A Useful Non-Dialogue

Anyone who came to hear Arthur Goldberg yesterday expecting a genuine dialogue was disappointed. There was no frank discussion or examination of the premises and arguments of the Administration and of those who oppose the Vietnam war.

Goldberg simply refused to tackle a number of questions. He had an opportunity to argue that the aims of American policy are of greater priority than its most distressing drawbacks -- the widespread death and desolation inflicted on non-Communist civilians. Goldberg, in typical well-meaning fashion, responded that there is too much killing already and that it is his aim, and presumably the President's, to "build some sense in the world community."

The Ambassador's tendency to shy away from certain questions was, of course, dictated by the limits of the policy he represents. But this very inadequacy of the confrontation made the meeting a useful exercise in the first place. It posed neatly the different methods of appraising American policy in Vietnam. It demonstrated the difficulty the Administration faces in trying to counter obvious criticisms.

The meeting would never have been conceived without SDS's intense activity throughout the fall and winter. It would never have taken place unless the Ambassador had generously consented to subject himself to what he knew would be two very uncomfortable hours. That he failed to convert his audience, which clearly represented a cross-section of student opinion, reflects on the policy, not the man.