Patterns of Intervention

excerpted from the book

Intervention and Revolution

The United States in the Third World

by Richard J. Barnet

World Publishing, 1968, paperback edition


As the confrontation between the United States and revolutionary movements has come into sharper focus, the euphemistic rhetoric of American Responsibility (defending freedom, self-determination, etc.) has yielded to the starker idiom of realpolitik. We are readier than we were a few years ago to concede that the far-flung bureaucracies we dispatch to Asia, Africa, and Latin America are less concerned with bringing the town meeting, the ballot box, and the supermarket to their backward inhabitants than in making sure that they do not confiscate, collectivize, or chant communist slogans. The presence of a communist threat, even the possibility of a communist threat (as in the Dominican Republic), has supplied adequate justification for a variety of interventions. To identify the threat has been enough to preclude any further challenge to the necessity or morality of its suppression. In such cases the only questions left open for debate have been the existence of the threat: Were the fifty-three Dominican communists on the State Department list really behind the revolution?-and the propriety of the means for dealing with it. Is military repression the best way to reach the hearts and minds of the people?

The United States has become increasingly outspoken in claiming the unilateral right to make the determination whether a conflict anywhere in the world constitutes a threat to its national security or international order and what should be done about it. Only those states "with enough will and enough resources to see to it that others do not violate" the rules of international law, Secretary of State Rusk has declared, are the ones to be entrusted with enforcing the peace. When he was under secretary of state, George Ball suggested that such responsibility '`may in today's world be possible . . . only for nations such as the United States which command resources on a scale adequate to the requirements of leadership in the twentieth century.'' In other words, power is the basis of legitimacy. Conceding that the "world community" has not granted the United States the warrant to police the world in any legal sense-the United Nations Charter gives the Security Council the primary responsibility for dealing with threats to the peace-those in charge of United States national-security policy nonetheless assert that because of the deep divisions in the United Nations, which render that organization immobile, the United States must act alone. John Foster Dulles recognized that "most of the countries of the world" did not share his ideological view of international politics-"the view that communist control of any government anywhere is in itself a danger and a threat." Pointing out that it was not difficult "to marshal world opinion against aggression," he noted in the midst of the 1954 Indochina crisis that "it is quite another matter to fight against internal changes in one country. If we take a position against a communist faction within a foreign country we have to act alone." His brother, Allen, formerly director of the Central Intelligence Agency, candidly stated the unilateral criteria by which the United States decides whether or not to intervene in a civil war:

... we cannot safely limit our response to the Communist strategy of take-over solely to those cases where we are invited in by a government still in power, or even to instances where t a threatened country has first exhausted its own, possibly meager, resources in the "good fight" against Communism. We ourselves must determine when and how to act, hopefully with the support of other leading Free World countries who may be in a position to help, keeping in mind the requirements of our own national security.

There is nothing exceptional about powerful countries asserting the imperial prerogative of using force and coercion on the territory of another without its consent. The Athenian Empire minced no words about this. "The strong do what they can and the weak do what they must," the Athenian general reminded the Melians. Empire is its own justification, the fifteenth-century Italian humanist Lorenzo Valla advised his prince. The expansion of a nation's power comes through "mere violence," but this should not dismay a conscientious leader, his contemporary Poggio Bracciolini observed, for has it not always been "the most powerful empires, such as Athens, which promoted letters and learning?" Most empires have claimed the right to control the politics of other peoples in the name of a great idea. Athens offered protection and civilization, Rome the blessings of the law, Britain enlightenment of savages, and so on. Once having assumed "responsibility" for other countries, imperial bureaucracies feel as Pericles did, that "it is not safe to let it go."

The United Nations Charter rests on the principle that the preservation of peace and the protection of national security is a matter for multilateral decision. The community of nations is supposed to decide what action to take to meet threats to the peace. In a bow to realism, the framers of the Charter vested the primary "community" responsibility in the hands of the Big Powers, who were given permanent seats on the Security Council. Adlai Stevenson remarked shortly before his death that it was time "to decide whether we're going to be international and multilateral or not." He was alluding to the fact that despite the rhetorical commitment to multilateralism the United States was more and more making the great decisions alone. No other country or international organization was consulted over the Kennedy administration decision to force a nuclear confrontation over the Cuban missile crisis or the Johnson administration decision to send a huge expeditionary force to Vietnam and to subject that country to daily aerial bombardment. The State Department has been sensitive to the charges of unilateralism and has tried to deal with them in two ways. One is by asserting that since the criminal elements in world politics make the operation of a true multilateral structure impossible, the United States, by vigorously opposing them, is actually working to build a true "world of diversity." As Secretary of State Rusk put it, "Once we remove this kind of aggression, as we are trying to do in Vietnam, the human race can perhaps look forward to peace, to the solution of lesser problems, and to the benefits deriving from the conquest of science." This is the image of a surgeon removing a cancer. The operation, President Johnson hinted in his more optimistic moments, can be completed "in this generation." Once the enemies of freedom are defeated, then the United States can perhaps share some of its police responsibilities with others.

The second way the United States has tried to deal with charges of unilateralism has been increased reliance on nominal or subservient multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Force for the Dominican Republic, which was called into being at the initiative of the United States and was always under its operational direction. Where the United States is a member of a regional organization which excludes another Great Power, that organization, simply because of the overwhelming might of the United States, inevitably becomes its instrument. The essential difference between the Organization of American States and the United Nations is that the latter organization contains some nations that are economically and politically independent of the United States.

Behind the speeches and diplomatic maneuverings to soothe "world opinion," the architects of U.S. foreign policy have developed a rationale to justify global intervention which frankly recognizes that the American responsibility to police the world is inconsistent with the multilateralism of the United Nations Charter and the dictates of traditional international law. Anthony Eden recalls that when John Foster Dulles warned the British foreign secretary in 1954 that he would stop British vessels on the high seas to prevent any arms shipments to Guatemala, he observed that the United States was prepared to take "whatever action was necessary, whatever the law might be," and went on to remark that "in the cold war conditions of today, the rules applicable in the past no longer seemed to him to meet the situation and required to be revised or flexibly applied." The Johnson Doctrine, which denies the validity of the distinction between civil wars and international wars, and the State Department's modem view of the doctrine of nonintervention are more recent additions to official legal revisionism.


