Goldberg Meets His Critics
(The following are excerpts from last Sunday's debate with Arthur J. Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.)
MICHAEL L. WALZER, associate professor of Government: I want to say first that we all welcome the bombing pause, if that's what it is, and hope, in the absence of all information, for the best. But many of us, I'm afraid, don't expect the best, and doubt the sincerity of the United State's moves towards negotiations. Because the war aims of our government seem to us incompatible with any genuine political settlement, we are afraid of another so-called peace offensive, like that of a year ago. And so I want to ask you some questions, Ambassador Goldberg, about American war aims. These seem to include two most crucial aims: the establishment of a non-Communist government in the South, and the disarming of the Viet Cong. If the Viet Cong were to lay down their arms, Ambassador Goldberg said at Howard University a few days ago, ways could be found to permit them to take part in the normal political processes of South Vietnam--whatever those are. That's an extraordinary statement, and perhaps more so because Ambassador Goldberg was quoting Secretary Rusk. It amounts to a demand for the capitulation of the Viet Cong, since they would lay down their arms while the South Vietnamese army would not do so. After 20 years of successful revolutionary and guerrilla warfare, they are apparently simply to give up. They could then look forward to a terroristic repression modeled on the Diemist terror of the 50's. But the Viet Cong have no reason to capitulate and lay down their arms since they have, in fact, not been defeated. Don't you think, then, Ambassador Goldberg, that it would be necessary for the U.S. to develop more realistic goals before our case for negotiations can be taken seriously? The alternative is to win the war--to kill enough people to force surrender of the Viet Cong. And, frankly, by my reading of recent events, that that is our intention. But I would like to be told that I am wrong. Not merely told.
Arms Mean Warfare
GOLDBERG: Since my news about what has happened is as fresh as yours, I can only reiterate what you said. I, too, welcome the bombing pause if that's what it is. On the question of the sincerity of our peace aims in Vietnam, I can only say this--I did make a speech at Howard in which I stated our peace aims in Vietnam. In that speech I said "The U.S. seeks a political solution, we do not seek a military solution, we do not seek the unconditional surrender of our adversaries, we seek a settlement in which terms will result from genuine negotiations, a settlement whose terms will not sacrifice the vital interest of any party. Now about laying down arms.... I don't know how you bring about peace if you don't lay down your arms. Possession of arms is inconsistent with bringing about peace, because arms are the means of warfare, they are not the means of peace. The second thing, implicit in your question, is if the Viet Cong were to lay down its arms, what guarantees would there be for a peaceful resolution and for their peaceful participation in determining their country's future. We have said that we thought the machinery which had been created in the 1954-1962 courts has not been sufficiently effective to assure that whatever political decisions are made in the country, are made under terms where all can be afforded the opportunity peacefully to participate in the decisions. And so, if you will also look at another section of my Howard University speech, I said we would welcome more international supervision and more effective international supervision in order to make sure that no segment of South Vietnamese opinion is denied a proper place in the peaceful development of the institutions of that country.
WALZER: But there is a civil war going on. Whatever else is going on, there is civil war. At least on one side most of the fighters are Vietnamese, and I wonder if your proposals don't amount to a laying down of arms by the Viet Cong. I have never heard the U.S. propose a laying down of arms by the army of the government of South Vietnam. Now the one thing that could rejuvenate and reinvigorate the army of South Vietnam is if the Viet Cong lay down their arms. I don't see how any guarantees after 20 years of bitter civil war could possibly provide a reason for the Viet Cong to lay down their arms in the face of a hostile government.
