To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
We certainly now know what many have suspected before, that Professors Thomson, Schwartz, Cohen, Hofheinz, Vogel, Woodside, and Fairbank subscribe to the "blunder theory" of American imperialism [letter of October 24, 1969]. What else does their letter contain? Nothing but unpleasant patronizing bluster and academic one-upmanship. For example:
"It would be useful to learn more of the Zen-like stroke by which the Editors have suddenly achieved full understanding not only of Vietnam but of 'the Third World.' Those of us who have lived in Asia and studied Asian histories and cultures.... Perhaps our vision has been obscured by proximity..." And so. These men are giving themselves airs. By what right?
From what I can remember of the Moratorium Day CRIMSON editorial in question, it subscribed more or less to the "radical theory" of American imperialism; i. e., to the view that there is a consistent pattern running through American interventions in such places as Greece, Lebanon, Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Dominican Republic-a pattern of suppression of elements that are unfriendly to American businesses, propose radical land reform, threaten "stability" (a stability favoring the "haves"), or are anti-American (or even dangerously non-aligned). American foreign policy is seen as motivated largely by a desire for profits and, related to this, by a desire for domination and control over the destinies of others. These desires are rationalized by equating the interests of the World with American national interest and perhaps, at a deep level, by the anti-communist religion, the "devil theory" of communism.
Now a view of this sort runs quite counter to that of our friendly professors. They feel that if only the American government were more educated, if only it knew more about "Asian histories and cultures," if only it listened to them, we would have no more blunders and would have the best of all possible worlds. To the radical this is a dangerous delusion: the effect of such developments, if any, would be to make the government more efficient in realizing the same goals, in satisfying the same motives.
How would these professors respond to the radical view? Their response to the CRIMSON editorial, an editorial written in the radical vein is interesting here. They respond not by argument but by invidious rank-pulling. Much as they mock the editorial, they produce not a single argument against it. Rather the implication is that such an ignorant editorial ("simplistic," "shoddy") merits not argument, but counter-assertion and contempt from informed scholars, amongst whom the professors clearly place themselves. This is arrogant nonsense. There are plenty of scholars, at least as well-informed as our self-esteeming professors (albeit of a different persuasion, thank God), who would, I'm sure, find far more to defend in the editorial than in the views of Thomson and his crew.
So we should see their letter in its true light: a very windy piece of liberal rhetoric, supported not by argument but by unjustified claims to special authority (including such excathedra pronouncements as "The term 'Third World' is, incidentally, a stumbling block rather than an aid to understanding..."). It indeed is "an offense to a community of truth-seekers" and is a good indication that more is at stake at Harvard than truth.