by Alan Gilbert
What Leo Strauss set in motion: from invading Cuba to Boehner/Netanyahu efforts to bomb Iran
Robert Howse has written a new book on Leo Strauss: Man of Peace. Rob acknowledges some of Strauss’s authoritarianism and imperialism, i.e. in the fortunately now infamous 1933 letter to Karl Loewith where Strauss defends “the principles of the Right – fascist, authoritarian imperial and not the pathetic and laughable imprescriptible rights of man.” See hereand here. Strauss has achieved a certain odium – the word is from the Strauss and Schmitt devotee, Heinrich Meier – because of the role of political Straussians such as William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama (who commendably, soon became a critic), Harvey Mansfield, Gary Schmitt, Walter Berns and others central among the neocons in and around the Bush administration in pressing for aggression in the Middle East. Rob’s reading is an independent and livelier version of standard theses in a barrage of Straussian books, attempting to restore Strauss as a scholarly figure above politics, at least one who rarely dabbled in politics and whose views, in this respect, must not be taken too seriously, let alone as having premeditated reactionary consequences (Catharine and Michael Zuckert, Thomas Pangle, to some extent, Peter Minowitz).
My essay below “Segregation, Aggression and Executive Power: Leo Strauss and ‘the Boys,’” forthcoming this winter in Sanford Levinson and Melissa Williams, ed., American Conservativism, as a volume in Nomos – a book published annually by the American Society of Legal and Political Philosophy – is based on novel research in the Strauss archive in Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago. After long guarding by Joseph Cropsey, I was the first non-Straussian admitted to that archive. The essay underlines some surprising facets of Leo’s own politics, for instance, his defense of segregation and calling for the US conquering Cuba. This evidence reveals that the drumbeat about a supposedly apolitical or at least not harmfully political Strauss is a fantasy.
There is another important strand of Strauss’s influence, via Gary Schmitt and Herbert Storing, on the Minority Report on Iran Contrawhich I do not discuss here. That report, written for Congressman Richard Cheney, especially stresses authoritarian “executive power,” based on interpretations by Strauss’s students – Schmitt among others – of the Federalists. It perfumes President Ronald Reagan’s illegal – in opposition to a Congressional ban on running guns to the Contras – and murderous activities in Nicaragua and even aiding “the enemy,” Iran, in exchange for Iranian provision of weapons to the Contras.
More importantly, the neocons, the center of whose intellectual life is provided by political Straussians such as Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz, are back in the news, both in the Ukraine and most notably this week, in John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel to urge Congress, against the President and against normal diplomatic protocol or constitutional foreign policy making, to bomb Iran. These two efforts – Strauss’s memos to Charles Percy, a Republican politician, Senator and would be Presidential candidate from Illinois, that the US must take out Cuba as the USSR had taken out Hungary, and the demand that the US should start yet another war in the Middle East , widening what already exists, that is, bombing accompanied by only a small number privatized troops or the CIA, against ISIL in Iraq and Syria – strangely mirror each other.
Strauss died 40 years ago; the details of contemporary Imperial Quixotisms should not be attributed to him (it is always possible for a great power realist, even an authoritarian one like Strauss, to oppose dogmatic, unworldly, disgraceful and foolish enterprises; I do not say murderous here because murderousness is not something Mr. Strauss opposed). Still, the parallel is striking.
I was, once again, the first nonStraussian admitted after 9 months of negotiation by Nathan Tarcov, Strauss’s second literary executor, to the Strauss archive in Regenstein. Nathan is not into hiding Strauss unlike Joseph Cropsey, his first executor, who allowed Strauss’s letters to be published in German by Heinrich Meier only 26 years after Strauss died. He told Steve Holmes, teaching at Chicago and writing the fine Anatomy of Anti-Liberalism who wanted to look at the letters for his chapter on Strauss, that “they might be misunderstood.” Unlike most American Straussians including Allan Bloom, Cropsey along with some others like Meier and Mansfield understood Strauss’s nearness to or enthusiasm for the Nazis in 1933. Cropsey feared that Strauss’s letters and writings might be understood.
Everything in my article below is drawn from Strauss’s previously unknown letters and memos except an account of Lockean prerogative in Walter Berns and, with a nod to Machiavelli, Harvey Mansfield, in this case to justify torture. This idea is that the executive (commander in chief) must break the law – i.e. torture – in order supposedly to achieve a public good (“save America”).
Rob and I have been in touch for several years; he was kind enough to invite me to lecture on Strauss at NYU Law School. But one feature of these discoveries is that his claim that somehow Strauss was retreating from his 1933 affirmation of “the principles of the Right – fascist, authoritarian, imperial” – needs to be sustained by noticing and answering them. It is unlikely that it can.
Rob has, nevertheless, made a long and striking effort to differentiate Strauss from the monstrousness (Nazism, anti-semitism) of Carl Schmitt. Unlike many Straussians, particularly neo-cons, he was an Obama supporter and is no fan of imperial war. Rob reads Strauss with devotion, though with a startling lack of attention to hidden meanings – Strauss’s most insistent theme, one underlined in his Persecution and the Art of Writing. Since Socrates was put to death by Athens and starting with Plato, Strauss suggests, philosophers write for two audiences. They express themselves superficially i.e. write in ways acceptable to many inattentive readers, including many Straussians, but indicate for careful ones what they really think (Heinrich Meier has the acid remark that Strauss’s students remember what he said to them – “don’t read Heidegger,” as Catherine Zuckert told me – rather than reading carefully what Leo actually says.
Strauss’s title sounds, particularly given Socrates, Locke, Marx, and scientists like Tycho Brahe and Galileo as if he were making a point about government/Catholic persecution of truths embodied in, to a large extent, writing on the left: what might be characterized as truths about ordinary citizens, scientific truths.
But Strauss has an ironic, double meaning here as in almost all the names he chooses. What Strauss thinks is being hidden is the urging of the rule of one best man, reactionary and in our times, authoritarian or fascist rule. Similarly when Strauss speaks of Natural Right and History in a lecture series in honor of the Declaration of Independence, a superficial reader will imagine him to be talking about natural rights – of individuals. But he actually affirms “the classical view: inequality (p. 118)” and meansnatural right as the “right” to dominate of the stronger …
On Rob’s account, Strauss was supposedly for “constitutionalism”; Strauss occasionally says he is a “constitutional democrat” and as Rob points out, lived in America. But this reading depends on ignoring what Strauss says further each time he mentions it, for instance the dark fulmination against the last men in “Restatement” in On Tyranny.
Strauss does not defend the rule of law or law. Quite the contrary, overriding the law is what Strauss learned from the first sentence of Schmitt’s Political Theology – “he is sovereign who makes the decision in the state of the exception.” Strauss extended this through the 1933 letter to Loewith, embracing the “fascist, authoritarian, imperial” principles of the Right, his first book in America in 1947 On Tyranny on Xenophon’s Hiero in which a wise man, Simonides recommends to the tyrant Hiero that he serve a public good without laws, including the idea that he should award scientific or practical inventions or achievements in Syracuse and let his minions, under cover of darkness, disappear dissidents…, and his last book in 1972 on The Argument and Action of Plato’s Laws (the theme of this book Strauss said was to provide “an antidote to law”; Goldwin’s enthusiasm for Locke on “prerogative” merely gives modern garb to Strauss’s pretty monomaniacal view of the classics).
Schmitt and Strauss disliked the balance of powers in the American Constitution. As Schmitt put it:
“It is precisely the exception that makes relevant the subject of sovereignty, that is the whole question of sovereignty. The precise details of an emergency cannot be anticipated, nor can one spell out what must take place in such a case, especially when it is truly a matter of extreme emergency and of how it is to be eliminated….If such action is not subject to controls, if it is not hampered in some way by checks and balances as is the case in a liberal constitution, then it is clear who the sovereign is....Although he stands outside the normally valid legal system, he nevertheless belongs to it, for it is he who must decide whether the constitution is to be suspended in its entirety.”
As we will see below, Strauss worked through members of both parties to erode checks and balances in favor of executive or what was called under Bush commander in chief power and tyrannical or illegal acts, like aggression and torture, now sanctified as “legal.” Since Rob is a lawyer, it is a pretty startling mistake to call such an inversion of the constitution – written seemingly to protect against the tyranny of George III – “constitutional.”
It would also have been more apt for Rob to deal deeply with Strauss’s politics about Israel (he does cite Strauss’s fine letter against anti-semitism in the National Review). For Leo was generally supportive of a national socialism among Jews to oppress Palestinians, and his students/devotees are agitators for an expansionist Greater Israel – “transferring”/expelling the inhabitants from Occupied Palestine – and war. This is tragic because Strauss was an admirer of Arab Platonism in the Middle Ages (Al-Farabi, to a lesser extent Ibn Rusd), but failed – unlike Hannah Arendt, I.F. Stone, Judah Magness, Martin Buber and others – to speak for decency toward the Palestinians. Strauss’s elevation of a state of “one’s own,” a Jewish state which does not protect universal rights, flows from his reactionary politics and is something that he could have, but chose not to, grow beyond.
Neocons have long, led by Dick Cheney, sought aggression against Iran. They do so roughly because “protecting”/expanding Israel is the pivot of their politics along with grandiosity about what American arms may accomplish and bizarre dogmatism. Whether Strauss would have recommended this might be doubted.
But Strauss actually had a much darker view of the modern era. He even affirmed the idea that the “last men” – Nietzche’s flea-bettles who huddle together and blink” – might be destroyed through nuclear war (see Strauss “Restatement in On Tyranny) and he imagined foolishly that this would not end humanity, but instead, it would cycle through again. Better, he says, a repeat of the human “spring” i.e. nuclear winter, than the supposed bleakness of the end of modernity, i.e human freedom… But annnihilation beats bombing Iran for horror and certainly for eccentricity.
