A Reviewer's Notebook - 1967/12

The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next

James Burnham has been talking sense about the Cold War for two decades and more. As his The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next (Arlington House, $6.00) proves, he has not always been pes­simistic about the chances of the West. This book consists for the most part of selections from his National Review column which runs from fortnight to fortnight under the general heading of "The Third World War," but he has added several interpretive essays and a final chapter on "The Decade to Come." Since he views the world struggle as a contest of wills that has yet to be settled, he is not really saying that the West is hell-bent on self-destruction as the title of one of his recent books—The Suicide of the West—would seem to imply. If Burnham is always braced against seeing things in a rosy light, he is still optimist enough to know that things may turn out better if you are resolved to go down fighting.

The essential feature of Burn-ham’s thinking is his belief that communist policy, far from being a riddle inside an enigma wrapped in a mystery, is perfectly clear. All true Marxist-Leninists, he says, be­lieve that capitalism is doomed and that it is the duty of communists of whatever persuasion to give the tottering structure of the West a push whenever it is safe to do so. Communists may bicker among themselves, and behave in "poly-centric" fashion even to the point of seeming to be nothing more than good nationalists, but communist countries have not yet engaged in such suicidal struggles as brought capitalist Europe to the verge of dissolution in 1914-18 and 1939-45. When the United States, which both Moscow and Peking regard as their prime enemy, finds itself in trouble (as in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Vietnam), communists of all persuasions form an effective "united front from below" to back whatever Left­ist faction is fighting us.

Burnham has had his manifold disappointments in the journalistic battle which he continues to wage with unabated dedication. He had hoped that the European Common Market would somehow broaden into an Atlantic World Common Market. He had hoped that the French would find some way of keeping Algeria inside a greater French Republic. He was appalled when Eisenhower and Dulles let the English, the French, and the Israelis down in the first Suez crisis, and predicted, quite rightly, that other Middle Eastern and African troubles would flow from the failure of the West to act as a unit to keep the Mediterranean-Red Sea artery open on its own terms. Looking back on the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and the aborted Hun­garian Revolution of 1956, Burn­ham is haunted by the "might­-have-beens." But still he hopes that the tide will be turned, possibly by U.S. fortitude in "holding the pass" in Southeast Asia.

Bumbling Brinkmanship

Burnham is particularly good when he discusses the "evasion for­mulas" that are forever bemusing western statesmen. In 1917 the West thought that Lenin was too "crackpot" to make his Bolshevik Revolution stick. But the "crack­pots" defeated western interven­tionists and consolidated their rule. In the thirties the Popular Front with the communists was going to keep Hitler from going to war. But the Popular Front somehow ended up by being replaced by the Hit­ler-Stalin Pact. The rise of Stalin was supposed to betoken the end of Trotsky’s theory of the Perma­nent Revolution. But Stalin’s "so­cialism in one country" did not preclude the success of Mao Tse­tung’s revolution in China, or the seizure, by the Red Army, of the Baltic States and the countries that became the "captive nations" of Eastern Europe.

In China they spoke of Mao’s "Jeffersonian agrarianism," but Mao eventually blossomed forth as the philosopher of the guerilla en­circlement of capitalism via seizure of "rural" Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The Red Chinese "Jeffer­sonian agrarians" fought us to a standstill in Korea, and are now busy reassuring Ho Chi Minh in North Vietnam that they support him in his refusal to reach any compromise with the "imperial­ists" short of complete evacuation of South Vietnam by U.S. troops. The communists have even smashed the Monroe Doctrine, gaining immunity for Castro in Cuba in return for their with­drawal of offensive atomic mis­siles.

This, as Burnham says, is "the record" of the past. As for the fu­ture, Burnham is perfectly sure that de Gaulle will never succeed in putting together a "Europe of the fatherlands" stretching from "the Atlantic to the Urals." Such a Europe would inevitably be dom­inated by the Soviets, who have an atomic arsenal. As for the emer­gence of a third power in "little Europe," it is blocked by de Gaulle’s animus against political integration.

International Policies

Burnham has traveled exten­sively in Africa and southern Asia, and he has observed that the popu­lations of the underdeveloped coun­tries keep on rising faster than the food supply. He fears that the "Third World" of the old colonial areas must choose between the rival "neo-colonialisms" of the West and the Communist East if they want military security, in­vestment, and technical assistance. As applied to the policies of the West, he does not use the adjective "neo-colonial" in any pejorative sense. He thinks that Africa and Asia will get a better break from the West than from the Communist East for several reasons. First of all, the West is willing to accept the formal independence and au­tonomy of its old colonies. Sec­ondly, its economic aid is likely to be more efficient, particularly if it is left to free enterprise. Third, its sea and air power is more mobile than any force which the Soviets and the Red Chinese would be able to deploy to protect a country far from Russia or Red China.

Burnham is perfectly willing to agree with George Kennan that the "blocs" have been loosened, that Titoism has resulted in "polycen­trism," that the Moscow commu­nists and the Peking communists have split, that the East European countries are straining for free­dom from Muscovite leading strings, and that nationalism is the main propelling force in most of the newly emergent "Third World." But, unlike Kennan, he thinks the best way to take advantage of com­munist troubles is to keep the pres­sure on. If the Soviets are being assailed from within by their intel­lectuals, why should we strengthen the hands of the ruling clique that would repress those intellectuals? If Red China is on the verge of chaos, why should we give the Mao­ist tyrants the endorsement of in­viting them into the UN?

"If," says Burnham in a force­ful conclusion, "if our experts and policy-makers devoted one-tenth the attention and energy" to ex­acerbating the struggle between factions within the communist world that they now "lavish on polycentrism and Sino-Soviet dialectics, they might discover lev­ers which, properly handled, could bring down the communist enter­prise." Burnham has had a good record of spotting such levers in the past, only to see his advice ig­nored. The publication of his The War We Are In: The Last Decade and the Next is in itself a "lever," provided that it can be gotten into enough hands.


THE RECONSTRUCTION AMENDMENTS’ DEBATES, Virginia Commission on Constitu­tional Government, Richmond, Vir­ginia, 1967, 764 pp., $4.50 ($3.00 paperbound).

Reviewed by George Charles Roche III.

From time to time, the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Gov­ernment makes available valuable materials pertinent to the subject of American federalism, states’ rights, and related problems. The Reconstruction Amendments’ De­bates is a significant addition to that literature. As the Commission makes clear in its introduction, the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fif­teenth Amendments to the Consti­tution today provide the basis for approximately one half of the con­stitutional law litigation reaching the United States Supreme Court. Such matters as school desegregation, legislative reapportionment, voting rights, restrictions on state criminal procedure, and restraints upon the economic self-control of the states fall into this category.

Some 20,000 pages of debates and committee reports serve as the basis for this compilation. The vol­ume is indexed by subject and by legal cases, and also contains a bi­ographical index of House and Sen­ate participants in the debates which led to the Amendments. Ev­ery page specifies the session of Congress, the dates and the orig­inal page numbers of the Congres­sional Globe from which the ma­terial was drawn, as well as the names of the speakers and the topics under discussion.

The Reconstruction Amendments’ Debates should have great utility for all libraries as well as for all those whose professions or interest touch upon the relationship be­tween state and national govern­ment. An understanding of the original attitudes and opinions of those drafting the legislation, set in its historical perspective, is surely an indispensable aid in un­derstanding the complex intergov­ernmental problems of our time. Copies may be procured from the Virginia Commission on Constitu­tional Government, 1116 Ninth Street Office Building, Richmond, Virginia, 23219.