To the Editor:
I would like to challenge some of the interesting assertions—statements of fact, statements of faith—in the symposium, “America Now: A Failure of Nerve?” [July]. Certain of the contributors are friends of mine—or were friends at one time—and it is not without some feeling of sadness that I note the distance separating their present political views and those I myself now hold. I shall be trying to determine just why such differences have emerged as I take up once again some of the matters discussed in the symposium. And I shall not comment at all on what took place in Southeast Asia after President Nixon resigned his office. No useful purpose is now served in either asserting that the Thieu government was doomed no matter how much aid we gave it, or that the Thieu government could have held out indefinitely, given sufficient aid. Now that the fate of Southeast Asia has been sealed, neither view is demonstrable. So I think that both Herman Kahn on the one hand, and Christopher Lasch on the other, can be said to have chosen to defend positions which are not now even open to attack.
But other and more interesting ideas are expressed by the contributors. For instance, Zbigniew Brzezinski suggests that the United States faces the countries of the Third World—and of the Fourth, too—in a conflict which now goes beyond, or is more important than, our situation of conflict with the USSR. And Mr. Brzezinski adds that the USSR is the beneficiary of our present conflict with the Third and Fourth World countries. Here is a notion that is suggestive, interesting, and would be of major import if it were indeed true. I have some question, though, as to its truth. When Mr. Brzezinski notes a major conflict between the United States and the Third and Fourth World countries, to what precisely is he referring? To American relations with Latin America? With India? With the new nations of Africa? Or with the oil-producing countries along the Persian Gulf? Is he referring to American relations with all of these nations? Or just to some of them? Unfortunately, he has not spelled out exactly whom the United States is facing in a conflict he suggests is now more important than our competitive and at times adversary relationship with the USSR. Mr. Brzezinski knows how to write clearly, and he must have had some reason for leaving this very important matter vague. But suppose we look at his proposition more closely. I submit that the only Third World countries against whom it has even been suggested that the United States might take military action are the oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf. And certainly it is the case that military action by the United States—against Saudi Arabia, for instance—while very unlikely at the present time (though by no means a bizarre project, as Irving Howe prefers to think), is far more likely than any military action by the United States against the USSR. So perhaps this is the conflict Mr. Brzezinski is alluding to. Once we have spelled the matter out in this way—of course, Mr. Brzezinski may have had something quite different in mind—it becomes impossible to agree with his view. For I submit that our conflict with the oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf only takes on significant meaning because of our conflict with the USSR. As Anthony Eden warned in 1956, the West can be destroyed by the combined economic and military power of the Arab oil monopoly and the Russian nuclear force. If it were not for Russian atomic power, I think, we would not have yielded to the price rise of the oil cartel.
I suggest Mr. Brzezinski is repeating an error made by Hans J. Morgenthau in his article, “The New Diplomacy of Movement” (Encounter, August 1974). Here Mr. Morgenthau announced a new international factor without “precedent in recorded history”: “. . . the divorcement of military power from economic and political power insofar as the latter is derived from the former. . . .” The functional relationship, he wrote, “. . . between political, military, and economic power has been severed by the very dynamics of modern industrial and technological developments. In consequence, a nation, or group of nations, completely devoid of a modern industrial and technological capacity and military potential, is able to wield political power over nations far superior to them in that capacity and potential. That ability results from the monopolistic or quasi-monopolistic control of raw materials essential to the operation of advanced economies. . . .” The error in this statement of Mr. Morgenthau’s is precisely the one that I think led Mr. Brzezinski to assert that our main political conflict now is with the nations of the Third World and the Fourth. What is the error I am pointing at? It consists of thinking that the oil monopoly of the Arab nations, quite apart from the military backing of them by the Soviet Union, has given them political power over industrially advanced and militarily superior nations. I think this is just not true. I think, too, that the Soviet Union is the beneficiary of any assertion that its conflict with us is of less moment and import than our conflict with the Third World (and the Fourth).
