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Schlesinger on Kennedy and Harvard

By Arthur M. Schlesinger jr.

[A Thousand Days, a best selling history of the Kennedy administration by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. '38, chronicles three years of close contact between Washington an the academic world, particularly Harvard. Mr. Schlesinger and the Houghton Miffilin Publishing Company have kindly allowed us to print the following excepts from the book. Each deals with a particular man or group of men associated with Harvard who had some inyuence on the political history of the Kennedy years.-- The Editors]

Richard E. Neustadt

Clark Clifford, [asked by Kennedy to analyze the problems of taking over the executive], discussed transition problems with an associate from Truman days, Richard Neustadt, a political scientist who had worked in the Bureau of the Budget and later as a Special Assistant in the White House before becoming a professor at Columbia. Neustadt shared Clifford's concern about the interregnum. Both remembered all too well the lost weeks after the triumph of 1948 when Truman went off to Key West and, in his absence, congressional leaders made bargains with interest groups which deprived him of control over his own legislative program. To his practical experience in government Neustadt added an acute and original approach to the theory of government organization. His interest in the facts rather than the forms of power had already done much to emancipate the study of public administration from its faith in organization charts as descriptions of operating reality. He had summed up his viewpoint in a searching essay on the politics of leadership called Presidential Power, published the previous April.

By the time Clifford spoke to him, however, Neustadt had already been tapped by Senator Henry Jackson, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, for a post-election assignment. Jackson, who was also chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on National Security Staffing and Operations, was alarmed by testimony indicating that Eisenhower, as his bequest to the nation, might propose change in the organization of the Presidency, especially the institution of a team of grand viziers to be called the First Secretary and the Executive Assistant to the President. In order to combat such proposals, Jackson had asked Neustadt to prepare a memorandum on the problems of change-over for the new President.

Neustadt completed "Organizing the Transition" by September 15. Three days later Jackson took him out to Georgetown to meet Kennedy. Kennedy, sitting in his garden, flipped through the twenty pages of the memorandum in his usual manner. He liked it at once, and it is easy to see why. The presentation was crisp and methodical with a numbered list of specific problems and actions. It began by questioning campaign talk about "another Hundred Days" -- a warning which must have inspired Kennedy, embarrassed by rhetorical excess, with confidence in the sobriety of the memorandum's author. It constantly stressed the importance of flexibility. The President's requirements for his personal staff, for example, "cannot be fully understood, or met until they have been experienced." Kennedy moreover, was probably pleased to have a professor get into the act. At any rate, he told Neustadt to elaborate his argument in further memoranda. "When you finish," he said, "I want you to get the material back directly to me. I don't want you to send it to anybody else." Neustadt asked, "How do you want me to relate to Clark Clifford?" Kennedy replied quickly, "I don't want you to relate to Clark Clifford. I can't a lord to confine myself to one set of advisers. If I did that, I would be on their leading strings." Once Kennedy said that, the author of Presidential Power was thereafter on his leading strings.

...On November 21 Clifford and Neustadt reported their progress to the President-elect and his staff at Palm Beach. After dinner, Kennedy briskly divided up the group, taking Clifford and Sorensen into one room, asking Neustadt to wait in another room, Shriver in still another. When Neustadt's turn arrived, Kennedy raised questions about some of the things his advisers had told him he must do as President -- receiving Congressmen, for example, whenever they requested an appointment. Neustadt said that there were few imperatives in the Presidency; he should feel free to work it out in his own way. He then handed Kennedy a copy of Presidential Power, recommending that he read chapters three and seven ("The Power to Persuade" and "Men in Office"). Kennedy, almost as if surprised at the limited assignment, said, "I will read the whole book." When he did, he found an abundance of evidence and analysis to support his predilections toward a fluid Presidency.

