Conservative Realism and Restraint: What’s the Right Foreign Policy?

On November 4, John Lenczowski spoke at the “Summit on Realism & Restraint: A New Way Forward for American Foreign Policy,” which was produced by the The American Conservative in partnership with The Charles Koch Institute and the Department of Political Science at The George Washington University.

Dr. Lenczowski spoke on a panel entitled “Conservative Realism and Restraint: What’s the Right Foreign Policy?” The panel was moderated by Benjamin Schwarz, national editor of The American Conservative. Other panelists included William Ruger, vice president at The Charles Koch Institute; Daniel Larison, senior editor of The American Conservative; and Kori Schake, research fellow at The Hoover Institution.

His remarks can be found below, beginning around 15:48.

Human Nature, Moral Order, and the Quest for Peace

Address at the Inauguration of the Marvin H. Shagam Program in Ethics and Global Citizenship
The Thacher School, Ojai, California
October 3, 2015
John Lenczowski

I am honored and delighted to be invited to address you all today on this felicitous occasion.

It is thrill to see Mr. Shagam again, to see three of my old school friends who are on the Board of Trustees, Bob Johnson, Phil Pillsbury, and Marshall Milligan, and to see your great Head of School, Michael Mulligan.

Being here brings back great memories of my own days at the School.

My nickname in those days was “Wedge.” My classmate who dubbed me that way explained it as follows: the wedge is the simplest tool known to man. I learned a lot from having been so identified. There is wisdom in simplicity. And there is also comfort in coming up with a good cover story.

I fondly remember racing my horse, Whiskey Run – especially with my old chum, Steve Culbertson and his horse, Sunny Weather. We would race madly up Horn Canyon.

One time we raced around the reservoir. As we finished the circuit, I remember how our horses wanted to turn right and go home, but Steve and I wanted them to go left and back around the reservoir again.

So, without saying a single word to one another, Whiskey and Sunny agreed to compromise: they stopped short, just before we were about to crash into a tree at the fork in the road. Steve and I both went flying over the tops of our horses’ heads, and as we were flying into the tree branches, we made eye contact in mid-air both with looks of flabbergasted surprise.

Our horses won that bout and charged all the way back to school where, after our long hike back, we found them consuming vast quantities of hors d’oeuvres in one of the hay barns.

At lunch with the trustees today, I was prompted to recall one other incident. Since I had originally been enrolled at Groton School back east when I was born, I was asked how I came to Thacher.   Well, after moving west, my parents recognized Thacher to be the counterpart of Groton on the west coast and they wanted me closer to home.

Then I was asked what my parents thought of a school where we played soccer on dirt fields that were occasionally punctuated with horse manure. Well, one day when I was home for Christmas, my Mom caught me wiping my hands on my pants. In disgust, she exclaimed: “straight from the pastures of Thacher!”

Today, I would like to share with you some thoughts about one of the great and noble endeavors of mankind – the quest for peace.

This quest lies at the heart of the mission of Thacher’s new Marvin H. Shagam Program in Ethics and Global Citizenship.

The very name of the program points to two of the most compelling means of achieving this goal: ethical behavior that one should expect from a responsible citizen, and citizenship that consists of caring for the well-being of the community.

The question arises: how do we get such behavior from enough of us that we can truly build a peaceful world?

A useful way of answering this question is to examine the causes of conflict that make true community so difficult.

One of the great theoreticians of international relations, Kenneth Waltz, says that the three main sources of international conflict are the nature of man, the nature of different regimes, and the anarchic nature of the international system, where there exists no supra-national authority that can enforce international law.

Examining the nature of man, of course, is one of the principal tasks of philosophy, which we in America don’t study much these days. We often make assumptions about human nature without examining them carefully.

For example, there are two major worldviews when it comes to addressing problems of peace and security.

One is the view of world community or the brotherhood of man. Adherents of this view hope for the reunification of mankind, whereby particularism will fade away; where, eventually, through intermarriage, we will all become a single race; where national identities will evanesce, and individual governments will eventually give way to global governance.

Here, national identity and citizenship are seen as obstacles that must be removed. And once they are, we may all speak the same language, so that no nation or empire will exercise superiority over others with all the divisiveness that such superiority can create. Such a universal language – Esperanto – has already been created for this eventual day.

Underlying this worldview are certain assumptions: that mankind throughout the world will recognize the wisdom of this solution; that everyone shares a common rationality which will lead them to conclude that it is in their best interest to behave accordingly; that they will indeed behave according to these best interests; and that there is a natural harmony of interests in the world that simply must be realized.

One of the assumptions underlying all this is an optimistic view of human nature – that man is capable of rational, enlightened behavior that can eventually result in peace. This worldview inspires that approach to foreign policy that is called “idealism.” This approach focuses on ultimate global goals like world peace, global democracy, global free trade, global protection of human rights, and the like.

A second worldview stresses the reality of diversity. It holds that different societies took shape at different times, in different places, under different circumstances. Individual groups managed to achieve authority, security, and order by gaining control of specific territories. They established governments and legal monopolies of force.

According to this worldview, it is these conditions that form man’s main experience of living in peace. That monopoly of force pertains here in our country, and we enjoy some modicum of genuine peace, except where the mafia or criminal gangs challenge the established monopoly of force in certain neighborhoods.

According to this view, governments – especially legitimate ones that rule by the consent of the governed – afford the principal opportunity for people to live together in peace.

Underlying this worldview is another assumption about human nature: that it is flawed, and that the realization of a global harmony of interests is impossible because there are too many conflicting interests and passions that prevent such harmony in the first place.

This worldview, then, concentrates not on global solutions but on more limited but achievable goals: such as protecting a nation’s security, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and well-being. It is less concerned about the welfare of others abroad. This approach to foreign policy is called “realism.”

Differing assumptions about human nature also lie at the root of different kinds of regimes. We must study those regimes and their philosophical underpinnings because different regimes behave differently in the world arena.

Totalitarian regimes with revolutionary ideologies tend to be more aggressive. They tend to seek revolutionary changes in other countries and in the international system, in contrast to ordinary states which tend to be status quo powers that operate not in an offensive mode, but rather in a reactive and defensive mode.

There has been a debate over the centuries about human nature. For years, in Western, Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian thought, man does have a nature, a moral nature, where the essence of human life is moral choice, where we all have free will and can choose to do right or wrong. The entire field of ethics arises from this central proposition.

A feature of 18th century Enlightenment thinking, however, was the idea that man does not have a permanent nature, that man is an empty vessel whose character is determined by his environment. If one wants to have a better man, then it is necessary to find the right influences to improve man’s character so that we can bring about a good society. This idea was an essential element of the so-called “Age of Reason” which sought to improve the lot of mankind by liberating it from Biblical morality and freeing it, according to new, rational solutions, to create an entirely new society and civilization.

The corollary assumption here is that man’s nature is perfectible on this earth – and even on a mass scale if only we apply the right formula of social, political, or economic engineering.

As Richard Weaver has taught, ideas have consequences. And the consequences of the ideologies that brought the assumption of human perfectibility to its logical conclusion were the two great socialist systems of the 20th century: national socialism – Naziism – which sought to perfect man through eugenics to make a “master race.” The second was international socialism – Communism – which sought to create the “new Soviet man,” the “new communist man,” or just the “new man.”

These ideologies, based on a utopian interpretation of human nature, attempted to create heaven on earth through coercive measures. The socialist regimes dedicated to this idea killed more of their own people than were killed in all the wars of the 20th century combined.

In contrast, the other, allegedly pessimistic, but perhaps more realistic, view of human nature has had its own political consequences.