I must note here that neither Mr. Brzezinski nor Mr. Morgenthau—nor Stariley Hoffmann, for that matter—has made accusatory or intemperate statements, even when criticizing the Middle Eastern policies of the Secretary of State. After all, these men are political scientists. But others of the contributors have felt free to savage Mr. Kissinger with respect to his policy toward Israel. Here, I think, is a matter on which one does not have to be equivocal. The contributors who attack the Secretary for his policy toward Israel are quite wrong. Why? For the simple reason that no other policy than Secretary Kissinger’s was, given the circumstances, even conceivable. No American President, not even Senator Jackson, were he President, could have set as a goal for American policy in the Middle East any state of affairs other than the prevention of another war and a second oil embargo. If by military action we were able to control the Persian Gulf oil, then, I think, we might not have had to require of Israel concessions to its Arab neighbors. But the contributors who attack Henry Kissinger’s policy toward Israel are by no means ready to suggest that we take military action in the Persian Gulf. Far from urging any such action, Mr. Howe even criticizes COMMENTARY (mildly) for having published Robert W. Tucker’s article which argued for its rationality [“Oil: The Issue of American Intervention,” January]. And Harold Rosenberg, who is at least not made irate by the idea, doubts that the United States can act in this manner. He asks, “When has the United States government protected its citizens against cartels? Pepper? Coffee? Sugar?” And Mr. Hoffmann remarks that the present moral atmosphere is not favorable to any such action. I do have to agree with Mr. Hoffmann about this, and at least he has had the grace not to be immoderate in his strictures on Henry Kissinger’s policy. For the only real alternative to that policy would have, in fact, to be military action by the United States in the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Rosenberg has another idea, though. Which is that we impose no policy on the Israelis and, as Mr. Rosenberg puts it, allow them and ourselves “. . . to develop Negative Capability, the talent for remaining indefinitely in uncertainty and doubt, ‘without any irritable reaching’ for answers.” So his program in the Middle East dilemma is for Israel, and the United States, also, to become a little like Shakespeare, or a little like Shakespeare as John Keats saw him. This would be fine by me, for I would have no objection to seeing an Israel, and a United States for that matter, with some of Shakespeare’s capabilities—even with certain of Mr. Rosenberg’s. But if this is to be a program and not just words, would not the Arabs also have to develop Negative Capabilities, and overcome their regular tendency to reach out irritably—and militarily—for answers? In the present circumstance there is no doubt whatever that the policy now being achieved is the only one with a chance of preventing an immediate military clash. And is it a good thing, after all, to think one is like Shakespeare whenever—and because—one has nothing to recommend?
My differences with men I’ve often agreed with in the past on such matters as the Middle Eastern policy of our government, and also on the standing of the United States among the nations of the world at this time, suggest a need to reflect on the difficulties of American policy and the peculiarities of this country’s position. Mr. Howe notes that “. . . our elites have begun to question the legitimacy of American civilization. . . . Increasingly, the positive achievements of U.S. foreign policy have come to seem exceptions to a bleak and rigid system of support for rotten and rotting authoritarian regimes. . . .” Now this is a new note from Mr. Howe. But the point I want to emphasize here is not that Mr. Howe has changed his view. What I want to ask is whether his present view is justified. Has American policy been as bad in fact as he now seems to think it was? And why has the record been so bad? Do Americans suffer from some inability to think politically? Or is there some inherent difficulty in the conduct of American foreign policy which has made it unmanageable? I am inclined to this second view, for I do not think that our government is or has to be fundamentally reactionary, and I do not think that our leaders are or have to be fundamentally misguided in their judgment of political events. Perhaps our leaders are and have to be as foolish as many astute observers think them. But for my part I will make this judgment only if I have to. And I do not have to make it if I can find some other—and better—explanation for the difficulties we find ourselves in today. And when I reflect on our policies and on the nature of our country I find that there is an inherent difficulty in conducting American foreign policy which the contributors to the symposium have not even considered. The difficulty is this: the ideology of this country is fundamentally progressive, and has become almost violently so in recent years. But the physical situation of this country, its natural wealth, resources, and past history require it to be a conservative power in relation to other countries. A country with a population imbued with progressive ideas, which is, and has to be, conservative in view of the wealth it holds and cannot but defend, is a country whose course it is very difficult to plot, and a country very difficult to rule.
But one of my premises may be challenged. It might well be argued: why does the United States have to be conservative internationally? Why can it not be as progressive on the international scene as the ideology of its citizens requires it to be in its domestic affairs? What if the United States were a socialist state on the Scandinavian model? Would it still have to be a conservative power on the international scene? I think it enough simply to pose this question to realize something about our situation which may surprise our leftists and progressives. The United States, even were it to have a socialist or a nationalized economy, would still have to be a conservative power. Why? The answer should be clear. We consume some 30 per cent of the world’s energy while occupying only one-sixth or even less of its land mass. If socialism is not going to mean a lower standard of living for the average American, then even under socialism we would have to protect our advantages, and it is in the planned protection of our advantages that the United States appears as a conservative power. One example: our relations with the Soviet Union would be far more difficult if our government had a socialist base. For then we would be more dangerous to the Soviets, and Soviet power would be more threatening to us. So the costs of our defense would go up instead of down. And in any circumstances, this nation would be difficult to rule, for the feelings of the people, who are naturally progressive in their outlook, are constantly being violated by the measures taken for their—which is to say our—security. And we cannot give up our wealth. We have taken a vow of riches, and can hardly go back on it without becoming demoralized.
