THE history of political science might be described in terms of a pendulum--preoccupation with the mechanisms of government alternating with neglect of these mechanisms. Between the two world wars the pendulum swung to the first extreme. The attention of political scientists was focussed upon the apparatus of government and upon the juridical forms in which policy was expressed. The make-up of the League of Nations and article-by-article examinations of its Covenant were fashionable topics of scholarly research. Much of this work was of value, but it often ignored the fact that decisions are made by men, not machinery.
The direction taken by political scientists since World War II represents a reaction to the overemphasis put by their teachers on the study of organizational forms. The reaction has been a healthy one. Today the political scientist is interested in the "decision-maker," the forces which influence him, his relations with other decision-makers--in the politics of the decision-making process, not its mechanics. The risk in this approach is clear: it is sometimes forgotten that institutions influence men as well as the other way around. It may be that the most important thing to know about Mr. Stans is that he is the Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
No one denies the importance of leadership. The free world is being tried in a life-and-death contest that is novel in nature and therefore unprecedented in the demands it makes on its leaders. We are at war, and precisely because the guns are not being fired, we need leaders who can teach us the necessity and the art of waging the war that looks like a peace. By outdoing us in science and economics, in preparedness and persuasion, the Communists plan to gain a preponderance that will bring them triumph by our default. Rare qualities of leadership are required to rouse free men to meet this challenge.
As we enter the 1960s, two possibilities face the United States. We, and other free nations, may fail will be a decade of decision--or decadence. We can either fritter away or preserve our chance for survival in freedom. Which outcome it will be depends largely on the quality of our leadership.
Loading, please wait...