. The ideology of the American Responsibility rests on a fundamental assumption concerning American self-interest. The only alternative to a Pax Americana is a Pax Sovietica or the Peace of Peking. The most powerful nation in the world has always dominated the rest. The only question is which one will emerge on top. Comforted by Talleyrand's fashionable aphorism about nonintervention-"a metaphysical term which means about the same as intervention - the National-Security Manager concludes that the fate of the powerful is to dominate, whether they wish to do so or not. There )' is much to this observation. If the United States never sent a solder or an aid dollar beyond her shores, it would still wield enormous power over other nations, particularly in the Third World, by virtue of the fact that it is the world's biggest customer. The power to cut off imports from a one-crop country is as effective an instrument of control as occupying its capital. The United States has the dominant voice in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and private United States financial interests control much of the world' money market. Countries struggling to industrialize are heavily dependent upon U.S. machinery. Most of the state-owned airlines of the world, to take one example, fly American equipment and are dependent upon U.S. corporations for servicing and replacement.

But beyond the operation of what is still termed the "private market," despite the considerable involvement of the government in these activities, is the panoply of techniques available to the national-security bureaucracy to influence the political behavior of other countries. In many countries of the world the United States is the sole supplier of the army, the primary source of training for its officers, and the educator and supplier of its police force. In addition, through its aid program the United States is likely to have conceived and staffed the educational system and to be the dominant voice in its agricultural development, the organizer of its labor movement, and the decisive influence in setting the national priorities for economic development. U.S. views, private and official, predominate as a consequence of Voice of America, the armed-forces radio and television stations, which are widely distributed, and the increasingly wide circulation of U.S. periodicals. Many of the individuals who provide these services do so with generous intentions, but the effect of their efforts is to give the United States a supreme voice m the internal affairs of many other countries. And that, as a succession of secretaries of state have promised Congress, is their primary purpose. Desmond Fitzgerald, formerly a high official of the International Cooperation Administration (predecessor of AID), who later directed covert operations for the CIA, put it this way:

A lot of criticism of foreign aid is because the critic thought the objective was to get economic growth, and this wasn't the objective at all.... The objective may have been to buy a lease or to get a favorable vote in the UN, or to keep a nation from falling apart, or to keep some country from giving the Russians airbase rights or any one of many other reasons.

In a small country like the Dominican Republic, or even a larger one with a fairly primitive political structure and a large contingent of American officials like Ethiopia, the U.S. Embassy is inevitably the center of power in the country, if only because its capacity to control communications and intelligence is so far superior to that of the native government. In Ethiopia, the United States dramatized this fact by returning the emperor to his kingdom (he had been deposed in a military coup while on a foreign visit) in a U.S. airforce plane. John Bartlow Martin's account of his activities in the Dominican Republic, on which I have leaned heavily in my discussion of the Dominican intervention, suggests that even before the arrival of Marines, the American ambassador was more a proconsul than an envoy.

These facts of international life are cited by the proponents of an interventionary foreign policy as proving the inevitability of the unilateral use of force for "peacekeeping," i.e., police purposes. The United States is so deeply involved anyway in the use of coercive techniques to influence political behavior that the overt use of force, regrettable as it is, is merely a difference in degree, not in kind. If the United States were not prepared to use violence to deal with internal political problems in other countries when it conceives that its own national interests warrant it, its chief rivals would sponsor violence to their own advantage. In short, the prevailing official view is that there is no way for a great country to relate to a small one other than as manipulator or exploiter.

History appears to support this view. All the pressures of contemporary politics seem to push great nations into familiar imperial patterns. Indeed, when the United States adopted the policy embodied in the Truman Doctrine, State Department officials quite consciously saw themselves as inheritors of Britain's imperial responsibilities, which, they assumed, they would exercise more wisely and more humanely. As a State Department publicity release would put it years later, "Strict adherence to our ideals requires us to face the challenge of reshaping the world in the image of human dignity, political freedom, and authority by consent, not decree." Like their models in Whitehall, the National-Security Managers too assumed that if America could bring order to the world as a consequence of amassing an empire, that was not a bad bargain for the rest of mankind.

Thus, despite the rhetorical hopes for collective security and community responsibility which U.S. officials voice in speeches before the United Nations, back in their own offices they see no better alternative model for world order than the imperial model, to be constructed, hopefully, with as light a touch as possible. It is not surprising that they should come to this conclusion. The very nature of the nation-state, their oath of office, and their primary allegiance ( as well as the pressures of Congress and their superiors all require the National-Security Manager to serve the national interest, as the military, the corporations, the farmers, and the labor unions see it, rather than an abstract "world community" or so altruistic a goal as removing the grossest inequalities among the developed and undeveloped nations. He is quite free to think about a world-security system as long as he does not compromise the power of the joint chiefs of staff to decide where the forces should be deployed, what weapons should be used, and when. He is encouraged to develop an aid program, provided U.S. business benefits adequately and he can convince Congress that the United States has received sound value in influence, business concessions, or political support. Above all, he must not be so indiscreet as to sponsor a "giveaway." The pressures of various interest groups within the United States for an imperialist relationship are enormous, but one should not ignore the role of the bureaucracy itself. It is an exhilarating experience for a GS-14 to run the police force, lecture the minister of the interior, or reform the agriculture of a little country. Many Americans have found an outlet for social and political experimentation on new frontiers abroad that is denied them at home. Since the overseas bureaucracy totals some two to four million individuals, it constitutes in itself an impressive group with a vested interest in keeping the mechanics of foreign relations much as they are. This means retaining control of vital decisions concerning a country's policies on defense and economic development in American hands.


Unilateralism is a more polite and perhaps less image-rich term than imperialism, which not only evokes memories of Lord Clive, Cecil Rhodes, and the French Foreign Legion but also has become saddled with Lenin's particular theories of economic causation. But they mean essentially the same thing-"the extension of control" by a single nation. Unilateralism is so much taken for granted within the national-security bureaucracy that when critics point out the discrepancy between our professed political and legaI ideals as embodied in the United Nations Charter and our actual behavior as a nation, it makes very little impression. What's wrong with imperialism or unilateralism? Is there anything better?

