BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Michael Mandelbaum, author of "The Ideas That Conquered the World," why did you write this book? And who did you write it for?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM, AUTHOR, "THE IDEAS THAT CONQUERED THE WORLD": The purpose of this book is to provide a framework for understanding all the international issues of the 21st century, from globalization to terrorism, from Chinese succession politics to Latin American economic crises. It's a framework, a context. We had such a thing during the cold war, and it was the cold war itself. Almost everything that happened in the second half of the 20th century either emanated from or could be related to the great conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.
And then the cold war ended, and there was a conceptual vacuum. And what I wanted to do in this book is provide a substitute for the cold war, as a framework, as a frame of reference. And that frame of reference is, as I say in the book, the dominance of three great ideas: peace, democracy and free markets.
Now, when I say "dominance," I don't mean that these ideas are universal. Clearly, they're not. The world is not fully democratic, and it's certainly not entirely peaceful. What I mean by the dominance of these three great ideas as the context for everything that's happening in the 21st century is that for the first time since the second half of the 18th century, when they were first invented, they have no serious rivals as models for social and political organization.
In the 20th century, they were challenged by communism and fascism, but with the defeat of those two great ideologies, these three great ideas stand unchallenged as models.
I illustrate their status by a story I tell in the book about a French architect who was asked where in Paris he would most like to live. He replied the Eiffel Tower on the grounds that that was the only place in the city where he wouldn't have to look at it.
Well, peace, democracy and free markets are the Eiffel Tower of the 21st century. You may not like them -- and obviously, there are people who violently dislike them -- but you have to come to terms with them. There are no alternatives. There are no other models. And that is an important and powerful fact of our times.
LAMB: What have you done in your life that got you to this point where you could write a book like this?
MANDELBAUM: Well, this book took me -- when I'm asked how long did it take to write this book, I say the truest answer is my entire life up to the point at which I finished it because this book is the product of what is now quite a long period of reading, writing, reflection and rumination. My academic career really had two periods before this. I started off writing about nuclear weapons, and I wrote three books about nuclear weapons issues, "The Nuclear Question: The United States and Nuclear Weapons, 1946-'76," published by Cambridge University Press; "The Nuclear Revolution," published also by Cambridge University Press; and then "The Nuclear Future," published by Cornell Press.
And one day I was speaking with a friend and colleague named Severin Bialor (ph), an eminent Sovietologist. And he said, "Michael, you think the great problem in the world is the bomb. The great problem is not the bomb, it's the Russians. You ought to study the Russians." And so I did. And I made a transition to a period in which I paid great attention to Russia and the communist world.
I got a position where I was responsible for running programs to investigate Russia and the communist world. I started writing about it. I took up the study of the Russian language. And I had a ringside seat for the collapse of communism. So when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, I followed his doings very closely. And when the cold war ended, I was cast adrift. I was left somewhat at sea conceptually.
And I began thinking, at that point, what is going to replace the world that I've known? What will replace the world of the cold war? What will be the most powerful defining forces of the period after the cold war? And after 10 years of thinking and writing and reflecting and discussing precisely that question, the conclusions to which I came are contained in this book.
LAMB: Where -- where are you from? Where's the -- where'd it all start?
MANDELBAUM: I'm a native Californian. I was born in Oakland, California, at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital, which I believe is now regarded as the first HMO in the United States. And I grew up in Berkeley, California. Both my parents were academics, both connected with the University of California. My father was professor of anthropology. My mother was associated with a program called the Graduate Internship Program in Secondary Education, of which she was ultimately director, which was a program designed to give people who wanted to teach in secondary schools the credential to do so without taking the required education courses in the California school system.
And my father had an interest in India. His field was South Asia. He was there many times. The whole family was there for a year. So I had a kind of international orientation from the beginning, and also an orientation toward books, toward scholarship and toward teaching. It was, I guess, natural for me to gravitate to the study of international affairs and to an academic career.
LAMB: What about school? Where were you schooled?
MANDELBAUM: Well, I -- I was educated in the Berkeley public schools, and then I did my undergraduate work at Yale University, and then did post-graduate work at Cambridge University in England. And Cambridge and England were very influential because there I studied history, and that made me somebody who sees the world in historical terms.
Although I am a political scientist by trade, I read a lot of history, and there's a good deal of history in this book. The first section of the book is a kind of history of the modern world, a biography of the world in which we live. And those who take the trouble not only to read the book but also to look at the notes at the back will find many references to prominent English historians.
Well, after I'd finished at Cambridge, where I got a master's degree, I went on and got a Ph.D. at Harvard and have been an academic ever since.
LAMB: You say that in U.S. foreign policy that the few, the elite must convince the shareholders, the public, on which way to go. Explain that.
MANDELBAUM: Foreign policy is the preserve of the few, in the sense that most people don't have the time or inclination to follow foreign policy seriously, and also in the sense that we have, after all, a representative government. And so we assign to our leaders the task of making policy. But because the United States is a democracy, that means that in order to launch any large, serious enterprise, the government has to persuade the public to support it. And that's not always easy to do.
