Patrick J. Garrity, a long-time friend and contributor to the Claremont Review of Books, passed away on May 10 from complications of skin cancer. He was executive director of the Classics of Strategy and Diplomacy project and had been, most recently, a senior fellow with the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia (part of a team focusing on the secret White House tapes of President Richard Nixon) and a senior fellow with the Claremont Institute.
He published widely on international relations, the history of American foreign policy, and American national security policy, and was the author of In Search of Monsters to Destroy? American Foreign Policy, Revolution, and Regime Change, 1776–1900 (2012); co-author of A Sacred Union of Citizens: George Washington’s Farewell Address and the American Character (1996; with Matthew Spalding) and of You Run the Show or the Show Runs You: Capturing Professor Harold Rood’s Thought for a New Generation (2014; with J.D. Crouch II); and the co-editor of the forthcoming Averting Doomsday: Arms Control during the Nixon Presidency (with Erin R. Mahan) and the forthcoming United and Independent: John Quincy Adams on American Foreign Policy (with Benjamin Judge).
His writings over the years for the CRB include memorable reflections on the American character, the Treaty of Versailles, the Cold War, John Quincy Adams, Henry Kissinger, and Roberto Clemente.
He is remembered here by two founders of the Claremont Institute and classmates of his at the Claremont Graduate University, Larry P. Arnn and Christopher Flannery.
A Life in Service
The virtues being finite in number, worthy people share them, and the way they are mixed up in them makes them what they are. Pat Garrity was an extraordinary mixture.
On the surface he was quiet, skilled at deflecting conversation away from himself. He could turn aside compliments with effortless consistency. Professor Harry V. Jaffa, who thought that Pat had a special genius, liked to say: “His modesty is tops!” On the other hand, Pat could pay compliments with a precision that made one believe them. An e-mail from him often began in the way that 19th-century diplomats began their letters to one another, except not flowery.
Beneath the surface was a mind of extraordinary power. His ability to absorb, retain, recall, and marshal information was unsurpassed in my experience. I place him in a category with Sir Martin Gilbert, and they are in that category alone. Whatever Pat loved, he knew everything about it.
What did Pat love? Many things, but I will name two that show aspects of his character. The smaller of the two was plenty large: sports. Pat loved them. He lived his life with an impaired foot, and so his participation in sports was confined largely to golf, in which I understand he was adept. He made up for his absence from other sports with detailed knowledge of basketball, football, baseball, golf, the Olympics, even hockey.
In sports, as in other things, Pat might be thought of as an encyclopedia, except he was insightful and reflective about everything he knew. He did not recite, he explained. Sports are interesting because they are demonstrations of excellence, which makes them the land of heroes. When Pat explained what was exceptional about this player or deed, it was satisfying because it drew a map of the way up the mountain that we must all attempt to climb.
Pat’s subject was international relations, the story of nations and how they get on. Again, few people knew more facts about that subject than Pat, but again that was not the main thing. Few people who take up large academic subjects know them in the round and where they fit in the hierarchy of things to know. As a student of Harry Jaffa’s, Pat knew what a nation was, but also what a human being is and why he lives in nations. He knew the meaning of the greatest of modern nations, the United States. As a student of Harold Rood’s, Pat knew the history of the relations of nations in detail. Also, he knew the two tools of international relations, diplomacy and military power, the one made of words and the other of iron. His reflections on the relation between them were profound and, I think but one cannot be sure, yet richer than those of his teacher.
I was privileged to know Pat for precisely 40 years. I did not know his family except through snippets of his conversation (as I say, he did not talk much about himself). I learn at the end of Pat’s life that his family was warm and close. This was proved by the charity of his cousin in Maine, Michael Walker, who cared for Pat beautifully in his last months. We owe him thanks for that and for keeping us all informed.
Pat never married. One was tempted to think he was lonely, but that was not so. He had his interests and his massive capacity to master them. He had his friends, to whom he was ever loyal. He had his teachers, whom he never forgot, and for whom and their lessons he was unfailingly grateful. He styled his life as a service to these things.
Larry P. Arnn is the president of Hillsdale College and the vice chairman of the Claremont Institute’s Board of Directors.
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A Mystery and Legend
Sometime in the late 20th or early 21st century, Pat Garrity became a Claremont mystery and legend. He had studied in the late 1970s at what was then called the Claremont Graduate School. Several generations of graduate students had come through Claremont since then, and some of the best of these students would become interns, editorial assistants, or full-time editors at the Claremont Review of Books. Among the magical perquisites of these positions were reading and discussing with colleagues all the reviews and essays submitted to the magazine, and among the regular contributors was this fellow who wrote about international relations, American foreign policy, diplomacy, the history and practice of grand strategy, and geopolitics, and who signed his essays and reviews “Patrick J. Garrity.”
His erudition was impressive; his range considerable. If war was the theme, he might write on the Peloponnesian, the Punics, the French and Indian, the Worlds, the Cold, the Vietnam, or the Global (WOT). He would assess the war leadership of Alexander the Great or Caesar, the statesmanship of George Washington, John Quincy Adams’s diplomacy, or American nuclear strategy from the 1950s to the present. His knowledge of the history of American foreign policy was staggeringly comprehensive. To break things up, he would occasionally write about sports, a subject on which his knowledge was also comprehensive.
