According to legend, when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in 1781, he sent the British army marching out with colors cased and drums beating to the tune, "The World Turned Upside Down." Repeatedly over the intervening years, as in the preceding centuries, history has harbored those who have turned the world, or whose world has turned, upside down. Some were bent on radically uprooting, others on beneficially preserving, each according to his own lights. Revolutionaries and traditionalists alike frequently find the world behaving contrary to expectations.

On seven continents, change is proceeding in ways that defy the ideologists and soothsayers alike. Change-and anxiety. "We do not know what will be born," said Valery at Zurich four years after the Armistice of 1918, "and we fear the future, not without reason. We hope vaguely, we dread precisely."

Yet articulation is preferable to brooding. The dire dilemmas of our day must for each of us become personal ones as events impinge upon our lives and responsibilities. Even the most casual among us has a duty to himself to try to pull together his scattered thoughts to see whether any practical insights have come to him from his training, his travel, his reading, his conversations and his work. All this encourages me to speculate, somewhat introspectively, about certain aspects of the foreign-policy world in which I now live.

The traditional professional way of looking at foreign policy is that of late nineteenth-century Europe, which assumed a world of vertically separated sovereign states presided over by good, bad or nondescript governments, internally compartmentalized for policy-making purposes. In those days, at least in theory, responsibilities were fixed. Each participant knew with whom he was "dealing." The experts and operators inside each government knew where their obligations and responsibilities lay. Their essential task was to sort out the problems confronting them from abroad, to line these problems up against any favorite goals of their own, and then to set about pursuing a course of action guided by the touchstone of the "national interest." Tensions were expected to arise as these organized units confronted and conflicted with one another, and it was considered prudent to keep up defenses just in case.

As we have moved from the age of sail to steam and from air to space, amendments to this basic concept have been made to allow for growing complexities and other recent irritations. But in many quarters these assumptions are still whimsically considered to be integral to the concept of foreign-policy responsibility, and even essential to the self-respect of its professional participants.

Turning this traditional foreign-policy world upside down, let us consider two phenomena which have intruded into the very center of foreign-policy- making in the '6os. The first could be called "the two cultures in foreign affairs," and the second, in some ways complementary to it, "the meeting of horizontal and vertical politics."


If each of us draws his own map of the world, we quickly discover that maps differ. Men and institutions and governments operate under their own laws of relativity about what is important in the world at any given moment. Like the Bostonian's and the New Yorker's map of the United States, Senator Fulbright's map of the world clearly differs from former Senator Goldwater's, even if the dates on them are the same. The Pentagon's map of the world contrasts with A.I.D.'s, the C.I.A.'s map is unlike U.S.I.A.'s, N.A.S.A.'s map may differ from the A.E.C.'s-all in terms of assets, vulnerabilities, commitments, past investments, future hopes and overall significance from separate institutional points of view. A map of the world which looks right side up in one part of Washington often looks upside down or left side up in another. In the very nature of things bureaucratic, policies run where preferences lead. In the institutional structure of the United States government, for example, certain nations achieve a built-in over-representation, a weighted voting constituency. The overlay of all the different perspectives-of all the different maps-produces in the real foreign-policy world a mosaic of varying colors, sizes, shapes, pins and flags, depending on a variety of interactions, priorities and interruptions, many of them by no means under American control.

Thus in a sense the facts of foreign policy are not facts, or if they are, they are highly slippery and manipulable. To state it broadly, foreign- policy facts are eminently less satisfying than defense facts or industrial facts. That is one reason why the Research and Analysis offices of the Department of State occasionally envy their Research and Engineering counterparts in the Department of Defense. The two groups are noncompetitive in more ways than one. The latter deal constantly in the higher forms of mathematics; the former deal constantly in the lower forms of non-mathematics, even anti-mathematics. Indeed, we in the State Department are just specialized enough in the variables of foreign affairs to know how fruitless it is to try to run Chinese Communist intentions through the computers, or to try to quantify what is going on in Buddhist pagodas or to extrapolate the psyche of Fidel Castro. We are paid to make educated guesses, but that is something different. It is not very systematic, as systems-analysis goes.