In his 1933 and 1934 letters to Loewith, Strauss did entertain the idea that the Nazis could be a quasi-Nietzschean National Revolution against modernity – he thought their anti-semitism not the leading point. Loewith who had also thought this, now disagreed. So the claim that Strauss (at that time 34 years old) did not make rash, even bizarre reactionary and murderous political judgments is false.
Now President Obama was foolish enough to expand NATO right up to Russia and then surprised by Putin going to war. Obama and his advisors might have recalled the American reaction to Cuba – he just changed this policy after 50 years – when the Soviets treated that as a beachhead against the United States. For Obama now needs to work with Syria and Russia (Putin saved Obama from launching missiles into Syria in the face of justified popular opposition) to achieve successful negotiations with Iran, and even more so at least tacitly. with both Iran and Syria, to defeat ISIL. Obama thus challenges Netanyahu and the neocons (as John McCain sang in 2008 to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann”: “bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran…”).
NATO expansion into the Ukraine gave the neocons a chance to revive themselves by driving a wedge against Russia and furthering war against Iran.
The State Department point person for expansion into the Ukraine was Victoria Nuland, a zealous neocon, who combines imperial purposes there (weakening Russia, expanding markets, expanding a pro-US oligarchy accompanied by some elections) with the idea of undercutting Russian cooperation with Obama on Iran (there has not been any evidence yet that Iran wants to make such a weapon…) and to defeat ISIL.
Iran as a target in Bush’s “axis of evil” is never out of mind for neocons, and just in case, Netanyahu reminds them.
Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, the son of Donald Kagan, one of the three Principals, with Bill Kristol and Gary Schmitt, of the Project for a New American Century and long involved with Straussians though as a “gentleman” (what Strauss patronizingly called them), one not particularly interested in political philosophy. In fact, all the political Straussians like Bill Kristol and Wolfowitz are “gentlemen,” with a largely self-deceptive patina of philosophy, full of hubris that, privy to some learned and arcane interpretation of the classics, they can avow “commander in chief” power in a “crisis” (everything is a crisis…), throw away law, torture people, wage “lawfare” (waging war through “law”), and use any means “necessary.” They have waged foolish aggressions and instituted torture. They have diminished America.
Netanyahu thinks his actions will gain him success in an Israeli election this spring, just as he thinks he gained in Israel from coming uninvited to the unity rally in France last week and instead of fighting for the civil liberties of Jews and everyone else – what a decent human being would have done – urging French Jews to escape to the “security” of colonial Israel. But practically speaking. there is less security for individuals in Israel with its obscene oppression of Palestinians…
In the dynamic of American power funded by unlimited money, characterized by a trillion dollar a year war complex or militarism, neocons are, frighteningly, a stone’s throw away from being able to futher renewed war.
But in defying Presidential power, the neocons (and Strussians) have made a desperate move. France, Germany and even the Israeli intelligence forces have intervened on behalf of completing the talks with Iran first; so even have, rather unbelievably, Chris Wallace on Fox News and Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League…
And there is little doubt that bipartisan support for whatever Israel i.e. Netanyahu wants will be dramatically undercut by this partisan ploy on behalf of mindless beligerence.
May they be resoundingly defeated! For bombing Iran would cause a large and even longer Middle East war. deadly for still nuclear–armed Israel and perhaps, since a threatened Israel might well use such weapons and radiation travels, the rest of us over 10 or 15 years.
Seeing the aetiology from Mr. Strauss aptly – may help begin to untangle the triumph of executive power and belligerence in both parties (“Humanitarian intervention” for the Democratic neo-neo cons), militarism and the destructive and self-destructive foreign policy that the US elite engages in.
For the essay below going directly to Strauss’s furthering racism, seeking to take out Cuba, and elevating executive power, is today’s news on the Right…
Segregation, Aggression and Executive Power: Leo Strauss and “the boys”
“Dick [Cheney] remembers Bob [Goldwin] from the Ford years, when he became a resident scholar at the White House. Bob had worked for Don Rumsfeld at NATO, and after Don became White House Chief of Staff, Bob organized a series of seminars for President Ford and the senior staff. He’d get together a small number of people, always including the president, and bring in a speaker to enlighten the group. Dick particularly remembers one Saturday when Bob put together a gathering up in the solarium on the top floor of the White House. The speaker that day was Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and he talked about his book Beyond the Melting Pot, in which he and Nathan Glazer wrote about the persistence of ethnicity in America and the consequences of it. Beyond the Melting Pot was a controversial book at the time. All these years later, we know it was very prescient.
Dick says that he does not recall in all his years in Washington events like the ones Bob organized. Bob didn’t advertise what he was doing and didn’t talk about it much in the years after, which was part of his essential modesty, part of what made him so admirable. We will miss him very much.”
– Lynne V. Cheney is a senior fellow at AEI. This tribute originally appeared on AEI’s Enterprise Blog on January 13, 2010
“Few individuals had as much influence on the thinking of conservative American policy makers and yet were as little known to the public as Bob Goldwin. Bob was a man of sweeping, ambitious ideas, but personal modesty and quiet competence. He had the rare talent of asking the right questions at the right time, and gently nudging discussions toward the ‘eureka’ moment. Every conversation with Bob left you with a perspective you hadn’t considered before.
Bob and I had known each other since his days at the University of Chicago. In 1972, I lured away my friend from his position as dean of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland to join me at NATO, where I served as U.S. ambassador. Two years later, I was called back to Washington to help the newly sworn-in President Gerald Ford, and one of the first people I recruited to the White House staff was Bob. Bob led seminars for President Ford in the White House solarium, bringing in some of the finest minds in America, not least his own, to discuss the toughest issues of the time.
Bob Goldwin was the Ford administration’s one-man think tank, its intellectual compass, and bridge to a new conservatism–a conservatism that was unashamed to be conservative. He helped provide the intellectual underpinning that convinced many Republicans that they didn’t have to apologize when they stood for lower taxes or suggested that our strategy against the Soviet Union ought not be placation.
The ideas he corralled and the causes he championed–from opposing the creation of a new international bureaucracy with the Law of the Seas Treaty in 1982 to offering wise counsel on a new Iraqi constitution as recently as 2003–were without match. Bob was a valuable counselor and a dear friend.
I considered myself one of his many students, and I know I will miss him. So too will America, but perhaps without fully realizing what is being missed.
– Donald Rumsfeld is the former secretary of defense. This tribute originally appeared on AEI’s Enterprise Blog on January 15, 2010[i]
“On another occasion Antiphon asked him [Socrates]: ‘How can you suppose that you make politicians of others, when you yourself avoid politics even if you understand them?’
‘How now, Antiphon,’ he retorted, ‘should I play a more important part in politics by engaging in them alone or by taking pains to turn out as many competent politicians as possible?” – Xenophon, Memorabilia[ii]
Nathan Tarcov insists that Strauss was apolitical, a man interested primarally in ancient texts and not in current problems. He is not alone in this assertion; Francis Fukuyama and Michael and Catherine Zuckert offer a similar argument. There is obviously some truth in this notion; Straussdid devote himself to scholarship, much of it quite esoteric and unlikely to be accessible to politicians or the punditry, and he did not invest himself directly in politics. Yet I think this portrait is incomplete; he was scarcely competely detached from contemporary politics, and one can certainly argue that he sought influence for his ideas, which have, after all, earned the label “Straussian.” Still, with regard to a discussion of “American conservatism,” the topic of this volume—and of what are now two conferences held five years apart—Strauss presents a difficult set of intellectual and conceptual issues. After all, he arrived in this country in 1937 as a quite fully formed scholar and intellectual; to put it mildly, he could not then be described as an “American thinker,” and some might argue, with justice, that he had an orthogonal relationship to “American” thought thereafter. Even with regard to “conservatism,” his was a distinctive variety, having little in common with some “standard” sources of American conservatism in Edmund Burke, misty-eyed Southern agrarianism (though we will see that he allied with its racism), or the teachings of Catholic natural law, however much, like partisans of all of these views, he made his reputation as a caustic critic of liberalism. But criticism of liberalism is obviously not enough to earn one’s stripes as a “conservative.” Not only could Marx or Nietzsche serve as exhibit A; one must recall that Hayek wrote a famous essay on why he was not a conservative.
Fortunately, for purposes of the limited space available to me in this volume, it is possible to avoid a full-scale analysis of Strauss by focusing instead on several of his students, including Robert Goldwin, the subject of the eulogies that preface this essay. Whatever Leo Strauss’s status as an exemplar of “American conservatism,” there can be no doubt that Goldwin—or Walter Berns and Harvey Mansfield, to name only two other prominent figures who will appear below—qualify both as “American” by any available criteria and, more to the point, as men of influence on a host of important political figures who would be proud to assert their own conservative credentials. To be sure, there are “Straussians” who are not so conservative (let alone influential). Still, any serious analysis of “American conservatism” over the past half century—and, perhaps, into the future—must contend with the fact that certain Straussians were indeed involved both in the conservative movement—think only of Allan Bloom’s manifesto against American culture and higher education—and in conservative politics.
As mention of Bloom suggests, one could write an extended essay on the role played by Strauss and Straussians in the educational culture wars of the past several decades. But in this essay, I want to emphasize other aspects of the Straussian corpus. The first involves a debate from quite long ago that, nonetheless, continues to have relevance for contemporary American politics; it focuses on the claim of the civil rights movement to full inclusion in American life and a concomitant use of national power to limit state autonomy committed to maintaining the exclusion associated with segregation. As we shall see, Strauss and Goldwin displayed a remarkable antagonism to Brown v. Board of Education. For many readers, no doubt, even more important is the stance taken by a number of important Straussians on the specifics of executive power—including quasi-tyrannical “prerogative” powers—that have challenged, if not indeed undermined, traditional conceptions of American constitutional checks and balances. During the Bush-Cheney regime, the “commander in chief power” served as a justification for systematic violations of the United Nations Convenant Against Torture and Other Inhumane and Degrading Acts, one of the few international human rights treaties that the United States has in fact ratified.
