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And if you really think that everything is going along pretty well at home and the main thing is to be able to keep that freedom of banking so you can mean me a reasonably satisfactory functioning of the system and come back to that point in the mid-late. But in terms of foreign policy it's not important. It's explicit at this conception of this country and its welfare and its security means that all threats to this system. Become increasingly dangerous and increasingly mortal. If you define America's median welfare in terms of the proper functioning of a world system then every threat becomes increasingly dangerous and every threat matter how small or real becomes increasingly close to being classed as a mortal threat
because of something going wrong with the system. We're going to have consequences of a grave kind of home either in terms of military security or in terms of economic welfare or internal social peace or in terms of the of the functioning of the political system. I would suggest very serious. That this is precisely why the man has such a wrench he increasingly divison issue in our town. Because Viet Nam represents a decision and meaning for America and the proper functioning of the system. Demand intervention to keep it going. Now what does it represent or let me backtrack a minute. I think you can see this developing in the Cuban revolution here in the situation in which a little island cortical
long or the Russian had anything to do with the revolution was defining a major threat to the proper functioning and security of the United States has the welfare of America declined in terms of what happens in Cuba. And I suggest to you that Cuba is perhaps even better an example than Vietnam. To get the point. The extent to which after roughly 900 you are original solution to these problems had become a set of beliefs. And that's the point I'd like to make next. When we begin to define the nature and the purpose and the functioning of American terms. The rest of the world to this extent what we've done is to lose touch with reality. We have become so narrowly concerned
with an oral tradition no solution to the problem that we've lost all touch with the fact that that solution to problems isn't solving the problem and I think you can see this in the last five or 10 years in this country and people start repeating ideas that don't speak to the point. It reached it reached the point in the case of Vietnam where everybody admits United States has no primary economic involvement in Vietnam at all. We've really lost touch with reality. And even in this in terms of the operation the American system you'd be very hard put to make any kind of a persuasive case that the economic relationship between the United States is out and anything to do with the fundamental functioning of the system. If this is true both at home and abroad we've lost sense of reality in
our ability to discriminate. We can't even discriminate between challenges to the system. A revolution in Cuba is as important as a threatened Russia and any guru of West Berlin. The reaction is the same is declared to be a major crisis affecting both the and vanity in the media and of the functioning of the United States and I would suggest to you very seriously that you will be one of the crucial elements of leadership is to make a distinction between a challenge to the system. More importantly in many respects is it we've forgotten about America almost completely. We're so busy saving the system that we forget how the system works or malfunction and increasingly since the Second World War the concern has been with threats to the system rather than with the system itself.
And of course in this particular time in the middle of March 1968 IIT seemed to me to be redundant to talk about that period. We were confronted as a very real possibility that you have significant sustained disorder in the streets in the United States at a time in which young men were dying to save the system. And it seems to me that perhaps this is the this is the necessary shock it will bring us back into some contact with reality. What I'd like to suggest to you and those who will use it we take your eye off the problem of the war or at least part of the time and this is not because I don't think the war zone important I think it is variable. I do have a feeling. That the work will get any. I say this is not
some rosy army just because I'm not but I think you really are. Or the Vietnamese in general are going to end the war or it or I think that American leaders and I think one of the brave. I used the word it was one of the great problems we think is we were very apt to go right back to the old pattern of it once here. It seems to me that in some respects it is much more dangerous than the war itself. If we become so narrow a concern about the war in any that we will in a sense right back into the old habits of thought out and back. If only we could get the war in the much more important issue then ending the war and then how do we prevent it from happening again. Between all the concern
about the war will turn out brutal and perhaps even tragic. If we don't now ever and. Concern ourselves with how we prevent another Vietnam. I mean this in a narrow sense when you Slater's ought to be made by as to how we feel as individuals and by giving the executive department a blank check. When the Constitution says quite distinctly otherwise. But I mean it much more fundamentally in this is the only way it seems to me we can prevent this from happening again is by going back to the problems out of which grew this attitude of America of ourselves. I think we have to confront the American system and we have to get
back to the basic questions and the basic form and devised to France or to because to say this is the war in the wrong place at the wrong time is not going another way. It's not going to change the fundamental our world is not going to lead to a G in the economy. And when I say we have to confront the Americans is it seemed to me to think we had to confront it without any loans or hesitation or looking down or looking away and saying that it does not in fact correspond to our ideals. You know I wish in our hope and fundamentally it doesn't correspond to our basic respect for other America. It's not working. Let's face it the war in Viet Nam is only the grossest kind of it was. Nation An American society has not
functioned increasingly Well it's a classic illustration of precisely the opposite. So I think we have to confront very seriously the high degree of probability that we're going to have to change the American system. Szilard corresponds much more closely with our ideals and our aspirations in our feelings for each other as fellow Americans. That one very simple thing. And instead of complaining about Johnson and his family at all or to think very hard and very serious about different ways of solving these problems economic problems political problems social problems. And what does it mean to be an American.