Another reason why it is difficult to find "the facts" is that there are so many just plain facts. There is simply no end of facts. Yet at the summit of the government, there are only one President, one Secretary of State and one Secretary of Defense, who, no matter how great their appetite for facts, cannot digest them all. Facts have to be gathered, reported, selected, arranged, varnished, packaged and presented. Facts have to be added together to make patterns of facts.

The policy-maker gets his facts where he finds them-at the end of this process, or anywhere along the way. So he may properly ask the questions: Which facts? Whose facts? Whose selection? Whose varnish? Who is selecting the selectors of facts? And the variables implicit in these questions are complemented by the consumer's own personal variables of time, context, toleration and receptivity for facts. The policy-maker's understandable preference for immediate versus long-term facts, for specific versus open- ended facts, for facts pointing toward minimal choices versus facts thrusting toward major changes in policy-all these affect the fate of facts in the realm of foreign policy.

Thus all foreign-policy facts are relative, but some are more relative than others. This is where the two cultures come in: the cultures through which the facts are filtered. On a far larger canvas C.P. Snow discovered and copyrighted the concept of the two cultures several years ago. But the pattern also closely fits the extrasensory perceptions of the foreign- policy world as I know it. Like Professor Snow, I have often felt that I was moving among two groups-comparable in intelligence, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who in intellectual, moral, and psychological climate had little in common. . . . Between the two is a gulf of mutual incomprehension-sometimes hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding. . . . The feelings of one pole become the anti-feelings of the other. . . . This polarization is sheer loss to us all.[i]

Snow divided the whole of Western society into two polar groups-the literary intellectuals at one pole and the physical scientists at the other. I cannot define the two foreign-affairs cultures with equal precision. I can nonetheless say that I am strongly aware of divergent polar pulls that tend to separate the community of hardware orientation from the community of human orientation. This divergence goes beyond atmospherics to fundamental ways of thinking.

The divergence is not necessarily deliberate or even conscious on the part of the participants. Nor does it have anything to do with alleged conspiracies which assorted critics from time to time charge up to various New York law firms, establishments, syndicates or secret societies. Nor am I trying to separate the men from the boys, or the hawks from the doves. I mean something more serious, and will risk further generalizing about it.

In the United States today there is on the one hand a grouping of those impulses and associations which increasingly link the scientifically creative forces, institutions and personalities of industry, defense and intelligence, of physics, electronics and nuclear energy, of statistics, management and computers-a grouping now being curiously augmented by cadres of "modernizers" rising up from obsolescent constitutionalism and prescribing military government for the "economic stabilization" of developing societies. All this can be contrasted with a grouping on the other hand of those impulses and associations which our hardware specialists now call "software," embracing the more traditionally humanistic tendencies both of skepticism and humane commitment-outlooks concerned with the intangibles of society like individual motivation, conviction, identification, participation, loyalty, persistence-disciplines devoted to the anthropological, historical, sociological, behavioristic bases for the politics of aspiration-perceptions relevant to the cohesiveness of groups, the breadth of the political base, the social cement, the viability of societies, the arts of democratic leadership, the ethical propulsions and dilemmas, and the eternal case for ballot-casting and for stimulating the political energy essential for closed societies to evolve into open ones.