There are two ways of trying to answer the first question. One is to look at unilateralism from the point of view of U.S. national interests. The second is to consider it from what might be called a "world-order" perspective, looking specifically toward the development of a strong legal and constitutional structure for dealing with war, hunger, disease, and other overriding global problems. I recognize that the two categories are not wholly distinct, that there are few objective criteria for determining national interests, and that a sensible government in the nuclear age would have as a primary "national interest" the development of a good system for "world order." But the categories are useful for distinguishing the most short-range and parochial considerations from longer-range perspectives.

From the standpoint of a President of the United States, thinking about reelection, concerned with solving domestic problems, and assuring himself a decent place in history, unilateralism is proving to be a disastrous policy. C. E. Black in The Dynamics of Modernization estimates that we must anticipate "ten to fifteen revolutions a year for the foreseeable future in the less developed societies." The suppression of a single revolutionary movement in Vietnam, admittedly a long-developing and powerful one, costs the U.S. Treasury almost forty billion dollars a year, results in almost ten thousand battle deaths annually, and has stirred up political dissension unprecedented in our history. The attempt of one nation to deal simultaneously with insurgent movements in a dozen other places and to forestall still others in a variety of backward countries on three continents would tax the intellectual and political energies of the government to the breaking point.

One of the problems with imperialism is that as decision-making authority becomes centralized, the burdens on the imperialist leaders become intolerable, for along with the trappings of added power come political headaches. The Founding Fathers wisely spared the President of the United States the burden of appointing state and local officials. I suspect that they would be appalled to discover that he must now regularly pass on the qualifications of provincial governors in South Vietnam and ministers of agriculture in the Dominican Republic. There is literally no country in which the foreign-policy bureaucracy cannot discover a "U.S. interest," and since the President has at his disposal an almost infinite variety of techniques for furthering those interests, he is constantly called upon to exercise his judgment. Having no firsthand knowledge of the politics of the countries he is asked to set on one course or another, this imposes something of a strain on him. As Telford Taylor puts it, "the road to everywhere leads nowhere." The President faces a familiar problem of empire. Having asserted an interest in a faraway land, he is expected to be able to control events there. In fact, as the biographies of the commitments examined in this book reveal, the events begin to control him. Once military forces are committed, for example, it is usually impossible to limit the objectives to those which originally impelled the intervention. The commitment of national power unleashes political forces both in the country concerned and in the United States which then severely limit future choices.

The essence of unilateralism is that you recognize no limits except those of your own making. Such enlargement of the area of political discretion invites miscalculation and error. One of the functions of legal limits in a society is to provide external standards to relieve men of the responsibility to decide every issue anew. Sharing responsibility for decision with others who are also affected by it, ~e essence of democratic theory, is another old political device for rescuing human leaders from the dangers of distorted vision, a disability that always afflicts those who exercise power despotically. The possession of great power is not, as Secretary of State Rusk and others have suggested, a justification for using it unilaterally. It is, rather, a condition, as the framers of the U.S. Constitution recognized, which cries out for legal restraints to protect the community from tyranny and the possessor from his own hubris.

The assertion of a police responsibility to prevent violent revolution and insurgency inevitably requires a militarization of a nation's foreign policy. Webster's International Dictionary uses the terms "militarism" and "imperialism" interchangeably, and this makes good political as well as linguistic sense, since no nation, no matter how great its economic and political resources, can hope to maintain control of events in distant lands without eventually relying chiefly on force. We have seen how, in Greece, for example, and later in Vietnam, nonmilitary strategies of "counterinsurgency" were swallowed up in the military effort. If the United States sets as a goal the prevention of regimes in the Third World which call themselves communist or which seem to lean to communism, it must be prepared to fight for that goal with its military power.

The result of such a decision, and it is one that was made a long time ago, is to make the United States Number One Enemy of a great number of people. State Department officials are privately scornful about foreign-policy criticism based on the argument that "world opinion" is turning against us. They point out, rightly, that no one knows what that means or how to measure it. The United States, however, is very much interested in those leaders of the Third World who are convinced that only radical change can rescue their societies from political tyranny and economic stagnation. Such leaders, who are coming increasingly to see violence as the only avenue of change, are being drawn together only by their common fear and hatred of the United States. American foreign policy is providing what Marxism-Leninism has failed to offer revolutionary movements -an ideological bond to tie together nationalist revolutionary movements spread across three continents. These movements originate in the local political soil. They are primarily concerned with local issues and local enemies. But the leaders of insurgent movements are establishing international links and are attempting to help one another, despite their limited resources. They do this not because of shared ideological goals so much as because of the belief that they are partisans in the same war. What gives unity to the struggle in their analysis is "imperialism," which means chiefly the United States. To be able to characterize the enemy in an insurgent struggle as a giant White Imperialist Power helps to bring nationalists of all classes into the revolutionary coalition. Juan Bosch exaggerated only slightly when he declared that where there were fifty-three communists in the Dominican Republic before the intervention, there were now fifty-three thousand.

Nationalism and anti-imperialism are such strong forces that only those politicians, businessmen, and generals who benefit directly and personally from the American presence in their country can be counted on to oppose nationalist movements. Such movements may start, as we have seen, with the efforts of a few energetic individuals. A small minority always takes the lead. But the nationalist impulse runs through the societies of the Third World. If the United States continues to make it a policy to oppose nationalism wherever it is entwined with a radical political and economic program or with communist rhetoric, it must count on being hated and feared by political leaders, who will increasingly come to speak for a majority of the world population. It must be prepared to pay heavily to keep the loyalty of its clients. Pericles warned the people of Athens that the fate of greatness was to be hated and feared, and some of the same philosophy prevails today in the corridors of the State Department. Yet even the most powerful country in the world takes a reckless view of national security if it ignores repeated historical patterns. As Walter Lippmann has pointed out, where one nation arrogates to itself the responsibility to shape a world order, it invites others to combine against it. In a world where nuclear weapons will, in all likelihood, be widely distributed before the end of the century, this is not a reassuring road to national security for the American people.


Now let us examine the policy of the American Responsibility-suppressing revolution-from the point of view of the world community. Assume that the two overriding minimum requirements of world order are, first, the prevention of nuclear war and such lesser violence as threatens to lead to nuclear war; and second, the creation of economic and political conditions in the southern half of the globe which can support human life there. The portion of the earth where the per-capita income is less than two hundred dollars a year is literally a giant death camp. It is possible to make reasonably accurate projections of the numbers of people within the Southern Hemisphere who are condemned to die from starvation and disease. If predictions of the growing disparity between population and resources are even substantially correct, the toll in lives that will be sacrificed by the end of the century must be reckoned in the tens of millions.