It's especially difficult throughout American history when the country goes to war. It's always difficult to persuade the American public to generate the kind of support needed to pursue armed conflict to the end. It was true for George Washington. It was true for Abraham Lincoln. It's always been true.
Now, this touches on one of the ways in which this is a contrarian book. I should say, first of all, that although there's a good deal about the United States, this is not a book exclusively or even mainly about American foreign policy. The United States is the most important country in the world in the 21st century, and so naturally, I have a great deal to say about it.
But what has triumphed in the world, I think, is not so much the United States or American power but these three great ideas, of which the United States is a powerful proponent but certainly not the only one. And these ideas were not invented in the United States.
Nonetheless, American power is a very important theme of the 21st century. But one of the ways in which this book is contrarian is that I believe that although for most of the rest of the world in the first post-cold war decade, the great danger from the United States seem to be hyperactivity. The danger was that the United States would do too much, that it would throw its weight around. In my view, an equal problem, an equal potential danger over the medium and long term is that the United States will do too little, will do even less in the world than those countries that criticize us want us to do.
And the reason for that is precisely the point to which you have alluded. In order for the United States to play any kind of international role, the American public has to be persuaded that this is in their interest. It was easier to persuade the American public to play an active role in the world during the cold war because we were at war, because there was an enemy, because many of the things that the United States did could be portrayed as acts of self-defense. And of course, Americans, like other people, are willing to spend almost anything for the sake of self-defense.
Well, there still is vast scope for constructive American involvement in the world in the post-cold war world, but the argument that we have to do this to defend ourselves is not quite so potent as it was in the second half of the 20th century.
LAMB: You actually say that Americans don't want to pay a lot for foreign policy.
MANDELBAUM: Well, in this sense, Americans are quite like everyone else. Nobody likes to pay taxes. Nobody likes to pay for things that don't seem immediately pertinent. The United States, as I say, was willing to pay quite a lot for foreign policy during the cold war, as long as what we were paying for seemed to involve self-defense. But when paying involves doing things that may be worthwhile but don't affect us directly, the public balks, the public is recalcitrant.
One example I give in that book is the humanitarian interventions in which the United States engaged in the first post-cold war decade -- in Bosnia, Somalia and Kosovo. Well, most Americans thought it was a good thing to stop the killing and rescue beleaguered people in these distant lands, but when it came actually to paying, and especially paying in the coin that's most important to Americans -- namely, American lives -- the public wouldn't go along with it, and therefore these operations had to be conducted under the unstated premise that the maximum number of allowable American casualties for humanitarian intervention was zero. That is to say, Americans -- and I think we're like most people in this respect -- are willing to support good deeds the world over, but when it comes to paying, and especially paying serious costs, we want to be sure that there's something in it for us.
LAMB: Early in the book, you talk about some places where you find yourself right now, and very familiar names in foreign policy, the Council on Foreign Relations. How do you relate to them?
MANDELBAUM: Well, the Council on Foreign Relations is a private group devoted to the study of foreign policy and the discussion of foreign policy, and it has a department called the Studies Department, which is a mini-think tank, of which I am a member. And it was as a member of the Studies Department that I developed some of the ideas that go into this book.
I should also say that the Council was generous in providing financial support so I could take some time off from teaching, as was the Carnegie Corporation of New York. And the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Les Gelb, was quite influential in shaping my idea about how to go about writing this book. He made on very important suggestion. He said to me one day, "You know, books about the post-cold war world are really divided into two groups. There are books about foreign policy and there are books about economics. You should try to write a book that brings the two together."
And that is one of the things that I've attempted to do in this book. And in the third of the three main sections of the book, I do discuss how foreign policy and international economics fit together in the 21st century.
LAMB: Also another name on the page is Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.
MANDELBAUM: I teach at what we call SAIS, the School of Advanced International Studies. It's a graduate school of international relations located in Washington named for Paul Nitze, who was one of the co-founders. The other co-founder, incidentally, was Christian Herter, former governor of Massachusetts and secretary of state in the Eisenhower administration. And I have the honor to hold the Christian A. Herter chair in American foreign policy.
Our students are mainly master's students. It's a two-year course. These are students who have an interest in and some background in international affairs, most of them in their mid-20s. And they go on to careers either in the government or the private sector or the non-profit sector, and they're terrific students. I enjoy teaching them. Many of my ideas were also formed in preparing the courses that I teach. And there's one particular feature of my school that bears on this book, and it follows on the point that I just made. In our curriculum, we prescribe a heavy dose of international economics, and at the end of the two-year course, every student has to pass an oral exam of an hour's length, half of it in a field such as American foreign policy, which I teach, and the other half in international economics.
