The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

on the World Today

AT THE center of the Communist heartland sit Nikita Khrushchev and Mao Tse-tung, men who agree on the necessity of destroying the United States and what it stands for and only disagree on what is the better method. The President tends to accept the view of his experts — though, since Cuba, he is less inclined automatically to believe any “expert” — that Khrushchev’s policy is the dominant one and that central to it is a determination to avoid a direct nuclear conflict with the United States. To prevent any temptation to the Communists on that score, Kennedy has begun to improve the ability of the American nuclear striking force to survive a Soviet attack and still have power enough to render a retaliatory blow which Khrushchev would consider an unacceptable risk.

This was the belief before Cuba and Laos, but those crises have sharpened Kennedy’s view of the other areas of conflict and potential conflict, and the necessity to revamp the organization in Washington to meet them. The Cuban fiasco, particularly, was a test by fire for a number of close Kennedy advisers. Alibis were put forth to explain the intelligence failure of the C.I.A. and the military foolishness approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but fortunately they had no ascertainable effect on the President. To say that the Joint Chiefs were shoved aside by the C.I.A. in the military planning is nonsense. At a White House briefing, the walls were covered with military maps showing the beaches and landing areas, and two of the Joint Chiefs put their approval of the plan in writing.

The C.I.A. failure is something far larger than bad military planning. This agency has scored a good many successes, some of them known in Washington but unpublicized. The U-2 had been fabulously successful until the failure to see the political implications of the final fatal flight so close to last summer’s scheduled Summit Conference. It is the same faulty political analysis which was so critical in the Cuban fiasco.

At the end of World War II, the United States went into the espionage business on a large scale very reluctantly. Initially, it was a relatively secret operation, but in recent years Allen Dulles and some of his deputies got into the speechmaking habit and C.I.A. lost much of its anonymity. Also, the C.I.A. bureaucracy grew so big that it became an empire unto itself, gradually making policy decisions with little or no direction from the President or coordination with the State Department.

It is probable that C.I.A.’s intelligence-gathering function will be separated from its operations function. But the United States cannot halt covert operations. In a world of Communist espionage and sabotage, the democracies have no choice but to indulge in similar tactics.

How much secrecy?

The Cuban affair, on top of the U-2, has let the American public know, as it never knew before, how deeply its government is involved in these shadowy affairs. Although there is a wide moral revulsion against such goings on, it certainly would be perilous to halt them. But how can they be carried on in secret? After Cuba, the President said in a New York speech that, while there was need for “far greater public information,” there also was need for “far greater official secrecy.” This raised a howl from the press, but the problem needs to be thought through.

Certain military information, ranging from troop movements to details of weapons, should be secret, and the responsibility for keeping it secret lies with the Pentagon first of all. There are laws, and prison sentences to back them up. Irresponsible publications can be prosecuted, as well as officials who hand out the secrets, often as an offshoot of interservice rivalries. But this is not at all the same thing as secrecy on the nature of weapons. The theory of mutual deterrence between the United States and the Soviet Union requires that each side have a good idea of the abilities of the other in terms of raw power. As one official has said, if the United States had bragged about its radar at Pearl Harbor instead of hiding it, even from many of our own military, the Japanese might never have dared to strike.

This part of the problem is relatively simple. Far more difficult is the secrecy around operations such as those in Cuba. A lot of nonsense has been put forward about the press’s printing too much in advance of the invasion. It is well known that Miami was full ol Fidel Castro’s agents and that he knew far more than was printed in the American press. If more had been published, in fact, it might have made the Kennedy Administration reconsider its decision in light of the big advance invasion build-up.

American guerrilla activities

One high-ranking official was asked at a background session in Washington recently whether the United States, now that it is getting into guerrilla warfare, should infiltrate Communist North Vietnam from free South Vietnam, just as the Communists do the other way around. He said yes. But this is a kind of warfare Americans of this century have not known. There are no rules of war for such activities, no Geneva Convention to cover and protect prisoners of war.

The President has ordered a 150 per cent increase in U.S. guerrilla forces, but the Administration will not make public the exact figures involved. However, despite the flat yes noted above, the Administration has not yet decided how to use these men. Its first move has been to increase guerrilla training for such troops as those in South Vietnam, so that they can infiltrate the Communist north.

A major part of retired general Maxwell Taylor’s assignment from the President involves this paramilitary problem. There is no doubt that men can be trained for such work and that they can do it if ordered to. But there are other problems. One is that the way the Cold War is fought today it is ethical for the Communists to use any sort of dirty trick, but unethical for Americans to do so. Unhappily, much of the free world never seems to raise an eyebrow at Communist skulduggery, it is so common; but there are anguished outcries at such American activities.

