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Annie are the national educational radio network presents special of the week a special report from wing to spread the Johnson Foundation conference center at Racine Wisconsin. Two of the foremost foreign policy experts of the Kennedy Johnson administrations were at Wingspread for an off the record conference recently. During a break in the conference former undersecretary of state and ambassador to the United Nations George Ball and former ambassador to Japan Edward No rush hour talk to me about the course American foreign policy should take after the Vietnam war is settled. Both Mr. BALL AND Mr. Rush Hour have been critical of America's actions in Vietnam and in the course of the discussion they attempted to set out a policy for avoiding such situations in the future but without reverting to a new isolationism. Former Ambassador rush hour now a professor at Harvard began the discussion by
trying to define the proper role of the United States in Asia particularly Southeast Asia. At some time in the future when the fighting has stopped and a stable government established in South Vietnam. We've got too many imponderables there really I mean because you said sometime in the future if there isn't a settlement within a reasonable period of time and I'd say that's one to two years at the most We're going to have a rather disastrous situation in the whole far be very hard to then describe anything that would be a very desirable American role or situation in that part of the world. If the settlement comes in a way that is considered by the American public. And the world as a whole is being a complete sellout on our part I think you might get a kind of revulsion on both sides the rest of the world and part of American public that result in a kind of American isolationism that we wouldn't be there. So I think you're assuming a settlement within a reasonable period of time as I've described it and by an acceptable
method. In that case you have the problem of America defining a new role in Southeast Asia and obviously have to be something very much less than the one we previously had defined for ourselves or to that of trying to give protection to the whole area not only from any conceivable aggression from the outside presumably from China but from its own internal stabilities instabilities that obviously we cannot do. And I will have to define First of all a role for ourselves in which we stay out of the instability of Southeast Asia of the less developed countries do not get involved in insurgency situations or civil wars as we did in Vietnam but still try to play a useful role in terms of economic and technological aid and perhaps a useful military role insensibly. Providing an external environment of stability for the countries of that part of the world that is assuring
them that people cannot lightly a take undertake aggressions or that you couldn't have a disintegration of the whole situation that result in piracy and things of that sort I think that kind of military role maybe we can usefully play. Well this is going to be hard to define our involvement in such a point that it does not go on to getting involved in internal instability. And yet is enough of involvement to provide as much of the economic and technological aid in this external role of providing some stability which I think is useful. I would assume there are some ground rules perhaps I think we should not have definite military commitments to any and less developed countries certainly not the ones of Southeast Asia. We probably should not have any military presence in any of them. This might even be extended to the Philippines being an island that's a little bit different from the Continental area but I'd rather like to see us get out of our bases and the Philippines is perhaps getting us too involved in the fundamentally unstable
internal situation in that country most of whom. Mr. BALL you throw in a ticklish one but that's not Southeast Asia and it's not as unstable an area it's in some ways less developed but it's developing very rapidly but I think the really key thing is that geographically it's more important being next door to Japan and Geographic is more important in the sense that it is clearly divided between a really hostile regime to us the North Koreans and a friendly regime the South Koreans and most important it's different in the sense that South Korea is an internally stable country and therefore we can more safely make a commitment to it and I would not advocate our withdrawing our troops or our commitments from South Korea at this time. Mr. BALL How do you feel about the Philippines. Well I don't but I don't disagree at all I think with what this ratio I said. As far as Southeast Asia is concerned I
think we should have learned some lessons from the experience there. One of the obvious lessons which was implicit in what he said is that you can't introduce a great deal of military power and try to impose it on a political base that doesn't exist. And we've tried by pushing and pulling the local politicians to create a political base and I think it's been manifestly case of trying to build bricks without straw It's been a very difficult process indeed. So that while I have been having made the commitment of force and prestige to that area obviously we have to find a a some kind of solution which isn't a capitulation and which is a respectable solution from the point of view of our own position in the world. Nevertheless we certainly must avoid it seems to me the kind of casual commitment of power such as occurred there which was a
