Old age, as deGaulle famously noted, is a “shipwreck.” But it can have temporary compensations. Time can render heretical ideas respectable. It helps to have been right on occasion. Not least among the compensations is the leisure and inclination to make sense out of one’s past, as de Gaulle himself amply demonstrated. Few can indulge themselves on the General’s heroic scale. Of course, de Gaulle, like Roosevelt and Churchill, or Mao and Hitler, was one of those few who dominate the history of their time. We lesser mortals are left to wonder at the role of chance in life. In my own modest case, fortune has so far been kind.To be born an American a third of the way through the twentieth century was, in itself, a great advantage over most of mankind. I was lucky enough, moreover, to be born into a sane and proud family, to parents who took great care with my early education. I married a loving, amusing, highly intelligent and capable wife, brilliantly educated and with the strength of character worthy of her abilities. I have had the privilege of doing more or less what I have wanted to do—to teach outstanding students and enjoy the company of the best of my contemporaries. I have greatly exercised an American’s freedom to think, research and write freely. I have sometimes been a severe critic of my country and its government. But I realize what good fortune it has been to grow up an American in the past century.
I have sometimes been a severe critic of my country. But I realize what good fortune it has been to grow up an American in the past century.
I was born on July 19, 1934 in Binghamton, New York and grew up in the neighboring village of Endicott – an amalgam of the pre-revolutionary town of Union and a big industrial village that sprang up in the early 20th century around the Endicott Johnson Corporation, a large shoe factory run on Owenite principles. International Business Machines followed in the 1930s, and was greatly enlarged during World War II. Through the 1950s the village was prosperous and retained much of its surrounding rural beauty
My father, Patrick, was the third generation of his immediate family to come to America – from the Italian town of Campochiaro in the province of Molise. My great grandfather had come as a tourist – supposedly for the shooting. His son and my grandfather, who had started out to be a medical doctor, arrived in America as a young banker seeking his fortune. Instead he contracted consumption and returned home to die, when my father was only five. A restless and intrepid youth, my father left for America at the age of 14. Fortune smiled upon him. He worked for a wealthy doctor’s family that encouraged him to pursue his education and indeed is said to have offered to send him to medical school. World War I intervened and my father came close to dying in the great postwar flu epidemic. He migrated to Endicott where his first cousin, Joseph Calleo, had prospered as an inventor and manager in the shoe factories. My father joined the volunteer firemen for companionship and adventure, studied to become a professional fireman and soon became a fire captain. Though small in stature he was known for his impressive physical agility and courage. The years saw numerous heroic rescues of men, women, children and pets. He was deeply respected by his men and indeed by the whole community, not only for his courage but for his integrity and ebullient sense of humor. He was also admired as a shrewd investor. Over the years, he pored over the stock market, sent his two sons through Yale and left them and his wife a considerable fortune.
Patrick’s regular forays to the local library led him to marry the librarian, Gertrude Crowe, who came from a Irish Catholic family of large farmers well-established in central New York State. I am named after my paternal grandfather – David Crowe – known, among other things, for his concern for the welfare of the local Indians and for his fearless contempt for the Ku Klux Klan – a viciously active local force in the early 20th century. Gertrude was one of nine children. After graduating from Syracuse University she took a job as a librarian in the immigrant part of Endicott – next door to the fire station where Patrick was in charge. She took a highly activist view of the role of libraries and librarians in communities with diverse immigrant populations and boasted that her library had books in 27 languages. On occasion, she was known to have intervened personally to rescue youngsters from abuse. She taught the young to enjoy reading and pressed the brightest to pursue higher education. A new generation of local professionals from immigrant families emerged, some owing much to her encouragement. Her work began to gain national recognition (she is listed in Who’s Who in American Education, 1934), but at about that time she resigned and set about raising her own children.
The marriage of Patrick and Gertrude was a local sensation – not at all popular among Gertrude’s siblings, but strongly supported by her parents.
I spent the first 16 years of my life in Endicott, in a world shaped by the values of my strong-minded parents. These early years naturally had a strong influence on my subsequent view of the world. The personal popularity of my parents gave me a sympathetic entrée to the town’s richly diverse communities and a social ease for moving in different worlds, but also a certain sense of detachment. Our family formed a world of its own and my upbringing encouraged me to develop high standards for myself. My childhood home was small but eminently comfortable, in an old and prosperous part of town, with a large garden in a park-like setting along a verdant stretch of the Susquehanna River. The house overflowed with pictures, books, and newspapers. At the right moments it smelled of good food – both parents were excellent cooks. Meals were a sacrament. Family discussions were the rule. Conversation was often about the war and the world in general, and maps hung over the breakfast table. The young were expected to hold their own.
