I thought I should never see America again. For twenty years I did not. I had conceived the odd aim of becoming a military historian and quickly identified on my return that the only place where I might be paid for pursuing my private interest was the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, Britain’s West Point. I did not get an appointment there at once. I was told that one might be available, but not for two years, and I filled the interim by working as something called a political analyst in, by happenstance, the American Embassy in London. This prolonged my exposure to American life—and brought me the slightly colonial experience of deferring to Americans as employers in my own country—but was otherwise without significance. At twenty-five I joined the Sandhurst staff, settled down to learn my trade, began an exploration of the anthropology of the British Army, which remains a lifelong interest, married, raised children, and experimented with writing. My literary impulsion was entirely practical. On an academic salary I could not support the family of four children who surprised my wife and myself by their frequent arrival, and thought writing might bridge the gap. Articles and paperbacks did so for a decade, during which I lived a sort of married monastic life, isolated inside the grounds of Sandhurst, serenely beautiful, quite cut off from the England, or anywhere else, outside. Then I conceived an idea for a serious work of history, about the changing experience of the individual on the battlefield over the centuries. I had listened to soldiers discussing what really happened on battlefields for a dozen Sandhurst years. They included survivors of the Second World War. They also included the West Point liaison officers who, after 1965, were invariably Vietnam veterans. In 1972 I settled down to write a book eventually entitled The Face of Battle. In 1976 it was published, and shortly afterwards I found myself a celebrated author, curiously more celebrated in America than at home. The Face of Battle was chosen as Book-of-the-Month in June 1977, so bringing me enough money to pay for my elder son’s fees at the expensive boarding school at which I had imprudently entered him. Its publication also brought me an invitation to lecture at the National War College in Washington, D.C. Other invitations shortly followed, to the University of Chicago, to West Point, to Harvard. I was to see America again after all.
America after twenty years made an impression as indelible as America in 1957, but different. I was different, less light-hearted but more self-assured. America was different, less itself, more like anywhere else. I regretted both changes. There could be no Sonnenreise for me again, no pearl-like mornings crossing the St. Johns River towards Bay St. Louis, barefooted evenings on the beach, hopeless gazings at blonde girl-children whose heroes were the teenage victors of yesterday’s regatta. Equally, there could be no old America again, the America of Lumber City whose inhabitants thought only Americans spoke English. Americans had ceased to look American. The faces were the same, the gait, the gestures, but the American haircut—the coir mat crew cut, the iron perm—had gone, and so had distinctively American clothes, the waistless suit, the universal shirtwaister dress, bobby socks, enormous shoes. Americans dressed like Europeans, just as we all dressed rather like them. There had been another assimilation: in the intervening twenty years growing prosperity at home had brought us all the accoutrements of American domestic life—washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, television sets—that had been such a cause of wonder in the 1950s. That made for a lowering of barriers; we were less the poor relations we had been. Other barriers had lowered also. The great age of international air travel had begun. In my twenties I had been almost unique among my English contemporaries in having travelled widely in the United States, in having been there at all. In the 1970s an American summer tour was becoming an ingredient of student life; in the 1980s all my children would cross the Atlantic quite as casually as they would cross the English Channel. Americans were making the journey in the opposite direction in large numbers and Europe was becoming demystified for them in the process. The extraordinary inwardness of America, which was part of the spell it had cast upon me, was dissolving. Casements, not so magic when opened, were letting in light from both directions.
America was changing, too, because its people were changing. In the 1950s there had mainly been white Americans and black Americans. By the 1970s a new tide of immigration was beginning—as immigration also was in Europe, until 1950 a completely white continent—to blur the division; there were Chinese, Indian, and Hispanic faces on the streets in increasing numbers. The most important racial change, however, had been in relations between black and white. During my great tour I had scarcely spoken to a black person and the status of blacks had been completely menial. Twenty years later I met African-Americans at every level of society. Returning on a book promotion tour to Atlanta, a city where in 1957 the only black person with whom I had passed the time of day was the barman in the Atlanta Athletic Club, I found that all the interviewers who gave me time on their television or radio programmes were black. Well-educated, professional, they gave no hint of having passed through a revolution; such was their self-assurance that all the questions I longed to ask about the transformaion of their expectations, in less than half my lifetime, died in my throat.
