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Oregon educational broadcasting in cooperation with the Foreign Policy Association. Presents United States foreign policy demands of the next decade. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary the Foreign Policy Association of the United States organized a traveling foreign policy conference. This is the fourth of a series of seven programs developed from that conference based on the theme demands of the next decade. These programs are designed to stimulate the thinking of an informed American public about some of the issues to be faced by the nation during the coming decade. Our guests on these seven programs may be considered
among the most distinguished group of foreign policy experts ever assembled for such a task. Today's program is subtitled. Projections Asia. Future programs will consider such topics as projections Africa and projections. Latin America. Harold Isaacs is our guest for today's topic. Projections. Asia. Mr. ISAACS a professor of political science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology first covered the Asian continent in 1930 as an editor and reporter of the China Press in Shanghai and papering. He also served as associate editor and correspondent for Newsweek in Washington New York China India and Southeast Asia. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Africa Asia American Jews in Israel and Negro Americans. Following Professor Isaacs
prepared address. He will respond to questions from the audience. Harold Isaacs projections Asia. I know it is difficult in a time like this when. The most immediate sorts of questions are on everybody's mind. About how do we deal with the morass in Vietnam. To step back and not to. Take a look at the history. That brought us to where we are. But there's no way he really ever scaping this history. And one has to keep on saying this because there will be no way of escaping the history we're making now either. Lincoln told us a long time ago that we could not escape history.
And some of his history having to do with the place of the black man in American society. Is still more Eunice capably with us today than it ever was before. And the history of our involvements with Asia or with China and Japan. Was just beginning in Lincoln's time beginning to accumulate the events and consequences. That are upon us now. Consider China. A century up to nine hundred forty nine for China it was a century of. Violent encroachment defeat humiliation. Domination by assorted Western
powers ultimately by Japan. Brought nearly to a state of total dismemberment by the end of the century last. And we participated in this history. We participated mostly with our own peculiar brand of predatory benevolence. And we don't often stop now to remember that we have about 100 years or more in which to exert our influence on the emergence of China from its own backwardness and through its efforts its convulsive efforts to modernize and come up into the 20th century and in the end we had to face the challenge of Japan for mastery in the Pacific.
What we helped produce out of all of this. Was the big thrashing monster of the Chinese revolution. This revolution is led by communists and we hate and fear with considerable good cause. But it's been mostly by a very human. National and cultural chauvinism. Driven by the need for success for reassertion. Of Chinese pride and status. In a way it's a kind of a an exaggerated form of exactly the same set of emotions that we're running into here that go by the name of Black Power militancy
the need of the law and debased and humiliated to restore some sense of self pride and self respect. And in the Chinese. This comes out of the need of a lab past in which belief in Chinese superiority and the primacy of Chinese culture. Perhaps the most deeply embedded. Of all its characteristics to make China again what the name China means a central country. The center of the universe. This is made China an extremely dangerous highly volatile element in these grim and dangerous and volatile times. It is the primary source of explanation of why China could not even remain an
alliance with the Soviet Union. And it explains why in this convulsive period of its emergence. China is finding such enormous difficulty in coming to some kind of more stereotypically pragmatic way of coping with it's an enormous tract of problems development and change and modernization. Now faced with this phenomenon. We have to as far as we can find a way to practice. Stereo typically Chinese patients at least for as long as the Chinese practice stereotypically American impatience in their efforts to achieve their objectives as they seem.
Meanwhile holding off as best we can this dangerously thrashing monster and doing everything we can to share the common interest we have with other countries like the soviet you like Japan like the countries of southern Asia in responding to terrible Chinese expansionist impulse. To the extent at least of keeping it from inflicting too much damage on itself around the world while it works its way through this period of its transformation. And not to find apocalyptic implications in every little turn of events. Not to imagine that we're
still in the 19th century when a piece of real estate on some strategic corner of a continent made all the difference in the world in the pursuit of effective national interests however they were can see the large factors of and realities of the power struggle in the middle of the 20th century have to do whatever things and little pieces of real estate. They also have to do with the fact that it's no longer a period of history in which the application of limited military force can achieve dominance much less create a politics. And this is exactly the way on the whole we have been proceeding. Consider Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia as you know is colonized by the West of England France Ireland. And thereby separately coming into that state and half infant Towle half aged semi deferment. Or semi to form dependence which was the characteristic consequence of Western colonialism wherever it was imposed. The Japanese and their drive for mastery in Asia swept away these colonial regimes early in 1942. So that when we defeated the Japanese by mid 1945. We found ourselves in a situation where colonial power was nonexistent
in Southeast Asia a. Few thousand interned soldiers in concentration camps. And we had then our moment in history. When we held in our hand. The power to write the beginning of a new dispensation. Power to southern China was gone. There's nothing we could have done then subsequently to prevent what happened in China it was too late. But in Southeast Asia it was practically for us a tabula rasa on which we could write. Unfortunately there was nothing. In our history except our rhetoric.
