America’s China Policy Is Not Working
The Dangers of a Broad Decoupling
We are confronting in Latin America what is in essence an ideological crisis-a question of purpose. Given our national predilections this is the kind of problem we find most difficult to deal with. The temptation is to retreat, retrench and look inward. This is an impossibility: our wealth is too great not to share, our enterprise too successful and too useful not to expand, our interests-and the peace of the world-too vulnerable not to protect.
The central issue is revolution-radical, structural change in the political, economic and social systems of Latin America-and the relationship to it of the United States. Comforting and noncontroversial as it may be to speak in familiar technical terms of "development," particularly "economic development," we must accept the fact that real development is change; and that change necessarily raises questions of speed, direction and control which are in the largest sense inherently political and deeply controversial. In the Latin American environment particularly, the introduction of seemingly innocuous economic or technological change often in fact requires profound, permanent and radical alteration of existing systems.
Let us take food production, which has been hobbling along beneath the burden of rising population. We have generally supposed improving agricultural output to be a matter of better seed, more fertilizer, irrigation and the like. We have proceeded on the vague assumption that Latin American peasants resemble in some half-formed way the homesteaders of our own West-confident, Protestant entrepreneurs eagerly waiting for the means to a better life. We have treated Latin American states as though they were in fact representative of their people, able and willing to introduce the manifold changes which we encourage-and pay-them to promise, and prepared to mobilize efficiently a vast spread of governmental services to their rural areas. While some governments receiving assistance may have such capacity and determination, most do not. The Latin American peasant, generally speaking, is snared in an historical web of pressures and powers which allows him little control over his environment and deprives him of confidence and motivation. He feels little or no identification with his government or with what is called his nation; his sole concern is survival and the agonies that it involves. Disorganized, isolated and detached, he, like the Black American, has been denied power in his own country. While this condition has afflicted roughly only 20 percent of North Americans, it circumscribes the existence of perhaps 80 percent of Latin Americans. A change in the production of food, or any other sort of meaningful change, requires a fundamental realignment of the structures and the power which contain this condition. More than technology, it is a problem of land tenure, of markets, of credit, of motivation, of organization and of commitment. It is in the largest sense a political problem. The bonds that tie the peasants to their traditional marginal existence are not to be undone by governments dependent upon the existing power structure. That would constitute an unreal form of self-subversion. The job must be done by a variety of self-sustaining, largely nongovernmental, engines of change.
Here and there these engines are at work: campesino federations in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic; organizations of the radical Church, like those in Brazil, Chile and Panama; some trade unions; and various enterprises, such as the large commercial farms of Mexico, and certain integrated food production, processing and distribution activities of some U.S.-based multinational corporations.
They are contributing to the development of true communities in Latin America, helping them to form and organize in such a way that they can govern themselves, determine their values and goals and build the institutions and organizations necessary for a vigorous, responsive and lasting political system. These engines of change are providing a new confidence that power in the environment is not permanently fixed, that movement is possible; a new sense of purpose and legitimacy. And this matter of purpose is at the heart of Latin America's difficulties.
In Veraguas Province, Panama, for example, the problem of education is substantially irrelevant to the number of school-houses; it is rooted in the fact that the campesino sees no special purpose in having his child in school on time, regularly, year in and year out. He does not visualize for his child a life that is substantially different from his own. When, however, 25 campesinos joined together for a coöperative effort in the village of San Francisco, and when they discovered that the only person in the village who could keep the group's small accounts was the local priest, they recognized in a remarkably short time the need for education. As never before, they had their children in school on time and overtime.
Student organizations and nationalist guerrilla movements are also endeavoring to operate as engines of change, but so far with limited success. And, surprisingly perhaps, communism in Latin America has been dramatically unsuccessful in causing change. Its European-based Marxist ideology has consistently shown itself to be irrelevant to the Latin American reality. Its fealty to Moscow has made it an unacceptable form of neocolonialism, an affront to nationalism; and in the clinch, Moscow has been unable to protect its Latin American offspring. Although the Soviet Union is stuck with the economic burden of Castro, it is plain that it does not support his brand of revolutionary warfare, and indeed, given Castro's open defiance of the party line as laid down by the Kremlin, it is questionable whether it is accurate or useful to call him and his followers elsewhere in Latin America communists. They are more precisely described as revolutionary nationalists who may or may not receive assistance from Moscow. The Soviet Union's principal efforts in Latin America are devoted to increasing its general influence by promoting trade and commerce and securing friendly governments by exerting pressure within the existing political structures-most notably today in Chile, Peru and Uruguay.
