American Foreign Policy: The Hard Lessons of War and Peace

World Affairs Institute

Source: World Affairs, Vol. 134, No. 3 (Winter, 1971), pp. 193-209 Published by: World Affairs Institute

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he foreign policy of the United States of the early 1970s continues in a

troubled mood: uneasy, much perplexed, and lacking a general sense of vision. Aside from trying to focus on such critical issues as United

States relationships with Western Europe, the Soviet Union, Viet Nam, China, and theMiddle East, current American foreign policy has permitted the rest of theworld almost to vanish from our horizon. Relationships with India, Pakistan, Africa, Latin America?the whole question ofworld eco

nomic and social development?seem hardly a matter of concern to the present Administration except as they intrude upon the well-being of the

Not a few voices welcome this change of national mood. Some of

yesterday s traumatic national worries about global problems now seem muted, even if only temporarily so. There are commentators on all sides calling forAmericans to look inward on themselves and, in effect, to let the

rest of mankind take care of itself. Not for them the insight of Mazzini that

“you cannot, even ifyou would, separate your life from that of humanity; you live in it,by it, for it.”

Historical revisionists seek to provide an intellectual framework for this shifting national temperament. In their view the United States was not

simply thrust unwillingly into the responsible role of providing some world leadership afterWorld War II, nor did it rearm primarily to assist in

keeping world peace. America must first understand, according to this

critique, that itmay have consciously pursued the wrong goals, in the wrong

places and at the wrong times throughout the entire postwar period. Of course, much of .this revisionism tends to downplay or fails tomention the

brutalizing terror imposed on Eastern Europe after 1945.

To a degree, however, these shiftingmoods and judgments are appropri ate to the needs of the hour. The United States is not omniscient nor

omnicompetent in world affairs. Reassessment of America’s foreign policy goals, aspirations, and results must be a continuing element in our national

life,no matter where the chips or blame may fall.We are not immune from

failure. But itwill be the judgment of history not the doubts of statesmen nor instant insights of gloriously unaccountable critics which will provide

the ultimate test formeasuring American successes or failures.
American involvement inViet Nam is the catalyst around which national

questioning of U.S. foreign policy has been revolving. Peace and war remain 193


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the main issue facing us, but Viet Nam is the focal point. The War in Vietnam has already marked its quarter century and American involvement now comprises a full decade. It has cost us more than 45,000 American lives,

and almost 300,000 casualties, more than $115 billion of American wealth, and division and discord at home.

We entered the war a confident nation concerned with our ability to

foster peace and security inmany parts of the world; we are leaving it a nation uncertain of ourselves, uncertain of the future, uncertain of our place

in the world. This “coming out of war” is a difficult time: Alexis de Tocqueville called it “the most important time in the life of a country.” On

the other hand, we should not let this period overwhelm our thinking for a questioning mood offers better hope for our future well-being than mere

complacency would.
What have we learned? What lessons have we bought in blood and

treasure in Southeast Asia? What will we think and do now that differs from our posture of a decade ago?

These are not simple questions, and they do not have simple answers. But we do know that the Viet Nam War has caused something to happen in America. It has changed our country and our people. It has forced us to go

against accepted views which hold that failure has to be, in the phrase of Henry Bramford Parker, “the result either of weakness or of an incorrect technique.” It has compelled us to reexamine our role in theworld; to see in historical perspective what we have done; and to ask what are our

responsibilities forpeace and security today and in the future.
Twenty-five years ago America was nearing the end of a bitter and costly

war and looked forward to a new world at peace. The American dream was

of continuing postwar amity and cooperation among wartime allies and of strongmoral limits on the use of power?limits to be observed by all nations. That dream soon faded. We found that only America had the means and

the will to save much of the world either from a new tyranny imposed by

military force, or from the ravages of economic collapse and a widespread poverty of the human spirit. Looking back in retrospect, some commentators have charged that American convictions about the postwar situation were primarily the result of a misguided anticommunist stance. Anticommunism

may, of course, have beclouded some American judgments on foreign

policy. Initially, however, the questions faced by the United States did not simply involve capitalism versus communism. Rather, the fundamental issue

was the unsettling division of Europe along lines hardly satisfactory to

directly concerned parties.
As America faced an increasingly bleak future it resolved, above all, not

to repeat its own mistakes and the mistakes of others of the 1920s and the

1930s. There were many who had heard with astonishment the comments of Neville Chamberlain as Japanese bombs were dropping on Chinese cities:

“If itwas not that China was so far away and the scenes which were taking place were so remote from our everyday consciousness, the sentiments of pity, horror, and indignation which would be aroused by a full observation of those events might yet drive this people to courses which perhaps they

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had never contemplated.” When armed confrontations threatened after 1945, the United States was convinced that it could not sit idly by again, waiting until itwould be dragged once more into costly and deadly wars.

