Abram Chayes '43, the former Harvard Law School professor who is now legal adviser to the Department of State, believes that one year in Washington has given him a new appreciation of Oliver Wendell Holmes' doctrine: "Continuity with the past is not a duty. It's only a necessity."
"It's very hard to change things." In Washington, Chayes explained, "It requires very delicate maneuvering and movement. The relations between nations are so very complicated that you just can't surgically alter them."
If proposals for rapid disarmament were carried out, Chayes said they "may create more uncertainties and anxiety than slower and less radical kinds of movement."
Basic American foreign policy, he pointed out, "doesn't shift very radically" and contains objectives that persist over a long time. "You can put an argument against this," Chayes noted. "The world is changing very rapidly. The growth of military technology and the arms race create very big problems.
"You can rightly ask whether we can move fast enough by more deliberate means or whether we will be overtake by events," he continued. "I don't know. The answer probably is yes, we will move fast enough. We have survived for a long time."
Proponents of a unilateral reduction in American military power disregard "the implicit dilemma that you can't create brand new policies as if writing on a clean slate," Chayes maintained.
Groups such as Tocsin, whose spokesmen he met in his State Department office last month, have understandable anxieties and concerns, Chayes said. But, he declared, "they are asking for simple, easy solutions" that may be analogous to the remedies proffered by the radical right.
Chayes asserted, "The problems of the arms race are organic and not mechanical. It is no easier to solve them by unilateral disarmament them by first strike."
He interpreted President Kennedy's call for a "peace race" in his United Nations address last fall as a promise to work strenuously for the objective of a peaceful and stable world.
"Peace race means a serious effort on disarmament which I think we are making," Chayes explained. "It means serious efforts in the underdeveloped countries to create the conditions for a stable and orderly world, which I think we are making.
Despite the complexity and recalcitrance of arms race problems, Chayes said public interest and discussion of them is highly desirable. "The government can't carry out foreign policy without public support," he asserted. "Conversely, it is important that the public's views be brought to bear on the government."
Chayes continued, "By discussion we have begun to perceive what the problems are in disarmament and arms control and have penetrated further into the difficulties. Some of the members of the academic community who were most interested are now closely associated with this administration. Quite a few came out of the ferment at Harvard. As an ex-professor I find agitation, discussion, and debate on campus very heartening."