"I think what you are saying," Senator Vandenberg suggested to Secretary Acheson in an attempt to sum up the import of the Truman Doctrine, "is that whenever we find free peoples having difficulty in the maintenance of free institutions, and difficulty in defending against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes, we do not necessarily react in the same way each time, but we propose to react." "That," Acheson replied, "I think is correct." The kind of reaction which the United States has contemplated has brought the world to the brink of nuclear war at least twice. (President Eisenhower reports that the use of nuclear weapons was seriously considered in Korea in 1953 and in Indochina in 1954.) The Marines who landed in Lebanon in 1958 brought atomic howitzers with them. Had they been faced by a hostile army rather than Coca-Cola salesmen, as happily turned out to be the case, the situation would have been incredibly dangerous. In the Vietnam war, W. W. Rostow has wondered out loud how to make nuclear weapons "relevant" to the conflict. It There is no doubt that the chief of staff of the air force thinks he has an answer. The only successful strategy for suppressing a "war of national liberation" so far discovered has been a military strategy. (This does not mean that, as in the Philippines, nonmilitary techniques such as pacification and reform are not also used, but that the crucial element in the victory was the application of overwhelming military power.) Nor, as Vietnam suggests, does it mean that the military strategy always works. The only decisive victories over insurgents have been in Greece, Malaya, and the Philippines, and these are attributable to a combination of internal political dissension in the ranks of the insurgents combined with a military superiority of at least ten to one in the antiguerrilla army. (In the Philippines, at least, the final chapter of the revolt has yet to be written. Guerrilla activity by the Huks has increased in recent years.)

The commitment to suppress an insurgency, particularly if it is a stubborn one, leads, as we have seen in Vietnam, to a rapid rise in the level of violence. It also exerts pressure on those powers who claim to support wars of national liberation to back their rhetoric with their guns and rockets. The most plausible spark for a nuclear war (outside of Germany) is some future Haiphong (or perhaps Haiphong itself), where the giants are led by their respective clients into a direct confrontation.

There is also a world-order interest in limiting violence short of nuclear war. One consequence of a massive military intervention by a great country in a small one is that it destroys the people it is claiming to liberate. The lethal technology of the United States is so advanced and the welfare of the client population so secondary a consideration compared with winning the war that the "defense of freedom" actually requires making a desert of a primitive society. Since many of the societies facing insurgencies are living just above the subsistence level anyway, the scorched-earth strategy for dealing with the problem-destroying villages, wholesale removal of populations, destruction of crops-is particularly cruel, for it pushes poor countries further down into the depths of misery.


There are two principal arguments advanced in support of the policy of U.S. intervention in civil wars and insurgencies which purport to rest on broad world-community interests rather than narrow nationalistic considerations. One is that the United States is defending "freedom" against "totalitarianism." If this is the policy, it is applied with something less than consistency. Many of the free governments that have received either generous U.S. military aid, friendly nods from the U.S. Embassy, or direct military intervention in their behalf constitute a group that on the whole is rather careless about civil liberties-Formosa, Korea, South Vietnam, Iran, Brazil, Paraguay, etc. Actually, a very substantial portion of U.S. aid has gone to a series of military dictatorships located at the periphery of Russia and China.

Nor has the test of U.S. concern been the violent character of a government's- accession to power. Military coups which seize power from constitutional regimes are consistently recognized and supported, and on occasion (Brazil in 1964, for example) encouraged. Here are a few examples of military takeovers which the United States did not oppose (and in most cases welcomed): Argentina (1955), Turkey (1960), South Korea (1961), Burma (1962), Indonesia (1966), Ghana (1966).

The defense of freedom has not even resulted in a consistent anticommunist policy. In the area under the direct control of the Soviet Union and China, United States involvement has been circumspect. After the State Department lost the diplomatic battle at the close of World War II to retain some Western influence in Eastern Europe, the United States did not take military measures to oppose the communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 or to aid anti-Soviet insurgent movements, including the Berlin uprising of 1953, the Poznan riots, and the Hungarian Revolution. Low-level covert operations were conducted against the Eastern European regimes from 1946 into the l960s, including espionage and U-z overflights, as well as subversive propaganda over Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberation. But the rhetorical goal of "liberation" was proclaimed by Dulles only after the actual attempt to roll back Soviet power in Eastern Europe had been abandoned. With respect to China, the United States has given the Taiwan government two billion dollars with which to equip its six-hundred-thousand-man army and has put U-z aircraft at its disposal for overflights of the mainland; but for many years it has made it reasonably clear that it will not sponsor the invasion Chiang still says he will mount.

While most United States support has gone to right-wing dictatorships, in the late 1950s, and particularly in the Kennedy administration later, the United States attempted to modernize its strategy of intervention. The Truman administration and the Eisenhower administration in its first term had given wholehearted support to "legitimate" governments if they were noncommunist and friendly to the United States, no matter how oppressive or reactionary they might be. (In 1952 the United States did aid a leftist revolutionary regime in Bolivia which earned American support by lowering the price of tin and adopting a properly anti-Soviet foreign policy.) President Eisenhower symbolized U.S. willingness to support reaction in Latin America by inviting Perez Jimenez, the brutal dictator of Venezuela, to Washington and awarding him the Medal of Merit. But a few years later American intelligence agencies and private groups acting in their behalf began to support more liberal and even leftist elements in Latin America and Africa. The Central Intelligence Agency gave funds for the support of institutions like the Inter-American Center of Economic and Social Studies and the Institute for International Labor Research in the Dominican Republic and the Institute of Political Education in Costa Rica. These institutions train, finance, and encourage political groups which often oppose their own governments for being too conservative and are also critical of official U.S. policy in Latin America but are anticommunist. It appears that resistance leaders from Mozambique and South Africa have been offered covert assistance by the CIA and in certain cases have received it. In Algeria the AFL-CIO, acting for the CIA, gave direct financial assistance to the National Liberation Front from 1957 until the successful end of the War of Independence. The American labor organization sponsored the Algerian rebels in international labor circles and arranged for membership of the FLN union in the ICFTU, the U.S.-dominated world federation of trade unions. The National Student Association, an ostensibly private organization, distributed CIA funds to Algerian resistance leaders in the form of scholarships. The operation in Algeria in support of the rebels was designed to discourage them from turning to communist countries for help. At the same time, the U.S. State Department, still officially supporting France, continued to sanction military aid for use against the FLN.