These two basic divergences have something to do with William James's old distinctions between the "tough-minded and the tender-minded:"

The tough think of the tender as sentimentalists and softheads. The tender feel the tough to be unrefined, callous, or brutal. Their mutual reaction is very much like that that takes place when Bostonian tourists mingle with a population like that of Cripple Creek. Each type believes the other to be inferior to itself; but disdain in the one case is mingled with amusement, in the other it has a dash of fear. [ii]

The two cultures in foreign affairs likewise have something to do with the shades of difference between science and art, between deduction and induction, between assurance and reserved judgment, between determinants and indeterminants, between solid referents and nuances, between photography and impressionism, between statics and motion. They have something to do with the differences between quantity and quality; between specialists and generalists; between model builders and moralists; between coercion and consent; between kolkhoz and kibbutz; between force and subtlety; between the appeals of power and the power of appeals; between Bismarck at Sedan and Lincoln at Gettysburg; between Lenin at the Finland Station and Gandhi on the Salt March. These distinctions apply unevenly, but each contains a partial truth. In different ways the intellectual descendants of Marx, Freud and Einstein have complicated matters by enlisting in both cultures, alternately serving each with weapons to pierce the traditional armor of the other.

In their effects on the policy process, the polar pulls of the two cultures are destabilizing. No one would accuse the twentieth-century strategic engineers belonging to the first culture, laboring in what President Eisenhower has called our "military-industrial complex," of the lack of sophistication of the nineteenth-century pacifist merchant of death, Alfred Nobel. But Nobel's peculiar Weltanschauung is worthwhile resuscitating every now and then as an abrupt reminder of the dead end to which the unbridled passion of the engineer in politics can lead. "Well, you know," Nobel wrote to a friend, "it is rather fiendish things we are working on, but they are so interesting as purely technical problems, and so completely technical as well as so clear of all financial and commercial considerations, that they are doubly fascinating."[iii]

The polar tendency of the second culture can be equally destabilizing. Appalled or frustrated by one aspect or another of what they see going on about them, its adherents tend to tire. They may stay in the policy process, yet discard considerations of pertinence. Some are too pragmatic to be practical, others too relativistic to be relevant. Or their anti- scientific reaction can be so strong that they tend to forsake rigorous thought in favor of their predilections and let disciplined judgment slip into intuition. Or they may be so entirely repelled that they abdicate the marginal influence left to them and retreat to the sidelines of destructive criticism, cynicism or lazy Cassandraism.

Spokesmen for the two cultures sit together around policy tables bypassing with growing sophistication each other's direct line of fire. The more sophisticated the players, the less obvious are the distinctions between the two cultures in everyday foreign-affairs discourse. Thus it has become fashionable for some devotees of one culture to affect a certain interest in the other, to display varying personal packagings of soft hardwariness and hard softwariness. Occasionally a mediator with honest affiliations in both cultures does what he can as a go-between. But it is an uneven contest. The Philistines in each culture resent mixed loyalties, and the budgets and the numbers weigh heavily on the hardware side. The polar pulls of the two cultures remain-the hardware pole and the human pole.

Through these two cultures filter the facts that reach the policy-makers, with the first of these cultures increasingly moving, in America, into the center of political gravity. Many of the conscious adherents of each culture spend much of their time worrying about how those in the other culture are shaping their facts, and devising plans to counter the others' assumed tactics. Few of them devote much effort to depolarizing the contest. At worst they enjoy the fray, and at best they leave the mediating assignment to some overtaxed superior between themselves and the President in whom all such issues join.

Yet I think that those of us in responsible positions in American life, whether inside or outside the government, ought to ask ourselves: Who besides the President, who on the way to the President, is bridging these gaps between the two cultures in foreign affairs?

To the extent that one of the cultures clearly preëmpts the field, and the central issues of policy are considered and decided largely within its terrain, to that extent we ultimately narrow our national options-precisely the thing which, according to the conventional wisdom, enlightened policy should seek to avoid.

Thinking people in the second culture long ago accustomed themselves to living with contradictions, to having faith in skepticism, to advancing toward the solution of a problem by admitting as a possibility something which few but the greatest among the scientists, soldiers, economists and game-theorists of the first culture admit-namely, that the problem may be insoluble. In terms of practical politics in a nuclear era, that is a viewpoint which we discard at our peril. For we live in an age which constantly presents us with impossible alternatives-none of which appears to lead us where we want to go.

