April 15, 1964
Policy for the Decade Ahead
In the first installment of this two-part report I ended with a promise to examine at close range the defects and dangers of the "total victory" foreign policy, about which we have heard so much in recent months. Now let's see what some of these defects and dangers are.
We are told by "total victory" advocates that the solution to all our international problems is obvious, easy and simple. It can be stated in two words: "Get tough." If we will just get "tough" and stop being "soft", we can wipe out all Communist governments, doing it on our own with few, if any, allies while simultaneously reducing federal spending and taxes.
At the heart of the policy is the notion, so often expressed by Senator Goldwater, that Communist nations -- if challenged -- will always back down. This is stated as a self-evident fact.
But is this a fact on which we can stake the lives of all mankind? Indeed the Communists have backed down on occasion. But can we really risk World War III on these flat assurances that our adversaries will yield to ultimatums every time and in every situation? It is a key part of our present foreign policy that we be so strong and show such determination that the Russians not be allowed to think that we will retreat. Thus, for such a "total victory" policy to work, we must never retreat and the Russians must always retreat.
The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 is often cited as an example of both sides of the argument. Let us look at what was and was not proven then. In that critical arena we had every advantage; our military and naval might was close; theirs was far away. Our own shores and vital interests were directly threatened; those of the Russians were not. Would the outcome have been the same, would the Russians have backed down, if the United States had taken over Finland and installed short-range missiles? I think not.
We must remember that Khrushchev is now under attack by his own "total victory" crowd and by the Red Chinese, for cowardice and compromise. A recent Peking blast called him "the greatest capitulationist in history." Can we be so blindly certain that he would now back down were we to knock down the Berlin wall or give him an ultimatum to leave that city? Senator Goldwater may be certain; I'm not.
There the situation would be reversed. We have but a few thousand troops in Berlin, and the Communists have hundreds of thousands in and around the city. Their might and their territory are directly involved. Can any reasonable man guarantee that there would be another abject Communist surrender? A safer assumption is that they would fight there. While Russian Communists apparently don't want a general war,. we must assume they will fight anytime their territory is directly threatened and they have tactical advantages. Let those who say the Russians are cowardly and won't fight recall how they defended themselves against the Germans in World War II.
War is a dangerous game, and history is filled with wars which were blundered into when bluffs were called. Have the "total victory" advocates forgotten the invasion of Poland? Hitler was convinced that a British government which accepted the Austrian anschluss and the occupation of the Sudetenland would also stand by while Poland was dismembered. But the British did not stand by; they went to war. Was not the Korean War a direct result of a Communist assumption that the United States would never attempt to defend this remote outpost of freedom? Most historians think it was.
TALK IS CHEAP
The United States can be a braggart and a bully if it wants to. We can refuse trade or even talk with any nation refusing to follow our every lead. We can close our embassies in Ceylon and Brazil (where American property has been wrongfully appropriated). We can cut off relations with Russia, Poland and Hungary. We can pull out of the United Nations and dispatch it from our shores. But what, if anything, will we have gained? Will the Russians have fewer troops or missiles? Will the Russian people then revolt? Will the world be safer from the danger of war? Will the four revolutions I described in my first report simply disappear?
"Talk is cheap," as the saying goes, and I might add, "especially compared to the price of war." By continuing to talk with any nation which speaks in civil terms, by continuing to explore in ordinary diplomatic relations the disputes and grievances which trouble the world, by acting through the United Nations and with other nations in Cyprus, the Congo or whatever current "hotspot" dominates the news we can and do inch forward toward a more stable world. I believe most Americans want to keep open our lines of communication to the other 120 nations of the world -- not just the nations that jump when we say "jump", not just our friends and allies, but the entire world community.
This can be done, and it has been done by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson -- all without compromising our honor, our principles or our goals. In my opinion war would be inevitable if the only communication between the Communist bloc and ourselves were epithets scrawled on intercontinental missiles.
SURRENDER 'OR ELSE'
But the advocates of "total victory" protest that theirs is not a program for war; on the contrary, they say it is the only way to guarantee peace. When they propose to order the Russians out of Berlin "or else," they refuse to discuss the "or else" because they say, "It won't come to that." The Russians, they say, will simply whine and depart.
In short, they don't propose to go to war to destroy communism. They simply propose to threaten to go to war. Similarly, in his recent "Meet the Press" interview Senator Goldwater disclosed that he didn't really mean we ought to get out of the United Nations; he meant we should threaten to get out unless the Russians capitulated on major issues. Such a public admission can hardly be expected to advance the credibility of our threats.
When two cars run together on the road, nothing is settled by a contest between drivers to see which can shout the loudest, use the most profanity, or make the most threats. Such tactics don't work at school board meetings, in city councils or lodge meetings. They most certainly won't work with proud and sensitive nations in the far more delicate field of international affairs.
