BOOKS IN BRIEF
Falwell: Before the Millenium – A Critical Biography
Chicago: Regnery, 1984
205 pp., $14.95
Is someone a serious supporter of fundamental change, along the lines of the Reagan revolution, or is he or she simply an opportunist? A good test is to see how this person stands on Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority. Someone who has serious political concerns will greet Falwell as a welcome ally; someone who doesn’t will shun him. Reading Policy Review Managing Editor D’Souza’s fine treatment will give strength to the wavering and perhaps win over some sneerers. Even those who do not accept Falwell’s theology or are suspicious of his cultural background (D’Souza is a Catholic, from India) are won over as political allies by his manner and his substance.
The Hunt for Red October
Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1984
387 pp., $14.95
New York: Villard Books, Random House, 1985
391 pp., $16.95
These two books indulge the reader in relatively harmless fantasy: In The Hunt, Soviet citizens aid the defense of the West, and in Moscow Rules, Soviets abet the downfall of the Soviet government. These books-along with movies such as Rambo and Pale Rider-traffic upon the natural human desire to have someone else do the hard work of defending one’s home and way of life. Therein lies both the strength and weakness of these books. The reader revels in the possibilities but in the end feels cheated by implausible stories.
Red October is a Soviet missile submarine, commanded by the fleet’s most capable skipper, Marko Ramius. Ramius recently lost his wife because of a drunk surgeon and a bad batch of antibiotics-a loss he thinks is directly attributable to the corrupt Soviet regime. His wife’s death persuades him to defect, assisted by his senior officers, and to takeRed October with him. The book follows the search by Soviet, British, and American navies for the missile boat, which is capable of destroying dozens of American cities or providing invaluable information on Soviet military technology. Clancy tells a riveting tale, excellent both for its technical detail and its superb story telling. He accomplishes the difficult task of using the arcana of anti-submarine warfare to provide authenticity and move the story along. In the end, the memorable characters are the submarines and the gear used to track and to hide them.
In Moscow Rules, Robert Moss tries to tell an epic, the overthrow of the Soviet regime, without characters or detail up to the task. One army officer, Alexander Preobrazhenski, nurses his plan for years. He recruits a few loyal subordinates; advances his career; and draws his father-in-law, a future chief of staff, into the plan by marrying his daughter. He must, however, keep a love affair with an American woman from ruining the whole scheme. Preobrazhenski succeeds, of course, and the book ends as the Soviet Union gropes carefully toward the future. Moscow Rules indulges the reader in the grandest of fantasies but is too thin in detail to sustain the fantasy. Outsiders know precious little about Soviet life, and it shows in Moss’s one-dimensional descriptions of characters and settings. In the end, the epic premise cannot balance on the shoulders of one character.
These books are only harmless works of fiction and will not lead directly to a loss of will to confront the Soviet threat. But admirers of this fantasy genre should realize that these books lift the burden of responsibility from the many and place it on a few supermen. This undermines the teaching that each citizen must help guard the republic. Instead, these books teach that spirit of freedom, or revenge, beats so strongly in a
few Soviet hearts that we need to do nothing but wait patiently, in the hope that someone else will do the work for us.
– Michael Walker
A Preface to Economic Democracy
Robert A. Dahl
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985
184 pp., $12.95
If you liked what Robert Dahl did to James Madison in A Preface to Democratic Theory (1956), you will love what he has done to Alexis de Tocqueville in this Preface. Dahl converts Tocqueville’s “implicit” and “vague” analysis of the tension between the passion for equality and the fragility of liberty into “distinct” and “systematic” hypotheses capable of logical validation and empirical verification. We learn that the greatest commentator on modern democracy is wrong: The tension between equality and liberty, politically understood, is spurious in theory and nonexistent in practice. Tocqueville’s error was that he took equality as given and liberty as problematic. For Dahl, the central problem of democracy is that economic liberty (that of corporate capitalism) is given and that political equality and political liberty are problematic.
Dahl argues as follows: Tocqueville’s observations cover one country in 1830 in which the agrarian “classical republican” model distributed political and economic resources in an egalitarian manner. Data gathered from numerous countries over the last 150 years invalidate Tocqueville’s propositions. Moreover, the arrival of modern corporate capitalism has rendered the old solution obsolete.
As in his earlier Preface, Dahl has difficulty with the doctrine of natural rights. Do we have a consensus on what they are? How do we make them operational? What happens when they conflict? Instead, Dahl defines democracy as a commitment to primary political rights (voter speech, inquiry, association) which are necessary to the democratic process. Given this rational commitment to democracy as process, it follows logically, that political equality and liberty are in harmony, and an economic order must be consistent with these primary rights. Dahl proposes a system of small economic enterprises collectively owned and democratically governed by all the people who work in them. These self-governing enterprises are Dahl’s classical solution for the modern age: Since income and wealth will be more evenly distributed, political equality and the democratic process will be enhanced. Such an economic democracy is an alternative to both corporate capitalism and bureaucratic socialism. Watch out, Marx, you are next in line for improvement.
Dahl has created a system of small direct democracies intermingled with larger representative democracies in the economic arena. This announcement reminds us of Madison’s warning about homogeneity of interests in small spheres and the need for auxiliary precautions even in extended orbits. We are also reminded of Tocqueville’s hope that through economic associations individuals will become better political citizens. But Dahl ignores Madison’s warning and, moreover, rejects explicitly the benefits which his proposal might have on mores. He argues as a “Kantian”: “If democracy is justified in governing the state, then it must also be justified in governing economic enterprises.”