So I have sat in on what are now dozens, I suppose hundreds of hours of discussions of international economics. And from those discussions, I obtained an interest in the subject, but also a realization that in order to present issues of economics to a wider audience, you have to be very clear. And so what I've tried to do in this book is take what are sometimes rather technical issues and translate them into clear English prose so that readers who are not specialists can see how issues of trade and the international monetary system fit into our world of the 21st century.
LAMB: Do I remember you saying in your book that John Maynard Keynes was the greatest economist in the 20th century?
MANDELBAUM: John Maynard Keynes was certainly the most influential economist of the 20th century, and it was John Maynard Keynes who made economists a kind of public resource. It was John Maynard Keynes who married academic research and government service. And it was also Keynes whose discoveries have been extremely important for the management of industrialized economies in the 20th century. We knew beginning in the 19th century that economies such as ours were subject to fluctuation, dips. This was known as the business cycle. And in the 1930s, we had the steepest plunge of all, the Great Depression, which had massive effects both politically and economically.
It was Keynes who proposed ideas about how to prevent depressions -- not how to prevent mild dips, which we call recessions, but how to keep these downturns in economic activity from reaching catastrophic depths. Keynes, in this sense, may be said to have been one of the saviors of capitalism. It was Keynes who put a floor under the market economy. And in the second half of the 20th century, in part because of Keynes's discoveries and their application, the market economy went from strength to strength.
One of the great themes of the second half of the 20th century that I describe in this book is the contest between the communist planned economy and the free market economy, to see which one would be superior in producing wealth. Well, at the end of the 20th century -- in the last decade of the 20th century -- that contest ended with a conclusive victory for the free market. And that may be the most important event, the most important development, of the second half of the 20th century, with profound implications for the 21st. And for that development, John Maynard Keynes deserves a good deal of credit.
LAMB: Ever in your life did you think communism would work?
MANDELBAUM: It was obvious to anybody who visited the communist world, as I did beginning in the 1970s, that it was a creaky, inefficient system. And it was pretty obvious that it would never overtake the United States and Japan and Western Europe in the production of wealth. That much I think was clear. But I never imagined that communism would collapse as it did. This was one of the great developments, and really, one of the most mysterious developments in all of modern history -- indeed, I would say in all of history. And one of the questions that I address in the first part of this book is how could this have happened?
The collapse of communism is an event that seems more mysterious, not less so, as time goes on. It's especially mysterious, especially in need of explanation, because although the cold war was in many ways similar to the other great wars of modern history, such as World Wars I and II, and although its outcome had the same consequences -- it completely changed the world -- the way it ended was completely different. It ended without firing a shot. It was not a military decision.
So I asked myself how could this have happened? My answer was, and is in the book, that the cold war was won not by the force of arms but by the force of the Western example. And from that I go on to say that the power of example is still operating in the 21st century. The forces that destroyed communism are still at large in the world, shaping the daily and long-term activities of peoples and governments everywhere, and that is an extremely important fact about our world.
LAMB: Probably the name mentioned most in this book from start to finish is Woodrow Wilson. Why?
MANDELBAUM: Woodrow Wilson was the 28th American president, and the book begins -- or at least, the first chapter begins -- with Woodrow Wilson's appearance at Paris at the end of World War II [sic] at the peace conference convened there. Woodrow Wilson was important and is important for this book because at Paris, it was he who first unveiled the ideas that conquered the world. It was he who first proposed peace, democracy and free markets as the ideas that should guide and shape the whole world. These are ideas with which we're all familiar, and nobody would think to deny or denounce them now, but they're really rather recent ideas, as human history goes, and it was only Woodrow Wilson who said the whole world should be organized in this fashion.
Well, the whole world was not organized in this fashion for most of the 20th century, and yet with the collapse of communism, we find ourselves in something like the world that Wilson imagined. Now, Woodrow Wilson has been and continues to be an extremely controversial figure. He polarizes opinion. Some people see him as a prophet without honor whose advice, if followed, could have avoided World War II. Others see him as an incompetent, short-sighted, blind politician whose lack of political skills bungled the post-war settlement.
I come out somewhere in between. I think he was a very poor politician, especially for somebody who'd risen to the top of the American political system. And yet his vision is the one that has installed itself as dominant in the world of the 21st century. I compare Woodrow Wilson in the book to Henry Ford. He was to these great ideas what Henry Ford was to the automobile. Henry Ford didn't invent in the automobile, but he popularized it. He brought it to public attention. And it was Woodrow Wilson who, although he didn't invent these three great ideas, first put them on the international agenda.
Let me make one other point about this comparison because there are a number of comparisons and metaphors throughout the book. And that reflects an important conviction of mine which guided the writing of this book, and that is that serious books about politics and history and economics and foreign policy -- and this book covers all of them -- should be works of literature, written in vivid, lively, and above all, clear fashion, and not works of science, written in specialized language accessible only to the very few. So the reader of this book will find lots of metaphors, a few jokes and no jargon.
LAMB: Go back to the -- one of the first questions I asked you -- I don't think you answered -- was who did you write it for? Who did you envision reading your book?
