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"Following the logic of our present policy in Vietnam, it is difficult to conceive to date of an outcome that would be less than disastrous," foreign policy expert George F. Kennan said yesterday.
Speaking to an enthusiastic audience in Sanders Theatre, Kennan concluded that "a hasty withdrawal from Vietnam would hurt U.S. prestige, but if we can moderate our policy -- by stopping the bombing -- then I think we can get out of there without great damage."
In discussing principles in foreign policy, Kennan, ho has been a University Fellow at Harvard since last year and is a professor at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Studies, said U.S. intervention in Vietnam was not the result of rational policy-making.
We intervened, he explained, out of offended pride, lacking a clear analysis of the situation. He called the series of small decisions which led to U.S. involvement in Vietnam "a long exercise of national inadvertence."
"Our Vietnam involvement marches under the semantic banner as the containment of Communism," Kennan said. As a leading architect of containment and former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Kennan attacked Vietnam as a radical departure from the principles underlying American support of European reconstruction at the end of World War II.
In Vietnam the U.S. has undertaken the job of reconstructing Vietnamese society single handedly, Kennan maintained, whereas under the Marshall Plan, "what seemed necessary was to encourage the development of indigenous political movements against Communism."
The preponderance of U.S. strength in Vietnam, Kennan said with regret, was geared to destruction rather than construction. "People resist Communism only to the extent that they can be shown higher and more positive goals than mere defense," he explained.
Kennan called for a return to policy making which more clearly defined national interests, and avoided moral pretensions. He criticized the practice of justifying Vietnam policy in legalistic and moralistic terms such as "opposing aggression," and "fighting for freedom."
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