The Calleo house was popular as I was growing up. My brother Patrick (Rickey – five years younger) and I always had numerous friends on hand. Not the least attraction for them was conversation with our parents.
Dogs were also a regular part of the family – numerous hounds of strong character, including a noble dachshund and everyone’s favorite, “Bing,” a splendidly elegant and exuberant collie. The house was also regularly overflowing with music. The ancestral Crowe farm, a continual source of diversion and adventure, had a great black wind-up Victrola, stuffed with accumulated, ancient 78rpm records of Carusso, Galli Curci, McCormack, Gigli, Melba. The Endicott house had a succession of electric phonographs. My first opera was The Mikado, succeeded by Tchaikovski ballets and his ever popular piano Concerto, succeeded by Grieg and Rachmaninoff, and on to Beethoven and Brahms. I learned to play the piano passably well and the string-bass well enough to play in the local County’s amateur symphony – where I passionately enjoyed the experience of being enveloped in the orchestra’s many voices.
The real musician of the family, however, was my younger brother Rickey, who eventually studied at La Scala and at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia after Andover and Yale, and went on to have a distinguished international singing career, including several years as a lead tenor at the New York City Opera. Today, his daughter Elizabeth, based in Paris, sings in Europe and the US and specializes in baroque opera. His son Curtiss lives in New York and is a cartoonist and designer.
My early life was also shaped by the schools I attended. Grade school was St. Ambrose Academy – a local parochial school, taught by the Sisters of Charity, where my imagination was stoked with a Christian worldview from the Middle Ages – a Thomist way of thinking and a certain medieval aesthetic. I absorbed all this without being particularly religious, the result, no doubt, of my father’s Italian influence (“Calleos have always been Catholics, of course, but no male in our family has ever believed in the divinity of Christ.”) I nevertheless loved serving in the rituals of the Latin Mass, developed a deep affinity for Gregorian chant and a low tolerance for Protestant hymn singing. A childhood trip to Washington, and visit to the Italian Renaissance rooms in the National Gallery, greatly expanded my imagination. From St. Ambrose I went on to a big public high school, Union-Endicott, in many ways a liberating experience. In part thanks to family friends, I was fortunate enough to establish close relationships with a group of excellent teachers, particularly in Latin, English, history, and biology. When it came time for college, I was accepted at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Yale, with generous scholarships for the latter two. I turned 17 in July, 1951, and set off for New Haven the following September.
Yale was a brave new world for me – indeed the world as I more or less wished it to be – learned, spirited, elegant and beautiful. But it was also highly competitive. For the first time in my life I was confronted with fellow students at least as bright as I, and apparently more accomplished. In Sophomore year, I began to reach out for recognition among my classmates. I became president of the Yale Political Union and put out a couple of issues of a new magazine called Gargoyle. In due course I joined the Elizabethan Club and a senior society. But the most satisfying accomplishments of my undergraduate years came from the close relationships formed with many of my teachers.
By a stroke of good fortune I found myself in Joseph T. Curtiss’s English 25 for advanced freshmen. Joe Curtiss was a brilliant literary analyst who introduced his students not only to the rich language of the great English poets, but to the distinctive worldviews that lay behind the language. The course involved extensive reading from a half dozen of the greatest poets – from Chaucer to T.S. Eliot. Students were assigned regular one-page papers. The first paper in our class was to deconstruct the “Prioress’s Tale” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. To my surprise, Curtiss was so impressed with my paper that he read it to the class as a shining example of what was wanted. My medieval education had served me in good stead. I went on with Curtiss’s advanced course on the poetry and worldviews of the English seventeenth century. I grew more and more fascinated by his use of ideas and “worldviews” to explain literature. He continued to be impressed with my capacity for intuiting and analyzing the outlook of other cultures and times, and encouraged me to apply it to political theory and history – my other developing interests at the time. We became fast friends. I often spent weekends at his house in the country, and was urged to bring my friends and to use it as my own. Relations grew more and more familial as visits were exchanged with my parents, and I became friends with Curtiss’s large New England family. When Rickey came to Yale in 1961, he soon joined in this warm relationship. Both of us adopted and were adopted by “Uncle Joe,” a relationship that lasted until Joe’s death.
Curtiss encouraged both of us to follow our taste for non-remunerative professions – scholarship and the opera and left both of us substantial legacies to ease the way. I was also fortunate to fall under the influence of several other of Yale’s finest teachers, including among them Lewis Curtis of the history department and Imbrie Buffum from the French Department. Most notable for my professional career was Frederick Watkins of the Political Science Department, who was highly sympathetic to my early attempts at blending politics with history of ideas generally. Rickey and I grew particularly close to Beekman Cannon and his wife Margaret. At Yale, he was a professor of the history of music and later Master of Jonathan Edwards College. Their elegant, spirited and kind hospitality in New Haven and at their house in upstate Cherry Valley enriched both our lives. Our families remain close to the present day.
