The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
SOME months ago‚ President Kennedy was annoyed at reading a newspaper article charging that there was no “grand design” to his foreign policy. Since then, there has been not only a spate of articles on such a design, but, more important, the Administration has begun to form the outlines of its worldwide policy. Because much that this or any other Administration does in the foreign policy field comes under the head of countermeasures, a grand design at best can offer only a generalized set of guidelines to policy makers throughout the government. But that in itself is valuable.
The military plan is the most evident of all, for it has been widely stressed and publicized by both the President and Defense Secretary McNamara. Since his meeting with Soviet Premier Khrushchev in Vienna a year ago, the President has concentrated on building the strength of American conventional military forces so that he may have what he has termed a “choice between surrender and all-out nuclear war.” Congress has provided the funds quite willingly, and the job has been nearly completed. Included in this buildup has been the beginning of forces trained to cope with guerrilla warfare. The war in South Vietnam is the testing ground for these men, and militarily the signs there are encouraging.
In addition. President Kennedy has continued the Eisenhower policy of adding to the nuclear second-strike capability, with emphasis on mobility (the nuclear-powered Polaris submarines) and on hardened bases for the solid-fuel Minuteman missiles now being buried in numerous parts of the United States.
Trade and aid
These military measures are well known, especially to the Soviet Union, but political and economic measures are equally important. They spring from the rapid liquidation of the colonial empires of our western European allies.
First, the Administration is seeking to pull together the industrial free nations of the Northern Hemisphere — the United States and Canada, western Europe, and Japan. The development of the European Common Market has propelled a new trade policy for the United States, now in the making by the Congress. Increased and freer trade among all these industrial nations is the aim, but greater political consultation is also very important. As long as the free world’s general economic health is good and continues to grow better, all the signs point to greater trade and closer political-economic relationships. Of course, there will be pulling and hauling, by the nature of the democratic process and the interrelation of free governments. But basically our government has nothing to fear from increased self-confidence and national strength in London, Paris, Bonn, Tokyo, or anywhere else.
A great deal of effort has gone into Washington’s attempts to convince industrial friends and allies to play a larger role in aiding the underdeveloped half of the globe. Success has been spotty, but the Administration, led by the President, Undersecretary of State George Ball, and Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, keeps plugging away.
The second aim is to help build a new relationship between the former colonial world and the former colonial powers and other industrial nations. It is this relationship which the Communists are fighting hard to prevent, switching their outcry from “colonialism” to “economic imperialism.” Only a start has been made so far.
Essential to the development of this relationship with the new nations is a greater sense of independence and a higher degree of modernization. Indeed, as Washington sees it, the fierce nationalism now increasingly evident in so many new nations, as well as in others which long have had nominal independence, is akin to the nationalism which swept post-Napoleonic Europe. It creates new problems, but it also is a mighty bulwark against the Communists’ efforts to penetrate and put their own stamp on other nations.
Third, the Administration is trying to sort out its own often confused and contradictory policies on foreign aid to the southern half of the globe. A critical factor is our ability to bring to bear on the economic problems of the underdeveloped lands the coordinated resources of the industrial free nations. One new device, already proving to be successful in the case of aid to India, is the international consortium, a mixture of public and private lending by several nations, by world organizations, and by private financial institutions.
Studies are going ahead in Washington on aid problems in a half dozen sample nations, designed to explore the road ahead and the parts which should be played both by the United States and by its partners in aid. But even with the best-laid long-range plans, it will not be possible to escape emergency aid programs in many areas of the globe. It would help, however, if the emergency programs were better related to long-range aims than they have been in the past.
Washington and the more progressive forces in the underdeveloped nations must find a way to convince the haves in each country (especially in Latin America) that their longrun security and their prospects for increased wealth lie in sharing more of what they have with the awakened have-not elements of their own societies. The Marxists contend that this is impossible, that the rich are too blind. Indeed, the contrary has yet to be proved in many places.
Despite sporadic efforts by Moscow and Peiping to conceal their differences so as to present a united front to the free world, it is believed in Washington that the crisis within the Communist world is too deep to be easily resolved. The economic desperation inside Red China has forced a retreat from the Great Leap Forward, but there is no evidence that it has altered the ideological thinking in Peiping. The problem for Washington is what to do in view of the Communist schism.
Walt W. Rostow, the State Department’s planning chief, has suggested that the free world must find areas of “overlapping interest” with Communist nations. This is the significance of the talks between Moscow and Washington about joint efforts in space, of the continued cultural exchanges between the two countries, and of the attempts to find areas of agreement in the armscontrol field. More can be done with the satellites aligned with Khrushchev, more of the kind of cooperation which both Eisenhower and Kennedy have carried on with Communist Poland and Yugoslavia. Khrushchev and his allies need this kind of cooperation with the free world, yet each effort deepens the division between him and Mao Tsetung.
