China on the Offensive
How the Ukraine War Has Changed Beijing’s Strategy
In his last book, published shortly after his death, Maurice Bowra wrote that "by making the Athenians believe in their city, Pericles made them believe in themselves." Americans today, in spite of their accomplishments and privileges, might envy the Athenians' national and personal self- confidence. It would be wrong to say that Americans do not believe in their country. Fundamentally they do. But for the very reasons that their expectations are so high, their distress is very deep. They want terribly to believe in the rightness of America. Yet, even those who are not overcome with a sense of wrongness yearn for the energetic, optimistic self- confidence which made all things seem possible until a few years ago.
It is not only that many goals seem hard to attain. Conventional goals themselves seem inadequate. "Peace and Prosperity" are the traditional words of political promise. But competitive material advantage, and even physical survival, are not by themselves enough to lift the national spirit. A nation, like a person, needs to believe that it has a mission larger than itself. Sometimes we do not seem to have that any more.
At home there is a widespread uneasy feeling that the "open society" is closing. In our relations with other nations and peoples we suffer a national trauma as we reluctantly admit that we can neither escape from, nor control, the rest of the world. We will not regain our self-confident spirit until we believe once more that we do have something special to contribute to the prospect of humanity generally, both because of what we are as a society and because of what we might mean to the hopes of all peoples.
I am optimistic. I think we can put an end to our dither. I am particularly encouraged by the cast of mind of many of the most talented younger Americans. This piece, then, is admittedly an exhortation as well as an analysis.
At the outset we must rid ourselves both of the tar and feathers of the scapegoat hunter and the whitewash of the image-maker.
Serene, sustaining purpose requires a maturity which can acknowledge that our problems are not to be explained primarily in terms of personal fault or blame. Yet the witch hunt is on. The Left wants to hang "war criminals." The Right wants to pillory "radic-libs." When the abandonment of Vietnam is finally accepted as defeat, there is bound to be crimination and recrimination of those who willed the ends but would not will the means. Those who committed us, as well as those who would not see it through, will be caught in the scapegoat trap.
It is easy to castigate the headstrong, the wishful, the stubborn chauvinist and equally easy to upbraid the soft-headed, the wishful, the peace-at-any-price abdicator. While there is no presumption of wisdom, however, there should be a presumption of innocence in history as well as in law. In addition to simple fairness, it is important not to use blame as an excuse to avoid the tough problems, the roots of which lie deeper than personalities and individual motivations.
While approval and disapproval of people and judgments and styles have their place in political preference, such biases should not blind us to the issues and dilemmas which inhere in the world's present circumstance. Our fundamental problems will not vanish with any single change in government. Revival of national purpose is influenced by and does depend upon national leadership. However, that will take more than the normal alternating current of partisan politics; it will require a view of American purpose which sees beyond the next stop on the quadrennial political timetable.
Just as the scapegoat-trapper distracts us from effective attack on the real problems facing the country, so too the image-maker who whitewashes all the serious cracks in our façade can only serve to postpone their repair.
It is always tempting for a person or a nation to pretend that a problem which seems insoluble does not exist. "Stop poor-mouthin' America." "Talk about what is right with America." The more truly unavoidable a problem is, however, the more important it is to acknowledge it. Frank exposure, comment and public discussion are more reassuring than the pretense of false gladness which in facts saps credibility. The denial, the cover-up, the evasive answer, the callous brush-off in the name of "realism" are far worse than the admission of difficulty, of fallibility, of error or even of past wrongdoing.
Broad scope for the Naders, Proxmires, Kerrys is a source of national strength. Without them there would be no limit to the suspicion which attaches to the self-serving capacity of entrenched authority. It is not that would-be Davids are always in the right; but their ability to slay Goliath from time to time does give some confidence that the established powers are not immune from exposure or assault.
One fervently wishes that the Kent and Jackson State killings had not happened; but the fact and the quality of the Scranton inquiry were reassuring to those who wondered if the society had gone mad. My Lai was a sickening disgrace, but the Calley jury's refusal to be swayed by professional, political or public pressure helped to vindicate the larger procedural integrity which was so scarred by both the public and the presidential reaction. The ability of a Connecticut judge to dismiss a murder complaint because he doubted whether a new trial could be fair encouraged many in their belief that law could still serve justice as well as order. Attica will never be excused, but in the eyes of our more sympathetic foreign critics the stain could be somewhat bleached if there were a credible postmortem investigation.