Among my undergraduate friendships at Yale, four stand out in retrospect: Cornell Franklin, my sophomore roommate, introduced me to the Old South. Another classmate and close friend, Edgar Munhall, was a brilliant and wonderfully droll companion, later curator at the Frick. The most enduring friendship has been with Henry Cooper, scion of the Fenimore Cooper tribe in New York and one of the brightest and most amusing undergraduates of my day. We greatly enjoyed each other’s company and traveled together in Europe with various mutual friends over several summers. I often visited his family in Cooperstown and was a frequent guest at his parents’ Park Avenue apartment. I have maintained close ties with this hospitable and hugely talented family, as has Rickey, who now lives near Cooperstown. Henry and I had a great friend together – Warren Zimmermann – a passionate student of history who was to go on to a distinguished career as a diplomat, author, and teacher, until illness claimed him well before his time. Shortly after his graduation in 1956, Warren married Teeny Chubb, a warm friend to me and my wife to this day. They and their talented children have brought great pleasure into our lives.
While thoroughly enjoying Yale’s rich extra-curricular world, by junior year my primary interest lay wih Yale’s highly demanding interdepartmental honors major in the humanities, History, the Arts and Letters (HAL). This required two years of intensive seminar work in various disciplines and in the history of ideas generally, a battery of comprehensive examinations at the end of both junior and senior years, and a substantial senior essay. HAL brought together an extraordinarily strong group of faculty and a talented and diverse group of 18 or so undergraduates. The faculty included my friends and mentors Lewis Curtis, Joe Curtiss, Beekman Cannon and Fredrick Watkins, together with Charles Seymour Jr., Sumner Crosby and George Hamilton from art history, and Jacques Guicharnaud from the French Department.
I graduated with high honors in 1955 and, encouraged by Watkins, entered the Yale Graduate School in political science the following year. The Yale political science department was famed across the country for its faculty – a major part of which was thought to be at the cutting edge of the behavioralist discipline of the day. Along with an excellent but traditional study of political theory with Frederick Watkins, Charles Blitzer, and Willmore Kendall, a course on international relations with Arnold Wolfers, and a course on 19th century French history from Leonard Krieger, I plunged into a series of seminars on American politics and government with Harold Lasswell and, above all, with Robert Dahl, who was perhaps the brightest of Yale’s several stars in his field. I intuitively resisted Dahl’s whole approach and learned a great deal by being forced to explain why – both to myself and to him – and in the very precise but distorting language common to his group.
What might have been disastrous turned out well enough. My strategy was to demonstrate a thorough understanding of their ideas, even if I disagreed with them. Here, my training in HAL – to search for the underlying assumptions of an alien worldview – served me well. For the most part, my graduate teachers proved to be a model of liberal tolerance. Dahl in particular welcomed a dissenting voice in his seminars. Experiencing that tolerance from someone as gifted and famous was, in itself, a great professional lesson. After two years I had finished my coursework and passed my comprehensive examinations. I went off to as an ROTC lieutenant for six months. I returned to graduate school for the spring semester of 1958, and completed my Ph.D. dissertation (with Frederick Watkins) and remaining requirements during the spring of 1959. I was 25 years old.
Graduate study brought a serious reorganization of my working habits. By closeting myself in the stacks of the library from eight until 12 during the week, I kept me on top of my classes and also remain free for the pleasures of Yale life, supplemented with occasional trips to New York for a rich diet of dinners, dances, music and the opera. The pleasantest time were the months spent on my Ph.D. dissertation, “Nationalist Theories of the State and Coexistence: Herder, Coleridge and Bosanquet,” in which I analyzed the distinctive view of the state developed by each of these three Idealist philosophers, and then turned to discuss how their theories dealt with the moral relationship of one nation state to another. The experience confirmed my enthusiasm for writing. The three philosophers turned out to be great teachers and my dissertation has been a continuing inspiration for analyzing the enduring issues of international politics.
These years brought new friendships. Among my fellow graduate students I particularly remember Fred Greenstein and Ted Lowi. I was also invited to join in the weekly luncheon of a little group very senior faculty, whose animating spirit was the historian Wallace Notestein – a famous historian who was one of the truly great Yale figures. In the Political Science Department itself, Robert Lane, another notable behavioralist, ran a hospitable evening seminar on dissertation topics and methodology. We all enjoyed ourselves and profited greatly.