GOLDBERG: Even in our own civil war we found that the thing that was most urgently required was a program of national reconcilation. You remember the second inaugural address of President Lincoln. The government of South Vietnam, and the governments, of North Vietnam are governments, and we do no task that the government of North Vietnam relinquish its role as a government. The basic concept we seek to advance is a very simple one. That is, that there be a grounding of arms so that bloodshed and violence shall cease; that there be an opportunity for all to participate in the democratic process that will bring a truly civilian government to that part of the world, and that will permit a government to proceed in a program of national reconciliation, and the progress that all of the people in that area like. I must confess I am somewhat confused by your statement because your statement implies that you can carry on a war by arms and still bring about peace. Now the statement I made rules out a military solution on the part of all sides. I do not think that that is incompatible with a peaceful solution. I would have supposed that that was an essential part of a political solution that all concerned ground arms, that all concerned agree upon a cease-fire, and I must say I don't understand what you're driving at. Is it your thought that the only way to bring about a pacification of Vietnam--pacification is a peaceful word--is by force of arms?
WALZER: I would just remind you that the American civil war ended by a military victory of the North.
GOLDBERG: Which we paid a penalty for 100 years and are still paying the penalty.
WALZER: Let me suggest then that one way of ending the war, or at any rate of moving toward an end of the war, is to propose a coalition, an interim government in which the Viet Cong would be represented at the cabinet level. In the face of a government of that sort in which they participated they could conceivably submit to being disarmed. But in the face of the present government or any government formed on the basis of arrangements presently being made in Saigon, it seems to me to be not entirely in good faith to ask the Viet Cong to lay down their arms.
GOLDBERG: Well, that doesn't get quite the full effect of what I said at Howard the other day and what I said at the General Assembly. We did not propose that the first step should be the laying down of arms in the South. We said that the first step ought to be the laying down of arms from North to South and in turn, on our part, a withdrawal by all concerned of all external forces. And then we said, and I said in my speech which represents an expression of American policy, that all elements should be invited to participate in the future of their country. And I still don't see how that could be accomplished when it would be done by force of arms, because that's not the road to peace, that's the road to the continuation of the conflict, and all of our energies as peace-loving people ought to be directed towards a pacification of the South.
WALZER: I want to make this one brief point and then my time will be up for now. After your speech at the U.N. on the 22nd of September last year in which you proposed this withdrawal of all foreign troops, about a month later the defense department issued a statement in a letter to a Congressman dated October 24, 1966, in which they said that your speech "includes the intent that the Viet Cong military units would also be deactivated in any proposed withdrawal of external forces from North Vietnam," and I submit once again that that means the only armed force left in the country would be the South Vietnamese army at whose mercy everyone else would be.
GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, I have trouble enough taking the responsibility for my own statements without covering all the statements that are made in our government. But any government that is a government must act like a government, and I think what is really behind this.... is that you must have a stable situation in a country if it's going to proceed in a peaceful way. And you must remember that the key to our proposals is that the program for de-escalation of this war on all sides be internationally supervised....
DAVID D. LOUD '68, Students for a Democratic Society: Are not the atrocities against the civilian population of Vietnam a necessary consequence of the American aim of counter revolution?
GOLDBERG: First let me say this what I find lacking in your question, if I may say so is a very simple element. A failure to point out that the regime in the North is not an exact model of parliamentary democracy and free election, and that is a violation of the Geneva courts, which calls, for free elections both ways. Now the freest elections that I am aware of that have been held have been the elections of the constituent assembly which was attended by about the same proportion of South Vietnamese that participated in our National elections, under war time conditions and where the 400 press men from everywhere in the world said that this election was a free election--and they are not to be put off by our American press. So that I don't find your statement about atrocities balances the picture as it must be balanced when you are trying to present a total picture of what occurs in a situation like this. It all reduces itself, it seems to me, to a very simple fact, and that is this. Is there a desire to allow the destiny of this country to be peacefully settled or is there a desire to impose upon people a forceable solution? We said we want a peaceful one and I have said, let's test our intentions by taking up your statements.
JAY B. STEVENS '68, Young Republicans: Ambassador Goldberg you stated today that countries of the world want to be left alone; people of the world want to be left alone. I would like to ask you first of all if the U.S. action in Vietnam and our policy there entail that our government attempt to prop-up regimes around the world against the internal threat of invasion? And secondly, how do you square your own personal sophisticated views of this war with those of the administration?