We happen to have different answers to those old problems that we answer 900 years ago and it was a change of law now. They don't work the problems do exist but we have to have different answers and we have to have hard answers hard actionable programs. And that's the work of everybody in this society it's not the work of the New Left it's not the work of the new conservative. It's not the work of these dams. I tell you very frankly that from somewhere you win a prize we do well we haven't done much more to provide concrete than anyone else. But education on a moral or righteous indignation like DAMN GOOD IS door going out but no concrete plans are proposed. So it's not just a lack of proper is just as much the right
problem and is just too much the liberals problem until. But we have to do it. Increasingly the kind of passion in me closing to point out when this issue was confronted by the opponents of Woodrow Wilson the League of Nations or developed calling people isolation people like Gore and Ruth and Eunice and people who Stimpson period were call I think it would call isolationist because the problem of America had been defined in these global terms and you couldn't be o ording to be the advocates of that who you couldn't do you want to bomb the America if you challenge that will you. And so they call them isolationists on down to 92 reasons or
an issue to you or where the critic the war in Vietnam. Critics of the broader spectrum of American Cause and in the last couple years in label is isolation. I think it was a very misleading term. Nobody is saying that there are many national security problems that we don't need to trade with other countries. But I would suggest to you in that interview and it's fascinating to me that everybody's worried so much about isolationism when these countries never try me and I would suggest you in closing that if you take what I suggest to you as a primary requisites of our society at this time in our nation's history. To re confront the problem and come up with hard concrete proposals and programs if that's isolationist then I
suggest to you that now the time to make the most 100. Mm. Was the way I was now answering questions why her. Question was to be a fact since I'm talking economic influencing American foreign policy when I comment on the view that American foreign policy is influenced by and just you know home. I think one of the great source of confusion in many ways I think the
source of confusion about what Sometimes I say or what I read other people to be used to see is why I tried it out. And I think you are common. And that's this. And there's a crucial distinction to be made between men who make their own personal cornhole and agitate or exert pressure as individuals or as members of oppression. In terms of them. Marketplace definition there probably in other words this goes on all the time. It probably goes on the last day in that scene and it did 75 years ago and say in the 1890s a great many Americans and for me music the 599 have very
very defined foreign policy probably united rather narrowly in terms of their economic operate eat. I don't hear you calling pocketbook policy economic Modi whenever that's the way to go. He thought about a problem he defined it is going to give you classical take most of the populace who were protesting many things domestically and nevertheless to find a solution. To the farmers there and the farmers in terms of control of the world market. I did indeed control the world market. Now I think of it as it is these individuals and or were thought of in terms of economic mobility because they clearly do. Now some people are still doing it without any question.
There's a kind of level or we might call generalized projection I suppose would be the problem. With the use of psychological bring if you're a want to project our personal preference out as policy good for everybody and I think it would in the 19th century and in the early part of the 20 issue a great many industrial spoke said in effect what the people are all groups of always and what's good for me is good for the country. Now I think the other end of his back economic order here we've got industrial military complex industrial military complex is really a way of looking at you know who says it's
got very little to do at least on the part of people who meet formulate policy in those terms. It's got very little to do with their own economic will. They're not functioning as an economic pressure and there we see what they've done to the whole world as a system and in many respects I think. The thing that happened in the 20th century the way Americans think about is that United States such an interrelated integrated system and is largely declining lying in a relationship between technology and industry and Primary Industries it happened to be involved in military preparedness or hardware ordering. If you define a welfare and safety of the system an individual
you define a world where the safety of the system in terms of this institutional world and it matters very little whether anybody got any person. Do not define the problem in systematized terms that are based on economic functioning of the whole integrated unit. I would be I don't receive your good fortune on operating in the narrow sense of economic warning. But these do find a problem where in economic terms and I will salute America's founders not rebuild the city directly or to decent lives economy or to revitalize the Negro population country following their mission even with the problem of America is to maintain the functioning of the system which in turn will take here the need for fundamental issues in how you define.