MANDELBAUM: I envisioned this book for people who are interested in foreign policy, who read the newspaper, who watch the news on television, who follow C-Span and who want to have a framework, who want to have a context for fitting together and understanding all the issues that we see every day before us. So this is a book for people who are knowledgeable, sophisticated, and who are interested in the big picture.
LAMB: Let me ask you if I'm right about this. I found you to have the strongest views -- I mean, I didn't get your direct views very often, except on one issue, and that was Poland and the Czech Republic and Hungary being a part of NATO. You seem to be really against that idea.
MANDELBAUM: When that issue arose, I opposed it on the grounds that this would be of no particular benefit to the United States and would risk alienating Russia. And it did alienate Russia, not fatally. So I have hopes that what I regard as a mistake will be overcome. But the issue of NATO expansion in this book is important in the context of the point that I make in the second section of the book.
The second section is called "The invention of peace." And here I argue that at the end of the cold war, the nations of Europe and North America, almost by accident, created something quite unprecedented, a new, deeper, more stable, more durable form of peace than the world had ever seen. I believe that we have come up with a formula for peace that I call "common security." And that is in effect in Europe now, although not in the rest of the world. And it's not irreversible in Europe. And my objection to NATO expansion was that I feared that it would interfere with and possibly even destroy this new, unprecedented and desirable security system.
This security system, by the way, owes a great deal to the collaboration -- the rather unintended collaboration, I think -- of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States for most of the 1980s. I say in the book that Mikhail Gorbachev was the most deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and I believe that that's true. I believe that he is a great figure in history. But I believe that President Reagan deserves considerable credit for helping to put in place this system of common security, the core of which is a series of arms limitation agreements over which President Reagan presided, and his successor, the first President Bush, followed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
LAMB: All right, let's -- for just a moment -- the president of the United States, George W. Bush, picks your book up, spends the weekend with it. You know him from what you've seen him do for the last couple years. What's he going to say about this book? Where does it -- what does he read in here that he doesn't like? What does he read in here that he likes, based on what you've seen him do in foreign policy?
MANDELBAUM: Well, this is a book about the last 200 years and the next 50, and it focuses especially on the wide spectrum of issues before us at the moment. So I would hope that the president, or any reader, would find that he got a better sense for the context of the issues with which he and all of us have to deal.
I think the president would be heartened by the optimism of this book. This is an optimistic book. It's not starry-eyed. It's not pollyannaish. It certainly acknowledges that there are serious problems in the world, but it does take the view that our ideas are winning, that history is on our side. And that optimism, that sense that things are going our way is, I think, an important thing for a policy maker to know. It gives confidence, I would hope, and also suggests that many of the policies that we've followed over the course of the 20th century have been successful.
A reader of this book, including the president, would also, I think, be confirmed in the view that of all the places on the planet, the Middle East is the one most troublesome to us. There is an entire chapter devoted to the Middle East entitled -- well, it's drawn -- it's entitled "The dragon's lair," and the title is drawn from a phrase in Latin that appeared on medieval maps to demark -- to demarcate and denote places that were either unknown or thought to be dangerous. The phrase was "Cave hic dragonis" -- "Beware, here there are dragons." And there are dragons in the Middle East. This is the region from which emanates the most serious threats to the United States and the Western industrialized world -- weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and the possibility of a cut-off of our supplies of energy.
So I think President Bush or anybody reading this book would be confirmed in the view that the Middle East requires some attention. Just how one deals with this threat is, of course, a matter of judgment, but it is a place that preoccupies us not only because it is dangerous but also because the other regions of the world that in the 20th century were the most dangerous -- namely, Western Europe and East Asia, are, at least for the moment, relatively peaceful, freeing us to concentrate on the threats emanating from the Middle East.
LAMB: What -- how do you relate, from your own point of view, to the president's recent national security directive, where preemption is a very important part of his philosophy, even preemption in the Middle East, in Iraq? How do you come down on that, based on the Wilson triad, the Wilsonian triad -- peace, democracy and free markets? Will this work in the world?
MANDELBAUM: What I think we can learn from this book about the doctrine of preemption, or preventive war, is that it is designed to address a uniquely post-cold war problem. If I can go back for a moment, the three most controversial pronouncements or policies of the Bush administration in its first two years all had to do with one particular problem. The first of these policies was ballistic missile defense. The second, the pronouncement of an "evil empire." The third of them, the doctrine of preemption or preventive war. All of them are designed to deal with the problem of nuclear proliferation, of weapons of mass destruction, in the hands of a so-called "rogue state." That is, a country that's violently anti-American and anti-Western and may not be deterred or deterrable, as the Soviet Union was during the cold war.
Now, this is a particular post-cold war problem because it didn't exist in the cold war. The end of the Soviet Union solved many problems, but it also aggravated a few, and this is one of them. During the cold war, the countries we regard as rogues were clients of the Soviet Union. And although Moscow helped keep odious regimes in power, it also kept a lid on them. It kept control of them.
