Samuel P. Huntington, Professor of Government and Chairman of the Government Department next year, is in Vietnam. An expert on the political institutions of underdeveloped nations, he is doing field work for a report to the State Department on long-term political trends in South Vietnam.
Huntington has no set agenda. The study is being sponsored by the Policy Planning Council of the State Department, and an official there says that Huntington "can pretty well write his own ticket."
His visit is timed to coincide with the preparations for the September elections. In the high-pressure atmosphere of the imminent elections, he will probably study the national political personalities, the way in which the Constituent Assembly has been working with the military, and the problem of dealing with the Vietcong. Chances are he will also examine the possible growth of future political factions within the new constitutional framework, and will taken an on-the-spot look at the country's history.
"We are hoping," says a State Department official, "that Huntington may give us some new ideas, or at least point out what factors need to be illuminated."
Although Huntington does not classify himself as a 'Vietnam expert', he is considered an authority on the development of political institutions. He has also written extensively on civilian-military relations, and on corruption.
Huntington will interview the main political figures in Saigon and also plans to travel to the Delta region and toward the North, to examine popular attitudes toward the government, the system, and the war.
He will return soon after the elections, and will probably present his report sometime in November. Copies will go to the Defense Department and to Senate subcommittees concerned with the Vietnam problem.
Before going to Vietnam, Huntington spent two weeks in Washington D.C. being briefed on various aspects of Vietnamese politics, and current American policies regarding the up-coming Vietnamese election.
Huntington is one of two Harvard professors in Vietnam. The other is Arthur Smithies, Nathaniel Ropes Professor of Political Economy. Smithies is studying the possibility of sponsoring small-scale local business and financing South Vietnamese entrepreneurs.