Probably I owe money. Well I think concerned my distinction between the war as it has a symptom. Rather than OK. I don't think there's any way he made it here except in the sense that if you look at the war as it is then it seems to me that you buy hash oranges becoming news and so therefore you go and find it quite the most probing it when you know about the war in all you do is consider it and used to say is it the right war in Iraq. I'm in the right
place to be born in the in the proper way. Now if on the other hand you come at the issue and and the difficulty from the different angle when you say is the war a symptom that will recur in recurring recurve of a fundamental underlying disorder and disequilibrium or disorientation with reference to reality then I think you can add much more probing questions. I was training Syrian security problems mean a very clear and explicit kind of problem for me and I think you can ask questions of what don't you think it would be necessary someday to fight a war without going into nuclear war and Iran is the point. Obviously it might well be but I don't have to find a security problem in saying everything in the world has to function
in terms of this system or else I'm insecure which is the state we're now are you. So if I look at the war as a symptom of that attitude and I may well be able to get at the dynamics of being good to an ally who can say we can define America's. Problems and solutions to problems in a better way in a way that doesn't make us so dependent upon every challenge out here being interpreted as a direct mortal threat to our domestic welfare. And learning Danish question out there well maybe and it may be an interesting question. Yes. We don't like the Soviet Union or the
way the great US you are going I think coming is with danger. I think that if you did and I was trying to get in in there. Three different areas. I don't think the Soviet Union presented a grave direct military threat to the security of the United States until at the earliest it developed intercontinental ballistic missile. Now I think you can argue that at that point it becomes a viable security problem. The Soviet Union and up to that time. I'm going to go with more gold and think the Russian or I didn't think the Soviet Union presented in direct significant military threat. Well the security of the university. I guess I agree with that.
Now. Do I think that Soviet put it on trying to end all aspects of the question which you wrapped up in one word it seems to me. Do I think that the example of the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War. Exerted the kind of influence on other revolutionary movements around the world that made it namely the Soviet Union a direct and serious security threat to security of the United States. I think that probably only one conceivable possibility in which that was case and that was probably in train and on balance I don't think it got to that point or would have gotten to that point although I think you could argue that Moynihan In other words
if the domestic French communists had in fact taken over the government of France that this would have been there and the consequences that would develop become a major security threat to the welfare of the United States in my hand. Now. Third way I think you can you can get at this question is do I think the etiology. The basic revolutionary structural replacement what we think of as entrepreneurial capitalism is the ideology of threat to the welfare and security United States. Mine too is not unless we make it so. We can let this go and let his system get to the forward function so poorly that it will now be a threat to the outside it will be a very real challenge with
these. But I don't think I'm going to be all that much to do with it because I don't think that the militant people of the world or in fact I were with a similar tone. And so you know I don't think the following are any you know if you want to go in there. Oh yeah. No I don't I don't think we have to increase their power. I think China is playing a very great role it out in Asia anyway. I think they were going arm when I would be quite willing to agree with one of the ship or anything. And China managed to do something that no other major power and
done for centuries to construct a monolithic functioning profitable importer of that size in school which I had great skepticism could do. Let's assume they did then I think there would come a time when the United States into that army was Soviet Union and many in the U.S. Air to decide if they were not going to. We really reached such a functioning operative and I think that's quite plausible or given away I wish I would argue that way but I don't think that it's put it this way it will I don't think it's too late to go back to Geneva and come out again. Now what your own strength in Southeast Asia that is coming up with restraint in these two years. Now I think you can you can escalate it by
running or running in your adversity. And flexibility people beginning to deal with their own problems as their own problem which I find exciting and I'm all for it. I think you can fiddle around and sustain escalation or pick up another country in Southeast Asia through the whole thing again and end up in a terrible rage. And I don't think you went back to me when I was when back at me with agreements knowing every five years it would be some kind of a communist dominated front running. I don't think this means could have either been arrested or for the U.S. really.
As we see it: Vietnam '68
Dr. William A. Williams
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Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3509. This prog.: Dr. William A. Williams, scholar and author, prof. of history, U. of Wisconsin, author of The Great Evasion.
War and Conflict
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Producing Organization: WMUB
Producing Organization: Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-28-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:16
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Chicago: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. William A. Williams,” 1968-07-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 12, 2021,
MLA: “As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. William A. Williams.” 1968-07-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 12, 2021. <>.
APA: As we see it: Vietnam '68; Dr. William A. Williams. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from