The Dominican Crisis (Cont'd.)
To the Editor:
Heartiest congratulations on “The Dominican Crisis: A Case Study in American Policy” by Theodore Draper [December 1965]. . . .
It is an outstanding piece of reporting and analyzing and deserves the widest circulation. I very much wish that reprints could be made available and that copies could be sent to every member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate.
(Sen.) Ernest Gruening
United States Senate
To the Editor:
. . . Mr. Draper's article seems to boil down to a nervous apologia for Juan Bosch, plus an implied plea to give him another chance to govern the Dominican Republic.
The trouble is, though, that Bosch consistently exhibits a type of inflexible idealism that unnerves even his own supporters in the Betancourt-Figueres-Muñoz Marin camp. . . . That he lacks any skill at practical politics was amply demonstrated during his seven-month administration when he managed to alienate just about everyone including . . . leaders of the democratic labor movement. . . .
Particularly hard to justify is Bosch's attitude at the start of the recent crisis. By voluntarily dropping his legal claim to the presidency, he eliminated the rallying point for Dominican democrats. Control of the Dominican administration was then up for grabs since Bosch's resignation made everyone's claim equally valid.
Most disheartening was his refusal to return to the Dominican Republic in those early days when his presence might well have proved decisive. Instead, he remained, of all places, on U.S. soil while bleating against U.S. imperialism. . . .
Finally, Bosch's “softness” on Communism is a legitimate charge. Mr. Draper twice emphasizes that Bosch finally accepted Figueres's formula: “Constitutional government, without Communism and without Trujilloism.” Why was such a “formula” necessary in the first place? . . .
Upon the assassination of Trujillo in 1961, Communists flocked into the Dominican Republic and, as they invariably do, made straight for organized labor. But they were met head-on by flying squads of exiled Dominican labor leaders trained by the Inter-American Regional Workers Organization (ORIT). Bloody clashes followed. . . . But free labor won and set up CONATRAL, a democratic labor confederation representing a clear majority of organized labor. The Communists did not give up, however, and the fight was far from over. Thus, Bosch's tolerance of Communist activities was understandably interpreted by free labor as giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
By the time of the April crisis, a split had occurred between CONATRAL and the remnant of Bosch supporters. The latter amalgamated with the Communists in a confederation known as FOUPSA-CESITRADO.
Leaders of CONATRAL and the ORIT did not pooh-pooh Communist influence during the April crisis, for they had evidence. On April 26th the rebels broke into arsenals and distributed arms. That very night a Communist band sacked CONATRAL headquarters, wrecking and stealing equipment and destroying the files. But the headquarters of FOUPSA-CESITRADO and CASC (Christian Confederation), both in the rebel zone, remained untouched.
At this very moment, free labor in the Dominican Republic is engaged in a hard battle, sadly unreported in the press, to keep the mass organizations out of Communist hands—a prerequisite to democratic elections (as it was for Bosch's). Having done the job once for Bosch with such disheartening results, should free labor do it again?
Queens, New York
To the Editor:
Congratulations on Theodore Draper's excellent analysis of the unhappy Dominican Republic affair. He has documented most effectively the inability of our government to understand the revolutionary non-Communist upsurge in Latin America. Several years ago, Teodoro Mososco, former U.S. Co-ordinator of the Alliance for Progress, said:
I think John F. Kennedy made the right diagnosis three and a half years ago. He saw a revolution in the making, and he sought to come to terms with it. . . . Today we are still using money, more than before. But do we remember that there is a revolution going on?
And lest anyone suspect Mososco of being a firebrand, he was a solid Puerto Rican businessman when he accepted the Alliance job.
It has taken us several years to learn what needs to be done—politically—in South Vietnam. I am unsure about whether we shall bring it off in Vietnam. I am, however, more sanguine about Latin America and American foreign policy. The recent appointment of Lincoln Gordon as Asst. Secretary of State for Latin American affairs and the diminution of Mr. Mann's role in Latin America give me some hope. In the meantime, Draper's article is the kind of useful criticism needed to understand the vagaries of American foreign policy.