creeping commitment with it was no decision made in the first instance we're going to put five hundred thousand men into the into South Vietnam. Now the problem is is a complicated one in the sense that we can't say there are certain areas of the world we will defend in certain areas where we will not. The whole problem of defense perimeter is one that simply we may have learned something about as far as Korea was concerned that long time ago. I think all that we can say is that we're going to have certain guidelines expressed or understood in any event which should. B the principal elements in determining American policy and among those guidelines is a very cautious use of military force and it is. Mr. Ray Sherry said very aptly I think the determination to stay out of local situations of total instability which is what
we encountered there. We just cannot get ourselves in the middle of a civil war is this the sort of argue that is made very often the rejoinder is that some of this will create a vacuum. This is done as a way to clearly define what the vacuum means but you say this this is the Americans. Some I would drawl as creating a vacuum which someone is going to have to move into. But I think that's one of the worst figures of speech it's been used this concept that there is a vacuum in Asia. And last we or some other advanced nation or an I advanced nation like China feels that I don't know why I can feel that anymore. Than any other advanced nation. Actually the vacuum of power in Vietnam has not impressed me we put our hand in there and got thing chewed off by something it's no backing Asian countries even though they are not highly developed industrially as long as they have a sense of nationalism can
generate a tremendous amount of local power enough local power I think to frustrate any effort by outsiders to try to control the nation in a way that would be useful to the outsider as been learned by several countries interned the Japanese learned first in the 1930s and China's at work. But it's been really learned several times. There's no vacuum there and that's why I don't think we have to think of ourselves as playing a military role of trying to create stability in all these countries so they will not be controlled from the outside. I think we can perhaps have a useful military role in that if we maintain an option. To try to stop aggressions of an open blatant aggression should take place probably aggressions won't take place because people will realize we have that option and wouldn't dare take them. I go we should primarily be aiming at maintaining a certain military presence that would give us this option to step in if it seemed feasible and in our interests and world interests to
do that. And at the same time keep our commitments to an absolute minimum. I'd be all for Mr. Pawle suggestion that we have a certain amount of ambiguity about what we're going to do because long as the other side has to guess as to what I have to do it probably will not bark on any rash venture. I was just going to ask you to clarify the ambiguity and tell just under what circumstances you look very very smooth. Professor I shirked I said because what he is doing is the exact opposite of the famous Douglas doctrine that as long as you were completely explicit about what you were going to do the other side wouldn't interfere unless the opposite of the Dulles doctrine makes it sound awfully good. That was the worst. I don't disagree with that either. And that was the the rationale for our involvement in the center of the Baghdad Pact as it was and and for our directly and complete involvement and the whole set of a set of commitments.
This was making explicit what we were going to do well then we found ourselves doing something that really wasn't the United States interest and we were bound into something which we a good lawyer going to found a way out of that which we didn't choose to take action. Now that being said though I think that what has been said first ratio is absolutely right we are to avoid explicit commitments. We are to create a considerable ambiguity as to exactly what we will do. I think it's just as well not to make people totally dependent on us so feel totally dependent on us on the one hand or to move to encourage the communist powers to believe that we will definitely be frightened from actually. But at the same time from the point of view of our own policies our own guidance I think we have to have it nice and pretty well defined ground rules and this is what it comes down to. I what would you suggest. Let me just tell you a bit more about the explicit implicit business I
think in terms of our relationship with the advanced countries that share a hard type of society and the baby picture can safely and should be very explicit obviously would be explicit about our commitments to Canada I think the same thing applies to Wester Europe on the whole and also that you know they have significant military power to contribute. That's right and where there isn't this problem of internal instability. We're talking basically about the less developed countries where they have not much to contribute and when that where the real problem is primarily one of their internal instability rather than external aggression. Well there's no I mean if one looks at the pact that we've got missiles involved and we find ourselves with a commitment to Pakistan which we read one way and we read another. They weren't interested in the communist Minister Winston unions. And so far as Southeast Asia is concerned we would very much the same thing there is if the aggression
is not the kind of the Gration except by my interpretation we've given it which I think is a fellow who is not the kind of aggression that we basically don't mind if we find ourselves drawn into it. But wasn't the Pakistani situation the way you just described it or a matter of lack of explosiveness. We know it was matter of fact it was made explicit the statement made by American negotiators at the time. We were only talking about communist aggression but then we are in the Pakistani under within the terms of the back of the course the arms were adamant he was going to I mean this is what happens. Now about those guidelines. So we don't want to make explicit to other countries exactly what we're going to do but we do have to have something in mind for ourselves to God our own our state and I think that's where the guidelines would come in. What sorts of things you have in mind. Cut cut some troops
