The Endangered Asian Century
America, China, and the Perils of Confrontation
LAST spring and early summer events transpired on the international stage which, if not finally judged to have been disastrous, must certainly be recorded as among the most disconcerting in the annals of American diplomacy. However we may look upon them now, whatever the consequences to which they may have led or may yet lead, the U-2 incident, the wreck of the Summit Conference, the Tokyo riots, the collapse of the Disarmament Conference, and the Cuban crisis constituted a series of immediate setbacks to our foreign policy of such gravity as to cause serious doubts about the conduct of that policy at home and among both friendly and neutral nations abroad. They made it look as though President Eisenhower's personal odyssey in the cause of peace had ended in failure and American leadership of the free nations in that cause had faltered. Hopes for an armistice or an easement of tension in the cold war were dashed and the conflict was resumed with furious intensity over the Arctic, in Cuba and in the Congo.
As these events followed one another in rapid succession they gave rise to increasingly troubled feelings and reflections. The stoning of Vice President Nixon in South America two years ago came vividly to mind. What was happening? Had these things been stage-managed from Moscow? Or did they spring from deeper and more complicated sources? Were they evidence of inadequacy in our own diplomacy? Such were the questions Americans asked themselves as they absorbed their almost daily installments of sensation and shock during the weeks leading up to the national nominating conventions.
Many answers have been given to those questions without, however, allaying the doubts and uncertainties which prompted them. Official explanations of the U-2 flight were so incoherent and self-contradictory that they became as much of an embarrassment as the ill-fated flight itself. The full reason why such a hazardous risk was run so close to a conference on which such prolonged, laborious and elaborate preparations had been expended and in which, rightly or wrongly, so many hopes had been invested, will probably not be known for some time. Neither will the full reason for the subsequent behavior of Khrushchev, who began by making the most of a legitimate grievance handed to him on a silver platter and ended by consuming both grievance and platter in such an egregious display of rage and histrionic self-righteousness as to leave little doubt that he had been out to break up the conference no matter what happened. Why? Had he moved farther toward the West than his military colleagues or the Chinese would tolerate? Or was he subjecting us to the hot-and-cold Pavlov treatment in the hope of reducing us to docility like the famous dogs? Instead of producing answers, the questions merely reproduced themselves.
The mood engendered in many Americans by these events was one of chagrin. It was not unnatural, perhaps, for a nation that has but recently arrived at man's estate in international affairs and had such enormous and unaccustomed responsibilities thrust upon it to feel rueful about some of the things it has experienced in its new role. We have, I think, learned to recognize Communist gall for what it is, and though we do not like its taste, we do not allow it to upset us. But when, as has happened during the past two years, this is augmented by waves of anti-American feelings, demonstrations and manifestations of hostile sentiments in nations dependent upon us in varying measure for economic aid or military protection (or both) and avowedly friendly to our aims, wormwood is mixed with the gall. Savoring the bitter mixture we say to ourselves, we are damned if we don't and damned if we do. After the First World War we were damned for not staying with the peace. Now, after the Second World War, we are damned because we are staying with the peace. A quarter century ago we were denounced as isolationists. Now the slogan is, Yankees go home. As Communist propaganda this is one thing. As a reflection of what may be independent national feelings it is quite another.
We are obliged to face the possibility that it is indeed the latter, without taking refuge in self-pity or thoughts of the ingratitude of friends. For we cannot go home. As shown by the history of our participation in Far Eastern affairs beginning with the writing of the Open Door Notes, isolationism was dying for half a century before it finally expired at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Strong as its historic sources had been--traditional, sociological, geographical or political--they had dried up. The part we played in organizing the United Nations and have continued to play as a member; the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, NATO and SEATO; the Korean War; the nomination of President Eisenhower in 1952, and the present platforms of both political parties--these and other events should suffice as proof on both sides of the Iron Curtain of the fundamental change that has taken place in our national outlook and politics. We are forced to stay with the peace by the imperatives of the nuclear age. We therefore have no choice but to master our emotions and examine intellectually the nature of the forces arrayed against us.