For one, this view lies at the foundation of the American system and other republican governments. As James Madison said, if men were angels, there would be no need for government. But men are not angels, and they never will be – at least not on this earth, and certainly not on any mass scale.

As a result, we have built our public arrangements – we have built community – around the idea that we must protect ourselves from the inevitable evils that we know will be committed by some among us.

So, we have a rule of law and law enforcement. To avoid the concentration of power in the central government which might be seized by an evil-doer, we diffuse power among federal, state, and local governments. We then created a separation of powers among executive, legislative, and judicial branches and a system of checks and balances. We have a Constitutional law that is higher than statutory laws, which can be unjust laws, written up in a fit of passion by what can sometimes be a tyranny of the majority.

In establishing these arrangements, the American Constitution is not concerned with global solutions. It sets forth to achieve a more perfect union, to provide for the common defense, and to promote the nation’s general welfare.

But what is noteworthy about the American system is that its legitimacy rests on the assertion in our Declaration of Independence of certain truths that are held to be universal and not just American: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. Our Founders called the system arising from these ideas the “Novus Ordo Seclorum” – the new order of the ages – an order that many of them hoped to spread worldwide as the new foundation for global harmony.

The propositions about inalienable rights in the Declaration raise a critical question about the relationship between moral order and political order.

The question is: Is there a transcendent, universal, objective moral order in the world? Are there objective standards of right and wrong that apply to all peoples at all times and in all places?

This is one of the most important philosophical questions that must be addressed in our education. But American higher education, which used to wrestle with this question, avoids it like the plague.

Why is it so important? Because of the consequences arising from the differing answers to it.

The Greco-Roman-Judeo-Christian tradition says that there is such an order. Sometimes it is called the “Natural Law” – the law written on the human heart that forms the basis of conscience.

There is another view. It is that moral standards are neither objective nor universal. Instead, it is said, they are established by personal preferences, so that one person may have one set of moral standards and a second person another set. According to this theory, the standards of society are relative and not objective. They are a social construct: they are the combination of personal preferences realized on a mass scale.

Vladimir Lenin was one who denied the existence of objective moral standards. In his Speech to the Communist Youth Leagues in 1920, which was required reading for every Soviet school child, he said that there are no objective moral standards, and that such “standards” are a “bourgeois prejudice.” Instead, he said that whatever assists communist revolution is good, and whatever hinders the revolution is bad.

This is a contingent morality, determined by circumstances, and ultimately determined by those with the power to judge the circumstances and enforce whatever standards they choose that will serve their purposes.

Whether moral standards are established by the ruling party or a majority consensus within society, it means one thing: they are established by power struggle. This is the doctrine of “might makes right” – whether the might takes the form of a majority vote or the people who possess the biggest guns and the greatest will to use them.

The American system is based on a different theory. It is founded on the notion that majorities – even in seemingly civilized places – can become tyrannical. It is thus founded on the notion that, yes, we have majority rule in America, but we also have inalienable minority rights.

What is a right? In short, it is a just claim. It is that which is justly due you as a human being or as a citizen. But for a right to exist, there has to be a standard of justice to determine whether the claim is just. And that standard of justice requires, necessarily, objective moral standards.

The system of majority rule with inalienable minority rights cannot logically exist unless those rights come from a source higher than the potentially tyrannical majority. The Founders said that they come from what they called the Creator. This Creator could be the God of Abraham or could be something else. Various options were possible. But what was clear was that rights were not conferred on our citizenry by any human law or court decision.

Indeed, certain judicial interpretations of our own Constitution enabled slavery to be possible. But did those interpretations make it just?

Indeed, if objective moral standards do not exist, then who are we to criticize policies and actions taken by other governments and cultures? Who are we to criticize widow-burning in India? Or the Nazi extermination of the Jews, Slavs, and Gypsies, and before those people were slaughtered, the Christian clergy, who threatened the Nazi project with their moral opposition. If human law is supreme and there is no natural law, then all the actions of the Nazis were not only ideologically desirable and legal, but just another lifestyle choice.

If you question the existence of a natural law, then how do you explain the existence of conscience – that little voice that tells you that you are doing the wrong thing? How do you explain the reality that people who do the wrong thing are often haunted? And try as they may to banish its manifestations, the haunting never goes away.

If there is no natural moral law, then how can there be objective ethical behavior? If there is no natural law, then the quest to achieve that ethical behavior which can help build human community worldwide will be very hard indeed.

So, in light of these questions of human nature and moral order, and the diametrically opposed systems of government and foreign policy deriving from them, how can we constructively think about working for peace?

There are various theories of peace. Some are based completely on power relations. Some kind of peace can prevail when there is a balance of power between adversaries. Another kind of peace is possible through hegemony – where one state is so much more powerful than the others and it can dictate its terms of peaceful order. Then there is the peace of empire, where one power takes over all other political entities which completely lose their sovereignty.

Some theories of peace are based on psychology and feelings. They ask that we all treat each other better by feeling more tolerant toward one another. There is validity in all these theories.

But of all the theories of peace I have encountered, the most compelling is the ancient Christian concept of earthly peace. It is not exactly the peace of Christ. It is not the beatific vision. It is what St. Augustine in the 4th century called “tranquillitas ordinis” – the tranquility of order. This concept of peace means establishing political order. It involves the building of human community.

How is this done?

It is all based on a realistic understanding of human nature. First, one must be realistic about the dark side of human nature. If we recognize the existence of evil and the perennial propensity of man to be tempted to do the wrong thing, we are now prepared to acknowledge that there will always be criminals and aggressors among us, whose behavior destroys peace and community.

So, we need laws and law enforcement domestically, and we need armies to deal with violators of international law.

But laws, the police, and armies are not sufficient to build human community. What must also be done is to be equally realistic about the good side of human nature. That good side is man’s capacity for truth, justice, and that love of neighbor that transcends the requirements of justice. And that means mercy and forgiveness.

I like to tell my students that although they all thirst for justice, that isn’t really everything they want. If they got true justice, none of them would have driver’s licenses, because they are all speeders. What they really want is mercy.

During the Cold War, the great Soviet scientist, the inventor of the Soviet H-bomb, Andrei Sakharov, told his masters in the Kremlin: “There can be no peace without human rights. You will never have peace with the West until you have peace with your own people – and that means treating them with justice and protecting everyone’s human rights.”

There is a bumper sticker that says: “If you want peace, work for justice.” This is ever so true. And indeed, justice is the fruit of ethical behavior and living by the Natural Law.

Violations of justice are a perennial source of grievance and conflict. But sometimes justice is hard to achieve.

There is an aphorism from Cicero: “Summum ius, summa iniuria.” The totality of justice is the totality of injustice. What this means is that if you insist on total justice, you won’t get any.

A good example of this is the Palestinians. These people have some legitimate grievances. Many were driven from their homes and lands and want to be able to go back to them.

But Israel exists. Several generations of native born Israelis live there. This is their country.

Most Palestinians — some 70 percent – are ready to live side-by-side with Israel. But a large minority of them are not. They want total justice. They want their old land back and the Israelis out. So what are the Israelis supposed to do? Go back to Minsk, or Pinsk, or elsewhere in Eastern Europe?

In demanding total justice, the Palestinian rejectionists are getting no justice.

In addition to the physical security that comes from police, armies, fences, and the like, what the Palestinians and Israelis want and need – and what all of us really want and need – is mercy, forgiveness, and respect for our human dignity. People want their inalienable rights honored and protected. They want love of neighbor.

All this completes the formula for building community, for establishing a political order whose result is true peace.

It can be achieved – at least within the borders of a given country. This kind of order is not utopian because it has a way of addressing evil. It is realistic about both aspects of human nature and is based on moral order.