In a speech at Berkeley, California, the President earlier this year took the long view by saying that “no one who examines the modern world can doubt that the great currents of history are carrying the world away from the monolithic idea toward the pluralistic idea — away from Communism and toward national independence and freedom.” He was careful to add that “the processes of history are fitful, halting and aggravating,” and that “the specter of thermonuclear war will hang over mankind.” Kennedy has been criticized for overoptimism, but his problem is to use the power and influence of America not in a boisterous militant way but with sophistication, to nudge history itself.
The battle for the House
In the elections this fall there is no practical possibility for the Republicans to capture control of the Senate, where only a third of the membership, plus those who hold their seats by appointment, must run. All the House is up for election this year, and in many key areas the candidates will be running in newly created districts, the result of the shifts in the 1960 census. Redistricting, the experts believe, will net the Republicans a few extra scats, but this is by no means certain.
The GOP target, naturally, is to capture control of the House. In fact, this is doubtful, and the Republicans know it. But the GOP hopes to increase its House membership by enough to cement more firmly the GOP-Southern Democratic coalition, which has balked, but not always defeated, the Kennedy legislative program.
The Democratic target is to recapture the critical two dozen seats the Democrats lost in the House when Kennedy was winning the presidency. This margin would break the GOP-Southern Democratic power, or at least weaken it so that the Kennedy program would be assured a far higher chance of success in the next Congress. The issues involved are essentially domestic, not foreign.
Only once in modern times, at the peak of the Roosevelt New Deal in 1934, has the party in control of the White House increased its membership in the House in a nonpresidential year. And F.D.R.’s 1934 increase was only nine seats. Democratic dreamers think that that I record can be topped this year, and they are buoyed up by the Gallup poll, but they are far from being certain.
The key issue, in the strategists’ view, is the Kennedy plan for medical care for the aged through Social Security. The aim is to force a record vote in the House, to make every member stand up and be counted. Both the Gallup poll and a number of polls taken by members of Congress offer encouragement. Kennedy is keeping up a constant barrage on the subject; doctors hostile to the negative stand of the American Medical Association are being rounded up; mass meetings are being held, including a big one for the President to address in New York.
Aid to education
One issue which disturbs the Democrats springs from the unresolved struggle over federal aid to education. It is now evident from some special elections, and from the senatorial struggle among the Democrats in Massachusetts for Kennedy’s old seat, that the President’s adamant stand against aid for parochial schools cuts both ways. Congressmen from predominantly Protestant and nonchurch areas say that their hopes for Democratic gains this fall depend in part on the President’s strict adherence to his position. But in city and suburban areas with big Catholic populations, some Democratic candidates are going to find it difficult to back the President’s stand.
In a New York City special election earlier this year, a GOP challenger who came out for aid for parochial schools against a Democrat who stuck with the President came within an eyelash of capturing a normally Democratic district. There was a very small vote, but the shadow on the wall was readily visible to the party politicians. Such situations could mean the difference between success and failure in the Democratic drive to win a liberal, pro-Kennedy majority in the blouse.
Off-year congressional elections never bring a voter turnout equal to that of presidential years: only about 75 percent of those who voted for Kennedy or Nixon can be expected to go to the polls this November. This gives additional power to the party organizations and to local issues and special pleading. House members react to their own constituencies, however much they may sympathize with or reject the Kennedy philosophy. It is for this reason that the Administration strategists are seeking national issues of concern in every congressional district, and they think the issue of medical care for the aged is a major one.
Mood of the Capital
The nagging, persistent refusal of the economy to boom and of unemployment to decrease sharply has tended to offset an otherwise increasing mood of confidence in the Capital. The economy seems to keep moving ahead just enough to prevent the kind of backfire on Congress which would produce votes for some of the Kennedy measures to give it a major shot in the arm. It has taken a maximum of pressure to win from Congress, especially from the House, even the minimum of tools asked by the President.
The result is another big deficit this fiscal year, ending June 30 — though not big enough by some economists’ views. Still, the Congress and the country are so imbued with the conventional wisdom of budget balancing that even this deficit has been trimmed by congressional refusal to vote more Kennedy programs. Faster national economic growth, while recognized by almost all as essential, thus remains the major unresolved domestic issue. And the limping economy is the major blight on otherwise increasingly hopeful prospects.