The most obvious and easiest to identify of these forces is the Soviet Government and the tactics it employs in the cold war. But, as I have already implied, this is not the only force, and even it is complex in nature. Is it more Russian than it is Communist or more Communist than it is Russian? Did Khrushchev mean what he said about peaceful coexistence in the pages of this magazine last October or was he merely throwing dust in our eyes while preparing new cold war offensives? Which is more significant to us, Khrushchev's speech at Bucharest last June in which he apparently broke with the Chinese once and for all on peaceful coexistence with the West, or subsequent Russian tirades against us over the RB-47, Cuba and the Congo? Possible answers to these questions lead off in many different directions, too many and too different to be boxed up in any such simplified formula as capitalism versus Communism or to admit of the equally simplified explanation that every reverse we have experienced in international affairs was caused by Khrushchev pulling a lever.
Undoubtedly Russia's advance in satellites and missiles, whether or not it is as great in relation to our own as critics of the Eisenhower Administration aver, has been great enough to bring about some shift in the balance of power; and this in turn has influenced the calculations of some of our allies. On the other hand, the aggressive tactics of the Chinese may have caused a compensating shift among some of the neutral nations. The Tokyo riots were not a conclusive test of either hypothesis. Too many non-Communists took part in them; and the horror of nuclear warfare, the seeming contradiction between the treaty and the prohibition against war in the Japanese Constitution--both of which we had sponsored--and revulsion at the parliamentary tactics of the Kishi Government were, in the view of many rioters, perfectly good Japanese rather than Russian reasons for doing so.
It is of course much easier to be wise after the event than it was before it. But two conclusions about the Tokyo riots seem inescapable. The first is that in both origin and nature they turned out to be very much more complicated than a Communist plot directed from Moscow. The second is that because this complexity was not fully understood by us it cost us another diplomatic setback which might have been avoided.
Does this mean, as some critics have held, that the President should not go traveling abroad on visits of state? I do not think so. There is a time for the President to travel and a time for him not to travel, and it is up to his own judgment and that of his advisers to determine which is which. What the Tokyo experience argues in this regard is that diplomacy is an exacting, full-time profession with a functional purpose as vital to the United States in the space age as it was to the Greeks who started it, to the Italian states which organized it as a profession in the fifteenth century, and as it has been to all the nations, including the United Nations, that have practiced it since those times; and that while personal visits by heads of state may assist in the performance of that function, they can also interfere with it and they can never replace it. Diplomacy is supposed to keep things in a negotiable state. By investing in the process the final authority and national prestige attached to the office of the President, whether it be a summit conference or in a visit of state, we run the risk of freezing what ought to be kept fluid before it is ready to be frozen, of assuming attitudes we did not mean to assume, of manœuvring ourselves into uncomfortable positions from which we cannot budge. There are times when such a risk is worth taking. Summit conferences may be forced upon us by the fact that in Soviet Russia we are dealing with a totalitarian state which can negotiate to any purpose only through its head. But the risk should never be taken without recognizing that it is a risk, and never in substitution for the systematic formulation and conduct of policy that are the functional as well as the traditional responsibilities of the Department of State. As to visits of state, showmanship is not statesmanship and parades are not plebiscites. After the cheering has died away, warm feelings and pleasant memories of the visitor soon fade unless they are sustained by well-thoughtout policy on the basis of which constructive decisions can be made about what to do next.
If we have failed to convince Japan or Cuba or any other free nation of the validity of our foreign policy, the possibility exists that it is because we have failed to give that policy the force and direction it needs. By force I mean the force of conviction, and by direction, a clear view of the principles on which the policy is based and the ends it is intended to accomplish. Could it be that some of both have been lost in the administrative ant hills in which our foreign policy is defined and the intricate filtration system through which it must pass before it can be executed? The President with his staff of special assistants, the National Security Council, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the International Coöperation Administration, the Development Loan Fund, the Export-Import Bank, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency are but some of the agencies directly concerned with the making of foreign policy in addition to the Department of State with its staff of nearly 35,000 officers and employees. In such organizational redundancy, the grass roots from which national aims in a democracy are supposed to spring and the goals of policy into which those aims must be translated may become too widely separated; the computer may be too complicated for the programming, the programming too complicated for the user.
