Issue and inquiry; 1; New Priorities for the Seventies: Senator George McGovern
From Northeastern University the National Information Network prison issue and inquiry. There are problems around this world that you cannot solve with military. We ought to write plainly we ought to take our troops off the mainland of Asia and recognize the fact that while we are at Pacific with enormous power in the Seventh Fleet on the island basis of that the setting there is no longer any price for the white questioner on the Asian mainland. This week on issue an inquiry U.S. Senator George McGovern Democrat of South Dakota and candidate for president in 1968. This week's program George McGovern on the 1970s new priorities for America. Here is your host feels with our governor. Senator George McGovern from the state of South Dakota has been a long
standing critic of the war in Vietnam. We spoke to the senator in the midst of a crowded room at Tufts University a few weeks ago. Here is that conversation. United States is remaining militarily unscathed by the war in Vietnam and yet the conflict has had profoundly disruptive effects on our nation's most cherished institutions traditions and beliefs. Senator McGovern willing Vietnam War how the effect of making us much more hesitant to involve ourselves militarily in foreign affairs. Well I hope so because our involvement in Vietnam is the most disastrous blunder in our national history with the possible exception of the Civil War. It's the most costly overseas and venture in which this nation has ever been involved. And the tragedy of the whole thing is that it's so unnecessary. We haven't increased the security of the Vietnamese people one iota by the enormous slaughter that has taken place there and by the very costly sacrifice in American lives and resources.
I think the overwhelming majority of the American people understand that our involvement in Vietnam was a disastrous mistake. I think most members of Congress understand that I would like to think that even the State Department has finally realized that you can't export democracy to the jungles of Asia in a B-52. It is a fact that at least for the time being the Congress and the American people are going to be more cautious and more reluctant about committing American blood to a doubtful struggle of this kind. Senator McGovern you wrote an article in The Atlantic Monthly magazine in which you stated that we Americans possess a kind of crisis mentality that makes us view rather minor events on the world as considerable threats to our own national security. What is the reason for this crisis mentality. Let's put it this way I think it's a red impatience on the part of the American people to resolve every problem that develops
overnight. We don't have the patience to lok at the turbulence of Asia and Africa and Latin America and give the people of those areas the length of time that will be necessary for them to work out their own affairs. Now we went through a bloody revolution in our own history. We followed that with a terrible civil war that almost destroyed the United States over a period of four years and yet we seem reluctant to permit other people to go through these revolutionary and domestic struggles as they seek their own national identity. We want to rush in with the Marines there with the Air Force and clean up the problem overnight. We should pause at this point in the program to let the audience who may have just tuned in Know That We're talking with Senator George McGovern is our involvement in Vietnam the symptom of some larger problem besides America as a society some radicals contend this they say that our Vietnam involvement is an inevitable consequence
of the entire county holistic democratic society under which we operate. No I think the Vietnam involvement is a break with the traditions of the United States throughout most of our history we've been somewhat cautious about trying to argue the affairs of other nations. Vietnam was not a creature of American capitalism as a matter of fact Wall Street turned against this war long ago. Most of the prominent business men that I've had an opportunity to visit with think the Vietnam involvement was a disaster. They think it has greatly damaged the American economy. They think it's hurt the. Monetary and fiscal position of the United States that it is greatly damaged our balance of payments position. And I think any poll of the leading capitalists of the United States would lead to a verdict that Vietnam was a mistake and that they would never again want to see us undertake that kind of an involvement abroad.
