Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Fix Is In: Israel Plans to Attack Iran's Nuclear Sites

The New York Times Magazine, January 29, 2012, cover-story by Ronen Bergman entitled “Will Israel Attack Iran?” was little short of an official communiqué from the Israeli government to the American people of its intention to attack Iran’s nuclear sites in 2012. Bergman, an Israeli journalist, interviewed “many senior Israeli leaders and chiefs of the military and the intelligence” including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

At the outset of Bergman’s interview with the Defense Minister, Barak specified three sufficient conditions which had to be satisfied in order to justify an attack on Iran. These included:

  1. Israel’s ability to cause severe damage to Iran’s nuclear sites and withstand a counterattack by Iran.
  2. Support from the international community, particularly from the United States, for carrying out such an attack.
  3. Exhaustion of all other possibilities for the containment of Iran’s nuclear threat.

The entire 9-page article was devoted to the presentation of evidence in support of the efficacy, international legitimacy, and necessity of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear sites. Given that the three sufficiency conditions for attack have all been satisfied, it was hardly surprising that Bergman concluded his piece by saying, “I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.”

The fact that such a provocative article, based on interviews with high-ranking Israeli officials, with such terrifying implications, appeared as the cover-page article of The New York Times Magazine should not be taken lightly by anyone. Is there any reason to believe that its intended purpose was anything other than to send a very direct message to the people of the United States from Tel Aviv? “Prepare for war!”

After Israel takes out the nuclear sites, then what?

Will Iran retaliate by closing down the Strait of Hormuz and possibly the oil production in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or Iraq?

Will NATO respond by annihilating Tehran?

For how long will China and Russia pretend that this is not a blatant threat to their national security? How will they respond – militarily, economically, or both?

What will be the impact on the global economy?

President Obama is fond of saying “All options are on the table.” What options does he have in mind?

Are these same options on the table for China and Russia? Which options will they choose?

What’s the endgame?

Thomas H. Naylor

January 28, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.

At last: Someone Who Understands America Has Failed

Kirkpatrick Sale

Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline

Morris Berman

Wiley. 2011

Why America Failed, which this book is not about, is nonetheless a devastating and eviscerating critique proving convincingly that America has failed, and abominably, even tragically.  That makes it a very important book that I hope will find an attentive audience, particularly among those of the media and intelligentsia who need to understand its truths and rid themselves of the increasingly common idea that there is some kind of palliative that will reform and restore American government to some imagined efficient and democratic past. (Please copy, Occupiers, Tea Partyers, Tenthers, and all Democrats,etc.)

I cannot overemphasize how essential this wisdom is to any comprehension of America today, or tomorrow, or how powerfully Morris Berman (an academic historian who has emigrated to Mexico) makes his case.  It is not a long book (196 pages, plus backmatter), but it is replete with overwhelming evidence to support the thesis, as he puts it on his first page:

The principal goal of North American civilization, and of its inhabitants, is and always has been an ever-expanding economy—affluence—and endless technological innovation—”progress.” A nation of hustlers, writes [Walter] McDougall, a people relentlessly on the make.

From the very start, from the Puritans’ shining “city on a hill” and the Jamestown settlement’s conquest and exploitation of Indian lands, this country has been about making and taking, a business culture with a commercial orientation, devoted to growth and power, wealth and property, private advancement and profit, militarism and materialism, expansion and empire. John Adams saw it at the beginning: the U.S. was “more Avaricious than any other Nation that ever existed.”   Or as de Tocqueville was to say later:   “As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?”

Let it be acknowledged that, given this as its goal and ideal, this nation has done pretty well.  It is in most terms rich and powerful (let us discount the fact that we are $16 trillion in debt and wiped out $14 trillion in household wealth in the last crash), full of comforts and conveniences, food and shelter and plumbing and heat for most, high-tech gadgetry and systems, a developed (if crumbling) infrastructure coast to coast, the largest military in the world, the world’s fall-back currency, an unmatched service industry, and all the rest of what makes up a modern industrial capitalist nation.