Understanding the flaws and frailties of human nature is the first step toward realism about all sorts of unpleasant conditions in the world. The question is whether one can truly achieve greater peace if one ignores these realities.

In their idealism, too many people avert their eyes from some of these realities. Terrorism, mass murder, leaders of foreign powers who congenitally lie and conduct propaganda, disinformation, and strategic deception, states that not only violate treaties, but which have strategies to violate treaties and develop those strategies even before they sign the treaties they plan to violate. Some people are willfully blind toward these things.

George Orwell calls this “the will to disbelieve the horrible.” The great Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn calls it “the desire not to know” – because if one knows, then one may have a moral or strategic obligation to do something about it.

Unfortunately, utopian views of human nature and wishful thinking about the world lie at the root of multiple forms of utopianism in foreign policy.

First, we have the liberal internationalist version: Just give us more negotiations, more dialogue, more mutual understanding, more treaties, and more international organizations like the UN and we will all be able to live in peace.

All these things can be helpful. But all too often, this policy dreams away the evildoers or pretends, as our President is doing with Iran today, that they can be taught to have goodwill toward their neighbor whom they actually wish to dominate, enslave, or destroy.

Then there is a neoconservative version of utopianism that believes that we can march into Iraq and transform it into a democracy as if culture doesn’t exist – as if the habits, traditions, and mentality developed over decades and centuries don’t exist.

Then there is the utopianism of the left-wing or libertarian isolationists who believe that if we just withdraw from active engagement with the world, diminish our military presence worldwide, and perhaps even disarm, then hostility toward us would start evaporating. Some of the adherents of this view seem to forget that there is a concept called “provocative weakness,” where aggressors see disengagement, disarmament, and withdrawal as a signal of weakness that can now be exploited.

Finally, there is the utopianism of the so-called “realists” who believe that it is possible to conduct an authentic American foreign policy solely according to our vital national security interests. This approach holds that it is actually possible to divorce our foreign policy from the humanitarian impulse and moral sensibilities that reside in the American heart.

In the end, peace will be more likely if we don’t imprison ourselves in any of these ideological templates but rather rely on prudence – the application of moral and strategic principles to specific, usually unique, circumstances. Indeed prudence is the virtue of the statesman.

Peace will become more possible we if banish wishful thinking from what should be a realistic appraisal of the conflicts that will inevitably arise around the world – conflicts that come from the desire for power, money, land, empire, prestige, domination over others, ideological or religious messianism, and other motivations of dictators, revolutionary parties, transnational movements, and others.

And finally, we can work on building true tranquility of order by basing all our actions on the development of prudence, honesty, courage, humility, and all those other personal, civic, and cultural virtues that result in justice, mercy and love of neighbor.

At Thacher, as we sing the School song, we call these things “honor, fairness, kindness, and truth.”

These virtues are all the fruits of moral order and are not automatic or inherent attributes. They must be cultivated. Without them, peace is impossible, civilization is impossible.

The task of cultivating them is the job of parents, teachers, the arbiters of our culture at large, and each one of us. It is a blessing that a Thacher education is dedicated to this task – and here let me honor the half century of Mr. Shagam’s pedagogy and mentorship.

Our choices of how to behave become habits. And habits become destiny. The choices you make as to how to behave will ultimately determine whether there will be peace in your lives, in your families, in your communities, and maybe even a little more peace on earth.

There is a prayer:

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

John Lenczowski, CdeP ’67, is Founder and President of The Institute of World Politics, an independent graduate school of national security and international affairs in Washington, D.C. He formerly taught at Georgetown University and served in the Department of State and as President Ronald Reagan’s White House advisor on Soviet affairs (1983-1987).

Transcript: U.S. Foreign Policy Options: Security Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe

This address was delivered at The 5th Kościuszko Chair Spring Symposium of The Institute of World Politics, held on April 25, 2015 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pentagon City, VA.  Please click here for a video of this lecture.

I am really honored that so many of you are still here after a long day of presentations, but having witnessed all of them myself, I would just like to thank the many participants for their excellent analyses.  I also wanted to make one special expression of thanks to a good friend of the Institute, John Małek of California, who has been a very generous sponsor of this conference.  He has made this possible, and I am extremely grateful to him for having done so.

I would like to talk about U.S. policy options.  America has traditionally had several overall strategic objectives, at least at one level, and they are: to deter war, to achieve peace, to preserve some kind of a stable international order, and then, of course, and to preserve freedom and democracy and the unity of the West.  One would hope that these objectives still pertain.

But as Professor [Joseph] Wood has said, it is not quite clear that some of the philosophical and cultural foundations underlying the larger political objectives and purposes of the United States and the Western alliance are still intact.

Although we have heard a lot of analysis of Russian foreign policy it today, I would like to make a very brief review of the list of the Russians’ objectives and the actions that they have taken to challenge the international order in this part of the world.

First of all, they have developed their security doctrine, which, ever since 1992, has prescribed that they have the right to protect Russian-speaking people, wherever they may be, if they are mistreated in the sole judgment of the Russians.

One of their main objectives is to restore the former Soviet political space.  They would like to cast the shadow of their power over as large a sphere of influence as possible.  I agree very much with some of the previous analyses of how they would like this sphere of influence to prevail in East-Central Europe, and, frankly, over Europe as a whole.  The Russians have set for themselves the task of preventing and ending American primacy in the world and in Europe.  They have the objective of trying to split up NATO.  They would like to establish their own Eurasian axis, and perhaps they may have some other larger objectives than this, but at least those are the ones that are palpably evident.

What have they done?  They have been conducting massive intelligence penetrations of every country in their larger attempted sphere of influence.  They were able to do this partly because they long controlled their sister intelligence services in East Central Europe, and they had extremely deep penetrations in these lands, which extended even further into Western Europe – for example, through East Germany to West Germany.   Remember that 25 percent of the East German population were informants for the Stasi.  Given this level of secret police penetration in the region, there are hundreds of thousands of Europeans for whom the Russians have dossiers and who remain compromised in one way or another and subject to blackmail.

These intelligence penetrations have been, and can continue to be, used in numerous ways.  One example is Soviet involvement in international narcotics trafficking, about which we learned almost nothing from the U.S. government, which assiduously refrained from examining this question.  Our source of this information was a man who was arguably the highest ranking defector out of the Soviet bloc in terms of the strategic importance of his position: Gen. Jan Šejna of Czechoslovakia who was head of the Czechoslovak Defense Council.  He told us that, in the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev was extremely impressed with the Chinese use of narcotics as a weapon during the Korean war, and he wanted to replicate the Chinese program for Moscow’s benefit.  So he set up a plan called “Druzhba Narodov,” (“friendship of the peoples”), where he got the Eastern European satellite states, North Vietnam, Cuba, and others to be involved in pushing narcotics in the West.  The project was designed for three purposes: to pickle the minds of the next generation in the West, to earn money, and to exercise political influence.

Šejna testified that the narcotics income earned by the Czechoslovak intelligence service alone was enough to pay for its entire budget.  But a large part of the narcotics trade was also involved in penetrating many narcotics markets – for example, those in Latin America – in order to get dossiers on corrupt officials who were involved in this business so that they could be manipulated for intelligence and political influence purposes.

To the extent that the Russians were directly involved in it, I assume that this is still going on, especially since we know that KGB and GRU intelligence operations were not diminished at all in the United States after the end of the Cold War.

The Russians have been buying local companies in East-Central Europe and many of them have been controlled by one or another, or some combination of, the following: the FSB, the SVR, Russian oligarchs, and mafia-run Russian corporations. The more these Russian corporations control successful East-Central European corporations, the less sovereignty these countries enjoy.

The Russians have long been engaging in energy blackmail.