– Gordon Lloyd
University of Redlands
Grave New World: The Superpower Crisis of the 1980’s
Michael A. Ledeen
New York: Oxford University Press, 1985
xii + 244 pp., $17.95
Michael Ledeen’s newest book continues the themes of Debacle (written with William Lewis). There he explored the Carter administration failures which led to the downfall of the Shah and the explosive changes subsequently felt by Iran. But Ledeen also found that the Washington foreign policy bureaucracies and the media were not without blame for the Iranian crises.
In Grave New World, Ledeen goes beyond Iran to explore these same problems, which still confront the United States in the making of foreign policy. Again, he finds that it is not only administrations which cause failures in foreign policy, but also the entrenched foreign policy machinery and the “Fourth Estate,” with its self-appointed role in the formulation of that policy. One should examine these problems, the author claims, since our situation is of the most serious sort, and only a complete rethinking of our foreign policy-making structures can save us from a bad fate.
The book’s straightforward warning urging us to recognize our enemies and not to fear the use of force is certainly its strongest point. But its solution-taking a more “aggressive policy in support of the democratic revolution”-is based on weak reasons. Ledeen tells us to support the democratic revolution because it will be effective in combating the Soviet system and because it is “our tradition.” The author is to be advised: In a struggle such as ours, the winning side will be the one which justly believes in the truth of its own principles, not the one that simply acts out of its “tradition.”
Wake Us Up When It’s Over: Presidential Politics of 1984
Jack W. Germond and Jules Witcover
New York: Macmillan, 1985
xxii + 567 pp., $19.95
The Quest for the Presidency 1984
Peter Goldman and Tony Fuller
New York: Bantam Books/ A Newsweek Book, 1985
468 pp., $17.95
Visions of America: How We Saw the 1984 Election
William A. Henry, III
Boston: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1985
ix + 275 pp., $17.95
The Election of 1984: Reports and Interpretations
Gerald M. Pomper, et al.
Chatham, N.J.: Chatham House, 1985
197 pp., $20.00 (cloth), $8.95 (paper)
Election ’84: Landslide Without a Mandate?
Edited by Ellis Sandoz and Cecil V. Crabb, Jr.
New York: New American Library, A Mentor Book, 1985
358 pp., $4.95 (paper)
On the Campaign Trail
Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1985
108 pp., $5.95 (paper)
Why would anyone other than a crazed numbers-cruncher of a psephologist want to read an account of the 1984 presidential election? Liberals and Democrats have, of course, nothing to cheer about (and little desire to learn from the experience). Conservatives and Republicans may be further dismayed at how little the President’s margin of victory has meant to him and his party afterward. At their best, election campaigns educate an electorate to make intelligent and decent decisions; America is supposed to be a better place for having experienced a campaign. But Reagan’s campaign did not prepare voters for the choices he has to make now, regarding the economy, affirmative action, and arms negotiations. Will today’s Americans begin to look at politics in fundamentally differing ways than the Americans of a generation before them? Will the difference be one informed by an issue of fundamental principle, of who we are as a people? These are the most interesting questions about the elections of 1980 and 1984. None of these books deals with this question in a rigorous way.
The best of the books are by Pomper, and Sandoz and Crabb, which contain analyses by respected political scientists. Some of these essays (e.g., Walter Dean Burnham in Sandoz and Crabb) provide materials necessary in addressing the great question of principle. As dry as most of their essays are, they do not suffer from the delusions found in Goldman and Fuller, Henry, and Shields, who attempt to poeticize the campaign. Shields’s book is witty, in a few places, but quite conventional. Goldman and Fuller’s book reads as though it were written by Newsweek editors and, in fact, is. Henry’s book, with all the allusions to popular music and culture, reads as though it were written by aTime magazine theater critic, and it is. As reporters Germond and Witcover are superior; for example, only they mention that Black Muslim Minister Louis Farrakhan accompanied Jesse Jackson on his trip to Syria, to bring back Robert Goodman, the captured airman. And they do some investigation of Mondale’s finances. They are, however, the most tendentious politically. Typical of most Washington-based journalists, they despise not only the policies of President Reagan but the American people as well.
What To Do When the Russian’s Come: A Survivor’s Guide
Robert Conquest and John Manchip White
Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.: Stein & Day, 1985
180 pp., $6.95 (paper)
At first glance one might suppose this is another volume from the check-out counter genre, such as Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche or The Bachelor’s Guide to Clean Living. But it is precisely because Americans regard “the Russians are coming” as a subject of levity that this book is necessary. Some parts of the book may bring a slight chuckle to the reader because of the seeming improbability of the brutalities described ever happening in America. But the authors are not joking. The description of life under Communist rule is drawn explicitly from how life has changed in all the countries around the world that have come under Soviet domination, many of which at one time had liberal traditions. The book is a useful tonic for those who obscure or ignore the distinctions
of regimes in the world today, or who continue to employ the “mirror-image” metaphor of moral indifference. The book is written in an understated, almost subdued prose (“Judging from past performance, rape could be a major problem”), partly to avoid criticism that the authors are hysterical, but also as an ironic device to mimic the passionless attitudes of mainstream international analysts.
Disabling America: The “Rights Industry” in Our Time
Richard E. Morgan
New York: Basic Books, 1984
245 pp., $16.95
Professor Morgan’s witty polemic skillfully bashes the contemporary Supreme Court in a number of areas, including church-state relations, schools, law enforcement, and the distinction between private and public. This is an easy task, but unlike others Morgan focuses on those who argue the cases-a “rights industry” of advocates-and their role in the rise of government by judiciary. Hence this book would make excellent reading in, for example, a course on the “judicial process” or public policy. One reservation: Morgan upholds procedure as the test of rectitude. “Whatever our personal moral commitments, our dominant public philosophy (yes, I do remember John Brown) has been skeptical not millenarian” (pp. 178-79). But does not such a view concede too much to the Court’s procedure for dealing with issues before it? Does Professor Morgan remember Abraham Lincoln?