Archive for the ‘American History’ Category

There is a fundamental affinity between M and I. I think this is why many Objectivists feel a certain kinship with presidents like Truman–apart from the well-documented fact that many admirers of Ayn Rand unbeknownst to themselves practice an M mode (rationalism). There is a certain grandeur to M2, which strives for monistic integration. The D mode, on the other hand, is so profoundly anti-Aristotelian in essence that anyone with an I mode and a keen modoscope must instantly feel revulsion, even a sense of hatred welling up inside, when encountering a D thinker. Hatred is the emotion reserved for enemies, and D is the enemy. D is the destroyer of the mind.

In studying foreign policy closely with a modoscope, it has been my experience that while I disagree with M practitioners all, I respect them to a certain extent, especially the M2s, who are more committed to a fundamental approach, even though it’s wrong. The D thinkers, such as Theodore Roosevelt, the Bushes, Barack Obama, and Nixon and Kissinger, on the other hand, make me sick to my stomach.

The D history by Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” and the D account of Chinese history and Chinese-American relations by Kissinger himself entitled “On China” are torture for the integrating mind. The tellers revel in analysis without integration. The principles of their narrative revel in the failure of grand ideals and the rejection of principles, and even outwardly enjoy evasion, secrecy, and criminality as instruments of state policy.

Let us thus dispense with Nixon and Kissinger — Nixinger, for short — as quickly as possible.

The foreign policy challenges of this era, stemming from the prior M tilt of the past four administrations, were considerable. Vietnam was an unmitigated disaster. Israel was locked in an existential conflict with its Arab neighbors. The Soviets had been emboldened by America inefficacy. And Latin America was turning to communism, influenced by Cuba’s revolution. Nixinger decided to address each of these situations with characteristic refusal to integrate, indeed with a deliberate intention to break apart the whole international system into regional puzzles to be handled by intensive secretive diplomacy, including, most notably the despicable empowerment of communist China by a supposedly staunchly anti-communist administration.

The most pressing problem for Nixinger was Vietnam. Americans were dying there on a hopeless M2 crusade. They needed to be withdrawn. An I president would have recognized that Vietnam would inevitably fall to Communism if America refused to wipe out the northern Communists, and simply, bravely withdrawn, allowing Vietnam to consume itself, as it deserved to do. Instead, in his November 3, 1969 address, the “silent majority” speech, containing the “Nixon Doctrine,” he explained that his conduct would be driven by the need to secure a certain perception of America’s greatness. He trumpeted the false hope of “Vietnamization” — the mis-integrating thesis of self-determination — which he knew to be futile, and had Kissinger waste his time in a dingy Paris apartment talking to North Vietnamese communists for hours about how they should make concessions to America while promising them everything they could possibly want, if they just were a little more patient.

Instead of withdrawing precipitously, Kissinger insisted on a retreat “with honor,” by dishonorably expanding the futile war effort into Cambodia, and then lying about it to the world. This apparently was what he meant by winning “an American peace.” “It’s not my fault,” he later complained, like the James Taggart that he was, when nothing he had done worked.

I imagine this was his thought also when CIA operatives killed one of the only moral leaders in all of South America, the constitutionalist defender of Chile, general Rene Schneider, in a botched kidnapping attempt that was supposed to incriminate communists in Chile to allow America to orchestrate a military coup against the democratically elected Salvador Allende. The Chile debacle, to me, is the ultimate symbol of the Nixinger disintegration. Kill the good guys while trying to blame it on the bad guys, in a place that doesn’t even matter. (Kissinger had bluntly told the Chilean ambassador previously, “what happens in the south is of no importance.” And yet he and Nixon were happy to throw out every moral tenet of American foreign policy–to assassinate the very character of America–to prevent Chile from what would have been a brief flirtation with Marxism. Disgusting.)

Do you really want more? Unfortunately there is more, and history requires that we look at it.

The good news is that Israel would not put up with Nixon’s muddled thinking. Golda Meir dealt with Nixon’s Middle East policy like a school marm chiding the class idiot. Letting Nixon posture, Meir and Israel’s military establishment gradually moved ahead with their nuclear power and armament program. At least now, the world can rest easy that if Muslims are crazy enough to try to destroy Israel, the outcome will be “mutually assured destruction.” Thank you, Israel, for refusing to be disintegrated.

Let us end with Communism. To deal with this threat, Nixon employed the standard tactic of the philosophically adrift: the balance of power — not as a tactic however, as a “strategy of tactics.” To be sure, calculations of military capabilities are a necessary and important aspect of foreign policy, but in the D mind they become foreign policy itself. According to such an outlook, since Russia was a problem, it was a valid move to court China as a temporary ally. China for its part was so consumed by paranoia that the Chinese actually believed that America was secretly a partner of the Soviet Union against China. I pity the fly on the wall listening to Mao and Nixon talking past each other about their own national leadership neuroses.

In the end China did not help the US with its Vietnam problem — a major hope of Nixon’s. The China-Taiwan situation went unmoved. All that happened was that China’s “middle kingdom” mindset received a major boost, allowing its vicious rulers to think themselves legitimate partners of the greatest nation in the world, and continue down the same path there were already on. If Nixon had never gone to China, there is a good chance in my mind that China would already be a democratic country. Instead, America’s dialog of appeasement and flattery with China’s evil leaders gave them a new legitimacy, and kept them in power. It provided the impetus for the economic opening of China, which, despite permitting a new level of wealth to a vast number of Chinese, has perpetuated single-party rule, rampant corruption, and retarted true political progress there.


What came next is fascinating from the perspective of modal progressions.

Ford is almost irrelevant. As far as I am concerned, he can be seen as a continuation of Nixon.