They have been supporting leaders and factions covertly throughout Central and Eastern Europe.  They have been sending in their agents provocateurs.  We know about what they have been doing in Ukraine, which has proven now to be obvious.  But they have been doing it in the Baltic States, and they do it in other countries in the region.  They have been bribing various parliamentarians.  One of our professors at IWP who is one of the foremost authorities on the non-Russian nationalities of the former USSR, Paul Goble, has testified that the FSB has been bribing 25 percent of the members of the Estonian parliament.  Here you have Estonia, which is as pro American and pro-Western as any in Europe, and yet its political elites are potentially severely compromised.

Russia has a long tradition of divide and conquer tactics which were a part of Soviet nationalities policy for years: separate the Armenians from the Azeris and set them at each other’s throats.  Separate the Uzbeks from the Meshkhet Turks, the Gagauz versus the Moldovans, the Lithuanians versus the Poles, the Abkhazians and the Ossetians against the Georgians.  There are many other varieties of this inter-ethnic conflict.  Russia is stimulating it among various individual groups within Ukraine and many other places today, and it is undermining the solidarity that ought to exist in these formerly communist lands.

Let us not forget about the massive Russian propaganda.  We have already reviewed today what RT has been doing: pervasive propaganda and “active measures,” including disinformation.

Remember the nuclear threats, Russia’s nuclear buildup, its military cooperation with China, its readiness to send advance air defense systems to Iran.  Remember the Russian interceptions of military aircraft – including some very dangerous and unprofessional actions – whether targeted toward Danish or American aircraft.  This is not to speak of Russian air force approaches to our own coast.  Then there are Russia’s submarine provocations in the Baltic Sea near Sweden and elsewhere.  There is Russia’s invasion of Georgia.  There is Russia’s cyber-attack on Estonia, and of course the invasion of Ukraine.

We have witnessed Putin’s questioning of the historical validity of Kazakhstan. And then we have seen Russia’s covert support — it was mentioned briefly, I don’t know how many of you caught it — for the radical environmental movement in Western Europe, particularly in Germany, to prevent the Germans and other countries in Europe from developing an indigenous natural gas capability.

What has the U.S. response been?  It has effectively been one of no effective strategy.  The U.S. response reveals an overall crisis in U.S. national security policy.  It is hard sometimes to get people to believe this: to accept the apparently hyperbolic word, “crisis,” especially when we are seeing a policy of drift, of inertia, of actions that are just a little too late, even though some of them may be on the positive side of the ledger.  But all of this amounts to a crisis when you see what the net results are.  What we have here is a failure to deter, a failure to keep the West united, and a failure to preserve the international system.  In the end, it is a reflection of the fact that there is no serious strategy.

One of the most elementary principles of strategy is that you can’t have a strategy unless you have goals, and there are no coherent goals being articulated by the U.S. government.

Furthermore, you can’t have goals unless you have some kind of national consensus on the values and principles which underlie our civilization.  And this is why Professor Wood’s remarks are amongst the most profound insights that lie at the heart of what we are addressing in this conference.  This concerns a fundamental problem of our worldview, our purpose as a nation, and whether Western civilization is something that deserves to be defended in light of the cultural state of affairs in our country.  I may reflect on this a little bit more later.

U.S. policy in the face of most of these Russian actions has been silence and willful blindness.  It is part of a de facto retrenchment from the world, based on the assumption that American power is toxic and has produced bad results anywhere that it has been seriously exercised.

Now I happen to be one of those people who think that our intervention, occupation, and nation-building effort in Iraq was a strategic disaster for the United States.  It was a squandering of resources.  It was done on the basis of certain kinds of utopian views: namely, that you could go in with the U.S. Armed Forces and make a democracy out of another country as if culture doesn’t exist, as if the habits and the traditions and the mentality built up over decades – if not centuries – don’t exist.

The intentions behind those who recommended the intervention in Iraq were basically noble ones.  But I think they were imprudent ones, especially when you look at the full cost of the two recent combined wars.

The war in Afghanistan is attempting another utopian task: the creation of a central government in a country which has never had one.  Afghanistan is a confederation of tribes, where the attempt to transfer the loyalty from tribe to the larger central government is another quixotic and utopian enterprise.  In addition to lives lost and the casualties, the cost of these two wars will total some six to eight trillion dollars.  But the larger cost of these adventures has been the shaking of our faith in the worthiness of our country – and of our democracy and our Western civilization – and this is going to be a huge task to overcome.  It will require truly stout national leadership to do this.

What was our reaction to the Georgia invasion?  — The “reset” policy.  What was our reaction to the Smolensk airplane crash – especially given the serious evidence that there were two explosions on that plane?   Normally, when a plane like that crashes going at normal landing speed, the bodies are intact.  They may be bruised and bumped around with broken bones, but they are intact – they are not in thousands of little pieces as was the case here.  Somebody put bombs on that plane, and it is a serious question that ought to be investigated by an international panel of experts.  Of course, from the beginning, the Russians covered all of this up, lied about it, and adulterated the crash site.

Another reaction to the Georgian invasion was the “New START” agreement – a worthless arms control agreement when it comes to U.S. national security interests.  It was signed by this administration, despite its knowledge of ongoing Soviet violations of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and the INF treaty (the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty).

Let us remember: the Chekists who are in charge of Moscow today have the same statecraft as the Soviet Union, which includes using arms control not as a means of controlling arms, but as a means of political warfare, strategic deception, and counterintelligence.

The Russians have a strategy to violate agreements.  They develop this strategy before they sign agreements, and the people in our arms control industry are willfully blind to this reality of Russian statecraft.

Another U.S. action in the wake of the Russian invasion of Georgia: we abandoned the deployment of the advanced ABM systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.  Then the Russians invaded Ukraine.  What has been our reaction there?  Some selective sanctions that are positive but not particularly painful.  There are other sanctions that we could take.  Some are as severe as preventing the Russians from participating in the SWIFT international banking transaction system.

We then decided to set up a 4,000-troop “rapid reaction” force.  I think that this is a joke, and, if I think so, then Putin thinks that it’s twice as much of a joke as I do.  All the Russians have to do is continue laying the subversive groundwork in the Baltic states, just the way they have done for years in Ukraine.  They could insert their so-called separatists into Latvia and then take all the similar necessary actions on a Friday afternoon.  Well, maybe by Sunday we might get people roused from their weekend golf games and they could decide to have an assembly of the North Atlantic Council.  The Council would meet late on Monday afternoon, have its deliberations completed by Tuesday, and by Wednesday make a decision to send the 4,000 troop rapid reaction force.  But of course it will be too late to send it, because all of Latvia will be occupied by then.  Then the New York Times will say “Why die for Danzig?”  Why die for Danzig, indeed?

Part of our reaction to the invasion of Ukraine has been the utter disregard of U.S. obligations under the Budapest 1994 Memorandum on Security Assurances. This is the thing everyone has forgotten, and the media will not remind you.  The administration didn’t just sweep it under the rug; they kept it under there for five minutes and then they took a special vacuum cleaner and sent all the memory about the Budapest Memorandum down the tubes.  Of course, this is the Memorandum that offered “security assurances” to the Ukrainians concerning their sovereignty and territorial integrity so long as they gave up their nuclear weapons.

Well, we have just sent the world a magnificent message that will do nothing but increase nuclear proliferation and dissuade anybody from ever again giving up their nuclear weapons: “This is what can happen to you when you give up your nuclear weapons.”

I was in Poland a couple of years ago, and gave a lecture suggesting that the Poles ought to develop a Japan-style capability in nuclear energy which could have a breakout capability that might rival what the Iranians are developing today.  If everybody from the North Koreans and the Israelis to the Iranians and the Pakistanis can have nuclear weapons, why can’t the Poles have them too?

