BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Walter A. McDougall, author of "Promised Land, Crusader State," why did you use the Bible in order to kind of tie your book together?
DR. WALTER McDOUGALL, AUTHOR, "PROMISED LAND, CRUSADER STATE" Well, to tell you the truth, that came to me very late in the game. I had settled on my chapter headings and division of the book into the two parts to describe the two tradition--the two major traditions in US foreign relations. But only late in the writing of the book did it occur to me that these two great bodies of traditions that I had identified amounted to a sort of Old and New Testament, if you wanted to use a biblical metaphor.
And at first, I was a little nervous about using any sort of biblical term for fear I'd be misunderstood or--is this book about American religion rather than foreign policy? But the more I fit the history of our foreign relations into this biblical metaphor of Old and New Testaments, the more it worked. And the people I asked about it said, `Yeah, it does work.' It--there really is a kind of an Old and New Testament that are related, of course, but also have very different approaches to the values and to the purpose, really, of America in the world.
LAMB: How do you divide Old and New Testament, then, in the book?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, the first four traditions of American foreign relations, essentially our 19th century ones, are those that I identify as our Old Testament. They include the notion of American exceptionalism, which is very controversial, because I've sort of reinterpreted some of these traditions, the notion that America ha--is a special country and has a special place in world history, really; the notion of unilateralism, which usually goes by the name of isolationism; the notion of an American system of states separate from the Old World, which is usually known in terms of the Monroe Doctrine; and expansionism, of course, across the country, which is usually identified with so-called Manifest Destiny. These first four traditions defined our foreign relations for our first 100 years, down until the late 1890s.
Then in 1898, very clearly with the Spanish-American War and the beginning of the so-called imperialist phase in American history, the American people began to draft a fundamentally different set of principles to define their foreign relations, what I would call our New Testament, which has defined American foreign policy in our second century, the 20th century. And just very briefly, those are progressive imperialism of the Teddy Roosevelt era; Wilsonianism, of course; containment after World War II; and then finally, rather more amorphous but really very powerful 20th century tradition which I call global meliorism. Perhaps the best current analogy would be the enlargement policy of the first Clinton term, the notion that the--America has a mission, a duty, a responsibility to expand or enlarge the regions of the world in which American values, American institutions, American market economy is practiced.
S--the quickest way, I think, to distinguish the two traditions, fr--the old from the new, is that the fir--those first four traditions were founded by our founding generations, late 18th, early 19th century, for a specific purpose: It was to prevent the rest of the world from influencing, shaping, defining what America was to be. Twentieth century New Testament traditions are almost the reverse. They were all defined--progressive imperialism, Wilsonianism and the others, in order to give America the chance of shaping, influencing, defining what the rest of the world is going to be.
LAMB: Where do you make your home?
DR. McDOUGALL: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
LAMB: Where do you teach?
DR. McDOUGALL: University of Pennsylvania in Philly.
LAMB: What do you teach?
DR. McDOUGALL: Diplomatic history, but I also am the director of the international relations program at Penn, a multidisciplinary program.
LAMB: How long have you been doing this?
DR. McDOUGALL: At Penn, this is my ninth year. Before that, I was 13 years at the University of California at Berkeley, a product of the University of Chicago in terms of my PhD.
LAMB: What year did you get your PhD?
DR. McDOUGALL: '74--end of 1974, and immediately the following year, I was fortunate to get the position at Berkeley.
LAMB: What was your specialty?
DR. McDOUGALL: European history, and particularly German history, was my focus in graduate school. And it was really by accident that when time came for me to do my doctoral thesis that I was casting about for a good topic, one of my professors suggested that I might work on French policy toward Germany just after World War I; the documents had just become available in Paris. And I did that topic, and even though I thought my focus was going to be Germany, it really ended up being more French and European diplomatic history generally. And that's what they wanted me to teach at Berkeley was European diplomatic history generally. And then, as my own research interests evolved, I moved into the Cold War and US-Soviet relations. And one thing led to another, and now I suppose I define myself as a generalist.
LAMB: Have you ever done anything besides teach?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, I was in the Army, if that counts.
LAMB: I mean, have you ever been in politics or...
DR. McDOUGALL: Nope. Teaching has been my career from the very beginning with the exception of two years just after college when I was in the Army.
LAMB: This book is endorsed on the back by Henry Kissinger, David Eisenhower, John Lukacs, Walter LaFeber (pronounced luh-fee-ber)--or is it LaFeber (pronounced luh-fay-ber)?
DR. McDOUGALL: LaFeber (pronounced luh-fee-ber), yeah.
LAMB: LaFeber and Michael Barone. Are those people you asked, or did the--Houghton Mifflin ask them to do that?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, Houghton Mifflin asked them to do it. You know how it is with blurbs; you consult with your editor and try to come up with a distinguished list of people who you hope will like the book. And I was very fortunate that all those reviewers responded. I mean, I've been teased that I probably have the only book that's ever been written that got positive blurbs both from Henry Kissinger and Walter LaFeber.
LAMB: Why is that, for those who wouldn't know the difference?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, LaFeber is a very distinguished diplomatic historian whom I respect greatly, but in--but he is a revisionist by reputation, a critic of the Vietnam War, a devotee of the--of the school of diplomatic history that was very often critical of American policy. And I'm sure that he probably was, shall we say, on the other side of the barricades during the Vietnam War from Dr. Kissinger. And I'm very proud that they both found great merit in my book.
