Title: The Menace of Liberal Scholarship
Author: Noam Chomsky
Date: January 2, 1969
Source: Retrieved on 30th October 2020 from chomsky.info
Notes: The New York Review of Books, January 2, 1969

In a recent essay, Conor Cruise O’Brien speaks of the process of “counterrevolutionary subordination,” which poses a threat to scholarly integrity in our own counterrevolutionary society, just as “revolutionary subordination,” a phenomenon often noted and rightly deplored, has undermined scholarly integrity in revolutionary and post-revolutionary situations. He observes that “power in our time has more intelligence in its service, and allows that intelligence more discretion as to its methods, than ever before in history,” and suggests that this development is not altogether encouraging, since we have moved perceptibly towards the state of “a society maimed through the systematic corruption of its intelligence.” He urges that “increased and specific vigilance, not just the elaboration of general principles, is required from the intellectual community toward specific growing dangers to its integrity.”[1]

Senator Fulbright has developed a similar theme, in an important and perceptive speech.[2] He describes the failure of the universities to form “an effective counterweight to the military-industrial complex by strengthening their emphasis on the traditional values of our democracy.” Instead they have “joined the monolith, adding greatly to its power and influence.” Specifically, he refers to the failure of the social scientists, “who ought to be acting as responsible and independent critics of the Government’s policies,” but who, instead, become the agents of these policies. “While young dissenters plead for resurrection of the American promise, their elders continue to subvert it.” With “the surrender of independence, the neglect of teaching, and the distortion of scholarship,” the university “is not only failing to meet its responsibilities to its students; it is betraying a public trust.”

The extent of this betrayal might be argued; its existence, as a threatening tendency, is hardly in doubt. Senator Fulbright mentions a primary cause: the access to money and influence. Others might be mentioned; for example, a highly restrictive, almost universally shared, ideology and the inherent dynamics of professionalization. As to the former, Fulbright has cited elsewhere the observation of Tocqueville that “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” Free institutions certainly exist, but a tradition of passivity and conformism restricts their use — a cynic might say that this is why they continue to exist.

The impact of professionalization is also clear. The “free-floating intellectual” may occupy himself with problems because of their inherent interest and importance, perhaps to little effect. The professional, however, tends to define his problems according to the technique that he has mastered, and has a natural desire to apply his skills. Commenting on this process, Senator Clark quotes the remarks of Dr. Harold Agnew, Director of the Los Alamos Laboratories Weapons Division: “The basis of advanced technology is innovation and nothing is more stifling to innovation than seeing one’s product not used or ruled out of consideration on flimsy premises involving public world opinion”[3] — “a shocking statement and a dangerous one,” as Clark rightly comments. In much the same way, behavioral scientists who believe themselves to be in possession of certain techniques of control and manipulation will tend to search for problems to which their knowledge and skills might be relevant, defining these as the “important problems”; and it will come as no surprise that they occasionally express their contempt for “flimsy premises involving public world opinion” that restrict the application of these skills. Thus among engineers there are the “weapons cultists” who construct their bombs and missiles, and among the behavioral scientists we find the technicians who design and carry out “experiments with population and resources control methods” in Vietnam.[4]

These various factors — access to power, shared ideology, professionalization — may or may not be deplorable in themselves, but there can be no doubt that they interact in such a way as to pose a serious threat to the integrity of scholarship in fields that are struggling for intellectual content and are thus particularly susceptible to the workings of a kind of Gresham’s Law. What is more, the subversion of scholarship poses a threat to society at large. The danger is particularly great in a society that encourages specialization and stands in awe of technical expertise. In such circumstances, the opportunities are great for the abuse of knowledge and technique — to be more exact, the claim to knowledge and technique. Taking note of these dangers, one reads with concern the claims of some social scientists that their discipline is essential for the training of those to whom they refer as “the mandarins of the future.”[5] Philosophy and literature still “have their value,” so Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT informs us, but it is psychology, sociology, systems analysis, and political science that provide the knowledge by which “men of power are humanized and civilized.” In no small measure, the Vietnam war was designed and executed by these new mandarins, and it testifies to the concept of humanity and civilization that they are likely to bring to the exercise of power.[6]

Is the new access to power of the technical intelligentsia a delusion or a growing reality? There are those who perceive the “skeletal structure of a new society” in which the leadership will rest “with the research corporation, the industrial laboratories, the experimental stations, and the universities,” with “the scientists, the mathematicians, the economists, and the engineers of the new computer technology”…”not only the best talents, but eventually the whole complex of social prestige and social status, will be rooted in the intellectual and scientific communities.”[7] A careful look at the “skeletal structure” of this new society, if such it is, is hardly reassuring. As Daniel Bell, the Columbia University sociologist, points out, “it has been war rather than peace that has been largely responsible for the acceptance of planning and technocratic modes in government,” and our present “mobilized society” is one that is geared to the “social goal” of “military and war preparedness.” Bell’s relative optimism regarding the new society comes from his assumption that the university is “the place where theoretical knowledge is sought, tested, and codified in a disinterested way,” and that “the mobilized postures of the Cold War and the space race” are a temporary aberration, a reaction to Communist aggressiveness.

In contrast, a strong argument can be made that the university has, to a significant degree, betrayed its public trust; that matters of foreign policy are very much “a reflex of internal political forces” as well as economic institutions (rather than “a judgment about the national interest, involving strategy decisions based on the calculations of an opponent’s strength and intentions”); that the mobilization for war is not “irony” but a natural development, given our present social and economic organization; that the technologists who achieve power are those who can perform a service for existing institutions; and that nothing but catastrophe is to be expected from still further centralization of decision-making in government and a narrowing base of corporate affiliates. The experience of the past few years gives little reason to feel optimistic about these developments.

What grounds are there for supposing that those whose claim to power is based on knowledge and technique will be more benign in their exercise of power than those whose claim is based on wealth or aristocratic origin? On the contrary, one might expect the new mandarin to be dangerously arrogant, aggressive, and incapable of adjusting to failure, as compared to his predecessor, whose claim to power was not diminished by honesty about the limitations of his knowledge, lack of work to do, or demonstrable mistakes.[8] In the Vietnam catastrophe, all of these factors are detectable. There is no point in overgeneralizing, but neither history nor psychology nor sociology gives us any particular reason to look forward with hope to the rule of the new mandarins.

In general, one would expect any group with access to power and affluence to construct an ideology that will justify this state of affairs on grounds of the general welfare. For just this reason, Bell’s thesis that intellectuals are moving closer to the center of power, or at least being absorbed more fully into the decision-making structure, is to some extent supported by the phenomenon of counterrevolutionary subordination noted earlier. That is, one might anticipate that, as power becomes more accessible, the inequities of the society will recede from vision, the status quo will seem less flawed, and the preservation of order will become a matter of transcendent importance. The fact is that American intellectuals are increasingly achieving the status of a doubly privileged elite: first, as American citizens, with respect to the rest of the world; and second, because of their role in American society, which is surely quite central, whether or not Bell’s prediction proves accurate. In such a situation, the dangers of counterrevolutionary subordination, both in the domestic and international spheres, are apparent. I think that O’Brien is entirely correct in pointing to the necessity for “increased and specific vigilance” to the danger of counterrevolutionary subordination, of which, as he correctly remarks, “we hear almost nothing.”

Several years ago Seymour M. Lipset enthusiastically proclaimed in Political Man that “the fundamental political problems of the industrial revolution have been solved,” and that “this very triumph of democratic social evolution in the West ends domestic politics for those intellectuals who must have ideologies or utopias to motivate them to social action.” During this period of faith in “the end of ideology,” even enlightened and informed commentators were inclined to present remarkable evaluations of the state of American society. Daniel Bell, for example, wrote that “in the mass consumption economy all groups can easily acquire the outward badges of status and erase the visible demarcations.”[9] Writing in Commentary, in October, 1964, he maintained that we have in effect already achieved “the egalitarian and socially mobile society which the ‘free floating intellectuals’ associated with the Marxist tradition have been calling for during the last hundred years.” For all the detectable general rise in standard of living, the judgment of Gunnar Myrdal seems far more appropriate to the actual situation: “The common idea that America is an immensely rich and affluent country is very much an exaggeration. American affluence is heavily mortgaged. America carries a tremendous burden of debt to its poor people. That this debt must be paid is not only a wish of the do-gooders. Not paying it implies a risk for the social order and for democracy as we have known it.”[10] Surely the claim that all groups can easily enter the mass consumption economy and “erase the visible demarcations” is a considerable exaggeration.

