The New Establishment
The New Establishment
To the Editor:
It was thoughtful of Carl Gershman [“The Rise & Fall of the New Foreign-Policy Establishment,” July] to compile so many quotations from my collected works. I haven’t had as much fun since my confirmation hearings.
I wonder, however, whether some of the others whose remarks are featured in this anthology will accept without complaint being lumped with me in the “new foreign-policy establishment.” Mr. Gershman seems to assume a homogeneity of view that is strangely inconsistent with my own experience in the Carter administration.
Mr. Gershman’s article does, however, set forth clearly the position of the new revisionists—that Soviet military intervention to install a government of its own choice in Afghanistan mandates a return to a policy of American military intervention as in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. He, as do his fellow believers, confuses containment of Soviet military power with a global use of American military force to preserve the status quo in the Third World.
Containment is continuing to work very well in Europe, where it addresses effectively the problem of Soviet military power. It lacks, as it always did, any legitimacy or rationality in dealing with nationalist revolutions in the developing countries. If we allow the two separate problems to become confused, we may find that disaffection of our allies will destroy an effective containment policy where it counts.
Mr. Gershman is to be commended for his comprehensive clipping service, but, I am afraid, for little else.
Paul C. Warnke
To the Editor:
Carl Gershman’s hatchet job so misrepresents my own views, together with those of a number of other persons, that response seems almost beside the point. Mr. Gershman seems to have constructed a gigantic straw man merely in order to tear it down. “Containment” is his litmus-paper test. But most of the passages he quotes, from my own writings and those of others, are not at all addressed to the issue of the wisdom of containment as a policy for dealing with the Soviet Union. In my own case, he seems to have read only one of my articles, one published in the Winter 1975-76 Foreign Policy. That article had almost nothing to do with strategies for coping with the Soviet Union. Rather, it addressed human rights.
Had Mr. Gershman attempted a fair analysis, he would have found plenty of passages, in my own writings and in those of the others he cites, that flatly contradict the impression he seeks to convey by means of selected quotations wrenched from their context. Force or the threat of force clearly is a useful and necessary response to some threats, from the Soviet Union and from other potential adversaries. But there are many threats for which force is not the most appropriate response. Judicious distinction among threats and responses is the essence of an effective foreign policy. It is unfortunate that Mr. Gershman seems to have a unidimensional view of the world. But it is unconscionable that he should be allowed by blatant distortion to attribute a similarly simplistic view to others.
Richard H. Ullman
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Princeton, New Jersey
To the Editor:
There could be, indeed there ought to be, a serious debate between those who hold the view of the world and of America’s role in it represented by COMMENTARY, and those who hold the view which Carl Gershman attributes to “a group of specialists associated with Foreign Policy.” There are important issues over which grave differences exist. How much room for maneuver, and hope, does the U.S. enjoy in a world in which its power is no longer as great as in 1950? What is the best way for the United States to use its power, insure its security, promote its values, and prevent Soviet expansion or domination? What are the functions and limits of military might? What kind of relationship with the Soviet Union is both desirable and possible? How should the U.S. react to radicalism in the Third World? But the surest way of not exploring these issues honestly is to proceed in Mr. Gershman’s fashion.
His article is an almost perfect example of all the techniques that make an honest debate impossible. First, there is the quasi-conspiratorial explanation. Mr. Gershman writes as if the “new foreign-policy establishment” had a coherent mind and a will of its own, as if its members were part of a single body. He lumps together authors who not only, as he says, “differed with one another on significant points,” but have indeed very little in common (except perhaps a critique of Henry Kissinger, as in the case of Zbigniew Brzezinski and myself). But he leaves out those members of the Foreign Policy group who all too clearly do not fit his stereotypes, such as its co-founder, Samuel Huntington.
Secondly, he indicts his victims for offenses they have not committed—such as finding containment unnecessary and undesirable. Mr. Gershman should be reminded that the most devastating critique of containment is to be found, not in the works of the people he attacks, but in Kissinger’s White House Years. An unwarped analysis of their writings would have revealed that some of them remain firmly convinced of the need for global military containment, while others (like myself) believe that military containment cannot be successful everywhere and that other forms of containment must be used, ranging from preventive diplomacy to economic assistance. Mr. Gershman uses the tired device of selective quotation and biased distortion. Readers of his essay unfamiliar with my own writings would never realize that I have not recommended “a general ‘rule of non-collision,’” to be applied, for instance, to Soviet activities in Cuba, but a rule of non-collision against authentic nationalist forces in the Third World, precisely because collision facilitates Moscow’s interventions (Primacy or World Order, pp. 260-61). Nor would any such reader understand that my view of the role of force in the world is nowhere as simplistic as the one attributed to me by Mr. Gershman.
