ter. As Yoder explains, the Alsops themselves were fervent supporters of the hydrogen bomb projectto which were attached many Cold War jittersbut realized that Oppenheimer himself was not personally responsible for delays in its development, as much of the media glibly alleged at the time. \(The two even put out a book on the subject whose title they adapted from Zola, So, too, did the brothers immediately contest the slingshots of hysteria issued by the raving Senator from Wisconson, denigrating \(in July, ternal suspicion” and “the lunatic notion that the American government is honeycombed with perversion and treachery.” It was an early date to be facing down McCarthy, and Yoder justifiably credits the Alsops on this count. That said, Yoder’ s study of the Alsopian influence is misty and over-generous from start to finish, and illustrates in perfect microcosm how contemporary commentary which appears balanced and reasonable on the Cold War in fact disguises the enormous damage wrought in the name of national security. This is wrenchingly evident in Yoder’ s treatment of the Alsops’ views on foreign affairs, less so in his assessment of their far more scrupulous and fairminded battle against the enemy within. On the latter, although the Alsops defended men like Oppenheimer, they did so not to leaven the militancy of the Cold War but to keep it directed at what they felt were the proper targetsthose who actually dared to step outside the narrow confines of consensus and challenge the status quo. They did not hesitate with lavish red-baiting of labor unions and even mildly divergent political movements, describing Henry Wallace’s 1948 Progressive Party \(which sought accomodation with the Soviet policy.” In the late 1960s Joe Alsop issued similar pronouncements about the civil rights movement, material which, as I.F. Stone pointed out at the time, proved useful to demagogues like Mississippi Senator James Eastland, who footnoted a Senate speech on “Communist Infiltration into the So-Called Civil Rights Movement” to the work of “Mr. Joseph Alsop.” The Alsops did their real damage in the foreign policy realm, and here Yoder entirely misses the boat. “Three decades later,” writes Yoder in an ahistorical re-assertion of Cold War orthodoxy that has become the reigning habit since the Soviet Union collapsed, “we can begin to see more clearly how the story turned out…architects of the ‘containment’ doctrine, whether in its political or militarized variations, have been vindicated…Theirs was the guidance in world strategy that the Alsops adopted and advocated.” In light of this, Yoder concludes that the Alsops’ “gloomier forebodings” about the communist threat were “not so much incorrect as inconsequential.” This is fitting in a study that glides so lightly over the consequences of an episode in U.S. foreign policy that was nothing short of an Alsop obsesssion: Vietnam. Yoder covers only the opening act of this development, which occurred in 1954, when Joe Alsop compared the threat of a French withdrawal from Dienbienphu to from the Americas. \(“The battle at Dienbienphu,” he wrote, “now resembles the batited Vietnam, similar concerns inspired him to chide American reporters David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan for questioning the political and moral legitimacy of the Diem regimea corrupt prop of Washington’s which had just persecuted thousands of Vietnamese Buddhists. “The constant pressure of the reportorial crusade against the government,” warned Alsop, risked transforming Diem “from a courageous, quite viable national leader to a man afflicted with a galloping persecution mania.” \(Three weeks later, that “viable” leader was overthrown in a coup sanctioned by Alsop’s favorite Cold War presiA year after the Diem affair, with the Johnson Administration hedging on whether to proceed with a full-scale invasion of Indochina, Alsop pressed for “nonappeasement” in a series of articles that expertly played upon Johnson’s deepest insecurityhis dread fear of not being man enough for the job: For Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam is what the second Cuban crisis was for John F. Kennedy. If Mr. Johnson ducks the challenge we shall learn by experience about what it would have been like if Kennedy had ducked the challenge in October, 1962. Note how Kennedy’s bringing the world to the edge of nuclear disaster for the sake of asserting his “toughness” served as Alsop’ s litmus test for presidential responsibility, a point which casts doubt and irony on Yoder’ s claim that in Alsop’s view “no risk-taking whatever [in the national security realm] could be morally justified.” David Halberstam has written that Alsop’s series of columns on Vietnam inspired even a moderate like Walter Lippman to conclude in disgust that if Johnson went to war, half the blame should fall on Alsop. We don’t hear much about this from Yoder, nor about how Alsop spent the early ’70s applauding the carpet-bombing of Cambodia, ingratiating himself to Henry Kissinger, and predicting that the U.S., with one final thrust, would emerge triumphant in the Asian “rice war.” Yoder skips over such matters to deliver a more soothing version of the Cold War: one which highlights the “lunacies” of McCarthysim, which Alsop for the most part faced down, while obscuring those of the national security state, which he cheerily sponsored. For Yoder and others who have greeted his book with untempered effusions of praiseGeorge Will, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. among them”victory” in the Cold War somehow vindicates hawks like Alsop for having advocated missile systems which the U.S. did not need and backing interventions which led it to fight senseless and criminal wars. For such commentators, the excessive zeal expended in the battle against the communists on the homefront is a subject for critical reflection, but not the wasted resources plowed into the creaking military-industrial complex, nor the worldview which led U.S. policymakers to assume the right to intervene \(usually in a counter-revolutionary way, the aftermath of the Cold War becomes a time not for admitting responsibilities and assessing costs but for re-asserting national myths. Joseph Alsop, writes Yoder, “embodied the romance of that ‘visitable past’ of which Henry James writes…the past to which we may be connected by a living presence.” That is, the past to which we are connected by a desire to remember the best and forget the worst. Of this is made not history, but a very dangerous form of nostalgia. 1 i r ,\\ \\ ;,1jkillic HI pri\\ ;itc rartic ,, 41.111,1.6 I 111 \(71\(11711 f I\(V: r V 1.14`-s 2t 31v 1Lic thZ c eet A s i R \\ I I’S 0, 0 Port Aransas, TX 78373 1 S ca11 749-5221 j for Rcscruot io/1,-, A.0 ortc Ah l ….nobm.% A ok Nklimioh.. …., lot 22 SEPTEMBER 15, 1995
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