To prepare us to take advantage of that opportunity. We were we were only a few years out of our own isolation from the world. As we have merged into the world thrust into it by the exigencies of World War. The man leading our society and our government. Despite our laws direct involvement in Asia truly could only see Asia across the Atlantic and across. And this Atlantic view so hopelessly up skewing. The view we had of the realities of politics in the immediate aftermath was.
That it was believed that the only way to restore beginning some kind of orderly transition Southeast Asian affairs was to help restore the established authority of the colonial power and this is in effect what we did that helped to especially in Indochina. We transported the troops the French troops came by the fall of 1945 and American ships came marching up the ships and the cutting and Saigon. Dressed in their G.I. uniform driving in g our trucks with the tanks the American signal is still on. I watched them come up. In effect we sure aren't the friends back in doing the crime.
There had been a brief flicker at the beginning of the war owing to the capitulation of Vishy France to the Japanese who freely yielded up Indochina to the Japanese as a base for their subsequent operations south as early as 1940. And in a brief period then when President Roosevelt in anger at the French had toyed with the idea of creating some sort of new status for Indochina after the war. Vaguely thought obvious perhaps some kind of trusteeship. By the was then there was no trace even of this notion and all we had by way of a policy was some kind of restoration of the French. And it was up to the French then to settle with the nationalist movement in Vietnam. And that nationalist movement which at that time was a coalition of
force which the communists were extremely important but by no means dominant. It had been the most persistent courageous struggling national movement in all of southern Asia. That part of it which had never really yielded to the French joined by all kinds of others who maintained guerrilla activity against the Japanese. The rapid turning of occupation to the extent that in the closing months of the war we supplied this movement led by Holcim it will not even negotiate in this country. We drop bombs man the RSS was in there fighting with man guerrillas against the Japanese. Tying down two Japanese divisions in northern Vietnam. That national movement promptly entered into conflict with the
French after a bootlace attempt to negotiate a settlement entered into a war that lasted as you know eight years in which we as best we could support the French right on up to the last moment again PM for when John Foster Dulles thought maybe we ought to come rather drastically to their aid. When the French were finally defeated we took up the business of trying to ensure the maintenance of noncommunist politics south of it now and then followed the history of this period in which we have almost back in step by step seemingly all unknowing of what we were doing most of the time. Until we find ourselves now turning ourselves more and more deeply into this morass. And by
doing so. We flew in the face of at least two of the primary higher no lessons. Secondly this generation's history in Asia which had been urged upon us by our generals from Macarthur down by anybody with any kind of elementary sane view of the reality of modern politics in Asia one. That no effective result could come from military commitment on the ground in continental Asia. And that too. It certainly could not be productive in any limited way unless it was allied with a vital
local politics capable of mobilizing in its own behalf seeking its own aims and ends commanding an adequate support from the population rooted in the tradition of struggle of the country. It was the presence of this ingredient in South Korea. Where whatever else was the situation you had the seat of traditional and quite heroic South Korean nationalism represented by the government of South Korea. Whatever has happened all Syngman Rhee in his years of power seaman Rhee was the leading figure for 50 years in the struggle of Korea against Japan. And it was the presence of this much determination a Korean South Koreans not to be swallowed up from the north
that enabled us to come out by the skin of our teeth in a bare ass stalemate outcome in that war. And it's the absence of this even this model. In South Vietnam. To say nothing of the presence of terrain and geography which makes the waging of our kind of war all the more ridiculous and fantastic in such a way that has doomed us to what is surely the most grievous most incredible miscalculation misconceived adventure in our national history. And you know here again as a sort of a replay here that has its own almost unbearable irony. The South Vietnamese with whom we are allied in the struggle
are kind of a fait Reppert duction of the government and just kind of second China with one difference. Next to these little characters who are the leaders of South Vietnam who in the years of the national struggle against the French were fighting for the right. Next to their junk cash check was a titan of a national hero a man whoever else whatever else one could say of him had devoted his life trying to advance the national cause in China. And with all his defects. At least had this as a sort of a thread of substance and
sustenance that makes him a pathetic figure but at least a figure that can be understood in terms of failed aims. But you know when General cheer the other day made that speech with tears in his eyes about the shame of corruption and how it was undermining his regime this was sheer plagiarism from John Tesh ex-junkie Scheck used to talk like that every Friday morning at the weekly site not censor. I'm serious. I'm sure you could go back to the papers right. I probably have them somewhere in my files and I can write that speech at most word for word. And if you read any of the accounts like the one in the Wall Street Journal two days ago of the sort of total disarray of the administration the total bootlace n'est the total in effect effect to organise a steeping in corruption and the failure to meet and deal with the most elementary needs of administration
much less the needs of people in the society. These again are descriptions of the going down regime SLAs. Without even the excuse of the moment I had of having had of having been under direct Japanese attack. For 15 years before that. In the case of China in 1940 648 despite the demands that were raised we did not intervene in that civil war. Fortunately because if we had we would have played out then on a. Much more massive the terrain the same kind of sorry and painful and costly drama that were playing out in Vietnam and get Naam we have done it.