With this conviction, Americans accepted the role of international respon sibility, even though we had no way of forecasting the future.We refused to turn our backs on Europe and other parts of the world that desperately

needed our aid. We were determined to hold off the return of isolation, and we worked diligently to build structures of collective security that would

bring order out of near chaos. This massive effort took us suddenly into a new and often confusing era in our history; we abandoned almost overnight

themost basic tenet of our foreign policy: to beware of entangling alliances.

Our new involvement?including our repudiation of isolationism?was underscored by our leadership in creating the United Nations, in forging the NATO Alliance, and in vast investments in foreign aid. To a significant extent all these developments grew, as Dean Acheson has noted, out of America’s “task and its difficulty?to lead a group of free nations by the

methods of free association.”

our network of commitments stretches around the world, and involves alliances with 43 different nations. In less than three decades?an “instant of time” inman’s history?we grew from provincial state to super

power, with the greatest physical and economic power the world has ever known.

There was no precedent for this development. No other nation has been required to do?and learn?so much in so little time. And I believe that we

met the demands placed upon us with a surprising degree of sophistication and success. We used our resources to bring political stability and economic

recovery to nations ravaged by World War II. We provided a shield of protection behind which other peoples and nations could once again stand

strong and renewed. We met the fierce force of aggression in Korea. We sought to bring stability to the Middle East. We extended our power and resources bit by bit into Southeast Asia until we were engulfed in a strange and cruel war that defied all norms of conventional warfare.

That war inVietnam has brought with it such disillusionment and discord

thatmany Americans of every political persuasion now question anew all United States overseas involvements. At this time of national testing and

trial itwould be inappropriate to scourge ourselves to Xhe point where our national understanding of foreign affairs and our national will are weak ened. On the contrary, I believe we should take to heart the counsel of

Arnold Toynbee in his lectures “Civilization on Trial.” It is always a test of character to be baffled and “up against it,”Mr. Toynbee commented, “but the test is particularly severe when the adversity comes suddenly at the noon of a halcyon day which one has fatuously expected to endure to eternity. In straits like these thewrestler with destiny is tempted to look for bugbears and scapegoats to carry the burden of his own inadequacy. Yet to pass the buck’ in adversity is stillmore dangerous than to persuade oneself

that prosperity is everlasting.” America should not have had scapegoats 25 years ago when charges were thundering in the United States that failures


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in judgment had “lost China.” Nor should we seek them on the right or left today for any real or imaginary failures on Vietnam.

Above all, we must not let our experience inVietnam obscure the reality that for 25 years we helped preserve the world from a major war; in

particular, from a nuclear holocaust and that Americans have fundamentally

been, asWalter Lippmann once said, “anti-imperialists abroad; that is, they have disliked to see peoples ruled by alien powers.” Sometimes our actions have fallen dismally short of our ideals. On other occasions, as we have tried

to help other societies, we have been too overconfident that our views on democracy, freedom, and justice were the only ones. Despite all our failures, however, for themost part we can be proud of the general purpose and direction of our postwar foreign aspirations and policies.

More immediately, of course, we must put into practice the costly lessons we learned from the sorrow ofVietnam. We have learned above all thatwe must now carefully assess all of our national interests, free from an ideology

of involvement and tested by hard, uncompromising analysis. Underlying all the rhetoric about Vietnam is the belief that we are overcommitted, that there are limits to the use of military power and these limits need to be

defined. We learned that we must not become deeply involved where we have little at stake, or where our own security can be protected by other means than armed intervention.We must exercise that thoughtful discretion which is the better part of valor.

One lesson which we have hopefully not unlearned from our Vietnam

is the usefulness of alliances and continuous consultation with our friends and allies. At times such ties can overcommit a nation and overextend its limited resources. But we must not drown our Vietnam

sorrows through an irrelevant attack on alliances in general, as some would

have us do. Alliances, tempered by good judgment and low commitments, continue to be as useful today as in previous eras when Robert Walpole long ago could claim that “by alliances . . . the equip?se of power ismaintained, and those alarms and apprehensions awarded, which must arise from the vicissitudes of empire and the fluctuations of perpetual conflict.”

There is still a third lesson ofVietnam, a lesson which reflects a new sense in America that we must turn our minds and talents, and direct our

resources, to pressing needs at home. The traditional line dividing domestic

from foreign affairs has become as indistinct as a line drawn through water. This means that our place in the world and the nature of our own society have become indivisible. Our structure of common defense and security could prove to be only a hard outer shell that could collapse on an empty

center unless we bring new strength to areas of our internal life that are threatened on every side?as we see our environment polluted and dam aged, our cities rotting, our systems of education and health care grossly inadequate, our people tornby bitter dissension.

There are growing fears that this new questioning of our involvement in theworld will lead us to another period of isolation; there is the growing feeling that we will abandon our role of international involvement and return to isolation and Fortress America. Our Allies inEurope are especially


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and their fears are fostered by misguided efforts in the United States to regard all of our separate commitments in theworld as indivisible

seeing in our disengagement from Vietnam the threat that we will abandon Europe and theMiddle East as well.