But then for me the time of questioning, of the night-long conversation, of heartfelt revelation and enquiry, was over. I was older. I was also a transient, coming and going, living on impressions rather than deep experience. From 1977 onwards I began to visit the United States—and Canada—two or three or sometimes five times a year, at first to lecture, then also to promote books or to write for the London newspaper which, after a long academic career, I joined in 1986. I gathered impressions in sheaves, first and most plentifully about American university and college life. Its richness has never ceased to surprise or to delight me. In the England of my youth there had only been twenty universities; at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when college-founding was almost as American as town-building, there had been only two. On the great circuit of the college lecture tour into which literary success cast me I encountered the results of the American passion for higher education in wonderful variety.
Some of the places to which invitations brought me were rich, world-famous, and intellectually intimidating. Harvard I knew, but only as the Alma Mater of old friends who had treated it with easy familiarity. As an academic society, briefly giving a visitor its attention, it proved formidable and demanding. Nowhere, not even at Oxford, had I encountered a professoriat which exuded such a sense of academic aristocracy. Scholarly eminence, security of tenure, wealth, knowledge of the world: these were the marks of the Harvard historians and political scientists before whom I tried to show my paces. Once, in a light-hearted mood, I scored a success; on a second occasion, trying harder, I flopped. I know the signs: polite questions, the intimation that the audience’s time has been wasted. I have flopped, too, at Princeton, at Yale, at the University of Chicago, that outpost of Vienna Circle intellectuality in the Midwest; America’s grand academe imposes pitiless standards.
I felt more at home in that uniquely American institution the liberal arts college, the reason being, I surmise, that it is the equivalent of the English public school. Strictly it is the American prep school—Groton, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville—which is the equivalent, but, while the public school is dominant in English life, the prep school in America is an exotic outgrowth. Liberal arts colleges, by contrast, are a point of aspiration for the educated parents of many American children. They offer a first degree but, more important, the friendship of professors, usually remote figures on the great campuses, social grooming, an all-round education, and, in many cases, an emphasis on moral purpose in life. A high proportion of the students at one liberal arts college were, a professor told me, “PK—preachers’ kids”; the same would have been true of many English public schools in the nineteenth century, when clergymen of the Church of England were still paid a gentleman’s wage. I came to know liberal arts colleges in their many forms, from Swarthmore, the most celebrated of them all, a virtual forcing house for Rhodes scholars, to the small religious foundations, Lutheran or Methodist, which cluster so thickly in Ohio and the rest of the Midwest first settled by god-fearing, hard-working German immigrants in the nineteenth century. I grew very fond of St. Anselm’s, a small Catholic college in New Hampshire, centred on its magnificent chapel, where jolly young Franciscans mingled in their brown habits at lunchtime with boys and girls in sneakers and T-shirts. I got to know even better Colorado College in Colorado Springs; a “rich kids’ place,” a state university professor once described it, but I found it governed by teachers of awesome fidelity to the ideals of truth and learning. “You,” my closest friend there said to me, “are an Oxford humanist.” You, I felt like replying, are an Abraham Lincolnian populist, believing in the equality of all before the book as well as the law.
I also came to know the great public universities, where a clever instate student can acquire, given desperately hard work and a willingness to wait at table or wash dishes, an Ivy League education at a fraction of the price. Athletic prowess also sees a student through. At Ohio State, where the footballers had signed up en masse for the elective in military history, I spent a social evening once craning to catch questions dropped down chests that looked like the lower slopes of Mount Everest. These amiable, almost wordless man-mountains were invariably in the charge of minute, demure girlfriends, who shepherded them about as if they were docile prize bulls at a state fair in the Southwest. The large private universities came my way, too, New York University, the University of Southern California; between them and their state equivalents I could detect no difference at all. The students, it seemed to me, enjoyed no better facilities, no greater intimacy with professors. They were merely exercising a choice the poorer students did not have, even if it were only the choice to waste their parents’ money. But choice is the essence of American higher education, and so is wastefulness. The dropout was unknown in my Oxford years; if you were admitted, you graduated; there were no credits, to be taken on perhaps later to another place, and that kept noses to grindstones; equally, there were degrees even for the laziest, including the legendary fourth-class degree, whose handful of recipients were admired almost as much as those who got firsts. There was no studying for a year or two, taking time out, going on to another place, graduating eventually in a discipline entirely different from that in which you had started out. English university education was ruthlessly élitist. The tiny group who secured entrance were destined to be a national élite, theoretically guaranteed a secure career for life ever after.
