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Observations #44.###########J The Big Ifs Penn Jones, Jr., editor of the Midlothian Mirror, is recovering in good spirits from a nearly fatal accident. He and his son were clearing out logs from the creekbed at Mexican Joe’s, their farm. They’d fix a chain around a log and then drag it up a ten-foot embankment with a tractor. Penn had a .22 pistol with him to shoot snakes they’d seen around. He shot a rat and went to shoot it again to be sure it was dead, but decided it would shuffle off this mortal boil without further assistance from him and put the pistol, loaded to fire, on the seat beside him in the boat. Then he laid across the seat in the boat and reached into the water to put the chain on a log, the boat tilted, the gun slipped off the seat and fell underneath him, and he was shot through the midsection. Another inch: his heart. He walks around the block slowly now, and is regaining his strength to go to England Sept. 30 to make a long lecture on the assassination. I would have given him a short lecture on gun safety except for two details: he is a general in the reserves, and it happened that while I was up there with him my boy Gary and I went in the country to shoot it out with a few doves and a cranky 12 gauge did not do just like I thought it should in a way that’s difficult for me to explain without inviting hooraws. Penn’s boy Penn III says he can’t see why only the liberals have all the gun accidentsmaybe, he says, it’s because the conservatives practice all the time. Well, this is a roundabout way of leading up to an editorial of Penn’s that is good evidence that some of the clearest and sanest thinking on foreign policy appears in small weekly newspapers wherein free men think straight and say what they think. This editorial, from the Midlothian Mirror, is called-“Time to try again” and says: This planet must have time to work on its problems. Peace only can grant us that time. This editor is not one to cry for peace at any price, but the necessity of risking all-out war for Vietnam, which is ten thousand miles away, seems pretty silly. Most of our leaders admit the Vietnamese would vote against our being there. They would have so voted ten years ago too. An election might be the answerto save face for America. Let our soldiers conduct an election and if the Vietnamese do vote against what America has been giving them, then we come home. This nation needs to win friends. We need to convince the world that our democracy is the best form of government. That battle concerns convincing citizens, not military organizations. The Vietnamese natives have been mis 2 The Texas Observer treated and robbed for the past thousand years. The various military organizations have carried out the instructions for whoever was ruler at the time. That naturally makes the native distrust any uniform. It is difficult for a man in the bottom of a deep well to tell which of two men peeping into the well is the good and which is the bad guy. Apparently we have not done enough to convince the native that we will be on his side once the fighting is over. This democracy must win friends in order to be able to continue to combat communism. We must make other nations bloom to insure the victory we need. We must spend a hundred times more than we are spending now. We must send fifty times as many Peace Corps volunteers. We must show the world that we are sincere in our fight for a better way of life for all people, but rifles and napalm are not the best method. We have already lost in Vietnam as did the French. We still have time to save much of the world, if we work and waste precious few minutes. We might win a land war in Asia, but the ifs are big, numerous, and dangerous. If we are willing to pay with two million of our sons and daughters. If we are willing to give up all civilian control of our government to the military for the duration. If we are willing to triple our present national debt. If we understand that we are going to fight, for the first time, largely alone. If we are willing to do all this for the next twenty years, we might hold Red China in check at her present boundaries. In the meantime we will have lost all of India, Africa, and South America, for the pressing problems in those areas cannot wait for our promised solutions. A Constitutional Convention A conference is being held over the weekend in Michigan by the inventors of the teach-in on Vietnam, who have created a group they call “Alternative Perspectives on Vietnam.” I quote from this distinguished group’s statement of assumptions: “The analytic perspective that is typically brought to bear on the issue [of Vietnam] is rooted in the assumptions of the Cold War ; the evaluative perspective is provided by considerations of national interest and national power. These perspectives govern the approach not only of the United States, but also of the Soviet Union and of China; not only toward Vietnam, but also toward the Dominican Republic and other foreign policy issues. . . . “These perspectives have led us into a dead end on the isue of Vietnam. The problems of Vietnam have proven incapable of any acceptable resolution within the terms of the Cold War and of power politics. . . . We need to bring radically new analytic and evaluative perspectives to bear on the issue.” Sitting in a hotel room on Corpus Christi Bay this morning, a few days before this conference, in which its sponsors hope to agree on things to do as well as things to believe, I have written Alternative Perspectives on Vietnam, and have just mailed this letter \(I’m giving the typesetter the carSeptember 11, 1965 Gentlemen : I offer these observations vis-a-vis your forthcoming conference. Because of nuclear weapons, as well as other innovations that relate us more closely to each other, nations are now only geographical units in the one world society. World politics lags far behind this new reality. In my judgment the time is very ripe for the calling of the third world constitutional convention ; in this one, for purposes to be agreed upon, but necessarily encompassing nuclear resources and technology, the nations must yield sovereignty to the general welfare, represented by the central world government, just as the states had to in the American experiment in federation. This argument derives its validity’s urgency from the phenomenon of nuclear proliferation, as described in Mr. Kennedy’s speech in June. This argument derives its political validity from the need that proposals for transcending the analytical and evaluative frameworks of the nation-state system \(of which the Cold War is one coning intelligent and appropriate; because of the power of mass thinking and impulse on leaders, such proposals must also be simple and dramatic: this is, communicable to masses of people. There is no insuperable reason why internal economic and political systems and nation-state cultures could not be reserved sovereignties of the nations, just as the states reserved their internal powers and identities in the American experiment. The League of Nations and the United Nations exist in relation to this proposal as the confederated states did to the Amer’ ican constitutional convention that produced the federal American union. Ronnie Dugger Alternative Perspectives on Vietnam Post Office Box 1385 Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. Air Mail As I stepped down the hotel hall and dropped this letter in the mailchute that runs down the elevator shaft, I reflected how commonplacely this is one world, when in a hotel room on the Gulf of Mexico one is twenty steps from Michigan ; from anywhere. A Drive in Texas I enjoyed and learned from Larry McMurtry’s piece on a drive he took through some of Texas. It’s in the September Holiday and I suggest you get it. Sixty-one cents, counting your subsidy of the oil .and gas companies \(as Jim Presley and his friends have taken to saying every time