Nothing could be more absurd. Today it is impossible for us to isolate

ourselves physically, politically, or economically from the rest of the world.

The facts of communications, transport, trade, and the travels of our people have ruled that out, not just for now but for all time.

In remarking about the spread of a “neo-isolationist” sentiment in the United States, political observers should not overlook one salient feature:

the antiwar community in America has been more concerned with the damage wrought to U.S. world standing by Vietnam than it has been with turning tail and running away. The debate within theAmerican community

over foreign policy has not focused on rejecting intervention and cooper ation, but on what should be the limits and responsibilities of U.S. power and influence. I believe we can safely argue that traditional American

isolationism will not become rampant, unless our politicians and statesmen

permit a broad failure in our political leadership.
Yet there is a danger of a new moral isolation, brought about inpart by our

failure to see that recovery and prosperity, as found in Europe, does not mean that the job is done. Nor must we permit our weariness with war and

responsibility to trap us into believing that we can now separate ourselves from a deep and lasting involvement in the rest of the world. On the

contrary, we are now fully committed to playing a major role in the future of mankind. Historian John Lukacs declared several years ago that “there is

still evidence that youthfulness, resilience, adaptability and the idealistic inclination?all traditional American characteristics?continue to exist and

that, in their proper context, they may play a beneficent role in the world history of nations.” Vietnam may have somewhat deflated and hurt these

American characteristics but I believe that this role is still in the American

future, not, as some argue, behind us.
We can?and we must?readjust the scale and nature of our involvements,

and manage these changes intelligently. But we must be careful not to act in

haste, not to explore a shortsighted and ultimately futile moral disengage ment from the world. There are equal dangers?of overinvolvement and

blind abstention. We must carefully steer a course between the two, a thought which led Theodore Roosevelt to contend that the people of the United States had no choice about whether to “play a great part in the

world. This has been determined for us by fate, by the march of events. We have to play that part. All that we can decide iswhether we shall play it

well or ill.”What was true yesterday is equally so today.


In recent years, we have seen the development of a central paradox: that

while the United States and the Soviet Union have become more powerful

in strictlymilitary terms, our ability to use this power has become more limited.We must not underestimate the latent power and effects of nuclear


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weapons. They are still of central importance in relations among the major nations of the world. But now, at a time of mutual deterrence, their

mystique is dwindling and other expressions of power are emerging in competition with them.

We are living in a new age of pluralism: The bonds of alliances are

both in theWest and in the Communist world. Sino-Soviet rivalry has become a threat to peace, and firm evidence that the Communist

monolith is no more. The game of world politics now has a host of new players in the developing world. Individual countries are making new

diplomatic approaches and arrangements with little reference to the super powers that once were virtually the sole custodians of security. Even Soviet

military occupation of Czechoslovakia has failed to quash hopeful develop ments in Eastern Europe.

In today’s world, power isproving tobe persuasive only to the extent that it is appropriate to local circumstances and the interests of local powers. We

are discovering a new definition of power that goes beyond military might. We have rediscovered the insight of Romano Guardini that power “presup

poses spirit, that reality inman which renders him capable of extricating himself from the immediate context of nature in order to direct it in

The plain fact is that, in the world of today, there is a much greater play

of national capabilities; and they should be concentrated on economic development through multilateral means. We are no longer the only source

of help against threats to the security of Southeast Asia, or against poverty. Hopeful developments there will be lasting only if they spring from efforts

by local countries, and if they command broad popular support.
Our experience in Southeast Asia points to a central dilemma in foreign

policy: the difficulty of reconciling stability with change, not only to resist Communist takeover of underdeveloped nations but to preclude chaos from

spreading so far and fast that the security of our principal allies is

Today we recognize that the stability of Soviet-American relations is

necessary for the survival of the world. But we also recognize that unless

there can be change in the world?economic, social, and political change within countries and in international society?then stability itselfwill prove

fruitless and self-defeating.
We must findways to promote change within a framework of order, or the

future of theworld will be tyrannized by either anarchy or repression. We can begin by supporting effortswithin Europe to move away from more than twenty years of confrontation to a new European Commonwealth of

Nations embracing the entire Continent.
The United States no longer has the dominating voice in European

politics; nor should we wish it. But we are a European power, deeply involved in providing security and confidence, without which there would

be no hope of change.
All this means, of course, that we must build our policy toward Europe


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around reality, not illusion. National sovereignty still remains the heart of

European politics. The gravity of regional institutions and cooperation has

been an astounding postwar phenomenon, but there still is no regional taxing power to raise funds for defense and regional security. Nor are there

regional legislative institutions which reflect the desires of diverse national constituencies. Britain’s entry into the Common Market could inject new life

into the European integration movement. While this would be a most welcome step, it could, particularly if Britain and France assumed a new

joint form of European leadership, create additional complex problems for

U.S. foreign policy.
There has been some movement in the United States today to reduce

sharply and quickly our commitment to NATO, before we work out firm understandings with all nations in Europe?East and West?on the future of

the Continent.
Would this be wise? As I see it,we will not achieve mutual and balanced

force reductions ifwe act first and alone; we will not convince the Soviet Union to accept rules of civilized behavior in Eastern Europe ifwe lose interest in European affairs; we will not reassure our allies that we are con cerned with the future of Europe ifwe are insensitive to their anxieties

and needs.

