Courtesy Reuters

Youth and Foreign Policy

Protest against the war in Vietnam became, along with marijuana and long hair, the symbol of the Revolt of Youth in America of the sixties. To be sure, the Revolt of Youth was far from a universal phenomenon among young people. Many millions continued going about the business of studying, staking out a life's work for themselves, launching a family-or fighting in the Vietnamese jungles. To a large extent, this was a revolt of the best educated, the most articulate, the most self-confident and self-conscious. In short, it was a revolt of the élite among youth. The rebels gained influence far beyond their numbers precisely because "The Establishment" was more interested in the escapades of élite youth than in the activities of, say, the blue-collar young. Youthful dissenters and revolutionaries benefited in this way from precisely the élite status they claimed to be rejecting.

The rebels could not escape the consequences of this status, however. The influence of this relatively small youthful pressure group on the American debate over Vietnam was all the more marked because foreign policy questions, unlike domestic bread-and-butter issues, traditionally involve only a relatively small percentage of the electorate. Policy-makers in the foreign policy field have been forced to reckon with the outlooks of youth on foreign policy issues.

With the beginning of the seventies and the gradual end of the American combat engagement in Vietnam, it is appropriate to assess the views of young people on the future direction of American foreign policy as a whole, and the contribution they might make toward changing its direction. For protesting a specific wrong is easier than formulating a thought-out alternate conception of a nation's role in the world. From my own standpoint, as one young person concerned with redirecting American foreign policy, any lasting role youth could play in this regard has been severely limited by a lack of hard thought conditioned by the environment in which college-age students today have reached political maturity. The domination over the

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