THE YOUNG PROFESSOR
My first teaching job was at Brown in 1959/60, in the excellent freshman program in classical political science and international relations theory. I returned to teach at Yale in the fall of 1960, dividing my time between political science – where I served as director of undergraduate studies – and History, the Arts and Letters, where I directed the senior year of the program. In both jobs I served as senior essay adviser to several excellent students who were not much younger than I. I soon realized how much I enjoyed working closely with very bright students and how satisfying it was to help them bring out the best of their talents. This, of course, is what others – notably Curtiss and Watkins – had done for me a few years earlier. My interest in the curriculum led Yale College’s Dean, Bill DeVane, to name me to the College’s Curriculum Committee. We enjoyed working together and I was soon offered the job of Associate Dean of the Graduate School, vacant because the incumbent had just been appointed University Provost. Meanwhile, I had become a Resident Fellow of Jonathan Edwards College, and deeply involved in College life. Beekman Cannon, now the Master, asked me to take up the newly created position of Dean of Jonathan Edwards College. Curtiss was so incensed that I might take the job that he took it himself – a step that greatly augmented its prestige. At one point I was being pressed to make myself a Latin American expert and inaugurate a new interdisciplinary area studies program in that region. My oldest faculty mentor, the eminent historian Wallace Notestein, weighed in firmly against the idea. His solemn advice to me: “If they ever put you on a committee again, do so badly that they will never put you on another!”
All through these years I was busy writing my first book: Coleridge and the Idea of the Modern State, which sprang from the Coleridge section of my dissertation and involved several summers of additional research in Coleridge’s unpublished notebooks – mostly in the Manuscript Room of the British Museum. After two or three summers I had many London friends and felt very much at home there. These summers in London continued what would become a lifelong habit of summers in Europe. This began in 1956 when I went with Henry Cooper and various other friends went on a classic undergraduate tour of European sites and museums. During the Coleridge years in the British Museum, August continued to be reserved for trips to the Mediterranean – along with Cooper, Douglas Crowley, an HAL student and friend, and occasionally Douglas’s sister Betty or my brother Rickey. The book on Coleridge was finished by the summer of 1964, although the manuscript was nearly lost to a mischievous breeze in the Greek Islands. Yale University Press published it in 1966. It was well received, indeed was warmly praised as a major work by a very senior critic. Its last chapter spelled out links between the competing visions and controversies of Coleridge’s time and the clashes arising in the 1960s between Gaullist and federalist ideas of the state.
In the fall of 1964 I took a year’s leave to write a second book: Europe’s Future: The Grand Alternatives, this time explicitly contrasting European visions of European integration and the differing world views behind them. The book, written mostly in Paris, was greatly assisted by various French politicians and scholars – notably Geoffroy Chodron de Courcel – de Gaulle’s wartime aide and French ambassador to London, Jacques de Beaumarchais – an aide to de Gaulle in the 1960s and later himself French ambassador to London, Pierre Mendès France – the former Prime Minister, whom I had met at Yale, and General André Beaufre, who introduced me to the complexities of nuclear strategy. My exploration of various types of federalism was much assisted by talks with the political philosophers Henri Brugmans and Altiero Spinelli, also with Jean Monnet himself and his longtime colleagues Georges Berthoin, François Duchène and Richard Mayne. My research on official Common Market views and practices was greatly enriched by numerous discussions with Eckehard Lorrke – a young German aide to EEC President, Walter Hallstein. Loerke and I became good friends and continued our arguments over several decades until his untimely death. The book, assisted by my former HAL student Douglas Crowley, was written in less than a year and published quickly by another Yale friend, Coby Britton, who had just bought the Horizon Press. Europe’s Future actually appeared a year before the Coleridge book and was a success amongst foreign policy books at the time. The good reception of my first two books was, of course, very gratifying, given that I was unknown beyond Yale and not previously regarded either as a Coleridge scholar or as a writer on international affairs.
I returned to Yale for the fall semester of 1965 but grew restive as I resumed the old routines. Consequently the following year, armed with a Guggenheim and a Research Fellowship at Nuffield College, Oxford, I set off for a year in England. My goal was to write Britain’s Future as a companion piece to Europe’s Future. The result, backed by the voluminous research of my research assistant, Frances Cairncross, was notable among my early works for its heavy emphasis on economics, the result of numerous interviews with politicians and civil servants as well as intensive discussions at Nuffield. It was a year not only of intellectual growth but also of warm friendships, many of which have lasted over several decades: Francis and Maureen Nichols, Simon and Caroline Bowes Lyon, Virginia Makins, Caroline Jarvis, Susan Strange, John Nash, Robert and Gus Skidelsky. The lifelong conversation between myself and Skidelsky has been an important element in my intellectual development and perhaps occasionally in his. Our friendship has been a great pleasure for us and our families.