One might well say that it is a calumny against “conservatives” to link them to segregation or to defenses of torture. Many people identified with “conservatism,” including Richard Epstein and Bruce Fein, joined with liberals to denounce exalted claims made by the Bush-Cheney administration—and, in many important ways, continued into the Obama Admistration. Perhaps we should draw a distinction between conservatives and reactionaries. A conservative defends habeas corpus – the right of each prisoner to a day in court and not to be indefinitely detained or tortured as vital, since the Magna Carta, to the rule of law. By this standard – the Anglo-American standard – those who dismiss the importance of habeas corpus are no conservatives. In Europe, “conservatives” were often defenders of Throne and Altar, frequently Catholic, authoritarians; in the person of Carl Schmitt, a strong influence on Strauss, such views could slide easily into fascism.
Strauss sometimes expressed amusement at what (or who) was called “conservative” in the United States. In lectures, Strauss would often use the expression “what a conservative or a reactionary would say.” [iii] With precision, a reflection of esoteric or hidden writing, he would often distance himself from conservatives, for instance, by saying that conservatism is a good “rule of thumb” or in his 1957 letter rightly critical of the National Review’s anti-semitism, invoking repetitively “what a conservative might think,” as if he almost—but not quite—was an example of the breed. One can imagine his being sympathetic with Hayek’s similar disdain for many American “conservatives.” Still, as Donald Rumsfeld has taught us, just as one fights wars with the army one has, instead of the army one wishes one had, one takes part in politics with the people and movements who are available, not the ones one might wish in an ideal political world. And if we look at decisions made by Strauss—and, more to the point, “Straussians” like Goldwin, especially, we find some extraordinarily unattractive material.
- Strauss’s activism and caution
An exile, a German Jew and darkly reactionary, Strauss was rightly wary of American xenophobia. He was not by temperment inclined to devote himself simply to politics. Nonetheless, following Xenophon, he devoted remarkable care and attention to shaping American politics. His political activism was strategic and, in the long run, influential. Paralleling his twin roles, Strauss’s letters to his American students divide into two types.[iv] The first, reflected in correspondence with Seth Benaradete and a few to others, center on Strauss’s love of scholarship and are sometimes striking. His relationship with Benardete probed the subtleties of Greek texts.
The second, however, underlines Strauss’s reactionary activism. For instance, Strauss worked with the Public Affairs Conference Center at the University of Chicago, run by his student Robert Goldwin, to connect with political and military leaders around a particular agenda:1) defense of segregation and hostility to the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision and the civil rights movement, 2) advocacy of aggression to intimidate the Soviet Union, including the conquest of Cuba, even after the Cuban missile crisis, and 3) urging of authoritarianism and untrammeled executive action, coupled with scorn for parliamentary politics or the separation and balance of powers. Steven Teles, in his own history of American conservatism, has emphasized the importance of think-tanks and similar institutions in creating networks of like-minded individuals empowered to fight against their intellectual adversaries. The Public Affairs Conferences are pioneering in this regard.
Through the Public Affairs Conferences, Strauss indirectly engaged Senator Charles Percy, Republican keynoter in 1960 and a potential Republican presidential nominee. He also worked with Senator Henry Jackson, a Democratic hawk and gateway to the intelligence establishment, a subsequent employer of Straussians like Abram Shulsky,[v] not to mention Hans Speier, head of the Rand Corporation and an old friend. Note that these efforts to move American politics to the Right were bipartisan, and not restricted, as it has seemed to some after 2000, to ”neoconservative” Republicans.[vi]
In contrast to the intellectual “purity” of some of Strauss’s correspondence, one finds political themes throughout letters to Walter Berns, Allan Bloom, Joseph Cropsey, Harry Jaffa and, principally, Robert Goldwin. The political “boys, ” as he called them, express occasional reverence for Strauss’s scholarship. But the correspondance reflects, to a large extent, their personal scholarly and political goals and concerns. They were not concerned with the depth and subtlety of Strauss’s argument (Bloom and Cropsey were obviously more interested than Berns and Goldwin, but they all reflect a common political idiom). In a conceptualization drawn from Strauss’s 1955 letter to Kojeve, Strauss used these rhetors or gentlemen to purse his own reactionary public agenda, including advancing his own students.[vii]
- Defending Segregation against value-free social science
The debate about Brown v. Board of Education involved a number of important issues, including, of course, the role of the Supreme Court in attempting to change what had become “traditional” Southern white subordination of African-Americans. But there was also a vigorous debate at the time about the role of social science in public affairs, a topic about which Strauss (and “Straussians”) had strong views. In Natural Right and History, Strauss rightly mocks the empiricist argument for value-free social science or “the fact-value distinction.” He seems to defend Socrates and justice against this view. As medicine is concerned with health, he suggests rightly, so social research or “science” should be concerned with justice or a common good.[viii] Without self-awareness, social scientists often embrace prevailing values “around here,” glossing current prejudices while imagining themselves to do otherwise. Strauss seems to favor Socrates’s question: what is justice? Prima facie, this argument is Strauss’s strongest, most attractive and influential claim.[ix]
Following what he takes to be the example of philosophers inPersecution and the Art of Writing, however, Strauss has two hidden meanings which undercut this argument’s force. First, Strauss endorsed Nietzsche and viewed inequality, an aspect of master morality, as what he meant by “justice.” For instance, despite the initial lines of Natural Right and History, praising the indelible eloquence of asserting each individual’s “natural rights” in the Declaration of Independence, Strauss subsequently affirms the “classical view of natural right: inequality.”[x] Strauss then mocks the argument for equality, suggesting that the mere existence of a division of labor in a city is fatal to that possibility. He oddly ignores Plato’s “city in speech” which has no slavery and does not practice the subjection of women. He does not ask whether inequalities harmful to those who experience them are “necessary” in politics, but takes his allusion as sufficient. It is not.[xi]
Second, Strauss aimed to defend segregation in the United States against what he called “ss.” The “ss” that drew his wrath was that of Gunnar Myrdal as well as Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s “doll experiment” cited in Brown’s footnote 11. Suffice it to say that this experiment was used to demonstrate that, when given a choice of dolls, both white andblack children chose the white dolls as “prettier,” which for the Clarks (and Chief Justice Warren) was evidence of the assault on the “hearts and minds” of children daily demeaned by state-mandated segregation. Segregation was not conservative. It was authoritarian, anti-liberal, often murderous rule over a large minority (in Mississippi, a majority) of the population which distorted the personalities, as Martin Luther King insisted, of whites as well as African-Americans. In the concrete instance, though, we find Strauss and Goldwin promoting “states rights” and segregation against the Clarks’ social science. That difference does not compromise the validity of Strauss’s general critique of ostensibly “value neutral” social science. On the contrary, in this instance, the critique indicts Strauss’s own political stand. Strauss stood against the justice which he supposedly affirmed against “ss”; in contrast, the Clarks’ social science – and the Warren Court which relied on it – was not “value free” but stood for justice.
When Robert Goldwin became the head of the Public Affairs Conference Center, he took on Strauss as a paid, and more importantly, strategic advisor. On December 17, 1960, Goldwin reported that James Jackson Kilpatrick, the editor of the Richmond News Leader and a crusading segregationist had written one of the four papers for a conference, emphasizing “state’s rights” as vital to “the essential strength of the United States in the present situation.”
As Goldwin put it,
Here is the paper by Mr. Kilpatrick, just received. His assignment was to make the case that a reassertion of States’ rights would add to the essential strength of the United States in its present situation. His response in the light of the assignment speaks volumes. Everything proceeds smoothly now, though in a great rush.
On December 24, 1960, Strauss praised Kilpatrick’s “contribution,” emphasizing, that supposed positive impact of “local diversity” on American power to defeat the Soviet Union. (As a matter of fact, briefs submitted by both the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations had emphasized the costs to American reputation abroad of segregation at home and in effect pleaded with the Court to do what a Southern-dominated Congress was incapable of doing—ending segregation in the South.)[xii] Strauss also emphasizes Morton Grodzins’ paper, which focused on federalism, states’ rights or “anti-centralism,” and also questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s intervention striking down segregation.
As we shall see, Goldwin, like some others among Strauss’s students, would extol extreme centralism or authoritarianism: “executive power” or “prerogative.” But here, ironically, the affirmation of American imperial purposes seemingly required adopting the Southern defense of localism or state’s rights and opposition to the authority of the Supreme Court.
Upholding the equal rights of each citizen is the core of modernpolitical thought or liberalism to which Strauss objected.[xiii] On no other issue could Strauss’s profound aversion to equality manifest itself in such striking terms. Thus he enthusiastically congratulated Goldwin:
“I have read the four articles and can hardly say more than that you ought to be congratulated on the good judgment you have shown in selecting the four writers. It is not your fault that the States’ Rights position is presented in only one paper but in the future it might be wise to think well in advance of a possible substitute for a senator. The advantage of Kilpatrick’s paper is that its main argument (local diversity) is not met in any of the three other papers, and so there is room for discussion. All papers are well and interestingly written…Grodzins’ paper is clear, very well written and lucidly argued; but it does not go into the political reasons of the anti-centralists (especially the desegregation issue and the whole question of whether these kinds of matters can legitimately be settled by the Supreme Court). It makes very much sense to me that Grodzins speaks on page 14, line 3 of ‘the most important services” but this qualification raises a well known ‘methodological’ difficulty which might be brought out on a proper occasion in order to bring in a plug for the anti-SS.”[xiv]
It is, apparently, not enough to criticize the Court’s use of social science; one should go beyond and adopt the entire critique of Brown and, by the early 1960s, the civil rights movement that was transforming America. On Feb. 13, 1961, speaking of it as “my business,” Strauss broadened this attack on social science “and its political consequences in the last generation” (desegregation).
