Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Deliberately Non-Partisan Post

This week’s book was chosen as a comment on the real, existential threat our country faces from a President who openly colludes with, gives comfort to, and has received both financial aid and stolen state secrets from our adversaries and enemies overseas -- particularly those in the Kremlin.

The son of a prominent banker, James Paul Warburg was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1896. After his family came to the United States, Warburg graduate from Harvard and then joined the Navy Flying Corps during WWI. After the War, he quickly rose the ranks through the banking and financial services industry in New York City. In 1932, while working for the Bank of the Manhattan Company, he was chosen by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to serve as a financial adviser to the administration. This relationship soured in 1934, however, when Warburg had a falling out with Roosevelt over some parts of the New Deal. 

In 1941, however, he returned to government service, working with the Office of War Information to promote American military intervention in Europe and to counter those arguing for isolationism. After WWII, he was an advocate for nuclear disarmament and diplomatic negotiation rather than military confrontation with the Soviet Union; to this end, he joined the Council on Foreign Relations, and co-founded the Institute for Policy Studies. He is perhaps best remembered for his February 17, 1950 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in which he stated, “We shall have world government, whether or not we like it. The question is only whether world government will be achieved by consent or by conquest.” He was an adviser to John F. Kennedy and, for his efforts to prevent the Cold War from becoming hot, he won the Gandhi Peace Award in 1963. After retiring to Greenwich, Connecticut, Warburg died in 1969.

Warburg was a prolific writer, bringing his political, economic, and diplomatic ideas to a broad audience through his many books and pamphlets (including the pointedly titled, 1949 Rearming Germany—How Stupid Can We Be?). He also wrote politically and economically inspired verse (including his, according to Kirkus Review, “vociferous” and “declamatory”, 1942 anti-Nazi sonnet sequence Man’s Enemy and Man), as well as song lyrics for the 1929 hit song “Can’tWe Be Friends”, for his first wife, composer and musician Kay Swift, and for their 1930 musical Fine and Dandy.

On February 29, 1952, Warburg’s twenty-fifth publication, How To Co-Exist Without Playing the Kremlin’s Game: The 6 Imperatives of a Policy of Liberation to Halt the Totalitarian Tide Without War, was published by the Unitarian Universalist Church’s politically inclined Beacon Press, located at 25 Beacon Street in Boston; there were no further editions. My copy of the book is a paperback, 14cm x 21cm, 228 pages. While there was only one edition of How to Co-Exist, the book was released in three issues. The first, of which my copy is one, was a paperback “Special Advance Edition” that included an inserted leaf promoting the book but which is, otherwise, identical to the subsequent, hard-cover retail edition (sold for $3). It was simultaneously published in pamphlet form by the Current Affairs Press of New York City, sold for $1. The cover art (dust-jacket art on the red cloth hard-cover issue) was by Boston calligrapher and artist Edward A. Karr.

Warburg wanted his book to start conversations and to that end, he included a “Discussion Guide” as an appendix, aimed at helping readers bring up his ideas with their friends, family, and neighbors. Intriguingly, the promotional insert indicates that readers of the advance copy are welcome to “point out whatever flaws you may find in the case presented, or make suggestions as to how the argument might be made more persuasive” – which suggests that Warburg was open to revising the book at some point (or, alternatively, the invitation may have simply been a marketing scheme to make the advance readers feel that their views were being considered). The insert also asks advance readers to provide the names of others who might be interested in copies, to buy additional copies to distribute or buy them in bulk for groups or organizations, to pay for their advance copy (to make it possible “to increase the free distribution to key citizens”), and simply to talk-up the book with others.

How to Co-Exist advocates for a concerted effort to reform both domestic and foreign policy in order to combat communism through economic, cultural, and social means, rather than explicitly military means. Warburg’s principle argument centers on the assumption that a war with the Soviet Union or its satellites would be not winnable, in that the use of nuclear weapons would necessarily result in the end of humanity. For victory, Warburg contends that an aggressive campaign of global education is required, that America needs to demonstrate to other countries the best qualities of American values of liberty, free market capitalism, racial justice, universal civil rights, and egalitarianism. He sounds a warning against ignorance (especially ignorance of communism and what it actually is), saber-rattling, and any government actions that might undermine absolute confidence in the transparency and fairness of a free state. Ultimately, Warburg believes that “if we can gain time without permitting the outbreak of a major armed conflict, a way can and must be found to wipe the curse of war from the face of this long-suffering earth” (p. 8).

I’d send my copy to the White House, gratis, but I doubt it would be of much use there.

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