Thirdly, and most seriously, he turns intellectual differences and divergences in evaluating threats and possibilities into a conflict between patriots and people who, through loss of nerve, anti-Americanism, or worse, have turned “defeatist,” see Soviet moves as unstoppable or mere reactions to bad American behavior, and are bent on “denigrating the interests and values of [their] own country.” It may well be asked whether the real defeatist isn’t the one who advocates policies that cannot work, and takes poses that give up the reality of influence for the illusion of might. Above all, it should be asked whether the best way to serve those interests and values is to indulge in slander, and to use on people with whom one disagrees the very tricks that characterize political, and, alas, so much of “intellectual” discourse in the Soviet Union.
Chairman, Center for European Studies
To the Editor:
Carl Gershman’s comprehensive attack on the alleged softness of foreign policy in the Carter administration is, at once, persuasive and profoundly misleading. It is persuasive to the extent that it portrays the Carter forces in retreat and disarray, adjusting unconvincingly to the new militarist mood of Americans in the wake of Afghanistan, just as they had opportunistically adjusted a few years earlier to a post-Vietnam anti-militarist mood. No one on the Washington scene is defter than Zbigniew Brzezinski in changing policy directions to suit shifting ideological currents.
Implicit in Mr. Gershman’s critique of this so-called “new foreign-policy establishment,” that largely formed in reaction to the Vietnam experience, is his apparent conviction that its views represented a misreading of international politics and the nature of the Soviet threat. In my judgment, such a reading is far too substantive in its character. The Carter foreign-policy intellectuals never did much more than position themselves tactically, within a single coherent American foreign-policy establishment, in such a way as to improve their prospects of getting a grip on the reins of power. Their motivations were all along more opportunistic than ideological, and they can fit in as comfortably to the revived cold war as they did to the brief interval of détente.
Mr. Gershman himself never addresses substance in a convincing fashion. His indictment of softness seems to presuppose that hardness works. His observations about the reality of U.S. imperial decline are nowhere balanced against the equivalent reality of Soviet imperial decline. Events will bear out, I believe, that the Soviet move into Afghanistan will detract from Soviet influence in the Third World. For once Moscow is trying to smash the forces of revolutionary nationalism by relying on its military prowess. Such an enterprise generally self-destructs in the late 20th century.
And yet here we are, supposing that images like “strategic inferiority” mean something vital. Ten times our present level of military capability could not have saved the Shah of Iran from collapse, nor could it rescue the fifty-three Americans held hostage these months in Khomeini’s Iran. The real tragedy of American foreign policy is that it oscillates mindlessly between the failures of militarism and the absurdities of isolationism, the one being seen as the antidote to the other.
Without a theory of history that includes an interpretation of the diffusion of power in the post-colonial world, we will never adequately understand the global challenges we confront. Instead, we will look for “enemies” within and without, strengthening our resolve for a time, and then, when this fails, relaxing for a time until that too fails. Such a rhythm is confusing and discouraging for the citizenry, but, worse, its effects are more and more dangerous through time.
A military approach to resource diplomacy in the Middle East could mean general war in the 1980′s. No one expects the rapid-deployment force to do more than establish an interventionary intention (somewhat as the Green Berets did in the 1960′s); the credibility of this intention will depend on the willingness to threaten nuclear weapons. Out of such willingness, if shared in the Kremlin, a nuclear war could result.
Mr. Gershman is so preoccupied with Soviet containment that he seems unable to contemplate these subtler, but more fundamental dangers to American security. In my judgment, this single-minded focus on the Kremlin is as likely to eventuate in national disaster as is the backing and forthing of the Carter leadership.
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Princeton, New Jersey
To the Editor:
It is, in its way, somewhat reassuring to have Carl Gershman always coming at me from the Right, while everyone else is denouncing me as an arch-reactionary militaristic warmonger. But I would like to correct one small error of fact and one major error of impression which his article conveys, as well as to express a mild note of bemusement.
Until mid-1978, that is, during most of the period with which Mr. Gershman is concerned, Foreign Policy was published not by the Carnegie Endowment but by National Affairs, Inc.