Young editors would ask who is this Patrick J. Garrity, and I being one of the old-timers hanging around would say something like:
Pat’s an old friend. He studied with Bill Rood and Harry Jaffa back when the Soviet Union was a great power, there was no internet, and people wrote their dissertations on electric typewriters. From Dr. Rood, Pat learned that there will be war; that the job of a statesman is to prepare to win it; and that most people will be disposed to delude themselves that it can be avoided. From Dr. Jaffa, he learned that war is fought for the sake of peace and that a statesman needs to know what to do with peace. He stood out from the usual pretentious, dissolute idlers who become graduate students. He was an American original from Idaho, as wholesome as sunrise, the kind of man every sensible mother and father would want their son to grow up to be. He was a teetotaler like Lincoln. In the old days, he liked a milkshake and was a steady hand at a poker game. He knows more about American foreign policy, international relations, and the history and practice of grand strategy than anyone you’re likely to meet and more about the history and practice of most major sports than anyone you ever will meet. Back in 1983, I attended a lecture on baseball that he gave to a group of visiting European scholars, journalists, and politicians. It was part of a Claremont Institute program. He walked into the lecture hall with a bat, ball, and glove, and an hour later three dozen formerly baseball-ignorant Europeans understood more about America’s Game than 90% of Americans do. They then went to a Dodgers game, where, by the unlikeliest of chances, their pictures were taken with visiting Playboy Bunnies, in uniform, singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” This is on record. The delighted European dignitaries assumed Dr. Garrity arranged all this and that it was part of what made America’s Game so great. I like to think his lecture the next day on the Monroe Doctrine was equally transformative.
But the years would come and go, and the increasingly young-seeming interns and editorial assistants would never see Dr. Garrity. He wouldn’t show up teaching in the various fellowship programs of the Claremont Institute or at the annual APSA panels. There were no Garrity blogs or (later) podcasts, no recordings of him on YouTube, and doubts began to arise about his existence. Because I was the main source of information about Pat in the office and also the one through whom he often chose, for his own mysterious reasons, to communicate with the Claremont Institute via e-mail, the younger Claremonsters (as they had begun to call themselves) began to joke after hours at the local watering hole that Garrity was an invention of Flannery’s overworked imagination.
Pat was, in truth, about the most private person I have ever known; he had exacting standards of privacy, and I say that as one who doesn’t get out much himself. I knew him for over 40 years and only learned recently that he was a nature lover and followed sunrises around the world; I also learned just in the last year or so that there is a Garrity Boulevard running past the old rodeo arena in his home town, in honor of his grandfather, who was instrumental in bringing big time rodeo to Idaho—the Snake River Stampede in Nampa, which featured Hollywood stars like Gene Autry, Marshall Dillon, and Festus along with the cowboys.
No doubt other friends knew these things, but Pat had never found it necessary to mention them to me; he wasn’t a promiscuous mentioner. He lived alone his whole adult life. On a business trip once back in the 1980s, I stayed with him in his apartment in Washington, D.C. He had been living there a couple of years. Looking for a wine opener or something, I opened a drawer in the kitchen and found it completely empty; I looked in the adjoining cupboards—completely empty. The refrigerator was completely empty, too, except for two cans of diet Coke. When it came to kitchen supplies, Pat was a minimalist.
Contributing substantially to young editors’ suspicions that Patrick J. Garrity must be a fiction were the e-mails that would accompany every writing he submitted to the CRB. They were works of art, as flawless in conception as Shakespearean sonnets or P.G. Wodehouse novels. And what their art expressed was an inexhaustible humility of Homeric proportions. It was astounding and so, to the young and inexperienced, incredible. Whenever Dr. Garrity would submit a few thousand words of learned and precise exposition on one of the many subjects within his large ken, he would insist in the accompanying missive that he understood full well that the material submitted was not up to the standards of the publication and that we should not embarrass ourselves by allowing any personal regard for him to induce us to publish it. Frequently, he would recommend an alternative author or reviewer who was certain to do a better job; usually he would name more than one. And he would explain why and how they would do a better job, because (this he would never say; but he knew we knew) he had read everything they had written and knew what to make of it. As his writings continued to come in over the years, these e-mails would be circulated among editors, young and old, like rare diamonds for study and wonder. And the younger editors, as I say, sometimes found them so wonderful as to verge on the incredible. So Pat became a kind of legend to them.
Pat’s diffidence arose partly from the great regard he had for his friends. But his friends (and editors), who knew something about themselves and something about Garrity, understood very well that he knew more about any subject he would ever be writing on than they did. There was a still more fundamental source of his diffidence. Though his knowledge on many subjects was, indeed, encyclopedic, and he knew this, he aimed higher—for the kind of understanding a statesman needed to judge what was the right thing to do in the infinitely complex, swiftly changing world of politics and strategy at the highest levels, at the critical moments when everything was at stake. He knew that such understanding was rarer than diamonds and that it was the standard he should measure himself by. Which he did, unflinchingly. His Homeric humility was the complement to the noblest ambition.