The worldwide pattern of United States military involvement which emerges is thus impossible to reconcile with a global campaign to preserve freedom. For the most part, U.S. interventions have had a strong ideological thrust, either to support anticommunist regimes threatened with subversion or to subvert communist, communist-leaning, or potentially communist-leaning regimes, many of which have been at least as "free" as Stroessner's Paraguay or Ky's Vietnam. In some cases, such as Laos, the Dominican Republic, and Algeria, different U.S. agencies have intervened on both sides. The almost automatic reaction has been to commit United States military power where it appears necessary to prevent a communist takeover, except where the Soviets or the Chinese are likely to respond with a major war. The Chinese invasion of Tibet, for example, a much less ambiguous case of violent seizure of power by an external communist regime than either Greece or Vietnam, was ignored because it was so clearly beyond the power of the United States to do much about it short of a war with China. But it appears that the only areas where U.S. Ieaders consider it too risky to sponsor a major military intervention are the immediate rimlands of China and Eastern Europe.

Elsewhere, while the dangers of escalation are growing, the experience of twenty years suggests that the communist powers will support the communist side but will not seek to deter or oppose United States intervention through a direct confrontation with American military power. Naturally, however, the United States prefers to rely on intelligence operations, aid officials, and military missions to influence the political direction of Third World governments rather than to order its counterinsurgency forces into action. U.S. National-Security Managers have tried in some countries to promote reforms, but they have continually shown, as in Guatemala, Vietnam, and other places, that they are prepared to sacrifice reform to the goal of anticommunism. And by covertly supporting leftist revolutionaries in Latin America and Africa they have shown themselves to be willing to compromise ideological purity for the sake of maintaining a degree of U.S. influence and control, which often becomes the principal end in itself.


United States officials make a second claim that America is somehow acting in the interest of the international community by undertaking a worldwide campaign against revolution. The argument is that by stamping out insurgent movements the United States is preventing World War III. With his eyes firmly fixed on the shore he has left, to quote De Tocqueville's phrase, the National-Security Manager is trying to squeeze the baffling chaos of postwar revolution into the familiar mold of Great Power politics as practiced in the 1930s. Ho Chi Minh becomes Hitler. Vietnam is the Rhineland. Negotiation is Munich. If the insurgents are not stopped in Vietnam, they will have to be stopped eventually in San Francisco.

President Kennedy's speech to the American people after his encounter with Khrushchev in Vienna is a good example of this official thought process:

He was certain that the tide was moving his way, that the revolution of rising people would eventually be a communist revolution, and that the so-called wars of national liberation supported by the Kremlin would replace the old methods of direct aggression and invasion. In the 1940'5 and early 50s the great danger was from communist armies marching across free borders, which we saw in Korea . . . now we face a new and different threat. We no longer have a nuclear monopoly. Their missiles, they believe, will hold off our missiles, and their troops can match our troops should we intervene in the so-called wars of liberation. Thus, the local conflicts they support can turn in their favor through guerrillas, or insurgents, or subversion....

The essence of the argument is that guerrillas in Vietnam, Thailand, Peru, Guatemala, and Angola are all part of the same army. If the army can be defeated in Vietnam, it will not be necessary to fight it in Thailand or the Philippines. If the insurgencies are not opposed, that will demonstrate a lack of resolve, just as Munich did, and eventually the guerrillas will challenge the United States directly and then we will have to fight World War III to defend our homes and honor. The assumption that insurgencies are inspired by outside powers or that they are orchestrated by some central authority is, as I have tried to show in Part One, false. The defeat of the Vietcong will not mean that the insurgents in Thailand will surrender. Nor will a guerrilla victory in Vietnam insure a guerrilla victory in Thailand. True, revolutionary successes will encourage insurgents elsewhere. More important, it will demonstrate to governments whose survival depends upon U.S. military aid to rule their discontented populations that since the United States cannot keep its commitments to them, their days are numbered unless they can learn to govern.

Why, however, the overthrow of corrupt feudal regimes by local insurgents should pose a danger of world war or a direct military threat to the United States is hard to see. The danger of world war arises only if the United States is committed to resisting revolution by force and is prepared to "pay any price" to do it, and then only if another major power is prepared to stand in the way. Even if we assume a wave of successful revolutions throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the notion that the Castros of the future will muster an army of millions, transport them by sampan and burro, and loose them on our cities is nothing less than a psychotic fantasy, so absurd in fact that ~t is never explicitly stated, only hinted at in vague anxiety-producing historical analogies. (What is so sad about being ruled by such fantasies is that the diversion of money and energy to the fight which is supposed to keep Asian communists from landing on our shores helps perpetuate the conditions which have created native insurgents and guerrilla warfare in American cities. )

Thus the means which the United States has chosen to deal with the phenomenon of revolution make war more likely rather than less. The idea of preventive war, that you fight a little one now to avoid a great one later, has some validity if you are facing a single adversary such as Hitler. Where there are many adversaries, each with its own local reasons for fighting, the idea can be understood only as an exercise in mysticism, not logic. In short, the arrogation by a single power of the policeman's warrant is not a solution to the problem of war.

Nor is the suppression of revolution an answer to the problem of development, the second overriding concern of the world community. The official State Department conception of driving out "bad" communist development with "good" democratic capitalist development is revealed as allegory rather than history by the latest annual report of the World Bank, which shows that in much of the world there is no development. By all the standard tests-capital, literacy, rise in productive capacity-things are getting worse. "It must be said aloud," Robert Heilbronner has written, "that our present policy prefers the absence of development to the chance for Communism -which is to say that we prefer hunger and want and the existing inadequate assaults against the causes of hunger and want to any regime that declares its hostility to capitalism."