But apparently in your estimation not an inevitable mistake of the course could have been changed and. And yet as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination and you were unsuccessful in your attempt to change the course of the country with regard to the Vietnam War you. Obviously would have some rather strong opinions on the effectiveness on the response of most of the American nominating process in this regard. I think the attitudes of the majority of our people were not reflected either at Miami or at Chicago last summer. I would like to see fundamental changes in our party structures. I would like to see every precinct caucus thrown open to the average citizen. I would like to see us take steps when we select delegates to our next National Convention to open that process to every citizen. There are three states in this great country of ours where one man selects all of the delegates who will represent that state in a national convention. There are states where candidates for
the presidency have to go to the office of one man hand in hand and beg for his support. Knowing that that man has the power and the influence to decide how an entire delegation is going to go that's an unacceptable condition for a democratic society. It's not the way our political party structure ought to operate. And I think until we change it we're not going to command either the enthusiasm or their participation of millions of people. And i political structure the channels for it change through election are a bit clogged up. Apparently. This similar situation would seem to be the case in the Senate. One profound factor the American political life exposed by the Vietnam War has been the obvious impotence of the Senate the Congress in terms of influencing the course of United States foreign policy. Do you feel of the executive branch has in fact accumulated unlimited power in the conduct of foreign policy the executive branch has operated without a
proper check by the Congress in recent years and this is one of the lessons of Vietnam. The Congress has no one to blame but itself for that situation we never should have permitted many of the decisions that were made in the early 1960s even in the 1950s that committed American power and prestige abroad without proper debate and proper examination in the Congress of the United States I hope that's a mistake we want to make again and I'm a very strong supporter of Senator Fulbright resolution which says in effect that no commitment of brod shall have any real validity except one that goes through the constitutional treaty ratification process provided in the American Constitution. You've been listening to comments by Senator George McGovern on our policies in Vietnam. The senator was of course one of the first critics of our troop build up a presence in Vietnam when it was rather unpopular to maintain such a stance.
We should pause at this point in our program to let our audience listen to a portion of the speech that the senator gave out a Northeastern University honors convocation concerning the history of our Vietnamese involvement. And I think if Dickens were writing about our own period he would have let War in mind when he said it is the best of times it is the worst of times. He would see on my one hand and the tragic loss of some 35000 young American lives another 200000 maimed or wounded in that war perhaps one and a half million South Vietnam maize slaughtered destroy right another million and a half in addition to that. Driven out of their homes into miserable refugee centers he would see all of the tragedy and all of the heartache and all the bloodshed of that war and he would say this and it is indeed the worst of times in American life.
But then perhaps there is some ground for believing. That the American people and their government is looking beyond this war to learn some of the painful lessons that it has to teaches. And this is what I should like to talk about for the remaining moments here this morning because as one who has long taken issue. With the sending of American troops into Southeast Asia I nevertheless think there may be one battle uble and enduring lesson that could come from that involvement that could serve us well. And that is if we meet our responsibilities of learning or what that boy has to teach is perhaps it can prevent an even more costly and hopeless venture that we might otherwise stumble into somewhere else in Asia or elsewhere in the developing world.
Now the president said that his principal concern at this point is not to worry how we got into Vietnam but how we get out how we bring the war to an acceptable conclusion. But I think a community of scholars. It. Has a further responsibility and that is precisely the know how it was. We became drawn into this conflict to learn what lessons that experience has for us and then to apply that wisdom in such a way as to produce a foreign policy more calculated to lead us in the direction of peace and hope and dignity and less calculated to involve us in confusing and hopeless ventures of this kind that contribute little either to the cause of peace or freedom in Asia or elsewhere around the globe. Now it seems to me that any
understanding. Of the forces that brought us to where we are this morning about what happened million young Americans still fighting and still dying after many years in Southeast Asia must began at least 25 years ago with the World War Two period. You will recall that Southeast Asia for nearly a century prior to the Second World War was a colony of the French and had been ruled and exploited for that. Purpose No one argues about that as a historical fact. With the coming of the Japanese invasion in 1940 41 and thereafter the power of the French over what was then called French Indochina was temporarily shattered and the Japanese occupied that area shortly thereafter the United States was involved in World War 2 against the Japanese and