LAMB: David Fromkin, who was a former guest on this program, who wrote a book--more than one book--had a New York Times review of your book, and he says, `Mr. McDougall discerns the emergence of three more American policy doctrines in the century between McKinley's '90s and ours and finds them more of a mixed bag than the previous five. Wilsonianism, by which he means the preaching and launching of crusades to change the politics of other countries, he regards as an almost an unmitigated disaster.' Is that true?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, not quite, not quite. In a short review, of course, one will--one--one cannot des--go into detail on all the subtleties in a book. Let me put it this way, lest I be misunderstood: Wilsonianism as a blueprint for a new world order of some kind, be it the--Wilson's dream for a League of Nations and the world disarmament and democracy, free trade, national self-determination all around the world--as a blueprint for that sort of a new world order, Wilsonianism was clearly and obviously an abject failure. He couldn't even sell it to the American Senate and people, much less to eu--the Europeans and Asians.
After World War II, we dreamed again of a Wilsonian world based on the United Nations in which the sorts of wars that we had just gotten through fighting could be abolished. We failed again. I won't say we failed; the world failed. This--Cold War obviously broke out and smashed the hopes that the American people placed in the UN. After the Cold War came to an end, once again we heard high hopes for a new world order. President Bush and President Clinton spoke of their dreams of the future and the spread of democracy and international cooperation on all kinds of levels. And once again, I would argue, this dream of Wilsonianism as a blueprint for world order has been a failure. In that sense, one could argue that the Fukiyama theory that we've reached the end of history and that we're all liberal Democrat capitalists now and so forth is--it's a false one.
However, and here's where we get to the point of--did Fromkin get it quite right? Wilsonianism has played another function in American foreign relations and world history in this century, not as a blueprint, but as a battle cry, as a tremendously powerful body of principles, of ideals, which we Americans carried into both world wars and into the Cold War. And as Wilson said, these ideas resonate in the hearts of all human beings--freedom, democracy, self-determination, the dream of peace--and that they are a weapon--a propaganda weapon if you want to be cynical about it--against, as he put it, all arbitrary power everywhere.
We persuaded the Germans to lay down their arms in November of 1918 in large part because they placed their hopes in Wilson's Fourteen Points, and the German people were sick of the war and of arbitrary government as we were. World War II--I can't say that Wilsonian ideals helped bring down the Nazi and Japanese empires, but it certainly did inspire our allies and the victims of fascist aggression all around the world to dream of the day when they could be free and to resist as best they could against tyranny. In the Cold War, it's clear that Wilsonian ideals, whether it was--they were spread by Radio Free Europe or by the rhetoric of our presidents, kept the flicker of hope alive in Poland, other Soviet satellite states, even in Russia itself.
So Wilsonianism has two sides to it, as a kind of a naive, perhaps even arrogant, assumption that all countries in the world want to be like us and that we can create a one-world order in which American values are practiced everywhere. In that sense, Wilsonianism is a--I'd say a rather provincial, turn-of-the-century American liberal progressive idea that leads--has led us down the wrong track on several occasions. But as a source of inspiration and spiritual--as a spiritual weapon against tyranny, Wilsonianism has been a tremendous value, and no one used Wilsonian rhetoric better than someone who is otherwise very hawkish and realistic, Ronald Reagan--Ronald Wilson Reagan, I might add.
LAMB: Let me show our viewers The New York Times review. The headline is Hands Off the Globe; A historian argues that to do well, America should stop doing good. When you saw that, did you like it?
DR. McDOUGALL: Not the-- title, but I c--you--as you know, one cannot always blame the author of a newspaper article for the title. Very often, those are written by lead writers and editors. And I would say that that was rather a caricature of what I have to say in the book, that title.
LAMB: The subtitle, or the...
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, both.
LAMB: Hands Off the Globe; A historian argues that to do well, America should stop doing good. And in David Fromkin's review, he says--later on, it says, `Taking a stand with those like George Kennan and J.W. Fulbright, who have urged that we cut back on what they perceive as overcommitment on our part, he stresses the limitations of our wisdom, of our power and our ability either to understand or to change others. He recommends that our government, quote, "abolish all its do-gooder agencies."' Reaction to that?
DR. McDOUGALL: That's accurate.
LAMB: And when you say `do-gooder agencies,' what are you talking about?
DR. McDOUGALL: Let me just bounce it right, just for a second, off the title. Hands Off the Globe; America should do well--America should stop doing good. Well, that sort of implies that we should start doing bad, and I certainly would not advocate such a thing. But as for--as for abolishing our do-gooder agencies, by which I would include--in which I would include, for instance, the Agency for International Development and various sorts of--the CIA engages in a lot of this sort of activity. The Peace Corps--these are institutions that the United States government set up primarily during the Cold War, but the whole idea predates the Cold War with the notion that the US government ought to be in the business of not only feeding the hungry and curing the sick all around the world, which, on the face of it, would obviously seem to be a wonderful thing to do, but also, of course, to spread American values and institutions and essentially try to make the world over in America's image.
