The Editor’s Speech About Foreign Policy 4′ Most of this paper about foreign policy, by the editor of the Observer, was delivered to the state convention of the Texas Liberal Democrats in Houston Nov. 6. My subject is foreign policy, but I am no expert. To think of the world is to think of so much, knowing it is impossible; and thought seems so frail addressed to power. Yet the deepest problems of foreign policy are the problems, not of power, but of values. The question is not just what are the facts in this or that country, the the question is also what should the facts be? Grant assert none of us knows everything. Few of us know enough about most questions. Most of us know nothing about some aspects of all questions. Are we therefore to leave the history of the world to experts? No. When the experts tell the policymakers what the facts are, the policymakers still have to decide on action that is based, in the facts, on the values and purposes that are chosen to be served. Foreign policy is, after all, policy, and the values and purposes of policy are the legitimate business of . citizens in a democracy. If we have confidence in democracy, then we may not and we must not say to the people of the world, “We are not responsible to you. It’s too complicated. We don’t have all the facts.” As the people of a democracy either we are responsible to the people of the world, or we are not and we must be. Unfortunately, there are also questions about the experts and the facts. When the people cease to be able to be sure they are being given the straight of it the truth, and not a bill of goods then they have to begin paying more attention to disputes about what the facts are. Every time our government lies to us, as it did about the U-2, the CIA’s Cuban invasion, and the reason for the enlargement of the Marine commitment in the Dominican Re’public, the government undermines the credibility of its own foreign policy. This month we are confronted with the appalling question of whether the Johnson Administration has been deceitful with us on the point of its desire to negotiate for peace in Vietnam. On Nov. 16, David Schoenbrun, former CBS chief European correspondent and a world-respected reporter, told a conference of bankers in New Jersey that a ranking French government official told him that during the six-day pause in U.S. bombing in Vietnam last May, on the fourth day, the North Vietnamese offered to begin unconditional peace talks with the United States and directed the French to tell the U.S. that Hanoi was ready to talk about a cease-fire and a peace settlement. Ostensibly the purpose of the pause in the bombing was to elicit precisely this response from Hanoi. “But,” said Schoenbrun, the U.S. ignored the overture and resumed bombing raids . . .” 1 Donald Grant, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch correspondent, some months ago in the Progressive quoted the late Adlai Stevenson that Hanoi had proposed negotiations in the fall of 1964, and Stevenson had urged the proposal be taken up, but the Johnson Administration refused to do so. This matter has now been spread upon the public record in detail by Eric Sevareid, in whom Stevenson confided two day& before he died. Not only, according to Stevenson’s remarks quoted by Sevareid, did Hanoi propose negotiations before and after the November election ; U Thant offered to let the U.S. “write the terms of the cease-fire offer, exactly as they saw fit, and he, U Thant, would announce it in exactly those words.” The Johnson Administration did not take up the proposals. 2 The partial denials and defensive explanations that have issued forth from the government since Sevareid’s article appeared do not dispute the facts that offers to negotiate were made and that they were turned down. As James Reston wrote a week ago, President Johnson had said last July 13 that “there has not been the slightest indication that the other side is interested in negotiating or in unconditional discussions, although the United States has made some dozen separate attempts to bring them about.” Thus there is a serious dispute about our government’s attitude toward negotiating a settlement in Vietnam, and as Reston says we face a crisis of confidence about the candor of our government with us.3 ., Experts may be the best guides on, facts, but they can differ drastically among ithemselves on what the facts of complex situations are, and when their ,judgment about what should be done is trusted, they can be plain wrong. President Kennedy exclaimed after the Bay of Pigs that he had known all his life not to trust the experts, but he had, and it had been a disaster. For this disaster, he was justly criticized in the country questions of judgment are questions for democracy. This is the glory of our way of life that we cannot be made to shut up, that we believe in dialogue, that we go on acting out our various consciences. We will not delegate the life of the world to overlords. Will we, then, to party regularity? No, but even if we would, we can’t. The Demo cratic Party is in reality gravely divided on foreign policy. When Senator Robert Kennedy and Senator Mike Mansfield and Senator William Fulbright and Senator Wayne Morse are significantly differing with the foreign policy of their own party in power, there is grave division. The Republicans generally seem united behind policies of killing communists and cutting foreign aid, but the Democrats are divided over questions at much deeper levels. If locally, Democrats who are concerned are silent, the Democratic dissenters in Washington could be overwhelmed. The President is going to need a climate of opinion to support a negotiated settlement in Vietnam if one can be got, and we do him and the country no service being silent while the Towers and Carrs and Connallys and Nixons and Goldwaters beat the drumheads of war. I submit that being a Citizen comes ahead of being a Democrat and that being a Democrat is no excuse or reason for refusing to think and speak about the great ethical questions of our policies in the world. We cannot all read all of the New York Times every day, but some citizens among us should bone up on foreign policy and communicate about the pertinent controversies to our fellow citizens. Beyond our responsibility to engage in the meaningful debates of these times, to contribute to the dialogue out of which the President must shape foreign policy, we have the additional duty of holding our own elected congressmen and senators liable for their positions and their silences on these questions. Texas liberals have been hicks too long. The world has come to us and it is time we went forth to the world. We can do that really only by holding Senator Yarborough, as well as Senator Tower, responsible for our foreign policy; by sharply questioning them and, say, Congressman Cabell and Congressman Gonzalez, not only about medicare and rent subsidies, but also about the expansion of the American troop commitment in the jungles of Vietnam. Unless independent Texas liberals broach these questions, who will in Texas? If we do not, all we will be fed by the Texas politician will be superpatriotic jingoism or excuses for silence. I beg you this, that we be patient with each other, and trust in our common humanity. If we can keep calm, we can get through. With so very much involved, emotions burn deep. But we must learn to bear the burn without the flame. For we are the descendants of man, through whom history hopes to pass. November 26, 1965 3
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