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Foreign Policy in Crisis


AMERICAN FOREIGN policy is in a state of crisis. Before Vietnam, American power reigned unchallenged in much of the world; American policy makers felt justified in and compelled to intervene in other countries wherever U.S. hegemony was threatened. But the events of the last year--the victory of the PRG-DRV in Vietnam, the victory of the MPLA in Angola, the disclosure of CIA covert operations abroad, and the imminent rise to power of Communist governments in Western Europe--make this policy orientation increasingly untenable.

The CIA has been one of the most important weapons of American intervention abroad. The bulk of its covert operations and funds have been directed toward interfering with free elections all over the world, and toward providing military and financial support for dissident groups favored by American policy makers, such as the neo-fascist Italian general Miceli. The responsibility for these abuses--interfering with elections, directing coups and assassinations, training foreign secret police in torture techniques--lies with the administrations that have directed foreign policy, and particularly with Kissinger during his tenure as National Security Advisor. Hence the CIA cannot be reformed merely by bringing it under firm executive control, as the half-hearted Congressional investigations have suggested. To prevent the recurrence of covert actions, it is necessary to change the whole basis on which foreign policy has been conducted under Kissinger.

American attitudes toward the participation of Communist parties in Western European governments have been among the most conspicuous and counterproductive examples of the ideological rigidity of American policy. Kissinger's intense opposition to governmental participation by Italy's Communist party--based on the increasingly anachronistic assumption that European communist parties are part of a monolithic bloc under Soviet domination--is both shortsighted in terms of American interests and insensitive to the needs of the Italian people. The PCI's rise is the product of long-term changes in Italian society, economy and politics--changes which are unlikely to be reversed. American interference is unlikely to prevent the PCI's victory; it will only antagonize the electorate. Furthermore, a compromise between the Christian Democrats and Communist parties is the development most likely to provide a broad popular base for a viable government; such a coalition is the only force capable of regenerating Italy's stagnant economy. Americans cannot continue to view such a development as dangerous: it would legitimize diversity within European communism, and so increase the ability of Eastern European countries to explore alternative socialist models to that of the Soviet Union. America must resolutely refrain from interfering in Italy's government.

Similarly, the U.S. should grant aid without strings to the Portugese Socialist government, which should form a coalition with the Communists as a way out of its present impasse. The economic crisis in Portugal can only be resolved through attracting foreign capital and through some measure of sacrifice--in terms of wage gains--by Portugese workers. But most western capital, particularly American loans and credit channelled through the World Bank and other agencies, has strings attached: the 'stabilization' of the nation, meaning an end to strikes, enforced wage cuts, and higher prices making revenues for a revived private industrial sector. Aid under such terms would destroy any hope for Portugese socialism, while workers would be recalcitrant and possibly violent if sacrifices were forced on them in the name of U.S. and other capitalist nations' investment policies.

Nor can the U.S. continue to view the world as polarized between America and the Soviet Union as when it intervened in the Angolan civil war. In the face of the defeat of Angolan actions supported by the U.S. and South Africa, and the collapsing position of Rhodesia's white minority government, Kissinger has issued policy statements renouncing intervention against national liberation movements in Southern Africa. But if Third World nations--particularly the black African states--are to view the United States' support for rapid transition to majority rule in Rhodesia and South Africa as more than a tactical maneuver in the face of a collapsing minority government, the U.S. must fully repudiate the apartheid regime of South Africa. Unless the U.S. exerts pressure on its corporations to comply with international embargoes on trade with the two embattled minority regimes, and on the South African government to abandon its rule in the immediate future, black nations will know the U.S. retains its generally racist and opportunistic perspective toward Africa and toward the Third Word as a whole.

The U.S. must abandon the cold war and imperial perspectives on international politics which have forced it to intervene all over the world in support of antidemocratic governments, in opposition to popularly-based movements. Otherwise, America will continue to founder without a viable foreign policy, finding itself constantly on the verge of reactionary interventions abroad which the American people do not support--like that in Vietnam and Angola; and the rest of the world will continue to regard its policies with justifiable suspicion.

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