The major error of impression that Mr. Gershman leaves is that Foreign Policy published almost exclusively authors such as Warnke, Gelb, Lake, et al. whom he identifies with the “new foreign-policy establishment.” In fact, as Warren Manshel and I promised in the first issue, the magazine was open to a wide variety of reasoned views. In the first thirty issues, we published five articles by Albert Wohlstetter, four by Colin Gray, two each by Paul Nitze and Adam Ulam, as well as individual pieces by Paul Seabury, Robert Komer, Philip Odeen, Ray Cline, James Schlesinger, Laurence Silberman, and William Odom, not to mention Senators Stennis and Goldwater—none of whom exactly fits the stereotype which Mr. Gershman seems anxious to pin on the magazine.
Finally, I cannot help but be bemused by Mr. Gershman’s efforts to make the tough-minded, realistic Zbigniew Brzezinski I have known for thirty years into a starry-eyed, do-gooding one-worlder. Has he tried to convince Brezhnev of this?
Samuel P. Huntington
Director, Center for International Affairs
To the Editor:
It is always easier to attribute views to an individual (or a group) without quotation or citation. I have never argued, as Carl Gershman asserts, that “American society simply could not afford to pursue” any necessary or sensible national-security policy. I have pointed out that, within an increasingly constrained federal budget, military spending and domestic spending are in competition, and that views will differ as to what is necessary and/or desirable. See, e.g., Chapter 3 of my Military Establishment. I have also insisted that we would and should spend our last dollar, if necessary, to maintain the military balance, which is only one of the reasons why practical, equitable, and verifiable arms-control agreements are terribly important.
To the Editor:
. . . In his eagerness to find and condemn a “new foreign-policy establishment” (a notoriously loose term nowhere defined), Carl Gershman takes snippets—wrenched out of context—from a variety of writers, lumps them together, exaggerates, and then says, “this is going too far.” The chief characteristic that makes the authors Mr. Gershman abominates an “establishment” is the shocking fact that their articles (at least the ones that Mr. Gershman has read) appear in Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy. The other main characteristic is that Mr. Gershman disagrees with them. . . .
The blunders and vacillations of the Carter administration notwithstanding, more than a nostalgic hankering for the good old days of us-versus-them, universal cold war will be required to guide American foreign policy in the 1980′s. In style and substance, Mr. Gershman offers us warmed-over McCarthy; scholars like Stanley Hoffmann present thoughtful analysis. . . .
To the Editor:
Carl Gershman’s discussion of what he calls the “new foreign-policy establishment” hinges on his view of what he asserts were critical outlooks toward the world: the containment of Communism and America as an international police force. The “new” establishment, we are told, rejects both; the “old” supported both. This analysis leads to difficulties which Mr. Gershman recognizes when he tells us that there are “individuals who are not so easily categorized” in these terms. It is damaging to the analysis that the founder of the containment policy, George Kennan, is such an individual.
Containment was as seriously deficient as the current Trilateral Commission anti-nationalism. Mr. Gershman would have profited from rereading James Burnham’s Containment or Liberation (1952), although such a rereading might have induced him to recast his analysis radically.
What is needed today is a foreign policy which updates Theodore Roosevelt’s Corollary (1904) to the Monroe Doctrine (1823). We need a policy which sets the United States on a course to exert moral force (founded upon political, economic, and military strengths) to enlarge the degree of freedom of those populations which may be centrally involved in an effort to undermine the major aggressive tyrannies in the world.
The crucial task is to construct a policy supported by ideas of “liberation” and of “international law and order.” In that light, the “old” and the “new” establishments which Mr. Gershman describes were both terrible failures. Those failures force us, today, to attend to measures designed to insure our nation’s survival. Mr. Gershman’s castigation of the “new” allows room for the thought that the “old” was better. It was not.
Frederick William Williams
Pompano Beach, Florida
Carl Gershman writes:
The letters of Paul C. Warnke, Richard H. Ullman, and Stanley Hoffmann confirm a major point of my article, which is that leading figures associated with the “new foreign-policy establishment” show no inclination to reevaluate their perspective, despite the fact that it has been clearly discredited by events.
Mr. Warnke, for example, writes that there was no “homogeneity of view” within the Carter administration. Presumably, then, the perspective I outlined was not discredited because it never even existed, at least not as the common world view of those who conceived and managed the foreign policy enunciated by the President in his speech at Notre Dame in 1977. Only the “new revisionists” have a homogeneous world view, according to Mr. Warnke, one which wrongly opposes “nationalist revolutions” seeking to alter “the status quo in the Third World.”