Similar evaluations of American society appear frequently in contemporary scholarship. To mention just one example, consider the analysis that Adam Ulam, the Harvard expert on Russian Communism, gives of Marx’s concept of capitalism: “One cannot blame a contemporary observer like Marx for his conviction that industrial fanaticism and self-righteousness were indelible traits of the capitalist. That the capitalist would grow more humane, that he would slacken in his ceaseless pursuit of accumulation and expansion, were not impressions readily warranted by the English social scene of the 1840’s and ’50’s.”[11] Again, for all the important changes in industrial society over the past century, it still comes as a surprise to hear that the capitalist has slackened in his ceaseless pursuit of accumulation and expansion.[12]

Remarks such as these illustrate a failure to sense the reality of contemporary society, which may not be directly traceable to the newly found (or at least aspired to) access to power and affluence, but which is, nevertheless, what one would expect in the developing ideology of a new privileged elite.

Various strands of this ideology are drawn together in a recent article in Encounter by Zbigniew Brzezinski of Columbia, in which a number of the conceptions and attitudes that appear in recent social thought are summarized — I am tempted to say “parodied.” Brzezinski too sees a “profound change” taking place in the intellectual community, as “the largely humanist-oriented, occasionally ideologically-minded intellectual-dissenter, who sees his role largely in terms of proffering social critiques, is rapidly being displaced either by experts and specialists, who become involved in special governmental undertakings, or by the generalists-integrators, who become in effect house-ideologues for those in power, providing overall intellectual integration for disparate actions.”

He suggests that these “organization-oriented, application-minded intellectuals” can be expected to introduce broader and more relevant concerns into the political system. They are a new meritocratic elite, “taking over American life, utilising the universities, exploiting the latest techniques of communications, harnessing as rapidly as possible the most recent technological devices.” Presumably, their civilizing impact is revealed by the great progress that has been made, in this new “historical era” which America alone has already entered, with respect to the problems that confounded the bumbling political leaders of past eras — the problems of the cities, of pollution, of waste and destructiveness, of exploitation and poverty. Under the leadership of this “new breed of politicians-intellectuals,” America has become “the creative society; the others, consciously and unconsciously, are emulative.” We see this, for example, in mathematics, the biological sciences, anthropology, philosophy, cinema, music, historical scholarship, and so on, where other cultures, hopelessly outdistanced, merely observe and imitate what America creates. Thus we move toward a new ” ‘super-culture,’ strongly influenced by American life, with its own universal electronic-computer language…,” where an enormous and growing “psycho-cultural gap” separates America from the rest of the “developed world.”

It is impossible even to imagine what Brzezinski thinks a “universal electronic-computer language” may be — to anyone who knows, the reference is ridiculous — or what cultural values he thinks will be created by the new “technologically dominant and conditioned technetron” who, he apparently believes, may prove to be the “truer repository of that indefinable quality we call human.” It would hardly be rewarding to try to disentangle Brzezinski’s confusions and misunderstandings. What is interesting, rather, is the way his dim awareness of current developments in science and technology is used to provide an ideological justification for the “increasing role in the key decision-making institutions of individuals with special intellectual and scientific attainments,” the new “organisation-oriented, application-minded intellectuals” based in the university, “the creative eye of the massive communications complex.”

Parallel to the assumption that all is basically well at home is the widely articulated belief that the problems of international society, too, would be subject to intelligent management, were it not for the machinations of the Communists. One aspect of this complacence is the belief that the Cold War was entirely the result of Russian (later Chinese) aggressiveness. For example, Daniel Bell has described the origins of the Cold War in the following terms: “When the Russians began stirring up the Greek guerrilla EAM in what had been tacitly acknowledged at Teheran as a British sphere of influence, the Communists began their cry against Anglo-American imperialism. Following the rejection of the Marshall Plan and the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February, 1948, the Cold War was on in earnest.”[13] This will hardly do as a balanced and objective statement of the origins of the Cold War — in particular, the remark concerning the Russians in Greece is not supported by the historical record, though it is hardly necessary to document British and American intervention[14] ; but the distortion it reflects is an inherent element in Bell’s optimism about the new society, since it enables him to maintain that our Cold War position is purely reactive, and that once Communist belligerence is tamed, the new technical intelligentsia can turn its attention to the construction of a more decent society.

A related element in the ideology of the liberal intellectual is the firm belief in the fundamental generosity of Western policy toward the third world. Ulam, again, provides a typical example: “Problems of an international society undergoing an economic and ideological revolution seem to defy…the generosity — granted its qualifications and errors — that has characterized the policy of the leading democratic powers of the West.”[15] Even Hans Morgenthau succumbs to this illusion. He summarizes a discussion of intervention with these remarks: “…we have intervened in the political, military and economic affairs of other countries to the tune of far in excess of $100 billion, and we are at present involved in a costly and risky war in order to build a nation in South Vietnam. Only the enemies of the United States will question the generosity of these efforts, which have no parallel in history.”[16] Whatever one may think about the $100 billion, it is difficult to see why anyone should have taken seriously the professed “generosity” of our effort to build a nation in South Vietnam, any more than the similar professions of benevolence by our many forerunners in such enterprises. Generosity has never been a commodity in short supply among powers bent on extending their hegemony.

Still another strand in the ideology of the new emerging elite is the concern for order, for maintaining the status quo, which is now seen to be favorable and essentially just. An excellent example is the statement by fourteen leading political scientists and historians on US Asian policy, distributed last December (1967) by the Freedom House Public Affairs Institute.[17] These scholars refer to themselves as “the moderate segment of the academic community.” The designation is accurate; they stand midway between the two varieties of extremism, one which demands that we destroy everyone who stands in our path, the other that we adopt the principles of international behavior that we require of every other world power. The purpose of their statement is to “challenge those among us who, overwhelmed by guilt complexes, find comfort in asserting or implying that we are always wrong, our critics always right, and that only doom lies ahead.” They find our record in Asia to be “remarkably good,” — and applaud our demonstrated ability to rectify mistakes, our “capacity for pragmatism and self-examination” and “healthy avoidance of narrow nationalism,” capacities which distinguish us “among the major societies of this era.”

The moderate scholars warn that “to avoid a major war in the Asia-Pacific region, it is essential that the United States continue to deter, restrain, and counterbalance Chinese power.” True, since the Korean War, “China has exercised great prudence in avoiding a direct confrontation with the United States or the Soviet Union,” and it is likely that China will “continue to substitute words for acts while concentrating upon domestic issues.” Still, we cannot be certain of this, and must therefore continue our efforts to tame the dragon. One of the gravest problems posed by China is its policy of “isolationist fanaticism,” obviously a serious threat to peace. Another danger is the terrifying figure of Mao Tsetung, a romantic, who refuses to accept the “bureaucratism essential to the ordering of this enormously complex, extremely difficult society.” The moderate scholars would feel much more at ease with the familiar sort of technical expert, who is committed to the “triumph of bureaucratism,” and who refrains from romantic efforts to undermine the party apparatus and the discipline that it imposes. There is no doubt a substantial threat posed by China, from the point of view of the moderate scholars, though their statement fails to express it. The threat is revealed by such remarks as this, by a liberal journalist from the Philippines:[18]

In China a fourth of the human race have found the solution to the twin scourges of Asia: poverty and ignorance. Not completely, to be sure, but these have ceased to be the big problems of survival that they are in the rest of Asia. In evaluating the achievement of man, his ideology, the elimination of poverty and ignorance and disease — in a nation peopled by 700 million — is a feat to compare with the proudest successes of America and Russia in space exploration. Where man has done away with greed, envy, dishonesty, he has scored a signal victory for the human spirit. Man is uplifted and the human spirit is exulted. This is the reality of New China.

