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The national educational radio network and the University of Chicago present China today a series of five programs devoted to exploring the significance of events in communist China and the interaction between the Chinese People's Republic and the United States of America. The talks in this series were recorded during a year long study of China held by the University of Chicago Center for Policy Study in 1066 and 1967. On today's program the last in the current series you will hear two talks. First Adam Yarmolinsky professor of law at Harvard University and former special assistant to the secretary of defense will discuss United States military power and foreign policy. It's customary to begin any account of U.S. foreign policy objectives by a catalog of self-abnegation. We seek no territories no new military bases no spears of influence nor do we hold to the 19th century doctrine that trade follows the flag. I believe
all this is quite true but I believe also that it is more useful to begin by cataloging the limitations on the foreign policy objectives of any nation including ours and particularly of any great power in the nuclear age. These limitations were most strikingly described perhaps by Nikita Khrushchev in his famous observations to a meeting of the Soviet Communist Party organizations which he happened to deliver in the same month that John F. Kennedy pronounced his inaugural address. In that speech Mr. Khrushchev described three kinds of war nuclear wars conventional wars and what he called wars of national liberation which we might classify anywhere between legitimate revolution and wars of subversive aggression. Nuclear Wars he said could have no victor. They would only end in mutual destruction. And even conventional war as he characterized is too dangerous because they might escalate
into nuclear war only wars of national liberation were safe to pursue. The conclusion that Mr. Cruise ship may have lived to regret as he views the situation in Vietnam from the Soviet sidelines. The opportunity for any nation to affect the conduct of its neighbors affairs at least through the use of force or the threat of force is indeed more restricted than it probably has ever been in the past. Every nation lives in the shadow of thermonuclear holocaust and paradoxically that shadow lies more heavily on the great powers and on the smaller ones. Because action by any great power grids a stronger likelihood that another great power will feel its national interests vitally affected so that its nuclear deterrent might be invoked. Indeed the scope of nuclear deterrence is limited by mutual estimates of what are vital national interests
and the penumbra of deterrence as measured by the range of mutual uncertainty about those interests. Any examination of United States foreign policy objectives therefore begins with the proposition that these objectives are extremely limited not only by choice but by necessity relative powerlessness of a great power is perhaps best demonstrated within our own federal system in which the federal power of the United States must stand by law and order a flooded and even human life is taken with the acquiescence of sovereign states of the Union. Beyond the geographical limits of its sovereignty every sovereign no matter how powerful can only bargain. He cannot rule. All these things being so what objectives of US foreign policy can be served by our military power. And how do the actual uses of US military power of the last 20 years jibe with these purposes.
To begin with it seems clear that the most important use of U.S. military power is to put an absolute ceiling albeit a fairly stratospherically one on the willingness of other nations to risk a nuclear attack against us or our allies or an equally serious confrontation with the United States. Khrushchev gambled with the missiles in Cuba may have been the last great confrontation at the nuclear level. In other words nuclear power deters other nations from taking actions that would some effect our own freedom that we would risk our survival to prevent them. So long as nuclear weapons remain in the hands of only a few each of whom is comparatively responsible and would fear retaliation our nuclear weapons should deter a major attack by creating a large risk that despite the destruction they could impose upon us we would have the capability and the desire to inflict enormous damage on land and people we thought responsible for the
attack. By the same token we know that we have sufficient force to react to any other unacceptable action. For example a nuclear attack on one of our allies. Provided we recognize as we do that such an attack would be so great an invasion of our vital interests that we would be prepared to risk massive destruction of our own society in the process. The class of cases in which our nuclear deterrent is effective is thus necessarily limited to the cases in which our survival as a nation is involved and the potential aggressor knows it. We cannot enlarge this class of cases by thier act alone we can certainly shrink it by any evidence of indecision or cowardice. This leaves an enormous barrage of situations in which aggressive action might disturb the peace of the world. But what is short of creating the conditions that could be counted on to deter a potential aggressor because he would know that the potential action did not
so affect our survival as a nation that if he acted we would be forced to a nuclear response. Our nuclear power was not relevant to our actions in Korea. In Lebanon in the Caribbean or of Cuba. And it is not relevant to our actions in Vietnam. These are the situations where the only relevant ability is the ability to respond with less than nuclear force. If the Soviets for any reason were to contemplate launching a probe into West German territory they could not reasonably anticipate a nuclear response to such a probe at least at first and therefore they would not be deterred by the US capability to launch such a response. The United States and its allies would like to be able to mount the kind of non-nuclear defense that could meet and physically contain any aggression at any level. So the burden would be on the Aggressor to make the terrible decision whether to withdraw or to escalate. Moving that much closer
to a nuclear confrontation. Another way to describe the objective is to refer to Tom shellings distinction between force and violence force physically prevents actual violence as time shelling uses the term influences action by inflicting great pain. The use of force is inherently a good deal less destabilizing and the use of violence if we can prevent aggression by force and therefore by the threat of the use of force we leave to the aggressor the more difficult task of invoking violence or the threat of violence. Our role in helping to maintain short term security in the developing world involves us in a number of difficult policy choices. Our commitments must be limited by our resources. If we are not to be a paper tiger and we simply do not have the resources to provide a global constabulary. In fact a