I suspect that American culture was predominantly a mix of M1 and M2 at this time, because Nixon’s premature D never really resonated with it. My sense is that the New York Times, with which Nixon clashed so much, was an M2 institution at the time — though it has since gone D, to be sure — and their modal incompatibility was part of the reason for their antagonism. Academia was M2 to be sure, until the fall of the Soviet Union, though with a growing D subcomponent. The M2-M1-M2-M1 progression in foreign policy from Truman to Eisenhower to JFK to LBJ is further evidence. So it’s no surprise to me that America returned to M2 one last time, with Jimmy Carter.

Basically what I see in the history of American foreign policy after WWII is a culture war between M and D well underway, with a baseline but momentarily transient American M losing a rear-guard action with a philosophically more powerful adversary. Carter is the last stand of M2, if I’m right, assuming Reagan was a transitional D1, whereas Nixinger represents the Cold War advent of god-awful D2, and D2 has dominated since.

Onward, to full disintegration and beyond!

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There were two major mis-integrating theses at the heart of America’s mis-conduct during the Cold War.

The first was an M2 thesis: America must be the grand champion of “world peace,” everywhere supporting “self-determination.”

The second was an M1 thesis: America must protect world peace, yes, but this means containing in a practical way, i.e. by the use of force, the this-worldly evil of communism.

At no point in the history of the Cold War did any American president advocate an I policy of rational self-defense. Since America was congenitally incapable of a completely altruistic foreign policy, there was a continual overlap between the mis-integrations of its presidents’ foreign policy and what would look to a rational observer as a policy of self-defense. A stopped clock seems to indicate the right time twice a day, and a mis-integrating doctrine will at times approximate the functioning of a proper foreign policy. In his daily conduct, a mis-integrating president will regularly be forced to enact the business of government in ways that are not consistent with his abstract convictions, even if he is an idealist like Truman or JFK. Reality just refuses to go away; even the philosopher king must eat, sleep, and defecate, no matter how much he resents being a lowly animal creature caged in a lower dimension.

The M2s gave the fundamental impulse and set the tone to the Cold War. The M1s made the practical adjustments, without changing the ultimate trajectory. And the Ds stepped in to make things all the messier for everyone else, treating foreign policy like some kind of chess game played on six overlapping boards at varying angles with nine sets of pieces, and patting themselves on the back for being so smart to see how reality is so complex. (I’m intently reading about a team of two neurotic Ds right now. What torture! More on that in Part 6.)

Lyndon Johnson was the second M1 to inherit a mess created by an M2 predecessor.

JFK had almost blown up the world, and then, as part of his penance no doubt, surreptitiously sent more and more Americans to Vietnam to die for others.

With Vietnam getting messy, M1 Johnson positioned himself to be the necessary integrator of the campaign. Not wanting to fight an I war — because no one in their right mind could justify sending American troops to Vietnam from a perspective of rational self-defense — Johnson would have to dispense with the constitutional mechanisms that were set by I thinkers to try to impose and I mode of conduct on future generations. By the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964, Johnson was able to bypass Congress, and take control of the war he intended to fight against communist barbarism, like a modern-day Marcus Aurelius confronting the Parthians and Germans at the far reaches of his overextended empire.

The most telling quote from Johnson about Vietnam, was his apocalyptic expectation: “If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we’ll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco.

Is it possible or necessary to read a mode into this? I think it’s not only possible, but instructive. The whole point of taking a DIM view of the world is to see if you can detect how someone’s mode conditions their conclusions, choices and actions.

Why did Johnson believe that America would be surrounded by commies and under siege in no time, if the hole in ground called Vietnam would succumb to the insanity of Leninism with Vietnamese characteristics?

M1s, like M2s, believe in a higher dimension and a lower dimension. This world, the lower one, is the world that Plato’s demiurge could not make right. It is flawed. It is the domain of evil. Ms all accept what Ayn Rand called the “malevolent universe premise” in some form or another. It’s a metaphysical baseline for them.

This is this premise that fueled the paranoia of a communist takeover of the world, even though the prospect of such a takeover and the danger it represented would have been laughable, especially if had America had a policy of rational self-interest.

I sometimes wonder how history could have gone differently. What if America had allowed the Russians to move on the Middle East, for instance Iran, while explaining to the world: “America has standards. We are not a foreign policy slut. We don’t save just anyone. You wanna have your Islamic way of life? Fine. We won’t stop you. But we ain’t lifting a finger for you either. Oh, you want to try Marxism, Latin America? Go ahead! We are benevolent enough to say: you need to learn that lesson for yourself. Just know this: if you so much as twitch the wrong way, Salvador Allende, we won’t waste our time with the CIA, we’ll bomb you into the Stone Age. The Americas are the most imminent sphere of our rights-protecting mandate of, by, and for Americans. We don’t like to lose sleep about our criminal neighbors. Got that? And just so you understand, watch this…,” a massive continual bombardment of the communist government in Cuba into rubble, followed the imposition of a republican constitution on Cuba, because commies 50 miles from Miami is simply not acceptable.

When I think about Communism and Islamism locked in a massive clash of “civilizations,” with a rational America watching from afar, I weep to think of how wrongly things have gone. Life could be so much better. Most people can’t see it. They just see what’s in front of them and what history has fed them, but when you have a modoscopic lense attached to a historiscope, you can see the world as it could and ought to have been.

Anyways, to dispense with what actually happened…Here are Johnson’s final, modally revealing, thoughts about Vietnam, as mis-integrated into the sum of his world view:

“I knew from the start that I was bound to be crucified either way I moved. If I left the woman I really loved–the Great Society–in order to get involved in that bitch of a war on the other side of the world, then I would lose everything at home. All my programs…. But if I left that war and let the Communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser and we would both find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe.”