It is vital that a new generation be reminded exactly who Kilpatrick was. He was not the equivalent, say, of Herbert Wechsler, a famous professor of constitutional law at Columbia, who with some anguish, misguidedly attacked Brown as a violation of “neutral principles” in a lecture at the Harvard Law School. Instead, Kilpatrick praised “the South” and its “traditions” of segregation. To place this within an earlier debate, Kilpatrick was not Stephen A. Douglass, affecting “neutrality” on the goodness or badness of slavery and advocating that the “popular sovereigns” in each state come to their own conclusion about its merits; he was the equivalent instead of John C. Calhoun. Just as slavery had been a “positive good” for Calhoun and partisans of the “slavocracy,” so segregation was a positive good for Kilpatrick.
Affecting moderation, Kilpatrck notices that lynching was a problem. (Perhaps this is comparable to a “moderate” Nazi—Schmitt?—agreeing, after defeat and in retrospect, that the Holocaust went too far.) But Kilpatrick was interested in probing the relationship between lynching and the maintenance of the racialized system of power in the South. Kilpatrick does not notice that Democratic politicians by day, particularly sheriffs and other officials, were often Klansmen, or collaborators with Klansmen, by night.[xv] Kilpatrick’s views were scarcely hidden behind esoteric writings requiring the exegesis of a Straussian seminar to decode. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kilpatrick authored three books devoted to the maintenance of white supremacy, including a book forthrightly titled The Southern Case for School Segregation. What apparently drew Goldwin’s specific attention, and Strauss’s plaudits, was a book TheSovereign States, setting out his constitutional argument that “sovereign states” comprised the Union. Since the national government, including the Supreme Court, was simply the agent of the principals—i.e., the states, a state that disagrees with federal policy—or a judicial decision—on constitutional grounds has the “right to nullify” that policy, or to “interpose” itself to block it. This classic articulation of this argument, of course, was offered by John C. Calhoun, paraphrased by Kilpatrick as follows:
In this process [of enacting of Tariff of 1828], they [the Congress, meaning “the industrial North”] had gravely encroached upon the rights of the States, but – and here the doctrine of nullification in its most drastic form was asserted for the first time – the States had one remedy remaining to them: They could invoke their inherent right ‘to interpose to protect their reserved powers [those not explicitly enumerated in theConstitution], and by interposing, suspend the operation of a law they regarded as unconstitutional pending a decision by all the States in convention assembled.[xvi]
Kilpatrick spells out “the transcendent issue” which, ostensibly, will preserve
The remedy lies – it must lie – in drastic resistance by the States, as States, to Federal encroachment. ‘If those who voluntarily created the system cannot be trusted to preserve it,’ asked Calhoun, ‘who can?’ The checking and controlling influence of the people, exerted as of old, though their states, can indeed preserve the constitutional structure. The right to interpose the will of the sovereign people, in order that the evils of encroachment may be arrested, once more can be exerted toward the preservation of a Union and the dignity of States.[xvii]
Here Kilpatrick emphasizes the “diversity” of state viewpoints, seemingly echoed by Strauss:
And the necessity for a restraint upon the abuses and excesses to which all governments are inclined, arises largely from the fact that the governed people have dissimilar interests and concerns. Were all the people alike, and all interests of a community identical, no such restraints would be required; a single majority division would justly decide every question submitted to it. But this identity of interest does not exist among the several States who jointly form the American Union. From the very inception of the Republic, the different States zealously have cherished differing institutions: To one, foreign trade may be vital; to another, domestic manufactures; to a third, agriculture; to a fourth, water power and irrigation; to a fifth, the operation of public schools and parts. It is only to a limited extent that these most vital concerns may be subordinated to the ‘national good.’ At some point Calhoun argued, compromise must end and oppression begin.[xviii]
Quite obviously, the specific “oppression” that Kilpatrick is most concerned with is that directed at Southern whites by the American judiciary and their supporters, who were insisting that, in Martin Luther King’s terminology, the check written by the Reconstruction Amendments following the Civil War finally be redeemed.
Kilpatrick hastens to point out that the ostensible “right” to nullification cannot be invoked except under circumstances of exigency; otherwise, the central government would collapse. But not to worry, for Kilpatrick and other white Southern racists find just such an “exigency” to be attached to the prospects of desegregation and what was described as “forced interminging of the races.” This is not the occasion for full-scale examination of the merits of “nullification” doctrine. After all, it traces its heritage back to the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, in which Jefferson and Madison fought the dictatorial implications of the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by the Federalist Congress (and signed by John Adams) in 1798, which led to the arrest of immigrant- Scottish and Irish – editors of Republican newspapers and made criticism of the President—though, interestingly, not the Vice President, one Thomas Jefferson—a serious crime, even, in the draft version of the Sedition Act, a capital offense.[xix] If Madison and Jefferson were defending basic freedoms, that most certainly cannot be said of Kilpatrick, and, it should go without saying, it was obtuse of Goldwin and Strauss to offer him the mantle of respectability of participation in the Public Affairs Conference. It appears that he was invited not in spite of his political views, but because of them. One of the lessons taught by Strauss is the need to read all texts very closely, including what might be termed the “social text” of what is suggested by the invitation list to certain conferences and encomia delivered afterward on those who delivered papers.
- Networking for Reaction
Strauss relied on the Public Affairs conferences and on Goldwin, Joseph Cropsey, Herbert Storing (who, it should be emphasized, rejected racism and was a careful student of the Anti-Federalists and Afro-American writers[xx]) and Walter Berns to gain public influence.
On 7 February 1961, Goldwin wrote to Strauss:
I will add only that you would have been very proud of your ‘boys.’ Seated in the midst of the famous and the powerful, they conducted themselves admirably and displayed powers of the mind which earned the attention and respect of all. Mr. Grodzins commented especially to me and to others, on the brilliance of some of Mr. Cropsey’s formulations in the discussion. Mr. [Martin] Diamond and Mr. [Harry] Jaffa were the other most luminous ‘stars.’[xxi]
Here is a model of “philosophical” influence, taken from Plato’s Laws, which would ultimately extend to the role of certain Straussians in the Reagan and Bush administrations. Strauss’s “boys” could dazzle, according to Goldwin, “the famous and the powerful.” As a result, Strauss himself and his followers achieved lasting contacts. Strauss set out his wishes in a February 13, 1961 letter to Goldwin:
…. I turn immediately to my business. I am especially interested in a plan of having a debate on SS and its political consequences in the last generation. But I believe that the subject ought to be broadened to prevent the bogging down in methodology – a danger not excluded as you seem to think by the participation of [David] Easton. What I would suggest is a conference devoted to ‘theory and practice’ but not called by that forbidding title. I shall illustrate what I have in mind by two examples. 1) Economics and its limitations regarding economic policy, i.e. at what typical points ‘prudence’ or ‘common sense’ has to supplement the hand–outs of economic science. Milton Friedman ought to be in on this. You can get ample clarification regarding both subject matter and personnel from Mr. Cropsey. 2) Desegregation and the findings of SS which allegedly demand desegregation. Here I would think we should have a guy from the deep south, say Dean H[W]iggins, a sociologist at Emory.[xxii]Such a conference could be educative for the non-academicians by making clear to them what they cannot expect from the academicians. … I remember a seminar meeting with Rossiter and Grodzins where I put to Grodzins point blank the question: can you tell me a single thing which was discovered by scientific political science which was not known to intelligent practitioners in advance? He could not remember more than two examples which disproved rather than supported his sanguine position (this English is still better than if I had spoken of his ‘attitude’). There could be a very easy transition from this conference to the conference on education: what do the universities contribute to society?
Among the attendees at the Conference was soon to be Senator Charles Percy of Illinois.[xxiii] Strauss stresses Percy’s enthusiasm for it, and would attempt to work closely with him.
To be sure, with regard to some issues, Goldwin sought some genuine debate. Thus, regarding a proposed panel on arms control, he hoped to invite a “spokesman for the unilateral disarmament position…. David Riesman has been recommended by Morton Grodzins…James Burnham as the spokesman for the opposite extreme.” Attention was also paid to making connections with a broad array of persons from what Goldwin described as “the non-academic side.” Thus,
we have acceptances already from Mr. Percy, Thomas Watson (chairman of the Board of IBM), Emmet Hughes (Eisenhower’s former speech writer and now chief advisor and writer for Gov. Rockefeller) and Senator Muskie of Maine. We will invite, in addition, Congressman Ford of Michigan (who attended the first conference and who is a member of the Appropriations Committee and of the subcommittee on defense appropriations [and soon to be President]), Senator Henry Jackson of Washington (a member of the Armed Services Committee), George McGhee (head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff), Eric Sevareid [the newscaster], and Crawford Greenewalt, president of Dupont Co. We also want to invite a Republican member of the Armed Services committee, but I am awaiting Muskie’s advice on the best one for our purpose….
Goldwin continues: “I have mentioned all these names as a preface to asking you about Hans Speier…” In response, Strauss strongly recommended the participation of his old friend Speier, the head of the Rand Corporation.
To a very unusual and determined extent for a “political theorist,” Strauss involved himself with political and military leaders. Steeped in Xenophon’s Hiero (see his first book in the US in 1948, On Tyranny) and Plato’s Laws, he sought fiercely to shape policy. The Rand corporation was central to producing U.S. missile strategy. A connection with Rand also helped to embed Strauss’s students like Abram Shulsky or the students of his students such as Gary Schmitt (Herbert Storing), Paul Wolfowitz (Allan Bloom) and Francis Fukuyama (Bloom) in the strategic establishment.