And in that sense, George Kennan and other so-called realists, I believe, are absolutely right, that this not only is an arrogant and hopeless pursuit far beyond the capability of even the United States, but that in trying to make the world over in our own image, even if our intentions are of the very best, we run the risk of undermining what it is that made America great at home.
Look, our federal government has spent billions and billions of dollars trying to turn our inner cities into a great society, trying to improve the lives of many of our own people here in the United States, and has failed utterly to do so. If we cannot even clean up West Philly, where the University of Pennsylvania is, feed the poor, house the homeless, educate the underprivileged--if we can't even do that in West Philly, how can we go to Somalia and pretend that we have the know-how and the resources and the sticking power and the wisdom to, as--frankly as Madeleine Albright put it when she was the UN ambassador, to state build in that country and turn this poverty-stricken country in the midst of a civil war in East Africa into one of the functioning and developing members of the family of nations? You can't do it.
LAMB: Which book is this for you?
DR. McDOUGALL: I believe it's my fifth.
LAMB: And the other books--what kind did you write?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, the first book was my doctoral dissertation. I think it's a good book, but it's quite academic, meant for an academic audience, dealt with French diplomacy toward Germany after World War I, execution of the Treaty of Versailles and so forth.
The second book, "The Grenada Papers," was a--a book of documents which I edited along with Paul Seabury, a great political science professor at Berkeley, having to do with the regime in Grenada that was overthrown by American forces and just trying to paste together the history of that curious little regime, Maurice Bishop's regime in Grenada, and how it finally came to--to grief, leading to the civil conflict that the Americans pre-empted. Then I took off in a--in a very new direction with "The Heavens & the Earth." You want to know why? Oh, boy. It was not one of the happier periods in my life. I--but this is the way things happen. Here's another--here's another little analogy. How can we--how can--how can a political leader or--and a whole nation claim to be in control of the events and the destiny of other nations when we are not even in control of our own lives?
I look back on my own career--you're asking me, `How did I come to write this book? How did I, you know, arrive at Penn or decide to go into history?' and so forth, and I don't have very good answers for any of those questions. But then I say to myself, if I cannot even explain the--my own biography, as it were, in sort of rational cause and effect terms and decisions made and so forth, if I, in other words, was sort of buffeted hither and yon like Aeneas at the beginning -of the--of "The Aeneid," then how can--you know, how can we expect to have the foresight, the wisdom and the power to control the lives of others? I don't think you can do it.
Now here's a story. I came to Berkeley in 1975, and obviously, they must have liked me or they wouldn't have hired me in the first place. So I went ahead and did my first book, and it was duly accepted by Princeton Press, Princeton University, and my teaching was quite satisfactory and had every reason to believe that I was doing well at Berkeley and was encouraged by the professors who advised me. And then all of a sudden, at the very beginning of this--my third year there, the chairman of the department called me in and said, `Well, we've done a review on you, and I think you better start looking for another job.' Academics are not given to, shall we say, public relations and tact--had the touch of a blacksmith, he did.
And I was just devastated because I thought I'd been doing well at Berkeley, and--all of a sudden here I'm told that I'm probably not going to get tenure and I'll be out on the street in a few years. And my first marriage was breaking up at that point, and that certainly didn't help. So I was in a state of great anxiety, and I said to myself, `Well, I've played by the rules. I've taught very successfully. I've published my first book, just as I--they expected me to, even a little ahead of schedule. And all of a sudden now it's not doing me any good. So I'm not going to play by the rules anymore. I'm just going to go ahead and start on my second book and write about, you know, whatever topic strikes my fancy, as outrageous as it may seem. And if it sinks me, OK. It looks like I'm sunk anyway.'
So a colleague suggested to me as we were batting around ideas--he said, `Why don't you write a book about space?'
`You know, whoo--whoo--whoo--whoo (gestures upward with hands), outer
`Yeah, the international politics of, you know, space technology.' Well, it was something I'd been interested in and had thought some about. And now I was getting encouragement to take off in this, you know, wild direction. And so I did. I threw o--away the ideas--the more traditional ideas I'd had for a second book, and I went off on leave to Washington, DC, showed up at the NASA history office in the Air and Space Museum, and I spent a year, and then subsequently another year later, researching the history of the space race, the Soviet-American space race.
And the colleagues back at Berkeley who previously had been my strongest supporters against this other faction that was led by the chairman, now sort of began to lose faith in me. He says, you know, `What are you doing? You're going into outer space?' But I persevered. There was one professor at Berkeley as I turned in--I remember I turned in most of a first draft of the book a couple years later for my tenure review, which I expected was going to go badly, and he apparently got up at the faculty meeting after reading my manuscript and he said, `Well, I don't know, the r--you people all seem to be critical of McDougall and so forth, but I've read the manuscript and this is going to be a prize winner.' I've always had a warm spot in my heart for him as a result of that, because it did, fortunately, win the Pulitzer Prize. It took me nine years to get tenure at Berkeley, which I believe is an all-time record at an American University.
LAMB: Normally, it takes...