Never has there been a more eloquent statement of the tortured M1 soul caught between two worlds.

So M had its day. From 1945 to 69, continually. It would resurface again here and there, but its bankruptcy was revealed by Vietnam — a debacle that proved to be a trigger for a modal coup by D.

Perhaps coup is not the right concept. The truth is D had been lying in wait ever since Teddy Roosevelt. One thing that interests me is the idea that I fell to M, but it fell BECAUSE of D. Once we’re done with the story of foreign policy from Truman to the present, we’ll go back to the story of the fall of I and see how that went. I don’t yet have an HD picture of it in my mind, other than I am sure that Teddy is the most evil son of a bitch in the history of the American presidency–yes, even more evil than the one you’re thinking of. Evil — because like Kant himself, the anti-Aristotle, he seduced unsuspecting, modally ill-equipped, philosophically light-weight Is to the dark side by complexifying the entire conceptual manifold of foreign affairs to the point where only an Ayn Rand-like president will ever really be able to clean up the mess he made.

I don’t think that will ever happen. I am on record as saying that M2 will almost certainly win, and that either you or your children will live in a totalitarian America, or you will have had the foresight to get out.

Probably Epicurus masquerading as Ayn Rand will keep you where you are.

Plus, the normalcy bias is a powerful force limiting those who can’t take ownership of history for themselves.

On the other hand, maybe a pat down by a TSA VIPR team as you get off the subway tomorrow on the way to work will convince to start making objective preparations for the future.

Actually, I’m thinking of designing a course on the theme of “objective preparation,” but before you get all excited about that prospect, keep in mind that the hierarchical foundations of such a course, and thus your ability to take full advantage of it will depend on whether or not you have integrated what is presented in “History is Dead. Long Live History!” (Have you registered yet?)

In the mean time, on with the story…

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“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Let the nations of the world know that America’s pure idealism is back.

Let the world know that America is committed once again to a war of abstractions, for abstractions, and on abstractions: “a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.”

With his inaugural address of 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced the return of M2 — at least for three years.

Kennedy’s inaugural address, sometimes referred to as the “Kennedy Doctrine,” begins with a religious interpretation of America’s founding — generally a good clue with regard to mode. America’s legacy, he says, is “the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

The purpose of this intepretation for Kennedy goes beyond the merely religious. It is modal. Kennedy wishes to elevate the concept of individual rights to a “higher” status. He wishes to characterize the fights for rights as akin to carrying a torch, and making a commitment to all the peoples of the world.

This ideal encompasses every person in every country.

Allies, newly “free” countries, destitute hut dwellers — and enemies.

Altruism, though potentially derived from any non-I mode of thought, has the most idealistic fervor in M2.

“…we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required–not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but BECAUSE IT IS RIGHT. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”



BE MORAL. SERVE MANKIND…especially the poor.

As a foreign policy?

For a charismatic M2 president, yes.

This is something to note. JFK was spellbinding man. He captured people’s hearts (first) and minds. Such leaders inspire people to sacrifice themselves. They allow the people to feel a sense of hope that their society embodies values, and that life is not just about the “bottom line.”

The M2 mode is crucial to this appeal. The M2 thinker uses ideas as disembodied forms — higher ideals. The kinds of ideals that the housewife and hoover salesman know they don’t understand, but feel — with the help of years of religious education — are true and good. The M2 mode can make a president into a high priest.

A high priest within the new institutionalized international relations equivalent of the Catholic church: the United Nations, which Kennedy calls “our last best hope.” That the League of Nations, its predecessor was completely ineffectual, does not for a moment factor in his thinking. To modern M2 observers, likewise, the complete inefficacy of the UN in any setting whatsoever to do anything meaningful to stop wars and genocide doesn’t phase them either. The UN is hope. Why? Because it is the very embodiment of M2 internationalism. Hope is not a worldly induction to the M2 thinker. It doesn’t derive from a study of history, in particular the story of man’s progress. It is a dream. An ethereal form to which the soul ascends, transcending the mire of “real life.”

Internationalism is by its nature M2. It has been hijacked and mauled by D in recent times. But the essence of internationalism is the belief that “open covenants, openly arrived at” can somehow transcend the realities of history and culture. An internationalist looks at a communist dictatorship and says: “they love their children too.” Can’t we all just talk? If we can just talk, we can sort it out! Because in the end, we are all on the same “quest for peace.”

History does not support such a view. Communists do not want peace. In fact, one of the metaphysical foundations of their ideology, common to Lycurgus of Sparta, Karl Marx, and Chairman Mao, is that life is war. Not should be, or sometimes is, or unfortunately involves…but IS. Life is war. Conflict is the essence of human existence. This was why the Spartans were a permanently militaristic society. This is why Mao was so taken by Leninism as an anti-imperial antidote to China’s subordination by the West.

The belief that all people want peace is idealism of the “highest” order. Only such an idealism could lead a president to appeal to the Soviets, the petty dictators, and academic Marxists everywhere, “ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

What was such an idealist to do about Cuba, and the danger of the spread of Communism to other parts of Latin America?

As an internationalist, his first recourse, was to call for an “alliance for progress.”

“Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas.”

Eisenhower, however, had set in motion an M1 plan to remove Fidel Castro in Cuba. The CIA — an essentially M1 apparatus required to do the dirty work in the this-worldly mess created by Truman’s otherworldly Doctrine — had devised a plan to overthrow Castro.

M2 idealism was nicely embedded in the plan, virtually insuring its failure. The goal was to achieve the overthrow with a minimum of violence, permitting the Cuban people themselves to take over the reigns of their government. Self-determination was the aim.

