Walter Russell Mead has a new book out, God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World, which is a must read. We discuss it on Friday’s show for two hours, but barely scratch it’s surface. As I told Mead, I feel like I have met a gentile Aaron Jastrow, 70 years after the era depicted in The Winds of War. Or a Greg Norman who has played a magnificent 63 of 72 holes. We part company about the post-2001 world. The last nine holes decide the match. But Mead is nearly flawless for the first 7/8ths of the match, and must be read for that reason alone.
Mead is a brilliant man –a studio interview allows this recognition.
And he is a genuinely personable fellow. We could easily have continued the conversation for another two hours or more.
But as we discuss through the first hour of our conversation, I fear he is not candid about, or refuses to recognize, the nature of today’s enemy, and as a result has written a book that invites a suicidal complacency. Complacency about the enemy is the greatest ill that affects the U.S. We have never before confronted a cult of death seeking WMD. This is the sort of change that ought to mobilize foreign policy elites just as the rise of Soviet Union mobilized X. Mead could have produced such a call, and still might. His book may in fact be part one of such a call.
But this book is, at best, only a riveting and very entertaining part one. We need part two, and soon. And from within the foreign policy elites, or it will not work the necessary alert.
Mead argues, forcefully, that my sort of disposition will obstruct the necessary clarity about the vast majority of the Muslim world, a clarity that will reconcile it with the West.
But in our conversation he is quite explicit about the thus far absent part two of the argument: The U.S. cannot allow the mullahs to possess nukes. (The transcript will be here later on Friday.) This recognition won’t earn Mead many friends on the left, but it recommends him and his book. Mead knows the bottom line. He just hopes it won’t be necessary to do the sums.
In our conversation we both celebrate 300 years of Anglo-American achievement, and Mead frolics in the English literature that proves up this achievement. (This is the pure pleasure part of the book.) It is significant that Mead concluded his book while on a mass mission trip in Rwanda with Rick Warren. That is the sot of book it is, part pleasure and part lecture.
You will really have to read God and Gold to appreciate it, including its central error of optimism about the clash of civilization and fanatics we are now entered into.
You should also start hoping for part two. Soon. Mead’s a fine thinker and the sort of writer we need, and he lays out a necessary history and a necessary humility. But we need as well as necessary urgency that he could provide.
But hasn’t. Yet.