Henry A. Kissinger

On the problem of negotiation [during the Berlin crisis]. Henry Kissinger observed to Bundy that it was wrong "to have refusal to negotiate become a test of firmness.... Firmness should be related to the substance of our negotiating position. It should not...be proved by seeming to shy away from a diplomatic confrontation." If Khrushchev would not accept a reasonable proposal, this, in Kissinger's view, was an argument for rather than against our taking the initiative. Any other course would see us "jockeyed into a position of refusing diplomatic solutions," and, when we finally agreed to discussion, as we inevitably must, it would seem an American defeat. Diplomacy, Kissinger concluded, was the "necessary corollary to the build-up."

As for the proclamation of national emergency,...Kissinger argued that the Soviet Union would be more impressed by a broad and sustained improvement in American military readiness than by a single dramatic gesture, especially one which made us appear "unnecessarily bellicose, perhaps even hysterical." Moreover, if we declared the emergency now, we used up a measure which would be more effective if taken as a response to clear-cut Soviet provocation.

Charles River Strategists

The men who had invented nuclear weapons now began to give hard thought to the idea, not of abolishing them at one stroke, but of regulating them in the interest of stability. Out of this discussion emerged a new approach to the arms race under the banner of 'arms control.' The thinking was particularly hard along the banks of the Charles River, where Jerome Wiesner, Thomas C. Schelling, Henry Kissinger and others worked out the strategy of equilibrium in the nuclear age. A series of seminars and study groups at the end of the fifties culminated in a highly influential paper by Wiesner in Daedalus magazine in the winter of 1960.

The essence of arms control was 'stable nuclear deterrence' -- the view, that is, that the best hope for peace and for ultimate disarmament lay in creating a situation where, in Wiesner's words "a surprise attack by one side cannot prevent retaliation by the other." The temptation of surprise attack in a nuclear age was the hope of knocking out the opposing capability. If each side knew that both its own and the enemy nuclear forces could survive any conceivable assaults -- through making missile bases for example 'hard' or mobile -- then neither side would rationally initiate an attack which would only result in its own destruction. Stable deterrence had interesting implications -- among them that the United States would be better off if the Russian striking force were invulnerable than if it were vulnerable -- and most of its proponents were prepared to follow their logic to this conclusion. A stable deterrent system, they further agreed, would make it possible to limit the size of the deterrent and thereby end the nuclear race...

The Charles River doctrine, in short, appeared to offer a way of reconciling the objective of comprehensive disarmament with the interim requirements of national security. Its evident practicality appealed to Kennedy, and its emergence in 1960 gave him the opportunity for a new start in disarmament policy.

John Kenneth Galbraith

In sending Galbraith as his ambassador to New Delhi, Kennedy deliberately chose a man who could be depended upon to bring to Indian problems his own mixture of sympathy and irony. Kennedy was delighted by Galbraith's wit, effrontery and unabashed pursuit of the unconventional wisdom, and they were now exceptionally good friends. Nor did the President appear to mind Ken's guerrilla warfare against the ikons and taboos of the Department of State. From time to time, the President took pleasure in announcing that Galbraith was the best ambassador he had.

Galbraith went to New Delhi with several advantages: an acquaintance with Nehru, his own prestige as an economic and social philosopher, and the President's strong belief in increased economic assistance to India -- this last quickly resulting in a $500 million appropriation for Indian development. But he also had the disadvantage of the Dulles legacy and especially of the policy of American military aid to Pakistan. Soon after his arrival, for example, he learned that Washington was planning a delivery of F-104 airplanes to Karachi -- planes which the Indian, assumed could only be used against themselves. When Galbraith proposed that he inform the Indian government that there were only twelve planes involved the State Department refused. Finally -- "more or less by physical violence," he later said -- he was able to extract permission from Washington to communicate the number of planes to Nehru. "Parliament assembled a week or two ago," he wrote me toward the end of August, "and during the recess two things had happened: We had committed a half billion in aid to India and the twelve F-104 planes to Pakistan. The ratio of questions, words, comments and emotion has been not less than ten to one in favor of the planes. Such is the current yield of the Dulles policy."