Our system does work well under special circumstances, when, as in the war against Hitler and Japan, the military steps President Roosevelt took to guard our security were applauded by progressives. This was no longer the case in the Korean war, and in the Vietnam affair President Johnson’s efforts to emulate Roosevelt were ludicrously inept. No doubt he thought that by leading a civil-rights movement he could ride herd on our progressives, at least long enough for General Westmoreland to ride herd on the Vietcong. As we know, his policies failed. But faultily conceived as they were, I must still insist that the problem they were framed to meet was a most difficult one. More recently we saw another President driven from office. His difficulty—I use the word advisedly, for I do not want to speak here of crimes—was that he thought he could represent just the conservative needs of this nation in its international relations and totally disregard the progressive impulses of the people who had elected him. In a democratic country such as ours, this is an impossible course, and Nixon had to pay for his obstinacy with the abject surrender of his office. But I am not interested as some of the contributors are in calling names. If the Nixon people committed crimes, so did the Kennedyites and the Johnsonites, and the real question is why. My answer is that American policy is extremely difficult. It has to satisfy contradictory aims, for our problem is to remain rich, secure, and progressive, too. If Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon did not know how to achieve all that, neither do the contributors who have criticized them in the symposium.
Lionel Abel Buffalo,
To the Editor:
I found the symposium intellectually invigorating. . . . Many contributors emphasize America’s failure to understand world affairs and the lack of a clear notion of our purposes as a nation. Edmund Still-man’s remark that American foreign policy was in his opinion “brilliantly conceived in the earliest days of containment” reminds me of what I believe is still the most intelligent and prudential formulation of American purpose available to us. I discovered it in Dean Acheson’s memoir, Present at the Creation. Acheson said of America’s postwar policy that:
Its central aim and purpose was to safeguard the highest interest of our nation, which was to maintain as spacious an environment as possible in which free states might exist and flourish. Its method was common action with like-minded states to secure and enrich the environment and to protect one another from predators through mutual aid and joint effort.
That the past tense of this statement is so noticeable seems to me to be suggestive of our current self-doubt. We no longer are clear about our central aim and purpose, free states are few and failing, common action has ceased to be our method, with mutual aid and joint efforts stymied by the variety of predators and the diverse tensions of the international environment.
Nevertheless, is the uniform pessimism revealed by the contributors justified? I wonder. For all its intelligence, the COMMENTARY symposium seems strangely out of touch with the energies and concerns of common citizenship. These energies and interests have not been defeated; they have been patient and long-suffering. The intellectuals may be tired and confused, even frightened, but are the people? Considerably more than thirty-five citizens will have a hand in answering that question.
William E. Johnston, Jr.
To the Editor:
The contributors to the symposium can be grouped by ideological bent, all except one, . . . whom I will discuss last.
The first group I shall call the Eleanor Roosevelt Brigade: vapid, fuzzy, befuddled do-gooders whom history has taught nothing. The success of their policies will guarantee us a prominent place in the Gulag Archipelago. In this group we have Josiah Lee Auspitz, Norman Birnbaum, James Chace, Richard A. Falk, Townsend Hoopes, Penn Kemble, Kermit Lansner, Christopher Lasch, William Phillips, Harold Rosenberg, Ronald Steel, Edmund Stillman, and, regrettably, Diana Trilling.
The second group specializes in saying nothing, but saying it verbosely in sociologese. When translated into English their ideas resemble those of the first group, but the fog is thick and a true translation is not always possible. These include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Rita E. Hauser, Stanley Hoffmann, Zygmunt Nagorski, Jr., and Fritz Stern.
In a third group are a few people with major points to make, good or bad, but at least of some importance: Edward Jay Epstein, Charles Frankel, Herman Kahn, Michael Novak, and Robert W. Tucker.