Test the U.S.
GOLDBERG: I would say that we want people to be left alone and not be forced into another way of life. And, again, I say if that's a view of the U.S. it ought to be tested. The best way to test it is to put it into the conference, get international guarantees... We would be happy to have the U.N. Supervise it and bring in countries not directly involved. As to whether I have a more sophisticated view of the war, I'll let you judge that.
WALZER: I want to raise again the question of the human cost of this bloody war. It's inevitable, I'm afraid, that if we choose to fight against guerrilla forces which have substantial popular support, we are going to kill a lot of people who are not guerillas. That's what we are doing in Vietnam. In a report to the House of Representatives last year, Congressman Zablocki of Wisconsin estimated that about 6 civilians were killed for each Viet Cong guerrilla killed in a significant number of U.S. military operations examined by his subcommittee. That is an extremely high figure. There are other sources, for example, French journalists suggest a much higher one. It is unequal, I think, to any war for which we have statistics. The figures for the Second World War, I am told, are about one to one. If the Representative from Wisconsin's estimate is accurate then we killed one quarter of a million Vietnamese civilians in 1965 alone. I get that figure by multiplying the official estimate of Viet Cong killed by 6. Of course the official estimate is insane but it is not a N.Y. Times figure. I would like to ask you Ambassador Goldberg whether you think our ends in Vietnam can possibly justify the extraordinary brutality of our means? And whether we can maintain the freedom of the Vietnamese by killing them and their choice--their right to choose their own government--by subjecting them to a more significant degree of coersion than any country of that size has ever been subjected to. Isn't it possible that a war that can only be fought and won at such a terrible human cost ought not to be fought at all? May I just say very briefly that I don't want to be told that this war is ugly and that all wars are ugly. Some wars are uglier than others and this one is the ugliest in the history of our country.
No Magic Wand
GOLDBERG: My first comment to you and I hope you take it in good spirits, is I have not tried to tell you what not to say so don't now try to tell me what to say in response. Now if you want my response without being censored in what I have to say, I will say it. That is a very simple response. The world has suffered from too much killing. The world is suffering from too much killing. If you want to analyze the killing that is going on, there are many people that have been killed by the millions, far more than the people who have been killed here as a result of repression, in tolerance, and war. My object in life as a lawyer, as a judge and now, is to try to bring some sense into the world community so that a rule of law will operate in the world. That's why I'm where I am. I know of no better way to do this than by trying to bring people together, to accommodate their points of view, to try to arrive at sense, to try to settle their problems by principles of freedom. I, myself, do not want to live under conditions that are not free conditions. I don't accept the concept that that is the type of life that I am ready to lead. Therefore I think the basic principle that is here which we are struggling with--a very difficult principle--is how to discharge our responsibilities in the world as a world power and permit people, as I said, "to be let alone." If there is any notion that this can be done (as is apparent from your remark) by isolating yourself from the world community, we went through that experience and the experience we had was disastrous. It led to the tremendous holocaust where not one (I don't know what your figures are and where you got them) where not one million people were killed--if you took the figures of the Second World War it amounts to some figure that staggers the imagination. What we've got to do, what all of us have to work for, what all people who abhor the thought of war have got to do, is to try to work for an order where that will not be. Now that order cannot be by just wishing that that order can be. That order can only be if people work and take actions that will insure such a world order. That is what I, personally, am about. That is what we are attempting to do. You cannot, with a magic wand, create conditions of peace which you and I would both hope to serve. Nor can you do it by obviating the great concern. And above all things we must avoid action that would allow a third World War to come about. Sometimes limited action, as we all know from our domestic experiences, can prevent more tremendous holocaust. And if there is a justification for our policy, that is the justification of our policy. That is what has to be argued. Not the question that you have put.