number of administration officials have already pointed out that a global policeman's life is not only on happy but impossible. It's particularly difficult to mobilize enough military power so that we can deal with a particular crisis by the use of force in time showing sense rather than by the use of violence. Whenever a policeman has to use violence and arresting or subduing a citizen he creates waves of trouble that spread well beyond the original point of impact. And the same is certainly all the more true in the case of military power. Even a nation as rich and powerful as the United States could not afford to maintain a military establishment large enough and flexible enough to deal with more than a limited number of military crises simultaneously assuming that we wish to do so. The decision to intervene with military force in a particular situation amounts therefore to a decision to deny the availability of that quantum of US military power for other contingencies in
the foreseeable future. A reasonable decision to intervene therefore involves the consideration of what other situations might require even more urgently. The same US commit one of the principal achievements of the first two years of the Kennedy administration was to provide the kind of force that could deal with more than one major crisis in the world at the same time. The availability of this force made a major difference at the time of the Cuban missile crisis but the ability to deal with more than one crisis does not imply the ability to deal with an infinite number. This is indeed the limiting case on the ability of the military power of any single nation to serve its foreign policy. And military intervention is costly in indirect ways as well. The United States has discovered to its sorrow that it cannot walk into a foreign military adventure. Defeat the forces of darkness and then walk out again. There seems always to be a marline indeed a practical political commitment to stay behind and help pick up the
pieces. We were still picking up the pieces in Europe a decade after World War Two. And our commitment of two U.S. divisions to Korea plus substantial military assistance remains essentially an open ended one almost 15 years after the terminations of overt hostilities. We are committed to withdrawing our troops from Vietnam within six months after the aggression is ended there. And I'm confident we'll meet that commitment. But I'm equally confident that our involvement in the economic rehabilitation and development of Vietnam in Southeast Asia generally will be at least the work of a generation as well the economic effort now underway in the Dominican Republic. There are other policy dilemmas for the United States contemplating military assistance and intervention. The law must quite unrelated to the availability of our resources. How does one judge whether an outbreak of internal violence is likely in fact to be a check to positive progress or a necessary convulsion in the often spasmodic
process of positive social change. How does one judge whether an indigenous revolutionary movement has the internal vitality to maintain itself or will settle down to giving orders how to off the teletype from Peking r Moscow. And how can one make a reasonable guess as to whether a country's internal resources to defeat subversive aggression would on balance be strengthened or weakened by assistance from outside. There are no handy rules for locating the answers to these questions. Whatever the United States chooses to do there is no lack of critics to point out why the choice was the wrong one. On the right it is argued with no great internal consistency that the developing world is helpless before the spreading tide of world communism and that the US can and must intervene on the side of whatever force appears at the moment to be struggling to push back that time. From the left we're accused of a paranoid fear of social change which it is said leads us to oppose change simply because it may be an infected with a communist changed ideology.
Nevertheless a few general principles none of them decisive a particular cases may be tentatively offered for consideration. A reasonable first principle in foreign affairs seems to meet when in doubt don't intervene. Sovereignty is still a normal condition for the effective use of power. Many if not most of the political difficulties of states are self-limiting and scatter ration is perhaps the worst enemy of the effective use of one's energies. There is even a practical political as well as a Maro question. How do we know what is best for other people. When I was other people do not have the opportunity to administer to us the admirable corrective of an occasional resoundingly defeat at the polls. I assume although others may differ that we have no substantial selfish motives for intervention abroad but we are still
liable to errors of judgment. My second general proposition is that we should be even more reluctant to intervene militarily when military intervention requires the use of violence than where it can be accomplished simply with the use of force. Even apart from the maro considerations involved in a decision to inflict pain and death on other human beings rather than to restrain them directly from accomplishing their objectives. It is just a good deal more difficult and chancy to have to rely on violence as a means to persuade people to stop rather than simply stopping them by main force. And this is true whether the people we are concerned with are North Vietnamese Communists or Rhodesian Neo Colonials. It is perhaps worth noting that the function of U.S. military power in the Dominican Republic was not to engage in violent action but rather by interposing itself between contending forces to
prevent by force what would otherwise have been a major bloodbath. Our troops spent most of their time in the corridor between the two whirring camps absorbing bursts of hostile fire which they did not return. I remember on the day when the one side pushed as far as our own military corridor a line McGeorge Bundy saying to me down there in Santa Domingo. They can't go on fighting because tomorrow they're going to run out of war. It is also worth noting to what extent we have applied a self-denying ordinance in our conduct of specific never Terry operations and the adverse consequences we have suffered when as in Korea we temporarily abandoned those limitations. My third general proposition is that we cannot help those who are unable or unwilling to help themselves. The job of governing any nation is so difficult that it is a miracle it is accomplished at all.
