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The war in Vietnam has lasted longer than any armed conflict outside our borders in which we have been engaged in the nearly two centuries of our independent existence, and disengagement and complete withdrawal are still a question mark. The conflict has engendered divided opinions, manifested in bitter and potentially dangerous confrontations among our people, and we still are uncertain what it was we sought and why, where we should now proceed, and what courses of action would best serve our national interests.
For over a decade it has been received as accepted truth in the highly charged political atmosphere of Washington that the role, power and prestige of the Secretary and Department of State in the conduct of foreign affairs have steadily declined. Accompanying this decline, and accused of causing it, is said to have been an increasing part played by the President himself in this alluring, fashionable and important activity, accentuated, perhaps, by the appearance in the White House of a court favorite--a modern Leicester, Essex or Buckingham--served by over a hundred attendants and constantly advising the monarch on these matters in the antechamber. The New York Times, in a series of articles published in January 1971, dates these developments from FDR's time, though adding that the trend was arrested "during the Truman and Eisenhower years [until] the death of John Foster Dulles in 1959."
We have been accustomed, during most of the past 25 years, to think of our security in terms of the containment of Soviet expansionism, relying largely upon a comfortable superiority in military power. A number of developments now call into question the adequacy of this conception and of our understanding of the nature of effective power in the modern world.
Since 1962, U.S. trade policy has been moving steadily away from the liberal trade approach which had characterized it since 1934 and which has been the objective of every administration since that time.
As in many other parts of the world, the interests of the Soviet Union and the United States in India are widely assumed to be in "conflict." To what extent is this conflict genuine, and what are the implications for Asia in general and South Asia in particular?
In the brief period since the late summer of 1970, Tripoli, Caracas, Tehran and then Tripoli again have witnessed unprecedented demands upon the international oil industry by major oil-producing countries, dramatic confrontations with threats to withhold essential oil supplies, and far- reaching "settlements." As a result, the economic terms of the world trade in oil have been radically altered. The balance among oil-producing and exporting countries and oil-consuming and importing countries, and among oil companies themselves appears, at least as of now, to have shifted decisively in favor of the producing countries.
In the 1950s a balance or pattern of power grew up in Asia and the Pacific, the central feature of which was the conflict between the Sino-Soviet bloc and the American alliance system. It is obvious that this pattern has been disintegrating in the course of the last decade, and that in the 1970s it will be replaced by something quite new. What this new balance will be we cannot say with any assurance, but certain propositions may be tentatively advanced.
Even in an age of nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles, the states of Eastern Europe now dominated by the Soviet Union constitute an important element of Soviet national security, a kind of cordon Stalinaire. The one hundred million people, and the resources their governments command, contribute a significant increment to Soviet economic, technological and military power. Soviet control of these areas provides forward military bases and possession of the traditional invasion routes into Western Europe, especially across the northern plains. The Soviet position, in fact, constitutes a threat to the security of Western Europe, a pistol held at its head.
The armed forces of the United States are in the throes of what is popularly termed an identity crisis. Alongside daily press reports of antiwar protests, draft resistance and opposition to military spending are accounts of such problems within the uniformed services as discipline, race relations and drug abuse. The concern of the military is apparent in recent institutional reforms, most notably in the Navy, designed to make service more attractive and to remove some of the irritants that no longer appear to serve a useful purpose. Not so well-known, however, is the search to adapt traditional concepts and practices of military professionalism to changing requirements and radically new demands.
In fighting the Indochina war, the United States has made extensive use of two chemical agents: tear gas and herbicides. As debate on the Geneva Protocol banning chemical and biological warfare continues within the U.S. Senate and the Administration, two highly charged issues-Vietnam and man's destruction of his environment-are likely to merge. For it is the Administration's contention that the United States should ratify the Protocol with the understanding "that it does not prohibit the use in war of riot-control agents [tear gas] and chemical herbicides." A large number of Senators, however, consider that the Protocol prohibits the use of both, and feel that the Administration understanding dilutes the significance of U.S. ratification. Consequently, the members of the Foreign Relations Committee are not likely to vote the Protocol out of committee in its present form. And until the President replies to their criticism it appears that no action will be taken on it.
When Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the British Foreign Secretary, told the House of Commons in March that all permanent British forces in the Persian Gulf would be withdrawn by the beginning of 1972 he signaled the end of the last important vestige of the nineteenth century's Pax Britannica and opened the door to what could be a major, and possibly painful, reconstruction of the Middle Eastern map.
Author's Note: The major conclusions of this article will be expanded in "Sovereignty at Bay: The Multinational Spread of U.S. Enterprises," to be published in September 1971 by Basic Books, Inc., New York.