'NATIONALISM' -- TODAY'S KEY WORD
The world now, as always, is changing. For some 15 years after World War II the earth was divided into two hostile camps, each with a powerful and dominant leader. A Soviet attack on Western Europe was considered imminent, and we formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to stop it. Free nations were inclined to rally behind the United States and almost blindly follow our lead, even though their national interests might call for other policies. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, held its satellites under tight control. Slowly and quietly the Cold War has entered a new phase. Since the Cuban confrontation of 1962, and the Test Ban Treaty of 1963, most national leaders on both sides of the Iron Curtain have, rightly or wrongly, concluded that general war is less likely. Many previously war-torn and dependent nations have become more prosperous. Many, too, have become more bold and independent in following their own national interests, instead of ours or Russia's.
For example, or our side we have seen, despite our protests, our old ally France recognizing Red China, wooing Latin America, opposing us in the Far East. We have been irritated by Canada selling goods to Cuba and Red China, by Britain selling busses to Castro.
But Khrushchev's bloc is acting up also. Red China, instead of blindly following Kremlin policy, calls for Khrushchev's ouster and arms the Russian-Chinese border. Yugoslavia goes independent and has 85 per cent of its trade with the West. Albania allies itself with Red China and orders Russian troops and naval vessels out. Rumania, Hungary and Poland demand and get more freedom to pursue their independent economic and political policies.
The era of alliance or bloc diplomacy is ending. We now have as a new fact of life what President Kennedy called a world of "increasing diversity." We can no longer neatly classify each nation as "free" or "neutralist" or "Communist." There is no longer one centrally directed, tightly controlled "international Communist movement." Russian Communism goes one way, Chinese Communism a second, Yugoslav Communism a far different third. The United States, whether we like it or not, cannot speak for a united "free world" on each and every issue. De Gaulle will do what he thinks right for France, and the leaders of Britain, Germany and Japan will do likewise.
The United States recognizes 114 different countries. There are at least six more we do not recognize. The leaders of most of these nations are going to do exactly what our "total victory" friends say we should do: take that course they believe best for their own countries.
3."Communism" is still an important and dangerous word in the 1960s. But in my judgment the key word for understanding international affairs in the decade ahead is a far older term: "nationalism." Thus I think all Americans would be wise to look at the world as it is, rather than as we might want it to be -- and face up to these blunt realities:
PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS !
Throughout the history of the Cold War we have had a series of crises focused in one unhappy area or another.
President Truman had Greece, Turkey and Korea. President Eisenhower suffered with Indo-China, Lebanon, Algeria and the Suez invasion. President Kennedy had Cuba, the Congo, Laos and Viet-Nam. Already President Johnson has been forced to deal with Cyprus, Zanzibar and Panama. While I cannot name the places, I can almost guarantee that whoever is President in 1965 will have still other hotspots to deal with.
When such events occur, we should handle them promptly and with wisdom, but it is unwise to panic or blame whatever administration is in office. Such events are symptoms of the great storm we are passing through. With more diversity in the world we face a little less danger, but we have many more problems.
WHAT WOULD THEY HAVE DONE?
With this background let's contrast the approach
of the "total victory" people to the approach taken by our elected government
on several recent occasions:
These are just a few examples of the course history would have taken if the "total victory" point of view had prevailed. Were views such as these to become U.S. policy, I believe the result would be disaster -- not the "victory" so falsely depicted by their proponents.
STRENGTH AND PATIENCE -- A BI-PARTISAN POLICY
In my previous report I set forth the basic structure of the two foreign policies here being discussed. Some of my readers seem to identify "total victory" with the Republican party and "strength and patience" with the Democratic party. I want to re-emphasize my earlier point that the policy I describe as "strength and patience" is a bi-partisan policy whose essential threads have been advocated by every President and every Secretary of State since 1946. Similarly, I must add in all honesty that many "total victory" advocates are Democrats.
Responsibility is a sobering thing. It is striking
to me to find that those American officials who have actually dealt with
Russian leaders, who have traveled abroad, who have actually had to make
our policies at the United Nations and elsewhere, have all come to similar
conclusions. And those conclusions are a far cry from the demands of the
"total victory" clique. Men like Dwight Eisenhower, Christian Herter, John
Foster Dulles, Henry Cabot Lodge and Richard Nixon belong in the "strength
and patience" tradition. Note what Nixon wrote recently in The Saturday
ARE WE LOSING OR WINNING THE COLD WAR?
Much of the interest in "total victory" has stemmed
from fear that, as the alarmists contend, we are losing the Cold War. I
think this is nonsense. In October 1962 I wrote a newsletter entitled,
"Who's Winning the Cold War?" After balancing
our advantages and problems against those of Moscow I concluded on this
Many "total victory" people took strong exception
to this conclusion, even though few tried to quarrel with the facts
I cited. In November of 1963 the conservative U.S. News and World Report
(whose editor, David Lawrence, has been a vocal critic of both Presidents
Kennedy and Johnson) carried an article entitled, "Is Russia Losing the
Cold War?" This was the magazine's opening statement:
The 1964 election will soon be upon us. Foreign policy will be a major subject of discussion, and this is wholesome and good for the country. I think that the premises and likely results of a "total victory" policy ought to be studied and examined. When this occurs, I believe that thoughtful Americans will reject such thinking.
We can succeed in attaining realistic goals, but we can't succeed in attaining unreal goals such as the total capitulation of the Soviet Union to the policies, doctrines, teachings and national interests of the United States.
Let's choose goals we can attain, and then set
out attaining them.
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