Terence Heelas in the 1960s
For two-and-a-half years, from the beginning of 1965, I published a weekly Strategic Commentary. This was written by Terence Heelas, a radical strategist and an admirer of Clausewitz.
The Strategic Commentary sought to demonstrate, on grounds of cold military logic, that America could not win the war in Vietnam, and should therefore withdraw. It is impossible to judge what effect a project like the Strategic Commentary has - it is a bit like tossing pebbles into a bank of fog - but we went ahead and did it anyway. Each week Terence would write his topical analysis and post it overnight from his home in Devon. The text would arrive in Broughty Ferry (on the Tay estuary) by the breakfast time post, and I would re-type it on my IBM (so that we could print from it by litho). In mid-morning the printer would collect the typescript from me (his printing works was two and a half miles away on the eastern outskirts of Dundee). The printer held stocks of our Strategic Commentary headed paper in his warehouse, and by mid-afternoon he had delivered some thousands of copies of the two-page Commentary back to me. After tea Peggy and I, helped by four of our children (the fifth, Mark, being 3, a bit too young to help) would fold and stuff the first batch into envelopes, and they went off by the evening collection at Broughty Ferry post office.
Noam Chomsky was one of the first to take out a subscription to the Strategic Commentary. Paying subscribers from the USA seemed to be concentrated on the eastern seaboard; I no longer have the files of subscribers from thirty-odd years ago, but I recall from distant memory a yacht designer; and then there was a couple with a home in Maine and a second home in Florida, who were about to send their son to Oxford; and so on: you get the picture. None of them minded paying a hefty subscription.
But we were in a double bind. When I created WHAM! comic for Odhams Press, I found myself, for a brief span, earning more than a cabinet minister, and I used the disposable income to finance the Strategic Commentary. My money was steadily drained away, though, by the cost of sending hundreds of free copies each week to Labour members of parliament. Vietnam was an American war; but we were English, and we had two aims: to demonstrate to American subscribers that America could not win, and should therefore withdraw; and to persuade the Labour government of Harold Wilson to withhold British support from the Vietnam adventure, and to rid Britain of the delusion of past grandeur, the East of Suez syndrome.
When we moved south in June 1967 we had to stop the Strategic Commentary: the sort of ultra-quick printing set-up that we found in Dundee did not exist in the Cotswolds; the double bind had finally drained my resources; and my brief spell of earning-more-than-a-cabinet-minister had been and gone.
I have in mind to put all the Strategic Commentaries on a CD ROM at some future time.. In the meantime, here below are the texts of issues that I've picked out in particular.
Footnote: In late 1998 I wrote to Terence Heelas to let him know I had started putting his Strategic Commentaries on the Internet. We hadn't been in touch for over 30 years. I asked him if he felt like writing a one-off Strategic Commentary, as a kind of belated postscript. Terence replied that, being by now an octogenarian, he would need a bit of time to summon up the energy; but: "...I confess I would like to put on record a summary of the misconceptions and errors of judgement which led the US into its one military defeat..."
I thought that a further passage in Terence's letter was an admirably succinct outline of the fundamentals that underlay the Vietnam war, and, in the meantime, I reproduce it here: "...(1) That the Vietminh/Vietcong campaigns were almost entirely nationalist and anti-colonial in origin and purpose, and not part of a world-wide Communist conspiracy planned by Moscow (or Peking). (2) That the Domino Theory was misconceived from the start: although Vietnam won the war, the dominoes did not fall - in fact the Vietnamese fought a war to oust the unspeakable Pol Pot from Cambodia. (3) It was never on the cards that America could win such a war, relying as it did on overwhelming air-power and daytime forays by ground troops unfamiliar with the territory and lacking the nationalistic fervour of the enemy..."
"Blood is the price of victory" wrote Clausewitz. It can also be the cost of defeat. Clausewitz - a supreme realist - was never a proponent of blood and iron for its own sake. He always insisted (as both his followers and detractors too often forget) that blood is too precious a commodity to be expended heedlessly. Its shedding is only justified - if at all - in pursuit of attainable ends. If the aim is unattainable - or attainable only at disproportionate cost - it should be abandoned or modified. Clausewitz - like a realistic businessman refusing to throw good money after bad - castigated the win or bust approach that reduces human conflict to a mindless gamble with fate.