I don't believe that North Korea or Iraq would be as close to nuclear weapons as they seem to be if the Soviet Union were still in business. And furthermore, the collapse of the Soviet Union presents an additional danger where the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is concerned precisely because all -- because of all of the nuclear material in the former Soviet Union that is now less closely safeguarded than it was during the Soviet period.
So what we see with this doctrine and with these other policies is an effort to come to terms with a new and difficult and unfamiliar post-cold war problem. That's natural. What the ultimate solution will be we don't know. But we will debate it, and we may try out some of these policies. So what we can learn from -- about the policies of the Bush administration on the basis of what I've written is the importance and the novelty of this problem.
LAMB: All right, you're in the Oval Office of the president. He says Dr. Mandelbaum - are you a Ph.D. by the way?
MANDELBAUM: I do have a Ph.D., yes.
LAMB: OK, just want to make sure. Once in a while that happens here that they're not. What should I do in Iraq? What would you tell him?
MANDELBAUM: Well it's a good question. The president has made the case, as we are discussing this, that Iraq presents an unacceptable threat and if it can not be disarmed through the United Nations then it may well be necessary for the United States actually to conduct military operations to disarm Iraq.
I think that's a powerful argument. There are counter arguments of course, and here the United States faces a tradeoff. On the one hand there are those who say you shouldn't attack until the gun is actually cocked and pointing at you. You shouldn't attack until the threat is imminent and that kind of attack is much more compatible with international law.
But that kind of attack is much more difficult militarily, even though it is acceptable politically. It's much easier militarily to deal with the threat before it becomes urgent. It's much easier to deal with Iraq before the gun is cocked while Saddam Hussein is trying to obtain the gun so that is militarily more effective but politically more difficult.
That's a tradeoff that the president of the United States gets paid to make. I'm glad that I'm not the one to make that decision, but I would say that the case that he has made thus far seems to me to be quite a powerful one. On this particular subject, I do worry about two things.
I worry about Americans support for military operations should they become costly, and I worry about continuing American support for the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, which I think would be necessary if and when Saddam Hussein were removed forcibly from power.
And, in order to reinforce American public support, I think some international support is useful. That is why I was glad to see the president decide to go to the United Nations for some kind of authorization because I think United Nations authorization could help firm up support in the constituency that's most important for any American military operation or any American foreign policy, namely the American public and that of course is a theme that emerges from this book.
LAMB: Your background and where you're associated now are all familiar names to people who watch this network, and if this was a call-in show, there would be somebody calling up and saying another council on foreign relations guy, a one-worlder, Carnegie Corporation, Paul Nitze, Johns Hopkins, all that establishment names and they would accuse you of being up to something that they don't like, and I know you've heard these people talk before from that point of view. What do you say to them when they have these accusations about all these foreign policy organizations?
MANDELBAUM: Well, of course, these organizations don't take official positions on any issue and nobody told me what I should write or what I shouldn't write. Let me address the issue of one worldism because there are those who write about the affairs of the 21st Century who believe that the nation state is obsolete, that it's wearing away, that international organizations and non-state actors are taking over.
I do not believe that. In this book, I lay great emphasis on the continuing importance of the nation state. In fact, the supremacy of peace, democracy, and free markets makes national sovereignty all the more important. You can not have a working market economy without a particular form of government, our form of government, and peace is possible if and as governments become democratic.
So, I think that our form of government and our sovereignty is all the more important in the 21st Century. I don't see the United Nations taking over. I think the United Nations has an important role to play but I don't foresee the erosion of American sovereignty, and I don't think it would be a better world if that were to happen.
LAMB: Have you ever had any experience in government?
MANDELBAUM: I served for one year in government on a fellowship. It was in the Reagan administration. I worked in the Office of the then Undersecretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, who subsequently became secretary of state in the Bush administration. I found it extremely interesting and instructive. I'm not sure that my very brief government experience is reflected in that book, however.
LAMB: What did you see inside though of government that surprised you?
MANDELBAUM: Well, I was struck as I think any academic must be by how different the culture is in government than in the academic world and that's the difference between operating a large organization and operating on your own. One of the joys of being an academic is the independence that you have and that's also one of the pleasures of writing a book. You can say anything you want. You are the master. No word goes into the book unless you want it there. Government is, of course, not like that and most of life is not like that either.
LAMB: What book is this for you?
MANDELBAUM: I believe it's the eighth. I think I've written eight and edited 12 or 13.
LAMB: One of the things that I kept writing down, and you mentioned it earlier, is our use of metaphor and stories and here are some of the things and some of the people you talk about, the Marx Brothers, Yogi Berra, William Butler Yates, "West Side Story," Michael Crichton's "Rising Sun," Gina Lollobrigida, and Brussels sprouts. What were you trying to do with all these little sidebars in there?