The Russians see all these U.S. reactions as signs of weakness.  They make all of their strategic moves on the basis of an assessment of the “correlation of forces”:  what are the relative strengths and weaknesses of their adversaries in relation to themselves?  When they see strength, they either stay put or retreat; if they see weakness, they advance.  Then the advance all depends on relative strengths and weaknesses again: two steps forward and, if necessary, one step back.  Maybe even another step back again, but they always want to make sure that when the step back occurs, their adversaries confuse that step with a change in strategy when, in fact, it is only a temporary change in tactics.

What should we do?

First we have to recognize what has proven successful in the past. I am very happy that NSDD 75 signed by President Reagan was mentioned here by Professor [Sebastian] Gorka.  This was the strategic plan that helped bring down the Soviet empire.  It was a multi-faceted plan that used all the different arts of statecraft.  It involved the military buildup, economic measures, such as lowering oil prices, to try to deprive the Soviets of hard currency, and efforts deprive them of advanced technology.

There were parts of that plan that were not admitted until later, such as permitting the KGB to steal certain technology which we engineered to ensure that it would not work properly.  Some technologies may have had software bombs in them or bad blueprints which could get the Russians going down rabbit holes from which it would be difficult to extricate themselves.

We have experience in doing these sorts of activities — deterring and stopping imperialist aggression and expansionism.  We have to tap into that knowledge.

We also have to remind ourselves about what are our vital interests in this region and acknowledge very specifically the success of NATO expansion.  NATO expansion is one of the best investments that have been made in modern times for the security of the U.S., the security of the West, and for world order.  Here is why:

You heard Professor Chodakiewicz’s brilliant review of the history of all of the remarkable conflicts within the Intermarium region, where everyone is against everyone else.  In the past, we saw trivial conflicts like the Czechs versus the Poles in the conflict over Cieszyn, sometimes known as Tešen.  Such conflicts are foolishness and they must not continue.  We have to remember that the Russians are trying to stimulate these kinds of conflicts, and we cannot let our friends in Central and Eastern Europe be goaded into interethnic conflicts over such minor issues.

The NATO expansion gave the prospective new members an incentive to behave themselves to stop doing this kind of nonsense.  It said: if you want to be part of the Western security arrangements, stop the irredentism.  Stop the ambitions for extra territory or reclaiming the territories where you once enjoyed former glory.   And join the Western community of civilized nations, behave yourself, worry about letting your people rise to the highest level of their God-given abilities, create wealth, and enjoy peace.

It worked, despite the fact that most of these economies were not fully de-communized and there was insufficient “lustration.”  Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the extraordinary effort of Minister Antoni Macierewicz, who is here, and who tried the most serious effort at lustration.  This is the term that refers to the exposure of the KGB connections of certain Poles.  In this particular case, they weren’t going to be jailed or hanged; they were just not going to be given the privilege of serving in high positions of public responsibility.

Unfortunately, there were too many “post-communists” in the government and in the Parliament which voted out Minister Macierewicz’s government headed by Prime Minister Olszewski.

I have a friend who says, “Let’s not lament this too much, it’s better that a former Communist Chekist should steal a hotel and start offering hotel services rather than hitting you over the head with a truncheon.”  I suppose that is a little bit better, but unfortunately many of these people are compromised.  They continue to work with the Russians to the detriment of the security of their own country and the West in general.

We have to recognize that one of our main jobs must be to pressure the Russians to channel their energies into constructive internal policies and even to try to get them to realize that it is their long term interest to work with the West on some of the genuine threats to civilization such as those coming from the radical Islamists and increasingly from the Chinese.

I am more concerned, frankly, about the Chinese than I am about any other security threat to the U.S.  The Chinese have a long-range, global strategy to supplant the U.S. as a premier power.  They and the Russians are stealing our intellectual property through cyber espionage at a rate of breathtaking proportions. It is the greatest theft of intellectual property in the history of the world.  We should be collaborating with the Russians against the growing Chinese threat.  But, ironically, someday the Chinese will have more of their nationals in Siberia than the Russians have, and I can anticipate the day when they will call for a referendum in Siberian territory.

So, what else must we do?

We need to send signals of strength to retain our credibility.  We need to have credible deterrence.  Deterrence works.  It is a lot better than war.  We need to reverse the debilitating cuts in our national defenses.  In terms of their size, our Army is going back to pre-World War II days, and our Navy is going back to pre-World War I days.  Our lack of readiness is growing every day.  Our equipment is not being replaced or sufficiently modernized.  Our armed forces are being sufficiently hollowed out that we have effectively ceased to have the capability to fight one and a half wars simultaneously.

We need to shore up our allies in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic States and the other frontline states: Poland, Romania, and Hungary.  We need to provide all of these nations with more advanced weapons, especially missile defenses.  I am glad to see that we will be giving some Patriot missiles to the Poles.  But we need to restore the deployment of that most advanced ABM system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

We need to deploy permanent bases in these countries with meaningful numbers of American troops that are similar to the troop presence that we have in South Korea.  This will not match exactly man-for-man what the Russians have, but it will be a serious trip wire.  It won’t be the ridiculous scenario of the 4,000 troops who won’t be sent to try to eject the Russians from Latvia.

We need to arrange for Ukraine to receive adequate defensive arms so that the Russians cannot persist in their aggression without paying a high price.  We need to keep sending food to the Ukrainian military, and other non-lethal aid.

I am not an expert on sanctions, but we need to pay some very serious attention to the sanctions that are in place.  We also have to do what we can to mitigate the pain being felt by those members of the NATO alliance who are being hurt by the sanctions.  If the French have built some ships for the Russian navy, let’s buy those ships for our navy and then the French won’t be in pain.  Or let some other NATO country buy them.  Why should they have to go to the Russians?

Of course, we need to trump Russian energy blackmail.  A lot has been already said today about this – the development of energy independence in this country, exporting LNG [liquid natural gas], exporting oil, and all of the other things.

Let me add one other important option: we should utilize the remarkable new nuclear reactor that’s been developed by General Atomics.  This is a small portable reactor that can be put on the back of a flatbed truck.  It will not melt down.  It is less vulnerable than any other kind of nuclear reactor to abuse for weapons proliferation purposes.  It is not water cooled; it is helium cooled.  It converts nuclear waste into energy.  This little thing on the back of a truck will supply electricity to a town of 333,000 people.

But General Atomics is not completing the development of this reactor because, right now, the price of kilowatt hour for nuclear power is prohibitively high.  But this is a national defense expenditure.  The development of this reactor should not be governed solely by the marketplace.

We could send these reactors to Ukraine, we can send them to Poland, we can send them all over the place.  They are much safer than some of the older generation of nuclear plants that are all over Europe, Japan, and even in this country.

Very serious attention must be devoted to countering Russian propaganda and “active measures” [now called “supportive measures”].  The Russians have been conducting a massive disinformation campaign, and have been brainwashing people on both sides of the border in Ukraine.  There are few effective contrary voices.  We shut down Russian short wave broadcasts of the Voice of America.  We shut down Ukrainian short wave broadcasts.  And no broadcasts from Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian service reach these areas.  Our last VOA Russian language broadcasts were coming out of a Moscow-based local AM station, which Putin shut down.

When it comes to reaching foreign audiences, you can jam just about everything, but you can’t jam all short wave transmissions.  But today, the U.S. government is trying to shut down all shortwave broadcasts.   For the last three years, the government has tried to shut down all short wave broadcasts to China, when short wave radio is Beijing’s number one method of communication with its own people.  Our Voice of America and Radio Free Asia broadcasts are the only unfiltered information that gets to one billion Chinese people.  The justification for shutting down these VOA broadcasts was to save eight million dollars (that’s with an M, ladies and gentlemen) and transfer this money to internet operations.  As some of you have heard me say, eight million dollars is the money that fell out of the hole in a pocket of a sergeant in the Anbar province in 2007.