The Vietnam war is just such a gamble. The decision to use the Guam-based B-52s against N. Vietnamese targets and to carry the bombing to the gates of Hanoi is essentially mindless. Coming at a time when the State Department is undertaking a belated review of its China policy, it is particularly inappropriate. It is all too obviously a reflex action to the deteriorating political situation in the South, without any relevance to the military outcome. As with former essays in escalation, it is likely to stiffen resistance in the North rather than the South. There is no reason to suppose that anything short of saturation bombing would induce Hanoi to surrender. Meanwhile the US is using up its available options without achieving any set purpose.
The same is true - for Britain - on the Rhodesian front. By his categorical refusal to use force against the Smith regime, Mr. Wilson has unnecessarily (and perhaps fatally) restricted his freedom of manoeuvre. If current economic measures fail - and the odds are that he has underestimated white Rhodesian determination (in much the same way as the Americans have underestimated Hanoi), Mr. Wilson will have to choose between a virtual surrender and an extension of economic sanctions (under Article VII of the UN Charter) to the whole of southern Africa - with predictably disastrous consequences to our own economy.
The American decision to use force where force is inappropriate, and the British decision not to use force at all, both stem from the political myopia that is currently dignified with the name of pragmatism. Short-sighted expediency based on over-optimistic analyses and a preoccupation with the national consensus is a poor substitute for statecraft. America in Vietnam and Britain in Rhodesia may yet face a choice between disaster and defeat because their leaders lack those qualities of foresight and flexibility proper to a genuine pragmatism.
As regards the failures of analysis: the Americans see the NLF as puppets rather than patriots. On this reckoning, a limited show of force might have produced results: puppets lack the dedication of patriots. But the Vietcong and the N. Vietnamese (contrary to American mythology) do not take their orders from Peking: nationalism is more important to them than communism, and so - like the Russians in the last war - they fight with a courage and tenacity that America is powerless to overcome. Similarly, the British regard the Rhodesian settlers as relatives rather than racialists. It would seem that pragmatists do not appreciate the dynamics inherent in nationalism and racialism.
The preoccupation with national unity has led President Johnson and Mr. Wilson into grave errors of judgement. Because an agonising reappraisal of American foreign policy might have proved unpopular at the time when it was most needed (before the US commitment in Vietnam became virtually irreversible), it was delayed. Now that opinion - on current evidence - would welcome such a reappraisal, it is likely to come too late: the Vietnam war has reached a point at which China and America seem doomed to perpetual antagonism or worse. Similarly it was Mr. Wilsons preoccupation with his national image that led to his absurd declaration that force would never be used in Rhodesia - a gratuitous act of folly almost without parallel. A private decision not to use force is one thing: a public declaration of unwillingness is quite another - it simply confirmed Mr. Smith in his recalcitrance.
Thus, in different ways (but for the same reasons), the US and Britain have restricted their options and compounded their difficulties. With luck and belated good judgement these difficulties may be overcome. But the task of overcoming them has been made needlessly hard by the unimaginative and inflexible policies of the past months. One can only hope that Messrs. Johnson and Wilson will cease to play it by ear - which is what pragmatism has meant up to now - and begin to learn from their mistakes. As a start, they could abandon those policies that conflict with the basic principles of strategy.
Clausewitz - at once the most celebrated and neglected writer on military affairs - has said: "No war is begun, or at least no war should be begun, if people acted wisely, without first finding an answer to the question: what is to be attained by and in war?" And again: "Policy is the intelligent faculty, war only the instrument, and not the reverse." Unhappily, Clauzewitz's dicta are too often forgotten in the heat of battle, when victory tends to become an end in itself, regardless of cost. As the casualty lists mount, and as the national temper rises, the limited aims for which the war was originally entered upon are often submerged by a demand for "total victory" - usually with disadvantageous results for the victor who is forced to pay a disproportionate price for the "unconditional surrender" of the enemy. Total victories are usually Pyrrhic victories.
This is particularly true when the original war-aims are obscure or ill-defined. Lacking a precise objective, the political aims too often escalate with the degree of military commitment. As the cost of the war-effort rises, it becomes less and less possible to limit the political objectives for which one is fighting. The question is asked: "Are we to accept so small a gain for so great an outlay in blood and treasure?" Even very precisely stated objectives are often forgotten as the cost of attaining them becomes disproportionate.
In Vietnam the American war-aims are not precisely defined, and the probable cost of attaining them is likely to be such that, even if they were, they would be forgotten as the degree of US commitment is increased. Already the talk of a negotiated settlement on lines laid down by the Geneva conference is being supplanted by demands that "a line be drawn in Asia (presumably at the 17th. parallel) limiting the advance of Communism in that area." The idea of a single Vietnam state, possibly Communist-controlled, is no longer acceptable.
