attraction for many restless peoples in Europe, who considered it to represent a better way of life than the various regimes in their own countries under which they lived. And supporters of revolution in Italy and the Netherlands were able to pay for their own "liberation"; the success of their revolutions was entirely dependent on the defeat of the Coalition, and there was no good reason, from their own point of view, why they should not contribute to the common French-led war effort. It was the arbitrary and disorderly character of much requisitioning, and the private corruption and self-enrichment by the French, which was the cause of legitimate complaint.
In the short run, according to Palmer, neither side can be said to have won. The counter-revolution was certainly defeated, but the New Order prevailed only by being transmuted into something else, the authoritarian, innovating, dynamic and yet compromising semi-monarchism or semi-republicanism represented by Bonaparte. Napoleon was mixture of adventurer and dreamer—the genuine believer in the modernizing principles of the Enlightenment and the realist accustomed to a careful weighing of political forces as he saw them. For a time, Bonaparte treated republicans and royalists pretty much alike, giving them jobs if they could be useful and imprisoning or even executing those who persisted in conspiracy or subversion. The forces making for change were content to operate for a while within an authoritarian framework which he provided. Men of practical bent and modern outlook, freed both from popular demands and from old-noble pretensions, relieved of the fear both of revolution and reaction and protected by armed force against the inroads of ever-reviving Coalitions, worked together at the liquidation of the Old Regime in various countries. Thus Hegel, as he watched Napoleon ride through the streets of Jena in 1806, just before annihilating the Prussian Army, believed he saw the movement of history, of humanity, and of true liberty embodied before his eyes—"the World Soul sitting on a horse."
Within a decade, the intellectual and political counterrevolution would dethrone Napoleon and the cause of enlightenment, whether democratic or absolutist. But, according to Palmer, it could not erase the foundation of liberal democracy that had been planted above all by the French Revolution in the soil of European nations. For Palmer, that is the true legacy of the Age of the Democratic Revolution, however flawed its particular manifestations might have been. He insists that the French Revolution was not the precursor of the tyrannical practices produced by the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.
— Patrick Garrity
History of the Reign of Charles the Fifth
by William Robertson
with a later contribution by William H. Prescott
Originally published in 1769
Hume, Gibbon, and Robertson. The first two men are widely recognized as leading historical writers of the British Enlightenment. The third—William Robertson, a Minister of the Church of Scotland and Principal of the University of Edinburgh—is much less well known today; but in the 18th century he was regarded as an equal and perhaps superior member of this great scholarly triumvirate (who were also friends). Voltaire, Edmund Burke, John Quincy Adams, and Catherine the Great counted themselves among his admirers. The contemporary backdrop of his writings was that of the Seven Years War, the American Revolution, and the expansion of the British Empire in India. His most notable works were the History of Scotland (1759); History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles the Fifth (1769); History of America (1777); and Disquisition concerning the Knowledge which the Ancients had of India (1791). The purely historical authority of his writings has long been superseded by modern scholarship, but the grand themes of strategy and politics that he identified endure.
The most important of Robertson's writings, as viewed by his contemporaries, was probably his treatment of Charles V and efforts to prevent the emergence of a Universal Monarchy in Europe. The powers of Europe, in resisting Charles V's drive for hegemony, "were formed into one great political system, in which each took a station, wherein it has since remained with less variation, than could have been expected after the shocks occasioned by so many internal revolutions, and so many foreign wars. The great events which happened then have not hitherto spent their force. The political principles and maxims, then established, still continue to operate. The ideas concerning the balance of power, then introduced or rendered general, still influence the council of nations." The "great secret in modern policy," Robertson wrote, was "the preservation of a proper distribution of power." The fate of every state was tied up in the fate of others, however remote. The same principle of balance applied to the internal organization of modern European states. Domestic and international counterweights prevented the emergence of despotism, the absolute control by one person or one class. The principle of the balance of power also introduced a critical element of moderation into what had been irrational, violent and cruel pre-modern politics. The age of chivalry had been replaced by "the well-regulated operations of sound policy." Statesmen could calculate the factors making up the balance and develop a rational foreign policy accordingly.
Robertson, however, does not leave his readers merely with a paean to the balance of power, but also with recognition of the power of unintended consequences and unexpected historical/ providential developments. Robertson argues that the modern European world emerged from the barbarism of the Middle Ages in large part because the rise of commerce created a third, intermediate force to balance the monarchical and aristocratic parts of the feudal regimes. Commerce also "softens and polishes the manners of men," and fosters the sense of community among nations. Charles V's efforts to establish a Universal Monarchy led to a state system designed to prevent exactly that. The Crusades were religious madness but they opened new channels of commerce and knowledge. Robertson thought that European imperialism, despite its destruction of native cultures and societies, might have a similar effect in uniting humanity. Not all of these judgments have stood the test of time or political correctness. But Robertson told a large and serious story and told it well.
— Patrick Garrity