We have no serious strategic communications capability in our government.  We shut down the United States Information Agency in 1999.  Something like USIA has to be revived.  We must have the capacity to communicate the truth to the world.  The world needs alternative ideas.

Right now, we broadcast over the Voice of America to Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world.  We get most of those broadcasts in there through 400 affiliated local radio stations.  The administration is about to shut down that service, which broadcasts the only alternative messaging that we’re getting into Indonesia to try to counter the messages of jihadist radicalization.  It is hard to believe the level of the unilateral disarmament of our capacity to communicate with the world.  As one of our professors has said, the United States foreign policy community would sooner kill somebody than persuade him – i.e., to take the time, spend the resources, and devote the necessary high-level attention to strategic influence.

As a key part of a serious strategic communications effort, we need to expose international Russian mafia operations.  We need to be expose Russian aggression.  We need to expose human rights violations such as the assassination of internal political enemies.  We need to expose their violations of their international obligations.

The founding fathers of this country warned that the republican form of government is uniquely vulnerable to what George Washington called the “insidious wiles of foreign influence.”  The KGB, the Chinese, the Muslim Brotherhood – are all actively undertaking influence operations.  Tracking these operations and neutralizing them is fundamentally a counterintelligence function.   But we devote virtually no national strategic attention to this problem, and neither do most of our allies in NATO.

The best defense against these influence, disinformation, and deception operations is to collect intelligence on them, analyze them, declassify some of this analysis, and expose these activities to the world.  Then they lose their sting.

We could also go on a counteroffensive if we had a serious covert political action capability.  But we don’t have anything in this department that rivals the capabilities we had during the Cold War.  If Russia persists in its destabilization of its neighbors, we could mobilize dissent within the Russian empire.  We could begin to mobilize various different national groups that are sick and tired of living under Russian rule. We could delegitimize the Russian control over Kaliningrad.  Why on earth are we even calling it Kaliningrad – a territory named after a Bolshevik that was never part of Russia?  Why don’t we call it Królewiec?  Or Königsberg?  The Russians have absolutely no basis upon which to possess this land, and yet they have it and it’s bristling with their weapons.

We need to be combating Moscow’s divide and conquer tactics by exposing them and encouraging more solidarity among the different nations and individual ethnic groups within the East-Central European region.  We need to be encouraging cultural nationalism rather than ethnic nationalism.  And that cultural nationalism is something that ultimately has to be based on the common values and principles of Western civilization.

One thing that I should also mention is that there are some parts of the NATO alliance that don’t particularly care about the Russian problem today because they are suffering from another security threat.  Look, for example, at the strain that the Italians are enduring with these mass migrations and with the attendant potential threat of a terrorist attack on St. Peter’s.  I think we should be helping the Italians, letting them know that Europe is a whole.  And once we do so, it would be easier to get their cooperation in helping with the Russian problem.

Altogether, we need to restore coherent foreign policy goals and a national security strategy to achieve them.  But as I said earlier, we cannot have either of these without clarity about our nation’s values and purposes.  So we need to have national leadership that restores the West’s faith in those ideas that produce representative government, respect for the dignity of the human person and the human rights that derive from that dignity – everything that the West is all about.

Our intelligentsia have proven to have broken faith with all of this: “Le trahison des clercs,” the treason of the intellectuals.  Our intelligentsia would not sign the Declaration of Independence: they don’t believe in its first paragraph; they don’t believe that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.  What do they believe is that our rights are endowed by the state. They believe that our rights come from men and not from some higher authority – a transcendent source, be it God or nature.

When you reject the existence of the transcendent objective moral order, where do moral standards come from?  Where do rights come from?  They come from personal preferences, and personal preferences writ large on the social plane means power struggle: might makes right.

Those states that run according to the doctrine of might makes right are fascist, Nazi, communist, and radical jihadist dictatorships.  That is where, by the way, I take exception with one thing that was said earlier.  There is something that links the fascists, the communists, the Nazis, and the radical jihadists – the radical jihadists have taken the place of God themselves.  They don’t believe in God, they are God.  They establish their own standards of what is right and wrong, the way God, one assumes, does.  Then they can say that the ends justify the means, and that killing innocents on a large scale is morally justified.  These are totalitarians, and the question is: Are our elites going to continue to sit in the same “might makes right” sandbox with the totalitarians, or will they go back to the principles of the founding fathers which have produced the liberty and the prosperity that we enjoy in Western civilization?

Dr. John Lenczowski is Founder, President, and Professor at The Institute of World Politics, an independent graduate school of national security and international affairs in Washington, D.C.  He formerly served as principal White House advisor in Soviet affairs to President Ronald Reagan.

Remarks by John Lenczowski at IWP Commencement

The following remarks were made by IWP President John Lenczowski at The Institute of World Politics Commencement Ceremony on May 16, 2015.  More videos of the ceremony can be found here.

Good afternoon everyone. Let me first thank all those who have made this school possible:

Trustees, benefactors, faculty, staff, friends and helpers, the spouses and families of those who work for this cause, and ultimately, our students.

Today, as we celebrate our graduates, I want to talk about the challenges they face as most of them go on to serve the cause of peace, freedom, and national security.

America’s foreign policy today is in a crisis. The crisis is different than the challenges we faced in our recent wars which provided some measure of focus and energy. Today, it is a crisis of leadership concerning America’s values, principles, and purposes, which has resulted in the absence of coherent foreign policy goals and strategy.

One cannot have a strategy without goals. And one cannot set achievable goals unless they are consistent with our country’s values, principles, and purposes.

American foreign policy today is a welter of confusion. In some cases, it is marked by appeasement or an isolationist desire to withdraw from the world. In other cases, it is characterized by willful blindness toward unpleasant strategic realities or a reluctance to engage with the world in an energetic way. Much of this is born of the fatigue of flawed, utopian military and nation-building interventions of the past decade.

Our current leadership can neither deter Russia’s war of subversion against Ukraine nor help others resist it. As Russia seeks to demonstrate that NATO’s security guarantees are hollow and that the bonds of civilization that tie the West together are fraying, our leadership is unable to inspire confidence and unity among our allies.

Although our leaders talk about “soft power,” they fail to use it. They are unable to compete against ISIS for the hearts and minds of young Muslims. Although we are in a war of ideas, they have deployed no warriors of ideas, nor do they seek to recruit any.

They are afraid to identify the enemy ideology for what it is. They are incapable of favorably comparing a civilization grounded in human rights and freedom of conscience to an ideology of false martyrdom and self-destruction. Our governing elite has so thoroughly cut itself off from the Judeo-Christian roots of Western civilization that it is incapable of comprehending a challenge framed in explicitly religious terms.

hen it comes to Iran, our government is pursuing an arms control agreement with a hostile regime that has callously disregarded its other international obligations. This is wishful thinking.

Our current leadership does not acknowledge the rising threat from China. It says nothing to the American people about China’s enormous military preparations. Just one example: is anyone here other than our students aware of the Underground Great Wall — three thousand miles of navigable tunnels which are concealing China’s growing nuclear arsenal?

China has over 50,000 spies in our country as well as a massive propaganda and covert political influence apparatus here. Its cyber espionage is perpetrating the greatest theft of intellectual property in history. Where is the sense of alarm about all this from our national leadership?