march across the border. That's one situation internal government of people or something is another where where do we decide in our own minds what when to intervene when not to intervene. Well I think first you've got to make the decision that the area involved is one that really affects the United States interest. Second place it's the nature of the integration is it is really one of the major crime and its power is its interfering or is this a local situation a conflict between between two neighbors which doesn't in the long run make too much difference. Third you've got to be quite clear that it's an area where power can be used effectively and that subsumes the existence of a political base which is a firm and sound one. And not a situation of instability where when you put injection of power you're really going to have to take over the management of the country if you're going to fight a
war which is something we can't do effectively as we've found much to her regret. Those are some of the guidelines I'm sure you're going to do. Yeah I like to be here first of all in the interests of the United States in the world great enough for us to intervene and second whether or not we can do it effectively and this involves the nature of the political situation isn't really a matter of whether there is a political basis there on which to build ourselves it has to be thick enough and strong enough to stand the kind of military machine we have put in with but enormous We find that we actually destroy a country like South Vietnam economically and politically by the very size of the military machine we have to utilize. And so all of these things have to be taken in consideration I think the most general rule of thumb would be that we would not consider doing anything unless it is a clear cut case of aggression and a clear cut case of aggression is usually something we might be. We could do something about because it has lines of communication that are open to attack and are kind of learned or utilize Greyson
Michael. Yeah. Short of that sort of thing I think we could help countries keep stability within their borders through economic aid primarily I should imagine in some cases we would want to give arms to regimes that seem to be particularly hopeful regimes I could imagine ourselves going as far as actually doing training of the military and maybe constabulary training and things like that. I would certainly be opposed to our getting going to the next step of having advisors in the field in an insurgency situation like that gets to be very close to the border and they get you stuck there and it's a it's one of the lines we crossed in connection yet I'm on our way into this question across to 461 after the turnaround time mission when we when we increase number of advisers from six to seven hundred and which was permitted under the Geneva Accords to it was over 10000. Yeah it was a bill a bit more advice on the SATs I think. Some of the time like the present because he was killed early on sixteen thousand five hundred in the
field or in the country. But when you talk about the training of troops and I do sort of discount the argument that this is a clip of prestige the credit of the United States to its cause if it loses we lose. Even you know even though we're not actually fighting there so I think that there is always an implicit condition which actually was almost explicit in the original I was no longer fifty four fifty four to six which force me to to present him and that is the condition of the other side has to do only what can and in fact to create the conditions in which power can be effectively used. Now if it doesn't you create the conditions by by establishing an political base which is firm enough and strong enough then it doesn't seem to me that we lose
very much. But I would drawing from a very limited commitment we simply say Well sorry but you haven't done your part yet we occidentals seem to be pretty curiously sensitive about face has often pointed out. I don't see why our face our prestige is that much involved we're willing to try to help other people but if they cannot come through and utilize our help successfully do handle their own problems it's really their face rather than ours that is involved. Beyond that I sometimes worry that the United States has too much face too much prestige it's a problem we face in the whole world being economically one third of the total world is a very difficult problem in many ways it would be best if we had less prestige. And so that's the last of the things that we are worried about. I'd like to get back to this point of aggression by whom
other countries in the world that we have to worry about China Soviet Union are those the only two does not cause green men from Mars. There is there. So that you can worry about it being what they were. Actually we've seen very little evidence it seems to me with expansionist intention as far as China is concerned at least in the sense of which involves the use of force. There was a trouble on the Union border. 1962 but they certainly didn't follow it up with any or any attempt to to gain territory. Any suggestion of quantity moved into Tibet but that was scarcely very significant. Beyond that I haven't seen any evidence of it. What happened in Vietnam it seems quite clear was was talking nice and imperialism it wasn't Chinese imperialism and I think they're two quite separate things so that as far as China is concerned I do. Myself subscribe to the to the assumption that sometimes sometimes people in the United States hold that we're facing an expansion as communist China.
