J. Anthony Lukas '55, a well-known journalist and author, told a group of freshman last night that his experience as a foreign correspondent in Zaire during the 1960s convinced him that the U.S. should not intervene in the current fighting there.
Lukas said the U.S. should not unequivocally support the currently ruling regime of Mobutu Sese Seko, calling the idea that Mobutu is essential to U.S. national security a "myth."
"This is a laughable little war, but one getting a disproportionate amount of attention," Lukas said. Nevertheless, he added that the U.S. should "watch" events in Zaire because its strategic and economic importance could cause it to become a center of international conflict.
The CIA and the American government are "pouring money into a mercenary army which is among the worst in the world," Lukas said.
An example of the incompetence of Mobutu's army, Lukas said, was a battle in which the army drove their trucks backwards up a hill so that they could beat a hasty retreat if necessary.
In addition to his remarks on Zaire, Lukas talked about the problems of contemporary journalism. He said he saw a "dilemma" for reporters in the aftermath of Watergate.
Watergate encouraged reporters to be "tough, skeptical and nobody's patsy," Lukas said, but President Carter has so far provided reporters with few opportunities for "hardnosed reporting."
He said the new glamor of investigative reporting should not encourage reporters to substitute sensationalism for the "hard, slogging" groundwork needed for good investigative reporting.
Excessive press coverage of "trivial" presidential activities is another problem of today's press, Lukas said, adding that such coverage contributes to the aura of the "imperial presidency" by blowing presidential activities out of proportion.