What lies at the root of today’s leadership crisis is an alienation from the fundamental principles of our country and civilization and a widespread view that our country may even be is a malevolent force in the world. This alienation derives from the regnant philosophies of multiculturalism and moral and cultural relativism that undermine the necessary dedication to the values, principles, and purposes of America.

Too many Western intellectuals compare America with heaven when it should be compared with the other actual governmental systems out there. A truly honest comparison requires realism about the world and the human condition.

Too many members of our intelligentsia and governing elite also fail to appreciate what IWP students learn — namely, America’s capacity to acknowledge our failings and to work to prevent them from recurring. In contrast to other civilizations, America is the greatest experiment in social, political, and economic self-improvement in history.

It is a civilization that is rare, precious, and worth defending. IWP graduates understand something about America’s exceptional character and heritage.

The genius of the American system is the realism about human nature that underlies our Constitutional order. It is precisely the recognition of the fallibility of human nature combined with respect for the dignity of the human person that enables our system to endure and prosper.

That recognition of the flawed nature of man impelled our Founding Fathers to set up a rule of law, knowing that we will always be tempted to follow our baser instincts. To prevent power from concentrating in the hands of a single evil-doer, they set up a diffusion of power, a separation of powers, and checks and balances.

Understanding the foundations, purposes, and traditions of the American political order is the prerequisite for establishing foreign policy goals. That understanding should inform us that there are alternatives to utopian military intervention and nation building projects, other than isolationism or appeasement.

If one has coherent values, principles, purposes, and goals, then what must be done to keep the peace is to use all the instruments of statecraft to handle every contingency that this world can throw our way. This is what we teach at IWP.

Our students learn these various arts, including military strategy, intelligence, counterintelligence, the art of diplomacy, the many arts of public diplomacy, political action, political warfare, and economic strategy.

When our leaders are aware of all the instruments in this orchestra, they have a greater range of options than only diplomacy or war. But a number of these instruments, such as counterintelligence and the many aspects of public diplomacy and strategic influence, have long been neglected by our foreign policy establishment and the academic world.

Of course, as any IWP student will tell you, this is not because the United States can’t use these instruments of statecraft — it has, numerous times, from the War of Independence to the Cold War.

Our counterintelligence community once used various methods to counter hostile foreign agents, disinformation, and covert influence operations — but then it mostly lost its institutional memory of how to do this. IWP grads are restoring that memory.

We used the many instruments of public diplomacy during the Cold War. We fought the war against hostile propaganda with the U.S. Information Agency, the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.

We waged the war of ideas with American libraries abroad, the Congress of Cultural Freedom, subsidizing foreign journals of opinion, and supporting free trade unions, whether in Italy after World War II or the Solidarity Union in Poland.

We were unashamed of American ideas. The ideas we promoted catalyzed the revolutionary changes that liberated hundreds of millions of people. We won that war of ideas!

From history such as this, IWP students have learned arts of statecraft that directly apply to current and future threats. They then fan out throughout our government and are raising the standards of professionalism in so many of these fields.

While these instruments of power must be used in our country’s defense, they also have the potential of being abused. So they must be exercised by people of character, virtue, and patriotism. That is why we at IWP care so deeply about what kind of people our students turn out to be.

True statesmanship is not only a matter of knowledge and skill, it is a matter of good character.

  • It means doing the right thing when no one is looking.
  • It involves cultivation of conscience.
  • It requires cultivation of the will and self-control.
  • It requires the development of good habits — because habits become destiny.

Character — especially when it applies to leadership in statecraft — begins with consciousness of certain necessary virtues.

First, there is the essential virtue of personal and intellectual honesty. This means commitment to the truth.

Here courage is essential — having the courage of one’s convictions — the courage to see the truth when all about you are willfully blind, and the courage to tell truth to power.

We teach our students that there are two kinds of people — mission oriented people and those who are interested in power, position, glory, and the satisfaction of one’s ego.

We want our students to be mission-oriented. And when they are tempted to intrigue to gain personal power and glory, we want them to resist the temptation.

So IWP teaches that humility is another essential virtue. And so is acute sensitivity to the dangers of hubris.

Humility keeps people on track to achieving a mission, because the mission is the cause higher than oneself.

Hubris derails you from putting the mission first.

Finally, there is prudence, the essential virtue of statesmanship. Prudence is the ability to exercise wisdom, reason, caution, and discretion in the conduct of policy. It is the application of universal moral principles to particular situations — which presupposes knowledge of those principles in the first place.

With prudence, one can discern good ends, achieve good ends, and ultimately be good.

With the education that you graduates have received both intellectually and, we hope, in developing your character, we expect great professional achievements from you, and especially the exercise of those virtues that make for statesmanship. With leaders like you, we really can reform the way America conducts foreign policy.

I am grateful for having had the chance to be your professor and to see how seriously you have taken your studies and your vocations. Congratulations for persevering and God bless you in your service to your family, your neighbor, your customer, and your country.

John Lenczowski
The Institute of World Politics Commencement
May 16, 2015

U.S. Foreign Policy Options: Security Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe

John Lenczowski discussed “U.S. Foreign Policy Options” at the Fifth Annual Kosciuszko Chair Spring Symposium, which was on the topic of “Between Russia and NATO: Security Challenges in Central and Eastern Europe.”

This symposium took place on April 25, and was sponsored by The Institute of World Politics.

George Lenczowski: Diplomat, scholar, and defender of Western civilization

George Lenczowski 2Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of my father, Dr. George Lenczowski.

This is a significant milestone for me, because of everything that my father did to inspire in me a passion for international affairs and the defense of America and Western civilization. The intellectual and moral/philosophical influences he had upon me lie at the heart of so much of what I have tried to do in building The Institute of World Politics.

My father was born of Polish parents in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father had been studying at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, which was one of the foremost academic institutions at the time, even for Poles, who had lost their independence a century beforehand to the partitions by the three surrounding empires: Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. Most of Poland had been gobbled up by the Russians, and it made some sense for a Pole seeking advanced education in science and engineering to study in the empire’s capital city.

Two and a half years later, after my grandfather had secured his first job in Russia, the Bolsheviks overthrew the weak democratic order under the Provisional Government. As people with higher education and who were working for private enterprise, members of my father’s family were considered “class enemies” by the Bolsheviks.  So, to save their lives, they took the few possessions that they could carry, and escaped to Poland, which then won its independence at the end of World War I.

My father earned a law degree in Poland and a doctorate of laws in France. He joined the Polish diplomatic corps, and was stationed in Tel Aviv in pre-war Palestine. He fought the Nazis as a member of the Polish Army in North Africa. During the war, his parents were arrested by the Nazis in Warsaw and were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. My father was reassigned to the Polish diplomatic mission in Tehran in time for the conference of the Big Three – Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin.

He met and married my mother there, who had just escaped from two and a half years imprisonment, also as a “class enemy” in the Soviet Union. When the Yalta Agreement was signed, where Roosevelt and Churchill consigned Central and Eastern Europe to communist domination, my parents came to America.

Having lost his parents to national socialism, and having lost all his family possessions twice to international socialism, my father was particularly sensitive to to the fragility of civilization. Indeed, he could see very clearly how politics can take radically ugly turns in places where one might not normally expect it.

He eventually became one of the founders of Middle East studies in America, and taught political science and international relations at the University of California at Berkeley. He wrote some of the pioneering works on oil and great power conflict in the Middle East, all the while concerned about the security of the United States and the Free World.  He and my mother never forgot the cause of human rights within the Soviet empire.

My father’s commitment to the cause of freedom and to protecting the dignity of the human person lay at the heart of his newfound patriotism for America, and his concern for the defense of Western civilization.

His spirit lives on in our efforts at IWP, and may his immortal soul rest in peace.