While finishing Britain’s Future, I was offered a job as consultant to the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs – an old Yale friend, Eugene Rostow, former Dean of the Law School. As a scholar, I jumped at the chance to observe decision-making at a high level from inside the government. Rostow’s office was near the center of America’s policy-making for Europe, as well as for the planning of the international monetary arrangements that would succeed the tottering Bretton Woods system. I involved myself in the meetings and papers and rapidly formed a wide range of friendships and acquaintances in the official and unofficial American foreign policy community – in New York as well as in Washington. I argued vociferously that Gaullist assertiveness should be turned to American advantage, given our already manifest signs of geopolitical and financial overstretch. My Gaullist sympathies infuriated most of the various NATO and EEC cliques in the State Department but met with considerable interest elsewhere in the Johnson administration, particularly in the Pentagon where I was a frequent visitor. I entered the government a neutral skeptic on Vietnam, but left a year later convinced the intervention was a failure. Rostow was a loyal supporter of the President’s policies but appreciated having people around him with strong ideas of their own. Above all, Rostow was deeply sympathetic to Europe.
My government experience resulted in two new books published soon after I left Rostow’s office. The American Political System (1969) was a series of essays on the elements of the American polity considered in light of the theories of American government I had studied at Yale and observed first-hand from within the State Department. It was interesting to contrast American ideas and practices with the European systems I had been studying in recent years. The book was appreciated for its cosmopolitan view and translated into several languages. The second post-Rostow book, The Atlantic Fantasy (1970), criticized what I saw as the blind devotion to NATO and passion for overblown Atlanticist dogma entrenched among American elites. The book was widely read and established my reputation as a serious critic of hegemonic American foreign policy. It was said to have been well received in the Kissinger’s National Security Council, attracted to Gaullist ideas and anticipating a more plural world of several great powers.
Going to Washington had meant leaving Yale. Had the Democrats remained in power, I might have spent a second year in the government, probably on the Pentagon’s planning staff. I had greatly enjoyed the job with Rostow, but had little inclination to abandon teaching and writing to enter into government permanently. Fordham had offered me a job at its new Lincoln Center campus, in order to set up an interdisciplinary program in collaboration with Margaret Mead. At the last minute, an offer came from Johns Hopkins’ Washington-based School of Advanced International Studes (SAIS). I accepted a professorship and agreed to establish a European Studies MA and Ph.D. program linking SAIS’s Washington and Bologna campuses. This was an ideal job for my own developing interests in contemporary history and foreign policy. After a thoughtful debate, SAIS students embraced the new program enthusiastically. It was, in effect, a variation of Yale’s History, the Arts and Letters major – built around a series of three comprehensive examinations, each based on a carefully drawn-up syllabus – one in modern European history, one in the political economies of the major European states and joined in the European Economic Community, and one in contemporary European foreign policies. The program incorporated SAIS’s traditional strong requirement in international economics, but added a strong dose of history and political economy. Candidates in the program spent their first year in Bologna and their second in Washington. The Bologna Center accordingly built up its history and political economy courses by acquiring a series of outstanding teachers – initially Robert Skidelsky, Adrian Lyttelton and Patrick McCarthy, later John Harper, Erik Jones and Thomas Row. Europe and the rest of the world have greatly evolved since the late 1960s, and the program and its courses have been constantly updated. But the basic framework of geopolitical history, confederal political economy, and contemporary foreign policy has remained the same.
While settling into SAIS in 1969, I bought what was to become my long-term residence on Capitol Hill, a house well adapted to the small dinners that were often offered to friends, colleagues and students. In 1970 I also purchased a summer house on the Italian island of Elba – a transformed farmhouse nestled into what became a large formal garden constructed over successive summers. Elba provided me a fixed European summer refuge for finishing books, seeing family and friends, and keeping in touch with students and the young in general. As it happens, all but one of my books have been finished on Mediterranean islands. The exception, The American Political System, was finished on St. Croix. I have argued, semi-seriously, that the Mediterranean landscape greatly encourages clear writing about complicated subjects. In any event, the Casa Fangati has greatly enriched my own life, as well as, I hope, that of my family and friends. For scores of students Elba has meant a hardy, healthy and generally entertaining way to pass the summer, featuring lively debate with me and my guests, exacting work on manuscripts – mine or their own, and often hard work sustaining the household and garden.