Development, as C. E. Black has argued, requires the modernization of economic, political, and social structure. A facade of modernization that creates a small middle class, an enclave of a consumer economy in the midst of peasant backwardness, or a few examples of imported technology such as jet aircraft, will not bring about the pervasive change that is needed. "When we speak of the revolutionary nature of economic development," Heilbronner writes, "it is this kind of deeply penetrative change that we mean-change that reorganizes 'normal' ways of thought, established patterns of family life, and structures of village authority as well as class and caste privilege.'' Communist revolutions in China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Russia have, on the other hand, succeeded in mobilizing and transforming peasant masses who elsewhere in backward societies have been immovable. That the methods used have been brutal, that injustice has resulted, that, in Stalinist Russia, but apparently no where else, the official repression of the peasantry reached genocidal proportions, is undeniable. Nor is the economic balance sheet for the communist countries yet complete. It appears that starvation in China, which was very widespread, has been largely eliminated- even in the agricultural crisis of the late 1950s. During the first decade of the Chinese revolution, Mao's regime succeeded in creating the image, in Alexander Eckstein's words, "of a vigorous, dynamic and rapidly growing economy with some singular accomplishments to its credit,'' including the restoration of the war-damaged economy, control of inflation, land redistribution, and rapid industrial growth. Since 1958 the problems of the communist regime in China have been revealed to be serious. Nonetheless, it is a fact that communism has produced profound change in a decade, whereas the process of modernization in a noncommunist country like India is mired in obsolete institutions, crippling traditions, and political malaise. In Cuba, too, for all of its problems, the government has succeeded in communicating a sense of urgency to the people as well as the feeling that the sacrifices demanded are for their own benefit, not for foreigners or their own upper classes. Heilbronner has summarized the positive impact of communism as an agent of modernization in these words:

Hundreds of millions who would have been confined to narrow cells of changeless lives have been liberated from prisons they did not even know existed. Class structures that elevated the flighty or irresponsible have been supplanted by others that have promoted the ambitious and dedicated. Economic systems that gave rise to luxury and poverty have given way to systems that provide a rough distributional justice. Above all, the prospect of a new future has been opened. It is this that lifts the current ordeal in China above the level of pure horror.

Barrington Moore's study of peasant revolutions reaches the conclusion that "the costs of moderation [i.e., gradual and piecemeal reform] have been at least as atrocious as those of revolution, perhaps a great deal more." The consequences of modernization without a social revolution, as in Germany, he contends, have been fascism and aggressive war. If he is right, this is a cost of suppressing revolution which must be reckoned in the millions. Moore points out, however, that these conclusions do not point to the moral superiority of revolution. "Communism as a set of ideas and institutions cannot escape responsibility for Stalinism. In general, one of the most revolting features of revolutionary dictatorships has been their use of terror against little people who were as much victims of the old order as were the revolutionaries themselves, often more so."

So the making of a moral calculus of the costs and benefits of alternative paths to development turns out to be a far more complicated task than one gathers from State Department White Papers and speeches to the American Legion-or from the Peking Review. Revolutions kill the innocent (along with the not so innocent), but "the prevailing order of society always grinds out its tragic toll of unnecessary death year after year." And in all probability it is a far larger toll.

The point of these reflections is not that Americans must "stand up and be counted," as Dulles used to say, as either revolutionaries or counterrevolutionaries. It is, rather, that the processes of change in the Third World have so far escaped our present modes of analysis, much less our techniques of control. It is not only that the national security bureaucracy lacks the power to make revolutionary developments around the world conform to an American model, although this is true, but that it lacks the wisdom to play God to other societies. Communism, it may well turn out, does not have an answer to the problems of development, but it is clear that America has neither the incentives nor the capacity to solve them for the benefit of the other countries. Communist approaches to development have at times been dogmatic, wildly impractical, and capriciously punitive. But, in the final analysis, the failures of communism in other countries is their problem. The failures of American intervention are ours. It is cruel and arrogant to attempt to block desperate social remedies to desperate social problems that local leaders elect to try when you have nothing better to offer. Perhaps revolution in the end will turn out to be worse than starvation bred of economic and social stagnation. Perhaps revolution in some places will mean repression and starvation. But these are judgments which U.S. officials sitting in Washington have neither the capacity nor the right to make for others.

The preceding discussion has assumed that the primary motivation behind America's crusade against revolution is an altruistic desire to save the people of Asia, Africa, and Latin America from the terrors of Stalinism. No doubt a few members of the national-security bureaucracy have been passionately concerned about this. But the primary allegiance of national officials in any country is to their own populations. Such considerations as the fear of $16 billion in corporate assets invested in Asia, Latin America, and the Near East as a result of expropriation by radical regimes influence policymakers at least as much as the urge to rescue undeveloped countries from one particular form of totalitarianism. Further, the National-Security Manager, who takes it as an article of faith that this is to be the American Century, is haunted by the fear that the towering event of the century, the rise of the Third World to international visibility, will not take place under United States control, that the models and the inspiration will be found somewhere else, and that, indeed, hatred of the United States and the civilization it represents may be one of the Third World's peculiar dynamics.

The best indication that the American Responsibility is designed more to ensure a sense of economic and political well-being at home than to achieve any particular lasting results abroad can be found by looking at the great Cold War successes. For years the model of a successful counterinsurgency was Greece. It was more than politeness to an old man when President Johnson called Harry Truman for his birthday and exclaimed, "We've had thirteen years to see the wisdom of your policies. There's not a right-thinking person in the free world today who would want to go back and change one of them.'' Greece was considered a success for many years because it ended in the surrender and disappearance of the rebels. It required no negotiation or compromise. But in the process, the political structure of the country was undermined. In the atmosphere of suppression, the extreme-right wing flourished. Twenty years after the Truman Doctrine was announced, the most reactionary military dictatorship in Europe or the Near East came to power and at present writing still rules. In the Dominican Republic, order has been purchased at the price of democratic progress. The Balaguer government suppresses and harasses political opposition and has relied on the same elements of the society Trujillo marshaled for his purposes -foreign-owned business and the military. In Lebanon? where the political structure was relatively strong at the time of the U.S. intervention, progress has been made in the ten years since the Marines left. In Guatemala, Iran, Indonesia, and the Congo, on the other hand, all of which have been the scene of major U.S. interventions to change the politics of the country, it is highly debatable how much progress has been made. To say with absolute certainty whether things would have been worse or better had not the United States intervened is impossible. One thing is certain, however. Significant progress toward the goals of stability, democracy, and substantial economic progress, for which the effort was ostensibly made, has not been achieved in any of them.