We must show that our partnership with Europe really means something, and support efforts to resolve the division of the Continent. As an additional

part of the new diplomacy we should encourage our allies in their proposal for a European Security Conference, and realize that this conference can be

part of the political process that may help achieve what we want?troop reductions throughout Europe. We should recognize, of course, that many of our European allies desire a full and realistic settlement of the Berlin question before they will be willing to move ahead with this proposed conference.

We should make consultation, particularly on force levels, a constant on-going effort?with regular meetings at the highest level?not a vehicle for

showmanship and American lecturing to our European allies. Above all, we should be extremely careful in not permitting the consultation mechanism ever to deteriorate to the point where European confidence in the U.S.

nuclear umbrella is either seriously diminished or destroyed.
We should encourage and support bilateral political contacts between our

allies and the nations of theWarsaw Pact, including recent West German efforts to improve relations with the Soviet Union and the Eastern Euro pean States. Both the United States and our European friends must work

for expanded trade and unilateral relations between East and West.
Most importantly of all, we should help tomake the NATO Alliance an international instrument for peaceful engagement, not a rigid institution

committed to the past. With our allies, we can help to liquidate the legacy ofmilitary confrontation. But thiswill require a new American awareness of

Europe’s needs, problems, and hopes. This is at the very heart of the new diplomacy of partnership and reconciliation.

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Despite their increasing parity in certain areas of nuclear weaponry and defense, it is important not to ignore that the fundamental question before the Soviet Union and the United States now is not who should be

the superior or enforcer, but rather, according to Robert E. Osgood, “how much ofwhat kinds of strategic weapons is enough for assured destruction, with perhaps an extra margin for damage limitation.” We must be continu

ously alert to redefining the boundaries and scope of this question. Congressional limitation of the ABM and declarations on limiting the

involvement of U.S. troops in conflict abroad have also given the nod from the United States for agreements of substance and scope. The details of current Soviet and U.S. proposals cannot be discussed with any accuracy, and I cannot talk about hypotheticals. However, now thatMIRV has begun to be deployed on both Poseidon and Minuteman III, United States and Soviet negotiators must make every effort to reach agreements that are

I do not think thatwe have the luxury of time or opportunity to reject a

limited ban or curtailment of any system, and insist on a comprehensive

agreement. This would be the ideal. However, we must not reject making some progress ifagreement cannot be reached on all systems.

We have valuable precedents to support Presidential overtures of a conciliatory nature. In 1958 President Eisenhower offered to halt American

testing of nuclear weapons for a period of one year from the beginning of negotiations on a formal treaty if the United Kingdom and the Soviet

Union would follow suit. This mutual moratorium was preserved for nearly

three years.
In 1963 President Kennedy again ordered a halt to testing of nuclear

weapons in the atmosphere and proposed tomaintain the ban so long as the Russians did likewise. They responded, and the result was the historic

Test-Ban Treaty?a proposal I had long urged.
We now have pledges from many countries to adhere to the nuclear

non-proliferation treaty. Of course, we must not ignore that serious obstacles remain before this treaty can go into effect.Many countries, including large ones, have neither signed nor ratified this treaty, largely because they feel its impact is to disarm the unarmed. This feeling can be worked on, no

doubt, and fears alleviated. The difficult problem comes, however, from

those nations which, consciously or unconsciously, wish to keep open their

It is important that President Nixon halt deployment of ABM and delay

further deployment of MIRV. Like President Kennedy, he holds in his hands the keys to arms control?or to an uncertain world of mutual terror.

We would run no serious risks; and we could always continue our programs if the Russians failed to respond. I believe that such a moratorium can succeed; and all mankind?all future generations?would forever be in our

debt. But even ifwe do succeed?even ifwe do stop the dangerous and


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AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY 201 destabilizing weapons now being prepared by both sides, therewill be other

in the future.
This prospect increases the importance of the SALT talks.Whether or not

we succeed in stopping the MIRV, the ABM and the SS-9 before it is too late,we must work patiently with the Soviet Union to achieve one common goal: continued survival in a world where nuclear weapons technology itself

is our greatest enemy.
No nation dare ignore that technology has eroded the ground out from

under traditional concepts of security. Today we are faced with a balance of terror. From now on, nations must bare much of their security on greater

political understanding, orwe will have no security at all!
I do not argue that we can trust the Russians in all of our relations with

them.We cannot: they are still not prepared to consider agreements with us or with our allies in many areas of the world in which competition and conflicts of interest could still have deadly consequences. All we have to do

is to look at the sudden rapid growth of Soviet naval power in the

Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and Red Sea to be sufficiently alerted to expanding Russian threats throughout the world. Despite these realities, unless we transform Soviet-American relations in the critical area of nuclear weapons, we may not live to debate other questions of serious but lesser