The spread of such attitudes threatens the long-range goals outlined prophetically long ago by Brooks Adams: “…to enter upon the development of Eastern Asia and to reduce it to part of our own economic system.” In order to contain this threat, American policy seeks to hamper the development of China, while American scholarship raises the specter of Chinese aggression and fanaticism.

Moreover, the moderate scholars announce their support for “our basic position” in Vietnam. A Communist victory in Vietnam, they argue, would “gravely jeopardize the possibilities for a political equilibrium in Asia, seriously damage our credibility, deeply affect the morale — and the policies — of our Asian allies and the neutrals.” By a “political equilibrium,” they do not, of course, refer to the status quo as of 1945–6 or as outlined by international agreement at Geneva in 1954. They do not explain why the credibility of the United States is more important than the credibility of the indigenous elements in Vietnam which have dedicated themselves to a war of national liberation. Nor do they explain why the morale of the military dictatorships of Thailand and Taiwan must be preserved. They merely hint darkly of the dangers of a third world war, dangers which are real enough, and which are increased when advocates of revolutionary change face an external counterrevolutionary force. In principle, such dangers can be lessened either by damping revolutionary ardor or by withdrawing the counterrevolutionary force. The latter, however, is unthinkable, irresponsible.

The crucial assumption in the program of the moderate scholars is that we must not encourage “those elements committed to the thesis that violence is the best means of effecting change.” It is important to recognize that it is not violence as such to which the moderate scholars object. On the contrary, they approve of our violence in Vietnam which, as they are well aware, enormously exceeds that of the Vietnamese enemy. To further underline this point, they cite as our greatest triumph in Southeast Asia the “dramatic changes” that have taken place in Indonesia — of which surely the most dramatic has been the massacre of several hundred thousand people. But this massacre, like our extermination of Vietnamese, is not a use of violence to effect social change, and is therefore legitimate. What is more, it may be that those massacred were largely ethnic Chinese and landless peasants, and that the “counter-coup” in effect reestablished traditional authority more firmly.[19] If so, all the more reason why we should not deplore this use of violence, and, in fact, the moderate scholars delicately refrain from alluding to it in their discussion of dramatic changes in Indonesia. We must conclude that when these scholars deplore the use of violence to effect change, it is not violence, but rather social change that they find truly disturbing. Social change that departs from the plotted course is not to be tolerated. The threat to order is too great.

So great is the importance of stability and order that even reform of the sort that receives American authorization must often be delayed, the moderate scholars caution. “Indeed, many types of reform increase instability, however desirable and essential they may be in long-range terms. For people under siege, there is no substitute for security.” The reference, needless to say, is not to security from American bombardment, but rather to security from the wrong sorts of political and social change.

The policy recommendations of the moderate scholars are based on their particular ideological bias, namely that a certain form of stability — not that of North Vietnam or North Korea, but that of Thailand, Taiwan, or the Philippines — is so essential that we must be willing to use unparalleled means of violence to ensure that it is preserved. It is instructive to see how other mentors of the new mandarins describe the problem of order and reform. Ithiel Pool has formulated the central issue as follows:

In the Congo, in Vietnam, in the Dominican Republic, it is clear that order depends on somehow compelling newly mobilized strata to return to a measure of passivity and defeatism from which they have recently been aroused by the process of modernization. At least temporarily, the maintenance of order requires a lowering of newly acquired aspirations and levels of political activity.[20]

This is what “we have learned in the past thirty years of intensive empirical study of contemporary societies.” Pool is merely describing facts, not proposing policy. A corresponding version of the facts is familiar on the domestic scene: workers threaten the public order by striking for their demands, the impatience of the Negro community threatens the stability of the body politic. One can, of course, imagine another way in which order can be preserved in all such cases: by meeting the demands or, at the very least, by removing the barriers that have been placed, by force which may be latent and disguised, in the way of attempts to satisfy the “newly acquired aspirations.” But this might mean that the wealthy and powerful would have to sacrifice some degree of privilege, and is therefore excluded as a method for maintenance of order. Such proposals are likely to meet with little sympathy from Pool’s new mandarins.

From the doubly privileged position of the American scholar, the transcendent importance of order, stability, and nonviolence (by the oppressed) seems entirely obvious; to others, the matter is not so simple. If we listen, we hear such voices as this, from an economist in India:

It is disingenuous to invoke “democracy,” “due process of law,” “non-violence,” to rationalise the absence of action. For meaningful concepts under such conditions become meaningless since, in reality, they justify the relentless pervasive exploitation of the masses; at once a denial of democracy and a more sinister form of violence perpetrated on the overwhelming majority through contractual forms.[21]

Moderate American scholarship does not seem capable of comprehending these simple truths.

To be more accurate, we should say that those liberal intellectuals who are in the mainstream of “responsible opinion” and whose voices are heard in the councils of state are incapable of comprehending the point of view of the oppressed and, correspondingly, formulate the problems of international affairs in entirely different ways. Thus Roger Hilsman suggests in his book To Move a Nation that the most “divisive issue” that faced the “hard-headed and pragmatic liberals” of the new Kennedy Administration was the problem of combating “modern guerrilla warfare, as the Communists practice it,” that is, as “internal war, an ambiguous aggression that avoids direct and open attack violating international frontiers…” (italics his). Apparently, the hard-headed, pragmatic liberals were not divided over our right to violate international frontiers (and our treaty commitments).

As a prime example of the “kind of critical, searching analysis” that the new, liberal, revitalized State Department sought to encourage, Hilsman cites a study which explains how the United States might have acted more effectively in its attempt to overthrow the Mossadegh government in Iran. Why were we within our rights in overthrowing the Mossadegh and Arbenz governments (both, in Hilsman’s view, legitimate governments)? The reason he gives is simple. Both men had concealed “the intention of creating a Communist state” — in fact, so well had they concealed this intention that to this day no one has been able to find significant evidence to demonstrate it. But Allen Dulles was “fundamentally right,” according to Hilsman, in urging support for “loyal anti-Communist elements” even though, obviously, “no invitation was extended by the government in power.”

Of course these attitudes persist. As an illustration, consider the book No More Vietnams?, the record of a conference held in June, 1968, at the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs, where a number of scholars “with special knowledge of the war and its implications” met to determine just what had gone wrong in Vietnam.[22] The discussion is introduced by Professor Samuel Huntington, chairman of the Department of Government at Harvard and a prominent adviser to the State Department. He explains that in evaluating an intervention, “results are all that count.” Thus the Dominican intervention appears to have been a success, even in the eyes of those who felt in 1965 that there were no “good political and moral grounds…whatsoever for intervening in the Dominican Republic.”

Why? Because “whether or not there was a threat of communist takeover on the island, we were able to go in, restore order, negotiate a truce among conflicting parties, hold reasonably honest elections which the right man won, withdraw our troops, and promote a very considerable amount of social and economic reform.” Thus the intervention was consistent with the general purposes and methods of intervention, namely, the attempt “to minimize violence and instability in foreign countries” (though not, of course, to minimize the kind of violence accompanying our dramatic success in Indonesia; nor to support the kind of stability we find in North Vietnam, which has “probably the most stable government in Southeast Asia” — a “bitter truth but a real one,” according to Professor Huntington).

Huntington’s concern for stability and nonviolence reveals itself still more clearly in his recent thoughts on the Vietnam situation in Foreign Affairs (July, 1968). Our problem in Vietnam is that “with half the population still in the countryside, the Viet Cong will remain a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist.” Clearly, then, we must ensure that “the constituency” — the rural population of Vietnam — ceases to exist. Professor Huntington does not shrink from this conclusion. On the contrary, he notes that “in an absent-minded way the United States in Vietnam may well have stumbled upon the answer to ‘wars of national liberation.’ ” He elaborates this answer in commenting on the claim of the counter-insurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson that guerrillas are immune “to the direct application of mechanical and conventional power.” Not so, says Professor Huntington:

In the light of recent events, this statement needs to be seriously qualified. For if the “direct application of mechanical and conventional power” takes place on such a massive scale as to produce a massive migration from countryside to city, the basic assumptions underlying the Maoist doctrine of revolutionary war no longer operate. The Maoist-inspired rural revolution is undercut by the American-inspired urban revolution.