We may be able to help remove some impediments to the process but we cannot provide a substitute for the imagination and dedication and immensely hard work that has to go into it on the ground it seems to me our principal problem in Vietnam today. The fact of outside aggression in South Vietnam has been amply demonstrated and any illusions about the general popularity of the Vietcong or its communist front the NFL should by now be pretty well dissipated. But the problem remains that the Saigon government is a weak reed indeed on which to rest our hopes for effective and humane administration of the countryside. And the great significance of the argument apparently going on in Washington today over the nature and extent of our military assistance to Thailand in coping with its growing insurgency problem in the northeastern part of that country goes it seems to me to the question of the present government's ability to develop the kind of program that can win and hold the allegiance of its own peasantry.
My fourth principle is that any effort to intervene in the affairs of another sovereign nation must sooner or later and preferably from the outset be a multilateral effort. This is the lesson we learned in Korea and we have applied it albeit with varying degrees of success in Vietnam and in the Dominican Republic. A fifth principal or perhaps a special case of the fourth one is that in the last analysis responsibility for the security of any country depends on its neighbors. The United States cannot contain the export of subversion from Cuba unless the other nations of Latin America are also committed to that containment. Nor can the United States help to protect the smaller nations of Asia against the potential of Chinese expansionism unless the major agent Asian powers Japan India Australia and even eventually Indonesia undertake primary responsibility on their side of the globe. All of these five principles it seems to me apply with equal force to another Terry assistance
program as they do to direct military intervention. They apply particularly to that part of the present program comprising less than half the dollars. But more than half the countries which is designed to help our allies in dealing with their own internal security problems. The other major function of military systems to provide equipment to countries that share with us the immediate burden of patrolling the iron and bamboo curtains when their own economies are too weak to provide adequate military budgets. Has a different and more easily supportable ration now. There is a third aspect of the military assistance program. The most popular one I suppose which is called nation building or civic action as to which I would only say there is no reason not to use indigenous military for economic development but not as a rationalization to continue an oil program under a new label. All of these principles are limiting principles and one may well
ask why should the United States be prepared to intervene at all whether through the military assistance program or with direct military force in her neighbors troubles particularly when some of her neighbors are halfway around the world. We insist that we have no motives of economic or political aggrandizement or political goal is to make the world safe for diversity including presumably diversity with which we do not agree. But we do have a stubbornly Iraq in erratic interest in frustrating aggression because aggression like other appetites grows on what it feeds on. And this is not to suggest that one can draw direct analogies between Hitler and HO G men. But it is to point out that in every significant episode of violence there is likely to be some element of aggression and where that element is itself more than minimal and where the aggression cannot be checked by the aggressor see himself
the threat for progress toward a world of rule of law is checked or thrown back. That progress afterall is the ultimate guarantee of our national security. And it affects all the positive goals of our international relations detente arms control even eventual programs of cooperation with those who make themselves are antagonistic. But achievement of all these objectives is deferred when we allow aggression to succeed anywhere in the world. Intervention is necessarily a painful process. It can be costly in treasure and in blood and it can injure us in other ways. A democratic nation is a community of individuals supported by mutual respect and undermined by shared violence. Even when we can agree on it's necessity. Yet if we look at the record of the last 10 years I believe there is some grounds for hope. The verdict of history is not yet in on our intervention
in Southeast Asia but South Korea is a rapidly modernising nation with a viable economy and a political system moving towards democratic goals. And in the Dominican Republic a new government installed through free elections has successfully made its first and perhaps a various channels challenge to the principle of civilian supremacy a principle that has never before found stable or lasting expression. And that long unhappy country. It may be argued that this kind of peacekeeping function is best performed by smaller powers than the United States under the Pacific aegis of the United Nations. But whatever our eventual hopes for a United Nations as a peacekeeping agency its present scale of peacekeeping operations and the narrow limits necessarily set for them suggest that there is a power vacuum here that U.S. military power can and must help to fail for some time to come.