The contact Goldwin had made with Congressman Gerald Ford would prove especially fruitful. After finishing his dissertation on John Locke, Goldwin took a job at Kenyon College where Robert Horwitz, another Strauss student, chaired the political science department, and continued a public affairs program. He still worked closely with Ford and then-Congressman Donald Rumsfeld; Goldwin would later describe himself as “a special confidante” of Rumsfeld.[xxiv]
It is worth noting that Strauss himself distinguished between “gentlemen” and “philosophers,” and it is quite likely that he viewed at least some of “the boys” as examples more of the former than the latter. Strauss did not intend that all of his students to become dedicated scholars – though that was the aim for his closest ones; it was perhaps of near equal importance, however, for some to influence policy. In Strauss’s idiom, they were to be “gentlemen” rather than “philosophers.” Not overly concerned with partisan political labels, Strauss was also content to work with Rockefeller Republicans and hawkish Democrats. The aim in policy circles was to create a political voice for specific reactionary ideas, whether offering a defense of segregation and states’ rights or an empowered executive capable of acting without significant constraint.
For instance, on June 5, 1969, Joseph Cropsey wrote about Strauss’s “old friend” Senator Henry Jackson, the Democratic hawk from the state of Washington. He also notes the incrasing influence of Albert Wohlsetter, a University of Chicago nuclear theorist who, though not a Straussian, often helped advise Strauss’s students.
- 4. Conquering Cuba and Nuclear War
Cropsey’s letter—written, of course, after the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy—dismissed Sen. Ted Kennedy as “the latest Kennedy” and exemplary of the “huge brood of mediocre aspirants the country will have to suffer, engendered by the unseemly fecundity of that family.”Strauss and his students hated President John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy administration. The theme of Strauss’s criticism is the weakness of the United States, its failure to exert itself as an empire to intimidate the Soviets. The debacle of the Bay of Pigs aggression and the Cuban missile crisis, which was an American defeat according to Strauss, led to this “unmanly” supineness.
In the 1990s, Robert McNamara, who had, of course, been Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, would go to Cuba for meetings about the Cuban missile crisis with Castro and others. At that point, he discovered that the Soviets, unbeknownst to the United States Government, had nearly two hundred missiles with nuclear warheads on Cuban soil and, perhaps more important (and astoundingly) Soviet field commanders apparently had the authority to order their use.[xxv] Had the US, as General Curtis Lemay and Strauss advocated, attacked Cuba, a nuclear war might well have occurred, wiping out at least the East Coast of the United States and, assuming an American response, a world-wide nuclear holocaust.
But though wary in writing to future Senator Percy about nuclear war, Strauss recognized the danger and wanted to risk it. In fact, in the “Restatement,” not easily accessible to Percy, he says optimistically that a return to the stone age would be preferable to the supposed decadence of the “last men” (those who fight for freedom, individuality and peace):
“The end of history would be most exhilarating but for the fact, according to Kojeve, that it is the participation in bloody political struggles as well as in real work or, generally expressed, the negating action which raises men above the brutes. The state through which man is said to become reasonably satisfied is, then, the state in which the basis of man’s humanity withers away, or in which man loses his humanity. It is the state of Nietzsche’s ‘last man’…
There will always be men [andres] who will revolt against a state which is destructive of humanity or in which there is no longer the possibility of noble action or of great deeds. They may be forced into a mere negation of the universal and homogeneous state, into a negation not enlightened by any positive goal, into a nihilistic negation. While perhaps doomed to failure, that nihilistic revolution may be the only action on behalf of man’s humanity, the only great and noble deed that is possible once the universal and homogeneous state has become inevitable. But no one can know whether it will succeed or fail. We still know too little about the workings of the universal and homogeneous state to say anything about where and when its corruption will start. What we do know is only that it will perish sooner or later (see Friedrich Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach). Someone may object that the successful revolt against the universal and homogeneous state could have no other effect than that the identical historical process that has led from the primitive horde to the final state will be repeated. But would such a repetition of the process – a new lease on life for man’s humanity – not be preferable to the indefinite continuation of the inhuman end? Do we not enjoy every spring although we know the cycle of the seasons, although we know that winter will come again? Warriors and workers of all countries, unite, while there is still time to prevent the coming of ‘the realm of freedom.’ Defend with might and main, if it needs to be defended, the ‘realm of necessity.’” [xxvi]
On February 12, 1963, Strauss suggested an analogy to Percy between the brutal Soviet conquest of rebellious Hungary in 1956 and U.S. “tit for tat” in Cuba. “Strength” means that the US should respond with the same brutality, using the same methods, as the Soviets. Strauss foolishly suggests that Kennedy shunned such confrontation merely for electoral purposes. He seems not to recognize that Kennedy managed to avoid nuclear war while forcing the Soviets to withdraw nuclear weapons from Cuba, a victory rather than a defeat for American policy, not to mention humankind. Finally, Strauss suggests, brutalizing Cuba would cement American domination in Europe, preventing General De Gaulle in France from suggesting that the US could not protect “European interests.”
Another of Strauss’s recommended policies, the Vietnam War would also damage this alliance, just as a further American invasion of Cuba would have. In Strauss’s formulation, one can hear the commanding tone of the would-be philosophical counselor, modeled on the Laws or Xenophon’s Hiero, instructing the political leader:
“Dear Mr. Percy
I believe that the following points have not been made, or at least have not been made with sufficient audibility: 1) To speak in the only language which Khrushchev understands, Cuba is our Hungary; just as we did not make the slightest move when he solved the problem in his back yard, Hungary, he cannot, and will not make the slightest move if and when we take care of the problem in our back yard, Cuba 2) the President has not succeeded in dispelling the impression that what moved him to a moment’s action, after which he relapsed into the old inactivity, was not a belated understanding of the true situation but the fear to lose elections. 3) We surely give de Gaulle a wonderful excuse (if it is not more than an excuse but a cause); he can justly say, how can a country be trusted to defend the legitimate European interests if it does not defend its own legitimate interests?
The meetings of the PACC [the Public Affairs Council at Chicago] dealing with foreign affairs convinced me perfectly that the President has surrounded himself with advisors who are completed deluded about the character of the Communist menace. This experience contributed very much toward forming my view about the present administration.
One word about the last meeting of the PACC. I thought it was without question the best we ever had. We all must be very thankful to Mr. Goldwin…
Strauss also uses the Public Affairs Conference, with attention to future conferences, to suggest a broad reactionary – anti-President Kennedy, pro-States Rights and segregation,[xxvii] pro-Imperial – policy to Percy. Like the Athenian stranger, he was using his own arguments and the voices of others to try to shape policy. Strauss warns repeatedly against making unreciprocated concessions to the Soviets over Berlin and East Germany. Mirroring his own wishes for the United States, he suggests that the Soviet Union is limitlessly expansionary. Only with a reversal of Communism in fact – a willingness, as he defines it for Percy, to accept the existence of “the free world” – would stability be possible. Until then Strauss recommended, in a memorandum directed to Percy, the policy of aggression:
“To Charles H. Percy
The major premise of American foreign policy must be: no strengthening of the USSR at the expense of the USA. But concessions regarding Berlin and East Germany push Germany toward the USSR and therefore strengthen the USSR. The conclusion: unless concessions in this respect are accompanied by equally great concessions on the part of the USSR, there must not be the concessions now contemplated. Since it is patent that no acceptable concessions on the part of the USSR are in sight, there must be no concessions on our part.
Yet, some people argue, the concessions regarding Berlin and East Germany correspond to the legitimate demand of Russia. They are its only demands, its last demands; thereafter there will be genuine peace. But this argument presupposes that Russia has ceased to be Communist – which is nonsense. There cannot be genuine peace with Communism.
The opponents continue to argue as followers: if we do not seek genuine peace, then we heighten the danger of thermonuclear war, which confronts us with the alternative of annihilation or surrender. Without genuine peace, we must face this alternative.” (emphasis added).
There is a profound cleavage of opinion in this country as to which of the two alternatives is preferable. The issue will be settled not in journals by the people who call themselves and are called by others ‘the intellectuals,’ but, as is meet in a democracy, ultimately by the majority vote of the people at large. If this issue is brought before the American people, I believe the large majority will be opposed to surrender – if for no other reason than for this : because the speakers against surrender will be more trusted by the American people than the speakers for surrender. To make this point quite clear, further considerable setbacks for the United States (super-Cubas) will bring about an anti-‘intellectual’ reaction compared with which ‘McCarthyism’ will look like child’s play. We must start from the premise that the American people, as a strong, virile, and free people will prefer to perish rather than to surrender. (emphasis added)
As in the end of the “Restatement” in On Tyranny, Strauss thought modern Americans were
exemplars of the last men. “Virile” here refers to those who seek destruction – and self-destruction.
Strauss was hoping for “resistance” even at the risk of nuclear war.
- A Reduction of Locke to “Prerogative” or “Commander in Chief Power”
It is hard to overestimate the importance, with regard to understanding central aspects of Leo Strauss’s politics, of a May 1933 letter to Karl Loewith:
Just because the German Right will not tolerate us does not mean that there is anything wrong with the principles of the Right. On the contrary only those principles – fascist, authoritarian, imperial – and not the laughable and childish imprescriptible rights of man is the only basis on which to oppose the meskine Unwesen [on a very rightwing interpretation of Nietzsche, the grubby Jewish reality of the last men].[xxviii]
Even if it were certainly true that Strauss could have had no knowledge of what the “fascist, authoritarian, and imperial” policies of the recently empowered Adolf Hitler would lead to, 1933 is, equally certainly, late enough to wonder about the intellectual judgment of anyone who would find “laughable and childish” those who posited notions of “rights of man” against the grandiose visions of conquest and ethnic cleansing of the Nazis and their advocates like Schmitt or Martin Heidegger (in fact, Strauss was an acolyte of Heidegger all the way through[xxix]). In Natural Right and History, Strauss’s dismissiveness toward Locke set the stage for followers, particularly Robert Goldwin, disparaging the rights of each individual and elevating, in their place, executive – even tyrannical – power. Goldwin’s chapter in Strauss and Cropsey’s History of Political Philosophy subtly distorts Locke as overemphasizing the “prerogative” of an authoritarian executive, compared for example, to Locke’s fierce passages on revolution against a tyrant who like “any lyon or tiger” in a state of nature may be struck down. Goldwin’s correction reformulates Locke for impact on the American Presidency.[xxx] This crafting of their common message coupled with Goldwin’s role as confidante – “philosopher-statesman” or “one man think-tank” – in Republican politics has had a profound public impact.