This will require a new diplomacy, managed with skill and patience, and

extending far beyond the SALT talks.We must recognize that there is no easy exit from the many dilemmas facing us; we must take full account of the interests of our allies, in Europe and elsewhere; and we must seek ways to turn all aspects of our relationship with the Soviet Union from the sterile

byways of military confrontation into the more hopeful paths of political accommodation. On their part, moreover, the Soviets must not mistake current U.S. disillusion and uncertainty about Vietnam as an opening for them to take a leapfrogging lead in nuclear weaponry. Perhaps the most distinguishing hallmark in the American culture is the ideal of “fair play” for all. The American people react instinctively when this ideal is grossly or seriously violated and they would not tolerate in any manner any inkling that the Soviet Union or any other nation was ever again trying to “pull a fast one” on us.

Mutual trust between Soviet Russia and the United States is a hard goal to pursue but we must work at this night and day. Precisely because our two societies differ in their fundamental concepts of man and community, individual freedom and social justice, the path toward mutual trust is an

unending and perilous one. Long before the world ever heard of Lenin and Stalin, de Toqueville set down some of the differences between our societies. The American and Russian nations, he stated, seemed “marked out by the

will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe . . . the principal instrument of the former is freedom; of the latter, servitude.” In the ensuing time since de Toqueville made these reflections, our societies have contin

ued on their diverse, separate development. Over the past decade we have heard arguments advanced that our two countries are “converging” and no


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doubt there is some truth in this. Our patterns of economic growth, educational structures, and scientific concerns have certain parallel tenden cies. At the same time, however, we will probably continue tomove into the future along the lines of our separate histories, national spirit, and distinc tive political inheritance.

America and Russia, therefore, do view each others intentions and policies from perspectives which are quite different. Yet this should only

compel us to tryharder to understand each other. We could usefully begin annual working meetings at the highest level between American and Russian leaders. And we should expand trade relations, cultural contacts,

and the search for peaceful engagement in many areas of science, com merce, and technology. This must be a part of the new diplomacy.

Americans and Russians do have, we must not forget, one thing in common;

that is, they both recognize the need, in the phrase of .H. Uddell-Hart, for “mutual restraint for mutual security.’, Man, they both insist, must control

both himself and his own destiny?if he is to be fully human. In practice

they differ over what thismeans. But by proceeding on a step-by-step basis,

Russia and the United States have built some elements for integrating trust into their relationships. We must move forward from


American relations with the Soviet Union are of central importance. But other developments in the 1970s demand our attention; other factors will

influence what the United States can usefully do in the world.

Most important among these is the emergence of China as a major power in Asia. Today, Chinese power is still more psychological than factual, although it is growing. It would be a fatal error ifwe let ignorance and

unreasoning fear in the face of future Chinese military power close the door

to political understandings with Peking.
We must do all we can to end the isolation of China, helping to bring her

into the community of nations, free from paranoia and committed to

respecting the legitimate rights of her neighbors. An isolated China is a danger to all theworld; a China that is involved with the outside world will

still pose problems, and perhaps even threats of a serious nature, but at least

however, here?together.

there will be some hope that accommodation will replace antagonism. The resumption of American-Chinese discussions inWarsaw was

and is a hopeful development. We must exert greater initiatives in the relaxation of

trade and travel restrictions between China and the United States. Cultural exchanges can also serve to broaden the contacts between our peoples.

They are modest beginnings; and theywill not be enough. We must also realize that the legacy of embittered Chinese-American relations will not be overcome in a year, or perhaps even in a decade. But we can do much to come to terms with China, and come to terms with ourselves regarding

a visible in our relations, before China will respond to our efforts. Our

China. Yet itmay well take years before these efforts produce change

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China, Russia,


taken in full consultation with our allies?can and should lead to the eventual diplomatic recognition of China. This too must be a

part of the new diplomacy.
President Nixons outstretch to China, now resulting in a hopeful visit, is a

generous gesture, especially coming from a leader whose public career was built on contrary sentiments. No American can fail to applaud Mr. Nixon s

decision and Pekings welcome response to it.At the same time, however, responsible critics are correct in judging that while by itself Mr. Nixon’s move was not unsettling, when linked to his subsequent new international

economic policies, the China move has created certain difficulties for the

United States. Thus, the U.S.-Japanese relationship was badly hurt by the one-two punch of these moves which, to many Japanese, have seemed

directly aimed at them. As with somany other Nixon departures, an initially good move may create more problems forus than it resolves, chiefly because

the Nixon Administration has generally failed to take the follow-through steps necessary tomake the new policy a viable one.