"It may be true, but you shouldn't say it" is not acceptable counsel. Exposure, questioning, reappraisal are often painful, even agonizing; their price is nothing, however, compared to the resentment aroused by a feeling of manipulated ignorance. Other peoples, especially those whose press is more inhibited than ours, give us credit for our openness, even if it often does call attention to the unsavory.
No selling job can conceal the growing doubts about the reality of the openness of the open society in the United States today. The pretensions of the American promise have always been ahead of performance. The trouble now, though, is that too many Americans doubt whether the ideals of social equality, economic opportunity and official accountability are really the commanding objectives of those who have the greatest responsibility for our national life. Unless we are once again satisfied on this score, self-doubt will stultify our own self-confidence as well as the hopes of those who might want to be our followers.
It would be a mistake to exaggerate American self-doubt. In material terms we are the envy of the world's majority and we know it. Also, with the exception of the inherited poor and the segregated minorities, there is probably more freedom of choice and individual opportunity in the United States than there is in most other countries.
However, there is a feeling at home and abroad that somehow the American system has become a great self-perpetuating machine with an inexorable momentum of its own. The "System" often seems more attuned to its own logic and inner drive than it is to the needs of human beings. It no longer seems sufficiently responsive or accountable. It is not all bad. A lot of it is very good. But for the black and the poor it is no good, and for them it is both hard to escape and hard to do anything about.
Put in phrases which Salvador de Madariaga used more than 30 years ago, the danger is that while the Citizen is still supposed to be for the State, the State is no longer for Man. Put politically, the concentration and interlocking interests of both public and private power seem to defy accountability to the people they affect. Increasingly, position and status rather than choice and contract seem to be the deciding factors in human relationships. Unlike the America which Margaret Mead described during World War II, success is no longer widely thought to be related primarily to effort. It seems more dependent upon public favor or private inheritance. This is not so startling to many societies, but it is to Americans. It also tarnishes the classic vision that "America is Promises," eloquently portrayed by Archibald Mac-Leish four decades ago.
In political matters this closing of the open society is most crudely evidenced by the enormous amounts of money it now takes to communicate effectively with masses of voters. The high cost of politics, the amounts of money which have to be put at risk in a campaign, naturally favor the known against the unknown, the conventional in comparison to the new. Outside of political contests, the marketplace for the competition of ideas on television depends for the most part on the three major networks and the advertisers for whose accounts they compete. The effective national opinion forum is scarcely wide open to either the politics of elective office or the politics of ideas. The voices of change are easily drowned out. If the openness of American politics is to be restored, indeed if the promise of the Bill of Rights itself is to remain credible, something must be done to achieve easier and cheaper access to network broadcasting; not just by limiting what a candidate may spend but by drastically curtailing what a network may charge him.
In addition to inviting a greater variety of voices, ideas and interests onto the television screen, there is of course a much longer agenda for an open politics. Most obviously it involves party reform and congressional reform and elective reform. Unless this political agenda, is addressed boldly and imaginatively, skepticism about the American political process will soon be pushed into cynicism both at home and abroad.
The highly concentrated American economic system is doubly vulnerable. It is under attack even within its own assumptions. Its assumptions too are being questioned. Even if the material interest of the consumer were all that mattered, more voices are asking whether the present high concentration of finance, management and labor organization can be expected to be sufficiently responsive to the people's interest in obtaining highest quality at lowest cost. Further, even if the discipline of price competition could be restored (or simulated by government regulation), how can the ethic of maximum profitability ever take adequate account of human and social and environmental needs which do not show up on the cash register? Even if we supplement the private sector, how do we get the world's "unprofitable" work done without so overpaying for it that the benefits are vitiated by inflation? How do we so organize ourselves that the "right" to a minimum income and the "right" to pursue nonmaterial goals are somehow earned by sufficient service and contribution to the society?