But what Berman shows, in fascinating detail, is that with all that concentration on hustling, which makes up our entire lives for our lives, is that we have lost a sense of the public good in the face of private interest, an understanding of community in the face of aggravated individualism, a sense of spiritual well-being in the face of material pressure and stress, an appreciation of the simple life in the face of technological complexity, even a true sense of republicanism and the political commonwealth in the face of  manipulative and intrusive oligarchy and political individual wealth.  Much of what we still think of as in some way valuable—stability rather than progress, face-to-face instead of on-line, family and friends instead of networks and “friends,” craftsmanship instead of mass production, virtue and tradition and honor and simplicity rather than egotism and modernity and self-interest and multi-tasking, gemeinschaft instead of gesellshaft—much of that has been quite lost in the dominant hustling culture.

Not only that, but we have acquired a host of evils and sorrows along with material prosperity.  Berman compiles a whole raft of rather depressing facts that show what the downside of the technocommerial society is: mass unemployment, foreclosures, increasing poverty for the many (with corporate bailouts and bonuses for the egregious few); a criminal culture with the highest rate of homicide in the world and a corrections system that contains 25 per cent of all the world’s prisoners; a high incidence of violence throughout the culture, including crime, domestic violence, and warfare, along with movies, TV, and video games; a social numbness and clinically diagnosed “empathy deficit disorders”; consumption of two-thirds of the global market in antidepressants with at least 164 million users; a rank on the worldwide Happy Planet Index in 2009 of 150th; fully 25 per cent of American households had only one person, a rate of aloneness probably the highest in the world. Or, as Berman puts it at one point:

The culmination of a hustling, laissez-faire capitalist culture is that everything gets dumbed down, that all significant questions are ignored, and that every human activity is turned into a commodity, and anything goes if it sells. What we have is domination by corporate media, politics via poll-driven sound bites, a foreign policy based on unilateralism and preemptive strikes, a failing newspaper industry, a poorly informed citizenry, the unemployed winding up destitute, weak (or no) mass transit systems, and a health care system that ranks thirty-seventh in the world.  The emperor, and the empire, have no clothes.

Berman spends a good deal of time talking about the “alternative culture” to all this, including “a commitment to craft, community, the public good, the natural environment, spiritual practice, and the ‘simple life,” and he shows that its adherents and champions have existed all along, though of course overwhelmed by the dominant culture.  He cites, for example, Thoreau, Melville, Henry Adams, Veblen, Sinclair Lewis, Henry Demarest Lloyd, Ruskin and Morris and the craft movement, Eric Fromm, Lewis Mumford (on whom he justly spends many pages), the Southern Agrarians, Robert Redfield, Vance Packard, William A. Williams, Marcuse, Ellul, Roszak, Schumacher, Lasch, Wendell Berry, and more recently Jerry Mander, Langdon Winner, Neil Postman, and somewhat surprisingly Ted Kaczynski. This is a distinguished bunch, and they are known today because the work they did was careful and trenchant and exposed powerfully the ills of a material society, but, as Berman notes when talking about Mumford, in the end “you can’t get taken seriously if you point this out.”  How well I know.

And so the alternative culture, though it has always existed on the fringe, and still does even now, has never seriously derailed the steamengine of the hustler civilization nor in fact even slowed it down perceptively.  In fact that civilization will always take steps to marginalize it, even destroy it if necessary, a fact that Berman illustrates in a chapter on the antebellum South.  He shows how the South was “the one example we have of an opponent of [the dominant] ideology that had real political teeth,” and blatantly opted for a life premodern (indeed “neofeudal”), agrarian, slow, conservative, and honoring tradition, honor, chivalry, and hospitality more than making a buck or inventing a gadget.  This ultimately the increasingly industrial and expansive North could not stand and so began a war to destroy it. “The treatment of the South by the North,” Berman says, “was the template for the way the United States would come to treat any nation it regarded as an enemy: not merely a scorched earth policy, but also a ‘scorched soul’ policy” that it would use in Hawaii, the Philippines, Cuba, Japan, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and anywhere else it could achieve it.

Which is why in the end Berman concludes that nothing will ever change our hustling civilization and all attempts at trying to replace it are fruitless: “I regard the fantasy of a recovered future as pure drivel.”  He sees, instead, that it is headed toward inevitable collapse, and not too many decades away.  He quotes a U.S. intelligence report from the Washington Post that predicts “a steady decline” in American dominance in the coming decades, the country eroding “at an accelerating pace” in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas,” to which he adds, “Nothing could be more obvious.”

