- New Issue
- Books & Reviews
- About Us
- Browse by Issue:
A Question recently posed by a distinguished colleague is central for anyone who earnestly seeks to understand how an entire generation of American political leaders, with the best will in the world, pushed the country onto the slippery slope that led ever downward into the engulfing morass of Indochina. The question is this: "Why did so many intelligent, experienced and humane men in government fail to grasp the immorality of our intervention in Vietnam and the cancerous division it was producing at home, long after this was instinctively evident to their wives and children?"
During the last week of April 1970 the Vietnam war became the Second Indochina War. On April 24 and 25 representatives of the four movements of the Indochinese Left convened at a certain spot in south China to seal an alliance that had been contracted many years before by three of the movements-the North Vietnamese Lao Dong, the Pathet Lao and the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front (NLF)-and to which Prince Sihanouk, overthrown a month earlier by the Cambodian Right, was now adhering in a conspicuously unconditional manner. The Indochinese revolutionary front thus came into being.
The uneasy public quiet on Vietnam which the President achieved with his speech last November 3 was shattered by the large-scale U.S. military intervention in eastern Cambodia. Once more U.S. policy in Southeast Asia became the subject of major controversy. In this situation there is some danger that we shall become so caught up in the immediate issues that we neglect more fundamental questions with respect to current American strategy. The new actions are a product of a basic fault in the structure of U.S. policy but do not, by themselves, define that fault.
Prediction is a chancy business. Nevertheless, one cannot consider policy without making some general judgments (or if you like assumptions) about likely developments. My first assumption is that the countries of the Alliance as a whole will continue to have the resources and dynamic to contribute to shaping the future. We are not and shall not be simply in the position of having to respond to events. The combined gross domestic product of the countries of the Alliance is 55 percent of total world gross domestic product. Our present share of world trade is also 55 percent. I assume that there will be no substantial recession in world trade, and I believe that we shall at least maintain our share of it. There should therefore be no lack of material resources for the countries of the Alliance. Nevertheless, our ability to attain the objects of our policies will be limited by various factors.
Twenty-FIVE years after the League of Nations was born a successor organization was being formed at San Francisco. This fate, at least, has been spared the United Nations. The United Nations is not dead. But it certainly is ill. It is suffering, even supporters admit, from "a crisis of confidence," a "decline in credibility," and "creeping irrelevance." However we define it, the fact is that the world organization is being increasingly bypassed by its members as they confront the central problems of the time.
The Mexican Revolution is doing well-not the grievous struggle for justice that started 60 years ago, in the ancient past before the First World War, but the famous economic boom that Mexican entrepreneurs have executed in the present generation. The old days of revolt are gone-the days of dictators falling, grimy rebels storming into the towns, cotton choppers and mechanics debating in sovereign assemblies. The grand staging of the Olympics two years ago gave proof that the business of the Mexican Revolution is now business.
Alliances, we had always felt, were not our sort of thing. They would involve us in obscure quarrels and sordid rivalries which were none of our concern. They seemed to be both undesirable and unnecessary in view of our special geographic and political circumstances.
Seen from a certain distance, China-we speak of the China Mainland, the People's Republic of China-looks to some like the sleeping beauty now waking up to the modern world; to others she may look like a monster preparing to swallow Asia or half of the world. Many see in Mao the symbol of all that is new and fresh, the man who dared to destroy his own establishment and let loose the red guards as rebels.
The problems which would beset post-colonial Africa were hardly recognized as the continent emerged into congeries of independent states ten years ago. Perhaps too great familiarity with detail made it hard for the colonial powers to see the problems clearly; too little familiarity with the realities made it hard for the United States; for both, and for the Africans themselves, belief in the sovereign power of freedom blinded them to the risks and tests which freedom entails.
The far north has been slow in joining the modern world. It is just three hundred years since the Hudson's Bay Company was granted a charter in London to "trade into Hudson's Bay" and the Muscovy Company had been active in northern Russia even earlier. Both were incidental dividends of the search for a practicable direct sea route from western Europe to the Orient This objective has still not been achieved, for there is as yet no normally operating international seaway either by way of the Northwest Passage across the top of North America or through the Northeast Passage north of the U.S.S.R., although the latter is used fairly regularly in summer by Soviet vessels. The 1969 voyage of the U.S. tanker Manhattan from the Atlantic to the north coast of Alaska and back dramatized the persisting need for such a short northerly passage. It also emphasized that ice, which made the route impassable for centuries, remains a formidable obstacle.
Sparked by Vice President Spiro Agnew's critical remarks last fall, there has been much discussion of the news media in recent months, particularly as regards their objectivity, their concentration of ownership and the like. These questions must be regarded as important regardless of one's political views. They deserve even more probing and wider examination than they have received to date. But to confine the debate to the issues raised by Mr. Agnew is grossly inadequate, for there are other equally or even more fundamental matters that need airing. How large are the resources this nation devotes to keeping itself informed on current events? How are they distributed by the media as a whole and by the major media separately as among major areas of attention? Are changes in the amount or distribution of these resources required to create a better-informed citizenry capable of making more intelligent decisions? It is strange that in this land of numerous and wealthy foundations so little effort has been made to provide a comprehensive overall picture of the organization and operation of the news media and an evaluation of how well they perform their functions. This article is intended to serve as a contribution to the needed larger discussion.
For nearly five years the "green revolution" has been under way in a number of agriculturally underdeveloped countries of Asia. Its advent into tradition-bound rural societies was heralded as the rebuttal to the dire predictions of hunger stalking large parts of the world. But more than that, those carried away with euphoria at the impending changes saw in them a remedy for the poverty of the vast majority of the cultivators. They were correct in assuming that the new technology stands for vastly increased productivity and income to match. However, the propitious circumstances in which the new technology thrives are not easily obtainable and hence there are inevitably constraints on its scope and progress. Apart from this, where it has succeeded, the revolution has given rise to a host of political and social problems. In short, the green revolution can be, as Dr. Wharton correctly pointed out in Foreign Affairs in April 1969, both a cornucopia and a Pandora's box.
Despite the recent waves of tourists who have returned with tales of the beauties and comforts of Lisbon and Estoril, and despite new Luso-American cultural and commercial links, misunderstanding and ignorance characterize much American thought about Portugal. Some observers still believe that this small nation lives entirely in the past. But the fact is that significant changes are taking place there.