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The Harvard Review

Volume One, Number one

By Robert W. Gordon

A perceptible if somewhat spookily mysterious smell of excitement hovered about Lowell House last March, as the SSMTRHG (UNN) clambered into a Q-Entry and onto the newsstands this fall, under the name of the Harvard Review, and it is nearly every bit as good a it ought to be.

What the Review wants most to do is to find intelligible and intelligent ways of talking about interesting political and social issues. This isn't easy, because most of the people who know about current problems like "The Great Atlantic Community" (the general subject of Number One) are either great men in government or random-sized men in universities, or both at once; and the former are so busy and responsible they tend toward fatuous effusions, the latter so cautiously rigorous they lose themselves in the impenetrable thickets of scholarspeak. Steering between them must be for a magazine, something comparable to trying to write medieval history: editors must look for pieces that paint carefully concrete examples to illustrate ideas and give them life. Although the Review swerves dangerously at times toward Washington's portentous vagueness (as in the articles by Robert Bowie and Paul Nitze), and Academe's hesitant turgidity (of which Richard Zeckhauser on trade and George Collier on anthropology show signs), it keeps for the most part to its true course.

Stanley Hoffmanns, if only there were more than one of them, would be the Review's ideal future contributors. Hoffmann's article on "Problems of Atlantic Partnership" reflects a mind that has obviously sucked in and organized everything published on European integration, N.A.T.O. defense, U.s. trade and tariffs, and de Gaulle's foreign policy; he has squeezed his conclusions into lucid categories and characteristically spread a thin ironic net over them, which serves to heighten and sharpen his discussion. It is amusing and rewarding, as the editors no doubt mean it to be, to see Hoffmann's thoroughness and detachment showing up the other contributors. "American pronouncements and desiderata are afflicted with a kind of cosmic faith in easy harmony," he writes of U.S. reactions to the idea of a high-tariff Europe; and sure enough, her is Professor Bowie seven pages earlier speaking fluidly if gravely about the "general lowering of trade barriers among the advanced nations" and "transitional and ad hoc palliatives, global commodity arrangements, etc." for those less advanced. Similar things happen to Assistant Secretary Nitze, who sounds after one has gone through Hoffmann's wringer disproportionately concerned with maintaining a "unity of command" over N.A.T.O.'s nuclear forces even when the issue may widen political rifts. And Zeckhauser's piece on trade seems to consider all the future in the hands of economic experts concerned only with economic integration.

But I don't wish to carry this too far. Bowie relates some valuable history and makes a good many useful proposals; Zeckhauser gives a really impressive (despite its prose) summary of trade issues between the U.S. and Europe, difficult to do for a lay readership; and Nitze is after all the Horse's Mouth. Besides, Hoffmannesque detachment would probably drive them all mad, or, at best, prevent them from doing their jobs.

Akira Iriye of the Historical Department and Robert A. Paul, an undergraduate, contribute solid supporting articles that would be excellent after a little more editing. Iriye's description of Japan's "great debate" between advocates of stronger economic and political ties to Europe and America is and seekers after an old, compelling Pan-Asian vision is wonderfully clear; and Paul explains precisely how Russian propaganda justifies its hostility to an E.E.C. purported dominated and duped by monopolist and revanchist Germans. In a fascinating analysis packed thickly, like a sardine can, with facts, Dale Peterson gently and dexterously pulls apart Russia's role in the Spanish Civil War.

Three pieces at the end are about the "cultural and intellectual community" of the Atlantic countries. Of these, David Cole's on Odets, Genet and Osborne is alone a joy to read for its reflections on how these playwrights manhandle their audiences. George Collier has written an extremely intelligent and learned article on the anthropological methods of France, England, and America which after three readings still leaves me, if instructed, cold; it may bring something to others. Drew de Shong has a weird little rapid-fire glance at three avant-garde sculptors, a lollipop he lets us lick just once for flavor and then withdraws; it is almost enough.

I feel, actually, only one serious disappointment about the magazine: although Hoffmann and Iriye hint at the dimensions of what Monnet-like merging of technocrats may involve for groups wound up in their nation's sovereignty, nobody goes into detail. The Review and the British Tories are alike in this failing: perhaps mine is a hopelessly unreasonable request. But despite this Metaphysical quibble, it should be clear by now that The Harvard Review is the best thing to happen around here in a long time.

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