The changing nature of the cold war and the demise of the communist apparatus as an important threat in Latin America have removed the most readily understood and for some the most compelling purpose of our foreign policy and program in Latin America. While we have always denied that foreign aid was necessarily tied to protection against communists, there has been some question whether anyone really believed it. Anti-communism has served a useful purpose for us; it has allowed us to defer clarifying our own ideology, our vision of what we mean by a good community. It has permitted us to live with a fundamental contradiction between stability and change. We could insist upon changes of all sorts, as in the Alliance for Progress, but at the same time we could sustain institutions which thwarted change, arguing the necessity of stability. We have spoken regularly of freedom, democracy and self-determination, the inference being that both change and stability were preconditions for the fulfillment of these political ideals. Because of communism, however, we were able to avoid facing the hard reality that in much of Latin America democracy is a euphemism and will remain so until the advent of the widespread political organization upon which democracy must rest. And because of communism we were able to skirt the issue of who was "determining" what for whom. Thus, because of communism we have been conducting a policy which has combined an offering of lip service to radical structural change with support for the status quo.
This is not to say that the Agency for International Development and the Alliance for Progress have not done good things. They have built roads, schoolhouses, hospitals and dams; they have financed housing, training and the introduction of new industry and technology; they have promoted exports, economic diversification and the passage of a sizable amount of reform legislation (much of it unimplemented). All this has been done, however, for the most part through local government and in collaboration with members of the existing power structure. While our assistance may have caused a marginal improvement in the standard of life for some, it has also, equally importantly, provided a source of patronage and political strength for the status quo.
And all too often a road, a bridge or a hydroelectric station has been considered to be in and of itself a good thing. All too often the question of whether the road or the bridge is located properly to promote the organization of the population for its inclusion into the nation, or whether the hydroelectric station and its output are so arranged as to bring power and light more cheaply to more people, receives little consideration. Our aid has in reality changed Latin America very little.
U.S. military assistance programs heighten dramatically the inherent conflict in our quest for both stability and change. The case of the Maryknoll priest, Father Thomas Melville, in Guatemala, is a relevant example. In the early 1960s guerrilla bands formed in the Guatemalan wilderness. It is imprecise and misleading to call the groups communists, for as far as can be determined, they were not uniformly the recipients of international communist assistance nor were they by any means under communist orders. They were merely insistent upon change in the structures of Guatemalan power and therefore could well be called nationalist revolutionaries. They were quite successful for a time, until a special band of anti-guerrilla fighters was formed, presumably with the assistance of U.S. military groups which were in Guatemala for the purpose, and armed with U.S. equipment. The effectiveness of this special group was so impressive that landowners of Guatemala sought their services and emulated their procedures in the name of anti-communism. Father Melville, meanwhile, was engaged in organizing illiterate, impoverished Indians into a coöperative of sorts to improve their relationship with their environment. The local landowners, however, looked upon Father Melville's operations as subversive interference-the plot of communists. They therefore engaged anti- guerrilla vigilantes to harass the Father and his workers. The priest, arguing self-defense, went to some guerrilla friends and obtained guns, at which point he was expelled from the country. It is hardly stretching the point to say that here we had the United States arming and training men to shoot up U.S. priests. The conflict can hardly be overlooked.
Stripped of the protective rationale of anti-communism, we must now face the unveiled question of where we stand on revolution or radical change in Latin America. To answer this question we must identify our interests precisely. Our priorities would seem to be in the following order:
The chief concern of the Government of the United States must be the survival of the American people. Survival is threatened by the existence anywhere of chaos and disorganization. These produce socio-political vacuums which the bully and the predator are tempted to fill aggressively. In this day and age such aggression can bring the threat of total war.