their allies. And ironically as it now seems we found ourselves in a working relationship with men who was leading an underground guerrilla movement against the south against the forces. Raise with the end of the war the Vietnamese native forces regardless of their ideology had fully expect that they would be given their independence from the French. When President Roosevelt heard that the French indeed intended to return and re-establish their control over this part of Southeast Asia. He said that people of Southeast Asia have been milked by the French for a hundred years. I think they deserve something better than that. But unfortunately this was not to be. President Roosevelt died in the closing weeks of World War Two and quite
understandably I think a new president coming into office in the closing weeks of that war concentrating his major attention on resolving the war and on the immediate questions of the peace and abandoned. Regrettably not adequately brave by President Roosevelt permitted a gradual drift in American policy in which we became identified with the French effort to restart their colonial control over French Indochina. That effort in spite of the expenditure of tens of thousands of the cream of the French army in spite of an expenditure of some two and a half billion dollars in American funds. That effort ended in disaster at the end then a few after eight years of bloody struggle. Now that was the first it seems to me a. Tragic miscalculations on the part of our government and that we used that critical period
to support what one should have been able to anticipate as a losing effort and a losing case on the part of the French to re-establish colonies in an area which was everywhere in revolt and where the Western powers were being invited by the local peoples to surrender their colonial control. The second mistake it seems to me that we made. Came after the Geneva Accords of 1954. Those accords provided for an election two years to the day from the signing of the Geneva agreement and the election was to have been held on July 20th 1956 to determine the future of the North and South Vietnam. Regrettably our policy was directed against the carrying out of that election. We joined with a regime that was largely our own
creation in Saigon to boycott the election in spite of the fact that we had said we would do nothing to disrupt the Geneva Accords. Now it is true if one wants to argue the legal aspects of the Geneva agreement that we did not sign the agreement our representatives walked out on the conference and did not sign the final accords but we did say that we would do nothing to disrupt either the spirit or the letter of those agreements. And it is a matter I think of historical regret. That we used what influence and prestige we had not on the side of self-determination and insisting on the elections of July 1956. But it encouraging the ZM regime in Saigon to ignore the election to break all economic and political and social relationships with North Vietnam and to launch off on a course of a stamp wishing a
separate country and a separate regime. South of the seventeenth parallel. Now in order to protect ourselves. President Eisenhower wrote his first offer of assistance to President ZM of Saigon in very carefully restrained language he said we would offer limited assistance. Implying strongly that it would be economic and technical aid and the advice of a small military advisory mission of five or six hundred officers but only. Only on the condition that substantial reforms would be carried out in South Vietnam by the government of President ZM that would give that government the capacity to stand on its own feet. The capacity to enlist the support and the respect and the confidence of its own people. And I think it's fair to say that the key reform was land reform after all this is a country where 80
percent of the people are farmers and make their living from the land a land held by a handful of people to the detriment of the great body of the Vietnamese people. And so President Eisenhower insisted in that first letter that any American aid would be conditioned on the carrying out of these fundamental reforms that would give the government in Saigon the capacity to survive with the support of its own people. This is where the third great mistake was made that in spite of that lofty document calling for reform no reforms worthy of the name have ever been carried out. And yet it is a fact. That the less the South Vietnamese government dead to enlist the support and the confidence of their own people the more we dead to compensate for their failure by sending in American troops American
blood and American treasury. And so no matter how one feels about this war and I think there's no point talking about the bravery and the sacrifice of our troops we all recognize the courage and the sacrifice of these young men who had little or nothing to say about the policy that sent them to Southeast Asia. But that issue aside one cannot argue the fact that each new failure each new disappointment. Each new sign of political instability. Each new increase in the desertion rate on the part of the South Vietnamese has been met by increasing outputs of American military power and told what began some 14 or 15 years ago as a seemingly limited and rather harmless offer of assistance to a new government has now escalated step by step until we carry the major burden of the
fighting. We carry the major burden of the war and the responsibility for the preservation of that government in Saigon. I think if I can draw any one lesson here this morning. From our experience in this part of the globe that we ought never to forget it is this one central fact. That neither the United States. Nor any other great power has either the right or the capacity to try to save a political regime abroad that does not have the respect or the confidence of its own people. The second lesson that we need to learn from our experience in Vietnam is that there are problems around this world that you cannot solve with military power. And we ought to break plainly. We ought to take our troops off the mainland of Asia and recognize the fact that while we are a Pacific