New York City
To the Editor:
Theodore Draper's article goes into great detail about a tragic and confusing situation. However, he draws much of his information from statements by rebel sympathizers while ignoring or ridiculing American officials and Dominican Loyalists.
He makes much of the rebels' calls for help to the U.S., for example, but dismisses lightly at least three calls to Castro's Cuba. If these men were so readily prepared to turn to Cuba for aid and comfort, is it not logical to conclude that Communism could have been the destiny for the Dominican Republic had we not arrived on the scene so quickly?
Castro did not admit his political leanings until he thought the time was ripe. Then he stated that he was a Marxist-Leninist, always was, and always would be. How many Cuban intellectuals would have thought of Castro as a Communist in 1954?
. . . No one, Mr. Draper included, will ever know whether our policy in the Dominican Republic was a failure or a success since the rebels were never given the opportunity to form a government. . . .
Bronx, New York
To the Editor:
Congratulations to Theodore Draper, and to COMMENTARY for having published his remarkable article—thus far the best analysis of the situation in Santo Domingo.
Perhaps Mr. Draper would be interested in this extra bit of information with reference to the U.S. press coverage of the Dominican uprising: immediately after the U.S. intervened, a reporter for the San Juan Star, Puerto Rico's English-language daily, who serves as a stringer for Time magazine, received a cable from Time asking him to interview Dominicans fleeing from their country and arriving in San Juan. The cable also said in effect: Get quotes from them, saying how relieved they were that the U.S. had intervened.
This may not be the exact wording, but I have been informed of this cable by three different members of the Star staff on three separate occasions, and each one's version of the message is almost identical.
I spent over a week in Santo Domingo in May 1965, covering the situation for my own magazine and was amazed at the way the U.S. “news magazines” described the events of that period. . . .
Perhaps the wildest bit of reporting (I prefer to regard it as wishful thinking) was a Life piece last summer:
Juan Bosch is given to obscure philosophical concepts such as wondering aloud how it is that water gets inside the coconut . . . there isn't anything Bosch can do to duck Communist sponsorship other than return to exile and forget about running for president again.
I call this “wishful thinking” because Bosch's presence creates a knotty problem for the U.S. and the O.A.S. He is the lawfully elected president, and if he decides to run again in the forthcoming planned elections, there seems little doubt that he would win. Bosch is quite bitter about both the golpe de estado which unseated him and the U.S. intervention last April. With Bosch in Santo Domingo's presidential palace, the U.S. would have a real “maverick” on its hands. And so far as the “Communism” issue in Santo Domingo is concerned: In the Trujillo era, the Dominican government owned or controlled about 80 per cent of all Dominican commerce. Since Communism, in part, means state control over the economic resources and production of a nation, one wonders just what difference there would be between a Communist-controlled Dominican Republic and the Dominican Republic of the Trujillo era so far as the freedom and prosperity of the Dominican people are concerned.
Unfortunately, however, the freedom and prosperity of the Dominican people do not seem to be the issue in the current Dominican crisis. The real issue is maintaining the delicate global equilibrium of power between the U.S. and the Communist bloc. People don't seem to count anymore. Or did they ever?
San Juan Review
San Juan, Puerto Rico
To the Editor:
. . . Reading Mr. Draper's brilliant exposé nearly a year after the event only serves to confirm a sense of one's own (and our) political impotence.
It is depressing to learn, once again, that the daily papers are useless as organs of information, not to mention analysis. . . . The average layman requires a continuing course of study in political affairs before he is capable of separating fact from fiction. . . . I'm thankful that some among us, like Mr. Draper, are not put off by the horrendous difficulty of getting at the facts.