In a rare moment of optimism he goes on to say, “Collapse could be a good thing” if it could ultimately “open the door to the alternative tradition,” a process he admits is “a long shot.”  And here he suggests, and wins my heart as he does so, that one means to that is secession, which holds promise precisely because it has given up on trying to change the industrial society as a whole, across the nation, and picks instead smaller places (such as Vermont) where some version of the alternative tradition might be realized.  At the present time, he says, “this project doesn’t have a hope in hell,” but “in thirty or forty years, it may not seem so far-fetched.”

Well, it may take a generation, but I don’t think so.  The collapse will come sooner than we realize—I have predicted within a decade—and  it will open up secession (or some equivalent such as city-states or medieval walled cities) as the only possible opportunity for a new society with new human-scale alternatives.  I’m not predicting it, mind you,  I’m just saying it’s the only way to go.

Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of a dozen books, including Human Scale and Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution, and is the Director of the Middlebury Institute for the study of separation, secession, and self-determination.

Why America Failed

With the publication of his courageous new book, Why America Failed (John Wiley, 2012), Morris Berman has become one of the very first well-known, left-wing writers to acknowledge that not only is the American Empire in decline, but that it is completely unfixable.  In Berman’s view there will be no rabbit pulled out of the hat at the eleventh hour to save the nation, because “the hat is coming apart at the seams.”

Unlike most of the liberal pundits such as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Michael Parenti, Rachel Maddow, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Amy Goodman, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, and Paul Krugman, to mention only a few, Berman has given up on America.

According to Berman the seeds of the Empire’s destruction were sewn in the sixteenth century by the early European settlers who were, above all, into “hustling” – looking out for number one.  Ever since then, “hustling, materialism, and the pursuit of personal gain without regard for its effects on others” have provided the dominant theme of the American culture.  He or she who dies with the most toys wins the game.  Enough never seems to be quite enough.

The hustler’s credo is “Teach me how to be a moneymaking, moneyspending machine.”  Most hustlers are obsessed with having – owning, possessing, manipulating, and controlling people, power, money, machines, and material wealth.  Through having they try to find security and certainty in an otherwise uncertain world.  Their compulsive desire to have leads straight to technofascism – affluenza, technomania, cybermania, megalomania, robotism, globalization, and imperialism.

In response to their insatiable psychological and sensory needs, those who are into having often exhibit behavior patterns which are aggressive, competitive, and antagonistic.  To have something is to take charge of it or to conquer it.  Robbing, destroying, overpowering, and consuming are all forms of having.  Those in the having mode are afraid of losing what they possess either to someone else or to the government or possibly through death.

As a nation we are so obsessed with hustling that we have lost our ability to be human beings.  Our happiness depends mostly on our superiority over others, our power, and our ability to manipulate others.  Capitalist America may be the most efficient and productive nation in the world, but it extracts a high human cost.  Conspicuous consumption is no longer a sign of our success, but rather of our spiritual vacuum.  America has lost its soul.

To cope with the powerlessness and our fear of nothingness, many of us spend our entire lives pretending we are invincible.  One of the ways in which we try to convince ourselves that we will live forever is through conspicuous consumption.  We think we can spend our way into a state of never-ending self-actualization without paying any psychological dues for our life of unrestrained pleasure.  We live by the slogan, “I’ve got mine, Jack.”

Even though we live in a period of unprecedented prosperity, it is also the time of the living dead.  Many affluent Americans who deny themselves virtually nothing in the way of material satisfaction seem to be more dead than alive.  As novelist Walker Percy once said, “There is something worse than being deprived of life; it is being deprived of life and not knowing it.”

Many of us behave as though we were spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually dead.  The living dead can be found everywhere – surfing the Internet, checking their e-mail, texting, day trading, glued to Fox News hoping for an event in an otherwise uneventful life, driving alone across town to Wal-Mart in search of more low-priced plastic yuck, stopping at McDonald’s for a quick taste-fee meal, feigning interest in a mindless bureaucratic job, and viewing Dirty Housewives of New York on BRAVO.  Our government, our politicians, and the high priests of Corporate America pull our strings.

Our entire economy is driven by our intense psychological need to fill our spiritual and emotional vacuum with more stuff and our illusion that the accumulation of wealth and material possessions can provide meaning to life.  If we feel down and need a lift, we buy a new dress, have dinner in a nice restaurant, or rent a video.  The less meaning we have in our life the easier it is to be seduced by the materialistic work hard, play hard, be happy syndrome – a syndrome that is based on a lie.