The second concern of the U.S. Government must be the protection of the rights and interests of U.S. citizens in Latin America.
It follows from these primary and secondary objectives that the control of violent conflict is a vital interest of the United States.[i] The control of conflict requires the presence in any community-national or international-of an effective police capable of apprehending and confining the bandit and the criminal. But in Latin America, banditry and criminality are neither the root nor the principal potential cause of violence; and care must be taken not to confuse such lawlessness with revolution, the right to which is deep in our own political and moral heritage. Our reason for being as a nation is linked to the pledge that all men have certain rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that governments are instituted "to secure these rights;" and that "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government. . . ."
The cause of conflict in Latin America comes in large measure from the desire of increasing numbers to achieve these rights. In the context of the Latin American environment this achievement requires change which is sufficiently radical to deserve the name of revolution. It thus becomes the interest of the United States to promote that revolution; and it is a subsidiary interest to promote the revolution in such a way that the violent conflict which often accompanies radical change is minimized.
It should be emphasized that this objective is also in accord with our moral stance, corresponding to what we proclaim as the definition of the good community. And in as much as the revolution is inevitable it is axiomatic that our political interest lies in closer coöperation with it. We cannot win a war with the inevitable even though today we are dangerously close to trying.
The revolution in Latin America requires the mobilization of those political institutions which I have already referred to as engines of change, and which are essential for self-determination. Our policy thus should become solidly oriented toward sustaining these institutions rather than those of the status quo. This will undoubtedly arouse controversy between us and those who hold power in Latin America. They will tend to regard it as a policy of subversion, which in a sense it is. They will speak of intervention in the internal political affairs of sovereign states, which it is. They should be reminded, however, that our present policy also constitutes intervention, only on their behalf. It is time to recognize that almost any foreign assistance in Latin America is bound to be interventionary in one way or another.
It is easy, however, to overestimate the controversy and to ignore means by which it can be minimized. The fact is that many government leaders in Latin America are themselves keenly aware of the need for radical change. But they are hobbled in their efforts to introduce it by recalcitrant oligarchs and conservative bureaucracies, both of which tend to be bolstered by our aid program; they are also impeded by insufficient organization for change outside of government. Many of these leaders would, therefore, secretly, if not publicly, welcome such a shift in U.S. policy.
Our alternative to adopting this policy would seem to be to continue our equivocation in the matter of change. This in turn will tend to force those urging change, from the radical Church to the revolutionary nationalists, into seeking assistance from other world powers, including the Soviet Union. In spite of the weakness of its hemispheric apparatus and its recent peaceful policies in Latin America, the U.S.S.R. still, of course, has the power to intervene if it feels it necessary to its world position.
The implementation of such a policy calls for substantial changes in the organization of our foreign assistance. What follows is an outline of such a reorganization, not intended as a full-fledged or final proposal but as an indicator of the direction in which U.S. policy must move.[ii]
Although the total thrust of a new foreign assistance policy should be directed at the purposes set by the Alliance for Progress, this policy is best achieved by dividing programs into two general categories-those which work within existing structures and those which are designed to introduce basic, structural change. For this purpose AID, both in Washington and Latin America, should be replaced by two principal alternative assistance channels and perhaps several subsidiary ones. (A similar reorganization of U.S. assistance elsewhere in the world should undoubtedly follow.)
The first channel, which we shall call the New Alliance for Progress, should be a multilateral structure receiving perhaps 70 percent of U.S. assistance for Latin America. The second, which will be called the American Foundation, would distribute about 25 percent. The remainder might be distributed through other routes, such as the overseas investment corporation which has been proposed for encouraging private investment in less developed countries.
The New Alliance would include programs designed to sustain, nourish and improve existing national growth structures. Essentially supplemental in nature, such programs would presuppose the existence of effective local structures capable of directing economic inputs into a coherent, purposeful development scheme. They would be designed, therefore, to assist national governments and those public and private institutions and enterprises which are generally connected with or endorsed by government. These programs, for example, would concern: health, education and public works; routine industrial development; military, police and civil administration training and assistance; trade and tariffs and export development.