Another way of saying this is to say the military power are at most buys time to pursue nonmilitary solutions to foreign policy problems. And the durable solutions to fine policy problems generally turn out to be nonmilitary even where an immediate military solution seems feasible. Suppressing a guerilla outbreak doesn't remove the conditions that led to the outbreak. A man who can make a decent living out of Latin American hussy ENDA is unlikely to turn to banditry just as a student who can find a real intellectual challenge in a Latin American University is unlikely to turn to kidnapping government officials. A guerrilla and insurgent is a man with a grievance. His theories about the cause may be imaginary but the grave itself is real and it's real enough to keep him out in the rain in the dark. We're less aggrieved citizens sit quietly by their hearts sides or their TV sets. We recognize the need for more effective law enforcement to curb juvenile delinquency.
But we don't suppose that even the most fish and or draconic bar enforcement would eliminate juvenile delinquency and insurgents are even more strongly motivated to engage in insurgency than delinquents are to engage in delinquency. Now what does this excursion into foreign policy Tell us about the kind of non-nuclear military power that the United States ought to maintain. I submit that we can identify at least three priority areas of concern by the managers of the US military establishment. The first is readiness the ability to move quickly with decisive force because the availability of that force is itself both the best deterrent to aggression and the most effective weapon to block it in its initial stages of development. If military force buys time the best values had to be had when the time has just
begun to run. The ability to mount a decisive force at a specific time and place is much more important than the existence of massive numbers in reserve. When we moved into the Dominican Republic. I believe we were right to move in with clear numerical superiority. We could afford to be less violent because we were able to exert more force and we could not have moved decisively in a matter of days and hours without the readiness that took years to develop. A corollary of the concern for readiness is the concern for flexibility without flexibility. We cannot be prepared to deal with the enormous range of contingencies that confronts us. And if the odds are heavily against the desirability or utility of military force in any given crisis specialization becomes a luxury that only a garrison state can afford.
The last and perhaps the most crucial concern is responsiveness. The Cuban Missile Crisis is of course the classic example of both the need and of the US military capacity for precise responsiveness to political control. But even in less intensely dangerous situations. Now what Tere Pyaar is a relatively blunt instrument for what are becoming more and more precise and delicate operations. Military operators have I believe become better servants of U.S. foreign policy at least over the period in which I've had the opportunity to observe them from the E-Ring of the Pentagon. But there's at least one major aspect of foreign policy making in which I believe the masters may have something to learn from the service. Defense policies nowadays are articulated in the language of plans
and programs. Foreign policy is still too often expressed in terms of attitudes or policy towards acts as one of friendship toward Y one of containment. George Z one of non-recognition. This is all very well if the statement is only shorthand for a program to carry it out. But I note the doctors do not say that their policy toward high blood pressure is one of hostility. Economists do not say that their policy toward unemployment is one of containment and even practicing domestic politicians are beginning to form the habit of telling us how they propose to reach their goals. In the military sphere policy is inseparable from programs in the political sphere. Policy too often becomes a substitute for a program. One consequence is that wherever a military problem exists in the world in Vietnam in Berlin in Thailand the necessarily defensive short range
time buying military program tends to obscure the need for a detailed long range nonmilitary program. And even when our foreign policy problems cannot be characterized as military. Our foreign policy makers do not have but surely think about the relationships between resources and objectives they are inclined to be more concerned about reacting to cables and about in-depth analyses and their consideration of alternative means tends to be a good deal less searching than their consideration of alternative ends. It's relatively easy to get agreement on what our goals and hopes should be for the troubled areas of the world. It's more difficult to focus attention on how to get there from here. In this connection the Department of Defense may be able to provide one model for the organized application of knowledge to the marshalling and selection of resources but
China today
Adam Yarmolinsky
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
University of Chicago
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program presents a lecture by Adam Yarmolinsky.
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A series focused on current events in China, as well as the interactions between the governments of China and the United States.
Global Affairs
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Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: University of Chicago
Speaker: Yarmolinsky, Adam
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.13-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:26
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Chicago: “China today; Adam Yarmolinsky,” 1967-09-07, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 17, 2022,
MLA: “China today; Adam Yarmolinsky.” 1967-09-07. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 17, 2022. <>.
APA: China today; Adam Yarmolinsky. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from