The Case for Peace in Our Time

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and From Mainline to Sideline. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Reason and many other publications.


51lKW4N7eLLAngelo M. Codevilla, To Make and Keep Peace Among Ourselves and with All Nations, Hoover Institution Press, 2014, 209 pages, $24.95.

The title derives from Abraham Lincoln, a noble proclamation that Angelo Codevilla finds for the most part unfulfilled. As the author notes, during the past 100 years in America peace prevailed in only two brief periods, from 1919-1941 and 1992-2001. As Codevilla sees it, peace is not only in short supply but positively endangered. Given the dynamics in play, outlined here in considerable detail, that should come as no surprise.

As the “precondition for enjoying the good things of life,” peace must be statecraft’s objective. The author charts Pericles and the war-weary Athenians, the Romans, and other lessons from history that will be of interest to scholars and statesmen alike. But To Make and Keep Peace speaks to all and deserves the broadest possible readership.

Angelo Codevilla, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University, is well aware that peace has enemies, among them pacifism and the type of progressive ideology dating from Woodrow Wilson. That progressivism “has become orthodoxy” and features “a pacifism as mindless as it was frenetic and provocative,” deployed by a “united ruling class intoxicated with its own virtue and ideology.”

The author cites president Franklin Roosevelt’s Sept 3, 1939 speech, which came after the Munich Pact, after the Stalin-Hitler Pact, after the invasion of Poland, and after the outbreak of WWII. Yet, the villain remained impersonal, “force itself,” and no nation threatened America any more than any other. Only on December 29, 1940, after fall of France, did FDR specifically indict “the Nazi masters of Germany.” But the willful blindness did not end there.

For Codevilla, “no illusions were greater nor proved more fateful than those about the Soviet Union.”  Affection for the Soviet Union and Communism “deformed US foreign policy, caused WWII to end not in peace but in Cold War, and occasioned conflict among Americans the consequences of which are with us yet.” The ruling class blend of gentry and intellectuals “believed that Stalin was the sine qua non of perpetual peace through the United Nations,” and that “staying on his good side was job #1.”

The Rooseveltians “debased America’s cause by identifying it with Stalin’s.” They treated the USSR’s partnership in starting the war as a non-event and  “by using the totalitarian tactic of airbrushing to try justifying their Soviet affections, they poisoned American political life.” The ruling-class consensus was, in effect, to facilitate the Soviet Union’s hold on their empire. In that climate, Americans of the “we win, they lose” view of the Cold War, in the style of Ronald Reagan, came to be regarded as enemies of peace. Codevilla marshals evidence that Senator Edward Kennedy offered to cooperate with the Soviets to defeat such Americans.

By then the ruling class, “had doubled down on its Wilsonian sense of intellectual-moral entitlement” and “came to regard its domestic political opponents as perhaps the principle set of persons whose backward ways must be guarded against and reformed.” Therefore, the author says, a loss of peace abroad feeds domestic strife and results in a loss of peace at home.

Other Wilsonians, “were anti-anti-Communists,” who wanted America engaged in the Cold War, “but on the other side.” This “New Left thinking” eventually spread throughout America’s foreign policy establishment.

President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed that there was no victory in Vietnam for anybody. The strategy was socio-economic “nation building” and the enemies were poverty, ignorance, and disease. The Communists “learned that US manpower does not matter so long as Americans fight without a serious plan for defeating or destroying the enemy.” That, says Codevilla, remains the US government’s default approach and “generates contempt and violence against America.”

These dynamics are also in play in America’s conflict with Islamic civilization, which “had been the West’s biggest problem from eighth century until 1683” when Poland’s king Jan Sobieski turned back the Muslims at the gates of Vienna. “Now the problem is back,” explains Codevilla, and “our culturally, historically illiterate ruling class missed the fact that a whole civilization mobilized against America.”

The seizure of the U.S. embassy in Iran in 1979 was an act of war but drew the response of a “minor irritation.” The Islamic world “learned that it was now safe to export its warfare to the West in general and America in particular.” Codevilla finds it no coincidence that “former anti-anti-Communists were now anti-anti-Muslim.” And as during the Cold War, the “progressives” blamed America’s troubles on their fellow citizens. President Barack Obama embodies that dynamic like no other, along with historical illiteracy.

The president is on record that “Islam has always been a part of America’s history,” which Codevilla describes as “the reverse of the truth.” And with the president, staying on the good side of Islamic militants appears to be job one. At the UN, Codevilla notes, Obama condemned in equal terms Americans who insult Muslims and Muslims who burn and kill Americans. And he called for imprisonment of the man who made the anti-Muslim video that Muslim leaders saw “as good cause for anti-American violence.”

Codevilla is right about that but could have explored this theme further. The President of the United States and the Secretary of State essentially parroted the propaganda of jihadists. It is as though in 1961 President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of State Dean Rusk had agreed with East German Communist bosses that the Berlin Wall was indeed the “Antifascist Protection Rampart” and offered to help keep Germans imprisoned in a Stalinist state.

The menace abroad, meanwhile, is not terrorism but “extremism” and homeland security is directed against “all citizens equally rather than against plausible enemies.” This fateful error, says Codevilla, “gave civil strife’s deadly spiral its first deadly turn.” And for the ruling class, extremism is embodied in their political opponents, “the conservative side of American life.”