The United States has sought to apply the imperial model to the post-imperial world. If the earth were still a place where a relatively few governments could speak for the billions of inhabitants, and the business of international politics were limited to a competition among them for the right to exploit the rest of mankind, one would have to predict a glorious history for the American Empire. One could even dare to hope that American rule would be relatively benign and that her colonized populations would receive some material, and perhaps even spiritual, benefits from the relationship. But all this is an anachronistic dream. An empire can work only if the subject populations are submissive. Otherwise, the attempt to impose colonial administration leads to a permanent, debilitating war. A glance at the rising tide of revolutions, Coups secessions, assassinations, and insurgencies in the Third World since 1945 gives an indication of the vanity of one nation's hope to bring order to mankind in what is probably its most volatile moment in all history.

Is there, then, an alternative to the imperial posture for a great nation? No nation that has achieved first-class power has yet found one. What are the possibilities now?

Another way of asking the question is to speculate on the possibility of substituting multilateral action for the achievement of order in place of unilateral action. By multilateral action I have in mind a political framework in which decisions on intervention are truly arrived at by common deliberation, not by the dictate of a single power and not by a "multilateral" organization which leaves out major powers who have asserted an interest in the issue at hand This is essentially the framework of the United Nations Charter.

Articles 39-44 contemplate United Nations authorization for the use of military force to restore order, and Article 51 permits a single nation to resort to self-defense under the narrow circumstances of "armed attack," which, the history of the charter negotiations at San Francisco makes clear, means an invasion across national frontiers. The United States acknowledged the relevance of these provisions when it requested United Nations authorization for the intervention in Korea. Giving practical effect to what seems the clear intent of the words of the United Nations Charter both reduces the dangers of escalating war and also enhances the chances of a satisfactory settlement. Unlike an armed attack, which materializes suddenly and requires an immediate large-scale military response if it is to be repelled, an insurgency grows relatively slowly. It starts usually with random acts of terrorism and small raids and slowly gathers strength as the government fails to respond effectively. There is ordinarily time for the United Nations, either the Security Council, the General Assembly, or the Secretary-General, where appropriate, to investigate and to make recommendations and take action with respect to the specific breaches of the peace. Observation teams are among the techniques available to an international organization to help limit and to settle an internal conflict. The Vietnam experience shows that a large-scale military effort by a Great Power acting alone or with a few allies has the effect not only of escalating the scale of violence but also of stimulating greater insurgency and greater aid to the insurgents.

A rehabilitation of the rule in the United Nations Charter prohibiting foreign intervention in a civil war, as opposed to collective defense against a foreign invasion, would mean that a government would have to handle its own insurgency problems unless it could get assistance, including the help of an international police force, from either the Security Council or the General Assembly.

The two major arguments against a policy of literal application of the UN Charter highlight the problems involved and in so doing help make the case against unilateralism. The first objection to a real peacekeeping role for the United Nations is immobilism. The Soviet Union and the United States will always have opposing interests in the outcome of an insurgency, and therefore United Nations military action will be blocked. The second objection is that multilateral processes are too slow. In President Johnson's words, "The moment of decision must become the moment of action."

Both objections reveal the frustration of living in a community. Any sort of democratic procedure inevitably involves a sacrifice by the powerful of discretionary power and speed of decision. A meeting does not offer as expeditious a procedure for doing business as the command of the powerful. Some provision for compromise or vote is, however, the only alternative to anarchy or dictat. If the powerful nations of the world cannot agree on the desirability of a military intervention to deal with a problem of internal disorder or civil war, then it is in the interests of world peace that no nation intervene. But, some will no doubt ask, is this not a one-sided rule despite its guise of reciprocity? In other words, doesn't this mean that communist insurgents will always win?

If one believes that a handful of foreign revolutionaries who slip across a border can topple governments at will unless they are buttressed by a U.S. military effort, such a prohibition on unilateral intervention as I have suggested will appear to favor revolution. But the facts seem to be quite different. In fact, the constituted government enjoys enormous advantages. It has money to spend. It has an army and a police force. Isolated acts of terrorism by revolutionaries will not prevail against such power unless the authorities have lost the capacity to govern. If, as has often happened, they attempt to maintain themselves in power through corruption, terrorism, and persecution, they are vulnerable to insurgency. They can lose only if those elements of society which represent their main support "change hats" and turn against them. As all the standard textbooks on counterinsurgency insist, guerrillas cannot grow in numbers or strength unless the surrounding population is willing to protect them. If the guerrillas do not have this vote of confidence from the people of the village, they cannot hope to elude the police for long. Indeed, the guerrilla movement in Bolivia that Che Guevara tried to promote in 1967 failed because the peasants, who were either apathetic or suspicious of the foreigners who came to liberate them, reported them to the police. The failures confirm the lesson of the successes. If local political conditions are not ripe for revolution, terrorist activities, particularly if committed by foreigners, can be easily suppressed. If the conditions are ripe, no amount of repressive force short of wholesale murder and resettlement of the population has a chance of achieving lasting success. When foreign powers do not intervene militarily, the internal dynamics of revolution itself provide an important measure of the popularity of the contending forces. If self-determination is more than a rhetorical goal-and it should be in the interests of long-range stability-then outside powers should not interfere with the expression of a popular demand for change through revolution where all other means are denied.


Not only is it not possible in the long run for another nation to maintain governments in power in the face of revolution, it is not desirable from the standpoint of world peace or world development. If the United States were to announce that it was no longer in the business of suppressing revolution, it would confront the Third World governments with the choice it now helps them to avoid: Learn to govern effectively and justly or face mounting insurgency. Prepare to transform traditional societies into nations or give way to revolutionaries who can convince the people that they can do it better. The third option, which is now the basic policy of both the United States and our Third World clients- make those changes necessary to maintain stability and we will help you put down challenges from those of your own people who demand more radical action-would no longer be available.

