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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 1. 1966.

Senator Fulbright's Visit Analysed: At odds with NZ?

page 5

Senator Fulbright's Visit Analysed: At odds with NZ?

In Washington, D.C., Senator Fulbright is proving to be President Johnson's official nuisance.

As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright was incensed over the Bay of Pigs and Dominican Republic episodes. However, up to the middle of 1965 he acquiesced and substantially aided the United States Administration's policy in Vietnam.

The Senator chose the New Year to launch verbal missiles at the escalation of war in Vietnam, and at what he considers to be a basically misguided solution to the problem. Failure to receive an invitation to the President's cocktail party was the official retaliation toward this man, who so unsportingly failed to keep in line during the "peace offensive."

At the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in December, Fulbright came as an observer representing the State Department.

Not The Messiah

Arriving in New Zealand he assiduously avoided the press, proclaiming he was not the Messiah and therefore unable to point out the "way." One can only assume that the Senator was under instructions to say nothing of importance, and especially nothing deviating from State Department foreign policy.

by Pat Caughley

This he did until the foreign relations debate at the conference. His lengthy address on Vietnam turned out to be a very compassionate yet scholarly resume of affairs in South East Asia.

True, Fulbright did not in any way contradict his sponsors, he merely made the present military approach look irrelevant.

His speech was supported by historical, economic and cultural analyses which opened up vast areas normally out of the politician's realm.

Fulbright did not offer a cut and dried panacea, but his implied solution of minimal violence and maximum constructive influence was clearly at odds with what the troops are undertaking in Vietnam.

The Senator did not even resort to the State Department's cry of ruthless Chinese aggressiveness.

At Press Conference

Following the debate, Fulbright held a press conference at which Salient was represented.

It was obvious there that his address to the conference was to the fore in most reporters' minds. Such an attitude, unfortunately, precluded our press from dredging up any new ideas.

One reporter had visualised a mighty headline: "New Zealand another Cuba in ten years." Fulbright refused to agree, and instead emphasised that "we have to accept the prospect of the growth of China."

"They are a great people, now reviving, and we must do everything we can to influence change in a reasonable way," he said.

The Senator was emphatically opposed to a bare military solution in Vietnam. "This would only be a Pyrrhic victory," he said.

Nevertheless, as infiltration continues, strength is given to the many radical Americans who want to enlarge the war. In contrast, the dissension among academic circles is still distinctly minor.

He alluded to the peace initiatives from Hanoi in 1965 which were refused and hushed up by the Administration. Fulbright regretted he "wasn't better informed at the time."

NZ Shortsighted

The Senator finished up by pointing out the short-sightedness of small countries (for example, New Zealand) who are "much too reluctant to express themselves in major policy matters."

He said they do not wish to influence the great powers who have the burden of administering the policy. This was an understandable attitude, he said, but a self-derogatory one and slightly irresponsible.

Several days after Fulbright's speech, an inquiry to one of the newspapers was made, asking why it was that a representative of the State Department put forward such a different view from External Affairs.

Our Prime Minister replied that the Senator's address very well expressed New Zealand's policy and differed in no way at all.

Such a statement seemed odd after the combined efforts of Australian and New Zealand conference delegates to malign China. They blamed the instability in South East Asia on the compulsive and maliciously aggressive actions of this nation.

Sadly, it would seem that the rulers of the South Pacific will be the last to affirm China's admission to the United Nations.