Goldwin had written a thesis on Locke under Strauss’s direction. In Goldwin’s essay, one can hear Strauss’s “Platonic” emphasis on the best man who rules without laws, but as Simonides in Xenophon’s Hieroinsists, “beneficially.” Putatively, action for the public good as opposed to obeying a wooden, “inflexible” rule of law makes such an executive “godlike.” In paragraph 160 of the Second Treatise of Government, Locke defines the idea of “prerogative.” As Goldwin’s “John Locke” in Strauss and Cropsey’s History of Political Philosophy comments, “The executive may act not only without the sanction of law, he may also make the laws ‘give way’ (par. 159) to his power where blind adherence to them would be harmful, and he may even go so far as to act contrary to the law for the public good.”[xxxi] He then invokes Locke’s formulation: `This power to act according to discretion for the public good, without the prescription of law and sometimes against it, is that which is called ‘prerogative’ (par 160).”[xxxii] Locke’s way of putting it emphasizes the idea of a common good: “prerogative is nothing but the power of doing public good without a rule.” (par 165)
Goldwin’s interpretation shades toward arbitrary executive power. The term “prerogative” is a bridge between the word “authoritarian” in Strauss’s 1933 letter to Loewith and the almost unlimited “Commander in Chief Power” that characterized especially the first term of the Bush-Cheney Administration, when torture became near standard operating procedure of what was labeled the “Global War on Terror.” In fact, Goldwin brought this idiom to the White House, echoed in Saturday afternoon luncheon seminars for President Ford by Harvey Mansfield Jr., almost certainly the most exuberant devotee of the supposed necessity of an “untamed prince” as part of the conception of the President.[xxxiii]
Goldwin found a receptive audience in President Gerald Ford and his advisors, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Chief of Staff Cheney, for an almost obsessive concern with restoring the powers of the Presidency that had been weakened in the aftermath of Richard Nixon’s mendacity regarding the Vietnam War and, of course, Watergate. As Ford insisted, “I was absolutely dedicated to doing whatever I could to restore the rightfulprerogatives of the Presidency under the constitutional system.”[xxxiv]As both Goldwin and Mansfield wrote, though, “prerogative” has, at best, an orthogonal relationship to what we usually regard as “the constitutional system,” at least if we regard it as establishing genuine constraints that operate upon all public officials.
Ford and his aides sought to restore “prerogative” against Watergate; with “Commander in Chief power,” “unitary executive” and “lawfare,” this idea has now become enmity to law under the Bush administration and is achieving bipartisan consolidation in Obama’s odious notion of “state secrets.” [xxxv] Following Strauss, Goldwin admired philosopher-kings. He knew that such “wise princes” were above the law, that they were philosopher-tyrants. Goldwin’s chapter repeatedly adverts to this idea as a background. He summons this supposed “teaching” of Plato”[xxxvi] and Strauss as a quasi-esoteric theme. Modelling Socrates’s action in the Apology and Crito as well as theRepublic, one might of course take the idea of philosopher-kingship as leadership in a democracy to defend philosophy as one small city in the “city of cities” which the Athenian democracy was.[xxxvii]
Yet invoking Locke’s account, Goldwin also insists:
The danger inherent in the executive’s prerogative is no less obvious than the necessity for it. The prerogative has always grown most extensively in the reigns of the best princes. The people trust a good and wise prince even while he acts beyond the limits of the law, not fearing for their safety because they see that his purpose is to further their good.
One can imagine Ford Chiefs of Staff Cheney and Rumsfeld perking up their ears at this “philosophical” message from their “special assistant” and “confidante.” Goldwin stresses Locke’s idiom about a kind of monarch as the best ruler, “as God himself” or sharing in his “wisdom and goodness.” Esoterically, it is but a short way from this divine wisdom to a tyrant advised by a wise man (Xenophon’s Simonides in the Hiero and in Strauss’s On Tyranny). Exaggerating Locke’s words, Goldwin’s essay draws a metaphorical connection:
Such godlike princes, indeed, had some title to arbitrary power by the argument that would prove absolute monarchy the best government, as that which God himself governs the universe by, because such kings partake of his wisdom and goodness (par. 166)[xxxviii]
A few pages later, Goldwin reiterates this theme. He again conjures a prince who like God exercises prerogative.
There are two places in the Second Treatise where Locke speaks of `godlike’ princes. In one he speaks of the princes who are allowed the largest prerogative, who have the greatest freedom from the control of the laws. They are like God, who governs the universe as an absolute monarch, because they ‘partake of his wisdom and goodness.’ (par. 166)
For Goldwin, one might imagine, this is an esoteric emphasis in Locke; like Xenephon and “Mr. Strauss,” he is an advocate of philosopher-tyranny.
Yet in a contradiction, Goldwin also invokes Locke’s image of a prince who rules “by established laws of liberty” and furthers increased production from the land through labor:
But in the earlier passage, the prince is said to be wise and godlike who rules ‘by established laws of liberty.’ Such a prince is like God as Creator, for established laws of liberty are the means of bringing about ‘the increase of the lands,’ which is a kind of creation, as we have seen, although not a creation out of nothing. This increase is not only the cause of domestic prosperity but also the source of the power to protect the society against the hostile attacks of other societies. The godlike prince whose law-abidingness brings increase ‘will quickly be too hard for his neighbors’ (par. 42).[xxxix]
Locke argues for a lawless executive who still “serves the people” or a “public good.”[xl] But his defense of a law-adhering leader is part of his core argument on accumulation of property, the lawless executive an error or a rare case, one also limited by the right of revolution. Ironically, Goldwin juxtaposes these opposed arguments as if he notices the contradiction; yet he does not acknowledge, let alone think about it. He follows the master in a scholarly adherence to the surface (or perhaps pointing to a familiar, for Straussians, esoteric meaning) of a text without philosophical analysis.
If Strauss promises cryptography, Goldwin, however, sticks more closely to seeming description. In effect, Goldwin opts for the side of tyranny and downplays Locke’s core argument. In his peroration, Goldwin recurs pregnantly to the theme of a philosopher-king: “John Locke has been called America’s philosopher, our king in the only way a philosopher has ever been king of a great nation.” Esoterically, Goldwin speaks, however, as the student of another “philosopher,” Leo Strauss, whose interpretation of Locke would now be brought to bear in the Ford and Reagan administrations through Goldwin directly, through civil service (Shulsky) or political (Wolfowitz) appointments, the colonizing of rightwing foundations (Goldwin’s long tenure at the American Enterprise Institute) and matriculation into subsequent reactionary administrations, culminating in the sustained attack on the rule of law of George W. Bush.[xli]
Consider in this context an essay by Harvey Mansfield defending extraordinary surveillance by the Bush Administration. Mansfield is often regarded as the leading Straussian of his generation, though he was not in fact a direct student of Strauss, having received his doctorate at Harvard. His importance as an “American conservative” comes not only from the quality of his scholarship, but also from his willingness to take part in direct political argument, sometimes in the pages of the Wall Street Journal or Weekly Standard, both central organs of “American conservatism” (they are often authoritarian, and not conservative, however). Thus in January 2006 Mansfield published an essay in theWeekly Standard under the breezy title “The Law and the President: In a national emergency, who you gonna call?” The answer, not surprisingly, is the latter, and it is worth quoting Mansfield at some length:
One can begin from the fact that the American Constitution made the first republic with a strong executive. A strong executive is one that is not confined to executing the laws but has extra-legal powers such as commanding the military, making treaties (and carrying on foreign policy), and pardoning the convicted, not to mention a veto of legislation. To confirm the extra-legal character of the presidency, the Constitution has him take an oath not to execute the laws but to execute theoffice of president, which is larger.
Mansfied here asserts that legal powers, that of being commander in chief, making treaties, offering pardon or even the veto, is somehow extralegal. It is not. In any case what is extralegal is not illegal, i.e. torture. He illicitly links all three, without offering an argument.
Thus it is wrong to accuse President Bush of acting illegally in the surveillance of possible enemies, as if that were a crime and legality is all that matters. This is simplistic, small-r republican thinking of the kind that our Constitution surpassed when it constructed a strong executive. The Constitution took seriously a difficulty in the rule of law that the republican tradition before 1787 had slighted. The difficulty is obvious enough, but republicans tend to overlook it or minimize it because they believe, as republicans, that power is safer in the hands of many than in those of one or a few. Power is more surely in the hands of many when exercised in the form of law–“standing rules,” as opposed to arbitrary decree. Republics tend to believe in the rule of law and hence to favor legislative power over executive.
Yet the rule of law is not enough to run a government. Any set of standing rules is liable to encounter an emergency requiring an exception from the rule or an improvised response when no rule exists. In Machiavelli’s terms, ordinary power needs to be supplemented or corrected by the extraordinary power of a prince, using wise discretion. “Necessity knows no law” is a maxim everyone admits, and takes advantage of, when in need. Small-r republicans especially are reluctant to accept it because they see that wise discretion opens the door to unwise discretion. But there is no way to draw a line between the wise and the unwise without making a law (or something like it) and thus returning to the inflexibility of the rule of law. We need both the rule of law and the power to escape it–and that twofold need is just what the Constitution provides for.