Kennedy liked the various features of the Bay of Pigs plan. The invasion would be discrete, deniable, and, if successful, a coup for idealism that would catapult America into the role of big sister tutoring Cuba and the rest of Latin America to keep them from accepting communism.

The debacle that followed is fascinating to watch through a modoscope.

It includes the appropriate penance of the idealist for having been seduced by M1.

“There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan … Further statements, detailed discussions, are not to conceal responsibility because I’m the responsible officer of the Government …”

And it includes the anger of an M2 idealist directed towards his M1 minions for the failure to realize ideals. Kennedy declared that we wanted to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” The military, he declared, should never be trusted.

The modal paroxysm that followed almost destroyed the world.

The Soviets, emboldened by the perceived weakness of a Kennedy-led America, began staging the deployment of nuclear armaments in Cuba.

They didn’t want peace; they wanted mutually assured destruction. They wanted Americans to live in fear, like they did. And they were willing to push the world to the brink of war.

Accounts of the Cuban Missile Crisis have lionized Kennedy. The movie “Thirteen Days” portrays the great idealist fighting his own military establishment to save the world, and presents his removal of American missiles from various sites in Europe as a triumph of appeasement. That a communist dictatorship became unshakably entrenched in Cuba, and that all of Latin America then had to be subjected to military dictatorships in order to contain communism there, is something that non-integrators would prefer to ignore.

Truman’s M2 idealism set America’s Cold War trajectory. Unlike a policy of rational self-defense, it commanded a kind of idealistic crusade to push the confrontation with the Soviet Union in such a way that its leaders felt cornered.

After the lull of Eisenhower’s M1, Kennedy’s M2 idealism almost brought about the logical outcome of Truman’s crusade: nuclear Armageddon.

M2 was rightly banished from foreign policy as a result.

Until Jimmy Carter, of course. But that M2 disaster only came after Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. Enough of the damage caused by M2 was mitigated during the intervening period to mitigate the impact of the disastrous character of Carter’s foreign policy. But the intervening period also contained a destroyer. A man who, along with Theodore Roosevelt (and probably FDR — I’m not sure yet) is most responsible for turning America’s foreign policy to D.

Who was the destroyer? I’ll give you a clue. He wasn’t a president.

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So how do you apply an otherworldly foreign policy in this world? How do you take the great ideal of “world peace” and bring it down to earth? Easy: worldly supernaturalism, or what Leonard Peikoff calls “M1.”

Once you have a mis-integrating umbrella concept that purports to apply everywhere at all times, and you try to apply it, its true contextual applicability becomes your great challenge. You inevitably find yourself trying to act in reality according to concepts that weren’t derived from reality, and you eventually come to a conceptual juncture: either dismiss reality, and become a cynic, or work to modify the abstractions in some measure to make them more useful.

Now, countries and cultures can maintain their allegiance to a mis-integrating thesis for a long time. As Leonard Peikoff discusses in the DIM Hypothesis, modes are resilient mental frameworks. They don’t have built in self-destruct buttons. Quite the contrary. They have sophisticated defense mechanisms within them to insulate them from negative outcomes by explaining them away, evading them, or metaphysically downgrading them. Modes are “anti-fragile.”

A good example of this is the calamity of the Crusades, a medieval M2 endeavor. (In my view, the Dark Ages were primarily non-modal, or what I call “U”–un-integrated. The people of this time were little more than brutes. But by the time 1095 rolled around the M2 mode had a significant hold on European culture, as illustrated by the modally laden conflict between popes and “holy Roman emperors,” which grew — as phenomena guided by human integration do — to encompass the relationship between popes and French kings, and popes and English kings…the church and the state in general.) Whether the Crusades went well or badly, the premise “God Wills It!” did not crack. If Christians won, He willed it. If Christians lost, He willed that too! There was certainly enough sin for the Church to point to, to shame people into maintaining modal compliance. The scale of a calamity, as long as it isn’t apocalyptic, does not upset an anti-fragile system.  A calamity is only a trigger for modal change, when there are powerful advocates of a new mode ready to take advantage of it.

In Europe, I think that only came about with the French Revolution, but — amazingly — in the DIM Hypothesis, Peikoff doesn’t have anything to say about this arguably most important event in human history! (Yes, the American Revolution is more important, as a positive step, but the French Revolution is much more influential on world culture. Was the Revolution D before its time? It certainly resulted in the dis-integration of many heads from their bodies! In my mind, it’s possible it was still M2. That’s one I really need to dig into. I suspect it was mixed, M1 — I don’t have an immediate answer to the question: Was Jean-Jacques Rousseau M2, M1, or D before Kant!? Anybody?)

Regardless, my point is that M2 is built to last.

Which is part of what fascinates me about the fact that Truman Doctrine M2 immediately became Eisenhower Doctrine M1 in American foreign policy. Just like that. A snap of the fingers! M2 out. M1 in.

The significance of the switch is something we’ll have to pursue at another juncture. Let me for the moment simply illustrate why Eisenhower was an M1 thinker…

The text I’m using to base this judgment is found here:

The first indication comes early:

“There are worldwide hopes which we can reasonably entertain, and there are worldwide responsibilities which we must carry to make certain that freedom–including our own–may be secure.”

Worldwide hopes — abstractions. Worldwide responsibilities — the application of abstractions to this world.

Another clue:

“There is…a special situation in the Middle East which I feel I should, even now, lay before you.”

Broad mis-integrating ideals are not much use by themselves. As a this-worldly user of ideas, Eisenhower found it helpful to reduce the scope of their application. Truman went from the particulars to the abstract. Eisenhower announces that we will be coming back down to Earth.

Of course, M1 respects M2, so Eisenhower bows to Truman’s ideals.