In this glib attempt to turn the tables on his critics, Mr. Warnke implicitly states three of the principal assumptions of the new-establishment position: (1) that a Communist revolution such as the one in Vietnam, where national values are replaced by Leninist ideology and national independence is sacrificed to the larger interests of Soviet global expansion, is genuinely nationalist in character; (2) that a revolution which imposes a totalitarian stranglehold on people, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their country, is just a change in “the status quo,” a term suggesting that some form of progress is involved; and (3) that such a revolution does not affect the global balance of power. With respect to the third point (though it also has relevance for the first two), I might suggest that Mr. Warnke take a look at Prince Norodom Sihanouk’s recent book, War and Hope, in which he observes that “Soviet-backed Vietnamese expansionism, if left unchecked, may well trigger a Third World War.”
Like Mr. Warnke, Mr. Ullman charges that I have “constructed a gigantic straw man merely in order to tear it down.” As an example of my “blatant distortion,” he writes that the article of his from which I quoted had “almost nothing to do with strategies for coping with the Soviet Union” but rather “addressed human rights.”
The assumption that these two subjects are easily separable is characteristic of the new establishment, which tends not to look upon Soviet expansion as a threat to human rights, presumably because it overturns “the status quo.” In any event, Mr. Ullman’s essay—which the editorial introduction called a look “at the conflict between isolationism and involvement that has rent our foreign policy since its beginning” and an effort “to encourage a new maturity”—was not as narrowly focused as he suggests. In fact, the “new maturity” favored by Mr. Ullman had precisely to do with his support for a human-rights policy purged of the anti-Communism of the containment period. Thus, in the concluding paragraph he recalled John F. Kennedy’s famous pledge to “pay any price” to assure “the survival and the success of liberty” and commented: “Few who heard those words did not thrill to them. But few will read them gratefully today.” It is hard to find a more concise and straightforward statement of the new establishment’s moral and political retreat in the encounter with Communist totalitarianism.
Mr. Hoffmann is no less evasive, though considerably more sanctimonious. He charges that I have made “an honest debate impossible” by resorting to “slander” and “the very tricks” used by the Kremlin. His contribution to an honest debate is to disclaim responsibility for the clear implications of what he has said, and to deny that he or any of the other people I wrote about ever abandoned containment. Mr. Hoffmann is a leading representative of the “yes/but” school of political sophistry: “Yes, I’m for containment, but. . . .” But everything. We expect ritualistic disclaimers from politicians seeking to cover their tracks. The tactic is less becoming, however, in an intellectual who is supposedly committed to clarity and “honest debate.”
Mr. Hoffmann demonstrated his method recently in the New York Review of Books (July 17, 1980). “We should have no illusions about the grimness of the Soviet regime or its policies,” he writes. “But an unrestrained competition would condemn us to unbearable insecurity. . . .” Having covered both flanks, he then assumes his characteristic pose of an impartial arbiter between the two superpowers, advising that each must “be more willing to exert pressure on its clients than to score gains by supporting them.” If Moscow doesn’t heed this advice, it only means that we must work harder to establish “a far broader range of cooperative links than exists at present.” Above all, we must “keep trying, despite all setbacks, to turn an adversary relationship into a mixed one.” By this method Mr. Hoffmann is able to move, in the space of just two paragraphs, from acknowledging the “grimness” of Soviet policy to urging a redoubled effort to seek accommodation through détente. He calls this containment through “preventive diplomacy” and cries foul if someone is indiscreet enough to suggest that it is really appeasement.
Nothing could be more instructive than the contrast between the tortured rationalizations used by these writers in supporting the kind of policy they urge with respect to Soviet totalitarianism and Andrei Sakharov’s recent call for “firmness, unity, and consistency in resisting the totalitarian challenge.” We are dealing with much more here than a difference of political perspective. Sakharov occupies a different moral and intellectual universe, one where the distinction between democracy and totalitarianism is not a cold-war anachronism or a dangerous simplification of world politics but the central reality of our age, the starting point of any honest analysis of the world crisis. Mr. Hoffmann haughtily dismisses such a stance as “a rhetorical attitude, not a strategy, an act of faith, not a political design.” But as Sakharov points out: “It is important that the common danger be fully understood—everything else will then fall into place.” It is because Mr. Hoffmann and others associated with the new establishment have consistently refused to recognize the common danger, despite their pious denials to the contrary, that their “political design” has been so badly mistaken.