The replies to these questions can never be good for all time. The important thing for our national self-confidence, however, and for the confidence of others in us, is to admit the agenda and to approach it with candor and energy. If we can once reawaken a restless insistence that both American politics and American economic opportunity be genuinely open, and that openness and a feeling of individual choice are much more important than material efficiency, we will once again take deserved pride in our historic national ideals.
In addition to a renewal of a belief in what we are and might be for ourselves as a society, we-like the Athenians-also badly need to feel that we have a role in the world which is not just meanly self-serving. We yearn for some belief that our nation has a significance for mankind generally which can be measured by some scale larger than our own survival and well- being.
It is not easy for Americans to adjust to their new position in the world. At the same time it is not easy for other peoples and nations to appreciate how new and strange we find our current plight. The essence of our new realization is that the United States now depends upon a world to which it cannot dictate, yet from which it cannot withdraw. To Americans this is a quite novel and thoroughly unwelcome reality. Everybody else in the world, on the other hand, has long accepted this situation as the normal circumstance of nations.
Americans are unique among modern peoples in that their national experience until very recently has been one of either confident aloofness or confident supremacy. While it can be argued that both extremes were somewhat overdone, they were, in their time, quite plausible. It was not unrealistic for George Washington to feel that "If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance. . . ." This state of mind lingered well beyond the strategic reality, as any pre-Pearl Harbor politician will recall.
So too, it was not unrealistic for the late Henry Luce to proclaim the dawn of an "American Century" at the time of the passage of the Lend-Lease Act, long before the atomic bomb, the Marshall Plan and the electronic age made it real. This state of mind, too, outlasted the facts and sustained the brash and wishful confidence of the Kennedy-Johnson years.
A hundred and fifty years of plausible isolation, followed by 25 years of plausible world dominance, do not prepare a people for the realities of dependence upon a world which cannot be unilaterally controlled.
Whatever the discontinuities with the past, in fact or in state of mind, certain realities of the politics of power and certain elements of national self-interest persist. The United States does occupy a position of indispensability to the security and economy of the rest of the world. If we abuse it, the world suffers. If we were to abdicate it, the world would suffer the abuse of others. So would we.
Willful weakness is not compatible with American responsibility. We may have to accept nuclear pluralism with the advent of Chinese nuclear capacity and eventually that of an independent Europe. We might even welcome this as inherently more stable than bilateral monopoly. Nuclear stability and our ability to upset any nation's immunity from retaliation, however, require the continuation of very expensive American military strength, and the economic capacity to support it.
There is another truism which should not be denied in a mood of backlash from Vietnam. Any potential aggressor should be kept on notice of what might be called our "exasperation points." Self-defense, defense of the Hemisphere and defense of countries which share our origins, traditions, common law and constitutional values seem to me to be likely to evoke our automatic, unilateral response in the event of overt attack. I also believe that we would honor commitments if called upon to do so by the clearly legitimate government of any people to whom we are bound by a treaty of mutual defense. There could be no more dangerous invitation to aggressive miscalculation than to suggest that because of the Vietnam experience the American electorate has lost its ability to react. It would react explosively to the outrage of unambiguous aggression in areas where we feel visceral commitment by affinity, a territorial commitment by proximity or a moral commitment by promise.
In the international economic areas, too, there is no reason to believe that we are any less determined in our self-interest than other nations are, despite the conspicuously wasteful standard of consumption in many sectors and levels of American life. Indeed, it was one of the marks of maturity in the origin and administration of the Marshall Plan and subsequent foreign aid programs that they were not undertaken on a "charity- basket" basis. Those who now talk of America's postwar "generosity" do a disservice to both the Americans and the recipients. If we deserve credit, it is for wise, foresighted self-interest, not for generosity. By the same token it would be folly to suppose that anything other than national self- interest should govern our economic policies now. The only question is how farsighted the vision of that self-interest is, and how wisely we serve it in our relationship with others. The issue is not whether we prefer meekness to strength or piety to selfishness. It is how best to serve our own interest in a world on which we are dependent but in which we do enjoy, for the moment, what might be called a "balance of indispensability," for we do make more difference to the strategy and the economy of any other single nation than any other single nation does to ours.
How should we use that advantageous, but no longer dominating, position? The temptation, of course, is to use it in order to squeeze out every short- run advantage before our bargaining power erodes as others grow and strengthen.