“Before doing so it is well to remind ourselves that our basic national objective in international affairs remains peace–a world peace based on justice. Such a peace must include all areas, all peoples of the world if it is to be enduring. There is no nation, great or small, with which we would refuse to negotiate, in mutual good faith, with patience and in the determination to secure a better understanding between us.”

But M1 does not kowtow. It is its own mode.

“…until a degree of success crowns our efforts that will assure to all nations peaceful existence, we must, in the interests of peace itself, remain vigilant, alert and strong.”

This world matters too. You need to carry a big stick!

Aiming to the support of the self-determination of Middle East nations (the ideal) AND to the containment of Soviet aggression (the harsh reality) how should America proceed?

“Our thoughts naturally turn to the United Nations as a protector of small nations.”

The ideal again.

“The United Nations can always be helpful, but it cannot be a wholly dependable protector of freedom when the ambitions of the Soviet Union are involved.”

Reality again.

“…The action which I propose would have the following features….

It would, first of all, authorize the United States to cooperate with and assist any nation or group of nations in the general area of the Middle East in the development of economic strength dedicated to the maintenance of national independence.

It would, in the second place, authorize the Executive to undertake in the same region programs of military assistance and cooperation with any nation or group of nations which desires such aid.

It would, in the third place, authorize such assistance and cooperation to include the employment of the armed forces of the United States to secure and protect the territorial integrity and political independence of such nations, requesting such aid, against overt armed aggression from any nation controlled by International Communism.

These measures would have to be consonant with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Charter of the United Nations and with any action or recommendations of the United Nations. They would also, if armed attack occurs, be subject to the overriding authority of the United Nations Security Council in accordance with the Charter.”

The worldly supernaturalist Eisenhower contending with an M2 foreign policy handed down to him could do only what a worldly supernaturalist was by nature inclined to do. He began working out how the lofty abstractions of his predecessor could be applied to reality, alternating between more idealistic statements and pragmatic considerations, tilting one way and the other, as per his own M1 formula.

The Mossadegh crisis of 1953 and the Suez Canal crisis of 1956 demonstrate this M1 mode in action quite clearly. When Mossadegh threatened Western oil access, Eisenhower calculated that the threat of communism trumped the ideal of Iranian self-determination. Mossadegh was neutralized by the CIA. However, when France, Britain, and Israel threatened to “destabilize” the Middle East by taking over the Suez Canal, Eisenhower could see a way to be a supernaturalist and a realist at the same time. If Egypt was allowed to control its own destiny with Nasser at the helm, then Egypt would be appeased into staying out of the Soviet sphere. Eisenhower came down hard on his own allies, alienating them quiet significantly, but (arguably) achieving his regional aim.

The situation in Asia is also amenable to modal analysis.  What should one do about China?  Self-determination would required a “hands off” policy.  The rise of Mao, a radical intervention.  China’s sheer mass carried the day.  But Korea was not going to be handed over.  Self-determining South Koreans were going to get American help, if they didn’t want to become communist.  Of course, not to the point of actually saving all of Korea.  The harsh reality of Chinese and Soviet interest there would have to lead to a compromise between ideals and circumstances at the 38th parallel.

M1 was adaptable to both cases, and a modal understanding of Eisenhower is highly instructive in interpreting what to many people have been inconsistencies in his conduct. He was, in fact, not inconsistent. He was true to his mode in word and in deed.

Thus in rapid succession Truman committed America to M2, and, in light of the challenging realities inherent in the foreign policy sphere, Eisenhower tilted America’s mission to M1.

What came next is quite interesting. Any guesses?

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So we begin our DIM history of foreign policy with the Truman Doctrine.  Not the latest statement of foreign policy to be sure, but close enough to the present to still be highly relevant.  And a clear exemplar of a DIM mode.  Of course, the question is: which one?

“The United States has received from the Greek Government an urgent appeal for financial and economic assistance,” which assistance is imperative for the survival of Greece as a free nation, Truman says, beginning his famous appeal.

A fact is thereby submitted for consideration in American foreign policy thinking.  What does one do with such facts?  Does one begin to integrate a particular case into a framework of national security, in order to understand its implications in relation to American self-interest?  That certainly would be  an “I” approach.  However, after elaborating upon the details of the case, Truman turns to HIS thesis, which asserts another standard: the lofty abstraction of “self-determination.”

“Greece must have assistance if it is to become a self-supporting and self-respecting democracy.”

Why must the US provide that assistance?

Because others cannot, says Truman.

Yes, but why does Greece’s situation demand American action?  Does the fact that others cannot act constitute an obligation for America?  Isn’t the question one of how the problem relates to American national security or to crucial related values, such as the need to support a genuine ally?  Is Greece even such an ally?

Sensing that such a mode of thinking might assert itself in a polemical response to his message, Truman  works to redirect his audience to a different approach.  The Greek government is imperfect, he acknowledges,  but imperfection is not a practical problem; it is a moral problem reflecting our human predicament in the material world; it must be met by tolerance. Looking for clear answers with regard to people and nations is a failure to accept the truth of our flawed earthly existence.

Not wanting to linger too long at this uncomfortable juncture, Truman quickly switches to Turkey, whose case he intends to ally to the Greek case, as a neighboring country whose “independent and economically sound state is clearly no less important to the freedom-loving peoples of the world than the future of Greece.”

Important to whom?

To the “freedom loving peoples of the world,” says Truman,

Does that even really include the Turks?

Important for what?

Isn’t the real issue the containment of the Soviets by preventing them from having easy access to the Mediterranean?

The significance of Turkey to the world certainly could not be considered self-evident–unless one treats abstractions like “self-determination” as disconnected from reality–possessing a clarity akin to self-evidency qua abstractions, which one can embrace with a logical purity that is only possible with abstractions unfettered by practical considerations.