As Berman points out, most American hustlers are always in a big hurry.  It is as though they are in a race to nowhere!

Berman devotes an entire chapter to what he calls the “illusion of progress” and the relationship between technology and progress.  He views technology as a kind of “hidden religion” linked to the notion of  “unlimited progress” and the “perfectibility of man.”  It supplies the “social glue” which hustling alone is unable to provide.

Flying across the Atlantic in a giant jumbo jet engenders feelings of freedom, power, and control – not unlike the feelings experienced by Apollo astronauts, B-2 bomber pilots, high-speed race car drivers, physicians conducting high-tech medical procedures, and genetic engineers creating designer plants, farm animals, and even babies.  High-precision automobiles, high-tech musical instruments, telecommunication satellites, home computers, cell phones, and the Internet all make us feel like we are in charge.  Although technology may increase efficiency, reduce drudgery, and improve the quality of life, it is also one of the most powerful metaphors for the illusion of control.

For some, technology provides more freedom, more time, and an increased sense of community.  For others it sucks up time, reduces freedom, and destroys community.  Technology makes some of us faster, smarter, and richer.  It makes others more materialistic and contributes to our alienation.  Is technology our personal slave, or are we slaves to technology?

Passengers on board Swissair Flight 111 bound for Zurich from New York on the evening of September 2, 1998, thought they were in control of their destiny, when their MD-11 plunged into the Atlantic near Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia even though the pilot and the co-pilot spent the final minutes of the doomed flight arguing over whether to fly the smoke-filled plane by the book or by instinct.  John F. Kennedy, Jr., may have thought he was in control of his high-tech, Piper Saratoga when he dove it into the sea off Martha’s Vineyard.  In reality, they were in control of nothing – nothing at all. Swissair filed for bankruptcy three years later.

We place infinite faith in high-tech global communication systems, megacomputer networks, communication satellites, international electric power grids, high-speed planes and trains, and high-precision automobiles.  They are our gods!

To assuage their existential pain caused by the human condition, many are easily seduced by technology – particularly big technology.  Still others use technology such as the electronic media, computers, computer software, and the Internet to manipulate millions of adults and children alike.  “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose,” sang Janis Joplin in “Me and Bobby McGee.”

We don’t just embrace new technologies, we place them on a pedestal and worship them – always in the name of progress.  The automobile, television, nuclear power, the space program, high-tech weapon systems, the personal computer, and the Internet have all been viewed with God-like awe – the next panacea.  It is as though the frontier spirit of the Old West has been reincarnated in the form of high-tech euphoria.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter in Why America Failed is the one on the American South.  Berman argues that, notwithstanding the slavery and racism (which he abhors) that existed there, the Antebellum South with its agricultural economy and its traditional culture provided the only alternative to the dominant high-speed, high-stress, high-tech, imperialistic, industrial culture found elsewhere in the United States.  Before the Civil War, the Rural South represented a communitarian alternative to the dehumanized, mass-production, mass-consumption, narcissistic lifestyle that was beginning to permeate most of the rest of America – an alternative to the politics of money, power, speed, greed, and progress.  The Antebellum South discovered the joys of simple living long before simple living came back in vogue in the 1990s.

The real tragedy of the Civil War was that it was not possible to find an alternative way to end the scourge of slavery which did not result in the deaths of 625,000 individuals.  It was a classic case of throwing out the baby (traditional culture) with the bath water (slavery).  What was at stake in the Civil War was nothing less than the clash of two radically different civilizations according to Berman.

Throughout its history America has tried to “fix” traditional societies which it perceived to be obstacles to progress.

What the North did to the South is really the model of what America in general did and does to “backward” (i.e., traditional) societies, if it can.  You wipe out almost the entire indigenous population of North America; you steal half of Mexico; you literally vaporize a large chunk of the Japanese population; you bomb Vietnam “back to the Stone Age” (in the words of Curtis LeMay); you “shock and awe” Iraqi civilians, and so on.

Berman’s chapter on the South is the most insightful piece I have ever read about the region where I spent over a half century of my life.  It reads like a tragic Southern novel entitled What Might Have Been, But Could Never Be.

Most books about the decline of the American Empire conclude with a “happy chapter” explaining how some stupid idea such as campaign finance reform, banning corporate personhood, or a return to the Constitution will guarantee eternal bliss.  Berman makes it very clear that his book has no “happy chapter” because the endgame is not going to be very pretty.