The trauma of discovering that we cannot have our own way-either in isolation or in hegemony-leads many to resort to strutting and chest- beating in order to impress others and reassure themselves. Petulance, which blames all one's problems on the machinations of others, or bluffing, which double-dares the rest of the world, does not describe a very constructive, let alone serene, posture for the United States. They also tend to bring out the worst in others. One of President Johnson's wisest acts of forbearance was not to overreact to General de Gaulle's provocations. The same may be said of the ostensible patience of our European and Oriental friends with Secretary Connally. American Gaullism, however, could become infinitely more destructive than French Gaullism, precisely because we do have a balance of indispensability to the economic and strategic survival of others.
The danger is only superficially one of style. The substance of chauvinism is more serious. Once adversary self-interest replaces mutual self-interest as the rationale of a relationship, advocacy replaces compromise. Every negotiation then has to have a winner and a loser. Inevitably, candor ceases to be trusted, even honesty ceases to be expected. Worst of all, understandings become falsified and agreements become breakable. Rivalry, not coöperation, becomes the only reliable calculation.
Such a deterioration is in prospect if America does not achieve a maturity which enables her to endure with some grace and serenity the fact that she can neither escape nor control the rest of the world.
Just as reality has shattered the dreams of both isolation and hegemony, it has also presented the nation with an oncoming generation whose experience and resulting outlook are wholly without precedent. For the first time in our history a very substantial number of the future leaders of the country are disenchanted with the inherited role of the United States in the world. They badly need a vision of their own about what that role might be.
The anguish and rancor provoked by the Vietnam experience overwhelm everything else at the moment for those who reached the age of military service during the last ten years. Every parent of a boy in this age group knows the impact of this experience.
Being asked to risk one's own life and to kill others in a war which has never engaged official or popular enthusiasm is hard to accept. When to that is added a rising crescendo of popular opposition and an ever-widening concern about the constitutionality of the war, the candor of its spokesmen and the morality of its conduct, the anguish is sharpened. When this had to be faced in the context of a Selective Service law visibly inequitable in its inconsistent and occasionally abusive administration, it became a prescription for torment and resentment. Because of the student deferment, the campus became a purgatorial sanctuary for four years of intense argument in which the cynical evader sparred with the conscientious objector and the dutiful draftee. This experience was bound to make a deep and permanent imprint on the outlook of a whole generation.
Agony makes voices shrill. It is hard to tell which is the true signal and which the false. It is like trying to pick out the sound of a bell buoy in a crowded fogbound channel. The danger is that you may hear what you want to hear on the one hand, or what you most fear on the other. Even a decade of almost continuous conversations with students under circumstances of mutual tension does not leave me with an unambiguous impression. However, I think there are some clear signals.
First, the oncoming generation does not believe it is either possible or desirable for America to try to keep the peace everywhere in the world, let alone try to impose its own political and economic system on others. This is not just because of limits on our resources. More fundamentally it is a rejection of the pretentiousness of a "Manifest Destiny" to bring the "American Way of Life" to the rest of the world. Quite apart from concern about our own troubles, this generation would very much doubt whether our values as well as our institutions would make sense for most other peoples in contrasting cultures and vastly different states of political maturity and economic development.
Second, the younger generation is not anywhere near as fearful as their parents were of the prospect of communist world revolution. Dictatorship in proletarian trappings does not seem to them vastly more distasteful than dictatorship in what seems to them feudal form. Their experience-all post- Stalin, it must be remembered-is one of a falling-out among communists. The so-called Red threat has lost its global awesomeness. At the same time they have no illusions about the ruthlessness of the response whenever and wherever dictatorial or imperial régimes are threatened.
Third, they do worry about the leverage exercised by the military and their industrial suppliers. This I do not think is primarily rooted in Marxism, although some of the old jargon is used occasionally. Their deepest concern is that the power of life and death can be influenced and exercised by private interests and public authorities which are not in fact accountable to those affected.