Here is the doctine of Carl Schmitt – “he is sovereign who makes the decision in the state of the exception” via Strauss – pawned off as a) the wisdom of the American consitution (something both Schmitt and Strauss disliked and disparaged) and b) as a cliché “Necessity knows no law,” “a maxim everyone admits.” Even Mansfield’s words “an emergency requiring an exception from the rule [of law]” are self-consciously redolent of Schmitt. Note that any criminality can be justified in the name of this breezy elision of things sometimes only allegedly “extralegal.”
Similarly, Walter Berns, unequivocally one of Strauss’s “boys,” published a piece in the Wall Street Journal on May 23, 2009, with the frank title “Interrogations and Presidential Prerogative: The Founders created an executive with substantial discretionary powers.” Though this piece appeared in the early days of the Obama Administration—and one might wonder if Berns is gratified by the extent to which Obama has proved more than willing to accept the notion of “an executive with substantial discretionary powers”—it was clearly motivated by the discussion of whether those who had been part of the Bush Administration’s torture apparatus should be subject to punishment. Berns’s answer—and, it turned out, Obama’s as well—was no. Berns relied, like Goldwin, on Locke:
But Locke admitted that not everything can be done by law. Or, as he said, there are many things “which the law can by no means provide for.” The law cannot “foresee” events, for example, nor can it act with dispatch or with the appropriate subtlety required when dealing with foreign powers. Nor, as we know very well indeed, can a legislative body preserve secrecy.
Such matters, Locke continued in the Second Treatise, should be left to “the discretion of him who has the executive power.” It is in this context that he first spoke of the “prerogative”: the “power to act according to discretion, for the public good without the prescription of the law, and sometimes even against it.” He concluded by saying “prerogative is nothing but the power of doing public good without a rule”
The executive in our case, at least to begin with, is represented by the three Justice Department officials who wrote the memos that Mr. Graham [Senator Bob Graham of Florida] and many members of the Obama administration have found offensive. They have been accused of justifying torture, but they have not yet been given the opportunity in an official setting or forum to defend what they did.
That forum could be a committee of Congress or a ‘truth commission’ — so long as, in addition to the assistance of counsel, they would be judged by ‘an impartial jury,’ have the right to call witnesses in their favor, to call for the release of evidence including the CIA memos showing the success of enhanced interrogations, and the right to ‘confront the witnesses’ against them as the Constitution’s Fifth and Sixth Amendments provide. There is much to be said for a process that, among other things, would require Nancy Pelosi to testify under oath. (emphasis added).
To put it mildly, no widely accepted evidence has emerged that “enhanced interrogation” was in
fact “effective” and, therefore, even under the crudest form of utilitarianism, “justified.” Berns is also far more concerned with the plight of Administration officials accused of complicity in torture than he is with the fate of those subjected to medieval brutalities. For him, what might be termed “patriotic motivation” seems to be the most important thing. His comments track an earlier 1986 essay, written for a book edited by Benjamin Netenyahu, and entitled “Constitutional Power and the Defense of Free Government.”[xlii] Berns begins by quoting James Madison’s comment to Jefferson: “It is a melancholy reflection that liberty should be equally exposed to danger whether the government have too much or too little power.” “But,” Berns goes on to ask,
how much power is too much? . . . [T]he Constitution does not answer that question. Too much power is beyond what is necessary, and it is not given to writers of constitutions to foresee what may be necessary. The ends (or purposes) of government are foreseeable and capable of being stated explicitly–a more perfect union, justice, domestic tranquillity, the common defense–but themeans of promoting those ends . . . cannot be foreseen…..
The body of the Constitution begins by defining the legislative power, which is to be expected in a document so strongly influenced by the political philosophy of John Locke.. . The legislative, Locke says, is the “supreme power.” …. [The Founders] proceeded, however, to establish an executive whose powers, unlike in a parliamentary system, come not from the legislature but from the people.
By making the executive independent, the Founders acknowledged that, however desirable in principle, in practice not all things that government may have to do to advance the public good can be done by law or formulated in law. I hesitate to say this when I lack the space to say it properly, but under our written Constitution, the law is not supreme. Above the law, and the lawmaking body, are the people of the United States, whose will is expressed in the written Constitution. The supremacy of the people over the law is apparent in the first sentence of Article I: “All legislative powers herein granted,” thereby indicating that certain legislative powers are not granted. But compare this with the first sentence of Article II: “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” There is no suggestion here that any part of the executive power is being withheld. And if John Locke was their guide here, as he was elsewhere, the executive power includes the prerogative, “the power to act according to discretion for the public good, without the prescription of law and sometimes even against it.” How great those powers are was demonstrated by Lincoln, in my judgment the greatest of American Presidents.
Like Mansfield, Berns elides executive discretion and rampant criminality. The need to justify torture as a common good is alluded to – the CIA’s nonexistent evidence he fanstasizes must be revealed – but he is expessing a sad preference, not even making an argument, let alone, basing one on facts.
Further, Berns does not see in Lincoln the opponent of a war of aggrandizement with Mexico as well as the extension of bondage into the border states. He sees him instead as the employer of emergency powers, violating habeas corpus. Save for a brief mention of the Emancipation Proclamation, Berns’ distortion of Lincoln parallels Goldwin’s of Locke:
Lincoln fought a war that was never declared; without congressional authorization, he called for volunteers to fight that war; he established a naval blockade of ports from Texas to Virginia; he suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus; he put enemy sympathizers in army jails without trial and ignored a demand of the Chief Justice to free them; most important, he used his power as commander in chief to free the slaves, something not even Congress was authorized to do….
…. Beyond the obvious fact that we are not involved in a civil war, or formally in any other kind of war, what distinguishes [the contemporary struggle against terrorism] from Lincoln’s? Not a lack of constitutional power: the powers are there when they are needed; the Founders saw to that, and they also authorized the President to decide when they were needed…..
Lincoln spoke powerfully of the blessings of liberty and asked his fellow citizens to make sacrifices for it….
There can be no doubt that Berns is fully “American” inasmuch as, like many compatriots, he is obsessed with Madison and then that most complex of all Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. The message is that vindication of the Union required doing whatever was thought to be “necessary” to maintain it. And he offers this foolish nostrum for the purpose of making the face of America that of waterboarding. It is hard for people who remember the Vietnam War not to hear overtones of “destroying a village in order to save it.”
Strauss’s acolytes have therefore done their part to bring into the highest levels of American politics a perspective – anti-Constitutional, against individual rights, leader-worshipping and endlessly war-making—that is similar to his own attraction, in 1933, to the merits of politics that are “fascist, authoritarian, imperial.” But, quite obviously, the truly “American conservative” Straussians, like Goldwin and Berns, translated these ideas into an American, quasi-Lockean, pseudo-Constitutional idiom. (What is interesting about Mansfield’s essay is that he evokes the authority of Machiavelli instead of the comparatively anodyne Locke.) The political Straussians—the “boys”—were remarkably successful in making Leo Strauss America’s philosopher and achieved, in George W. Bush (or Dick Cheney), their wish as to what well-tutored leaders might look like.
Goldwin’s final sentence reads: “We, therefore, more than many other peoples in the world, have the duty and experience to judge the rightness of [Locke’s] teaching,” that is, the teaching about the necessity of claiming prerogative powers. Perhaps paradoxically, the revulsion against Bush and his extreme invocations of executive power was led by, among others, conservative libertarians like Richard Epstein who drew from Locke a distinctly different teaching based on the importance of individual rights and suspicions of overreaching government.
Goldwin was no fool. Like Farabi, he added a Platonic caveat to this account. Although the rule of the best prince and of a mere tyrant are alike in their lawlessness, the latter is only a pathetic imitator of the former. Yet following Locke, Goldwin also notes that even a good ruler smooths the way for an abusive successor:
But even godlike princes have successors, and there is no assurance that one of them, claiming the precedent, will not make use of the enlarged prerogative to further his own private interests at the peril of the people’s property and safety. ‘Upon this is founded that saying that the reigns of good princes have been always most dangerous to the liberties of their people.’ (par. 166)
Goldwin played a powerful role in the rise of the modern Republican party, as Rumsfeld said
in his eulogy. Rumsfeld even sent Goldwin into the disaster in Iraq as a trusted advisor. There is,
alas, no reason to believe that Goldwin found in Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and others the dangers he
himself warned against. Perhaps he would reply that these men were not using their prerogative
powers in order “to further [their] own private interests,” that they were always motivated by
protecting American national security. Even if one grants, for sake of argument, the premise, one might still believe that Goldwin and some of the other ‘boys” ended up as apologists for tyranny. “American conservatism” deserved better.
[i] My emphasis. See also the reflections of Walter Berns, who will also play a role in the narrative below:
“My life changed directions–or took on its purpose–in 1950 when I began graduate studies at the University of Chicago. It was there–in fact, the first week there–that I met Bob.
I had come from Reed College, by way of a year at the London School of Economics, and had intended to study with–better that I not mention their names–Professors X, Y, and Z. Bob had come from St. John’s College, where he learned about Leo Strauss. He persuaded me to study with Mr. Strauss, as we called him, and I did, then and for the next three years; and it was in those seminars that I met the men–so long as they lived–my life-long friends: Herbert Storing, Allan Bloom, Martin Diamond, Robert Horowitz, and Ralph Lerner. Bob has a photograph of six of us sitting in a row at Colgate University in 1976 during a program celebrating the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence…
[At AEI] he edited and published a series of truly distinguished, and truly unique,
constitutional studies of the sort never before published. . . .