What about the human consequences of the “direct application of mechanical and conventional power” on a scale sufficient to eliminate the constituency of the Viet Cong by “forced-draft urbanization”? True, “the social costs of this change have been dramatic and often heart-rending,” but this is not Huntington’s department. He is not concerned with the social costs of the interesting sociological phenomenon of “urbanization,” but rather with the new possibilities it affords “to minimize violence and instability in foreign countries.”

Of course, Huntington continues, “after the war, massive government programs will be required either to resettle migrants in rural areas or to rebuild the cities and promote peace-time urban employment. In the meantime while the war continues, urbanization is significantly altering the balance of power between the Saigon government and the Viet Cong.” Thus while the war continues we can control the urban population in slums and refugee camps — some of which caused Senator Stephen Young, after a recent trip, “to think about what we denounced in World War II when we talked about Dachau and other concentration camps in Germany”[23] — and then, after the war, when the “right man” will have won in a “reasonably honest election,” we can reverse the process of “urbanization” and even rebuild the cities we have destroyed, in a typical gesture of traditional American benevolence. Meanwhile, we can continue, absent-mindedly, to contribute to the theory and practice of political development by more intensive artillery and aerial bombardment in the rural areas.

A useful supplement to these views is provided, once again, by Professor Ithiel Pool, chairman of the Department of Political Science at MIT and a typical example of a liberal and “moderate” scholar. At the Stevenson Institute conference, Pool observes that “our worst mistake in Vietnam clearly was to initiate the bombing of the north.” The explanation is interesting:

Before that started, it was my view that the United States as a democracy could not stand the moral protest that would arise if we rained death from the skies upon an area where there was no war. After the bombing started, I decided I had been in error. For a while there seemed to be no outcry of protest, but time brought it on. Now I would return to my original view with an important modification, namely, time. Public reactions do not come immediately. Many actions that public opinion would otherwise make impossible, are possible if they are short-term. I believe we can fairly say that unless it is severely provoked or unless the war succeeds fast, a democracy cannot choose war as an instrument of policy.

This is spoken in the tone of a true scientist correcting a few of the variables that entered into his computations — and, to be sure, Professor Pool is scornful of those “anti-intellectuals,” such as Senator Fulbright, who do not comprehend “the vital importance of applied social science for making the actions of our government in foreign areas more rational and humane than they have been.” In contrast to the anti-intellectuals, the applied social scientist understands that it is perfectly proper to “rain death from the skies upon an area where there was no war,” so long as we “succeed fast.” If victory is delayed, “the cohesion of the democratic community” will be destroyed by the choice of war as an instrument of policy. Furthermore, we cannot abandon this instrument of policy, for we must “come to realize that we can live in safety only in a world in which the political systems of all states are democratic and pacifically oriented” — like ours. Though it would be preferable “to influence political outcomes” without the use of force, we must continue to be ready “to cope with dangerous armed ideologies” as in Vietnam, at least until the various “aspects of our value system” — in particular, its “pacific orientation” — spread more widely throughout the world.

It would seem to follow, then, that our failure in Vietnam is traceable to a serious inadequacy in our own political system: its inability to contain the moral outrage that resulted when we began to rain death on a country where there was no war. This is precisely the conclusion reached by Professor Pool, who is not short on logic: “…we are paying an inordinate price for our goals” and “in that sense we certainly have failed — but more in the United States than in Vietnam. The agonizing political lesson that racks this country is that there has been a failure of our own political system.” The performance of our political system has been “disappointing” and “gloomy” (but not too gloomy, since “there is no evidence that either the government or the majority of the public are ready to withdraw abruptly in disarray from Vietnam”). Our system has proven incapable of dealing with the “intensity of dissent” which, along with other factors, threatens domestic stability. “These are failings of which we usually accuse the Vietnamese, but the criticism is more fairly addressed against ourselves.”

In short, a democratic community is incapable of waging aggressive war in a brutal manner, and this is a failure of democracy. What is wrong is not the policy of raining death on an area where there is no war, still less the far more intensive bombardment of South Vietnam, which goes unmentioned. What is wrong is the inability of a democratic system to contain the inevitable dissent and moral outrage. The conclusion appears obvious, and we may ask how long it will be before at least some influential voices in liberal America will explain the necessity for removing the major impediment to the achievement of what Professor Pool refers to as “our national goals.”

Huntington, incidentally, appears to share the qualms of his colleague regarding the inadequacies of democracy as a political system in a period when, as Pool puts it, we feel “massively threatened.” Thus he recommends that our “involvements” be kept “reasonably limited, discreet, and covert” (my italics), and he feels that even the “shift toward introversion in our society” may have “side benefits,” in that the “more limited forms of foreign involvement” to which we will be restricted will be facilitated “in the sense that there will be less public attention and concern directed to these issues.”

The characteristics of Pool’s more rational and humane social science approach are revealed in other remarks. Thus he observes, rather casually, that in 1964 “the only capable political structure in Vietnam [was] the Viet Cong,” and that it was then “obvious that except for American forces the Viet Cong would take over Vietnam.” He is impressed, however, by the fact that after the American invasion this is no longer so obvious, and this in his view justifies the American intervention. Recall the decisions that were taken by the American government in 1964, under the conditions that Pool describes. In No More Vietnams?, we learn from James Thomson, East Asian specialist at the Department of State and the White House between 1961 and 1966, that in the summer of 1964 the President’s chief advisers met and decided unanimously that post-election strategy must involve the bombing of North Vietnam. This is a useful reminder, in December 1968, of the relevance of electoral politics to questions of international affairs. In 1964, as Professor Pool is no doubt aware, there were no regular North Vietnamese units known to be in the South and only a bare trickle of supplies. Pool might also agree with the observation, at the same conference, of Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND Corporation consultant to the Department of Defense on Vietnam, that “the bombing in the South has gone on long enough to disrupt the society of South Vietnam enormously and probably permanently,” that “we have of course, demolished the society of Vietnam.” He might even concede that there is justice in the somber assessment of Bernard Fall that “it is Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity that is threatened with extinction” as “the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size.”[24] None of this, however, suggests to the more rational and humane social scientist that perhaps we have committed even a worse “mistake” than adopting policies that threaten domestic stability.

In introducing the Stevenson conference proceedings, Huntington observes that “it is obvious that our involvement has imposed on us severe costs — in men, money, and psychological composure — which make it all look like a horrible mistake.” He is concerned, however, that a misreading of the Vietnam experience may cause “a Vietnam hang-up” among future policy makers, who may tend to refrain from intervention even where its costs to us will be quite tolerable. Points of view expressed at the conference were diverse, but it is fair to say that these remarks of Huntington’s represent something of a majority opinion. According to Stanley Hoffmann of Harvard, “Vietnam is an extreme case: the most inappropriate terrain for the application of concepts that have proved fertile and adequate elsewhere.” It was not our goals in Vietnam that were wrong, but our “ignorance of the context and excessive self-confidence.” In “negative interventions,” as in Guatemala and Iran, where “we did not exactly know what we were for, but we did know what we were against…we have sometimes been quite successful”; “as for this category of interventions, I would argue that in the future we at least ought to define more rigorously what it is that so threatens us that we feel we have to intervene either by political subversion or by military action.”

Arthur Schlesinger, another participant, adds that the “conceptual roots” of our Vietnam policy are “the noble traditions of Stimsonianism and liberal evangelism” — respectively, the view that aggression must never go unpunished and that “we have an obligation to deal with poverty, repression, and injustice ‘everywhere in the world.’ ” These “entirely honorable strands in American thinking about our role in the world…reached a final and tragic misapplication in Vietnam.” Henry Kissinger, who concedes that our goals in Vietnam were like those of the French, is concerned with our “altruism,” our tendency to believe “that we have to support every moral government in the world which gets into difficulty” — as, for example, in Greece and Thailand, and so generally throughout the “Free World.” Superficiality of analysis and an acceptance of the legitimacy in principle of forceful intervention — when it can succeed — were characteristic features of much of the discussion. Participants who did not share the general assumptions were, for the most part, met with incomprehension, and their views, when discussed at all, were distorted beyond recognition.[25] Nevertheless, the fact that more searching critical analysis was expressed — though rarely heard — is perhaps a hopeful sign. It suggests possibilities for younger scholars who hope to break free of the ideological constraints that so often subvert scholarship, or simply block serious inquiry.