Fourth, even if all such interests and pressures were benign and public spirited, the weapons of frightfulness make the stakes so enormous that the young have a desperate desire for some way by which individual men- particularly the President of the United States and his advisors-can be held in check, lest their fallibility or stubbornness or misguided aim should lead them to trip the trigger of nuclear destruction. A generation whose hero-President launched the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and whose mature experience has been dominated by Vietnam misjudgments and by surreptitious wars in Laos and Cambodia, cannot be expected to feel comfortable when the head of the world's strongest power seems to be free to "go it alone." President Nixon's insensitivity to this concern led to his terrible misjudgment of what the campus response would be to the style-even more than to the substance-of the Cambodian invasion.
To many this recital of symptoms of malaise brought on by an excessive dose of world responsibility may recall the epidemic of American isolationism of an earlier day, almost 30 years ago. While I can see some parallels, I find the contrasts more striking.
The current student generation's misgivings about the universal wisdom and virtue of the American experiment clashes sharply with the self-righteous scorn for the vicissitudes of the foreigner which has always been such a large part of the isolationist tradition. Also, they are more genuinely imbued with an interest in and enthusiasm about peoples, nations, cultures other than their own than any preceding generation of Americans ever has been. In part because their skepticism has cast them loose from inherited credos-religious, national, social-they tend to put a higher value on human beings as such, with less prejudgment on the basis of familiarity, traditional relationships, common language, appearance or behavior. All of this is fostered by the fantastic ease with which they wander. To many of them nothing is strange.
They are vividly aware that the shadow of nuclear destruction and the spreading decay of the environment extend around the whole world, and cannot be escaped by distance or speed or height or depth, or any living creature. The isolationism of smug, disdainful, secure, aloof Americanism is not likely to be their lot; nor is it their style.
The experience of many younger Americans and the cast of mind which it has left can be either enormously destructive or, I believe, enormously constructive. The destructive potential is everywhere apparent. There is a real risk that too many of them will abdicate their talents and slide into a disdainful, secure, aloof anti-American "privatism." Far more haunting to me than any echoes of classical isolationism is the possible rejection of all aspiration. This would not be any proud, defiant retreat to the water's edge, or old-fashioned imperial "hemisphere isolationism." It would be, rather, a kind of sentimental hedonism which supposes that passivity will be rewarded by some international version of "Consciousness III" in a dreamy world of "powerless politics."
On the other hand, their deepest concern is that the powers created by modern technology and economics might not be harnessed any longer for the benefit of those subject to them. This, as I have suggested, is a large part of the domestic malaise. I rather think that it may be the common denominator of student qualms throughout the world. The international dimension of this concern may possibly make the oncoming generation in the United States and in other developed countries not only willing but eager to see the creation of authorities superior to national governments. Those who are in college today, after all, do expect to be at the peak of their careers when the new century opens. Their children in turn will live most of their lives in the twenty-first century. They are not likely to be satisfied with mere tinkering with the present competitive anarchy of sovereign nations.
Peace will probably continue to rely more on the standoff of mutually deterred great powers and their alliances than it does upon world organization. But it can still be hoped that the frightful cost of competition for superiority in all military options will stimulate reliable arms-limitation agreements. Also, the serious risk caused by the contagious nature of minor wars strongly urges big powers to be willing to support an adequately financed United Nations peacekeeping force. Moreover, even though ultimate authority to make military decisions in the national interest may not be fully delegated in our time to any international body, the support of world opinion expressed through a world organization, or failure to obtain such support, may become increasingly important in the making of national military decisions.
Although the prophets of world government expected their cathedral to be founded on the rock of superior collective military force, it is more likely that supra-national institutions with some of the attributes of governmental authority will first emerge in nonmilitary areas. Control and management of worldwide satellite communications; prohibitions and requirements to diminish the pollution, plunder and decay of the natural environment; the regulation of international capital, commercial and financial transactions-all of these areas are already demanding a regimen which no single nation can provide on its own.
If there is no coördination of international transmission of information by satellite its vast educational potential for all the world will be stymied. If, at the same time, international control is not somehow insulated from either commercial or ideological exploitation, no matter how technically perfect the circuit, the message will be jammed by the politicians and the censors serving rival contestants for the minds of men.
Unless national standards of acceptable and unacceptable pollution in manufacture as well as in products are harmonized, there is little prospect for the fairness or feasibility of purely national efforts to achieve environmental responsibility in the production of goods which flow freely in the channels of world trade. Since purity is expensive, the impure source will always drive out the products of those held to higher environmental standards of manufacture. Atomic fallout from nuclear tests is not the only, or even the worst, pollution menace which requires international coöperation.