If the first culture can begin to produce numbers of people with technical proficiency and the ability to rise above it, and if the second culture can begin to produce numbers of people with human understanding and the ability to relate it to the machinery of power, there will remain possibilities for accommodating the two cultures to the benefit, rather than the detriment, of foreign policy. However, only an optimist would say that this is already happening.


As the two cultures compete for the time, attention and focus of those who make foreign policy, there has developed another phenomenon equally unsettling to the traditional view of the foreign-policy world-the meeting of vertical and horizontal politics. By the latter I mean the political explosion of personal interest in and affection for foreign affairs which we Americans are now experiencing. Everyman's involvement in foreign affairs overruns all institutional restraints and threatens once more to turn upside down the world of the old-time foreign-affairs professional. For while he often fits easily, consciously or unconsciously, into one of the two cultures, it is hard for him to adjust to total competition.

Some proprieties used to be observed by the uninitiated. Foreign policy was thought to be an arcane pursuit, where fools would not be suffered gladly. The expert's role was protected by widely held notions of the damage to the national interest which would flow from private interventions in foreign affairs "out of channels." Well-meaning people, no matter how high-minded, were encouraged to desist from frolics on their own. "Departures from policy" were frowned upon, and there were vague murmurings about violating the Logan Act.

These barriers have proved hopelessly insufficient. Today foreign policy is a preoccupation of nearly everyone who is not officially assigned to it. All cabinet members, all governors, all congressmen, all university presidents, most mayors, all important business and labor leaders, many farmers, and all professors, ministers, journalists and students, as well as safari-goers and countless other participants in the Affluent Society, are volunteering to help. Neither the gold drain nor the beautification of America deters them from going abroad. As the Foreign Service officer issues them passports, he may occasionally think of Thoreau and the railroad, and conclude that it is all simply "wickedness going faster."

The professional wonders whether we are putting our best feet forward. He may develop strong convictions about the importance of convincing certain people to see America first. He may project the new political explosion of general interest in world affairs into a prospect of sheer pandemonium: the ultimate de-professionalization of foreign policy. The growth of horizontal politics across national boundaries undermines the basis of his whole folklore, vested as it is in the vertical politics of professional diplomacy. The traditional shades and hues of countries on maps take on unpredictable colorations. In a hundred ways he sees us becoming horizontally involved in their politics, and they in ours. He sees the nineteenth-century dikes of nationalism-sovereign states governed by governments served by professionals-being washed away in a flood of universal politics. And after such a short lifespan, too! Unreconciled, he tries to swim in the new currents of internationalized personal politics swirling around him and to maintain his professionalism in the process.

There are bureaucrats who consider the bureaucracy's chief function to be one of guarding the Republic from its elected officials and educating the appointed ones as quickly as possible to their predecessors' old biases, thus preserving and sanctifying policies which otherwise would be in search of a rationale. For such a bureaucrat the new challenge of universal politics is especially tiresome. Not only does he have the American people's elected and appointed officials to deal with, but he has to deal with the American people themselves. He has read that it is un-American to try to restrict travel, and he is large-minded enough to admit that the travel may somehow benefit the traveler, if not the government. So the travel schedules multiply, and the vertical professional sees himself suicidally contributing more and more of his own working day to facilitating the horizontal politics of others. His efforts become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

As he watches this phenomenon, our bureaucrat is aware of certain patterns. He identifies clumps of association, informal horizontal collections of like-minded people. He tells himself that this is a natural unfolding for export of native-American pluralism.

Some Americans simply prefer the atmospherics of big industry, hard work, puffing smokestacks, cloudy weather, wage-stabilization, Rhein-Ruhr cigars, good bathrooms, cold climate, heavy food. They fly to the places in Europe where these can be found.

Other Americans prefer romanticism with sunshine, have a weakness for lost causes, admire sherry, genealogy and the land-based aristocracy, favor Hemingway and Berlioz, fancy a family-military tradition and affect an effortless superiority. They agree with William Dean Howells that "inequality is as dear to the American heart as liberty itself." And they go to those places in the Caribbean or Mediterranean where they can find foreigners as unequal as themselves.

