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."
Their ideas affect action through the same process of "filtration" by which the government digests the ideas of other groups. "We don't have a raw general will which simply makes itself felt," Chayes noted. "Ideas must make their way through a complicated system of institutions."
Turning to his work on United Nations financial problems, Chayes said that the brief which his office submitted last week to the International Court of Justice contends that the Charter binds members to pay special assessments including those for the Congo operation. The brief also maintains that failure to pay special assessments for two years should cause the loss of a nation's vote in the General Assembly under Article 19 of the Charter.
Besides helping the United Nations financially, a favorable decision by the Court would have "great constitutional and structural significance for the Court itself," Chayes asserted.
He compared the Court's present condition with that of the United States Supreme Court during its first 15 years and maintained that, like the Supreme Court, it will grow in stature and support only by dealing with fundamental constitutional issues.
Fears of Court
When the Court does this, Chayes said he believes the "abstract fears" which preserve the Connally Amendment will disappear. Chayes maintained that allowing the Court to show its competence is a more hopeful way of getting the Amendment repealed than a direct assault.
Chayes declared that the United Nations bond plan is a way of reducing the proportion of the financial burden for the Congo operation assumed by the United States. Including assessments and voluntary contributions, the United States has paid about 45 per cent of the U.N.'s Congo expenses so far, he pointed out.
"Repayment of the principle and interest on the bonds," he explained, "will be assessed according to the ordinary scale of contributions of which we pay only about one-third. Although the United States will buy about half of the bond issue, it is obviously better to be a 50 per cent creditor than an almost 50 per cent contributor."