In an age of organization and in a nation with a passion for it, perhaps all this organization is to be expected. But is it wise and is it necessary? It is not for me or any other layman to say just how many men are needed to carry out a given technical assignment within the universal scope of our international commitments and responsibilities, or what the sum of all such technical personnel requirements should be. This is a fast-moving age of scientific and technological revolution which produces (and requires) many experts of many sorts. Conceivably we need more, rather than fewer, men than are at present employed by the Foreign Service, the International Coöperation Administration, the United States Information Agency, and all other operating staffs and agencies in the field. But when it comes to the goals toward which the efforts of these technicians are to be directed, the fundamental conception and definition of the policy without which they will be the blind leading the blind, wisdom is at an even greater premium than technical knowledge and facts; and wisdom has a tendency to shun crowds. The present foreign policy of the United States needs to be enriched by creative ideas as much as does American art or American music. Creative ideas are seldom produced by conferences or committees. There is one maxim attributed to Lenin the wisdom of which transcends its origin. It is, Reduce the membership and strengthen the Party. This might well be applied to the sprawling, many-headed colossus that now directs our foreign affairs.
At the same time the grass roots need tending. The American electorate has hardly begun to acquire the knowledge of its foreign affairs that should go with its responsibilities. I use the word knowledge broadly to include understanding as well as information. Too often foreign problems are reduced to the metaphor of the prize ring: "Lodge hits back at Gromyko" and "Let's stand up and slug it out toe-to-toe with Khrushchev." Granted that the whole subject of foreign affairs is inherently complex, and that the more it involves military considerations and the more military considerations depend upon scientific data, the more esoteric it becomes. This is no reason for the layman to wash his hands of it. On the contrary, it is a reason for him to improve his knowledge so as to be able to give the policy-maker discriminating support or to register intelligent dissent in moments of decision.
Yet we are woefully deficient in the means of acquiring such knowledge. Outside of our larger cities--and inside many of them--foreign news receives meagre treatment in the press; and in our educational system as a whole, in relation to the present responsibilities of the United States, the academic map of the world is almost as primitive as the maps of Columbus. The press has a great void to fill; the academic map must be redrawn to include nations and civilizations--heretofore known only to explorers, missionaries and professional diplomats--which man's skill and man's fate have brought together with us in a realm of common experience. The obligation of our educational system, particularly of our colleges and universities, does not stop with the study of these nations and peoples. It includes the devising of ways for them to study us--for their professional apprentices, above all, their teachers, to spend part of their apprenticeship in our institutions of higher learning, as we have long since been accustomed to do in the universities of Britain and the Continent. This, incidentally, holds true for Europe as well as for Asia and Africa.
But the obligation of our colleges and universities extends still further. One of the most serious difficulties our diplomacy has encountered is the lack of understanding of science and its role in the modern world. The isolation of scientific knowledge from general knowledge has become a subject of growing concern to scientists and philosophers on both sides of the Atlantic. Scientists are no less troubled than philosophers by the widespread impression that science is mainly preoccupied with instruments of destruction and by the veil of official secrecy that enhances that impression and makes it difficult to dispel. Apart from the natural frustration they feel at such a misrepresentation of the true aims of science, they are dismayed by our failure to utilize scientific knowledge as effectively in eliminating the causes of the cold war as we do in augmenting its arsenals. Moreover, in the gap between scientific and non-scientific knowledge they see a lively possibility of tragic mistakes and misadventures.