To adopt such a policy would go a long way toward breaking the new revolutionary international whose principal bond is a common enemy. The policy should be implemented by a flat ban on military assistance. The United States should propose to the Soviet Union and to China that each refrain from supplying one side or the other in particular areas of the world. The Soviets have not had such spectacular success with their military-assistance programs that they could afford to ignore such an offer. In the countries that have been the chief recipients of their overage military equipment, local communists have been jailed, the party outlawed, and in Indonesia, thousands of communists and suspected communists massacred. In the Middle East the obligation to supply the Arab armies has turned out to be more of an embarrassment than a political weapon for the Soviets. The Chinese have had little military aid to spare for other countries. Their economic situation underscores what their doctrine proclaims: sympathetic rhetoric, agents, small amounts of money, a few arms, advice they have for export, but not the skill, the commitment, or the quantity of weapons needed to make a revolution. No one can say for certain that the communist powers would reduce their material support for wars of liberation if the United States stopped helping local governments to suppress revolution. All we know from experience is that the more engaged the United States has become in aiding governments threatened with insurgency, the more Russia and China have aided the revolutionaries.

If it appears unlikely that the United States and the communist powers can reach an explicit agreement on limiting arms shipments and military assistance to opposing political forces in the Third World, then the United States might try to reach such agreement indirectly. The State Department could announce that it was phasing out its military-assistance program and that henceforth it would send training missions and arms shipments only to match arms sent by other foreign powers. The disengagement of the great powers from internal political crises in other countries is a necessary first step to the development of multilateral machinery for dealing with problems of security and development in the Third World. The issue is not isolationism versus interventionism, for the developed world and the underdeveloped world are fated by geography and economics to be involved with one another. The question is rather the legitimacy of the forms and the purposes of intervention. The old imperial relationship, even in modern dress, is unequal to the needs of the modern world because the basic premise on which it rested is now revealed as an illusion. The security problem is not the balance of power. The danger is not aggression and conquest by a single state or group of states. Mass acquiescence in a world order guaranteed by an imperial policeman, which is required if such a model is to work, is a thing of the past. The assumption of basic social stability, on which any system of policing rests, is not warranted in a world that has been in the throes of a giant civil war since the beginning of World War II.

In 1918 Joseph Shumpeter painted a haunting picture of imperial Rome caught up in the terrors of an aging civilization:

Here is the classic example of that kind of insincerity in both foreign and domestic affairs which permeates not only avowed motives but also probably the conscious motives of the actors themselves-of that policy which pretends to aspire to peace but unerringly generates war, the policy of continual preparation for war, the policy of meddlesome interventionism. There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest-why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always / being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a '> breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies, and it was manifestly Rome's duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people....

Shumpeter goes on to argue that Rome's wars of conquest made no sense "from the point of view of concrete objectives." Rome continued to relate to the rest of the world in an increasingly self-destructive way because imperial institutions, gathering their own momentum, could not be stopped. It is worth remembering that in the end the empire succumbed to the barbarians from sheer exhaustion.

What is now needed are new institutions for assisting the modernization of poor countries without making them the vassals of the rich ones. Such institutions cannot spring forth full-blown. While the United Nations may already offer an appropriate structure for shifting the responsibility for security and development from the hands of a single nation into community hands, the structures cannot function unless the United States, from its commanding height of power, makes the fundamental decision to renounce its claim to "organize the peace."

The seeds of revolution now sprouting on three continents confront humanity with two seemingly contradictory imperatives. To the United States, as the richest and most powerful human organization on the planet, they represent a continuing crisis. The first imperative is that the world must be made safe for revolution. If, as appears in many parts of the world, ruling elites are unwilling or unable to exercise power effectively over large political organizations for the benefit of the members but refuse to give up the personal rewards of power, then, sooner or later, revolutions against them will be attempted. It is critical that these essentially local political phenomena not become the occasions for power plays among the Great Powers for all the reasons we have mentioned: the danger of nuclear war, the destruction of the countries themselves, and the diversion of energies from the incredibly difficult tasks of political reconstruction. We now have more than enough evidence that if a government is unwilling to deal seriously with the economic and political conditions from which rebellion springs, the United States cannot successfully suppress their discontented populations for them. Moreover, it has never been satisfactorily explained why such a counterrevolutionary posture advances American national interests or democratic ideals. Once having decided to suppress a revolution, American leaders have been forced to justify the commitment to themselves and to the rest of the world by a series of bizarre interpretations of the contemporary political environment. Thus, almost ten years after the Greek civil war, Harry S. Truman could still write in his memoirs that the Greek rebels were "masterminded" from outside, despite impressive evidence to the contrary. The danger in treating local revolutions as part of a worldwide conspiracy and not as expressions of nationalist feeling and indigenous political sentiment is that so faulty an analysis cannot be the basis of a practical strategy. That lesson is becoming clearer in Vietnam and, I fear, will be taught to us again. Where the greatest power in the world scares itself with a set of beliefs that have at best only a tangential connection with the reality of revolution, that nation becomes a menace to itself and to others.

The second imperative for the community of nations and for the (United States is to attempt the creation of a world environment in t which revolution will be unnecessary. Revolution is a wasteful, destructive, and inhuman engine of political change. It must be allowed to happen if there is nothing better, but the great challenge to human ingenuity is to find alternative paths to economic and political reconstruction, which can bring basic changes without the massive use of violence. The societies of the- Third World can ill afford the economic and human costs of prolonged civil war. But virtually all of the thinking to date about revolutionizing underdeveloped societies through technology rather than through violence has been designed to serve the political interests of the donor country. The avoidance of revolution has been an end in itself, and very little commitment has been made to the achievement of radical political change through nonviolent means in societies needing revolution. A great nation has an inherent problem, and possibly an insoluble one, in devising a strategy for helping another society to remake its political life without injecting its own interests and values and without coming to dominate the weak. Quite apart from the strings which attach to aid, there are fundamental questions as to who should give money and technical advice and who should receive it. Does it really make any difference if a multilateral organization gives the money if the United States as the most powerful member dominates that organization? What good would it do to give large unencumbered capital sums to corrupt, unimaginative governments in the Third World? A serious confrontation with these questions could suggest a framework for thinking about how to resolve by political means the worldwide civil war in which we are engaged. The greatness of America has been its contribution of political forms. If we could shake off the militarist analysis of the world environment, which now runs so deep in our society, we might once again offer the world, ourselves included, some practical ideas for liberating the human spirit.

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