Still other Americans feel most at home by going abroad in their shirtsleeves, determined to help others help themselves with village development, low-cost housing, birth control clinics, schistosomiasis- eradication and movable trench-latrines. Accompanied, perhaps, by recordings of Joan Baez and lyrics of Bob Dylan, they enlist for far-flung assignments in "the other war," ameliorating, where they can, the world's great North-South crises of economics and race.

These by no means exhaust the number of contrasting natural patterns of association between Americans and the world. In the process each American creates flavorful and often inconsistent foreign impressions of America, involvements with America, concerns about America and expectations from America. Mirror images of the societies and individuals he embraces or spurns reflect back into American public life, stirring up increased interest and attention here. Before long, international issues take on domestic constituencies of their own with internalized political overtones. Cyprus, Kashmir, Angola, Yemen, Rhodesia and the Oder-Neisse line become increasingly domesticated in American circles in terms of the interested constituencies which seek to play upon U.S. policy consideration.

Another consequence flows from these relationships-the exporting, and re- importing from abroad, of our internal governmental disagreements. The United States Government is always meeting the United States Government, like Plato, coming back. Inter-service rivalries come back through other people's Foreign Ministries after referral and umpiring by interested foreign parties who factor in their own various weights and measures. Minority assessments in Washington solemnly reappear from foreign Heads of State. Recommendations suggestive of pending American agency proposals double back through foreign embassies in Washington. Requests from foreign governments for military and economic aid often bear an expert's touch in their drafting, as though their receiver was not the first American through whose hands they had passed. Governments, shadow governments, former governments and public relations firms all play a part in this enveloping international political process.

However imprecise the terms, there is a kind of internationalization of the political right and of the political left-of conservative and radical countries. Moreover, in a sense there are Democratic and Republican countries, and Foreign Service and non-Foreign Service countries. Sectors of our government become predictable in their preferences and affiliations. Officially we are called upon to act more and more in the shadow of an elaborate series of promptings by Americans through foreigners back to Americans-an intricate web of political relationships, complex but real, that conditions and helps shape the total context in which issues are joined, positions staked and decisions made.

The aerospace age also contributes audience problems which complicate the politics of the foreign-policy world-in this case at the top, among the chief actors, not at the middle and lower levels among the supporting cast. Visual, instantaneous communications are reaching more and more of the world's people. Telstar is projecting local leaders onto a world screen, where they perform before a world audience, including their interested peers. The fusion into one big audience of multiple audiences which could previously be separately addressed now confounds the foreign-policy-maker as much as it previously confounded the domestic politician.

The television screen has smashed the carefully tailored appeal to separate groups. There are few insulated audiences any more, and private explanations become less credible. Foreign-policy leadership, at least in the Atlantic Community, is performed amidst a cloud of witnesses under klieg lights before a universal audience. The historic diplomatic temptation to pursue several inconsistent policies at once, simultaneously satisfying separate constituencies, is less and less often available. Our foreign-policy spokesmen now have to choose public inconsistency and awkward ambiguity or courageous consistency and costly concreteness. And the shades of the communications prison-house are closing in, not only in the form of pictures and policies bouncing off stars, but of airmail copies of The Washington Post and The New York Times flown to the desks of most foreign ministers before the resident American ambassadors receive the instructions that are exposed in the newspaper columns.

Finally, the growth of horizontal international politics affects the relations of the men at the top of governments with one another. Each world leader has drawn his opposite numbers as if by lot, and for all he knows he must share his remaining time in power with them. Many no doubt regard this as unfair and may think of some of their counterparts' predecessors or current alternatives as infinitely preferable. But the foreign-policy stage has a given cast of characters, and they are sure to be moving much of the time in different phases, within different contexts, toward different objectives.