Between the English system of my youth and the American system already coming to prevail when I first visited the United States I see no middle way. The first makes for a society of haves and have-nots, well organised, well governed but unequal, and destined, in a post-Industrial Revolution world, for economic inertia. The second, though it may lay the seeds of discontent with prevailing government and organisation, fertilises creativity. Education ought to be wasteful, as American education is. It ought to offer chances to the greatest possible number, and ought to offer them in manifold variety and over and over again. No social scientist ever born has been able to predict who will benefit from education or when. Some of the cleverest of my Oxford contemporaries, who took firsts and swept the board of university prizes, have golden futures behind them; some have disappeared without trace; a tragic few, overburdened by intellect and neurosis, have taken their own lives. I think of the successful Americans I have known with interest. Paul Sarbanes, the son of an immigrant Greek waiter, is a United States senator; Barry Blumberg, Nobel prizewinner and head of my Oxford college, took his first degree somewhere I cannot place; Moses Finley, the greatest classical scholar of his age and eventually Regius (Royal) Professor at Cambridge, began life as an economist in some obscure university and taught himself Latin and Greek. There is no telling.
There is, of course, élitism in American education, and in 1984 I savoured it at first hand. Elected to a fellowship at Princeton, which kindly granted me the title of professor, I spent the first semester of the year on that limpid campus. I spent it alone; my wife was supervising the school-leaving exams of our two younger children. That made for loneliness. To my surprise, I found the faculty club empty in the evenings. Oxford and Cambridge dons dine together at high table; American, certainly Princeton, professors go home to their wives. Moreover, they do not gossip, nor do they waste time. Gossip and time-wasting fill the spaces of English university life, to the great pleasure of inhabitants and interlopers alike. American, certainly Princeton, professors work. They work at teaching, at seminars, at books. I began a book at Princeton but really wanted an opportunity for the sort of casual conversation with clever people which is, I find, the key to creativity and the eventual completion of books in hand. I did not get it. There were clever people aplenty; but they were always between classes, between lectures, breaking off to see a student or get in an hour at the Firestone Library. I would suggest a lunchtime drink. I might have been suggesting fire and brimstone. My only co-consumer of twelve o’clock gin and tonic in the faculty club—what is this American passion for early lunchtimes?—was the curator of the art collection, heavily Europeanised—and even he did not speak. Descending to the restaurant floor, I would spend an hour mesmerised by the sight of distinguished academics transfixed by their lonely reading, raising their heads only to take savage canine bites at enormous, indigestible sandwiches clutched in a free hand. Strange, zoo-like feelings possessed me, as if I were present at the feeding-time of a species of superintelligent primates hitherto unknown to science.
Yet there was wonderful talk at Princeton—in the Friday-morning seminar. The only obligation attached to my fellowship was that I should attend that seminar, where papers were read, and once present a paper myself. The obligation was no burden. English academics treat faculty seminars as an occasion for languid speculation or for settling private scores. American seminars are dedicated to the pursuit of truth. Historical discussion of a quality I have never encountered before or since was carried on at Princeton on those Fridays. Elaborate, lifelong learning was condensed into a few minutes of exposition. Arcane concepts, batted about between believers and doubters, yielded their significance in a flurry of question-and-answer. Words of which I scarcely knew the meaning—“topos,” “stochastic”—took on sense. Authors I had never heard of were cited with familiarity, obscure languages quoted with facility, hidden ideas brought to the surface, fallacies of which I was ignorant trampled to death. After one or two Princeton Fridays, I was left in no doubt that I was in the presence of very clever people indeed.