It is now obvious, of course, that the ability of nations to control their economic destiny is also falsified by the facts of international economic life. The chance of holding a job, how much you get paid, what you can buy for your wages-all these are often determined more by the economic policies of other countries than they are by your own government. Sometimes they are determined by another country's import policy; sometimes by its exchange rate; sometimes by its willingness or unwillingness to let its own citizens invest abroad, or to let foreigners invest at home. These decisions are made by visible groups, making identifiable decisions.
This was not so likely to breed resentment when the impact was filtered through billions of private industrial, commercial and financial arrangements pegged to gold. It seemed so objective and impersonal before governments assumed such a decisive and visible role. Now the "unseen hand" is there for all to see, to praise, to blame. Resentment was also dulled when things appeared to be better than they otherwise would be because of the willingness of Americans to finance their customers, either by direct aid in the days of the dollar-gap, or by the indirect aid of allowing claims to be built up against the dollar deficit. But now it is plain to everyone that economic opportunities, rewards and penalties for vast populations, are determined by a relatively small group of governments and their central banks. Both economists and spokesmen for the developing countries have noted that it can hardly be said that those who determine the world's economic circumstance "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
The same is true of private economic and social power. Now that industrial as well as mineral firms span the globe, their investors, customers, suppliers and employees may be governed by a corporate organization which is not effectively accountable to any sovereign, because the enterprise straddles the jurisdictions of so many nations. What Delaware did in the United States to drive out the more responsible corporation and tax laws of its sister states, a host of corporate and tax havens can do on the world scene.
Property and contract may be falsified by high-handed expropriation; but sovereignty, too, can be mocked by high-handed private corporations which are many times more powerful than the sovereign to whose laws they formally submit. Yet internationally there is no "federal" regulation which transcends nations, no federal jurisdiction which can rise above the bias of local prosecutors or the political allegiance of local judges. Neither property owner nor sovereign can vindicate his rights in any tribunal which in the eyes of both is truly neutral.
Failure to devise the international mechanisms to supplement national authority in any one of these fields could lead to a literal breakdown of the world environment or of the world economy; some would be hit harder than others, but none would be immune.
The currents of chauvinism-whether isolationist, protectionist or "go-it- alone"-are very hard for elected politicians to resist. Short-run political expediency indicates that it is wise to knuckle under to a George Meany's tirade when a socialist is appointed to the Secretariat of the International Labour Office. Popular applause may be won by insisting that we will not be handcuffed by the articles of the GATT. A reputation for boldness and decisiveness is acquired when monetary decisions bypass the consultative procedures of the Monetary Fund. The popular mood is petulant when we are outvoted in an international forum, and it is easy to fall in with it. We have been so spoiled by our temporary supremacy that we tend to sulk if we cannot be captain. The collective will of the United Nations does not have the political power of either the Pentagon or the mineral interests when it comes to deciding whether the United States will purchase Rhodesian chrome.
If the individual citizen could earmark some portion of his taxes for United Nations peacekeeping, economic development or emergency relief needs, perhaps this would to some extent offset the conventional reluctance of politicians to stand up for the integrity of commitments of the United States to international institutions. Maybe if the obligation of selective service could be discharged through membership in a United Nations reserve, there would be some chance for the individual of military age to demonstrate that a larger loyalty would command his enthusiastic service. Until there is a chance for the individual citizen to vote with his pocketbook or with his personal service, however, the chances of using the power of the United States to assure survival in face of the international contagion of war, poverty and pollution will depend on most unusual political leadership.
It is fortunate that at every turn the present Administration has paid verbal respect to the need for initiatives and arrangements which transcend nations. The new communications satellite corporation; our NATO initiative on environmental matters; our support for the coming U.N. conference on environmental problems in Stockholm; even the bows we have given to the need for universal trade and monetary coöperation in footnotes to the (hopefully) short-term protectionist efforts to cure the payments deficit- all these have "preserved the option" of truly transnational arrangements.