In the fourth group, all too small, we have America’s best minds, sharp, able, not deluded, at times profound. Most of them are liberals, as I am not, but their thinking is clear and their advice is sensible. God bless them. They are William Barrett, Irving Kristol, Sidney Hook, Midge Decter, Robert Nisbet, Peter L. Berger, Seymour Martin Lipset, Edward N. Luttwak, Hans J. Morgenthau, Eugene V. Rostow, and Paul Seabury. The first five in particular would do honor to any country, any culture.
Lastly, in a . . . class by himself, comes Irving Howe. This leading light of socialist and progressive thought would at first seem to be merely another candidate for the Eleanor Roosevelt Brigade. But a careful reading of his contribution shows him to be an . . . enemy of anyone who has actually done battle against the Communist totalitarians, an echt-anti-anti-Communist. Thus today’s liberals like Daniel P. Moynihan and Norman Podhoretz, are already suspect to him. And when it comes to the recent past, the real villains of history are “the Lovestone-social-democrat officialdom,” the dimwits of the CIA, and again “the blunderers working for Jay Lovestone.”
Now the Lovestone group officially dissolved on January 25, 1941, over thirty-four years ago. But it so happens that the only victory which democracy has won in its battle with Communist totalitarianism in this century was the defeat of the Bolshevik attempt to take over Western Europe in 1945 and 1946. This defeat was largely engineered by the American Federation of Labor, working through two of its most devoted servants, Jay Lovestone and Irving Brown. . . .
Actually, it is difficult to decide just what makes a man like Mr. Howe, with some decent instincts and valid pretensions to scholarship, certainly no Communist sympathizer himself, so hate democracy’s warriors. . . . In the long run, I suppose, it is just the traditional factionalism of the American Left in which, even if one no longer says “pas d’ennemis à gauche,” one can at least say “pas des amis à droit.” . . .
Fishkill, New York
To the Editor:
The introduction to the symposium notes that there is “an increasing disposition among the elites—political, cultural, and even commercial—to question the legitimacy of American civilization.” Where such elites once stressed “the virtues of an industrialized liberal democracy” the emphasis is now given to its failings, and even to “the most hostile descriptions of the country’s character.” . . .
Of the thirty-five contributors only one, Hans J. Morgenthau, recognizes, implicitly, the problem in this approach—that is, in an industrialized liberal democracy, what do the people think? Mr. Morgenthau points out that “large masses of the American electorate have lost faith in their ability to influence the decisions of the government through their use of the democratic processes.” He attributes this apathy to the exclusion of the people from the governing process and predicts that if this exclusion continues the result will be non-democratic rule “either by a virtually permanent bureaucracy or by a presidential authoritarianism.”
Another contributor, Charles Frankel, also recognizes that
The democratic morality practiced by most Americans—though not always articulated by them—is at odds with the intellectuals’ accredited moral posture. So long as the disparity is what it is, the intellectual voice of our society will be instructing Americans in chronic bad conscience, no matter what.
But most Americans do not articulate democratic morality simply because they are never asked to do so. The COMMENTARY symposium simply adds to, and reflects, this disparity. . . .
Rita E. Hauser notes:
The average American believes he will prosper, perhaps he believes that more than most intellectuals, and, I think, he has accepted with less difficulty than they the fact that America’s power has declined these past fifteen years. If the polls are right, he understands that the world is too diverse for us to dominate, too chaotic for us to control, yet too fearsome to abandon altogether.
She thereupon provides her solution. The intellectual and political elites “would better serve the nation by trying to redefine and articulate our basic foreign-policy premises.”
What Mrs. Hauser has given us here is a statement defending oligarchy, not democracy. The logical answer to her question is that freedom for the people is diminished when the task of formulating new policy is taken up by the elites. . . .
The issue that should have been discussed devolves not on the failings of our democracy but, rather, on the existence of one. But the contributors to the symposium apparently have other fish to fry. They use the questions asked of them by COMMENTARY to fight against their favorite hobgoblins: Nixon, Kissinger, U.S.-Soviet relations, . . . the U.S. role in Vietnam, the press, intellectual chic. Only Mr. Morgenthau and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Frankel suggest that perhaps the American people, too, ought to be brought into the discussion. . . .
One wonders—even fears—what the result would be in this country if the people were to rouse themselves from apathy and determine that the fitting way to commemorate our bicentennial would be to put life and meaning into our political system and convert the myth of democracy into the reality of democracy. . . .