Evidently, Truman thinks this way.  No justification of abstractions is needed.  Abstractions are his justification.  Based on the abstract standard of “self-determination,” he may simply assert: “Turkey now needs our support.”

To anyone not accustomed to such a mode of thinking, Truman must, however, explain how the two cases of Greece & Turkey are united under one abstract heading.  To anyone uninitiated in the ways of an otherworldly mode of thinking, Greece & Turkey likely still appear as two separate existents–not units under a concept.

Truman’s first stage of elucidation consists of asserting that Turkey “is essential to the preservation of order in the Middle East.”

Now grounded minds can begin to climb towards the light.  The justification for aid to a single country is not to be understood as merely a compartmentalized single case. It is an instance of broader policy, which is the stabilization of a region.  So the less abstract goal of Turkish stability is integrated to the more abstract goal of regional stability.

“I am fully aware of the broad implications involved if the United States extends assistance to Greece and Turkey, and I shall discuss these implications with you at this time.”

“Broad implications,” of course, signify the wider meaning of a particular case — its connection to a context, into which the mind expects it to be integrated.

“One of the primary objectives of the foreign policy of the United States is the creation of conditions in which we and other nations will be able to work out a way of life free from coercion…”

So the abstract framework of a Greece and Turkey policy is not merely regional stability, but the even more abstract aim of “self-determination” for all.  If one can climb from the particulars up through the hierarchy of abstractions to this higher truth, one can see why helping others is the right thing to do, thinks Truman.

Of course, ideals do not realize themselves.  In this world, we must be “willing to help free peoples” determine their own fate.  Supporting the formation of the United Nations is one way, he believes, but that kind of idealism cannot always produce practical results in the resistant framework that is the this-worldly international system.

Greece and Turkey need down-to-earth, gritty, material help.  Why should we help them?  Because we support self-determination.  Why do we do that?  Because aggressors who harm self-determination thereby undermine “international peace,” which is the broadest, most abstract objective. And that hurts the security of the United States too.

Does it?  To conduct a careful analysis of this assertion would prove quite challenging. For instance, the aggression of France against Mexico in the 1860s, which was neighboring the United States, did not really threaten American national security–even when the US was in the middle of its own Civil War!   The truth is that France was overextended, and Mexico was inwardly focused. The war between Britain and Napoleon in 1812, by contrast, did involve threats to the rights of Americans.  That would be a good counterexample.  What about the British aggression against Afghanistan in 1839-42, or the parallel aggression of Britain against China in the First Opium War.  These do not seem to have hurt America any.  Don’t we need to look at the broader context to make a determination about whether or not American interests are indeed involved in any particular act of aggression, where the context would include who the aggressor is, against whom they are acting, and why?  A distant perturbation of the international order is not by itself a threat to America.  The Founders for their part were inclined to use a straightforward geographical line of demarcation in thinking about these things. They said that the Americas were our key security sphere.  But even that was a generality, to be applied contextually.  Did anyone in America lose sleep over the Brazil-Paraguay War?  One might concede the possibility of a distant conflict having a national security implication for America, but one certainly could not assume it, just because “international peace” is disturbed.

Of course, this kind of analysis — a welding of facts in their context, within a framework of thought dictated by a true national security standard — was not on Truman’s mind.

The truth is Truman merely mentioned national security, because he had to.  Not that he was against America, unlike a certain president one can think of.  He just didn’t view it as an abstract primary.  Of course, you can’t make a foreign policy statement on this Earth without some token statement of self-interest.

But with the brief mention of America’s self-interest disposed of, Truman moves to his true purpose.

“I believe that it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.

I believe that we must assist free peoples to work out their own destinies in their own way.”

Self-determination again.  Truman’s true guiding star.

The issue of Greece’s self-determination connects to the issue of Turkey’s self-determination, connects to the challenge of “disorder… throughout the Middle East”–and the demoralizing effect such problems would yield in Europe as well!  Ever the integrator, Truman seeks to show how his  vision subsumes as wide a sphere of impact as possible. “Should we fail to aid Greece and Turkey in this fateful hour, the effect will be far reaching to the West as well as to the East.”

As Truman concludes:

“The free peoples of the world look to us for support in maintaining their freedoms.
If we falter in our leadership, we may endanger the peace of the world — and we shall surely endanger the welfare of our own nation.”

Applying a modoscope to this restatement, we see the precise form of integration Truman proposes.  The particular case must be understood by reference to an abstraction: self-determination, which itself is but a component abstraction of the broader, purer ideal of “the peace of the world” from which sublime height of consideration we descend to observe even America’s own welfare subsumed and given new meaning.  Not merely a welfare defined by a crass “selfish” calculation.  A welfare that derives from a high ideal of “world peace,” as the glowing “form of the good” illuminating the welfare of all, commanding the enlightened sacrifice of Americans to the needs of others.

The Truman Doctrine.  An American M2 foreign policy.

Not the first, mind you.  And, if Leonard Peikoff is right, not the last.

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In his book, The DIM Hypothesis, philosopher-historian Leonard Peikoff states that America has essentially embodied two modes in its cultural history.

America started as an “I” (Integrated) culture, as embodied by the Aristotelian-Newtonian outlook of the Founding Fathers.

Then, over some period not explicitly defined by Peikoff, in a development he did not deem it necessary to elaborate upon, it gradually shifted from its “I” mode into the “D” (Dis-integrated) mode unleashed by Immanual Kant upon the world, and embodied in the thinking of American philosophers John Dewey and William James, among others.

From a DIM Perspective, Peikoff seems to be saying, the key is thus the “big picture” that shows that America was “I” and then switched to “D.” And, drawing upon his analysis of modal transitions and the evolving state of American culture, he now anticipates a shift to M2–the crucial aspect of which will be religious totalitarianism in politics.