The very speed of travel and communications in the 1960s assures that all of the prominent actors on the world stage will see more of one another than any single one of them would choose. Each is thrust more and more into the other's political situation. Who, one may ask, feels at home with whom? The spectrum includes Franco and Nyerere, Kekkonen and Mobutu, Wilson and Souvanna, Fanfani and Suharto, Salazar and Mrs. Gandhi, Ky and Kenyatta, Tito and Frei, Sihanouk and the Shah, Nasser and Sato, Ian Smith and Mao, Brezhnev and Balaguer, Pearson and Vorster, Chiang Kai-shek and Mendez Montenegro, Ayub and Ongania, Gomulka and de Gaulle-a hundred flowers, all of whom want to bloom, and none of whom wants the rains to fall on the just and the unjust alike. Their personal appreciations of one another, bounding and rebounding through the two cultures and across the horizontal politics of the foreign-policy world, have a greater effect than ever before on any single government's abstract freedom to conduct foreign policy. The day when international tensions were a significant function of interpersonal tensions may again come into its own.


It is clear that the stereotyped, traditional foreign-policy world has disappeared. But the two cultures and the meeting of horizontal and vertical politics envelop it more and more, hour by hour-preëminently so in America. For, as is true of so much else, these phenomena have arisen in America well in advance of other Western countries and markedly in advance of the fragile societies of the developing world and of the closed or quasi- closed societies of the Communist world.

"There is a part of the Atlantic," James Bryce wrote in his final (1914) revision of "The American Commonwealth,"

where the westward-speeding steam-vessel always expects to encounter fogs. On the fourth or fifth day of the voyage while still in bright sunlight, one sees at a distance a long, low, dark gray line across the bows, and is told that this is the first of the fog banks that have to be traversed. Presently the vessel is upon the cloud, and rushes into its chilling embrace, not knowing what perils of icebergs may be shrouded within its encompassing gloom. . . . So America, in her swift onward progress, sees, looming on the horizon, and now no longer distant, a time of mists and shadows, wherein dangers may be concealed whose form and magnitude she can scarcely yet conjecture. . . . It may be the time of trial for democratic institutions.

To pretend that the themes I have been propounding already merit so portentous a prophecy would overstate the case. I have not been describing clear and present dangers, but rather clear and present tendencies, two of which happen to coincide in the current critical period of American foreign- policy life. The growing preëminence of the hardware culture in our foreign- policy process is occurring alongside a hitherto unexampled buffeting of our traditional vertical foreign policy apparatus by the winds of horizontal politics. Because of their simultaneity, these two tendencies could generate effects extending beyond those that either development might have produced alone.

For nearly two centuries, American history has demonstrated a uniquely beneficial interweaving of our technological and humanistic strands. In a possible future environment of growing mutual hostility, the two cultures I have been describing could polarize to the nation's net loss. Official America could become less and less significantly responsive to the thundering pluralism of her democratic base, precisely at a time when that base is reinfused with oppositionist horizontal politics from frustrated adherents of the second culture. At some point we could be faced with the anomaly that those cultural manifestations most distinctively American, technologically speaking, had become the trademark of American officialdom, while those cultural manifestations most distinctively American humanly speaking, and most clearly associated with American leadership roles in the past, had become the trademark of the anti-official opposition in the body politic. Such a development would indeed constitute a "time of trial for democratic institutions" worthy of Bryce's fateful warning.

But we have by no means yet reached that point, and it would be a disservice to the facts and the future to overread, overwrite or overspin the potentially dangerous consequences of the historical coincidence I have described. Hundreds and thousands of responsible men and women who inhabit the American foreign-policy world, inside and outside government, still have it within their power to determine how these forces will ultimately play themselves out-and to prove, once again, that nothing in history is inevitable until after it has happened.

[i] C. P. Snow, "The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution." New York: Cambridge University Press, 1959, p. 2-12.

[ii] William James, "Pragmatism." New York: Longmans Green, 1928, p. 13.

[iii] Nicholas Halasz, "Nobel." New York: Orion Press, 1959, p. 178.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now