Some of them, despite their preoccupations, were to become my friends. I was meanwhile making friends in other institutions round which Princeton would have raised its skirts, the American service academies and colleges and the American armed forces. Oddly, the closest friend I made in that world was a Princeton graduate, John Guilmartin, who had not been happy there while he completed his doctorate, though I continue to think him one of the most creative military historians in the world; equally he had not been happy, though he was a combat helicopter pilot, at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Military history is a betwixt-and-between subject. I, as an outsider, enjoyed my forays into American military academe very much. It was, nevertheless, eyebrow-raising. Sandhurst, not exactly a university, not exactly a public school, partakes of the qualities of both, the intellectual liberalism of the former, the head prefect disciplines of the latter. The mixture does not seem available in the United States. There it is either Prussia or Parnassus. West Point prides itself on Prussianism—short haircuts, instant obedience. It provides the politest audiences in the world, but the lecturer feels his listeners’ minds are on other things. Colorado Springs, the U.S. Air Force Academy, exudes, in a Star Trek setting, much the same atmosphere; I did not beam up many Scotties in the classes I taught there. At the war colleges, by contrast, the ambience is cerebral, quite as much so as at Harvard or Princeton. The Naval War College, at Newport, Rhode Island, is populated by visiting scholars of great eminence; the physical facts of warfare seem as remote as they certainly were from the nearby mansions, the famous fifty-room cottages, of America’s late-Victorian leisure class. The staff colleges at Fort Leavenworth and Maxwell Air Force Base have become homes to schools of advanced military thinking, where the cleverest young officers of their class are left free for a year to read and to speculate; Prussia, perhaps, but Kant’s Königsberg rather than the Kriegsakademie. Only at Annapolis, the naval cadet academy, cramped in its sylvan Ivy League setting on the banks of the Chesapeake, have the American armed forces managed to combine the liberal arts ideal with the rigours of training for the service life.
Rigorous American service life is. When I first joined the staff at Sandhurst in 1960 the ethic of the officer as a gentleman occasionally in uniform prevailed. At lunchtime instructors and cadets alike changed into civilian clothes; a pupil who appeared at afternoon class in khaki would be asked to explain the reason. Hours were short, vacations long, the weeks of the summer term largely given over to cricket and sailing. I often spent days at a time in the magnificent library, browsing in its collections of history or biography, untroubled by either superiors or students. A Princeton friend who came to visit in the 1980s, when a more exacting regime had come into force, was still able to remark that I was leading the life of a country gentleman. I could not disagree. Squirearchy is not the American military way. Our West Point exchange officers were flabbergasted by our easy habits. “Goodbye Alice in Wonderland,” said one of them to me on getting his return orders, “back to reality.” Reality for American officers meant seven-o’clock starts, grabbed sandwiches, hours in the maintenance hangars swinging engines out of tanks, days “down range,” and an all-pervading deference to higher rank. British officers did—still do—call each other by their Christian names; only commanding officers are accorded “sir.” Colonels in America, I discovered when I first began to visit units, are “sirred” by majors, while generals’ ears reverberate with sirrings, the susurrations of salutes, the sibilation, it sometimes seemed to me, of sycophancy. Authority in America is a strange thing; absent where it is so often present in English life, its human instruments, its legitimate exercise commands conformities and obeisances alien to us. English subordinates go through rituals of obeying without appearing to do so, superiors of exacting obedience without seeming to require it. Americans, so much less fettered than we in social and everyday life, obey ostentatiously, order obtrusively. Subordinates and superiors alike seem bound to the wheel, as if sensing that, in their enormous society and vast land, systems can be sustained in motion only by the most exaggerated utterance of yea and nay, I and thou, who whom.
The American services were having difficulty with “who whom?” when I first began to visit them. The Vietnam War was not long over. Indiscipline had ceased to plague, but the groundswell of doubt over why the war had been fought still swirled. Indeed, I ascribe the success of The Face of Battle, an enquiry into the origins of human failings before danger as well as of triumph over it, to the troubled self-enquiry of America in the post-Vietnam years. I had asked questions not usually put, not easy to answer in a country at odds with itself for the first time since the Civil War over a great national military purpose. My friend John Erickson, the master historian of Russia’s resistance to Hitler, had found himself in the Cold War years invited by Soviet generals to pronounce on their problems, impartially they thought because his was an external voice. Lesser historian though I am, Americans accorded me a similar status. My opinion over “combat motivation” was sought, my responses accorded quite undeserved respect. Nevertheless, I could detect in the 1970s that all was not well. At Fort Carson, visiting a tank battalion, I noted that the commanding officer’s clerk, seated in one chair, feet in another, did not rise when the colonel and I entered his office. He was delighted to see us and full of news; I could only think that in a British regiment he would have been quivering to attention at the sound of the colonel’s footfall.