John Lenczowski comments on radical Islamism in Homeland Security Today

In a recent article for Homeland Security Today, John Lenczowski described what he considers to be the fundamental strategic problem in our nation’s efforts to counter the threat of radical Islamists — the failure to engage effectively in the war of ideas.

This ideological battlespace, he noted, “isn’t simply between Western ideas and radical Islamic ideas, it is a war between radical Islamists and those Muslims who reject the notion that killing innocents is morally acceptable as a way of promoting their faith in the world.”  Without engaging in this war of ideas, our nation is left with few options to counter the threat posed by Islamic extremists.

The article, which outlines the problems the U.S. faces in its anti-extremism efforts, is entitled “Obama Schedules ‘Violent Extremism’ Summit, But Still Unable To Acknowledge Islamist Jihad.” It was authored by Amanda Vicinanzo, alumna of The Institute of World Politics and Senior Editor at HS Today, and Anthony Kimery, HS Today Editor-in-Chief.

Please click here to read the article.

The goals of US policy towards Cuba

Cuba-225x300editedWhat will be the likely result of President Obama’s breakthrough in U.S. relations with communist Cuba?

The President seems to assume that everyone agrees that the old policy was designed to bring about regime change — ideally democratic, or at least milder form of authoritarianism that granted greater respect to human rights —  and that this policy was not going to succeed.  The president’s assumption is not exactly true.  Refusing to grant diplomatic recognition and continuing commercial business as usual has been much more a position of moral opposition to an illegitimate regime as it has been any kind of plan of action for regime change.

The President seems to convey that the goal of his new policy will bring about such change.  But simultaneously, he says as the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl has pointed out, that his policy is designed towards achieving stability and avoiding chaos in Cuba.

Meanwhile, in playing a pivotal role in the U.S.-Cuban breakthrough, Pope Francis appears to believe that greater democracy, respect for human rights, and freedom of religion can result if there are more peaceful relations between the two countries.  When he was about to become Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he wrote a book arguing that such results can and should come from greater dialogue between the United States and Cuba.

I can see only one path by which such an outcome might take place.  This path involves what amounts to the psychological disarmament of the Cuban dictatorship.  Under this scenario, the Castros, their Party apparatchiks, and their cronies, will begin to let their guard down because they will become convinced that the United States is no longer heaven-bent on regime change.  Their government-controlled businesses will become ever-more dependent upon trade and tourism with the United States to the point that they allegedly will have a vested interest in keeping U.S. attitudes favorably disposed towards Cuba.  This vested interest, in turn, will be counted on to restrain the internal security authorities from those excessive human rights violations that would arouse and alienate the U.S., thereby putting their commercial relationships with America at risk.

Indeed, a variant of this scenario took place in the Soviet Union, but it varied sufficiently from the Cuban scenario insofar as America had put such economic pressure on the Soviet military economy that Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s principal policy was not to embark on genuine political-economic reforms, but to seek a Western economic bailout.  This bailout depended on eliminating the idea in the West that the USSR was the “enemy.”  Therefore, Gorbachev could ill afford to appear like one by throwing too many more people into the Gulag or killing more people than he did.

The problem here is that Castro has never sought a Western economic bailout unless it is solely on his own terms.  Those terms amount to preserving the communist system and his regime’s monopoly on power at virtually all costs.

Instead, the US-China relations model points to the much more likely future, which is that American businesses will become so dependent upon Cuba trade that they will not wish to rock the boat politically.

Because U.S. companies have become so dependent on trade with China, Beijing feels utterly no restraint against throwing whomever they wish into the Laogai, not to mention continuing their massive espionage, military buildup, and regional attempted land grabs.

The kind of peace that exists between the U.S. and China, which is very much the result of a dialogue of the kind that Pope Francis has recommended, is, in fact, illusory.  There is one very good reason for this: there can be no peace without justice.  There can be no peace without respect for human rights.

As Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet inventor of the hydrogen bomb turned human rights activist, taught us: The Soviet regime would never have genuine peace with the West until it had peace with its own people.

One fervently hopes, under the circumstances, that the optimistic scenario for Cuba envisioned by Pope Francis will come to pass, but I have my serious doubts.

Lessons from the Sony hack attack

Globe - 180x190This piece by John Lenczowski was originally published by The Washington Times on December 18, 2014.

The hacking attack of Sony Corp. and the compromising of its intellectual property should send a wake-up call to American business. If Sony can be hacked, so too can our companies that make defense technologies. This attack reveals that the very innovations that give us our competitive edge in the world, both commercially and strategically, are gravely at risk.

In November, the Pentagon announced the Defense Innovation Initiative, which is designed to promote fresh thinking about how we can maintain our military superiority through technological innovation, despite tighter budgets and the corrosive effects of two long wars. Unfortunately, this strategy will fail unless both government and business place higher priorities on technology security policy and counterintelligence.

Two of our adversaries are stealing our technology at levels that exceed those of the Cold War. China in particular is using commerce as a cover for massive espionage, the fruits of which are deployed with amazing efficiency in the greatest military buildup on the face of the earth — a buildup consistently underestimated by our government.

Simultaneously, Russian industrial espionage continues at enormous levels and fuels Moscow’s military buildup.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership and the China threat

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement amongst 12 prospective signatory countries that promises to be high on the agenda of the new Congress.  There are many benefits auguring to the United States from this agreement, so long as the U.S. government remains vigilant in preventing predatory mercantilist trade policies by selected countries designed to undermine specific U.S. industries.  There are some, however, who advocate that China should become an eventual member of this agreement.  I disagree.

As a matter of fact, I believe that so long as China’s ruling Communist Party continues to maintain a monopoly lock-hold on political power within the country, American commercial relations with China should be limited.

China has used international trade, and especially its commercial relationships with the United States, as a vehicle to achieve a multitude of strategic purposes that are inimical to U.S. national security and international peace, particularly in the East Asia neighborhood.

China uses its commercial relations with us to sustain a massive military buildup, the details of which have consistently been underestimated by the U.S. intelligence community.  Mostly under the cover of commercial relations — but also including the visits of students and scientists — China has some 50,000 spies in the U.S.  In any recent year, they have made 5,000 visits annually to all of our most sensitive national laboratories, where a “visit” consists of a stay ranging between two weeks to two years.  Shocking amounts of our most advanced scientific and technological developments are being stolen in these various ways.

This is not even to speak of the avalanche of cyber espionage, which, in itself, constitutes the greatest theft of intellectual property in world history.  This technology has gone into the construction of new road-mobile ICBMs, new stealth aircraft, new hypersonic missiles, anti-ship missiles designed to sink American aircraft carriers, anti-satellite weapons, neutron bombs, and various laser and directed energy weapons.

For those who are unaware of Beijing’s seriousness of purpose, the Chinese Communist Party has constructed the Underground Great Wall, a network of an estimated 3,000 miles of underground tunnels, through which trucks can drag road-mobile ICBMs and which conceal China’s burgeoning nuclear arsenal.  Whereas the U.S. government believes that China has some 300 nuclear weapons, Russian intelligence believes it is more like 1,500.  Don’t believe the statistics you hear about China’s military expenditures.  All of these figures are unambiguously deceptive in the same spirit as the deceptions of the old Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, China’s commercial relations with so many American enterprises have politically neutralized large portions of America’s business elite.  The result is that it is ever harder for influential circles in our country to come to grips with China’s inimical strategic purposes and its burgeoning strategic capabilities.

It is time for members of the new Congress and those who aspire to the Presidency of our country to start telling the American people the truth about these intentions and capabilities.

Let us make no mistake about the Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions: it wants to restore the ancient tributary state system and to make America one of those states paying tribute to the Communist “Middle Kingdom.”