It is questionable to what extent a nation such as the United States can engage in these tactics, together with the official lies which are inevitably involved, without affecting its own democracy. Part of this problem relates to the American press’s function in carrying out the people’s right to know what their government is doing.

The will to be free

But there are other aspects, too. Kennedy has been stressing more and more, since the failure of the Laotians to make effective use of the military aid given them, the matter of will. He said not long ago that in effect the United States today is performing the function which the British navy performed for a century or so — providing a safe cover for normal life in many other lands. In addition, the United States is giving economic aid, and, if Kennedy has his way, will increase this aid and offer it on a long-term self-help basis. And the United States offers military equipment and training for local forces.

“There is a limit, however,” the President added, “beyond which our efforts cannot go.” For, “in the final analysis” the leaders of the smaller, and often newly independent, nations “have to organize the political life of their country in such a way that they maintain the support of their people.” It is this thought which lay behind Kennedy’s proposals to relate the extent of American aid to the willingness of other governments to engage in such vital necessities as land and tax reform.

One of the major tragedies of Kennedy’s foolish approval of the Cuban invasion attempt was the setback it gave his alianza para progreso in the rest of Latin America. Nor was it a very happy fact that it was the Cuban fiasco which finally drove Congress to appropriate the full $500 million to get the program started. But, at any rate, the money is now available.

It will take extraordinarily clever use of the money to help break down the land and tax privileges which so abound in Latin America. The problem differs from nation to nation, of course, but there are leaders, especially President Quadros in Brazil, and some others who are ready to go along with Kennedy’s prescription of using the money to “combat illiteracy, improve the productivity and use of their land, wipe out disease, attack archaic tax and land-tenure structures, provide educational opportunities, and offer a broad range of projects designed to make the benefits of increasing abundance available to all.”

The important thing is to get started, to create a sense of forward motion, so that millions of Latins will cease to feel that the only way out is the violent anti-Americanism of Fidelismo. The United States will have to grin and bear the taunts that the money is really a “gift from Fidel.”

Nothing could better demonstrate the movement of history than the first months of the new Administration in Washington. Events refuse to be tidy; crises refuse to wait for opportune moments or for completed plans to meet them. The Administration has had a baptism of considerable fire, to be sure, and the news may get still worse before it gets better. Yet, it can be said that the President has picked his Administration up off the floor and caught a second breath.

Domestic politics

Onrushing foreign events have tended to drive from the front pages practically all thoughts of domestic politics. But the politicians know the calendar moves on and that elections soon will be coming up. This year there will be only two gubernatorial elections — in New Jersey and Virginia — and both are important in assessing the temper of the nation.

In New Jersey, where a conservative Republican machine long has been entrenched, there is a major opportunity for the modern Republicans, almost entirely the work of an unassuming, 57-year-old, often unorthodox politician, Senator Clifford P. Case. Last fall, for example, when Senator Kennedy, then his party’s presidential nominee, failed to win Senate approval for his medical care plan tied to Social Security, he won only a single GOP vote, that of Senator Case.

Both times that Case has run for the Senate, he first had to beat rightwing GOP opponents, well financed and vitriolic. This year, in the primary, he staked his career on backing former Labor Secretary James P. Mitchell for the gubernatorial nomination. If Mitchell wins in November, Case will be in the unique position of being the kingmaker from his Senate seat. And New Jersey will join neighboring New York, with Governor Rockefeller, in the liberal leadership of the GOP.

In Virginia, the Democratic primary on July 11 will be controlling, though the Republicans, who have carried the state in the last three presidential elections, will have a candidate on the ballot in the November general election. The issue in Virginia is the machine so long led by Senator Harry Flood Byrd. The present governor, J. Lindsay Almond, who destroyed Byrd’s “massive resistance” to desegregation doctrine, is ineligible to run again. His lieutenant governor, A. E. S. Stephens, is the Almond candidate, while the state’s attorney general, Albertis Harrison, resigned to become the Byrd stand-in.

Negroes in Virginia public schools so far number only about 200, in several counties, but there are enough to win wide acceptance of the principle that the public schools must be preserved, even with token integration. One county, Prince William, has closed its schools entirely, with white children going to private schools, while some 1700 Negroes have little or no education. Attorney General Robert Kennedy has moved into the Prince William case to try to bring about reopening of the public schools, even if only Negroes attend. It is this move that Byrd and his man, Harrison, have now seized upon as a campaign issue against the Almond-Stephens team. Virginia has one of the nation’s most restricted franchises, the result of the state poll tax and other means of discouraging voters. But, nonetheless, the outcome of the fight in July will be important in terms of whether there is continual but gradual progress in civil rights, or an effort to revert to some new form of “massive resistance.”