D. R. Zukerman
Lonely Pamphleteer Review
Bronx, New York
To the Editor:
. . . In my view, America’s failure of nerve, or perhaps we might say simply the deterioration of our country, became quite apparent by the fall of 1961 and thereafter worsened. This deterioration was well advanced by the time the Vietnam war went into high gear. Thus the Vietnam war, I would say, did not produce the deterioration but instead, the deterioration helped to cause the loss of the war. This it did, in my view, indirectly through tempting and encouraging the administration to try to win a political victory without first winning a military victory. . . .
My main point is that we should know and should remember that we did not have to lose the war in Vietnam. May I also note that the United States not too long ago provided the bulk of the military forces involved in winning a world war fought simultaneously in both hemispheres. It is not realistic to believe that a nation that did this could not overcome a small Asian nation.
Yet only one contributor—Irving Kristol—seems to know why we lost the war. To quote Mr. Kristol: “Wrong were all those who had ingenious computerized strategies derived from ‘game theory’ which encouraged us to believe that a graduated escalation of hostilities would, at some point, achieve a disequilibrium of costs and benefits to the enemy that would cause him to accept a cease-fire.”
We all hope that we will never have another war, but still we may, and so let us all realize that we must never again fight a war that we do not try to win. . . .
Francis P. Hardaway
Saint Louis, Missouri
To the Editor:
. . . The developments of the last few years have demonstrated that the deployment of over half-a-million troops for a number of years, and the expenditure of about $150 billion were inadequate to assure the success of the American purpose, whatever that might have been. . . . The legacy of the Vietnam misadventure is the complete and utter erosion of confidence in our military and political experts, a conclusion which on the face of it was self-evident to the entire non-American world long before 1975, or for that matter 1968.
In short, it is hardly proper to talk either of a failure of nerve or of a new sense of maturity. What we are facing is the total failure of our decision-making process, a failure on which the rest of the world is now acting, and which raises the most serious questions about the underlying merits of any policy developed by the old “team” and the old methods.
A. Joseph Berlau
Hartsdale, New York
To the Editor:
Thirty-five COMMENTARY writers contradicting and cancelling out one another’s wisdom! To paraphrase what Shaw said of his fellow Irishmen: “Put a COMMENTARY writer on a spit, and you can always get another COMMENTARY writer to turn it.” . . .
Perhaps Irving Howe comes closest to my own position when he writes: “U.S. policy is deeply disliked and distrusted throughout the world for many reasons, and some of them are bad ones; but surely one reason is the evident chasm between its proclaimed values and its actual practice, its evident lack of serious concern for ‘the survival and the success of liberty.’”. . .
About half the contributors to the symposium are the American equivalents of Franz von Papen. Papen was a Catholic conservative who hated socialism and Communism so much that he greased the way for Hitler. . . . I am sympathetic to von Papen’s conservatism and anti-Communism, but his support of Hitler had the result of half of Europe’s becoming Communist. . . .
Since we are not as beset as Germany was . . . with defeats, inflation, powerful internal and external enemies, we will not suffer the same fate as the German people. But Vietnam hurled us in that direction. Let us not forget the writers in this symposium who supported that fight which aided Communism beyond its dreams. . . .
James C. White
Minneapolis College of Art and Design
To the Editor:
“America Now: A Failure of Nerve?” overlooks one important fact: though Americans have taken pride in belonging to the largest industrial nation, the most advanced agricultural power, the wealthiest land, and the freest country in the world, they have never wanted to be the world’s foremost political or military power. In spite of the strong possibility of a Hitler victory in Europe, Americans would have gladly sat out World War II had not Pearl Harbor forced them to intervene. As a by-product of World War II, the United States was catapulted, very reluctantly, into a position of world leadership. . . .
America’s sudden strength imposed upon its leaders the role of defenders of the free world. Yet when John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural speech that this country would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship . . . to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” he spoke only for Camelot. In Vietnam the unanswerable question of every American soldier was: “What the hell am I doing here?” The soldier of an imperialist nation would not have asked this question. . . .
Thus it can be argued that there has been no sudden “failure of nerve.” Until recently the American could afford . . . “the best things in life” (which are not always free). He was never cut out to fight for supremacy against nations whose people lived in the Spartan poverty which accompanies totalitarian ideologies. Patriotism can be the poor man’s substitute for the amenities of life. In affluent America, however, patriotism was degraded in the 60’s and became a synonym for softheadedness. The singlemindedness with which Communist totalitarianism pursues its goals is just not part of the American fabric. . . .