DR. McDOUGALL: Normally, in six years you're either promoted or you're out and your seventh year is just a grace year to help you find another job. Mine dragged on and dragged on with appeals and whatnot until my ninth year at Berkeley, and I finally got promoted and then won the Pulitzer Prize. But if it hadn't have been for what at the time I thought was a very unfair review that indicated I probably was going to get fired at Cal, if that had not happened, I never would have gone off and done the space book. I never would have won the Pulitzer Prize. I never would have--obviously have gotten the offer to come to the University of Pennsylvania and accept their chair in international relations, and obviously wouldn't be here talking to you.
LAMB: What was the reason, in your opinion, that you had so much trouble at Cal?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, I can't speak to personal motives, obviously. I'm sure each member of the department had his or her own reasons for supporting me or--or opposing me. But I do know that prior to my arrival at Cal, there had been a long struggle in the department over whether to hire someone in diplomatic history at all. Now remember, this was the early '70s; it was at the sort of height of anti-Vietnam, anti-nuclear arms race sentiment, and Berkeley, of course, was a center for that.
And many professors, I think, had come to the conclusion that studying international politics, diplomacy, war, was not only old-fashioned, methodologically speaking--`This is old history; we do social history now or cul--cultural history.' But I think they also tended to associate diplomatic history with a--with the power elite, with--with the military industrial complex, with American foreign policy, that to study power politics in the international sphere seemed in a way to ratify those politics and that they didn't want people like that on the faculty anymore. It's sort of--it would be sort of the academic equivalent of kicking ROTC off campus, kicking diplomatic history out of the department.
LAMB: Do you have a political label? Do people know you as a conservative or a liberal or...
DR. McDOUGALL: Oh, I don't know. Oh, I don't think anyone would call me a liberal, but I don't know whether I'd be comfortable with conservative, either, because one of the things that I want to do in this book--I mean, if it--if it achieves anything, I hope it achieves this, and that is to get rid of some of these labels, not only because it's--using labels is always a shorthand--it's a kind of a cop-out it--i--to say to you, `Well, So-and-so is a liberal or a conservative or a reactionary or a revisionist'--evokes certain emotions in the crowd. It doesn't really tell you anything about what the person stands for or what his or her rationale is for a certain position.
To say, `Oh, well, Walter LaFeber, he's one of those lefty revisionists,' that doesn't tell you anything about Walter LaFeber. It just--all you're trying to do is to create an emotional response. The fact is: What books has he written? What historical positions has he taken? Are they justified or not? And lo and behold, you find out that you may or may not agree with Walter LaFeber on some aspect of foreign policy, but you can affirm most of his history as being outstanding. So what the hell good is that label you just stuck on him?
Now in American foreign policy, we use lots of labels: isolationist vs. interventionist, realist vs. idealist. I mean, all--Henry Kissinger, who knows, needless to say, as much about this as anybody living, nevertheless began his book, "Diplomacy," with a chapter that set up a dichotomy between Teddy Roosevelt and the realistic approach to foreign policy and Woodrow Wilson and the idealistic approach and with the idea --that Americans have always sort of been torn between these two p--approaches to foreign policy. Well, I disagree with that. I don't think those labels are useful.
If you had asked Teddy Roosevelt, who was a great progressive, `Don't you have any ideals? Are you just a hard-headed, cold-blooded realist?' well, Teddy Roosevelt would have--he probably would have reached for his revolver if you'd made such an accusation. He would have said, `Of course I'm a man of many ideals and values and hopes and dreams. And I just understand that in a--tough, dog-eat-dog world that one has to use realistic means in order to promote one's security and one's values.' In other words, he would have said that he was both a realist and an idealist.
If you had said to Woodrow Wilson, `Oh, Woody, I love all these principles that you promote, and I share them. Isn't it too bad that the world is full of bloody-minded realists who don't share our ideals?' Wilson would have said, `Now wait just a minute. Yes, I am an idealist, but I also believe that my idealism represents a higher realism, that unless we want to--unless we want wars and revolutions to continue on and on and unless we want the world never to get any better, we must realistically attempt to pursue multilateral solutions and pursue these values.' In other words, he would claim that he represented a sort of higher realism.
So the point is this: There's no--the dichotomy between realism and idealism in American foreign policy is false. Every one of these traditions that I discuss in the book represented a consensus among most Americans at the ime that this or that tradition was both realistic and served American values. It served our interests and it served our values. And the-- real fight we have had, particularly now after the Cold War, is not between tough realism and fuzzy-headed idealism, but becau--but between competing visions of approaches to the world that are both pragmatic and in line with our values as a nation.
LAMB: Right now, if you had to--if you could do anything you wanted in our foreign policy, if you could change it overnight, what are the two or three things you'd do?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, let me say, in order to buy myself some time to think, that this is a history book. I knew I had to tack on a chapter at the end to sort of--what does it all mean for our post-Cold War debate? And many people, I think, perhaps, will read that chapter and not read the rest of the book or just skim it.
The--but the primary purpose of this book is less to give us a program for our future foreign policy than it is to review our history s--in order to educate the people who do want to present programs for our future foreign policy. To get the terms of the debate straight, let's quit denouncing people as `isolationists' just because they're against, say, the expansion of NATO. I mean, that is crazy.
We--this country has never been isolationist. The term should be stric--stricken from our vocabulary. And someone else ought not to be accused of being a naive Wilsonian on this or that issue because they want to pursue multi-lateral solutions to some problems. Maybe a multi s--lateral solution to a given problem is the right one to pursue.