Such programs are in essence non-revolutionary. Although they may well contribute to the gradual evolution of existing structures, they are primarily aimed at improving the conditions of life within them. While they are necessary and consistent with our interests, they may often obstruct change because they are still tied to national governments and therefore tend to support the status quo. For this reason they should be channeled through multilateral agencies, relieving the United States of sole responsibility for their effect. The blame should be shared regionally.
Latin American leadership would be better suited than the U.S. Government to harass and chide Latin American governments to make the most efficient use of large quantities of assistance; it would also be more sensitive to questions of priority, timing, concentration and focus. All programs in this category should be carried out under the direction of the Inter- American Committee of the Alliance for Progress (CIAP), acting for the Organization of American States. To implement its programs CIAP would use the World Bank, the International Development Association, the Inter- American Development Bank, regional development banks and such additional institutions as it may deem necessary. In order to coördinate the foreign assistance activities of these institutions, CIAP would have a regional office in each of the Latin American countries, replacing existing AID missions.
Programs under the New Alliance for Progress would be financed by contributions from Latin American governments, the United States Government, and European government members of the Organization for Economic Coöperation and Development. The task of insuring that these funds were being used honestly and efficiently would fall upon the international institutions themselves, which experience has shown can be hard and tough in this regard-often more so than U.S. officials can or want to be. This proposal envisages an expansion of the existing programs which for the most part have worked well, and an extension and strengthening of Latin American control over these programs. The Alliance for Progress would continue as a true "alliance;" and opportunities for regional growth and integrated development independent of U.S. pressures and influence would be increased. Because of its regional character, the New Alliance would be more appealing to Europe and Japan, perhaps even enticing assistance from the Soviet Union. Training and technical assistance could be brought from many countries other than the United States. Israel in particular has much to offer. It is difficult today for AID to arrange for Israeli assistance to Latin America for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the Arabs. Then, too, regional control of military and police assistance and training would be a particularly salutary innovation, removing the United States at least one step from this sticky area and providing us with political distance and man?uvring room which we do not now have.
But perhaps the most important effect of the New Alliance would be the added impetus which it would give to national and regional planning and thus to the integration of Latin America-at first commercially and economically and then politically. We have seen how damaging the close proximity of the United States and its officialdom can be to Latin American initiative. We cannot help ourselves; it is in the nature of things; we are large and powerful and our breath is heavy. The closer we are to the processes by which Latin Americans plan, establish priorities, identify their interests and determine actions, the more these processes will be distorted, dampened and defeated. We have long spoken about the necessity of "giving the Latin Americans the tools and letting them do the job for themselves," but we have found it difficult to act accordingly. Our AID programs have become an increasingly self-defeating exercise with almost the opposite effect. We are fond of using the word "self-help," but it is generally more a sham than a reality.
The regional organization of foreign assistance would also facilitate foreign investment. CIAP and the New Alliance, as part of their integration planning could, for example, greatly strengthen and expand the work of multinational investment companies such as ADELA, which would be natural allies of CIAP and the Inter-American Development Bank in building up the Latin American Free Trade Association.
The purposes of the New Alliance would be very much like those of its predecessor. While we can hope that it will find new and better ways to achieve them, we cannot expect the Alliance, by itself, to speed up the revolutionary process to the extent that U.S. and Latin American interests dictate.
U.S. objectives, therefore, require a second and quite distinct system of assistance programs to find and fuel the engines of change which work directly to revolutionize Latin American social and political structures. As the New Alliance would sustain local growth structures, the second category of programs would help to design and construct such structures where they do not exist and assist in the formation of new local organizations to exert pressure for radical change in existing structures.
It may appear that the two program categories are contradictory. In a sense they are and must be. Our purpose, however, is to make the contradiction more precise and manageable. The contradiction between change and stability exists today; we can be sure it will exist tomorrow. The vital interests of both the United States and Latin America lie in designing better ways of handling it.
Second-category programs would be essentially nongovernmental. They would seek to strengthen those organizations and institutions which can bring pressure to bear upon government and establish useful links with it. But they would be definitely distinct from government and in fact might often be hostile to the régime in power, or to parts of that régime. They are the critical levers required to set the process of change in motion and keep it moving.