Taiwan has this very special situation little part and I don't see it. Now we have for ever since the war ever since the beginning of the Cold War proceeding only on the assumption that any major shift in name and power about between ourselves and the Soviet Union could have very serious consequences and this is what we sought to avoid. And I think we should still seek to avoid it. I think that that a deliberate Soviet move into a significant area and I say significant area is something which we should we should do everything possible to discourage it including the use of force under the right circumstances. But again I think we sometimes see that occurring when it isn't in fact a career course or they use the phrase significant area and large parts of the world are not significant to us so it's a part they have no power they're a liability to the side that tries to take them over. Nothing would
weaken the Soviet more than to try to legislate and take equitorial Africa over and control it and would certainly not increase its power just make it weaker more vulnerable nations. This applies to much of Southeast Asia too and certainly in East Asia there is no great danger of aggression by the Soviet that's just out of the question. Chinese I think has been greatly overestimated their aggressiveness has shown very little signs of wanting to do this or having the capability of doing it in a successful way. The dangers of aggression I think are much more local. You have the Vietnamese are very tough people who have dominated the areas around them and I suspect they'll go on being kinds of aggression against say almost non-country like allow us which is more a fiction of the imagination and it is a reality as a nation. Cambodia is in rather a precarious state next door to a more powerful and somewhat expansionist nation like the Vietnamese who have been expanding for the last hundred years quite significantly. North and South Korea I think is quite
different from the North and South Vietnamese situation because these are two clear cut separate countries that hate each other and that would be an international aggression and there is another area of danger. Beyond that you have the kind of situation such as you had in the confrontation between the Indonesians and Malaysians a few years back of things of this sort could go wrong and nasty little wars and I think the presence of an American military potential helps discourage zis from becoming major wars I think most of these things are much more local and they are tied up with the balance of power between ourselves and the Soviet Union or even the Chinese to significant area that mean the Middle East as such which is a that is a critical one I think the Middle East is is a significant area. But I don't see any evidence of little direct movement by force on the part of the neither of the great communist power centers in the Middle East there is a situation in which there is an expanding
Soviet influence in the United Arab Republic primarily because of the weakness of the USAR and it is one of the batteries it's not in two Israeli wars in the mismanagement that is going to give them. Well to conclude I'd like to go back to my original question I originally assumptions and when I asked both of you what do you think of them. What are the prospects of those settlements in Vietnam within. Well the strike terms of the next two years is a realistic probability. Well I hope it's realistic because if it is not realistic we're in for real trouble. So I think if this war is not diminished greatly within two years I think this country domestically is going to be in very serious trouble and beyond that I think the whole American relationship with the rest of the world will be in serious trouble.
I wouldn't talk for Europe but I think there's less danger there. But our key relationship in Asia is with Japan our whole position in the western Pacific depends upon Japan as our one important real trading partner of one other country that can play a major role in developing that part of the world and a desirable and peaceful way. And I think if they do it now more is not brought to a fairly quick ending we may very well smash the relationship between Japan and the United States with dire consequences for both of us. Because one set is broken to be broken from the Japanese side they're suddenly going to find that they have to rearm. They no longer have a relationship with us and are rearming Japan or caused terrible political and economic problems for itself. Terrible problems in its relationships with the rest of Asia that is afraid of Japan and it is for many eventually maybe bad problems for the United States and Japan and their relationship with
each other as two major Pacific powers. So there's something very good to be feared if we don't reach a rather quick end to this war. I hope the new administration understands us. I would subscribe to that hope because I think to considerable extent the ability to end a war within a reasonable time is a is a function of the will of the government to do it. I think government is determined to do in the war on an on a on a respectable basis should be able to achieve within the next year hopefully. You know perhaps. But this is going to take a real determination. It's going to take the willingness to accept a few risks and in the process it's going to mean a serious effort to not only to reduce the level of violence on both sides but to begin to withdraw American forces before I think that it's important
that we begin the process of withdrawing American forces. Do you think the determination is there. I wouldn't it's because if you're going to leave his BMJ I would hope so and I think it's very improbable that we're going to get a negotiated settlement that just solves it all for us without a certain amount of American withdrawal that's what de Americanization means which helps but the pressure on psycho to be flexible in what it is willing to accept. So I think you're probably going to have a ending that is half a negotiated half America half the Americanization to use a nicer phrase that was Edwin Oh Rush our university professor at Harvard University and former ambassador to Japan discussing the course of American foreign policy after Vietnam with Professor rush hour was George Ball. Mr. BALL served as undersecretary of state and as ambassador to the United Nations under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. The conversation was recorded at Wingspread
Special of the week
Issue 6-1969
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 6-1969,” 1969-01-21, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 27, 2022,
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