It is the natural tendency of those who make policy, however, to look upon international institutions as window dressing, or as forums of last resort. To those who carry out policy it is natural to try to avoid the delays and compromises inherent in multinational accommodation. Despite the assurances and promises which always accompany presidential efforts to persuade persons of note or of promise to accept the post, the Ambassador to the United Nations is normally treated as an outsider in the councils of high policy.
Neither the political atmosphere nor the administrative priorities will change until a President of the United States is willing to affirm that the national destiny requires first priority for international solutions to international problems. President Nixon has shown such an insistence on the issue of maintaining the military presence of the United States in Europe. Comparable boldness has not been shown by the leadership of either party with respect to support and development of international institutions and organizations on a global scale.
It was easier for President Roosevelt to mobilize public opinion for support of the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals because of the high purposes enunciated in the Atlantic Charter and later galvanized into national unity behind the cause of global victory. It was also easier, perhaps, for President Truman to forge under-tying popular support and a legislative coalition for the Marshall Plan because of the cold-war psychology and the popular fear of the threat of communist takeover of a Europe in economic despair. Nevertheless, the salient fact is that neither President Roosevelt nor President Truman would have prevailed if they had waited for the winds of public opinion to make it politically riskless to proceed.
History does seem to suggest that it takes the discipline of great sacrifice or the threat of imminent disaster to lift a people from their day-to-day habit of life and mind to a higher level of concern and a broader scope of loyalty. But the old "it's got to get worse before it gets better" cliche is unacceptable counsel when "worse" means holocaust, environmental malignancy or economic destitution. Yesterday's rhetorical metaphor has become today's literal concern, tomorrow's specter.
My hope is that perhaps the Vietnam-seared generation of Americans has it in them to insist that the problem of survival be taken seriously. Far from being strident "America Firsters," many of their most talented members are viscerally aware that political and economic power may run amok unless harnessed by some arrangements bigger than nations. Some of them care fiercely about the restraint of power and redress against its abuse. They would be quite willing, even eager, to see their own country's global enterprises and policies made more responsive, not only to fellow American citizens, but also to the world community.
My fear is that if their own country does not become the affirmative champion of arrangements adequate to deal with those problems which transcend nations, then the initiative, and especially the appeal to the future generations, will fall by default to the champions of centralized world socialism. The initial posture and pronouncements of the mainland Chinese delegation at their first United Nations' session are a fair warning. They are not unaware of the delightful opportunity for leadership in the third world and among the younger generation which is invited by the passivity, petty parochialism, and scorn for supranational institutions, in the developed countries.
It is hard to see how we will engage the young, and stand any chance of competing for the respect of mankind generally, if we continue to be hold- outs, more concerned with the sovereignty of nations than with the ultimate sovereignty of peoples. The problems will define the scope of the solutions. Transnational problems will eventually call forth transnational arrangements. The question is whether these solutions will embody a concern for the rule of law and the dispersion of private and local initiative, or whether they will bring with them the heavy and often cruel hand of authoritarian prescriptions. If we remain inert, no one else has the power, coupled with a common law heritage and federal experience, which might achieve a rule of law as we know it. That is, a rule of law which seeks to encourage private initiative and local self-determination, while at the same time keeping private powers or local principalities from over-reaching or overrunning others.
If we continue to be grudging about it-if we are unreliable partners, except when it suits our immediate self-interest, if we wait until leadership is riskless-then, when we appeal for followers, they will not be there.
Our new situation of mutual, national dependence is inescapable. If we would face it in a creative mood, we will have to take some risks in order to invite others to pool their sovereignty with ours on matters which none of us can control alone. We shall have to abide by lawfully achieved results even when we might have wished or voted otherwise. Some day, some President must convince all the American people that this is a proud and exciting call to be faced with zest rather than with reluctance.
As we approach the bicentennial of the Republic, perhaps what we need most for 1976 is a resounding Declaration of International Interdependence. Maybe by 1987 we could then celebrate the two hundredth year of the Constitution of the United States with at least the beginning of global arrangements and institutions to safeguard the common defense and the general welfare of humanity everywhere. Then we would rediscover the sense of purpose, and once more know the satisfaction, of those who saved the peoples of the colonies by making them into a nation. We, in our turn, might save the peoples of nations by making them into a world community capable of survival.