It would be inappropriate to dash cold water on what one hopes and

prays will become a momentous opening for U.S.-China relationships. Yet,

like Russia, China is also a creature of history, possessing its own glorious traditions and philosophy of life.No matter how ruthless communist rule or the “cultural revolution” may have been, these traditions are still imprinted

on the Chinese character.
As nations unfurl dreams of a China open overnight to the world, dreams

which include such things as a market of 800 million Chinese customers, theymight do well to examine the past. Mr. Nixon is not the firstWesterner to reach out to China. Others have tried before, often without success. The

classic example was England’s King George Ill’s proposal for diplomatic

relations. In reply, Emperor Ch’en Leing (1735-95) politely noted that “our ceremonies and codes of laws differ so completely from your own that, even

if your envoy were able to acquire the rudiments of our civilization, you could not possibly transplant our manners and customs to your alien soil. . . . I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures.” Our era is an entirely different one. We may be able to open up respectful and mutually beneficial relations with China. I

have always held this as a high aspiration. Yet ifprogress comes, itwill probably be only through dint of hard efforton the part of both nations. We must therefore not allow our hopes to be ungrounded in reality or otherwise

theymay turn into unfulfilled illusions.
We cannot afford to neglect, further, that our search for a common ground

with China also may involve a search for a tripartite common ground among


and the United States. This will involve most delicate since in our own national interests we can never permit either of

these great nations to possess a veto over U.S. policy toward the other. They

may at present be geopolitical enemies but thismay not always remain so. Our aim should be to deal with both nations on terms of trust, honor, and


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We see today the rising of a new Asia. We must therefore continuously

remind ourselves that the primary responsibility for security and develop ment inAsia rests with the Asian nations themselves.

They must take the lead. It is theywho best understand themselves?their past and their hopes for the future.We should be prepared to cooperate?to
be a helpful partner, not a dominating force.We do have an interest in

Asia?but we are not an Asian power. We are a Pacific power.
Chief among these Asian nations is Japan, with whom we have strong ties. These ties must be continued and expanded as the best hope of

promoting development and stability in Asia without holding the ring ourselves.

Japan is uniquely situated. She is the most powerful Asian country?not in military might nor in nuclear weapons, but in economic strength; she has a

thorough knowledge of the Asian continent and its diverse cultures, wide

spread trading partnerships, and an inventive approach to new problems. These qualities enhance Japan’s ability to play a leading role in helping Asia

to enter a new era of political, social, and economic development.
Recent U.S. policies and hints toward Japan have been quite discourag

ing. President Nixon’s economic controls have dealt a harsh blow to Japan’s economy and his failure to signal Prime Minister Sato about America’s overtures to China was at best inept diplomacy. Defense Secretary Laird’s ambiguous statements on Japan’s possible nuclear future have left confusion

in their wake, despite the clear comment by Japanese leaders that the nuclear option will not be taken. With Japan considerably confused by

recent U.S. policies, it could well begin to look inward to find ways for protecting its own national interests. Already both China and South Korea

have expressed alarm at this Japenese self-questioning and ifwrong turns are taken by Japan, the ill-conceived manner inwhich Mr. Nixon made his

moves could have very serious repercussions onAsia’s future.

America should continue, particularly during this period of transition, to be directly concerned with Asian affairs.We seek an early end to the Vietnam war; but we cannot ignore the real problems that will continue in

Southeast Asia once we are gone fromVietnam. Without becoming an Asian power, deeply enmeshed in the politics and problems of that continent, we can and should support hopeful efforts by local peoples to work out then

own destiny.
In September 1968 at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, I gave

my views on Southeast Asia in a speech entitled “The New Strategy for Peace.” I believe whatever role we play in Southeast Asia should carefully follow three guidelines: self-help, regional and multilateral assistance, and

selective American involvement.
First, local countries must manifest a willingness to help themselves, both

to provide security and to undertake economic and social development; and

they must have the courage to organize their own affairs in ways that will provide them with a stable basis for governing.

Second, primary responsibility forhelping individual nations provide for

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their security and economic development should restwith the nations in the area and with multilateral and regional organizations.

Third, American help should be selective and carefully measured. Our

effortsmust be justified by our own interests and responsibilities; and they

should be concentrated on economic development through multilateral means. We are no longer the only source of help against threats to the

security of Southeast Asia, or against poverty. Hopeful developments there will be lasting only if they spring from effortsby local countries, and if they

command broad popular support.

Elsewhere in theworld the dilemma of change versus order will be even

more difficult to resolve, yet more pressing, as population growth, poverty, and unrest disrupt whole continents.

There are more than a billion people in the world today in countries where the average annual income per person is less than 100 dollars. Hundreds of millions live on less than fifty dollars a year. Evidence has

shown us that poverty and deprivation, coupled with the beginning of education and hope, create a revolution of rising expectations. And people all over theworld are “in touch.” The transistor radio and communications satellite will make this even more so in the immediate future.