These programs must by their nature be local-aimed at a particular community, organization, group or institution. The workings of our engines of change are fundamentally rooted in a particular place and a particular group of leaders and followers. Confidence and participation in representative government develop at the local level. As continuing pressure comes to be exerted on the decision-making processes of the national government, the motivation and capacity for rural action on the part of government administrative officials grow. The campesino's trust in, and ability to use, his government increase in turn.
For some time Category Two programs would obviously be controversial; they would have to be handled with great care and delicacy, moving experimentally from small to larger undertakings. Even so, this new idea will be attacked; it would never survive the onslaught of the status quo if it were part of a large international bureaucracy.
Congress should, therefore, establish and fund an American Foundation for the purpose of launching Category Two programs, using a diversity of nongovernmental groups, institutes, centers and organizations, representing a broad spectrum of U.S. interests and talents, each with special capability to work with and assist a Latin American purpose-making institution. I am here suggesting that we make the most of the pluralism of American society, accentuating its great and varied strength and employing it to connect U.S. groups naturally to Latin American counterparts.
The Foundation would be under the direction of a distinguished Board of Trustees. Members of the board and the Foundation's president would be appointed by the President of the United States and should represent a broad spectrum of North American as well as Latin American interests and points of view. The reasons for the Foundation are fundamental: revolutionary change is underway; it is inevitable; it is in many ways essential and morally justified; the interests of world peace and of the United States require that this change be assisted: while it may require some conflict, the objective should be clearly to minimize violence. The objectives of the Foundation would be to make the revolution peaceful; to make it effective; to make it consistent with the best interests of the United States and Latin America. The commitment of the Trustees to these purposes would be an important factor in their selection. Before critics cry "sham" let it be emphasized that the Foundation would be frankly an instrument of the United States to foster nongovernmental U.S. organizations to find and fuel engines of change in Latin America. But while a creation of the U.S. Government, it would be distinct from it. Indeed, much of its validity would derive from its independence of government control.[iii]
Acting in accordance with the principles of the Charter of Punta del Este and subsequent Alliance doctrine, the Foundation would, through grant and agreement, fund the activities of those U.S. institutions best suited to establish constructive relationships with change and purpose-making institutions in Latin America-such as organizations of the radical Church, peasant unions, trade unions, universities and change-oriented varieties of local and multinational enterprises. AID cannot reach many of these at all today; and its governmental connection prevents it from reaching others effectively and efficiently.
Perhaps most important would be the role of the Foundation in making possible direct ties between U.S. and Latin American universities, uncluttered by governmental considerations on either side. The Foundation could halt the futile and mutually debasing efforts of the U.S. Government in concert with some U.S. universities to make Latin American universities into replicas of our own. The basic problem of the university in Latin America is not that it is dissimilar from its U.S. counterpart but rather that it has remained detached from the community in which it exists and often largely ignorant of it.
Latin America needs above all else the study and the insight necessary to formulate its own independent purposes and goals. This study requires the discipline and detachment which only a great university can provide. It is perhaps presumptuous to suppose that the United States can play a significant role in such an important and precarious venture. But I believe that our Foundation, working with the best of North America's universities, could be of great use, if only perhaps in one pursuit: the support of greatly expanded research by Latin American scholars, with young U.S. counterparts and assistants, into the real nature and problems of their respective communities. Latin Americans should not come to the United States to study their region; we should go there to learn about their communities with them. U.S. scholars have a good deal to offer in research: the idea itself, first of all, of actually getting out into the streets, factories and fields and asking questions. Getting dirty and hot in the pursuit of knowledge is an unfamiliar notion to many. Then the techniques of research have been highly developed in North America-the use of computers and advanced methods of inquiry, for example. All of this is essential to give the revolutionary process intelligent and deeply considered direction, and also to hasten its progress. It is extremely doubtful, however, that such activities could be carried out under the existing government-tied AID program with its bureaucratic overhead and political sensitivity.
But what happens, you may ask, when a Foundation-supported group is drawn into conflict with the status quo in Latin America? How do you deal with the implication of subversion in this situation? After all, we are bypassing government to introduce change to which government may be resistant.