MANDELBAUM: I was trying to communicate my points effectively and make the book as vivid as possible, and as I said, this is not a book simply for academic specialists. This is for the general well-informed interested reader and I believe that the first obligation of a writer is to communicate and communicate in as vivid a fashion as possible.
LAMB: Yogi Berra, you quote him as saying: "Never make predictions especially about the future."
MANDELBAUM: Well, Yogi Berra said a lot of things. In fact, Yogi Berra was quoted as saying, you know, a lot of things I said I didn't say. So, I think that that is from Yogi Berra. But, I wanted to make the point there, and this is a point that recurs in the book, that although I find trends and directions and I make generalizations, there's nothing certain about history. There are no laws of history like the laws of physics.
There are tendencies and probabilities but I don't feel that I can ever say X or Y or Z is certainly going to happen. It may be likely to happen and I think the continued dominance and prosperity of peace, democracy, and free markets is likely, as well as desirable, but I can't be sure.
LAMB: Where did you get the Natalie Friedman story and who is she?
MANDELBAUM: Natalie Friedman is now a high school student, lives in suburban Washington. She is the daughter of Tom and Ann Friedman. Tom Friedman is the foreign affairs columnist in the New York Times. Ann Friedman is a school teacher. And, in the year 2000, Natalie Friedman entered a contest for students of her age, a history day contest in which students were asked to make a presentation about an event in history that influenced the present.
My wife and I went to see it. It was a very good, indeed a prize winning presentation, and it concerned Sputnik, the Soviet launch of the first earth orbiting satellite in 1957. What struck me about that presentation was the significance to which she imputed Sputnik was that it was a precursor of the Internet.
Well, of course I remembered Sputnik very well, as perhaps many of our viewers will, but the significance when it happened, when I experienced it was very different. It was an ominous development in the Cold War. It portended Soviet mastery of outer space and maybe even a surprise nuclear attack on the United States. It led to those air raid drills for people in my generation where when the bell rang we ducked under desks.
The significance of that exhibit for me has to do with two major points in this book and so I close the book, the final section begins with Natalie Friedman's exhibit because it makes two points. First, it illustrates how different the post Cold War world is from the world of the Cold War and how rapidly things can change.
Just a few years ago, the significance of Sputnik would have had to do with the arms race, but by the year 2000, the Cold War was only a distant memory, if a memory at all, for somebody of her generation. So, one of the major points of this book is that the world has changed rather considerably.
A second point that Natalie Friedman's exhibit makes is one that I do believe and that is implicit throughout the book and that I make explicit at the end and that is that with all the problems that we have in the 21st Century and we surely have them, this world is better than the world we left behind.
The set of problems with which we have to grapple in the 21st Century, difficult and dangerous though they are, are in my judgment preferable to the problems with which we coped and many of which we mastered in the 20th Century.
LAMB: I want to read a paragraph and then let you explain it. A little girl visits her friend's house for dinner. "We're having Brussels sprouts tonight Susie" her friends mother says. "Do you like them?" "Oh yes" the little girl replies, but when the mother clears the plates away she notices that the little girl's Brussels sprouts are untouched. "I thought you said you liked Brussels sprouts, Susie" she says. "I do like them" the girl replies, "but not enough to eat them." Where did that come from?
MANDELBAUM: That story introduces one of the chapters on the free market and its status in the world of the 21st Century and it illustrates a point that I think is universal, the attitude toward the free market.
The free market is perhaps the most universally legitimate institution in all of human history. There are only a few isolated pockets around the world where the market is not welcome, where people are not trying to construct the working free market and the reason for that is quite clear.
One of the great lessons of the 20th Century was that prosperity is possible, and one of the great lessons of the second half of the 20th Century is that the route to prosperity is through the free market. So, everybody wants the market but the market brings with it real problems. It has toxic side effects, even especially when it works well.
I cite the great Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter's phrase that a working market is like a gale of creative destruction. It creates wealth, which we all like, which we all want, which we all seek, but it also destroys. It harms people.
There are losers as well as winners from the working of the free market and so, the attitude of governments and individuals toward the free market is somewhat like this little girl's attitude toward Brussels sprouts. Yes, we like it but we're not going to practice it when it hurts us. We're not going to embrace it fully. There are always going to be exceptions, resistance. You can see this in the opposition to free trade.
Economists have demonstrated that free trade makes us all wealthier and yet there's no country in the world that has purely free trade because free trade does harm people. Those people organize and get protection from free trade. So, the free market is something that we all believe in in principle but that it's very difficult to practice at least universally and completely.
LAMB: You pronounce Joseph Schumpeter, is that the way you pronounced it?
MANDELBAUM: That would be my pronunciation.
LAMB: Did he really invent the world entrepreneur?
MANDELBAUM: I believe that he did. My understanding is that it was he who invented the term entrepreneur and who coined the phrase in order to explain why the market economy was so successful. He believed that the success of the market economy, which is one of the major themes of this book was due in no small part to the activities of a few energetic and visionary people.
