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First the Path, now a Deadend

Politics:

By Robert Decherd

"To whom should I write a letter?" mused Amherst President John William Ward. And finding no apparent answer, he decided to join in the non-violent, obstructive sit-ins at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, 15 miles from the Amherst campus.

Ward's subsequent arrest in the Westover antiwar action last week caused quite a stir: The New York Times ran the text of a speech he made explaining his participation in the sit-in on its op-ed page, and college professors and administrators around the country reacted with curious "Hmmm's" and sympathetic "Oh really's?".

In Boston on Monday, 300 college professors marched to the State House to lobby and demand an end to the war. Their patience was evidently wearing thin.

Not to be outdone, the presidents of the eight Ivy League colleges followed suit in a more traditional form of protest this week. Taking a cue, perhaps, from their more militant colleague at Amherst, the Ivy presidents joined with Stanford's Richard Lyman and headed for Washington Wednesday to lobby against the war.

President Bok explained that the group was trying to convey the feeling that "students are not apathetic toward this war." But surely, in an hour and a half of head-butting with Presidential Advisor Henry Kissinger, Bok and the other presidents must have realized that this road of protest has been travelled many times before. It is difficult to see how yet another trip down the beaten path could reap more tangible results than previously.

Indeed, many feel that the path is a deadend. The worn tactics--lobbying (by students or by college presidents), obstructive sit-ins, and certainly aimless violence--now have questionable influence on the decisions that are made in the offices that count in Washington. What they do influence is the way Nixon foists those decisions on the public. The reaction to the Cambodian incursion of 1970 did not instruct Nixon not to invade Laos six months later; rather it taught him how to time his actions and manage the press. Strategy seems sometimes to focus more on what the Administration can get away with than on what course it should, in good conscience, pursue.

The biggest antiwar actions of the spring are scheduled for Sunday and Monday. The turnout is difficult to predict, but it will likely be negligible because this spring of action has grown old very fast. People can march, and sit, and throw bricks only so many times when the results are missing.

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