Courtesy Reuters

The Press, the President and Foreign Policy

The conflict between the men who make and the men who report the news is as old as time. News may be true, but it is not truth, and they never see it the same way. The first great event, or "Man in the News," was Adam, and the accounts of his creation have been the source of controversy ever since. In the old days, the reporters or couriers of bad news were often put to the gallows; now they are given the Pulitzer Prize, but the conflict goes on.

The reasons are plainly that we are changing the world faster than we can change ourselves, and are applying to the present the habits of the past. We are imposing on a transformed world the theories and assumptions that worked in another time at home, and nowhere does this clash of past and present, theory and reality, seem more dramatic than in the application of American constitutional theory to the conduct of American foreign policy.

That theory is that the people know best. The first constitutional principle is that the success of any group of people in dealing with their common problems rests on their knowledge and understanding of the problems to be solved, and on their intelligence, judgment and character in meeting those problems. The conclusion drawn from this is that the intelligence, judgment and character of a majority of the people, if well-informed, will probably produce more satisfactory solutions than any leader or small band of geniuses is likely to produce.

This is undoubtedly sound doctrine for sinking a sewer or building a bridge or a school in a local community, but is it a practical way to conduct foreign policy? Are the people getting adequate information to enable them to reach sound judgments on what to do about South Asia, or the Atlantic, or the balance of payments, or China, or outer space? Is there any such information and any such people? And would enough of them pay

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