As the author shows, “The FBI infiltrates the Tea Party as it once did the Communist Party – agent of the Soviet Union that it was.” President Obama called “enemies of democracy” the very groups the IRS subjected to punitive audits. Vice President Biden and the Senate majority leader called them “terrorists.” Readers will easily verify that those in charge use every opportunity “to direct blame, distrust, and even mayhem onto those they like the least.” In these conditions Americans “must learn to trust each other less than ever, while trusting the authorities ever more, forever.” Or will it be forever?

“Peace among ourselves and with all nations has to be won and preserved as it ever has been here and elsewhere,” contends the author. Codevilla hopes for new statesmen who will secure the respect of other nations and understand that wars are to be “avoided or won quickly.” Those responsible for terrorism should be held responsible, but “the longer we wait, the more force will be needed.” Since nuclear weapons are easily obtained, Codevilla argues, we need the best missile defense. We won’t get that from the man now running the show.

In 2012, Codevilla notes, “President Barack Obama communicated to Russia confidentially that, after his expected reelection, he would forswear missile defenses more thoroughly than before, previous commitments notwithstanding.” The president came through on that one, but it did not make for peace among ourselves or with all nations.

Terrorists and tyrants are getting the message that the time to act is now. The “domestic state of siege” is unlikely to lighten up along with attacks on those “on the conservative side.”  So it’s probably true that, as Angelo Codevilla says in the early going, “We cannot know whether America can ever live in peace again, what kind of peace we may win for ourselves, or what peace we may end up having to endure.”

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  • http://JudeoChristianAmerica.org Alexander Gofen

    Judging by the article, Angelo Codevilla fully grasped both the scale and depth of the progressive ideology dating from Woodrow Wilson; The progressivism deployed by a “united ruling class intoxicated with its own virtue and ideology”. What an accurate characterization of the “cultural Marxism” and One World Order click!

    Alas, such an in-depth historic perspective fell short before the contemporary events, failing to notice and recognize them as the CULMINATION of those 100 years of progressivism! How can Dr. Codevilla refer in a good faith to a White House resident with uncertain names Obama-Soetoro-Soebarkach-Bounel as though a “president”; As though Dr. Codevilla were completely unaware about everything from the Constitutional ineligibility to plain thievery to implications in murder of Ms. Loretta Fuddy by the said White House resident and the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in advance of his illegal presidency? How can this main conclusion and illustration of the entire line of the book be omitted?! How can the scientific honesty get paralyzed right before the greatest crime in the line of crimes? How can the still existing freedom of speech be neglected and unused in the case when it is needed the most?!

    With all that, we really “cannot know whether America can ever live … again, what kind of peace we may win for ourselves, or what peace we may end up having to endure. See http://JudeoChristianAmerica.org

  • BagLady

    “As the author notes, during the past 100 years in America peace
    prevailed in only two brief periods, from 1919-1941 and 1992-2001.”

    I once wrote a piece on this, though I have now lost my notes and not about to revisit my research.

    However, it began with an argument over aggression and I claimed Canadians were far less aggressive than Americans. This brought forward a very aggressive response from my American ‘friends’ who demanded I back up my outrageous ‘racism’ with some facts.

    It wasn’t difficult, even for an outsider. I began at the ‘beginning’ and there was violence. Immediately. And it continued on and on ad infinitum and eventually spilled into southern neighbour and having cut their foreign policy teeth in South America, have moved even further afield. Onward. Forever onward.

    Over the border things went on a totally different tack. “Never shoot your customer” was the motto. and very sensible it was too. No fighting and killing but lots of trading with the locals. Everyone was happy. The difference seemed to be the desire for ‘ownership’. The American settlers wanted to grab as much land as they possibly could, while they could. In Canada they came only to trade.

    Were the same sort of people settling both countries, or were they different? Did America’s aggression stem from greedy vagabonds from Ireland and Sicilian mafiosi flooding into the country?

    Or is it just my imagination playing tricks?

    [Stephen Harper notwithstanding]

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  • BagLady

    The Communists “learned that US manpower does not matter so long as
    Americans fight without a serious plan for defeating or destroying the
    enemy.”

    Even harder now that the enemy has become a concept. Or do I mean easier? Those big pockets have to be topped up every year and they totally depend on the fear factor, the wars and the ‘enemy’.

    When there isn’t an enemy, create one. Stick your oar in. Take your wooden spoon and stir things up a bit. We need business here and we ain’t goin’ to get it with these guys in charge, blocking our route to the mafia, the big bucks and spreading democratic desires amongst the erstwhile oppressed residents. We need a good heavy handed dictator back here pronto.

    Seems to me they’ve overstretched themselves so far this century (greed will do that to the sanest of men eventually).

    In a bit of a pickle now are we?

    Unleashed the devil that your political ‘scientists’ created. It’s been as stupid as dropping your egg into the mixing bowl of flour from a great height and wondering why the entire kitchen needs cleaning.

    The upside, for a couple of years at any rate, is that the US and Iran are now working together to defeat ISIL in Iraq.

    Could it lead to friendship between Israel and Iran? Ha ha ha. Sorry, but I believe that removing your ultimate ‘existential threat’ would not please the warmongers. ” No No. It is all lies. We must spend more on our weapons. Don’t trust the Ayatollah even if his name is Bill. F*** the welfare of the people”

    It’s a bit like watching Wimbledon doubles matches. It used to be that players were quite deferential to the umpire but now I see they have become quite abusive. Of course in those days they weren’t very very rich and famous so probably not so spoilt.