Berman describes life in the United States as vapid, utterly meaningless, and without heart.  “The United States has run out of steam. ”

The culmination of a hustling, laissez-faire capitalist culture is that everything gets dumbed down; that all significant questions are ignored,  and that every human activity is turned into a commodity, and anything goes if it sells.  What we have is domination by corporate media, politics via poll-driven sound bites, a foreign policy based on unilateralism and preemptive strikes, a failing newspaper industry, a poorly informed  citizenry, the unemployed winding up destitute, weak (or no) mass transit system, and a health care system that ranks thirty-seventh in the world.

In 2006, long before things got really bad, Berman concluded that he had, in effect, “outlived his country,” and fled to Mexico.  Just in case you don’t want to escape to Mexico, almost as an afterthought, Berman offers his readers a long shot alternative.  But for that you will have to read the book.

Thomas H. Naylor

January 10, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.

George F. Kennan: Godfather of the Vermont Independence Movement

With the publication of John Lewis Gaddis’s new book George F. Kennan:  An American Life (Penguin Press, 2011), the name of the former dean of the American diplomatic corps is once again on the national radar screen.  When George F. Kennan died on March 17, 2005, at the age of 101, few Americans were aware that he had become a staunch advocate of the peaceful dissolution of the American Empire and of the fledgling Vermont independence movement.  Although best known as the father of “containment,” the mainstay of American Cold War policy, Kennan first revealed his radical decentralist tendencies in his 1993 book entitled Around the Cragged Hill.

We are, if territory and population be looked at together, one of the great countries of the world—a monster country, one might say, along with such others as China, India, the recent Soviet Union, and Brazil.  And there is a real question as to whether “bigness” in a body politic is not an evil in itself, quite aside from the policies pursued in its name.

Although virtually unnoticed by the media, Ambassador Kennan came right to the brink of calling for the peaceful break-up of the United States in this book.

I have often diverted myself, and puzzled my friends, by wondering how it would be if our country, while retaining certain of the rudiments of a federal government, were to be decentralized into something like a dozen constituent republics, absorbing not only the powers of the existing states but a considerable part of those of the present federal establishment.  I could conceive of something like nine of these republics—let us say, New England; the Middle Atlantic states; the Middle West; the Northwest (from Wisconsin to the Northwest, and down the Pacific coast to central California); the Southwest (including Southern California and Hawaii); Texas (by itself); the Old South; Florida (perhaps including Puerto Rico); and Alaska; plus three great self-governing urban regions, those of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles—a total of twelve constituent entities.  To these entities I would accord a larger part of the present federal powers than one might suspect—large enough, in fact, to make most people gasp.

About American imperialism, Kennan had this to say in the same book:

There is a further quality of greatness of size in a country that deserves mention here.  One might define it as the hubris of inordinate size.  It is a certain lack of modesty in the national self-image of the great state—a feeling that the nation’s role in the world must be equivalent to its physical size, with the consequent relative tendency to overweening pretensions and ambitions.  I don’t mean to say that the great power is always and everywhere imperialistic.  There have been times, to be sure, when the United States was very much that.

Between February 7, 2001 and February 14, 2003, I received ten personal letters from Ambassador Kennan and several telephone calls.  The subject was always the same—secession, the peaceful dissolution of the United States with Vermont leading the way.  Kennan was a closet secessionist.

In January 2001 I sent him a copy of my book with William H. Willimon entitled Downsizing the U.S.A., a book which unabashedly called for Vermont independence as a first step towards the peaceful break-up of the Union.  On February 7, 2001, Professor Kennan responded,

There can be no doubt of the closeness of many of our views.  But we are, I fear, a lonely band; until some of the things we have written are discovered by what we may hope will be a more thoughtful and serious generation of critics and reviewers, I am afraid we will remain that way.  I, in any case, being just on the eve of my 97th birthday, can no longer look forward to continuing the battle.  Writing is itself becoming difficult for me.  Let me wish you well in your own struggle for understanding. Much of your thinking must at least, I feel, break through.

Then on April 3, 2001, I received a letter from Ambassador Kennan’s secretary Terrie Bramley at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton in which she said,

Mr. Kennan asked me to tell you how sorry he is that he is unable to pursue the correspondence with yourself further than he did, but his health is demanding his respect.  He asked me to tell you that…he felt much more well inclined to your suggestion that the state of Vermont should demand its independence.