There are other sources from which we learn what applied social science has to offer for the formation of more rational and humane policies. Consider, for example, a recent study by Charles Wolf, senior economist of the RAND Corporation.[26] Wolf suggests that we abandon the approach of the “hearts-and-minds” school of counterinsurgency, replacing it with a more hard-headed model that has as its “unifying theme” the concept of “influencing behavior, rather than attitudes.” In this more scientific approach, “confiscation of chickens, razing of houses, or destruction of villages have a place in counterinsurgency efforts” if they serve to shape behavior in desired directions. An added advantage of this more scientific approach is that it will “modify the attitudes with which counterinsurgency efforts are viewed in the United States” (when we turn to the United States, of course, we are concerned with people whose attitudes must be taken into account, not merely their behavior).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of such scholarly work is the way in which the rhetoric of the behavioral sciences is used to lend a vague aura of respectability. One might construct some such chain of associations as this. Science, as everyone knows, is responsible, moderate, unsentimental, and otherwise good. Behavioral science tells us that we can be concerned only with behavior and control of behavior. Therefore we should be concerned only with behavior and control of behavior; and it is responsible, moderate, unsentimental, and otherwise good to control behavior by appropriately applied reward and punishment. Concern for loyalties and attitudes is emotional and unscientific. As rational men, believers in the scientific ethic, we should be concerned with manipulating behavior in a desirable direction, and not be deluded by mystical notions of freedom, individual needs, or popular will.

Let me make clear that I am not criticizing the behavioral sciences because they lend themselves to such perversion. On other grounds, the “behavioral persuasion” seems to me to lack merit; it seriously mistakes the method of science and imposes pointless methodological strictures on the study of man and society, but this is another matter entirely. It is, however, fair to inquire to what extent the popularity of this approach is based on its demonstrated achievements, and to what extent on the ease with which it can be refashioned as a new coercive ideology with a faintly scientific tone. In passing, I think it is worth mentioning that the same questions can be raised outside politics, specifically in connection with education and therapy.

Applied social science of the sort I have been discussing plays a dual role in counterrevolutionary efforts: an ideological role, in providing an aura of legitimacy for intervention; and a practical role, in designing and implementing “material and human resources control methods,” to use current jargon. In the former capacity, it has had some effectiveness in establishing the pretense that opposition to the barbarism of the Vietnam war (or the use of such “emotional” terms in describing it) is an exercise in “anti-intellectualism.” I am in no position to judge how seriously this work is taken by those who actually direct counterinsurgency operations. But in the Stevenson Institute conference, a number of participants who are in a position to judge indicated that it may be taken seriously. Adam Yarmolinsky states that “Vietnam turned out to be a testing ground for these new kinds of forces and techniques,” rather in the way that Spain served as a “testing ground” for Hitler and Stalin thirty years ago. According to James Thomson, a “potential danger for the future of American foreign policy [is] the rise of a new breed of American ideologues who see Vietnam as the ultimate test of their doctrine” (his italics). They are “technocracy’s own Maoists,” and “their doctrine rides high.” Evidently, the government takes this type of applied social science seriously enough to favor it with large grants. For example, Ithiel Pool, in addition to his confidential “Research on Urban Insurgency,” is currently directing $18,000 worth of confidential research on a “Chieu Hoi Study” and $320,000 worth on “Problem analysis, Republic of Vietnam,” both for the Advanced Research Project Agency of the Defense Department (ARPA), through the SIMULMATICS Corporation.[27]

One is reminded of the prediction, made by Franz Borkenau thirty years ago in The Spanish Cockpit when commenting on the crushing of the Spanish revolution: in the future, “every revolution is likely to meet the attack of the most modern, most efficient, most ruthless machinery yet in existence,” so that “the age of revolutions free to evolve according to their own laws is over.” Borkenau was thinking of “the advent of fascism,” which reverses the traditional alignment of forces in which “counterrevolution usually depended upon the support of reactionary powers, which were technically and intellectually inferior to the forces of revolution.” He did not foresee that the liberal democracies would play the role that he assigned to the fascist powers.

Turning to the Vietnam war, we see his error. American policy, at this point, can hardly be subjected to rational assessment. What we observe is simply that the technology created by American science is running amuck, while academic apologists speak of “irony” and “blunders,” and of the “tragic misapplication” of our “noble traditions,” of our “grand ideals” and humanitarian goals thwarted by inadequate social science research. Recently released statistics indicate that nearly three million tons of bombs have been dropped in Vietnam, about 4/5 of this total having fallen in South Vietnam, a figure that can be compared to the two million tons dropped by the US Air Force in all theaters in World War II and the 635,000 tons in Korea.[28] In the face of such statistics, it is ludicrous to discuss the question of civilian casualties or the degree of devastation.

Since the Têt offensive, the United States has in effect adopted something like the “enclave strategy” recommended earlier by General Gavin, and American forces have been largely occupied with the attempt to hold the American bases and the cities — including the “assassinated city” of Hué that was virtually demolished, block by block, house by house, when American troops sought to recapture it from the NLF. At the Stevenson Institute Conference, Daniel Ellsberg pointed out that Saigon itself “is pre-eminently the ‘oil spot’ more and more, almost the only one; with a few other cities and towns it is the home of the supporters of the GVN, people who have been driven to Saigon by what Huntington regards as our ‘modernizing instruments’ in Vietnam, bombs and artillery.” Insofar as American strategy has an offensive component, it appears to be largely a matter of B-52 and other aerial attacks, which cannot, of course, be stopped by the Vietnamese resistance forces and which are systematically devastating large areas of South Vietnam from the suburbs of Saigon to the Cambodian and Laotian borders and beyond.

Information is scanty, but it appears that in the American-controlled areas, the last remaining “oil spots,” there are signs of erosion of support for the American war even among the urban bourgeoisie. At best, this support has been flimsy. Testifying before Congress, Rutherford Poats — AID director of the “other war” in Vietnam from 1964 — agreed that there was “certainly a substantial element of truth” in the charge by Congressman Donald Riegle that the commodity import program is a “ransom” paid “to essentially keep certain commercial interests happy enough that they will not get their sympathizers out in the streets and bring down the Government.” He added that “the Government of Vietnam has not been able to mobilize national support in the way of sacrifices by individuals, financial sacrifices, on the order desirable,” and agreed that “commercial leaders…do not really have the level of commitment that they need to have to get this job done.”[29] Since the Têt offensive, general disillusionment appears to have deepened. The Students’ Association of Saigon last June submitted the following manifesto:

After the Têt offensive, the majority of South Vietnamese people saw that the country was about to undergo a historic change. After years of incessant fighting, the conflict cannot be solved by a military victory. On the contrary, the bombardments have caused more and more damage, exhausted the energy of the people and the national potentials. Up till now this destruction continues due to foreign imperialism. The national civilization has become therefore desperate. Aware of the danger of total extermination and seen for themselves how the bombardments have murdered the people, destroyed painstakingly erected constructions, the Representative Council of Saigon Students, before history, before the people, before the whole student community whose only aim is to serve the people, solemnly declares: It is now the moment to solve the Vietnamese conflict, to avoid the total extermination of the Vietnamese people…[30]

Within a few weeks, the official newspaper of the Student Association was closed and its editor sentenced by a military tribunal to five years at hard labor, where he joins the President of the General Association of Saigon Students and many of the other officers of the Association, as well as Truong Dinh Dzu and innumerable others. According to the Saigon Daily News, there are 100,000 persons in South Vietnamese jails, suffering such conditions as these:

The Can Tho provincial jail [which] was built by the French for 500 prisoners is now used to keep over 2,000. Other prisons through the country are in a similar situation. Detainees have no room to sit. Legs of most prisoners have been swollen for having to stand on their feet to sleep…[31]

The Saigon Daily News was suspended by the Government on November 14, the tenth newspaper closed in twenty days. The situation in the occupied areas is illustrated in many small ways, for example, by the following passage in a letter from a Vietnamese girl to a friend in I.V.S.:[32]

Sad news from Mai: She had been arrested by the government troops, accused of being a VC spy. The police tortured her terribly, so she had been in the hospital for 2 1/2 months. Now she is better, but still very weak. They put her in the prison now, claiming she has relatives with the VC. She could not find her family yet because the village got bombed [with] napalm so her parents ran away. I am so sad. I have known her for 15 years. She has been heartsick and quite innocent. Besides, she worked for Americans. Alas, no war in history can be dirtier than the one in Vietnam.