The man in Korea, or Guatemala, or Zambia knows what modern society can mean to his family. He knows what the United States has. He knows about our wealth. He knows about the vast resources at our command, and at the command of other fortunate nations. This knowledge helps towiden even further the growing gap between the “have” and “have not” peoples of the earth. Inequality is polarizing the world between north and south, rich and poor, white and non-white. This is a recipe for strife,both between the world’s divided halves, and throughout the developing world. “Where there is constant want there is no peace.”

As an American I take pride in the well-being and relative affluence we have been able to create for an increasing number of citizens. But I also feel

shame at the hunger, poverty, and deprivation which surrounds this pros perous island of theWestern world.

There are voices, even in America, which tell us to deny that these problems exist or thatwe can do little or nothing to solve them. There are voices of despair, worn out and exhausted. They would deny the America which James Russell Lowell spoke about a century ago:

She that lifts up the manhood of the poor,

She of the open soul and open door,
With room about her hearth for all mankind.

It is impossible to deny that critics of American foreign aid and of international multilateral assistance do not have considerable merit in their charges. Too much has been attempted and too quickly. We were once told that long-range planning, five-year plans, infrastructure development and loans, not grants, would magically result inworld development, especially in

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Latin America. This has not proven the case, chiefly because, I believe,

development programs have rarely succeeded in democratically educating

all the people in developing countries to participate in the development process. But ifmany development and foreign assistance programs have not matched their aspirations, this does not mean they have been total failures. Their contributions to social and economic development have been im

mense. We must continuously correct their failures and move into the future.

Today our material contribution to the developing world is far below the scant one percent of GNP proposed for development aid by the United Na tions Conference on Trade and Development. Our foreign aid has dropped to a postwar low.We have fallen behind many of our European allies. The search for peace is more than withdrawing from Vietnam. Pope Paul reminded us that “development is the new name forpeace.”

By ignoring this fact,we are taking a tremendous risk.We are trying to have the best of all possible worlds?rightly giving up unilateral American peacekeeping, but at the same time turning our backs on the need for economic development. This will notwork; itwill only be self-defeating. Let us face the problem squarely; either we will take a strong lead in the development of the poorer half of the world, or one day its great social and economic problems will engulf us all as surely as would a nuclear war. We

must choose our weapons to secure the peace: ideas and resources today, or guns and troops tomorrow.

We Americans, as part of our responsibility to mankind, must commit ourselves anew to economic and social development, including control of the

growth of population. Our commitment should be to nation-building?and not to buying favors in the developed world. Our interest is in having

nations that are independent and secure?and thereby free to pursue their own development within the community of nations. But to do this effective lywe must channel an increasing flow of aid through multilateral institu

tions. This will place heavy demands upon the United Nations and other

organizations like theWorld Bank to support regional efforts for develop ment in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Currently we spend too much time chiding these organizations rather than supporting them. I am well aware of theirweaknesses, especially such institutions as the Inter-American Development Bank which must become

more responsive to political and administrative realities in both the United States and Latin America if it is to accomplish the herculean tasks before it. I am also conscious that, except perhaps for theWorld Bank, many of the

international and regional institutions often remain insensitive to the prob lems of others outside their purview or regions.

Yet some of the fault with these organizations and institutions rests with theUnited States. At present we pay too little attention to these institutions,

often regarding them as poor relations. Yet formany nations, and inmany parts of the world, only institutions like the UN can provide the help that is needed, free from complications of superpower relations or national self


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This applies to peacekeeping as well. If American peacekeeping is to be curtailed, that does not mean that there can be no peacekeeping. It must be

done by the United Nations or by regional groups. Only this can help to prevent the drift of disordered change into open conflict.

The basis of any system of peacekeeping must be a commitment to

noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries. But this policy will

only work if it is respected by all states?large and small?and only if there is an effective instrument in the United Nations to serve the interests,

not of individual states, but of peace itself.

This means that pledges to recognize the sovereignty and internal politics of other nations must be backed up by United Nations forces which can

patrol borders and supervise free elections. This will require the commit ment of many nations; the United States must be prominent among them.


Finally, for us to understand our future role in the world, we need to change many of our basic ideas about the world, and learn about other nations, other peoples, other cultures, as we have never done before.

In the past quarter century, we have had a foreign policy for the whole world with a half-world understanding. We know much about Europe; we

know far less about Asia; and we are almost totally ignorant about the developing areas of theworld. Indeed, would we have become involved in Vietnam, ifwe had known more about it?There has been and continues to be a “knowledge gap” that threatens our very survival?a glaring gap in

knowledge about the world we live in. Yet, we have made commitments? and commitments without knowledge are dangerous.

For many years the message of the American Revolution was a beacon of hope for all mankind. Then, what we had to say was welcomed by champions of freedom around theworld. But today our ideals are not alone;

theymust compete in a freemarketplace with a host of others. For too long our isolation from the rest of theworld allowed us to think thatwe were the center of it.

