The Importance of the Nation's Elite in Pursuing and Advancing the Value of a Free Society
Fritz Kraemer embodied a complex mixture of classic elitism and self-effacing humanism, leading him to promote cherished principles rather than seek public recognition or personal gain. Almost a quarter of a century ago at the time of his retirement as Advisor to the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army, I wrote to Fritz: “It would be hard to capture the depth of my respect for the quality of your service to the American people, which has been at once brilliant and sensitive to the instrumental forces of history but also—and above all—deeply embedded in philosophic and ethical principles.” For me Dr. Kraemer’s lifetime of service confirms the importance of the nation’s elites in pursuing and advancing the value of a free society.
My initial involvement with this remarkable personage began in the early 60s when I served as a young Major and Staff Officer in the International Plans and Policies Division in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the Department of the Army. I had been assigned responsibilities for Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization including contingency planning and policy formulation for West Berlin. Dr. Kraemer, although a globalist in outlook, consistent with his own experience gave special attention to European affairs, especially Soviet relations with the West. Despite his obligations to the highest Army authorities, Dr. Kraemer often came to sit alongside my desk at the end of the day to speak both fervently and authoritatively on the challenges imposed by the Cold War, including the policies best suited for coping with them. Fritz Kraemer found time for me, and later I always found time for him and his wise counsel. It was a very busy time in my life including my service as Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Army with special counter insurgency responsibility for U.S. policy towards Cuba; as Deputy Special Assistant to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense; as the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and later as Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army; and as White House Chief of Staff; and also during my almost five years as NATO’s Supreme Commander in Europe. I found Dr. Kraemer’s advice indispensable throughout. I can think of no individual before or since whose patient tutelage made a more meaningful contribution to the shaping of my own worldview.
As Henry Kissinger has so concisely written, “Kraemer dedicated his life to fighting against the triumph of the expedient over the principled.” Unfortunately, this struggle continues today while increasingly favoring the expedient. There are numerous contributors to the growing role expediency is playing in modern statecraft. The first being the impact of the advancement in information sciences, (radio, television, internet, etc.). All enlarge the role of what has been labeled “Modern Populism,” increasing the quantity of leaders who put their fingers to the wind to determine what will further his or her popularity and who construct policies accordingly. A second contributor among others is decreasing emphasis on the study of history, especially the history of political theory in both lower and higher education. Sadly, this educational trend is most prevalent in the United States.
Dr. Fritz Kraemer did not expect thanks or high office as a reward for his service. In fact, his stand on principle held him back. But in the end, he found the full measure of satisfaction because his adherence to universal principles made an invaluable contribution to the promotion of freedom everywhere.