On October 22, 2001, Ambassador Kennan dictated the following letter from his sick bed to Terrie Bramley.

Dear Prof. Naylor:

I am, for reasons of age and health, not normally able to reply in person to incoming letters.  I am, however, trying to make an exception in the case of your recent letter (I seem, unfortunately to have mislaid) because the content of it interests me greatly at this final stage in my life, and I have a few thoughts about it that I would like to see put into written form before it becomes too late.

You cited in your letter, if my memory is correct, the views of a lady in Maine who urged the establishment of independence for the three states of Main, New Hampshire and Vermont and their union with certain political entities of Canada to form something resembling a northeast federative state, separated from both the U.S. and Canada.  And while I cannot comment on that part of this vision that suggests the inclusion of what are at present parts of Canada (I know too little about them), I write to say that in the idea of three American states ultimate independence, whether separately or in union, I see nothing fanciful, and nothing towards the realization of which the efforts of enlightened people might not be usefully directed.  Such are at present the dominating trends in the U.S. that I can see no other means of ultimate preservation of cultural and societal values that will be not only endangered but eventually destroyed in an endlessly prolonged association of the northern parts of New England with the remainder of what is now the U.S.A.

Let me having said that, now add a few thoughts, some of a cautionary nature, the others essentially encouraging.  Any attempt to separate territories from the remainder of the U.S. could, if it were to be any less than tragically unsuccessful, have to be gradual and protractive.  It has long been an established principle in my own mind that no abrupt attempt at change (or even ostensibly achieved change) in the lives of entire peoples can have enduring useful effects.  To be successful, changes of this nature must proceed in close companionship with comparable developments in the minds and customs of the peoples in whose lives they are to take place; and such changes take time and patience. For this reason the changes that the lady from Maine envisaged could, if they are going to have any prospects for enduring success, only be slow ones, gradually and patiently pursued.  With this in mind, it occurs to me that those who would like to see such changes brought about could do worse than to study and consider the protracted historical process, both patient and non-violent, by which the Canadians succeeded in extracting themselves from the original dependence upon London and achieving complete independence.

One ought also to have in mind the experience and responses of other parts of the country which have either immediate boundaries with Canada, or as in the case, with the regions of relative compact Scandinavian immigration, in Minnesota, South Dakota, and my native Wisconsin.  In some instances, particularly in the relationships between the cities of Spokane and Vancouver, the relations seemed to have achieved a higher degree of natural intimacy than could be said to exist between either of those places and southern California or Ottawa.  Such consultations ought to be useful for anyone contemplating closer relationship between extreme northeastern regions of our country and neighboring parts of Canada. While, as I have said, any significant change will have to be a gradual one, it is therefore, to my mind, neither fanciful or unjustified to us to hold in mind at this time the whole problem of the future development of the relationship with the northern parts of this country and their immediate Canadian neighbors.

I offer these thoughts to you, for whatever they are worth.  My present state of health excludes any possibility of my writing about any of this for publication.  But I thought that you, more than anyone else of my acquaintance, ought to know the directions in which my thoughts are leading at this late stage in my own life. With all best wishes I remain,


George Kennan

On May 1, 2002, Mr. Kennan wrote, “All power to Vermont in its effort to distinguish itself from the USA as a whole, and to pursue in its own way the cultivation of its own tradition.”

By far the most poignant of all of the letters which I received from Professor Kennan was a handwritten one dated August 1, 2002.  In the concluding paragraph he said,

I continue to be of poor and deteriorating health, and too much should not be looked for from me.  But my enthusiasm for what you are trying to do in Vermont remains undiminished; and I am happy for any small support I can give to it.

My last letter from Ambassador Kennan was written on February 14, 2003, two days before his 99th birthday and just prior to the beginning of the war with Iraq.  In this letter he expressed concern about the negative political impact which the war might have on the Vermont independence movement.

Although I never heard form him again, George Kennan was a major source of inspiration for the Second Vermont Republic, Vermont’s independence movement.  In every sense of the word, he was truly the godfather of the movement.

Thomas H. Naylor

January 1, 2012

Founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University; co-author of Affluenza, Downsizing the USA, and The Search for Meaning.