It is also revealing that late in 1967, physical requirements for the Saigon army were lowered, making young men eligible who weigh at least 77 pounds.[33] Those of us who cannot truly comprehend what it means to drop more than two million tons of bombs on South Vietnam can perhaps respond to simple facts like these.

Under these circumstances, the American government has finally agreed to eliminate the major barrier that it had erected against a negotiated settlement, and suspend the bombing of North Vietnam. It is important to bear in mind, at this stage in the Vietnam affair, that the bombing of North Vietnam has always been a marginal component in the American attack. The observations of Adam Yarmolinsky at the Stevenson Institute conference probably express fairly accurately the more enlightened Pentagon view:

In retrospect [the strategic bombing of North Vietnam] was probably a step that should never have been taken, since it produced no military advantages except for its putative favorable impact on morale in the South. But it was taken, at least in part, because it was one of the things that the United States military forces were best prepared to do.

It would be difficult to state more concisely the argument against maintaining an offensive military capability in a country such as ours.

It is, however, possible to imagine other considerations that might have motivated the bombing of North Vietnam. Recall Pool’s judgment that only American military forces could stop the Viet Cong in the South, a judgment that is widely held. Recall also that in February, 1965, we began the intensive bombardment of South Vietnam, and that, shortly thereafter, the first major elements of a vastly expanded American Expeditionary Force landed in South Vietnam. It is possible that the bombing of North Vietnam was undertaken to provide a propaganda cover for the American invasion of the South, to lend credence to the pretense that we were defending South Vietnam from “outside aggression” — a pretense difficult to maintain in the light of the Defense Department statistics on assistance from North Vietnam to the NLF.

In any event, attention must now shift to what has always been the central issue: Who shall rule in South Vietnam? Since 1960, the official statements of the NLF have called for “a broad national democratic coalition administration…including representatives of all strata of people, nationalities, political parties, religious communities, and patriotic personalities” — a coalition which, it is fair to assume, would be dominated by the Front. In contrast, the United States has insisted on preserving the regime that we have installed and maintained by force. Why do we reject any solution that reflects actual political forces in South Vietnam? The answer is hardly obscure. It is expressed, for example, by Foreign Minister Tran Van Do: “We are not able to organize South Vietnam politically…so we cannot accept the NLF as a political party…the integration of the Front will be a political way to take over South Vietnam.”

As noted earlier, the views of the academic experts are not very different. Reporters have generally taken a similar position. Three American correspondents who gave confidential testimony recently to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were in general agreement that the Saigon government “is losing the political war,” that “there is no viable political force in Vietnam other than the NLF.”[34] As Robert Shaplen has noted, “the Communists…are obviously more willing to risk a political fight than Saigon is, both in Paris and in South Vietnam,” since “the great advantage they have is that they can face the problems of peace and address themselves to the people of Vietnam, and to the rest of the world, as Vietnamese nationalists as well as Communists.”[35] In this respect, little has changed in the past two decades.

For these reasons, we have resisted a political settlement, and still are attempting to do so. Thus we now make the cynical demand that the Viet Cong de-escalate in the South, while we plan openly to expand our military activities in response to their “restraint.” The matter is explained clearly in a dispatch from Saigon on November 1 by Douglas Robinson of The New York Times. He quotes military sources who outline the plans to use the warplanes freed from daily missions over North Vietnam “for increased air strikes to support ground actions in the South.” Moreover, “In the Gulf of Tonkin, American warships began to steam toward positions off the coast of South Vietnam. Military leaders said that the battleship New Jersey and the other cruisers and destroyers that had been used to bombard the North Vietnamese coast would now be used for the military operation in the South” — as has since been reported. Other reports indicate that bombing in Laos will triple in intensity. But the most cynical aspect of current American military planning is indicated in the “extremely important gain” now anticipated by the allied military command:

If the North Vietnamese do not try to build up their forces as a result of the bombing halt…at least a division of American troops would be freed to carry out an operation long thought necessary by the military — the ferreting out of Vietcong leaders and cadres in Communist-dominated villages and hamlets around South Vietnam.

Thus if the “Communists” show their sincerity by restricting their military activities in the South, we will reciprocate by using our military forces to eradicate the political and administrative structure of the NLF, to deprive it of “a political way to take over South Vietnam.”

As General Abrams explained to his senior commanders,[36] “The North Vietnamese personnel and units are totally dependent…for their existence as well as their military operations…[on] the political, administrative and para-military structure…”; it is this indigenous South Vietnamese structure “on which his whole movement depends.” “So, you should go out and work against them and find them” — a proper goal for the American army of occupation. It is claimed we are having some success. The US military command reports an improvement in the kill-ratio, and attributes it to “the pressure being maintained by allied forces” which are seeking “to attack the entire North Vietnamese-Vietcong system in South Vietnam.”[37]

The Times on November 23, quotes allied officials as pointing out that “a decrease in the activity of regular enemy forces logically leads to an increase in allied activity against guerrillas,” and particularly, against “the Vietcong infrastructure, which is where so much of it really starts.” The report describes an operation in which 3,000 civilians were evacuated and “painstakingly screened” by intelligence officers (100 dead, about a dozen suspected Viet Cong identified). On a facing page, the Times quotes President Johnson: “We cannot have productive talks in an atmosphere where the cities are being shelled and where the DMZ is being abused.”

The Vietnamese resistance has reduced the range of likely outcomes in Vietnam to two: withdrawal of the American forces and a political solution, or the extinction of Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity. The choice between them lies in the hands of the American people, to a very considerable extent. So far, in the words of Robert Scalapino of Berkeley, “Goliath has placed certain limitations on his power,” risking “American lives over months and months” even though “we have it within our power…to eradicate North Vietnam from the map” — and South Vietnam as well, of course.[38] There remains a possibility, small perhaps, but terrifying, that Goliath may end his admirable self-restraint. It does seem unlikely that the American people will tolerate an endless continuation of the war. There are, it would seem, reasonable hopes for peace, if pressure is maintained against American government policy, both within the United States and outside.

Americans who do not know how to influence present policy in favor of an end to intervention and a political settlement, can turn for advice, say, to McGeorge Bundy. In his much-quoted speech at DePauw University on October 12, Mr. Bundy suggested that we terminate the bombing of the North and begin the withdrawal of troops. Thus he adopted the views that had been advanced previously only by “wild men in the wings,” to use his terminology in an article in Foreign Affairs in January, 1967. Why this sudden change? Not because “the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed against an area this size.” Not because we have a solemn commitment to refrain from the use of force against those who are weak and helpless. Bundy regrets these aspects of the war, but he is not an irresponsible sentimentalist who would be swayed by such considerations. The primary reason for his reversal, he explains, is that the cost of the war to us is “plainly unacceptable”; “its penalties upon us all are much too great.” A major cost is “the increasing bitterness and polarization of our people,” the “failure of our own political system” discussed by Ithiel Pool. Furthermore, Bundy continues: “There is a special pain in the growing alienation of a generation which is the best we have had. So we must not go on as we are going.”