Charles River Economists

In the meantime, a new analysis of the aid problem was emerging from the universities and the foundations... As in the case of military strategy, the new approach was most fully explored along the banks of the Charles River. Here a group of economists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were evolving a comprehensive view, shaped in great part by their own experience, of the development process. They all, for example, had been exposed to Keynesianism in New Deal days. While Keynes himself had written about mature economics his analysis supplied a framework for an approach to underdevelopment, because it identified strategic relationships within the economy, as between savings and investment and between the national budget and the level of economic activity. Another common experience was war-time work in such agencies as the Office of Strategic Services (Edward S. Mason, Walt Rostow, Carl Kaysen) or the Strategic Bombing Survey (J.K. Galbraith), where economists, whether in order to pick out bombing targets or to assess the significance of the damage wrought, had to think in terms of leverage points within the economic system. Both depression and war thus forced attention on the dynamics of whole economies. Some of the Cambridge group later worked in the Marshall Plan (Lincoln Gordon); others took part in Ford Foundation and other development missions in the fifties (Mason, Galbraith, David Bell). By the late fifties the study of development economics centered in the seminar organized at Harvard by Galbraith, with the later collaboration of Mason and Bell, and in the work carried on by Max Millikan, Rostow, P.N. Rosenstein-Rodan and others at the MIT Center for International Studies.

Out of this came the argument that the true role of foreign aid was neither military nor technical assistance but the organized promotion of national development. Millikan and Rostow made an early statement of this viewpoint in a book of 1957, A Proposal -- Key to a More Ef- fective Foreign Policy; and Rostow gave the idea its historical rationale three years later in The Stages of Economic Development. The Charles River analysis made several contributions of great significance. First of all, it offered the aid program what it had long lacked -- specific criteria for assistance. The goal, the Charles River economists said, was to enable underdeveloped nations, in Rostow's phrase, to "take off" into self-sustaining economic growth. This they believed, was feasible for most countries; and when it was reached, the need for special external assistance would end. Next they pointed out that non-economic factors determine growth. Thus, in addition to the familiar range of economic issues -- industrialization, agricultural methods, sources of energy, the internal market, inflation, balance of payments and soon -- they brought in structural change, land reform, the roles of the public sector and of private entrepreneurship, political development and other social and cultural adjustments required, as Millikan put it, "to reduce the explosiveness of the modernization process." Both economic and non-economic factors were to be subsumed under national development plans. The emphasis on national development was not intended to divorce foreign aid from the political interests of the United States. But it looked to long-term rather than short-term political effects. In this view, foreign aid, instead of being a State Department slush fund to influence tactical situations, should aim at the strategic goals of a stronger national independence, an increased concentration on domestic affairs, greater democracy and a long-run association with the west.

H. Stuart Hughes

Where the utopian left felt more than a generalized mistrust of power, it objected to both the foreign and domestic policies of the administration. In foreign affairs, some regarded the cold war as the invention of the military-industrial complex and supposed that, if only Washington changed its course, Moscow and Peking would gladly collaborate in building a peaceful world.

Thus Professor Stuart Hughes, the Harvard historian, advised the United States in his book An Approach to Peace to seek "a new model for foreign policy in the experience of Sweden or of Switzerland or even India." He added that he had "toyed" with the idea that the United States should unilaterally declare itself first among the neutrals; but "in reality we do not need to go that far. The events of the next generation will doubtless do it for us." The mission of the American intellectual, as Hughes saw it, was to do what the Asians and Africans had thus far failed to do and define neutralism "as a faith and a way of life." In the meantime, the United States should renounce nuclear weapons (by stages), close down most overseas military bases and rest national safety on "a territorial-militia or guerilla-resistance type of defense." . . .

Stuart Hughes, announcing his candidacy for the Senate in Massachusetts in 1962, attacked "the deadening similarity of the two major parties" and declared it time for "a new kind of politics in America." When I talked with him on the Cape that summer, he said he expected this would be the beginning of a nationwide third party dedicated to peace. The apparent response to his candidacy and, to similar candidacies in other states gave the radical left a few moments of genuine hope

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