It may never be possible to close this gap altogether, but it can be narrowed and bridged. American society is more gregarious than the British, and our college curriculum is less highly specialized than in the English universities of which C. P. Snow writes. Nevertheless, the gap exists here also, and in the direct interest of the foreign policy of the United States the colleges and universities must put forward their best efforts to close it. Not least of their advantages in this task is the tradition of a university as a community of scholars in which knowledge is shared rather than bottled up and monopolized. They are called upon now to revive that tradition and put to its service all the ingenuity and resources at their command, so that we may not only be competent in science and technology but also able to understand more perfectly their meaning and relationship to the other arts by which we live.
The most disturbing of all thoughts inspired by recent events--more disturbing even than the thought that the sacrifices we made in the Korean War and the billions of dollars we have spent in aid of the free and uncommitted nations should hang in precarious balance in the scales of world opinion-- is our suspicion today that on the one hand we are not gauging the independent aims and interests of those nations as clearly as we should and on the other that they may not see ours as clearly as they should. Do the aims and interests of those nations form or correspond to any consistent pattern according to which our policy should be more closely shaped?
It is a common complaint of the professional diplomatist engaged in his day-to-day tasks in the field that he cannot see the woods for the trees. As he works away, more often than not with great industry and competence, he suffers for want of a grand design within which he can feel his labors are leading to some constructive conclusion or goal. It is at this point that the policymaker must come to his assistance, and the electorate and the educational system must come to the aid of the policy-maker. Have they done so? When Vice President Nixon was stoned in South America, it was said that this was not such a bad thing after all because it taught us the importance of understanding and keeping up with what was going on in that part of the world. How much it may have taught us and how much we have yet to learn remain to be seen. In the Castro revolution, for example, we are dealing with economic and social forces that had become clearly visible in Cuba a decade ago. Similarly, the Tokyo riots took our officials unawares in a country in which we had had unusual opportunities for first-hand observation and study.
It would be rash indeed to suggest that these events were entirely and exactly predictable, and equally rash to attribute them wholly or even mainly to the machinations of Khrushchev. Perhaps it will help us to see and understand them and others like them more clearly if we take into fuller account the five distinct yet simultaneous and interrelated revolutionary forces that common knowledge tells us have been and are at work in the world. The first of these is a scientific revolution, the second is an industrial revolution, the third is the Communist revolution and the fourth is a revolutionary movement toward national independence. The fifth is a restiveness on the part of the younger generation which is evident in almost all countries and reaches revolutionary intensity and proportions in some.
The cold war is neither the cause of these revolutions nor the result of them, though it happens to be going on at the same time and is, of course, fed by one of them, namely, the Communist. If we would keep the well-known fact of the existence of these revolutions more clearly in mind day in and day out, and if we would ask ourselves whether or how any of them or any combination of them may be affecting each specific situation of national concern, public opinion might gain perspective and our diplomacy might be caught off-guard less often.
The scientific revolution caused by recent discoveries about the nature of energy, space, time and matter is the greatest and most far-reaching in its effects since the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. The industrial revolution, to which the earlier scientific discoveries gave rise in the eighteenth century and grew mightily in the nineteenth, has been spreading through the world ever since. The scientific revolution of our time has infused it with new forces--electronics, automation, atomic power--and thereby is accelerating its spread. In heretofore unindustrialized countries such as India, China, Indonesia and the African nations, changes in human society are in prospect, if not already begun, which will have more momentous social, economic and political effects than any that have taken place since man turned from hunting to agriculture. Because nations are similarly affected by the scientific and the industrial revolutions, it might be supposed that they would be drawn together by them. So they might be were it not for the Communist revolution that exploits the gap between the backward and more highly developed peoples and the virulent nationalism that often accompanies the move toward independence.