What Bundy is saying, in effect, is that the strategy of the resistance has been correct. The students who undertook to create a program of resistance at the elite universities assumed American policy-makers to be so cynical that only considerations of cost would lead them to retreat from aggression. And the only serious “cost” that can be imposed by these young men and women is the threat that the managers of the society of tomorrow, the Yale graduating class, for example, will separate themselves from “the system,” choosing jail rather than military service and questioning the legitimacy of our institutions in other ways. The important decisions are in fact made by the McGeorge Bundys of the world, and they are telling us, loud and clear, that they will retreat from aggression only when the cost to them is “plainly unacceptable.” Those who wish to bring an end to war and repression will listen to this message, and act accordingly.

Much the same is true in the second superpower. In the grim atmosphere of the Soviet Union, resistance can barely be contemplated. All the more, then, must we honor those who do make their voices heard: Pavel Litvinov, Mrs. Larisa Daniel, and the others of the “Moscow Five,” or ex-general Pyotr Grigorenko who has publicly denounced the “totalitarianism that hides behind the mask of so-called Soviet democracy” and called upon his fellow-citizens to fight “the damned machine,” and who has had the courage to stand up and say that “Freedom will come! Democracy will come!”

It has long been understood that there is a relation of mutual support between the American and the Russian hawks. When one side commits an atrocity, the other is encouraged to do likewise. When the militarists in one camp succeed in increasing the level of armaments, this is a shot in the arm to those who pretend to oppose but in fact support them. No doubt the American hard-liners were secretly gratified when the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, as their counterparts in the Soviet Union are pleased by our move to higher and higher levels of barbarism in Vietnam.

It is also true that resisters on all sides stand in a relation of mutual support. Those who resist the war here are fighting the same battle as Larisa Daniel and Pyotr Grigorenko. And they are fighting a common enemy: the militarists and managers of repression on both sides of the iron curtain. For us, this resistance must take many forms. It must be directed against the Department of “Defense,” the organization that Kenneth Boulding has called the “second largest centrally planned economy in the world”[39] — an organization that has spent more than a trillion dollars since World War II “to minimize violence and instability in foreign countries.” It must be directed against the ABM and all other means of intensifying the arms race and increasing international tension; against NATO, which serves primarily as an excuse for the Soviet Union to subjugate more effectively its East European colonies and its own people. It must search for ways to direct our national energies away from destruction and waste and toward socially useful production and constructive social change.

Any rational person must be appalled at the waste of resources by the great powers, as well as by the shameful inequity of distribution. Revulsion against this scandal is expressed in a general way on both sides of the iron curtain, for example, by Academician Andrei Sakharov in his essay “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Co-existence and Intellectual Freedom,”[40] with its call for “changes in the psychology” of the American and Russian people so that “they will voluntarily and generously support their government and worldwide efforts to change the economy, technology and level of living of billions of people…for the sake of preserving civilization and mankind on our planet.” Or by the American economist, John Pincus, who writes:[41]

One-third of the world lives in comfort and two-thirds in misery. Yet no day spares us the edification of lectures by the prosperous North on the South’s grievous economic sins. It is all inescapably reminiscent of economists’ nineteenth century diatribes against the idle and spendthrift poor in the emerging industrial states of that era. Unfortunately this century has not yet found on the international scene its Labour Party or its Bismarck to offer from left or right the politically effective retort to such self-serving homilies.

The problem of devising a “politically effective retort” is formidable. Government-induced production appears to be an important component in preserving the health of the economy (if one can use such a terms as “health” when speaking of the arms race and the infantile competition to land a man on the moon). Taxpayers can be deluded into supporting the Roman Circus of the space race, or into believing that they must be armed to the teeth to keep the Viet Cong from swimming over to steal their television sets. It is a different matter for people to surrender much of what they earn to rebuild the cities or to contribute to development in the third world. Furthermore, the latter effort is unlikely to benefit heavy industry or aerospace. The first problem is ultimately one of persuasion and education, perhaps. The second is probably one of resistance. If a large number of technologists were, let us say, to refuse to do secret research or to lend their talents to waste and destruction, this refusal would probably become an “illegal conspiracy,” as it began to threaten deeply entrenched interests. Repression can also be expected if other forms of social organization — say, urban cooperatives — or another, more constructive use of technology were to reach significant proportions. For these and many other reasons, it is necessary to continue in whatever way the times permit to construct a movement — ultimately, one hopes, a mass movement — that will be committed to radical social change and to resistance against all forms of oppression, destruction, and waste.

There are some indications that this may not be a fantasy. Close to home, I am encouraged by the many hundreds of students at MIT who have committed themselves to active participation in a sanctuary for an AWOL soldier — particularly when I recall that three years ago MIT students were equally committed to breaking up public meetings against the war, and that a teach-in was considered successful if it attracted 100 curious onlookers. Similarly, the growth of a national movement of resistance has surpassed in scale the expectations of most observers. In national terms, these may still be marginal phenomena, but they are not without significance, and they suggest that a long-term commitment may yield important results. Surely the change in mood in the universities during the past few years is remarkable. The “system” looks overwhelmingly powerful when one watches Mayor Dalcy’s police or the B-52’s, but it has its weaknesses, and one such weakness is its “personnel.” The same technical intelligentsia that some see as the potential elite of the post-industrial society might help to concentrate social energies in very different places, if they can overcome the elitism and arrogance and factionalism that have been the curse of the Left. The Black Panthers have adopted Huey Newton’s rendering of a Maoist slogan: “the spirit of the people is greater than the Man’s technology.” Those who create and control “the Man’s technology” might play a role in giving some substance to this hope.

The universities are one natural center for the development of a movement of this sort. Honest inquiry is inherently “subversive,” in any field. The physicist working at the borders of current knowledge will attempt to challenge assumptions that retard understanding, just as a creative musician will not try to compose Beethoven’s tenth symphony but will explore and perhaps challenge fundamental aesthetic standards. And the same would be true of serious social inquiry, if it existed on any significant scale in the universities. In fact, it may be that a movement for resistance and social change might contribute to the evolution of a tradition of scholarship that is more humane and more objective, that will free itself from a commitment to social management in the interest of privileged elites and will explore and try to articulate the needs of those whose voices are stilled by ideological controls, by weakness and ignorance, by social fragmentation, or simply by repressive force. It is in such ways as these that the intellectual community can most effectively resist the “specific growing dangers to its integrity” of which O’Brien so rightly warns.

Eugene Black, testifying before Congress on the Asian Development Bank, pointed out that “when the Bank makes loans you have international bids, and I am sure that with our ability and ingenuity in this country, we will get our share of the business. We certainly ought to get more than the small amount we contribute.” David Bell testified that “the Bank will play a major role in carrying forward another policy of our own assistance program—strengthening the role of the private sector…by identifying particular projects which can attract private capital, by helping to draw up development plans and stimulate policies which will encourage private initiative, and by drawing private capital to the region.” Nothing here about “the generosity that characterizes our policy.”

Equally revealing is the history of programs such as the Alliance for Progress. As Senator Gore commented, this program “has in large measure come to be a subsidy for American business and American exporters,” a fairly accurate judgment, so it appears. For example, the AID lending program in Latin America, according to former Alliance for Progress official William Rogers, in his book The Twilight Struggle (Random House, 1967), is based on two elements: “a demonstrated balance of payments needed to increase the nation’s ability to import US goods and services, and the adoption of public policies and programs which would insure against capital flight on the international account side or the misuse of domestic resources through inefficient budgeting, reduced local savings, or inflation.” Commenting on this, Robert Smith notes that “the latter standard included increased tax revenues, reduction of budget deficit, elimination of ‘distorting subsidies to public activities,’ and the adoption of ‘state incentives to private sector investment and growth.’ ” (New Politics, Vol. VI, No. 2, Spring, 1967—for some remarks on the other side of our assistance program, military aid, see the articles by James Petras in this and the preceding issue.)

Barnet: The Final Solution of the Jewish Problem and the Dropping of the Atomic Bomb…are distinguishable in magnitude and context, but as examples of the amorality of bureaucracy they are strikingly similar….

