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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 3. 1971

Letter: Goldstein on Rosenberg

Letter: Goldstein on Rosenberg

G. Rosenberg's article on Laos, while admirable in most respects, falls into the old trap of explaining U.S. actions by resorting to "marxian" analysis. Thus, he asks why the U.S. continues to expend enormous amounts of money and human resources which lead to enormous economic problems and the brink of civil war in America? In short, what keeps the war going? His answer is that there are long term economic benefits to be gained. Specifically he mentions that friendly uncritical regimes in South East Easia are of great benefit for the continuation of U.S. commerce in the area. Professor Buchanan implies a similar single-factor explanation in a recent letter to the editor of the Evening Post.

It may be that in the long-run the United States will gain some economic benefits from the maintenance of puppet regimes in the area, but in the meantime, it should be noted that according to 1966 statistics. Southeast Asia accounted for only 7 percent of total U.S. exports and investments overseas by Americans (in 1964) were about $44.3 billion, of which only about $3.2 billion went into the countries of Asia and Oceania, (source: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1967, Vol.88, pp. 840 & 815). Obviously, other relevant statistics could be marshalled to demonstrate the weakness of the "economic motivator" as sole or even prime explanation for continued U.S. support of an extremely expensive, atrocious, and unpopular war; but the point I wish to make is that critics of this war do their cause a disservice by relying on unsupportable, single-factor assertions which are easily knocked-down by anyone with minimal intellectual abilities and the motivation to spend a few minutes in the library. An adequate explanation for continued U.S. support of the Indochina war must be complex enough to include various factors motivating several American Presidents, the weak relationship between expressions of general public opinion and the formulation of foreign policy, the inability of Congress to reassert its active role in foreign policy-making, the traditional awe of those in positions of access to intelligence data, the mechanism for perpetuating misperceptions about external political situations, the psychological needs of various Presidents including their anticipation of "history's verdict" on their Presidency, the process of inculcating "cold war" values, and the learned belief that military instruments of foreign policy are more reliable (controllable) than political policy instruments. Explanations of clearly unwise policies are seldom simple. Solutions are another matter.

Ray Goldstein

Lecturer in Political Science.