"The Arrogance of Power"
That is the title of a book authored by one of America's greatest Senators, J. William Fulbright (1905-1995). Senator Fulbright, who had also served at one time as president of the University of Arkansas and US Representative, was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he voted, along with 97 other Senators, for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964. However, Senator Fulbright soon realized the error he had made, and in 1966 published "The Arrogance of Power" which was a major critique of the Vietnam War. However, it is as relevant today as it was back then, and should be required reading of everyone with a position of power in government.
Here is an excerpt from the book, written on the back cover:
"...America is now at that historical point at which a great nation is in danger of losing its perspective on what exactly is within the realm of its power and what is beyond it. Other great nations, reaching this critical juncture, have aspired to too much and, by overextension of effort, have declined and then fallen. Gradually but not unmistakably, America is showing signs of that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past. In so doing, we are not living up to our capacity and promise as a civilized example for the world; the measure of our falling short is the measure of the patriot's duty of dissent."
More excerpts of this excellent book can be found here:
I was quite young then, and the real meaning of the Vietnam War was still a ways from sinking in. But I tried to pay attention, because this was an important guy from Arkansas on national TV. While most of the discussion was above my head in those days, I did catch on to the terms "doves" and "hawks" and wondered why anyone wanted to be a hawk because doves were supposed to be birds of peace.
Just made me remember something about those times.
When I was in grade school, I was a crosswalk guard for awhile. We had a bright, I think orange, sash and a flag in a staff that we hold out to stop the cars.
One of the crosswalks was several blocks from the school and across from a cemetery. We were taught to hold the flag in a certain way when a funeral procession of cars went by. I remember doing this several times. Because Vietnam was on the news each night, I would think of it each time this happened and wonder if the funeral was for a soldier.
because Senator Fulbright was from my home state and I was watching it with my grandfather (American Legion member) who was a bit, shall we say, hawkish.
Yeah, Vietnam was on the news each night, and when they gave the casualty counts-- with the bad guys always getting more casualties than the good guys ("100 Viet Cong killed, 10 Americans wounded" -- I used to think, "Yay, we're winning!"
when we are just as guilty of doing the same. Where was the punishment for Bush/Cheney breaking anti-torture international norms and invading a country that had done nothing to us?
Despite its dangerous and unproductive consequences, the idea of being responsible for the whole world seems to be flattering to Americans and I am afraid it is turning our heads, just as the sense of universal responsibility turned the heads of ancient Romans and 19th century British.
It is a curiosity of human nature that lack of self-assurance seems to breed an exaggerated sense of power and mission. When a nation is very powerful but lacking self-confidence, it is likely to behave in a manner dangerous to itself and to others. Feeling the need to prove what is obvious to everyone else, it begins to confuse great power with unlimited power and great responsibility with total responsibility: It can admit of no error; it must win every argument, no matter how trivial. For lack of an appreciation of how truly powerful it is, the nation begins to lose wisdom and perspective and, with them, the strength and understanding that it takes to be magnanimous to smaller and weaker nations."
We had statesmen in those days. Sen. Fulbright warned the newly inaugurated President Kennedy against Nixon and Dulles' Bay of Pigs thing.
INVASION at Bay of Pigs
"Events are the ephemera of history." --Fernand Braudel
Vice President Richard Nixon was devoted to the idea of opposing Castro as early as April 1959, when Castro visited the U.S. as a guest of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "If he's not a communist," said Nixon, "he certainly acts like one." On March 17 1960, President Eisenhower approved a CIA plan titled "A Program of Covert Action against the Castro Regime."
On March 29 Senator Fulbright gave Kennedy a memo stating that "to give this activity even covert support is of a piece with the hypocrisy and cynicism for which the United States is constantly denouncing the Soviet Union in the United Nations and elsewhere. This point will not be lost on the rest of the world-nor on our own consciences."
A three-page memo from Under Secretary of State Chester A. Bowles to Secretary of State Dean Rusk on March 31 (Foreign Relations of the United States, Cuba, 1961-1963, Doc. No. 75, page 178) argued strongly against the invasion, citing moral and legal grounds. By supporting this operation, he wrote, "we would be deliberately violating the fundamental obligations we assumed in the Act of Bogota establishing the Organization of American States."
[font color="blue"]At a meeting on April 4 in a small conference room at the State Department, Senator Fulbright verbally opposed the plan, as described by Arthur Schlesinger in the Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Thousand Days: "Fulbright, speaking in an emphatic and incredulous way, denounced the whole idea. The operation, he said, was wildly out of proportion to the threat. It would compromise our moral position in the world and make it impossible for us to protest treaty violations by the Communists. He gave a brave, old-fashioned American speech, honorable, sensible and strong; and he left everyone in the room, except me and perhaps the President, wholly unmoved."[/font color]
Five days before D-Day, at a press conference on April 12, Kennedy was asked how far the U.S. would go to help an uprising against Castro. "First," he answered, "I want to say that there will not be, under any conditions, an intervention in Cuba by the United States Armed Forces. This government will do everything it possibly can I think it can meet its responsibilities, to make sure that there are no Americans involved in any actions inside Cuba The basic issue in Cuba is not one between the United States and Cuba. It is between the Cubans themselves."
And yet, JFK and the good guys were overruled by the War Party. Thankfully, the Bay of Pigs thing did happen as later JFK, Fulbright and the good guys stood up to the CIA and the Pentagon and the Hawks in the Cabinet during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If they hadn't, there's a darn good probability none of would be able to blog about it today.
I wish we had more people of his caliber today, but they are very few and very far between :sigh:
father who worked for the Joint Chiefs in 60s for Plans and Policy. I used to have a copy that my father gave me that was stamped.
'Property of the Joint Chiefs'