So, for Joseph Schumpeter, entrepreneurs were the heroes of capitalism and since it was capitalism, or at least the free market that had a great deal to do with bringing down communism and ending the Soviet Union, to the extent that Schumpeter was right, I guess you could say that the entrepreneur is one of the heroes of this book.
LAMB: All right, here's another paragraph. In the Marx Brothers' film "Duck Soup," their version of international politics, a scene takes place in the office of Trentino (ph) the Ambassador of Sylvania. A telegram arrives and Harpo, the silent brother who embodies the spirit of happy chaos, seizes it and crumples it up. To the puzzled Ambassador Chico, the piano-playing pseudo-Italian brother helpfully explains: "He gets mad because he can't read."
MANDELBAUM: Well, I should say that I'm a great fan of the Marx Brothers, as well as of baseball, and I try to include a reference to each in every book that I've written. But that story from the Marx Brothers' film "Duck Soup" is intended to illustrate what I think is one of the major themes of our world.
It has to do with the opposition to these three great ideas. There is opposition. We know that from the terrorism of September 11, 2001, from the demonstrations against globalization at various meetings of international economic organizations. So there is intense opposition, even violent opposition.
But these opponents have no alternative. They propose nothing to put in the place of these three great ideas, and I therefore think that they can be understood as real life versions of the point illustrated by that scene. I say that these three great ideas, peace, democracy, and free markets, have the same status as literacy.
Not everybody can read but nobody has a substitute for literacy and there is no real chance that it will be abolished, just as there's no one with an idea or a set of ideas that at the moment, at least, could displace peace, democracy, and free markets.
LAMB: In the middle of Page 263, the following couple sentences: One of the defining features of western state formation was captured in the story begun by Gina Lollobrigida and completed by Humphrey Bogart in the 1954 film "Beat the Devil" about the Americans who ask an English gardener how his country has produced such wonderful lawns. The secret, he replies, is to "get some good grass and roll it every day for 600 years."
MANDELBAUM: Well that story illustrates yet another major theme of the world in which we live. We have countries all over the world that are trying to establish free markets and many of them are trying to establish working democracies.
I spent a lot of time in this book discussing Russia and China because I believe that in the 21st Century next to the United States they are the two most important countries and the great project for China is to establish a working free market. The great project for Russia is to establish a working free market and a working Democratic system. Why are they having so much difficulty?
The answer, I believe, is that in order to have free markets and democracy, you need not only the proper values in the population but also working institutions, especially a particular kind of government. And one of the things that we've learned since the Cold War ended is that it turns out to be more difficult to construct the relevant and necessary institutions than we ever imagined possible.
So, it is the struggle to construct these institutions that we and the British have had centuries to construct that preoccupies most of the countries of the world and, in particular, two of the most important, Russia and China.
LAMB: Earlier you talk about Michael Crichton. Japan's allegedly devious and sinister approach to international economics was the theme of "Rising Sun" a best-selling novel by Michael Crichton. Why mention Michael Crichton, did you read it by the way?
MANDELBAUM: I have read it and I've seen the movie and I found them both entertaining but I do not agree with the thesis underlying both of them, and I think that thesis has been discredited. The thesis was that Japan had developed a new, different, and more effective form of capitalism, one that departed from the classical principles of free market organization that come down to us from Adam Smith through John Maynard Keynes.
This was in the 1980s when Japan was growing rapidly. In the 1990s, of course, Japan has experienced a pronounced and profound recession and it is not longer thought that the Japanese have invented a new form of the market economy. But the point there is that the principles of the free market have triumphed, although they are to be found in different forms.
Japanese capitalism is different from American capitalism and Western European capitalism is different from both. One of the great strengths of these ideas is that the institutional forms they take can differ, so a country deciding that it wants a free market economy can choose from different models.
I compare the free market here to General Motors, which has a complete product line of motorcars and that's a strength. It's a strength of democracy as well because there are different forms of democracy and this versatility, this lack of a single obligatory model is one of the reasons, although not the only reason, that these institutions and these ideas have proved so potent.
LAMB: In Chapter 5, you bring Shakespeare into the book, "Romeo and Juliet," and "West Side Story." What's your point?
MANDELBAUM: "West Side Story" is a modern version of "Romeo and Juliet" and by the same token, the chapter that that story introduces deals with the security problems of East Asia, and there I argue that the history of security and foreign policy and international relations in East Asia parallels the history of security and foreign policy in Europe, although the same issues are transposed to a different setting, even as "West Side Story" represents the basic plot of "Romeo and Juliet" but transposed to a different story, to a different setting.
And, in both cases, the United States has played a similar role. The United States continues to play a crucial role and the prospects for peace, for continued peace in East Asia, like the prospects for continued peace in Western Europe, depend not exclusively but to a very great extent on the role of the United States.