power with enormous power in the Seventh Fleet on the island bases of the Pacific there is no longer any place for the white Westerner on the Asian mainland. This is not a plea here this morning for isolationism as this position is sometimes falsely branded. It is a plea for a new internationalism for recognition. That the old isolationists of the 1920s who felt the United States could go it alone in the world really. Have their counterpart in the new imperial us who somehow imagine that we have a responsibility and a capacity to play a kind of a solo role as policeman for the world. That we can intervene in the affairs of others when those developments do not suit our purpose. This in my judgment is correct. The new isolationism I'd like to direct our audience's
attention from that fine speech that Senator McGovern just gave on Vietnam to domestic issues that we discussed with the son of a very top university Senator McGovern is chairman of the summit Subcommittee on Indian Affairs. And since 1954 with the first Supreme Court ruling against segregation in schools there's been much talk in this country about minority rights primarily concerning the Afro-American. We asked the senator if he felt the American Indian was in an even poorer economic condition than the American black man. The American Indian is in every way more neglected minority group than is the American Negro or the Puerto Rican or other minority groups in this country. The plight of the American Indian is in many parts of this country comparable to what one would find in the most underdeveloped countries of the disease rate the educational level the longevity the diet housing. All of this
is on a level that's no better than the residents of Pakistan or India or some of the other underdeveloped parts of the globe. I introduced a resolution last year that passed the Senate but failed in the House Senate resolution of 11. Which would provide for massive upgrading of all of our Indian programs but they would be tied to self help and self directed activities by the end users in too many cases the Bureau of Indian Affairs is simply handed down a program that was constructed in Washington without reference to the wishes of the Indian people the Indians have been treated as though they had no integrity or no independence or no capacity of their own in many cases Indians are sensitive intelligent capable people and what they need the resources that will give them a chance to make their own way. And I think that's the
direction in which we have to move. I will be introducing that legislation again in 1969. Senator McGovern you mentioned earlier that America is not a lot of country in your opinion. And yet the mass media sometimes paints pictures of confessions in our society in which radical groups appear to be representative of a large number of Americans. Now is there any possibility that the mass media may tend to overestimate the power of radicals in our society. So I think they've greatly overestimated it. I don't say that as an indictment of the mass media but it is a fact that the demonstrators have been very flamboyant and they have tended to draw out news attention which is perfectly understandable with Isn't it was and the mere fact that we regarded it as such sensational news is in itself an indication of its rarity. And of its unusual character in American life. But I think it's fair to say
that the FDA esper example speaks for a very tiny percentage of the youth of this country even of the college and that there's a great mass. Of young people in this country who take a different view. But what does this tendency of the mass media to focus in on the bizarre and the unusual What does this indicate about our society. I think it indicates that that human beings are still more interested in the sensation or when they are at the ordinary affairs of life. I think that's an understandable situation but it is but it is a fact. Senator you earned a doctorate degree in History and Government at Northwestern University and you were a professor for three years. How do you view the present turmoil on our nation's campuses. Well I don't think any administration can permit that. I wouldn't necessarily call in the police but I would confront the.
Leaders of that kind of an effort and try to persuade them that this is not permissible. That no one has the right by force to take over an institution of that kind whether it's a university Belding or a town hall or a church. Why what have you now. Peaceful protest is one thing but seizing property. And imprisoning citizens in this country is not illegal and it shouldn't be permitted. Now none of this has anything to say to the right of protest or free speech. It's simply a recognition of the rights of others. Senator you are a most articulate representative of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Thank you Senator McGovern.
Northeastern University has brought you a U.S. Senator George McGovern Democrat of South Dakota and candidate for president in 1968. Today's program George McGovern on the 1970s new priorities for America. The views and opinions expressed on the preceding program were not necessarily those of Northeastern University or the station. Questions asked were the moderators method of presenting many sides of today's topic. Your program always has been Joseph R. baiter Director Department of radio production. On this week's program was produced by Martin buys or directed by Peter Robbins and. Technical supervision by handmade executive producer for issue and inquiry. It is Martin visor. Issue and inquiry has produced for the division of instructional communications at the nation's largest private university. Northeastern University's request for a tape recorded copy of any program in a series may be addressed to issue an inquiry. Northeastern University Boston
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