Too often our schools are so intent on teaching the myths of American destiny that they ignore the billions of other people who find us as foreign as we find them. Too often our newspapers and television only report events in other lands that directly affect us, or translate events in American terms

even at the price of gross distortion.
We are part of the English-speaking world, and value the role of this

language in communications and the spread of ideas. But our failure to emphasize the importance forAmericans to learn other languages has done

much to isolate us from a true knowledge of other peoples, and has led us to

expect everyone to understand our mother tongue.
We know little even about our two closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico,

and few of us understand French or Spanish, even though these languages are spoken by many of our own people and by those on our borders.

Like other great nations before us, we have too often suffered from the

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myopia of power, imputing to others attitudes about the world that they do not share, and often, in our zeal, imposing our cultural ideas where they are not wanted.

We see others mimicking our material advances?from the automobile to indoor plumbing?but fail to realize that superiority on the assembly line

may not mean superiority inway of life.
This is called the “American challenge”?a challenge to resist unwanted

influences coming from this country. But I say that this is really a challenge to us. We must break with the tradition that leads great nations to practice cultural imperialism. We must show that we can be involved in the world,

without trying to dominate it. Is this possible? I believe it is.
This is a challenge to know ourselves?what is best in our tradition and what would benefit from an infusion of the ideas and experience of others. And it is a challenge to listen intently; to still the cry of our own desires

long enough to hear what others may have to tell us.

This is a challenge to our schools, our universities, and the media, to help us with the new education in world citizenship that we need so urgently.

Only with a better public understanding of the world and its problems can we build a broad-based involvement of our people in the foreign policy of

America?involvement that is necessary if our foreign policy is to serve our nations needs.

It is a challenge to all of us to abandon that element of self-righteousness

that has stigmatized much of our foreign policy?the tendency to substitute moralisms formoraliy, and legalisms for the rule of law.We need to gain a

new perspective on the world and the history of our involvement in it, see ing ourselves neither as saviors uniquely endowed with good, nor as villains

possessed by evil.
We can no longer see all the world as divided between friends and

enemies. We have had a unique experience; we still have much to offer to others; but we will benefit no one?least of all ourselves?if we corrupt our view of the world and all of our foreign policy dilemmas into a simple,

misleading, and often dangerous choice between right and wrong.
The challenge^to our understanding of the world and of ourselves does not mean thatwe must shy away frommaking available to others what we do

have to offer, both in resources and in experience. It is one thing to give freely ofwhat we have; it is quite another to demand that our ways prevail.

This can be our contribution to the search forways to promote stability and ordered change, development and peace, without recourse to fire and sword. Itmay win us few friends; but it should also make us fewer enemies.

We are in a new age of revolution?in political relations, technology, education, and rising expectations. We have come to regard these revolu tions as commonplace, as the destiny of mankind, in coming years. Yet at the same time, we have too often attempted to contain the effects of revolution, by increasing the commitment of American power, often without

much thought about our basic interests in security.
As we have become more involved in theworld, we have permitted an

increasing division between the ideals of our society and the facts of our

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power. We have not always understood that the aspirations of other peoples often follow a tradition thatwe ourselves began. We must findways of being involved in the world that will protect our security, without stifling the legitimate desires of people who strive for their freedom and personal fulfillment.

We must seek peace, without prohibiting change. We must be patient, not

expecting a new world at peace to emerge in a day, a year, or perhaps even in this decade. With Alfred North Whitehead we must be ready to sense

that progress does not come from mere technique or from apocalyptic

aspirations, but that it “consists inmodifying the laws of nature so that the Republic on Earth may conform to that society to be discerned ideally by

the divination of wisdom.”

As we move into tomorrow, we must inspire a new generation of Americans with the hope that our ideals can once again be the cornerstone of our involvement in theworld, not ignoring the continuing facts of power, but not letting them destroy the human dimension of our policy. We must

place greater emphasis on human and personal values?having enough to eat, being able to learn, living free of fear.

I believe we can do it. I believe we can make our ideals powerful again.

My optimism forAmerica, while tempered by the harsh reality of our national experience since 1945, continues unabated. I have great faith in the

coming generation of Americans?it is not afraid of its humanity. Much of our contemporary young American generation has been born into un precedented affluence, yet ithas values which mirror St. Francis ofAssisi.

I do not think it iswrong to think of nations and people in terms of the Spirit, in terms of things that are not mercurial. It ismy view that what this nation is longing for today more than anything else is not just a better economy. I think what it is longing for, above all, is a sense of its compassion, of a justice itbelieves it could have, of a sense of fellowship. It

wants uplift, not scolding.
I think the people of this land want somebody to call the best from them.

And I have never believed that we can get the best out of anybody by telling them only of their failures.

We must also appeal to their hopes and their aspirations. I appeal today to young and old alike to believe that, out of what we have learned, out

of this unbelieveable tragedy of war and suffering,we are a wiser people. I am not sure, but I have the right to believe, and I shall.

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1 Response to American Foreign Policy: The Hard Lessons of War and Peace

  1. nshapi5 says:

    Reblogged this on Assent Magazine .

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