Albert Wohlstetter: In fact, Barnet equates Truman’s decision to use the A-bomb…with Hitler’s genocide…

Barnet: The roots of the Vietnam failure lie more in the structure and organization of the national security bureaucracy than in the personality of the President or the idiosyncracies of the particular group…who have been the President’s principal advisers…. The President may decide, but the bureaucracy structures the decisions by setting out the choices.

Schlesinger: He shouldn’t say that everything is determined by unified national security bureaucracies, which I gather was his point.

Barnet: The peculiar mental set of the national security bureaucrat is the product of certain biases which…are inherent in the bureaucratic structure itself…

Hoffmann: Barnet’s presentation…and the kind of conspiracy theory on which it rests…

Barnet:…the problems noted are “not limited to the national security bureaucracy or even to government” but are “common to all large organizations…”

Yarmolinsky: Barnet “talks about the evils of the American bureaucracy and the military bureaucracy as if the evils were peculiar to those institutions rather than general to bureaucracies at most times and places.

And so on. Barnet’s clear and simple statement was incomprehensible to many of the conference participants, who apparently felt quite uneasy with analyses that go beyond personal error, or failure of information, or the existence of a “warrior caste” (Schlesinger) on whom one can cast the blame.


[1] “Politics and the Morality of Scholarship,” in The Morality of Scholarship, edited by Max Black, Cornell, 1967.

[2] “The War and its Effects — II,” Congressional Record, December 13, 1967.

[3] Congressional Record, July 27, 1967.

[4] W. A. Nighswonger, Rural Pacification in Vietnam, Praeger Special Studies, 1966 — one of a series of “specialized research monographs in US and international economics and politics.”

[5] Ithiel Pool, “The necessity for social scientists doing research for Government,” quoted by M. Windmiller in The Dissenting Academy, edited by T. Roszak, Pantheon, 1968.

[6] Max Ways writes in Fortune that “McNamara, his systems analysts, and their computers are not only contributing to the practical effectiveness of US action, but raising the moral level of policy by a more conscious and selective attention to the definition of its aims” (italics mine, cited by A. Kopkind, New Republic, February 25, 1967). Comments would be superfluous.

[7] Daniel Bell, “Notes on the Post-Industrial Society,” Part I, The Public Interest, No. 6, 1967.

[8] Some of the dangers are noted by Richard Goodwin, in a review of Schelling’s Arms and Influence in The New Yorker, February 17, 1968. He observes that “the most profound objection to this kind of strategic theory is not its limited usefulness but its danger, for it can lead us to believe we have an understanding of events and a control over their flow which we do not have.” A still more profound objection, I think, is that the pretended objectivity of “strategic theory” can be used to justify the attempt to control the flow of events.

[9] “Status Politics and New Anxieties,” in The End of Ideology, Free Press, 1960, p. 119.

[10] “The necessity and difficulty of planning the future society,” American Institute of Planners Conference, Washington, October 3, 1967. Citing this, Senator Fulbright (op. cit.) comments that “poverty, which is a tragedy in a poor country, blights our affluent society with something more than tragedy; being unnecessary, it is deeply immoral as well.” He also compares “the $904 billion we have spent on military power since World War II” with “the $96 billion we have spent, out of our regular national budget, on education, health, welfare housing, and community development.” In Challenge to Affluence (Pantheon, 1962), Gunnar Myrdal concludes that “in society at large there is more equality of opportunity today than there ever was. But for the bottom layer there is less or none.” He questions the assumption that “America is still the free and open society of its cherished image and well established ideals” and remarks that “as less work is required of the type that people in the urban and rural slums can offer, they will be increasingly isolated and exposed to unemployment and plain exploitation. There is an ugly smell rising from the basement of the stately American mansion.”

[11] The Unfinished Revolution, Vintage, 1964, p. 97.

[12] In 1965, 20 companies out of 420,000 made 38 percent of profits after taxes, earnings on foreign investment were well over three times what they were 15 years earlier. The sales of GM exceeded the GNP of all but nine foreign countries. The ten largest companies reported profits equal to the next 490. A thousand companies disappeared through merger.

[13] “Marxian Socialism in the United States,” in Socialism and American Life, edited by Egbert and Persons, Vol. I, Princeton, 1952, p. 329.

[14] See Richard Barnet, Intervention and Revolution (New American Library, 1968), for a careful analysis of this and other episodes of the postwar period.

[15] Op. cit. Less typical, and more realistic, is his belief that these problems also “seem to defy the social scientist’s expertise.” For some general discussions of this “generosity,” see, for example, D. Horowitz, Hemispheres North and South (Johns Hopkins, 1966), and many other special studies. American public officials do not share this faith in our generosity, by and large. For example, the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American affairs observed bluntly that “the State Department is not disposed to favor large loans of public funds to countries not welcoming our private capital” (State Department Bulletin, No. 22, 1950, cited in Frederick Clairmonte, Economic Liberalism and Underdevelopment, Asia Publishing House, Bombay and London, 1960).

[16] “To Intervene or Not to Intervene,” Foreign Affairs, April, 1967.

[17] New York Times, December 20, 1967. The Times refers to what is printed as “excerpts,” but it is not materially different from the full document. It has since been signed by many other scholars.

[18] Hernando Abaya, The Untold Philippine Story, Quezon City, 1967.

[19] See the reviews by Coral Bell and B. R. O’G. Anderson in the China Quarterly, October, 1966. It should be noted that opposition to social change, and support for the counterrevolutionary violence that is used to suppress it, are long-standing features of American cultural history. Thus according to the American historian Louis Hartz, “there is no doubt that the appearance of even a mild socialism in 1848, of Ledru Rollin and the national workshops, was enough to produce general American dismay. There was no outcry in America against the suppression of the June revolt of the workers in Paris, as there was none over the suppression of the Communards in 1871. Here was violence, and plenty of it, but it was being used for ‘order and law,’ as one editorial writer put it [in the New York Journal of Commerce].” (In The Nature of Revolution, testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, February 26, 1968, US Government Printing Office, Washington, 1968).

[20] “The Public and the Polity” in Contemporary Political Science: Toward Empirical Theory, edited by Ithiel de Sola Pool, McGraw-Hill, 1967.

[21] Clairmonte, op. cit. See note 15.

[22] Parts of No More Vietnams? have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, November and December, 1968.

[23] Congressional Record, February 1, 1968.

[24] Last Reflections on a War, Doubleday, 1967.

[25] Perhaps the clearest example is the reception given to the paper by Richard Barnet, which tried to identify certain institutional factors in policy planning. Compare, for example, these statements with the reaction in later discussion.

[26] The United States and the Third World, Little, Brown, 1967.

[27] According to the Newsletter of the North American Congress on Latin America, Vol. II, No. 5, September, 1968.

[28] See I. F. Stone’s Weekly, November 18, 1968.

[29] Hearings before a subcommittee of the committee on appropriations, House of Representatives, 90th Congress, 1967, Part 2, Economic Assistance, p. 1025.

[30] Published in tintuong, journal of the Overseas Vietnamese Buddhist Association, Paris, August, 1968.

[31] Quoted in News, Views, Vol. I, No. 5, September, 1968. This is the publication of the Vietnam Information Project, consisting of members of the International Voluntary Services, who are, by and large, the only Americans with any real contact with the Vietnamese people. The report notes that jailing political prisoners is a dubious tactic for the government since it serves to extend VC influence. They quote one young man, formerly anti-NLF, who described himself as “very impressed by the discipline, dedication, and intelligence of the NLF cadres” he met in jail, and who, shortly after his release, “joined his new friends in the Front.”

[32] Ibid.

[33] tintuong, op. cit.

[34] Congressional Record, June 28. Reprinted in War/Peace Report, August, 1968.

[35] The New Yorker, November 16, 1968.

[36] Christian Science Monitor, October 23, 1968.

[37] New York Times, November 22, 1968.

[38] The New Leader, February 26, 1968, quoted by Theodore Draper in No More Vietnams?

[39] In The Draft, edited by Sol Tax, Chicago, 1967.

[40] Published in The New York Times, July 22, 1968 and, more recently, as a book.

[41] Trade, Aid and Development, McGraw-Hill, 1967.