Here is where the great advantage of separation from the U.S. governmental apparatus-the embassy and AID-becomes clear. Under our proposed scheme of things, although the Ambassador would be informed about Foundation- supported activities in his country of assignment, he would have no official responsibility for them.
For those who say this is unrealistic, I would only point out that West German Government funds are given to a variety of nongovernmental institutions and organizations for development purposes in Latin America. Some of these funds undoubtedly, for example, end up assisting the organizations of the radical Church in northeast Brazil. I strongly doubt, however, that the German Ambassador is held responsible by the Brazilian Government for these activities in the northeast which, from time to time as we have seen, have caused it considerable discomfort.
The fundamental idea here is that we stop running our foreign assistance activities as though we were a statist monolith like the Soviet Union. Our greatest strength lies in our plurality of interests, points of view and competences. And by working through a number of independent groups we will also be better able to avoid the kind of cultural imperialism which tends to be a by-product of monolithic government-centered undertakings. Much of our current effort kindles this fear, which is entirely consistent with the apprehension of many U.S. critics about our own activities abroad.
There will be many questions raised about the American Foundation: Will not the U.S. Government interfere if a Foundation activity threatens the interest of a U.S. business? Will not the Departments of State and Defense demand the right to approve Foundation projects? How long would an Ambassador refrain from acting against an offending program? The answers to these questions lie quite obviously in the acceptance of the fundamental purposes of the Foundation by those who wield power in the United States and in the intelligent administration of Foundation activities. To be successful it must rest upon a new sense of the vital interests of the United States and must be directed by men of considerable discretion and good sense.
These proposed alterations in the philosophy and structure of U.S. foreign assistance would have a profound effect on the role of the Ambassador. In the replacement of the Agency for International Development and its foreign missions with the new structures mentioned, the Ambassador's responsibility for the administration of U.S. assistance programs would be eliminated.
Ambassadorial representation should not imply approval or disapproval of the régime in power; it should merely be recognition of an existing state of affairs and condition of power. Although as the representative of the President the Ambassador would be expected to make known the interests of the United States, it would not be his function-as it often is today-to seek to change the internal structures upon which the régime receiving his credentials rests.
Existing programs and functions of AID which are consistent with our new formulation of interests and objectives would be taken over either by the American Foundation and its related groups or by the New Alliance. The only AID programs of importance left orphaned by this scheme are those offering guarantees, incentives and assistance to U.S. private investment in Latin America. These should be expanded and placed under the supervision of the Department of Commerce or of the proposed overseas investment corporation. Some of the more experimental projects, involving the development of new entrepreneurial forms as engines of change, would, however, undoubtedly fall within the purview of the Foundation and the New Alliance.
Some may think it odd to suggest such a radical transformation of foreign assistance at a time when the existing program is in jeopardy and isolationist sentiment seems to be increasing in this country. A close look at Congressional attitudes toward foreign aid, however, will show that the most serious criticism is coming from those who have long been the staunchest supporters of aid. These men are disturbed because foreign aid seems to be failing to achieve its own prescribed objectives. In fact, as we noted earlier, some feel that our aid is indeed retarding long-term growth, especially political development. It was Congressional initiative- not that of AID-which forced foreign assistance administrators to place greater emphasis on political development by adding Title IX to the Foreign Assistance Act several years ago. It is my belief that in this respect many leaders of Congress have been ahead of AID in realizing the necessity for a radically different approach.
Only by some such new approach can we hope to arouse the national enthusiasm required to raise the levels of U.S. foreign assistance to where they should be-at least 1 percent of the gross national product and in time hopefully more.
[i] Some distinction must be made between necessary and avoidable conflict and violence. The Mexican revolution took a million lives; but few today would say that it had not been necessary. The hope must be that communities have become more sophisticated since then, more able to make less painful the revolution which nation-building seems to require inevitably.
[ii] This plan is in part similar to that proposed by Teodoro Moscoso, first Coördinator of the Alliance for Progress, in a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, May 8, 1968.
[iii] While it seems farfetched at first blush, the Smithsonian Institution might offer something of a rough administrative model for the American Foundation.