The Responsibility for the China Decisions:
The Shifting Line of American Group Mentality
Mice, as every enlightened American knows, are regularly pregnant with mountains. Since the fall of Chinese civilization before the onrush of Communism—a matter which involves four thousand years of time and almost half a billion people—is a massive and complex event, it follows, by all the laws of common opinion, that it must have a simple cause. Since the United States was in singularly intimate contact with China immediately before that country’s transformation into a Stalinist state, it follows, accordingly, that the responsible mice must have been Americans. And since it is now plain that the Chinese mountain has turned out to be a volcano, how should Americans, always anxious to pin responsibility, suspect that the primal causes are anything other than certain mice hidden Hiss-like in the Washington hay? Some point at administration mice generally, others single out certain ones in particular, and denounce them as the sole villains behind the present volcanic eruption.
This is not to say that the United States did not have a measure of responsibility for what happened in China, or that the highly placed Americans who initialed the several China decisions are not to be debited with errors of knowledge and heart, any more than they are to be deprived of credit for wisdom and sense in other policy decisions. But, having said this, one must also say that the present debate over past China policy is by and large obscurantist. This is so even if we leave aside the Communist accusation, on the one extreme, that the United States government, under the domination of Wall Street and the NAM, used money and force to support a tottering, reactionary, feudal regime; or the comparably vociferous charge, on the other extreme, that the United States government plotted on behalf of world Communism. The MacArthur hearings, the investigations of the Institute of Pacific Relations, and the quarrel over Philip Jessup’s fitness for public office have not so much elicited new facts as compounded old confusions. They have led to wordy disputation over matters not of central relevance, at the expense of key questions.
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