It is worth noting, in passing, that whereas our own Foreign Secretary is still talking as if reunification were both possible and desirable - given "the free choice of the people in both parts of the country," Mr.Holyoake and Mr. Menzies are apparently determined too "hold the line in Vietnam," and only to negotiate a peace that would "leave South Vietnam in effective control of her own affairs." Even a quite small degree of military involvement evidently induces a hardening of the political arteries. As estimates of US commitment soar towards the 100,000 mark, the possibility of limiting American aims to the terms of the Geneva agreement becomes increasingly unrealistic.
On the other side of the fence, the Communist attitude is also hardening (as the failure of Mr. Davies's mission makes clear.) As Vietcong casualties rise, as North Vietnam is systematically reduced to rubble, as American bombers fly ever closer to China, the various elements in the Communist camp become increasingly reluctant to settle for anything less than total victory. Having already paid a high and growing price for "liberation", and believing time to be on their own side, it becomes ever more difficult for them to negotiate any that would leave Vietam divided - let alone one that would allow the Americans to remain. For the Communists, as for the Americans, a reasonable settlement is rapidly becoming analogous with defeat.
Yet everyone agrees that this is a war which neither side can win (at least until China attains a measure of nuclear parity with the US) and which neither side can afford to lose. So far as one can see, neither side has sufficient incentive to call a truce or negotiate a settlement that would be acceptable to the other. Meanwhile, with both sides seeking to provide the other with just such an incentive, the war shows every sign of escalating to levels of risk that are absurdly incommensurate with the importance of the issues involved.
"What," asked Clausewitz, "If I cannot destroy the enemy's forces, or cannot do so without also destroying my own?" The answer he recommends is that the engagement should be broken off - even at the cost of appearing to concede victory to the other side. War must never be more than an extension of policy by other means, and a vain pursuit of victory for its own sake can never be justified. Even the denial of victory to the enemy can be bought at too high a price. It is not yet clear that either side in the Vietnam war is sufficiently intelligent to heed this warning before reaching a point of no return.
Britain at least should heed the warning before our support for America involves us directly in this senseless and dangerous conflict.
The Strategic Commentary issue 5, 15th. March 1965:
Recent dramatic increases in the degree and diversity of the American military effort in Vietnam have led to a repeated use of the word "escalation". In fact, escalation is not a word to use lightly. A deliberate, calculated and controlled stepping-up of military endeavour in order to achieve a precise and realizable objective (as, for example, by dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) is not, strictly speaking, escalation. Escalation must involve an element of involuntary behaviour. The difference lies between mounting a staircase and stepping on an escalator.
Insofar as their action in Vietnam has been forced on the Americans by the deteriorating military and political situation in the South, it may be said to be escalatory. It is still too early to decide whether the escalation will be minimal, partial or total. This will depend as much on the reactions of North Vietnam, China and Russia as on the actions of the U.S. It will also depend to a great extent on the actions and reactions of America's allies.
What the Americans hope to achieve is a minimal escalation to the point at which the North Vietnam government will cease to send men and material to the Vietcong. With this achieved, the assumption is that the Vietcong can be sufficiently contained to enable the U.S. to step off the escalator and join with other interested parties in negotiating a permanent settlement that would guarantee the continued existence of an anti-communist (if not precisely pro-Western) regime in South Vietnam...i.e. "negotiating from strength."
It is doubtful if these aims can be realized. Victory has so nearly been achieved by the Vietcong that it is doubtful if their further progress could be halted by the cutting-off of supplies from the North. In any case, it is doubtful if the North Vietnam government could be coerced into stopping the flow of supplies by anything less than major American bombardments of industrial and population centres. Such a development - apart from antagonizing allied and neutral opinion - would incur a real risk of Soviet and Chinese counter-intervention. Neither of the major Communist powers could afford to stand idly by while the North Vietnamese were being burned or hammered into submission.
It is important, at this point, to recognize the distinction between the Vietnam and the Cuban crises. In the latter, America had all the conventional options on the spot, while Mr. Kruschev had to choose between withdrawing the missiles and total war. In Vietnam the Russians and the Chinese have as many options to choose from as the U.S.. Russia could provide sophisticated air defences for North Vietnam, and China could provide almost unlimited men and supplies with which to reinforce the Vietcong. I need hardly make the point that a situation in which Russians were shooting down U.S. aircraft, and in which Chinese troops were locked in hand-to-hand battle with the American marines would be enormously dangerous.
