Courtesy Reuters


Let us make two assumptions: first, that the Viet Nam war has reached the beginning of the end and that it will be over within the next year or two; second, that the settlement will involve an American defeat and the extension of communist power to South Viet Nam. Events may falsify both these assumptions, but they may not; it is worth thinking about what the situation will be like if they do not.

Among other things, it is worth thinking about the effects which such developments will have on the debate about American policy in Asia. After all, it has been said often enough that this debate is itself crucial in determining the future of Southeast Asia. If this is more than rhetoric, and surely it is, it is important to consider how the arguments will look and where the participants will stand if events move in this way. What answers can be expected to the questions: Will the United States withdraw from the whole region, at least in the military sense? Should it do so? Would the countries of the region be able to maintain their independence if it did so? Would it matter if they did not?

If the situation here envisaged comes about, one of the important consequences will be the enhancing of the influence and authority of those who have been critical of American policy. They will be in a position to claim, or to have claimed for them, that the fact that they predicted the failure of American policy testifies to the soundness of their analysis of the general situation and their prescriptions for future American policy Such a claim would be persuasive but not necessarily justified. People are sometimes right despite their analysis; sometimes a part of their analysis is sound while another part is not. In an exchange between Hans Morgenthau and McGeorge Bundy during the C.B.S. debate in June 1965, Bundy pointed out that in the early sixties Morgenthau had wrongly

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