But as for my own views, let's say, `What three things'--three things?
LAMB: Well, let me ju--I'll do--try this. What would you do in relationship to Bosnia? What-- would you do with those troops over there right now if you could do what you wanted to do?
DR. McDOUGALL: I'd pull them out.
LAMB: And just let it go?
DR. McDOUGALL: Let what go?
LAMB: I mean, just l--and stay out of it altogether?
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes. The--we have-- 20,000 or so soldiers in Bosnia who are an occupying force. They are freezing the ethnic conflict there at the moment. So in a sense that people are not killing each other as we speak, they are doing that. But there is no guarantee that the people will not begin killing each other again the moment that our troops are no longer there.
They say, `Well, we're going to have elections.' Yeah, we are having elections over there. What the elections are doing is ratifying the ethnic cleansing that ha--both sides have committed in that country. In other words, the country is cracking up along ethnic lines and--which is undoubtedly the only permanent--if there's going to be permanent peace in the region, that's probably the only way it's going to be achieved.
There--there's an irony here. You asked would I label myself a liberal or a conservative or would others see me in that way. In many respects, I think I might sound like a '60s liberal. Not a radical, but a '60s liberal who would be protesting our involvement in Vietnam. What do we think we're doing there? Well, how ca--what do we think we're going to accomplish over there? And, of course, at that time, many people were dying on all sides.
And yet, in the context of the 1990s, what ap--what might have been a liberal position in the '60s now appears to be a more conservative, perhaps even a reactionary one. Here's this professor saying we shouldn't even have gotten involved in Bosnia in the first place. What are we doing there? If I had my way, I'd bring the troops home.
That's the--you know, what are we? Some kind of '60s radical?' Well, yes. You'll s--well, I shouldn't say that because, again, some people might misunderstand. But if you read the chapter on Vietnam in my book, I think you'll find it unusual, perhaps original. I taught myself a lot about the Vietnam War. I'm a veteran of the Vietnam War. And in doing this book, I, myself, came to many new insights about the Vietnam War that I had not had before. It was a liberal war. It was a liberal war from beginning to end. That's part of the reason why we lost it. It was a war that was to be won by state building, by winning hearts and minds, rather than by military action.
And this--, again, as I said at the beginning, this attempt to go into other nations and make them over, according to our own notion of what's right, is to fly in the face of history and is ultimately bound to fail. And I predict it will fail in Bosnia, it will fail in Haiti, just as it failed in Vietnam.
I think you--if you look back 15 years from now on Bosnia and Haiti and see where they stand 15 years from now, I think you will find that the countries either are pretty much the same as they were before the American occupation--this is, after all, the third time that we've gone into Haiti with an occupying force--or you will find that those countries are indeed better off, have come to some new stability that they did not have before.
But if that's the case, it will because--it will be because the Bosnians and the Haitians have decided, after long decades of struggle, to get their own act together. It won't be because some American corporal was over there with an M-16, you know, telling them to have an election.
LAMB: Do you still teach?
DR. McDOUGALL: Oh, yes.
LAMB: What year?
DR. McDOUGALL: You mean what year students do I teach?
LAMB: What year--yeah.
DR. McDOUGALL: Undergraduates. Undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania. I love teaching. I'm--I just turned 50 and I'm happy to say that I love teaching as much now as I did when I got out of graduate school.
LAMB: What kind of an attitude about foreign affairs do these students bring to the class when you start out with them today?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, I don't--well, it--it's a mixed bag. I think they--they're mostly ignorant--I don't mean stupid by any means--but ignorant. Americans generally don't learn very much about the world, and these kids, of course, are only 18 or 19 years old, but also very thirsty, very hungry for knowledge. I direct the International Relations Program at Penn. I'm happy to say that it's been very successful.
We've gone from about 34 majors when I arrived to over 360 majors now. And these students, they want to study abroad, take foreign languages and study political science and history courses about the world. And they just can't get enough international ex--exposure. And-- they learn an awful lot partly because, as I say, they are starting out from a pretty low level of international knowledge.
LAMB: But as you teach them, though, and you go through the semester and the semester comes to a close, is there any way to paint a picture of what they think America ought to do in the world?
DR. McDOUGALL: No, I don't think so. For instance, if one had asked after the temper of the Berkeley student body of 1968, it would be pretty obvious that there was a consensus on most issues. That is not the case today. I think that young people, at least at Penn, are as diverse in their opinions as the public at large. We're very--we're in a very confusing period of American foreign policy.
Mr. Gorbachev threatened that he would deprive us of our enemy. And, indeed, since the end of the Cold War, we've been drifting. Our--the old factions, Hawk, Dove and so forth have totally broken down, and--and there is a great deal of confusion and drift in our foreign policy.
But what I argue in the book is that it wasn't the end of the Cold War that has thrown us into this period of confusion. Americans have always been confused, at least in this century, about their--about foreign policy, except in times when there was a clear and present danger to concentrate our minds.
LAMB: How long were you in Vietnam?
DR. McDOUGALL: One year and nine days.
LAMB: What year?
DR. McDOUGALL: '69, '70.
LAMB: How old were you?