Although my own professional studies of history corroborate Peikoff’s overall analysis, and I thus do anticipate the daunting outcome of religious fascism in America, I have been drawn into a more intensive analysis of cultural modes, in American history in particular, in order to map with a greater precision what modes have been active in American culture over time, how they have interacted, and what the consequences are for us here and now, as our “culture war” unfolds, and those of us who are willing and able try to defend and promote the “I” mode.

As I undertook my analysis, it became evident that modes exist in a continual interrelated flux. That is to say: every available mode is always accepted and promoted by some group in society at all times. Since the rise of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy, that has meant that every Western culture has been an admixture of “I” (Aristotelian), “M2” (Platonic or Marxist), “M1” (Cartesian), “D2” (Kantian) and “D1” (Utilitarian) modes of thought, with each mode at times ascendant in certain areas, dominating particular institutions, with its practitioners attempting to reclaim overall primacy.

Among the many questions this raises in my mind is: How does the advocacy of a mode in a particular area by a certain proponent interact with its complex modal milieu in “parallel” (as it impacts other institutions), and in “series” as it shapes the trajectory of that particular domain, and in the aggregate in shaping the overall modal trajectory of a culture?

This personally matters to me a great deal, as an “I” advocate in history and education. One thing I would like to know is: how much of an impact can I have? And how? And what obstacles will I face? How does one mode penetrate and defeat another in any specific domain, such as mine? As I watch advocates of reason try to defend “I” positions in a variety of areas, such as freedom of choice in medicine, fair taxation, deregulation, and the return to a gold standard, I am struck by how generally ineffective “I” advocates seem to be at present. Something is missing. A pro-I modal revolution is certainly not as simple as making more copies of Atlas Shrugged available, nor even training more philosophy students for academia. And I am highly skeptical of the overall value of the efforts of most “I” activists operating in separate cultural compartments. I want to know what the formula for a modal takeover is, and I want to help “I” win by finding out how to apply the formula and providing that insight as a transfusion to fellow “I” intellectuals and activists.

It’s a huge quest, to be sure. But I am also sure that if “I” intellectuals like me don’t take DIM seriously, we will lose.

So where to begin?

I am inclined to begin with what I know best, and to branch out from there.

Having just completed a “History of American Government” with my very advanced high school students, I decided that that seemed like the best place. (The course, by the way, is the best course I have ever given, and it is available in both MP3 audio and MP4 video screencast formats as podcast recordings. If you’re interested in understanding the trajectory of American Government, I honestly believe there is no better analysis available.)

Turning my attention there, I decided to apply my “modoscope” to the foreign policy of American presidents, to see if I could detect the modes involved. I was ecstatic to see that not only were the modes visible, they were glaringly obvious! They leaped out of the text! Thus I decided this would indeed be a productive avenue for exploring DIM.

In the first segment of the series, I am going to begin with the Truman Doctrine.

It is an easy one! Here is a link to the exact speech Harry Truman gave.

I invite you to read it and see if you can detect the mode.

My analysis should follow in a matter of days, so stay tuned! I hope you’ll enjoy this series as much as I’m enjoying producing it.

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American freedom is dying. The defenders of freedom are losing. It is hard not to take a dim view of the world.

However, that is exactly what we must do; but not a “dim” view—a DIM view.

In The DIM Hypothesis philosopher-historian Leonard Peikoff has provided an inestimably valuable guide to cultural history as a guide to life in America today, including a daunting prediction about the near term prospects for America.

“Religious totalitarianism in America—that is my prediction,” writes Peikoff.

Twenty years ago almost no one could have taken such a thesis seriously. America had overcome the Soviet Union in the Cold War. The “free world” was victorious! The exciting potential of the nascent computing industry to unleash a new era of productivity was becoming apparent. We seemed to be entering into an era of peace and prosperity. Any doomsayer then, no matter how erudite, would have been laughed at or ignored.

Today there is little to laugh about, and we can’t afford to ignore Peikoff’s warning.

We don’t have peace. The unfinished Gulf War and America’s refusal to confront the true state sponsors of terrorism led to 9-11 and the “War on Terror,” which spawned the Patriot Act, TSA groping and NSA snooping.

And we don’t have prosperity. The Dot-com bubble was followed by the housing bubble, which spawned the financial crisis, the so-called “jobless recovery” and the long emergency of the world’s central banks flooding the world with digital fiat, and governments everywhere implementing austerity measures,  “bail-outs” and “bail-ins.”  You don’t have to be one of nearly fifty million Americans on food stamps to pierce the fog of modern journalism and sense that the Greater Depression is just getting started. When someone predicts “doom” today, we can’t dismiss them. Instead, we find ourselves asking: how much worse can it get?!

Religious totalitarianism, says Peikoff.

Is it true?

Those who have undertaken to study Peikoff’s book know that, despite every effort by the author to render the thesis accessible through the most painstaking essentialization, the end result is so vast an integration that it is almost impossible to follow. The prediction is clear enough, but the basis for that prediction is so elaborate that when one tries to trace its logic, one becomes hopelessly entangled in a plethora of historical abstraction.

Peikoff himself anticipates this difficulty. He warns that The DIM Hypothesis covers five different “modes” in four different cultural areas during six different Western periods, using a method based on Objectivism, and especially Objectivist epistemology. To truly grasp the thesis thus means that the reader must be capable of shuttling back and forth between and interconnecting in his mind the philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, and Immanuel Kant, along with the lesser thinkers who intermixed their approaches—the literary, scientific, educational, and political products of the cultural creators of the various eras whose work reflected the “modes” of thought the philosophers taught—through the various phases of Western history which succeed each other from ancient Greece through to modern America, while applying as a psycho-epistemological “given” the method of Ayn Rand’s thought.