The scientific revolution did not start the Communist revolution. The industrial revolution did not start it. Its prophet, Marx, rested his case on industrial data that were in process of rapid change while he wrote and obsolete when he had finished his writing. Marx put a doctrinaire interpretation on the industrial revolution and promised all who accepted his doctrine the complete "scientific" rationalization of that revolution in economic and social terms. That promise has never been made good. In most countries it has died a-borning; claims to have fulfilled it have been made in others where the rationalizing has been done and enforced by absolute dictatorial authority. The very fact of coercion belies the pretension of scientific inevitability. On the other hand, where the industrial revolution has been permitted to develop in conditions of greater freedom the evils predicted by Marx have not ensued. It has steadily improved rather than worsened the conditions of labor. Marx proclaimed the Communist revolution as the final evolutionary phase of a highly industrialized society. Instead, it has taken root only in underdeveloped agrarian societies.
Of all five revolutionary forces the restiveness of youth, which seems the most familiar, is perhaps the least well understood. This restiveness manifests itself on the surface in forms ranging all the way from jazz festival riots in the United States and England to the overthrow of governments in Turkey, South Korea and Japan. It impels nations now one way, now the other. In Turkey and South Korea it appears to have been directed toward and resulted in more democratic régimes. In Japan, though some of it was similarly directed, it is still too soon to judge results. In Cuba it appears to be moving in the opposite direction. In all of these countries it has proved to be a force to contend with, as it is in one form or another in every country, including our own.
There is more to this force than the normal friction between the generations. There is something in the minds of young people today which they themselves have not been able to make wholly articulate and not all the behavioral sciences have succeeded in bringing out fully into the light. Exactly what that is lies beyond my scope and perhaps my competence to explain. Suffice it to recognize it as a subject of profound significance to our diplomacy and to offer three thoughts which may shed some light upon it.
The first thought is that youth is far more disillusioned with war than most of its elders--who think that they too are disillusioned with it--realize. With this disillusionment goes a disbelief in the old concepts of patriotism and codes of chivalry that used to find their ultimate fulfillment and sanction in war. Yet patriotism is not dead and youth still feels the primal urge to fight. The Great Deterrent wrings the last drop of glamor, even of honor, out of war, but does not stop our young men from fighting in Korea; or serving the armed forces of their country with courage and devotion; or, at high school age, fighting one another in gangs for the sole purpose of proving their courage to themselves; or, as college students, withdrawing into the symbolic rebellion of the beatnik, or actively contesting or rioting against any and all semblances of authority. Where there is plenty of freedom and the living is good, they riot at jazz festivals. Where there is not plenty of freedom and the living is precarious, they riot to overthrow the government. One thing that gives continuity to these actions is their thoughts about war. In Japan, for example, when non-Communist students were asked what they were thinking about when they joined in the Tokyo riots, they are said to have replied, "The day the sky turned red and our house burned down." I am sure that in the American and English riots touched off by jazz rather than by treaties of alliance the same feelings and thoughts about war (though we might have to probe more deeply to discover them)--the same skepticism, mistrust and unbelief concerning everything and everyone connected with war--were present in the minds of the rioters as were present in the minds of those in Tokyo.
A second thought about the restiveness of the younger generation relates particularly to the underdeveloped and emergent nations. In these it is only the younger generation that has received any education in our sense of the word. Because of previous conditions the educational opportunity has passed the older generation by. As this opportunity now brings knowledge of the world flooding into these countries, that knowledge will fill only one set of receptacles. This means that, to the degree that political stability depends upon the balancing weight of age and experience, there will be less and less political stability.
Even in countries like our own, mastery of the scientific and industrial revolutions--if they are ever to be mastered--is going to the rising generation; and the pace of those revolutions is handing the future to that generation more rapidly and more completely than most of us realize. This brings me to my third thought about its restiveness. This restiveness is not to be understood purely by its more obvious symptoms. Underlying it is a more accurate knowledge of the physical world and a potentially more intelligent disposition of its human affairs than any which have preceded them. Knowledge turns into power. The forms that power will take will depend upon the way in which the United States, the free nations and the emergent nations respond to the educational challenge that confronts them all.