DR. McDOUGALL: Twenty-one. I was supposed to get out of Vietnam, of course, after one year. We all had our short-timer calenders and we marked off the days and when my 365th day came around, I headed for Long Bin to process out and came down with a wicked fever. So I tried to shake it off and couldn't and then literally the evening before I was supposed to get on the Freedom Bird and fly back to the States, I decided I really ought to check in and have a doctor look at me, hoping he'd just shoot me up with penicillin or something and put me on the plane. But he checked me into the hospital instead, put me in the malaria ward, assuming that's what I had. And so for nine days, I sat there feeling sorry for myself in the malaria ward in Long Bin Hospital.
LAMB: What service were you in?
DR. McDOUGALL: Army.
LAMB: What was your rank?
DR. McDOUGALL: Spec Five, equivalent of a buck sergeant, artillery.
LAMB: How had you gotten into the service in the first place?
DR. McDOUGALL: Let me just make a--finish the story about the malaria ward. They found out very quickly after taking blood from my arm literally six times a day, every single day, that I didn't have malaria. But they kept me in that ward, and I kept wondering, `Gee, what happens if one lone mosquito gets into this ward?' But happily, I got home--got home OK.
Well, I was a 1968 graduate of Amherst College and by then it was obvious that--well, we all faced the problem of what to do when we graduated because graduate-school deferments had been abolished. And it did not occur to me to try to duck the draft. I was not a gung-ho type or a--I wasn't political, particularly, at all. But it just never occurred to me to try to find a dodge. So I figured, `Well, heck, if I've got to--if I've got to go in, at least I'll try to control my fate a little bit.'
So I enr--I tried to enlist. Of course, you couldn't enlist in the Navy or the Air Force. They had long waiting lists. So I went ahead, enlisted in the Army, and chose the artillery as my branch. They only let you choose a combat branch. You might transfer--they might transfer you to another branch, but you had to pick a combat branch when you went in at that time and so I picked the artillery.
And I think it was a good choice. I mean, I ended up in Vietnam as a combat soldier, but I was the--I ended up being the director of fire direction for a battery of 1.55mm Howitzers. And what that meant was that I did all the mathematics. I had the slide rules and the tables and I did all the mathematics in order to determine where to aim the--aim the guns to hit a given target, and--that was fine. I was always good in math and, you know, for once, the Army, you know, put someone where they belonged, I think. I didn't enjoy it; couldn't wait to get out; had a few scary moments. But I'm happy to say I wasn't hurt and I did nothing that I'm ashamed of. And I did my job pretty well in the artillery.
LAMB: Did that experience have any impact on the way you think and write today?
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes, it did. When I came back from Vietnam, I felt the way I think most veterans did, and that is pretty alienated--alienated from the--from my own age group, radicals, hippies, protesting, calling us baby killers and so forth. But I also felt alienated from the older generation, the flag wavers, the hawkish patriots, because I knew that the war was a bad--had--was a bad business and a losing proposition. And so I didn't really think or talk about my experiences in Vietnam for years and years afterwards. I don't think very many of us did. But as I pursued my career as an historian and a teacher and began to come to terms, I think, with the--with that period of history in the space book, in the space race. The technocratic mentality of the space race was very similar to the technocratic mentality that drove our effort in Vietnam.
As I began to think about that period historically, I came to realize how important my time in the Army had been for me. It's--again, it's not something that I would wish on anybody, but let's face it, being in an army, perhaps even being in a war, is something that millions and millions of men, in particular, in every generation of history, have experienced. And in particular, there is nothing, I think, more useful for an historian, particularly a political historian, than to be part of a gigantic bureaucratic government organization. You learn firsthand all of the foibles and politics and patterns and folly, really, of big government bureaucracies. And, of course, it's not just government bureaucracies. I'm sure the same is true in many corporations and universities and other big institutions.
And having that life experience, I think, in ways that I perhaps wasn't even aware of as I would be researching and writing--but having had that experience I think made me more sympathetic, more sensitive to the organizational dynamics and bureaucratic dynamics that very often drive armies, government agencies and administrations of all kinds.
And so in that sense, yes, I think it--I think being in the Army was extremely valuable in my historical training. It was an education as much as being in this or that school was. And I'm not saying that you have to have that kind of an experience to be a good historian, but I wonder sometimes about the--the students who come to me and say, `Well, I've majored in history and I really love it and I'd like to go to history graduate school.'
And I, of course, help counsel them with their decision and--and give them all the pros and cons; and if they decide to do it, that's--that's great. But I always throw in the possibility that--`Well, you might want to take a couple of years off and get a job. Learn something about life. You might find out that just having a paycheck every--every month is a pretty good thing, you know?--pretty novel experience. And find a career that you want to stick with instead of going on in history. Or if you do decide, after a couple of years, to go to graduate school, that's great, but you'll be better off for it for having had that life experience.'
LAMB: Where did you get the title for the book, "Promised Land, Crusader State?" Was that your idea?
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes. My idea and I came by it in that intuitive not even quite conscious fashion that is often the case. In other words, it was--I can't tell you that on September the 12th, 1996, it popped into my head. But it--of course, it went hand in hand with that gradual realization of this Old Testament-New Testament dichotomy. If one had to--if I was going to stick with that Old Testament-New Testament way of breaking up the book, then how would I title the two? You know, what--how does one describe sort of a--an Old Testament notion of what America was to be in terms of foreign policy? Well, a promised land. I mean, this is a way many American leaders, going all the way back to John Winthrop and on ahead into--into 1776, thought of America, as a kind of promised land. And then, of course, that creates the--or conveys the--the image of a land set apart, which is what the word `holy' means--set apart.