Moreover, if the Vietnam conflict were to escalate to Korean proportions, the Americans would be not nearly so favourably placed as they were in Korea. The terrain in Vietnam is more favourable to Chinese than to American methods of fighting, the indigenous population is almost certainly more hostile, the Americans would be more likely to be condemned than supported by the United Nations, and America's allies would be far more reluctant than at the time of Korea (and rightly so) to become involved in the fighting. In these circumstances it is entirely possible that the American force would be driven into the sea; and the U.S. would then have to make a choice between ignominious defeat and escalating the war still further through the bombardment of Russian or Chinese targets. In the context of Vietnam, a partial escalation could become total.
There would seem to be no point in the escalatory process at which the Americans could reckon to dismount with the expectation of being able to force a cease-fire on favourable terms. There is a time for toughness and a time for flexibility. In Vietnam a policy of continued toughness can only lead to counter-toughness and the prospect of uncontrolled escalation - unless we make what I would regard as the unwarrantable assumption that the Soviet Union and Communist China are "paper tigers". On any other assumption, the most constructive role for America's allies would be to use all their powers of persuasion - public and private - to bring America to the conference table before the escalatory process which has already begun gets entirely out of hand.
Senator Mansfield's report on the Vietnam war shows that a mere 14,000 N. Vietnamese, armed only with automatic weapons and mortars, have successfully held the military balance against a growth in the American commitment of some 185,000, armed and equipped with every conceivable weapon and aide-de-guerre. Meanwhile the Vietcong have outfought S. Vietnamese forces numbering over half a million. This fact alone should give the Americans pause: it argues that Vietcong morale is almost uniquely strong. Not since Wavell's 30,000 put it across Marshall Badoglio's forces in the desert have so many been humbled by so few; and even Badoglio never enjoyed the advantages in manpower, firepower and mobility that the Americans now enjoy.
The report suggests that a much increased U.S. commitment may be needed even to hold the present unsatisfactory balance - and that N. Vietnam can match whatever increase is made. Thus an extension of the conflict - "in the direction of a general war on the Asian mainland" - may be inevitable. The Americans - to put it bluntly - may carry the land war into Cambodia and Laos so as to cut the so-called Ho Chi Minh trail by which the Vietcong is supplied from the North.
Such a move would almost certainly involve Chinese intervention. China shares a common frontier with Laos, and enjoys good relations with Cambodia. A do-nothing policy in the face of such provocation would diminish Chinese 'face' to vanishing point and allow the U.S. to dominate China's southern frontiers. The U.S., however, may reckon that China is a paper tiger, and that Russia would connive at - or at least tolerate - her discomfiture. I regard this assessment as dangerously optimistic. Neither China nor Russia are looking for a fight; but China has already proved her mettle in Korea, and it is emphatically not in Russia's interests to allow America to establish herself as the dominant power in S.E. Asia. Despite their differences, both nations - if pushed far enough - will stand and fight.
Soviet interests in Vietnam are fourfold: (1) to avoid a major shooting-war with America; (2) to retain the leadership of the Communist camp in competition with China; (3) to prevent the defeat of Hanoi; and (4) to facilitate the victory of the Vietcong and so the reduction of U.S. influence in Asia and beyond. It is sometimes forgotten that Russia is still a communist power, with an interest in the extension of communism. To assume that she would stand idly by while America consolidated S.E. Asia as a bastion of capitalism (in the teeth of local opposition) is as stupid as the opposite assumption that the Soviet Union is hell-bent on world domination.
If I were a Soviet military adviser, I would warn my government (a) that an American victory in Vietnam - or a settlement on American terms - would encourage the West to pursue a tough line wherever and whenever American and Russian interests conflicted; (b) that a major war in Asia would result in Chinese victory unless America used her nuclear weapons; (c) that an American victory resulting from the use of such weapons would tilt the world-balance irrevocably against the U.S.S.R.; and (d) that the Soviet interests therefore demand a military show of force sufficient to confine the war within its present frontiers.
To this end I would recommend the provision (by submarine if no other means were available) of a nuclear strike-force in N. Vietnam, strictly under Soviet control, as a deterrent to the American use of similar weapons and a counter-balance to whatever military aid might be offered by China. I would reckon that the second-use of Russian missiles against Da Nang or the 7th. Fleet would not involve the U.S.S.R. in a mutually destructive all-out war with America. There are signs that Russia has already taken my 'advice': General Tolubko (who went with Mr Shelepin to Hanoi) is in no way connected with anti-aircraft defences - he is essentially a ground-to-ground missile expert.