The first of my books to be written on Elba, America and the World Political Economy (1973), won the American Political Science Association’s Gladys M. Kammerer Award for the best book that year on American foreign policy. The book clearly outlined the geopolitical roots of American postwar foreign policy as well as the monetary and trade issues that were coming to dominate much of foreign policy, although they were still not well understood by many foreign policy analysts. The book’s co-author, Benjamin Rowland, was my first research assistant at SAIS. He was a Yale graduate who had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America. The book was also much assisted by Götz Schreiber – a second SAIS research assistant, a German and also a Yalie. Ben and Götz alike grew very healthy from their Elban years and developed a lifelong interest in gardens and houses. I shepherded them through their Ph.D.s and both went on to distinguished careers – Schreiber in the World Bank and Rowland on Wall Street, the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank. Both have continued writing extensively on international affairs. Other Ph.D students in Elba during those early years included Judy Kooker, Janet Kelly, John Berger, John Harper, Erik Jones, Tom Row and Dana Allin. Numerous others have followed, and are recognized in the acknowledgements of the books that they helped to produce. Elba has enjoyed numerous visits from colleagues over the years and I have greatly profited from the consequent discussions among the regular guests over the years, including Michael Steurmer, Adrian Lyttelton and Robert Skidelsky. Familiar names and faces from the past occasionally appear in the Elban gardens. Among these are Edward and William Skidelsky, my goddaughter Rosie Bowes Lyon and her brother Andrew, Emma Cherniavsky, Nocholas, Alex and Georgia Crowley, Stuart Reigeluth and Christoph Allin.
THE LEHRMAN INSTITUTE
Throughout the 1970s I was much involved with the Lehrman Institute in New York. Its founder was Lewis Lehrman, a bright Yale graduate who had early on become a highly successful young businessman, who wanted to reenter the world of ideas and eventually launch a political career. Lewis was particularly interested in monetary issues and was a great admirer of the French economist, Jacques Rueff. The Institute was based in an elegant townhouse on 71st Street, between Park and Madison. To fashion a program Lehrman called upon his old Yale friend and teacher, Nicholas Rizopoulos. Rizopoulos suggested getting me involved. In the structure that followed Lehrman was the president, I was the vice-president and Rizopoulos was the Executive Director. Rizpoulos ran things day-to-day and supervised the meetings, a task he performed with great success. My job was to take charge of setting the Institute’s program and choosing the fellows. I set up a Committee on Fellows and Programs (COFAP), which I chaired and for which I recruited an assemblage of talented friends – Harold van Buren Cleveland from Citibank, James Chace from Foreign Affairs, Richard Ullman from Princeton and The New York Times, Robert Heilbroner from The New School, Fritz Stern from Columbia, along with Lehrman’s brother-in-law, Stanley Stillman, Lehrman himself and Rizopoulos – later also Ronald Steel. My original formula called for a small number of Fellows every year, each embarked on a book of his own, and given a considerable stipend to produce draft chapters that would be presented to a seminar of a dozen or so fellow experts and practitioners. Sessions were held at the townhouse on 71st Street. Normally, a late afternoon meeting of two hours would be followed by an excellent dinner and then increasingly free discussion of an hour or two afterwords. The formula worked well, above all because Rizopoulos insisted that participants be well prepared. The Fellows produced some of the leading books of the decade. The list included Robert Skidelsky’s John Maynard Keynes, 1883-1946, Ronald Steel’s Walter Lippman and the American Century, Robert Gilpin’s US Power and the Multinational Corporation, Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Daniel Yergin’s Shattered Peace: The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State.
I myself produced two books for which I used the Institute as a sounding board: The German Problem Reconsidered (1978) and The Imperious Economy (1982). The German Problem Reconsidered sprang initially from an extensive series of interviews with political and academic figures during several months I spent in Germany while holding Fulbright grants for teaching in Munich and Bonn. In Bonn I stayed with my brother, a lead tenor at the Bonn Opera in those days, and, by then, a keen observer of German life. The book’s basic thesis was that the German reputation for wickedness, even if richly deserved, was an overused and flagrantly inadequate explanation for the two World wars of the twentieth century. It dismissed far too easily the responsibility of the other great powers. And it was being used to justify a permanent suppression of Germany and a partition of Europe by the superpowers that was a dangerously precarious model for the future. The book provided a fresh look at several well-established diplomatic, economic and sociological interpretations of Germany’s Imperial history, the Nazi era, anti-Semitism and postwar policies toward reunification. Despite the neuralgic character of the topics, the book was extensively reviewed and widely appreciated in both the U.S. and Germany.
My second major book to benefit from the Lehrman process was The Imperious Economy (1982), where I returned to analyzing the growing problems of the American political economy. The Lehrman meetings in New York brought in distinguished participants from business, government and academia. The book traced what it saw as a gathering crisis of American financial overextension, beginning with the Kennedy era. It analyzed the Bretton Woods crisis starting in the Johnson era, the “Nixon Solution” of periodic devaluations and the accumulating problems that characterized American policy through the Carter and into the Reagan administrations. Again, the book was prominently and favorably reviewed.