Surprisingly, perhaps, I don’t have the same problem with Richard Falk’s letter as I have with those already mentioned (the letter from Michael Smith doesn’t deserve comment). We disagree on many points, but at least Mr. Falk doesn’t resort to transparent maneuvers to evade a clear reckoning with his position.
I think he underestimates the degree to which the Carter foreign-policy intellectuals were committed to the views which they developed before entering the administration. There is some reason to believe that Brzezinski’s motives, as Mr. Falk suggests, were “more opportunistic than ideological.” But I doubt this was true of many others. Cyrus Vance, Leslie Gelb, and Mr. Warnke, to mention just three important figures initially associated with the administration, continue to promote the same views with undiminished vigor. Moreover, I don’t think the “backing and forthing” of the Carter administration is the result of its opportunistic adjustment to the “militarist mood” of the public. Rather, it is the inevitable consequence of the clash between the new establishment’s view of the world and political reality.
My main disagreement with Mr. Falk is that I think he places far too much emphasis on “the diffusion of power in the post-colonial world,” and so ends up with a distinctly fatalistic position. He assumes that nationalism is an immutable force that has determined the “imperial decline” of both major powers, thereby rendering strategic calculations largely meaningless.
But nationalism can assume different forms, depending not least upon the strategic calculations as well as upon the ideological orientation of Third World leaders. In fact, to the extent that Soviet power grows, genuine nationalist leaders will find it increasingly difficult to maintain their independence. Similarly, if we choose not to exercise our power, which is a function of political will and economic strength in addition to military capability, this will naturally influence how other countries behave toward us. If we start by assuming we are helpless, it is a safe bet that we shall end up that way.
Samuel P. Huntington’s letter requires a few brief comments: (1) in 1975, the year in question, the masthead of Foreign Policy stated that the journal was published by National Affairs, Inc. “in association with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace”; (2) the fact that Foreign Policy published some articles that didn’t fit the new-establishment mold doesn’t contradict my point that it was a principal forum for the development of the new-establishment world view, and that many of its major writers assumed important positions within the Carter administration; and (3) Brzezinski’s relatively “tough-minded” behavior in office represents his own unspoken rejection of the nonsense he wrote prior to 1977 during his “new-establishment” phase (Mr. Huntington is surely aware of Brzezinski’s various incarnations, since Foreign Policy itself published an article on the subject just two years ago, “Brzezinski: Play It Again, Zbig,” by Simon Serfaty). Finally, whatever reassurance Mr. Huntington derives from being attacked “from the Right,” he will have to find it elsewhere. I actually admire his work and wish to reassure him, just in case he finds this embarrassing, that I am not on “the Right.”
Adam Yarmolinsky writes that he has never argued that the U.S. could no longer afford to pursue “any necessary or sensible national-security policy.” I never said that he did. What he wrote at the time (Foreign Policy, Winter 1970-71), as I pointed out, was that we could not afford a policy of containment, which presumably falls outside his definition of what is “necessary or sensible.” His article, which dealt with the allegedly harmful influence of the military establishment on U.S. foreign policy, viewed the growing concern with “domestic” priorities in a positive light, since this meant that the military could no longer expect broad public support for its policies. “There is every prospect in the 70′s,” he wrote, “for a breakaway from the military-security mold of the past.” For Mr. Yarmolinsky now to claim that his views were misrepresented seems more than a little disingenuous.
Frederick William Williams makes a useful distinction between containment and “liberation,” but I think he carries it too far. It is true that containment, as a purely defensive and military concept, is not an adequate policy for dealing with Communism since it does not address the unprecedented ideological and universalist character of the Communist movement. But the fact that containment by itself is deficient does not mean that it is not preferable to its opposite, which is anti-containment. Moreover, as. Andrei Amalrik recently pointed out in Soviet Analyst (July 9, 1980), the containment policy of the cold-war era had within it elements of a “forward” policy, an example being our radio broadcasts to the Soviet bloc. In fact, it seems to me that some mixing of the two policies is inevitable since the determination to resist Communism cannot exist in the absence of a political attitude which rejects its ideological claims.
Still, I certainly agree that the mere existence of such an attitude is not enough, and that it is necessary to devote much more attention to the need to compete politically with Communism, systematically challenging its ideological legitimacy while simultaneously seeking to prevent war. This, as I understand it, is the Soviet definition of détente. It must be ours as well, so long as we have to contend with a power that not only poses a military threat to our security but also denies the validity of our democratic civilization.