Nobody—except Leonard Peikoff himself, I suspect—can actually do that!

As a professional historian and student of Objectivism for some twenty years, I can’t quite do it.

The difference, I suspect, between me and other DIM readers, is that I know with a high degree of precision where the exact bounds of my understanding are and what to do about it.  DIM does not make me feel like Socrates–thinking that I know only that I know nothing!–but more like we’ve all felt when reading Ayn Rand’s fiction.   It inspires me to reach for the mountaintop that has become so much more clearly visible to me now.

I do know history inside out, so that’s a start. I can shuttle back and forth between the Peloponnesian War and the “War on Terror.” I can talk about Themistocles and Teddy Roosevelt (and Barack Obama, if I have to) in the same sentence. (Teddy started the “D” mode in foreign policy, by the way. More on that in a follow-up series available on this blog.) I do know, with equal ease, what was going on in 776 BC and 1776 AD.

(So when Leonard Peikoff encounters a serious challenge in type-casting the Renaissance in a DIM framework, I actually know why. In fact, possibly better than he does! The problem lies in an as of yet unknown sub-domain of applied epistemology called “abstract particulars,” of which the specific problem of historical periodization is but one instance. The “Renaissance” as a cultural period, is not equivalent to any of the other periods Peikoff would have us survey, which is basically why it does not exhibit a consistent “mode.” “The Renaissance,” proposed in a preliminary way as a hopeful interpretation of cultural history by modern historians, is in fact an exceptionally abstract integration that I designate, borrowing from a formulation of Ayn Rand’s, as a “periodization from periodizations.” Importantly, this does not invalidate The DIM Hypothesis, in my mind. But it does mean that it still needs work, by someone.)

It has been a torturous process to reach this level of historical literacy.  Along the way, it has become one of my professional aims to try to understand why history in general has been so inaccessible to modern students, and to correct the problem.

I believe I have solved the puzzle of history’s disintegration, and I will try to help readers understand it in further blog posts by means of a DIM history of history.  But, more importantly, in my forthcoming book “History is Dead. Long Live History!”—the first chapter of which is now available as a PDF and podcast at: http://www.powellhistory.com/historyisdead — I believe I have provided the first dose of an antidote that can be applied on a cultural scale.

If history can be made accessible and deployable, then The DIM Hypothesis can become a weapon of mass creation, and there is a chance that the course of modern cultural history can be reversed.

In teaching the History At Our House program I have seen how powerful an effect the proper study of history can have on the minds of young children. I also know how it has affected me. I still wonder just how much it could enhance the abilities of all of the advocates of reason and rights out there, if I could just help them wrap their minds around it. And I dream of the possibility of an America where millions of students are actually taught history properly.

Perhaps, with this very blog post, a new and significant cultural process will have begun. Starting with History is Dead, a new generation of historically literate and historically-minded activists will arise, much more powerful than those of previous generations.

Within the short span of this particular article, and in subsequent articles on history, education, and DIM theory, it is my hope to indicate, in some small way, what is at stake, and how pressing the problem is.

We are running out of time.

Freedom is waning at a frightening pace.

It may not be long before the monitoring of every communication by every American becomes the modification of any communication. Why could an NSA, using a hive supercomputer not do that? Imagine the methods of digital disinformation that the government could conjure. Imagine the possibilities for digital entrapment. Leonard Peikoff has long warned that freedom of speech is the key issue in protecting a free society. Once we cannot communicate freely, the game is up. Since the Internet is near to being transformed from a mechanism of freedom into the ultimate weapon for control, a turn-key totalitarian state is almost available.

Barack Obama may not intend to do it.  Tracing the “ominous parallels” between America and Weimar Germany, I would say that he is more of a Gustav Stresemann than a Hitler. But Stresemann and Hitler were but a few short chancellorships (presidencies) apart, America.  It’s not enough to think of America’s political trajectory as a rear-guard action from presidential election to election. We don’t have the luxury of thinking in such a limited manner. We need to start thinking about our cultural path in a more integrated way, using history as a guide.

For one, American nationalism, as German nationalism once was, is on the rise. American socialism is on the rise as well. The merger of the two has a historical name that should fill us with terror. How long will it be before Americans ask the government to relieve them of the “burden” of their freedom? How many already have already begged for that release? How many already would embrace the transformation of America into a selfless army, perhaps to rid the world of Islam?

So what did you do today to stop the collapse of America?

I’m not talking about the modern concept of community service. I’m not asking about “what you can do for your country.” I’m asking about what the other George did and would do. When George Washington dreamed of freedom, he didn’t retire to his country home in frustration because it was so hard to secure. As he retreated into Pennsylvania late in 1776, Washington wrote to his brother: “I think the game is pretty near up…You can form no idea of the perplexity of my situation. No man, I believe, ever had a greater choice of difficulties and less means to extricate himself from them.”

And yet, extricate himself, he did. At this very moment, ours is an intellectual Battle of Trenton, and we can win it too. We must “cross the Delaware” and then we can go on to win the war for the hearts and minds of Americans, if we have the daring and the perseverance of a Washington.

In upcoming posts in this blog, I will be undertaking to facilitate such a campaign.

I hope you will enjoy and be empowered by these writings. I hope you will take full personal advantage of the possibilities they promise, or at least sponsor my work from afar by helping to make the History is Dead. Long Live History! course a success. (There are many attendance and sponsorship options at: http://powellhistory.com/historyisdead/?page_id=51 ) Please consider contributing, if not attending.

As Patrick Henry said, “millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as we possess, are invincible by any force.”

To overcome the odds we face, there is only one course for us to take. Please join me in this quest.

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