Meanwhile, my life was hugely enriched by my marriage in 1977 to Avis Bohlen – a stylish and cosmopolitan Foreign Service officer of high intelligence and a talent for diplomacy. While the two of us did sometimes disagree about foreign policy, we agreed about almost everything else. Both of us love good food and have a taste for elegant surroundings. Both of us tend to like the same people and had acquired many of the same friends. Also, both of us are passionately devoted to music – opera and ballet in particular. Our families got on well. Avis was a great favorite of my parents. She and Rickey became close friends, as did both of us with Avis’s sister Celestine, a journalist for the Washington Post and New York Times, and her brother Charlie, a lawyer and investment counselor in California. The respective siblings, with accompanying nieces and nephews, have gathered regularly in the various family places – Elba, Washington, Paris, Moscow, Glendale and Cooperstown. Avis’s father had died in the years before our marriage but I had known and greatly admired him thanks to my year in the State Department. I had also met Avis’s mother and like everyone else, I adored her and hugely enjoyed her company, particularly in Elba. I also enjoyed her close friends from among the strong-minded women who were such a presence in the world where Washington society and politics mingled. I grew particularly fond of Alice Acheson, Jane Joyce and Lily Guest. In the Washington diplomatic world, I gradually enjoyed the friendship of Benoit d’Aboville, Jacques Andréani, François Bujon de l’Estang, Alexander Philon, Antonio Puri Purini and Ferdinando Salleo.
After our marriage, Avis and I went on with our previous careers. For the most part they meshed well together. Avis was posted twice to Paris – in the 1980s in the political section, and again in the 1990s when she was deputy chief of mission. I managed to spend one or two years in Paris on each occasion, sometimes teaching at Sciences Po and participating at its think tank CERI. I renewed my own extensive Paris contacts and updated my views on the European scene generally.
In 1987 I published Beyond American Hegemony: The Future of the Western Alliance, the first of two books written with the support of The 20th Century Fund. The book proved to be the classic “declinist” tract. It noted the growing instabilities of the bipolar order in a world system growing more plural in its distribution of power and wealth. My early sensitivity to the implications of China’s rise owed much to the insights of my friend Lanxin Xiang, a remarkable SAIS Ph.D. student from China, today professor of history at the University Institute of Geneva who also holds a chair at Fudan – his old university in Shanghai. Several trips and conferences contributed greatly to the education of his old professor. Beyond American Hegemony speculated on the similarities of a weakening Pax Americana following in the footsteps of the defunct Pax Britannica. It linked America’s economic decline and financial instability to its geopolitical overextension. The book was generously reviewed by Paul Kennedy, whose own immensely popular book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, published a year later, gave the whole declinist argument a broad historical perspective. The declinist boom came to a premature end, however, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. A fresh era of American triumphalism followed, best characterized by Fukuyama’s famous article, “The End of History.”
I tried to reaffirm the declinist warning in The Bankrupting of America: How the Federal Budget is Impoverishing the Nation (1992). The book explored the linkages between America’s dysfunctional geopolitical overextension and its fiscal policy, together with its increasingly severe external deficit. While I found much to admire in the G.H.W. Bush administration, I was essentially in accord with Perot’s criticism of the economic policies that continued from the past. Meanwhile, ending the Cold War had removed the principal inducement for the rest of the world to go on financing America’s deficits. The demise of the Soviets had emboldened Europeans finally to go ahead with the euro, a project designed to curb the dollar’s privileged position by creating a parallel reserve currency. From my perspective, the appropriate response was to reduce America’s geopolitical commitments. The Soviet collapse did allow the U.S. to cut the defense budget, which made it possible to end the fiscal deficit. But the new-found public austerity was soon matched by private extravagance on an unprecedented scale, as expansive monetary policies pumped up consumption and fed the already huge balance of payments deficit, and this left the dollar more and more dependent on foreign support. Meanwhile, the administration seemed more and more seduced by a unipolar world view that led to increased long-term commitments. NATO was rapidly enlarged in flagrant disregard of Russian interests in the shattered Soviet sphere. Clinton’s US also grew increasingly involved in the aerial bombardment of Iraq. Such policies pointed toward a greatly broadened and diversified sphere of geopolitical engagements and, with them, an eventual return to big defense budgets and fiscal deficits. There predictions of ever-growing deficits – at home and abroad – were unwelcome both to the Clinton administration and its opponents. Unfortunately, they proved all too accurate.
