Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 12. September 20, 1951
Van Deusen on Foreign Policy Hist. Facs Puerile-??
Van Deusen on Foreign Policy Hist. Facs Puerile-??
Chunky, greying Professor van Deusen (the most respectably dressed member of a history Department that has ever been seen at V.U.C.) addressed an interested audience of about 55 the other evening on the subject of "American Attitudes to Foreign Policy." Research-fellow Beaglehole, making one of his rare appearances on a lecture platform introduced Professor van Deusen by telling is that everything that could be possibly said about PvD by way of introduction had already been said before his previous meeting ... well here he was anyway. There was no applause. Unfortunately I had not been present at the previous lecture and so was left in the dark about the speaker. As it happened this did not matter for PvD in the first few minutes of his address clearly showed that he was a highly qualified historian, an excellent speaker and one whom New Zealand was fortunte to have in our midst thanks to the Fullbright Grant which has made his visit possible.
In the first place the Professor is quite clear that anything he had to say would in no way bind the United States Government and further that he was going to interpret the subject "attitude to foreign policy" as the "Attitude" to the cold war.
He told us that the basic point of view of the great majority of the people of the United States could be stated as follows:
A conviction that now and in the future for a considerable time we must face a hostile Soviet Union.
A belief that the U.S.S.K. is hostile because of the adoption of the following points of view by the Soviet leaders:
That conflict between capitalism and communism is inevitable.
That all means are justified to soften up the Capitalist states and hasten their decay.
That a Communist victory is inevitable.
That the U.S.S.R. does not want war now but that the controlled rotting of Capitalism can bo done without war.
That the Communist theories of hostility have added to them the age-old Imperialist drive of Russia.
The Three Forms
All these points of view are of the utmost importance in the formulation of U.S. foreign policy.
PvD then showed us the three main forms in which foreign policy in the United States express themselves. The first is that of the State Department as expressed by Acheson ("He is not perfect but we must remember the tremendous difficulties facing him") for the administration. This is the policy of developing, "situations of strength" throughout the world (e.g. Marshall Plan, Atlantic Union, Jap Peace Treaty etc.). The necessary follow-up to this policy is that of striking hard when aggression has actually taken place.
The second Neo-Isolation (1951 model), also has its supporters and this takes two forms. The Hoover concept of hemispheric defence . . . "Let us stop waging perpetual war for the sake of perpetual peace" . . . but it must be remembered that this policy is also based on the premise that U.S.S.R. policy in the future is certain to be hostile.
Another form of Neo-Isolationism at present with a certain number of supporters in the United States today was mentioned by Professor Van Deusen. This is the Taft Freedom of Movement Policy which is opposed to any further commitment of land forces. Taft sees any future battle with the Soviet Union as a worldwide fight and he would support the U.S.A. taking up the battle whereever the U.S.S.R. attacked but without the use of land forces. Professor Van Deusen pointed out the tendency of the Republicans to be more in favour of security measures in the Pacific area than in Europe but he left us with the idea that this was just a logical conclusion of the political maxim that it is the business of the Opposition to oppose.
He told us that the reason why the U.S.A. is to vitally concerned in the European area is that the makers of foreign policy realise that even if Communism completely overran Asia it would not get at once the vastly increased industrial potential which would fall to it if it could take over the rest of Europe.
Before asking questions we were given two prediction. The first was that the basic outlines of the Foreign Policy of the U.S.A. have been laid down now for several years to come by the present administration, and the second was that next year will be the crucial year in Russo-Chinese relations because Russian promises made to China regarding the handing over of certain strategic land areas will all fall due next year.
Question time saw the staff of the history department with the ball right at their feet. They asked a series of provocative questions but the Professor would have nothing of all this and even refused to admit that the United States had never had a good word or action for the U.S.S.R. since the Revolution, in fact he even mentioned the little matter of the many millions of dollars worth of military supplies which were given to Russia under Lease-Lend. The littiest Beaglehole asked where the Americans got their ideas about Russia which made their foreign policy. PvD said the Eastern European drive of Russia and the fact that North Korea would never have dared to attack without an O.K. from the Kremlin, were just a couple of facts which formed a basis for U.S. public opinion. It then appeared that this was not the answer that young Tim wanted ... what he really wanted the Professor to say was that the wicked Capitalist Press in the U.S.A. fabricated lies to feed to the Emotional Hypnotised American people. The Professor didn't think so however and further said that he didn't think that the U.S. Press had a great influence on public opinion.
Professor Wood said he thought that the fact that some people in the U.S.A. agreed with others was a negation of PvD's assertion that the U.S.A. was a nation of individualists. Professor van Deusen said that he thought that the fact that American individualists agreed in their views on Russia was a very Temarkable thing, but ... (we felt he would like to add) not quite such a remarkable thing as Professor Wood. After prompting by Kevin B. O'Brien. PvD said that he did feel that foreign policy could become an issue of sufficient importance in U.S. politics as to be of major importance in the decisions of the electorate.
And that was that. We all applauded PvD very heartily and went home feeling just a little ashamed of the History Department for their puerile questions but grateful to them for having given us this opportunity to hear a very gifted speaker on a very important topic.
P.S. For the sake of the record and to save taking up any more of his valuable time it would probably be just as well to mention that Dr Peter Munz did Not appear to be present at the meeting.