Over the next decade things changed. The dress and turnout of private soldiers recovered style and glitter, non-commissioned officers began again to stand apart, officers resumed the expectation of instant obedience. When in the mid-1980s I visited the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, I found an organisation of exact hierarchy, manifest purpose, pride in work. Every member, from staff officer to enlisted man, bristled with pleasure at the appearance of the commanding general, who had made himself my escort. They overflowed with eagerness to tell him what they were doing, emphasise commitment, listen for his word of approval. This was an army responding to the decision, taken by stalwarts like Norman Schwarzkopf after Vietnam, to persist with the institution and return it to its old traditions; when I came to interview him, then a civilian, after the Gulf War, he told me that his life’s fulfillment had been to see the dispirited formations of the 1970s transformed into the relentlessly battle-winning elements of the expeditionary force that had secured victory in Kuwait.
The army was not the only institution of state I came to know over this period. The Marine Corps, unaffected by the Vietnam trauma, was another; struck as any Englishman would be by its Brigade of Guards ethos—lofty distance between ranks, complicity of sergeants and officers in the maintenance of unthinking discipline, easy-borne burden of countless battle honours—I fell into instant admiration. The uniforms helped; the Marines’ dark khaki and black buttons combine the distinctions of our Guards and Rifle regiments respectively, with the difference that the Corps is larger than the whole British Army. It was an un-uniformed service, however, that I came to know best and to admire very greatly, the Central Intelligence Agency. Casually remarking one day to an American met at an academic conference that I thought “order of battle analysis”—the reconstruction from scraps of evidence of the organisation of armies—the most intriguing of all problems in military history, I received some months later an invitation to lecture at a CIA training course on the appropriate techniques. The lecture was a success and the invitation was repeated. When I next turned up at Langley it was to a more elaborate reception. The escorting officer who collected me at the airport told me that we would be going to the main building, not the training block; after I had completed some elaborate paperwork—the Agency seemed to know much about me already—I was let into the secret that the Director of Central Intelligence, then William Casey, had expressed a desire to meet me.
My escort set off confidently up a series of elevators and down anonymous corridors. After a while he was, I could see, flagging. We were on the wrong floor, then another wrong floor. There was embarrassed whispering with bypassers. Eventually, behind an anonymous door in another anonymous corridor, the director’s office was run to earth. Some very large and fit-looking young men occupied the floor space of the antechamber. Much of the floor space of the room within, a modestly-sized, book-lined study, was occupied by the director himself. William Casey was—fatal disease already had him in its grip—a large man. He had an anomalously small voice and a habit of swallowing his words. Placed at the corner of his desk, I found myself edging forward to catch what he was saying. As a newspaperman, which I had then become, rather than as a writer of history, I had jumped to the conclusion that a scoop was in the offing—some confidence about the Russian campaign in Afghanistan, perhaps, or the progress of nuclear disarmament talks. In fact, when a senior subordinate joined us, there was a revelation—that America was supplying Stinger missiles to the Mujahidin—on which I should have jumped. By then, however, I was disoriented. The Director of Central Intelligence, I had at last identified, was talking to me as one historian to another. The purpose of our meeting was to discuss our common craft. What was my working technique? Did I write longhand or on to a word processor? Did I make a point of visiting the battlefields about which I wrote? I stumbled out answers as best I could. After a long passage of almost mutual incomprehension, the director rose to his feet, plucked a book from the shelves—it was to prove of the greatest value in composing some of the pages that follow—inscribed it (“with esteem and admiration for your writing”), and said, I presume, goodbye. In the corridor outside my escort had been joined by others I already knew. “What did he have to say?” they asked. “I’m not altogether sure,” I answered, “I couldn’t really understand.” There was suppressed, insider laughter. I was looking at the book I had been given. It was entitled Where and How the War Was Fought: An Armchair Tour of the American Revolution, by William J. Casey. “We call him Mumbles,” a member of the group commented, “the only man in Washington who doesn’t need a secure telephone.”
