Tasteless And Ignorant


To The Editors of The Crimson:

The Crimson recently featured an editorial, a cartoon and an article by Michael Hirschorn, all criticizing a Salient article's proposal of divesting from the Soviet Union. Aside from the tasteless ad hominem nature of these pieces, and their failure to draw any distinction between the Salient and the Republican and Conservative clubs, they all display fundamental ignorance of the issues at hand. To begin with, the Crimson writers can not seem to distinguish between the national security policies and the human rights policies of the U.S. government. We have thousands of warheads pointed at the Soviet Union to defend ourselves, not to push for the release of Andrei Sakharov. Our adversarial relationship with the Soviets is not due to the mere existence of the Gulag Archipelago, but rather to their efforts to extend it beyond Soviet borders. To suggest that South Africa should be our enemy because of apartheid ignores the fact that, unlike some nations, the United States does not go out looking for enemies. South Africa poses no threat to our security, and it would be senseless to treat it as if it did.

The Crimson then flails away at the idea of moral equivalence, the heretical notion that human rights practices should be judged on one scale. The editorial asserts that this is simply meant to "confuse the issue," and Hirschorn asserts that the approach is a ploy, to distract from the fact that conservatives can not argue the issue of divestment on its own merits. To the contrary, the Salient has printed lengthy, reasoned articles on why divestment from South Africa is a counter-productive gesture, but they have never elicited any response. The divestment movement here is hardly concerned with the effectiveness of their proposal, and base their appeals solely on the crimes of apartheid. One must only look at the heightened pace of divestment since the imposition of the state of emergency to see that it is the repugnance of the Pretoria regime, not the effectiveness of divestment, that is their trump card. In this light, it is confusing to examine the Soviet Union, because it shows that the issue is not as simple as divestment activists wish to believe. If we are to divest "to make a statement" or "end our complicity" in bloodshed, then it should also be done with regard to the Soviet Union. If divestment should be predicated on assurances that it will advance human rights in the target country, then the divestment community should articulate why South Africa is a more promising target than the Soviet Union. The Salient article argued convincgingly that this was the case. James Matthews '86,   Assistant Editor, Harvard Salient