Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 14. 1966.
Letters to the editor — Not an imperialist war
Letters to the editor
Not an imperialist war
Sir,—In Salient on September 9 one John S. Hoby presents the view that we are witnessing a case of American "old-fashioned imperialism" in Vietnam. I would like to call attention to what I consider are several fallacies in Mr. Hoby's case.
He seems to feel that many in America, including President Johnson, are of the opinion that the economic stimulus of the war will "curb the inflationary trends now being experienced"; however there never has been a war anywhere that has resulted in anything but great inflationary pressure on the participants. From the Napoleonic wars to Vietnam, inflation has uniformly been the lot of warring nations; if President Johnson maintained the opposite view, he would have been virtually alone in his stand. But. indeed, we see by Time of September 16 that he is now asking for anti- inflationary tax measures. It would be strange indeed for a president to ask for "anti- inflationary" tax increases, which are bound to be unpopular, if he did not believe they would help solve the problem.
Mr. Hoby also feels that only the war is sustaining the American economy at anything like a respectable level; in reality, it has been booming since 1960, with no war boosts 10 aid it until the last few years. Recessions in 1953-1954 and 1957-1959 were successfully countered without wars; with no real recession in sight in 1964-1965. would a politician risk an unpopular war for a meagre drop in unemployment figures? (Before the impetus of the war, unemployment hovered at about 4 1/2-5 per cent. Mr. Hoby notes that it has now dropped to about 4 per cent.) Certainly the war causes business to boom at an abnormally high level. This stimulation, with inflationary pressures, is in the nature of war.
But my main point must be this: For a skilful and pratical politician (and his worst enemies will not deny that Johnson is that) the risks of pursuing an unpopular, ill-defined and bloody war—especially in an election year—are so great that economic imperialism could not possibly be the sole, or even the primary answer to the question ot why the war goes on. Only a few years ago, in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower led the Republicans to victory in an election largely decided by the Truman Democrats' apparent inability to conclude the far more clear-cut and popularly supported Korean War. Johnson remembers this, and with Bobby Kennedy hot on his heels, must realise that an electorate seeing hundreds of thousands of its men going to fight, and perhaps die, for a cause most people are not at all sure of. is likely to react in wrath against the President who led them to the debacle. . . .
The risk would not be worth the dubious access to South-east Asia's natural resources the war may maintain. If the United States really wanted to protect tin land tungsten supplies, it would have been far easier and safer to have moved into countries like Thailand in the early 1960s, countries where reasonable stability rather than a war condition existed. And South Vietnam's rice is hardly demanded for the American market. For that matter, large amounts of tin are readily available in far handier Bolivia, and tungsten is obtainable in Bolivia, Portugal and the United States itself. Mr. Hoby refers to no other specific economic assets of the South-east Asian area, but to mention another important product of the region. Malaysian rubber can be and has been largely replaced in most American markets by synthetics . . . no. Mr. Hoby, the economic angle just does not pan out.
This is neither a defence of nor a condemnation of American motives in Vietnam. It is an attempt to indicate that whatever they may be, misguided or wise in the long run, they are nor economically motivated.
Alan F. Perry.