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The Skeptic

June 2024
1min read


Twenty years ago our colleague Walter Karp helped
inaugurate and refine this magazine’s coverage of historical travel.
Nobody was better than Walter
at discovering and describing
how the living essence of men
and women could cling to a
place long years after they themselves were gone. But Walter’s
true passion was politics. When
he died prematurely in 1989, the
Republic lost an eloquent and
tireless defender. That Republic,
as Walter saw it, was the country
of liberty-loving freeholders that
had long been threatened by
the insatiable corporate nationalism made possible by America’s rise to industrialprominence in the years after the Civil War.

Walter detailed the process
with scalding intensity in his
1979 book The Politics of War ,
in which he charged that the men
at the levers of power cynically
brought on the Spanish-
American conflict and then the
nation’s entry into World War I
to crush the stirrings of first the
Populist and then the Progressive
movements. The quotes that
make up the chapter headings
suggest the story, beginning with
“The Eve of a Very Dark Night”
and “The Malevolent Change in
Our Public Life” and ending with
“The Old America That Was Free
and Is Now Dead.” The Politics
of War
was a controversial
book in its time, and it remains
so today—as fresh and relevant
now, writes Lewis Lapham in his
introduction to the new edition
just published by Franklin Square
Press, as it was in the disheveled
late seventies. But despite its
somber message, the book never
sounds gloomy, because it is
buoyed throughout with Walter’s
voice, bracing and high-hearted
with his lifelong faith that the better angels of the American nature will always lead itschildren back to their founding freedoms.

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