If President Johnson's 'State-of-the-Union' message implies that (lacking a settlement on terms presently acceptable to America) he is prepared to widen the Vietnam conflict, he will be embarking on the most doom-laden venture in American history. If the Vietcong - with a handful of N. Vietnamese regulars - can thumb its nose at America's already vast commitment, what sort of commitment will be needed to subdue the whole of S.E. Asia, backed by China's uncounted millions? And what sort of legacy of hatred (quite apart from the likely Soviet response) is America going to lay up for the West if it uses nuclear weapons as the only alternative to defeat? The British Government has so far acquiesced in each American step on the road to ruin. As an act of simple friendship, Mr. Wilson should warn the President of Britain's dissociation from any further steps towards the precipice.
The exchange of letters between President Johnson and Ho Chi Minh can now be seen in truer perspective. The initial reaction in the US was one of relief. The President (who had been accused of intransigence) had in fact issued an invitation to Ho which the latter had summarily refused. Was not this proof enough that the onus now lay with Hanoi for a continued failure to negotiate? Even in this country, a number of commentators - hitherto critical of Johnson - were surprised at Ho's temerity in publishing the correspondence. It seemed to them that publication must inevitably vindicate Johnson as the party to the dispute more willing to enter into realistic negotiations. Only with a closer reading of the correspondence has opinion begun to shift.
It is now clear that Johnson's initiative was a disguised threat, rather than an open invitation. "I am prepared to order a cessation of bombing against your country and the stopping of further augmentation of US forces in South Vietnam as soon as I am assured that infiltration into South Vietnam by land and sea has stopped." This is the polite way of saying "I shall continue to bomb the North and reinforce the South until you cut off all supplies to the NLF, who will then be mopped up by the million US/Vietnamese forces already in the South."
It is hardly surprising that this gambit was refused. There was no element of genuine reciprocity in an offer which (if accepted) left the NLF at the mercy of immensely superior forces and with no possible source of supplies. Apart from the odds, the shortage of ammunition would eventually spell defeat for the NLF. What Johnson was offering Ho was a cessation of bombing in exchange for the surrender of the NLF forces in the South. To Johnson, who regards South Vietnam as quite separate from the North, this may have seemed a fair offer. To Ho, who was a party to the Geneva accord which divided Vietnam into zones formally subject to reunification, acceptance of the offer would be a betrayal of the already-agreed principle of Vietnamese unification.
The principle of reciprocity, in fact, demands that the bombing of North Vietnam should cease forthwith, because Hanoi is not bombing either the United States or South Vietnam. Similarly, a stoppage of North Vietnamese supplies and reinforcements to the NLF should entail, not merely a cut-off of American supplies and reinforcements to Saigon (which would be left with an enormous preponderance of force) but an agreement on the part of the Americans to phase out their forces stage by stage, proportionately to the withdrawal of N. Vietnamese forces. This is the sort of solution favoured by U Thant, who recognises that Hanoi will never agree to a less equable solution of the conflict.
The main objection to these proposals is that genuine reciprocity is simply not possible as between a great power such as America (which has the theoretical capability of destroying its enemy overnight) and a small Asian power with no such capability. The argument is that a Great Power cannot reasonably be expected to treat with a small power as if it were an equal. Degrees of power are a fact of life; and a small power must expect a greater one to use its power to advantage in a world in which the use of power (howeve regrettable) is usually the decisive factor. It is simply unrealistic, we are told, to expect America to forgo its military advantages (such as the ability to bomb North Vietnam) in pursuit of some abstract principle of reciprocity.
The flaw in this argument is that American military preponderance is almost certainly incapable of achieving the desired results unless it is used in a manner (e.g. annihilation bombing) counter-productive, if not actually disastrous, at the political level. In other words, America must fight 'with one hand tied behind its back.' There is no question of an unrestrained use of power. The only question which is relevant is how much power can America afford to use and for how long? For (as I have explained in former Commentaries) there are temporal as well as political limitations on the use of American power. China is not capable (as a recent ISS analysis makes clear) of major aggressive activity activity beyond her frontiers, but a minimal nuclear capability would enable her to infiltrate guerrillas into S.E.. Asia on a scale beyond anything that the Americans could hope to match. Even North Vietnam, with its very limited resources, is proving hard enough to beat.