America was to be set apart, separate from the old world, uncorrupted by the old world. And that feeds perfectly into our early traditions of exclusive exceptionalism and liberty at home, an American system of states separated from Europe, unilateral foreign policy, don't make any entangling alliances, and expansion across the American continent. What would be a good sort of religious or biblical metaphor for our--you know, for our New Testament traditions? These in which we go abroad to try to expand our values, defend our values around the world. Why, a crusader state.
So once I hit on the idea of the Old and New Testaments of foreign relations, then the title followed.
LAMB: Got to ask this question, always do. As you might know, we're tracing the steps of Alexis de Tocqueville's trip to the United States in 1831. You quote him several times--the first time on Page 6. You say, `I say, quote, "With some degree," unquote, because complete objectivity about America is a characteristic only of God and Alexis de Tocqueville.'
Why is he quoted so often?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, because, with the exception of God, only Alexis de Tocqueville has ever been totally objective about America. What--what bet...
LAMB: Was he really?
DR. McDOUGALL: What better source could you--could you have?
LAMB: In your opinion, was he really?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, he was as objective as a human being can be, I think. I loved "Democracy in America." There's a great--as you know, there's a--there are great debates now in the history profession over core curricula, national standards, and--you know, should the old canon of text be set aside in favor of more diverse readings and so forth? Well, whatever--however one comes down on those debates, I would say that any student of American history must read "The Federalist Papers" and "Democracy in America."
I cannot imagine a--a better source than an insightful, intellectual travelogue written by a foreigner. I mean, there are some--there are some countries you will go to, for instance, France, where the people are not interested in knowing, particularly, what an American would have to say about French history. That's just the way the French are. But--and I hope the same is not true of Americans. I think Americans are, perhaps, hypersensitive sometimes about what foreigners think of them and Americans get very upset when they find out that amer--that foreigners don't think of them as highly as they think of themselves.
But in the case of Tocqueville, that's a brilliant book. And it used to--Tocqueville used to be just on--on every reading list in colleges, perhaps even high school selections from it and so forth. I'm afraid you don't see that as often as you used to. But for my--money, he's unsurpassed as a political theorist.
I mean, you have Montesquieu in the 18th century and--and Tocqueville in the 19th. And if you want to stick with Frenchmen, maybe Raymond de Roun in the 20th century as being brilliant observers not only of politics in general, but of Anglo-American cultures. Montesquieu was fascinated with Great Britain and he studied English institutions; and Tocqueville with--with the United States. And, of course, he was hoping that, through the revolution of 1848, France might be able to move more toward a British-style parliamentary system.
LAMB: How much do we owe to Montesquieu for our separation of powers?
DR. McDOUGALL: I believe quite a bit.
LAMB: How did that work in history?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, I--I'm not an expert on the intellectual history of--well, in this case, the Constitution, but--I mean, America is, after all, a--a--a product of the enlightenment--not just of the enlightenment, because we have a very powerful, reformed religious foundation as well--18th century Protestant Christianity. But in terms of the enlightenment, the Scottish and English enlightenments are the main in--inspirations for--for the ideas of Jefferson and Madison and Hamilton and so forth.
But partly because he was an Anglophile, I think, Montesquieu was well known in Great Britain, and English enlightenment authors would cite Montesquieu and disseminate his ideas in the English language--Eng--English-speaking world.
LAMB: You mentioned earlier the Pulitzer Price and the impact it had out there at u--University of California at Berkeley. Looking back now on it--what year was it you won it?
DR. McDOUGALL: 1986.
LAMB: What impact did it have on you and wha--did people look at you differently after you won it?
DR. McDOUGALL: It gave me a name. It gave me a new name. I'm now--I'm no longer Walter McDougall. I'm now the Pulitzer Prize-winning Walter McDougall, which is kind of a burden as well as a--as an ornament. But I had a colleague at Berkeley, Leon Litwack, who also had won a Pulitzer for history, and he congratulated me when I won the prize and he said, `This will change your life.'
And so I said, `What do you mean? Is it going to make me rich?' And he said, `No, it's not going to make you rich, but it will change your life.' And I ju--so I guess he was going to leave it to me to find out what it meant. And I think what it's meant to me, winning the prize, which was just a wonderful blessing--I mean, it just came out of the blue. What it has meant is that you have this new name. You are sort of automatically taken more seriously perhaps than you might otherwise be taken. And it of--obviously, it opened up opportunities to me. University of Pennsylvania had this chair they were trying to fill, and when they heard I was available, of course, many people were very excited to see if they could attract me to Penn. If I hadn't have won the Pulitzer, I probably would have been just another professor out there.
LAMB: Do they give you tenure, by the way? Is that automatic...
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes.
LAMB: ...at Penn?
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes. But--but there's a day--but--thi--this is something that I've not quite sorted out. You asked me about, you know, influence of the things that happened earlier in my life on my career. This is closer to the present so the--I may not--I may change my mind about this, but right now I wonder if my book on the North Pacific, which is sort of next on the list after the space book, if that book were not influenced very greatly by my--by the fact that I had won the Pulitzer Prize.