Casey’s cover was clearly very deep indeed; a second identity as a historian is a le Carré-esque disguise of great sophistication. Oddly, when a year or two later I was met at the entrance to the Pentagon by an escort who told me that the Secretary of Defense had also expressed a desire to meet me, I found on entering Caspar Weinberger’s office (what a contrast with Langley—vast space, colonial antiques, portraits of American military paladins at the door, cinquecento paintings lining the walls within) that he, too, wanted to talk about our common craft, writing history, the literary analysis of the trade of diplomacy; but by then I was attuned—and, anyhow, Caspar Weinberger enunciated our common language with exquisite clarity. I like the American Foreign Service very much and take great pleasure in the perpetuation by so many of its members of the Dean Acheson look and manner—neat moustaches, the slightly pained expression, an accent more Canadian than American. I continue to find, however, its sister intelligence service more interesting.
“Vietnam was our Raj,” one of its old field hands once said to me. The CIA does indeed carry on the traditions of the Indian Political Service, the ethos of Kim and the Great Game. Whatever suspicions American libertarians maintain about the Agency, its officers are people of suavity, subtle understanding of remote but important parts of the world, urbane realism about the exercise of state power, high but underplayed patriotism. I have met the same set of qualities in American military men on detached duty, notably in a lean, brown colonel encountered in Lebanon at the height of the civil war, who spoke T. E. Lawrence Arabic and continued to brief me over a lunch of shish kebab and unleavened bread wholly unperturbed—as I was not—by a government battery firing howitzer shells over our heads into the mountains beyond Beirut. I met similar qualities in the local representative of the United States Information Service in Peshawar, on the North-West Frontier, real Kim country; suffused by local culture, he had arranged an evening of Pushtu folk-singing to entertain us and had chosen as principal performer the English wife of an Oxford ethnomusicologist whose high break notes reduced his Pakistani guests to exhalations of appreciation. Old Raj, new Raj; I sat beside a cavalry officer who was delighted I remembered that his regiment had once been Fane’s Horse. The significance of the evening was that an American mediated between empire and independence.
Mediation between the old power of the Anglo-Saxon world and the new is the CIA’s calling. It has assumed the mantle once worn by Kim’s masters as if it were a seamless garment. American politicians may waffle and Washington civil servants choke on their worries about reconfirmation by an incoming administration. The tenured ranks of the republic’s professional intelligence officers continue to learn difficult languages, deal in the history of minority peoples, delve into faction, sect, and subculture, dissect the dangerous foreign policies of dissident states, discuss the way the world works in a spirit of detached realism some dying echo of which I had caught in youth among the dwindling servants of the British world system on which the sun was then setting. Theirs is an urbane and sophisticated service, closer in spirit to the higher bureaucracies of the old European powers than any other body I know in the United States. It is not surprising that it attracts the suspicions of populists, anti-Washington politicians, and, above all, investigative journalists. The ethos of American journalism—disrespectful, hypercritical, self-confident—is one of the most potent gifts the republic has transmitted to the European world. The spirit in which its pioneers—Martha Gellhorn, John Hershey, Theodore White, the ciné-vérité photographer Robert Capa—set out in the 1930s to unmask the wickedness of dictators and demagogues in the un-Rooseveltian outside, the deviousness of its diplomatists and secret services, has taken root, particularly in the United Kingdom, a country still distinguished by the uncorruptness of its public life. Imputation of corruption, of executive excess, has become a reflex action here. It has bled back into the reporting of government activity in the land of irreverent journalism’s origins, threatening to render the execution of national policy so difficult as to make the effort scarcely worth an elected politician’s while.
What is admirable about the CIA, as it is about the State Department and the armed services, is that it persists in its task and holds to its standards, despite the dirt thrown at it. Foremost among those standards is an intellectual and academic approach to the eternal problem faced by a dominant civilisation of exercising power in the world. Power tends to corrupt individuals; civilisations are prone to corruption also. American civilisation by its essence finds the exercise of power profoundly antipathetic and is consequently drawn to a blundering, clumsy, and over-violent response when its vital interests are threatened. Unchecked, unguided, America has always risked being a Cyclops in world affairs, a blinded giant striking wildly at cunning outsiders. High-minded public servants—George Marshall and Dean Acheson are exemplars—have succeeded in the era of American world power in constraining and directing such impulses; but they could not have succeeded had they acted alone. American public service—that of its regular officers, career diplomatists, professional intelligence analysts—has supplied an essential underpinning. America undervalues their patriotism and dedication, wisdom, and intellectuality. I have learnt not to do so.