And what did I do for him? Only this. Herb Storing and I encouraged him to quit his job with an education organization in order to finish his Ph.D. This required him and his wife and family to live for two–or was it three?–years of dignified poverty, during which Daisy acquired her 100 recipes for serving hamburger. On the other hand, however, with those academic credentials he went on to have his distinguished academic and political careers.
Of his years with Don Rumsfeld at NATO in Brussels and in the Ford White House with Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, I can say little. I wasn’t there. But I can say a good deal about his work at the American Enterprise Institute. There he edited and published a series of truly distinguished, and truly unique, constitutional studies of the sort never before published, studies demonstrating, for example, how the Constitution secures religious liberties, how it separates powers, and, for another example, how it can be said to be democratic. Even
before his days at AEI, he had edited a series of constitutional studies published by Rand
McNally, and Storing and I and Bloom and Diamond and others contributed to these studies.”
– Walter Berns is a resident scholar at AEI. Mr. Berns delivered the above remarks at the memorial service for Mr. Goldwin on January 14, 2010.
One should neither assume that Xenophon’s aphilosophical Socrates is the same as Plato’s Socrates nor Socrates himself who founded what we call civil disobedience.
[iii] Michael Goldfield who took Strauss’s course on Aristotle’s Politics in 1968 told me about this.
[iv] After chairing a panel on Strauss’s 1933 letter to Loewith at the American Political Science Association in 2008, I engaged in 9 months of negotiations with Nathan Tarcov, Strauss’s new literary executor, and was the first non-Straussian admitted to look at the Strauss papers in Regenstein library. Following Strauss’s death in 1973, Joseph Cropsey had hidden Strauss’s papers for 36 years. He had allowed publication only after 2000 in German by Heinrich Meier, a student of the arcane Schmitt and Strauss. The citations in this paper are drawn from my research in Regenstein.
[v] Senator Daniel P. Moynihan played a comparable role for Gary Schmitt, a student of Storing and to a lesser extent of Strauss, and one of the 3 principals of the Project for a New American Century.
[vi] For instance, Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, columnist praising Strauss at the New York Times for a year and co-leader with Gary Schmitt and Robert Kagan (who studied with Thomas Pangle and shares the politics of aggression and “commander in chief power” but is not interested in political philosophy – a gentleman, in Strauss’s idiom) of the Project for a New American Century, or Paul Wolfowitz, who had studied with Bloom and as Assistant Secretary of Defense helped engineer the Iraq disaster.
[vii] “I do not believe in the possibility of a conversation of Socrates with the people (it is not clear to me what you think about this); the relation of the philosopher to the people is mediated by a certain kind of rhetoricians who arouse fear of punishment after death; the philosopher can guide these rhetoricians but cannot do their work (this is the meaning of the Gorgias).” Strauss-Kojeve correspondence, On Tyranny, 2nd edition, April 22, 1957, p. 275.
[viii] Gilbert, Democratic Individuality, ch. 1.
[ix] Political science has at times embraced definitions of democracy as two party competition which rule out the segregated South but embrace apartheid South Africa. A clear view of justice – that each counts as human – rules out such bizarre results. But Strauss instead favors a transformed anti-urban past, most closely, the vision of Martin Heidegger, “the one great philosopher of our era.” (see his posthumous “Introduction to [Heideggerian] Existentialism.” Heidegger was a Nazi, and Strauss, for a long time, pro-Nazi. Here again, Strauss feints at a decent argument to advance a paradigmatic corrupt one.
[x] P. 118
[xi] Even more strikingly, the vision of politics in Strauss’s 1932 refinement of Carl Schmitt involves a notion of enmity, but makes no mention of a common good. See “Anmerkungen zu Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen”. Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik67, no. 6 (August–September 1932): 732–49.
[xii] See, e.g., Mary Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights.
[xiii] In Democratic Individuality, I take fascist and authoritarian claims about the rule of a Fuehrer to be anti-political.
[xiv] My emphasis. Goldwin would later worry that the conference had been too stridently segregationist, even for him; he includes essays favoring federalism in his subsequent edited collection: A Nation of States(1974; h/t Peter Minowitz).
[xv] Those, locally and nationally, who enabled segregation for reasons of achieving power, i.e. for other purposes, made themselves responsible for its crimes.
[xvi] James Jackson Kilpatrick, The Sovereign States: Notes of a Citizen of Virginia, Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1957, p. 179. Kilpatrick’s italics.
[xvii] Kilpatrick, Sovereign States, p. 305,
[xviii] Kilpatrick, Sovereign States, pp. 188-89.
[xix] Madison invoked the rights of states to defend individual rights. Kilpatrick, pp. 180-81 notes the controversy but omits Madison’s reasons.
[xx] Unlike Strauss and many other Straussians, Storing lived up to Strauss’s abstract admonition to pay attention to alternate views (no Straussian has yet paid serious attention to Marx, though Strauss did praise Kojeve’s – not, until he was older, a Straussian – elaboration of Hegel).
[xxi] My emphasis.
[xxii] James Wiggins.
[xxiii] Percy entered politics in the late 1950s. With the encouragement of then U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Percy helped to write Decisions for a Better America, which proposed a long-range program for the Republican Party. He became known as a Rockefeller or liberal Republican.
Percy ran for governor of Illinois in 1964, but narrowly lost to Democraticincumbent Otto Kerner. In 1966, Percy ran for senator from Illinois, upsetting the Democratic senator Paul Douglas who had been Percy’s teacher at the University of Chicago. Note Percy’s broad connection with the University which prepared a way for his friendship with Leo Strauss. Percy served three terms. He explored the possibility of running for President in 1968 and 1976.
[xxiv] Robert A. Goldwin, Special Consultant: Files, 1974-76, Gerald R. Ford Library, Ann Arbor Michigan.
[xxv] The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962, a National Security Archive Documents Reader, ed. by Laurence Chang and Peter Kornbluh, 2nd ed., New York: The New Press, 1998.
Noam Chomsky, “Cuban Missile Crisis: how the US played Russian roulette with nuclear war,” The Guardian, October 15, 2012.
[xxvi] Strauss, “Restatement” in On Tyranny, pp. 208, 209.
[xxvii] Partly because of Goldwater’s stand against civil rights, Percy, during his run for Governor in 1964, would endorse Goldwater for President only reluctantly.
[xxviii] See Scott Horton’s translation of the letter in Constellations, May, 2009. The correction of the last phrase – one which makes clear that Strauss was pro-Nazi at the time – is due to Michael Zank and William Altman.
[xxix] See Heidegger’s 1943 Vom Wesen der Wahrheit: zu Platons Hoehlengleichnis und Theaetet (On the Essence of Truth: Plato’s Cave-Metaphor and the Theatetus ). Heidegger had lectured on Plato for 20 years. Strauss’s interpretation of Plato begins from and is derivative of Heidegger’s.
See democratic individality: http:\\democratic-individuality.blogspot.com/2010/05/mirrors-cave-heideggers-platonic.html
[xxx] Stanley Rosen was a student of Strauss who spells out ways he differs from the master in “Leo Strauss at Chicago.” In contrast, Mansfield assures the reader that his views on Machiavelli extend Strauss’s Thoughts on Machiavelli. The paradigm academic Straussian argument is, sadly, closer to the latter than the former.
[xxxi] Goldwin “John Locke” in Strauss and Cropsey, History of Political Philosophy, p. 502.
[xxxii] Locke puts the term prerogative here in quotes, Goldwin does not.
[xxxiii] Grandiosely and invoking the idee fixe of neocons, Cropsey analogized the preemption of Saddam – i.e. US aggression against its almost disarmed former puppet – to an imaginary preemption against Hitler.
[xxxiv] Kathryn Olmstead, Challenging the Secret Government, p. 49 (her footnote is imprecise, however, about when Ford said this). She also notes; “His aides list Ford’s renewal of Presidential Power after Watergate as one of the greatest achievements of his administration.” Idem.
[xxxv] This is how Obama attempts to defeat suits for torture or aggression by innocent people. See, for example, the legal brief recently dismissing a suit by an Iraqi woman concering aggression. But Obama, also, used this doctine to repel the suit of Canadian-Syrian engineer Maher Arar, removed from a flight in Laguardia and sent to Syria to be confined in a coffin size cell and tortured for 10 months, to whom the Canadian government, more honorably, paid damages .
[xxxvi] In contrast, I argue that Plato’s idea of the city in speech and the philosopher-king is largely satiric and represents the dream or vision of Glaucon, a warrior regime for the military leader/potential tyrant. The material on the philosopher king is actually a Platonic satire of Xenophon; the city of philosophers is, on the contrary, a kind of modified Pythagoreanism. See my essays at democratic-individuality.blogspot.com:
[xxxvii] See these three essays on “going down” on democratic-individuality:
[xxxviii] My emphasis, p. 503.
[xxxix] Pp. 507-08.
[xli] Strauss said roughly this to Stanley Rosen as Rosen reported to me in e-mail correspondance . I had written to him to confirm his account to Tracy Strong on January 13, 2007:
“Tracy suggested I talk to you. In addition, he told me a story of yours: that Strauss had said to you that he and his followers would place students in liberal arts colleges where they would be the most knowledgeable and charismatic people on the faculty, and then in rightwing foundations and receptive administrations. Such a pattern is visible.”
For many, one might doubt the “charisma.” But in any case, on January 15, Stanley responded:
“The anecdote via Tracy is substantially accurate. Strauss planned to make an alliance with the Anglophile establishment Conservatives. In other words, WASP power brokers. He never got very close to the Catholic conservatives who correctly sensed that he was an enemy or at least a danger to their tradition. Sometimes it helps politically to know the difference between Aquinas and Aristotle.”
[xlii] Benjamin Netenyahu, ed., Terrorism: How The West Can Win, pp. 149-154 (1986)),