LAMB: Last one, William Butler Yates, you say a two-line poem in the 1930s by William Butler Yates about Charles Stewart Parnell, hero of the struggle for Irish independence, made the point that national independence does not necessarily bring upward economic mobility, a lesson learned by millions of inhabitants of countries once ruled by imperial powers. And you say, then you quote: "Parnell came down the road. He said to a cheering man 'Ireland shall get her freedom and you still break stone,'" the point of that?
MANDELBAUM: The point is to respond to the very natural question if peace, democracy, and free markets have triumphed, or at least if free markets have triumphed, democracy has made great progress and we now, at least, have a model for peace, why are there still problems in the world? Why is there still unhappiness? Why is there still human misery?
And my answer is that these ideas even implemented perfectly can not make individuals happy. That's a problem. That's a task for the individual. The great advantage of democracy in free markets is that they remove some of the long-time oppressive, structural obstacles to happiness.
So, I believe that these systems and these ideas are better for human kind, not because they're a magic formula for turning us all into the happiest people we've ever seen, but rather because they help to remove some of the traditional long-standing obstacles to human fulfillment.
LAMB: You say, and this goes with what we're dealing with in the world today, you say that in the last four decades of the 20th Century, 60 leaders were killed through terrorism, why, and is that more than in history?
MANDELBAUM: I don't know whether it's more than in all of history and I cite that figure to make rather the opposite point, namely that terrorism did not begin on September 11, 2001. It has a very old history. It goes back centuries, even millennia. It was in some ways virulent in the 19th and 20th Centuries. It is in one sense more dangerous in the 21st Century because of the availability of the potential availability of weapons of mass destruction.
I'm thinking here not so much of nuclear weapons because I doubt that a terrorist cell could obtain one, although that's not impossible, but rather biological weapons, which could be used to great and harmful effect by determined terrorists. So, terrorism is not something new. It is somewhat more dangerous now than it was in the past, but it's not going to - it is neither going to go away, we will never conquer terrorism absolutely, nor I believe is it going to shape the dominance of these three great ideas.
I say in the introduction that unlike communism and fascism, the terrorists of September 11th have no chance of controlling the world. They do not control, nor do they have any prospect of controlling a powerful nation state as fascism and communism did.
Their ideas do not have universal appeal as communism and fascism once did, and unlike communism and fascism, which for a while were very successful, insofar as the ideas of the terrorists of September 11th have actually been put into practice, they failed in Iran and Afghanistan. So, terrorism presents a threat to the personal safety of Americans but not to the structure of the world of the 21st Century.
LAMB: You dedicate this book right up here in the front to Ann Mandelbaum with love. Who is she?
MANDELBAUM: Ann Mandelbaum is my beloved wife and I could not have written this book without her. Her love and support were absolutely essential, but she made a further contribution. She edited the book. She is a professional editor of superb skill. She went over it twice and I strive in writing for clarity, and in striving for clarity and for grace of expression, her advice is absolutely indispensable, so.
LAMB: How long have you been married?
MANDELBAUM: We've been married now more than 25 years.
LAMB: Are there children?
MANDELBAUM: We do not have children.
LAMB: In this book, you mention McDonald's. What impact has McDonald's had on foreign policy?
MANDELBAUM: Well, I use McDonald's as an example of the spread of commercial and consumer culture and McDonald's, according to some very interesting scholarship that's been done on it, is actually the bearer of Western ideas, especially in China.
It has introduced to China the idea of service, which was not present and which has not role in a communist society, and it has also introduced the idea of individualism. Parents take their children in China to McDonald's to celebrate their birthday and that's a very un-communist idea because in communist societies celebrations and holidays always celebrated the group.
So in that sense, I take McDonald's and consumer culture as a whole as being one of the forces that subverted communism and won the Cold War, and in the footnote to which you refer, I contrast McDonald's with Coca Cola, which I say half facetiously did not have the same liberalizing impact.
LAMB: In the 20th Century from the beginning to the end, how many countries became democracies?
MANDELBAUM: I don't know the exact number but it was an extraordinary number. At the beginning of the 20th Century, there were only a handful of democracies, the United States, Great Britain, a few in Western Europe, and some of Great Britain's dominions.
At the end of the 20th Century by the count of Freedom House, a research organization that keeps track of these things, a majority of countries were democratic or democratizing. That is a remarkable record. It's one that no one would have predicted at the beginning of the 20th Century or in the years after World War I or even in the 1970s. It's an enormous development and a powerful testimony to the strength of these ideas.
LAMB: Do you have another book in mind?
MANDELBAUM: I have several in mind but I haven't made a commitment yet.
LAMB: Of all the books you've written, where would you put this one in importance to you?
MANDELBAUM: Well, I think any author if asked what is your most important book would always say the most recent one, but I believe that this is my most important book because it is the widest ranging. It takes on the biggest subjects, and it is accessible to the widest audience.
LAMB: "The Ideas that Conquered the World," the name of this book, our guest has been Michael Mandelbaum. Thank you very much, sir.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2002. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.