And in this tiny piece of territory not even as big as New Jersey. We are proving the theorem. And we went in three years ago with force still beguiled by the notion that somehow 20000 30000 40000 American troops. Would resolve the situation. And you had that succession of pledges and promises of what would be done sixteen thousand one hundred twenty five thousand to the level of each time simply getting in deeper with less and less effect. And we went in. To bring the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table to reduce the scale of hostilities. This was the honest Abe of Johnson and his advisors 1960. They believed that they could accomplish this with what they were. And in three years with the EFF it escalated to its present.
Levels. Far greater than the Korean. Dropping air tonnage is greater than any concentration and were ever dropped in the second world. And not only have we not achieve the stated objectives. Remember we are going to inhibit infiltration. We were going to reduce the flow of supplies. Nevertheless we find ourselves confronting a fellow who started out three years ago with automatic rifles in his hand. He now has missile launchers. Rockets even tanks. And is able to mount. A strategic offensive. Taking the initiative Toyo away from this American force. And putting an end to all of the self-serving. Rationalizations about secured sections of the countryside and even of the
secured sections of the city and are really faced. With all of this we couldn't even protect the American Embassy in sight. And the question arises now. Where do we go from here. Now suddenly for. A whole extended period now President Johnson with. Sincere anguish. Let us not try to make a monster out of this man. Has been saying OK tell me how I get out. And so far he's been taking the advice of the military. And his other advisors who said well if you apply more force more of same we will reach the point of inflicting a sufficient defeat on the forces of the enemy to bring about
a negotiated settlement. And this was the rationale for each step of the action. And the other day Joe also characterized the Tet offensive of the North Vietnamese as designed to drag the United States to the negotiating table. Now that the Vietnamese. Have been able to place us at such a severe disadvantage at such a cost. The answer to the question of how we get out is even more grievously difficult than it was four years ago and it was tough enough that. We did not seize the opportunities one way or another to shift ground in the direction of a settlement
because it was believed that we could achieve advantages a solution which would ensure a more favorable settlement from our point. Now this is not in view. So what do we do. Well it seems to me that this issue clarifies itself down to or at least sort of two large questions to which we have to make an answer this month. One would begin with a scenario. Question of which would be the president of the United States calling in his cabinet his advisors say gentlemen we added. The goal of policy now is how to extricate. And I want you to put all your effort all your thinking or your ingenuity such as you may have to work on to try
using the ways and means of coping with the enormous difficulties conceiving the subject. But this is where we go we've got to cut our losses we cannot. Go on at this rate because it cannot produce results that we want. And it simply is becoming too counterproductive for the American national interest to continue the way we go. This will be painful humiliating embarrassing and it would be a rather dramatic example of the fact that you do have to pay for the consequences of your own actions.
U.S. foreign policy: Demands of the next
Projections: Asia
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KOAC (Radio station : Corvallis, Or.)
Oregon State University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3721. This prog.: Projections: Asia. Harold Isaacs, MIT, looks at Vietnam and discusses other Asian countries.
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Producing Organization: KOAC (Radio station : Corvallis, Or.)
Producing Organization: Oregon State University
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-4-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:55
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Chicago: “U.S. foreign policy: Demands of the next; Projections: Asia,” 1968-03-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “U.S. foreign policy: Demands of the next; Projections: Asia.” 1968-03-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: U.S. foreign policy: Demands of the next; Projections: Asia. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from