BACK TO EUROPE’S FUTURE
During the 1990s, I once again spent a great deal of time in Paris. Avis’s posting as DCM lasted until 1995, most of the time under Ambassador Pamela Harriman – an old Washington friend of the Bohlens, whom Avis had known most of her life. The two admired each other and made a highly effective pair. I got on well with Pamela and greatly enjoyed her company. She was not only supremely elegant and amusing but a treasure house of historic memories. She was also highly intelligent and well informed about contemporary foreign and domestic politics in general. Above all, I admired her instinct for national sensibilities and historic trends. Pamela was close to President Clinton and the Residence was full of the best and brightest passing through from Washington. Needless to say I was well pleased to join this running conversation, although often not in sympathy with the administration’s view of the world.
I emerged from these Paris years with a new book for the 20th Century Fund, Rethinking Europe’s Future (2001, 2003). This returned to the issues and models of Europe’s Future, and spelled out at length the hybrid character of the institutions that had actually developed. Europe’s emerging formulas for confederal cooperation seemed to me hopeful models for the plural world that seemed to be developing. That confederal model depended on unspoken rules and enlightened habits among closely interdependent nation states. The Soviet collapse had forced a radical expansion of the Union’s membership, sometimes to countries with unpromising traditions. To compensate, confederal Europe would require a more decisive central power. The Single Market and the euro seemed major advances. As disintegrating Yugoslavia had demonstrated, Europe needed a corresponding evolution of its diplomatic and military structures. Meanwhile, I found the American model, with its emphasis on centralized federal hegemony, increasingly dysfunctional at home as well as around the world. IIn effect, the U.S. needed to become more like Europe, and Europe more like America. A more federal Europe was needed to rebalance a less federal America.
My most recent book, Follies of Power (2009), saw the catastrophes of the George W. Bush administration as natural outcomes of the unipolar worldview that continued to dominate the world view of America’s political elites. The book contested the historical, military and economic foundations of the unipolar view, but noted how deeply implanted it remained among Democrats as well as Republicans. It predicted it would prove difficult for the new Obama administration to change course. At the same time, America’s worsening fiscal overstretch was combining with the accumulated abuses of the dollar’s world reserve position to threaten a calamitous collapse of global finance and American prosperity. I try to spell out the mechanics in “Twenty-First Century Geopolitics and the Erosion of the Dollar Order,” a chapter in Helleiner and Kirschner’s The Future of the Dollar (2009). Like in Follies of Power, the chapter ends with speculation on the geopolitical alternatives implied in solutions to the present monetary crisis. I can imagine a new book suggesting how to head off American decline and global catastrophe. The chapter ends with the challenge “to make a plural world also collegial,” or, as Follies puts it: to make the twenty-first century “reflect Europe’s new model for peace rather than its old model for war.”
BACK TO WASHINGTON
Since Avis left Paris, our lives have continued on predictable paths. Avis served as U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria from 1996-1999, then returned home to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control. She resigned after a few years of the Bush Administration. She now travels a great deal, serves on several boards and is deeply at work on a study of her father’s diplomatic career. We spent the winter of 2005 in Berlin, where I was the George Herbert Walker Bush Fellow at the American Academy of Berlin. Numerous articles and lectures were the result and we both much enjoyed catching up with German friends, getting to know Berlin and traveling in Eastern Germany. I spent early December of 2008 speaking in Paris on the message of Follies of Power. In December 2010 our life in Washington was rudely upset by a fire that expelled us from our Capitol Hill home for a year. Thanks to Avis’ constant attention, the house was restored by the spring of 2011. Since then our Washington life has renewed its comfortable pace. The Elban summers continue. Everyone, of course, grows older.
In 2012 I stepped down as Director of European Studies – to be replaced by my old student and friend Erik Jones. I continue as a University Professor at Johns Hopkins and Dean Acheson Professor at SAIS, and go on writing and teaching and advising Ph.D. students – which continues to give me great pleasure and possibly keeps me younger than my years. I find the new world unfolding a challenge, which has inspired me to write numerous recent articles and a new book, half written in my imagination. 2012 saw two occasions that gave me great pleasure. In the spring, 50 or so old friends at Yale held a splendid dinner in my honor, together with a book of charming essays produced for the occasion. The fall of that same year saw in Bologna a large gathering of old SAIS students and colleagues for a conference in my honor, with several fine meals and rather brilliant discussions – culminating, several months later, in an elegant volume of essays on my favorite topics over the year.My continuing enthusiasm for teaching and writing stems in part from a deep faith in America’s better side – a faith no doubt inherited from my parents and reinforced by my own happy experience as an American. At the same time a lifetime of study has given me a deep love for Europe. In both cases, love mixes with exasperation. I find it difficult to accept passively that the West’s two great political experiments will somehow end badly.