Now that book is unlike any of the others I've written because it is--it's scholarly to be sure. I put years into the research for it, this great history of the North Pacific Ocean from the days of the Spaniards all the way down through World War II. But "Let the Sea Make a Noise...A History of the North Pacific"--but it is--it is essentially a book written for a more popular audience. I was hoping to attract--I thought, `Well, gee, I'd won the Pulitzer Prize; maybe I could write a book that would attract--that would appeal not only to academics and historians, but to a larger reading public as well.'
A long, narrative history of this exciting part of the world; California, Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Siberia and the Russians and so forth. The book did not do well. In some ways, it's still--that book was the love of my life. It was a kind of goodbye to Berkeley, goodbye to California, goodbye to the Pacific Ocean. When I left Berkeley to come to Penn, I sat down to write this long book on the North Pacific Ocean. I think it was a way of sort of saying, `Bye-bye Pacific,' you know? `I've gone back East.'
And I put a lot of love and work into that book and I think it's a great read, but it did not do well. I think it's--the reviews were OK, they weren't negative, but it wasn't an academic books--it wasn't a book that scholars were going to say, `Oh, here's a very important new history of the North Pacific.' They'd say, `Well, this is more of a popular book written for the general audience.' And in terms of the general audience, it didn't sell all that well.
Maybe it was too large, too expensive or not marketed; I don't know. And so I say to myself, `Am I--do I wish I'd written that book or do I wish I'd not written that book? And did I write it because I'd won the Pulitzer Prize and I thought I could score?'
LAMB: Now you also said your marriage was breaking up, but I see you got a wedding ring on. So you've...
DR. McDOUGALL: I sure do.
LAMB: Done it again?
DR. McDOUGALL: You bet.
LAMB: And what's this like?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, there's a lot of wa--big time span here now. I was divorced back--during the early part of the tenure crisis, 1979, '80 or so, and I got remarried in 1988. In fact, I did something that the psychologists--I committed a--I had a hat trick of mistakes. Psychologists say that the three most stressful times in your life are when you change your mar--your marital status, one way or the other, move--physically move to a new town, and change jobs. I did all three simultaneously.
My wife and I met in California. We got married in August of 1988. We--after our honeymoon, we immediately packed up the cars, both cars, and a dog and a
cat, and drove all the way across country for me to take up my duties at Penn. And--and we're not--neither of us is exactly a calm person; we both tend to be a little type A in our personalities, and yet we pulled it off. And we've talked to some--you know, a lot of people, including some psychologists, since who have said, `You guys were crazy. How did you do it?' We did it.
LAMB: What does she do?
DR. McDOUGALL: What does she do? She's the mother of two wonderful little kids.
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes.
DR. McDOUGALL: Angela Robin who is five. And Christopher Walter who has just turned three.
LAMB: What's--for those that have never been to Penn, what's it like? How big is it? Is it known, I think, as one of the Ivy Leagues?
DR. McDOUGALL: Yes. A lot of people, particularly out West, confuse Penn and Penn State. Now I like Penn State. I root for the football team and Joe Paterno and all that, but I'm obviously miffed when people mistake the two, because Penn is a great school founded by Benjamin Franklin, going back to the eight--mid-18th century, and one of the Ivy League schools.
Penn is one of the two larger Ivy Leagues. Cornell and Penn are comparable in size. The others all have smaller undergraduate enrollments. But being in the college at Penn, as opposed to one of the professional schools, is a little frustrating. Penn is very much driven by its graduate programs, particularly the professional schools which are all excellent. The law school, business school and the medical school. And so the college is sort of bringing up the rear in terms of financial support and prestige. But I'm doing my best to help out.
LAMB: What's the mind-set from your experience from living in Philadelphia, being at the University of Pennsylvania, living in Berkeley and being at the University of California?
DR. McDOUGALL: Well, Philadelphia, I will say, is about the most conservative place I've ever been in my life, whereas Berkeley, in the Bay Area, of course, would be one of the most avant garde. And by conservative, I don't mean politically, I just--I mean sort of socially and culturally. It's a very slow, old-fashioned place. Everything comes to Philadelphia last. And even then, the people are a little loathe to accept it. And some people would say it's very stuffy. And in some respects, it is stuffy. But in other respects, it's--it's very good. It's a very--fine place to raise children because it is sort of traditional and unthreatening, you might say, whereas I can't imagine what- it would be like to raise kids in Berkeley.
I mean, I--the 12-year-olds in Berkeley are probably more sophisticated than the 18-years-olds in, you know, in Bryn Mawr. Any Bryn Mawr listeners would probably object to my saying that, but I don't regret having made the move at all. My time in California was troublesome in many respects, but it wa--ob--obviously, there was an awful lot to love in the San Francisco area. But I don't regret having--having made the move to Penn. I enjoy Penn and it's treated me well. And, as I say, you know, Philadelphia has a lot of charms to go along with its less-than-charming reputation.
LAMB: Here's the cover of the book, "Promised Land, Crusader State," written by Walter McDougall. We thank you very much.
DR. McDOUGALL: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.
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