To the Editor:
Theodore Draper deserves our thanks for another lucid, penetrating, and devastatingly effective article. I am concerned, however, that Mr. Draper, through the use he makes of a single paragraph in my Foreign Affairs piece of last October 1965, may inadvertently have identified me as an apologist for the administration's Dominican policy and actions.
I have been publicly on record as opposed to the Dominican intervention since last June 6th when, in an article in the New York Times Magazine, I characterized the intervention as a “disaster” and traced it to a “tragic miscalculation.” I went on to find the roots of the miscalculation in the administration's nearly obsessive concern with Communism in this hemisphere.
In the Foreign Affairs piece, I tried to make a sustained plea for greater restraint, better intelligence, increased understanding, and less presumptuousness in our dealings with the countries of the Caribbean and, more broadly, Latin America. My closing lines are these:
Above all, let us not conclude automatically that because known Communists are associated with popular movements, even movements sired by violence out of desperation, that the movements are ineradicably tainted. What it comes down to is this: Do we, or do we not, have confidence in the Latin Americans? Hard though the choice is, we cannot really have it both ways.
Mr. Draper's disagreement is not with me but rather with the administration, whose position I tried accurately to reflect in the paragraph he quotes.
John N. Plank
The Brookings Institution
To the Editor:
Theodore Draper's reporting on recent Cuban history has been, to say the least, accurate. That I know, having been one of its participants. Consequently, I am inclined to believe what Draper writes on related subjects. From what he says in the December issue of COMMENTARY, democratic Americans have a right to be indignant about the way certain U.S. authorities have dealt with the Dominican crisis. But as a Cuban, I do find some comfort in what has lately been happening; after all, Wessin y Wessin is in Miami among the Batista henchmen, and Bosch is back in his own country.
In spite of whatever previous errors may have been pointed out, the U.S. is doing something in Dominica, and—recently—in the right direction. The U.S.'s hand-picked García Godoy seems to be democratic and honest; free elections are due to be held fairly soon and the American troops are remaining there, guaranteeing a democratic future against the daily conspiracy both of the Right and of the Communists.
The U.S. goal now seems to be the installation of a true democracy in the Dominican Republic. If that interpretation is correct, Bosch and the rest of the Dominican liberals ought to cooperate with the U.S. The U.S. alone cannot do that job and neither, I an, afraid, could the Dominicans now, if left to themselves.
What some Americans did wrong is past history now. Dominican leaders should not put their own personal feelings—even if these are justified—above the general interests of their country. They should also keep in mind that in addition to the Ugly Americans, there are also many others that are truly democratic. I have a right to give that type of advice because whatever happens in the Dominican Republic will influence the future of my own country.
Isla Verde, Puerto Rico
To the Editor:
Let me add my voice to what surely will be a torrent of praise for Theodore Draper's superb article. Not only is it an example of intellectual journalism at its best; the article could serve as a model for the kind of political action—for an article like this constitutes an act—in which intellectuals of the liberal-left ought to engage.
New York City
To the Editor:
Congratulations on the extraordinary study by Professor Theodore Draper.
My faith in democracy is strengthened when a citizen of a military power at war can examine his government's actions so thoroughly. My faith in our culture is reborn when a political scientist can be so scholarly and so fair on policies of which he disapproves.
As a non-U.S. citizen who lived through part of the storm, I feel inclined to be more generous in my own appraisals. Knowing a little about Latin-American limitations, I would say that the U.S. handling of the crisis may have been a mismanagement of an unmanageable situation.
From another angle, this may be a case in which Carlyle—rather than Marx, or Toynbee—was right about what makes history: The U.S.-Dominican crisis was, or is, in a restricted sense, a tale of two men.
Both men are my friends, and both have my admiration. This world would be a better place if Mr. Thomas Mann had a dose of Mr. Juan Bosch's idealism, and if Bosch (like many of us) had a dose of Mann's effectiveness.
I have never discovered a trace of malice in Mr. Mann's skepticism, or a trace of moral weakness in Mr. Bosch's unusual personality. As is the case with most men, their virtues may be the cause of their shortcomings.