It is therefore in America's interests to terminate the war while it is still restricted to Vietnam. Unless Johnson can force Hanoi to surrender without major escalation (and of this there is little hope) the war is likely to develop along lines that would be as inimical to Johnson's interests as to Ho's. It follows that the argument against reciprocal withdrawal is unsound. Substantially, the US has as much to lose as Hanoi if the conflict is pressed to a military conclusion. Once we assume that such a conclusion is unattainable, the argument for a settlement based on genuine reciprocity becomes unanswerable.
Whatever the outcome of the Arab-Israel war, Britain and America are going to be among the losers. By siding with Israel in the first place we alienated even the ‘friendly’ Arab states. By hawking among the maritime powers a ‘Gulf-users Association’ concept that was doomed from the start, we alienated those European powers trying to convince De Gaulle that Britain really is ready for Europe. By switching to a position of neutrality as soon as the fighting started, we exposed an unwillingness and inability to act effectively in an area long claimed as our special interest and concern. By pretending that it didn't at all matter who actually started the fighting - because we suspect that it was our protege (Israel) that began it, we struck at the roots of our peace-keeping pretensions. By calling for a cease-fire, but not a reversion to the status quo ante, we are now imperilling the UN.
When one further reflects that Britain and America have armed both sides in the conflict in the pursuit of profit and political advantage, it is evident that we deserve to be numbered among the losers. Russia is not blameless, but at least she has been consistent, and is likely to reap the benefits of her consistency. Anglo-American policies have been both cynical and inept, and we shall not easily be forgiven them.
If, as seems likely, Israel wins the immediate conflict, Israel alone will benefit - and that only for as long as it takes the Arabs to rebuild their strength. Britain and America have forfeited the right to act as honest brokers in the Middle East. Nor will Israel - having been let down by the West - look to them for her future security. In all likelihood she will press for nuclear self-sufficiency as her only hope of survival, thus scuppering any hope of non-proliferation. The Egyptians (perhaps with Russian help) will be forced to follow the same dangerous path. Whichever power first achieves nuclear capacity will be under enormous temptation to wage preventive war. The situation in the Middle East is, and will remain, full of uncertainty and peril.
This uncertainty and peril might be mitigated somewhat if only an accord between Russia and America could be arrived at. Together they could impose a settlement which would give a rough and ready justice - pending a more permanent solution based on a more precise justice – to both sides. Unfortunately such an accord is unlikely. The Russians are likely to stand pat in their profitable role as the main champions of Arab nationalism. The Americans are unlikely to risk Jewish anger (at home and abroad) by coercing Israel into foregoing the benefits of her military success. Between them the Great Powers are likely to destroy the credit of the United Nations because neither of them are prepared to risk their own short-term advantages. Nor is it likely that Britain will dissent from the American position: UN or no UN, Britain still has fish of its own to fry in the Middle East.
It is just possible, however, that one good thing will emerge from an unpromising situation. The Middle East crisis has at least served to illustrate the helplessness of even major Powers in the face of events that pass beyond their control. Both America and Russia are aware of the dangers of meddling in the present situation unless they can agree on how to meddle. Neither wish to become involved on opposite sides. Both, therefore, may come to realise that it is not in their real or long-term interests to fish in troubled waters for immediate advantage. This applies as much to the Far- as the Middle-East. One of the main reasons why America's part in the present crisis has been so inconsiderable has been because she was over-extended in the Vietnam theatre.
If America, in particular, can learn the lesson that her global influence largely depends on her not being unduly extended in one area of the world, some good may yet come out of the present crisis. The Russians, since the Cuba crisis of 1962, have learned not to get in to uncontrollable situations from which they cannot retreat without an unacceptable loss of face. Consequently their prestige has increased in proportion to their skill in avoiding such situations. Russia now rates as a peaceable nation with whom even anti-communist countries do business. At the same time she remains a citadel of anti-imperialism and so an object of veneration among developing peoples - if not among their governments. America, on the other hand, is busily buying an unenviable reputation as chief successor to the old imperial powers.
What about Britain? If Britain can learn a lesson from what has happened in the past few weeks, it should be that she has neither the economic nor military capacity to operate a ‘world role’ - East of Suez or anywhere else - except through the United Nations. If she learns this lesson (and the continued posturings of Messrs. Wilson and Brown are not encouraging in this respect), something will have been gained from the wreckage of our former pretensions. But no doubt the Mayhew brand of moderation will prove less acceptable than Mr. Hogg's hysteria.