Just as it is a myth that freedom makes better soldiers than oppression (witness the fighting ability of German and Russian soldiers during World War II), freedom of the press, speech, and expression, puts a democracy—in times of collision—at a disadvantage in a fight with a hermetic, secretive, and censor-ridden totalitarian regime. . . . You can’t expose all your weaknesses to the whole world, and expect the world to believe in your undiminished strength. Freedom has its price. And the United States is paying. . . .
Détente and similar tranquilizers have made this country forget that the Communists are totally serious about creating a Communist world. If democracy . . . is to survive, this fact must be recognized. . . .
Benno Weiser Varon
To the Editor:
. . . I commend COMMENTARY for its concern with our heritage and for our future. . . . Nevertheless, I wonder why you did not also include the views of religious thinkers. . . . Does not the matter of failure of nerve have religious implications?
The negation of the religious aspects of social-political issues seems to characterize our contemporary secularist or non-religious writers. Yet the founders of our Republic were not only perceptive men of action; they were also imbued with religious concepts and values. . . .
Our great prophets faced world-shaking crises not with opinion polls but with trust in cosmic, moral laws and with calls to social justice and morality and to facing the future with faith. We must also seek to right our social and moral wrongs and face the future with confidence. . . .
[Rabbi] Nathan A. Barack
To the Editor:
I think it is understandable, though regrettable, that a member of the military establishment was not represented in the symposium: understandable because professional soldiers ought to stand conspicuously aloof from politics, yet regrettable because we in the armed forces spend a lot of time and . . . effort trying to understand the ways in which our nation and the world are evolving in order to prepare ourselves accordingly. . . .
All in all, however, I am gratified that so many serious thinkers are asking the same question as I am: how should a powerful nation which thinks its survival is important . . . behave? . . .
[Major] Charles A. Krohn
To the Editor:
“America Now: A Failure of Nerve?” was most timely and interesting. I myself have no doubt that as a nation we are now more passive in international relations (as well as other areas) than at any other time since World War II. . . . I think there are five reasons for our present passivity.
- Confrontations, to which activity sometimes but does not necessarily lead, are anxiety-producing (whether based on reality or not). Most people in their personal lives try very hard to avoid anxiety. . . . Only experience teaches (although there is no guarantee the teaching will last) that continued avoidance based on rationalization leads finally to destruction or greater confrontation. . . . A generation which does not know Manchuria, Ethiopia, or Munich is with us now, and, along with some of the older generation whose learning seems not to have endured, is having . . . considerable effect on our foreign policy. Like other generations, this new generation does not want anxiety, but it does not yet know the full price of unreasonable efforts to avoid it.
- Our leadership, in my judgment, is inferior to what it was before. Secretary Kissinger, who has been running things, is supposed to be shrewd, highly knowledgeable about power, and to possess a scholar’s view of history, enabling him to have a long-range view of our interests. But evidence of such supposed qualities is not apparent. During Kissinger’s six years, we have lost power (relatively) to the Soviet Union to whom, in addition, we have given economic benefits with no visible quid pro quo; we have unnecessarily alienated allies, e.g., Japan; we have engaged in hypocrisy, e.g., surrendering South Vietnam but calling it a negotiated peace with honor, so that our credibility among friends and adversaries has been decreased. . . .
- In general, we have been living in a passive atmosphere. Unrealistic demands by formerly oppressed minorities have not, in large measure, been challenged; they have been acceded to. . . . It is not to be expected that a nation which acts passively at home will find itself able to do better abroad. Especially when it lacks good leadership.
- Our nation has not been properly educated (another fault of the leadership) as to the goals of our foreign policy. As Eugene V. Rostow points out, that goal is the rule of law, i.e., implementation of the UN Charter, which says that taking over other people’s countries by force is illegal. Whether or not one agrees with our policy in Vietnam, we were not there to protect the South Vietnamese government; nor were we there to defend against Communism. We were there, rather, to defend the principle of no takeover by force. In domestic life, we realize that to live civilly we have to defend the general application of the rule of law. . . . Why is it so hard to gain a similar comprehension about international matters? . . .
- Finally, I believe, our greater passivity is due to a good factor, namely, our movement toward maturity, the effects of which, however, have gone too far. Our growing maturity, coupled with objective changes since World War II, has acquainted us with the finiteness of our power. We have properly given up our fantasy of near omnipotence. Obviously, we have to acquire the proper balance, a difficult thing to do collectively. . . .
In conclusion, though, I would like to state my own belief, notwithstanding pessimistic factors, that the relative sense and decency of our people is such that we will find the proper balance.
Leonard S. Sandweiss
New York City