One of my own shortcomings (as this letter may show) is a tendency toward oversimplification. My immediate recipe for the Dominican Republic is simple and prosaic: provide food for everybody who needs it, during a few weeks or months; meanwhile, organize full employment even if you have to dig holes and fill them again. The political problems will not disappear, but they will diminish. Then, undertake long range programs.
To author Draper, thanks for a great document.
San José, Costa Rica
To the Editor:
. . . I consider Mr. Draper's article a most thorough and complete observation of the whole Dominican development.
(Sen.) Eugene J. McCarthy
United States Senate
Mr. Draper writes:
Mr. Kalin's letter represents the same school of thought in the “free labor movement” in the Dominican Republic and in the United States which made it become the ally of General Wessin y Wessin and lend itself to the defamation of Juan Bosch. I gave some of the details in my article in The New Republic of February 19, 1966 and need not repeat them here. If this is the best the “free labor movement” can do, a mockery has been made of the words “free” and “labor.” For the rest, I merely wish to correct some of Mr. Kalin's misconceptions. It is not true that “Bosch's resignation made everyone's claim equally valid.” Article 132 of the 1963 Constitution provided for the succession in case of the temporary or permanent absence of the president. Also, Mr. Kalin's version of how CONATRAL was set up is largely mythical. If it represented a clear majority of Dominican organized labor, the recent general strikes would have been impossible. The idea that CONATRAL made Bosch's election possible in December 1962 is simply laughable. The only thing that CONATRAL's record demonstrates is that the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s policymakers for Latin America and their Dominican protegés have learned nothing and forgotten nothing since the days of Batista in Cuba.
Sheldon Greenberg refers to the rebels' “three calls to Castro's Cuba.” This is a pure fabrication. As for Fidel Castro, he never stated that “he was a Marxist-Leninist, always was and always would be.” In his famous speech of December 2, 1961, he said: “I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be one until the last day of my life.” Mr. Greenberg has gratuitously added the two words “always was.”
I wish it were possible to get the editors of Time to comment on the second paragraph of Mr. Wagenheim's letter.
For a change, I can be more optimistic than someone else. I cannot agree with Roberta Maisel that our newspapers proved to be “useless as organs of information” during the Dominican crisis. I still think that many of our correspondents displayed a rare and almost reckless courage, and what they did for us was far from useless.
I am glad that professor Plank reminds us of his position on the Dominican intervention in June 1965, and I am sorry if I may have inadvertently done him an injustice. In my article, I merely said that Professor Plank had “neatly put in one sentence” the third and final stage in the rationalization of U.S. policy, which is more or less what he says he tried to do. Readers of his Foreign Affairs article of October 1965, who had not read or did not remember his previous article in the New York Times Magazine might have found themselves hard put to determine how he stood on the Dominican intervention. The subject of his article was, after all, “The Caribbean: Intervention, When and How.” The sentence before the one I quoted reads: “Of the Dominican Republic little need be said here, for its plight has been comprehensively described by many commentators.” And, indeed, he said little—too little, I thought. It may be true that the “plight” of the Dominican Republic had been comprehensively described when he wrote, but is it true that in an article specifically devoted to intervention in the Caribbean, little more needed to be said about the plight of U.S. policy in the Dominican Republic? In any event, it is good to know that my disagreement is with the administration, not with Professor Plank.
As my article in The New Leader of January 31, 1966 showed, I am less sanguine about the recent manifestations of U.S. policy than Dr. Rufo López-Fresquet, the former Cuban Treasury Minister, seems to be. I hope, however, that he proves to be right.
I am, of course, deeply grateful to Senator Eugene McCarthy, Senator Ernest Gruening, Arnold Beichman, former President José Figueres of Costa Rica, and Irving Howe for their kind words. I am especially moved by the second paragraph in Sr. Figueres's letter.
[Correspondence on Mr. Draper's article will be concluded in our June issue.]