This much is certain: the five revolutionary forces which I have cited, and which are often treated or taken for granted as being one and the same thing, are neither one and the same thing nor yet the ineluctable, deterministic results of one another, but separate and distinct things which can, and often do, move in different combinations and directions. There is scope for nations to react to these five forces, and to others that might be added, such as hunger and fear, in a multiplicity of ways. A better understanding of the forces would not only give us a clearer idea of the general direction our foreign policy should take but a firmer grasp of the concrete situations to which it is applied.
There remains the possibility that we may not have given the world an accurate impression of our own national character and aims. In this regard what we do about ourselves counts for much more than what we say about ourselves. As it is, the free and neutral nations know several things about us which, though our statesmen may not have turned them to immediate advantage, should be decided assets to our diplomacy in the long run; and I suspect that the Russians know these things, too. One is that, whatever else our failings and shortcomings, we are poor dissemblers, more accustomed to blurting out the truth than to keeping state secrets. We believe that the truth is on our side and will prevail. Another is that no other nation in history has ever achieved such power and used it with such forbearance in its international relations. Another is that the spirit which produced the charters of free government and individual liberty in our Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and which now supports those principles in the United Nations, is stronger than any disposition to feel sorry for ourselves because we are misunderstood or to withdraw into ourselves because of diplomatic reverses. Again, American capitalism bears no more resemblance to the Communist picture of it than Abraham Lincoln does to Karl Marx (or, for that matter, than the present Russian industrial state to the one that Marx prophesied). No nation has created as productive an economy as ours; none provides so many opportunities and so much freedom for human talent to find its natural outlet. These truths can be denied, but not successfully in the long run.
When the free nations examine the record they must conclude, too, that we are not imperialists. We never were imperialists. Our tentative, highly self-conscious, highly imitative adventures in imperialism at the turn of the century were short-lived and ended in remorse. As far as concerns China, now our principal accuser in this respect, we have always been anti-imperialist. During the entire history of our relations with China, as the record plainly shows, we have defended her territorial and administrative integrity. This was the fundamental principle around which our whole Far Eastern policy was built. The Russians know (though it is convenient for them to forget it) that it saved them the maritime provinces of Siberia. The nations on both sides of the Iron Curtain should know, finally, that we are not merely the leader of a defensive alliance but rather a participant in a common effort on the part of free nations and nations emerging into freedom to build a community of peace, in which mankind may emancipate itself from hunger and disease and improve its standard of living, as modern science and technology have now, for the first time in history, made universally possible.
Much has been said during this presidential campaign about the image of America and how to improve it. To begin with, we must have a good original. On this subject I think no one has spoken more wisely than the French economist Turgot, who in 1778, shortly after the Battle of Saratoga and the alliance with France had ensured the success of our struggle for independence, wrote to his English friend Dr. Richard Price about the American people as follows:
This people is the hope of the human race. It may become the model. It ought to show the world by facts, that men can be free and yet peaceful, and may dispense with the chains in which tyrants and knaves of every color have presumed to bind them, under pretext of the public good. The Americans should be an example of political, religious, commercial, and industrial liberty. The asylum they offer to the oppressed of every nation, the avenue of escape they open, will compel governments to be just and enlightened; and the rest of the world in due time will see through the empty illusions in which policy is conceived. But to obtain these ends for us, America must secure them to herself.
These prophetic words point to a fundamental principle which we neglect at our peril: that is, the continuity between domestic and foreign policy. Granted that the Communists have done everything in their power to deface our national portrait and poison the minds of its beholders. But if the rest of the world cannot see in us all that we should like them to see, the main reason is because we cannot see it in ourselves, no matter how often or how hard we stare in the mirror. The mirror cannot create; it can only reflect, and what is not there will not be reflected. In the domestic realm we have unfinished social and economic business of grave importance on our hands. It is itemized in the platforms of both parties. One way to strengthen our foreign policy is to get on with that business. This is not the responsibility of our diplomacy. It is our responsibility to our diplomacy.