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  • Time to Impeach Trump

     

     

    by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.

    My political positions have very frequently been countercurrent.   When the Liberals were calling for Trump’s head, when Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi in Congress were preaching all-out obstructionism against the newly inaugurated President to thwart his policies, I was urging Progressives to lay down their pitchforks and try to deal constructively with the new administration for the good of the nation.

    Now, in the past several weeks, in a belated show of bipartisanship, Democratic Party leaders have finally found a negotiating partner in Donald Trump, starting with relief to the “Dreamers” in the sphere of immigration policy and extending to the bill raising the national debt ceiling.  More deals are said to be underway. In theory, that is all to the good.

    However, in the meantime this President demonstrated fulsomely in his speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations, that it is high time for him to go.   And that is not because of his widely discussed volatility, impulsiveness and narcissism.  It is because of his irremediable stupidity, primitivism and thuggery that are leading this country on a path to commit unspeakable horrors abroad.

    To be sure, Trump’s shocking debut at the UN comes as the culmination of a lengthy decline in civilized behavior by our national leaders over the past two decades.

    The swagger and bloated self-importance of George Bush did not itself come of a day.  At the start of his presidency, after 9/11 but before the fateful invasion of Iraq, Bush would make one or another outrageous, lying statement about international affairs, such as the “weapons of mass destruction” he alleged were retained by Saddam Hussein. Then he would pause and look into the camera with hesitation, as if wondering whether his whoppers would be swallowed by the public. Satisfied that he had gotten away with it, he resumed his rant.  That hint of self-doubt or fear of discovery disappeared with the years even as adversity on the battlefield and in the economy that his misguided, if not criminal acts gave rise to progressed apace. Bush limped along to the end of his second term none the wiser.

    Our intellectual president Barack Obama, with his term on the Harvard Law Review as seeming proof of mental and cultural distinction, never did learn to behave in a statesmanlike manner.  From start to finish, he conducted himself with scandalous insouciance. His well-meaning arm over the shoulder of Queen Elizabeth, which the Brits saw through as disrespect for court decorum, his chewing gum while  standing before the public eye were noted by our commentators indulgently. They never noted, however, when he slipped beyond faux pas to openly insulting behavior towards leaders of the world’s great powers, when he issued slurs which in other people’s mouths would be denounced as a form of racism.

    One such case occurred when Obama stood by the side of Chinese President Xi in the White House Rose Garden for a press briefing, and said that he would be watching closely to see that the Chinese implemented the actions that had been agreed upon.  Then there was his likening Putin to a misbehaving schoolboy, skulking at the back of the classroom. Or his description of the whole country, Russia, as a fading regional power that produced nothing that anyone wanted. This was gratuitously insulting, degrading and finally very primitive behavior for the leader of the world’s mightiest country. And the content of his remarks was based on verifiable untruths, if only he had taken care to do fact check.

    However, all of these inexcusable verbal misdeeds of the recent past are nothing compared to what Donald Trump delivered on Tuesday during the 42-minute speech marking his debut at the General Assembly of the United Nations.

    Trump’s vicious remarks directed at Iran and Venezuela may have been in line with the “Axis of Evil” speeches of George W. Bush.  But his threat to “totally destroy” North Korea, a country of 22 million, if it so much as “threatened” the United States and its allies went beyond incivility.

    The name Adolph Hitler has come up repeatedly in American political discourse over many decades in a search for a likeness going beyond the pale. It was applied famously by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Russian President Vladimir Putin when she sought to vilify the Russian leader as had never been done before even in the worst days of the original Cold War with the Soviet Union.

    By his threats to annihilate a nation issued from the tribune of the world’s greatest forum for peace-making, Trump cast himself as a modern day Hitler.

    Those of us who once backed Donald Trump on the basis of his promised normalization of relations with the world’s other nuclear superpower were initially confused and disappointed when he surrounded himself with Neocons, Liberal Interventionists and other advisers and implementers who proceeded to speak and act in ways that directly contradicted Trump’s promised changes to US foreign policy.

    But now there is no room for confusion or indulgence.  We cannot point a finger at his defense secretary, “Mad Dog” Mattis, or at his Neocon ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, or at any of the generals propping him up from the right and the left.  This time it is the boss himself who spoke outrageously, who delivered what some media outlets properly called a “tirade” and others, more timidly spoke of as “bellicose.”  

    What marked this speech from the long series of uncontrolled, self-indulgent tweets on foreign and domestic affairs from this President, was that it was precisely a scripted speech in which every word had obviously been weighed beforehand for its likely interpretation and public impact.  And it was the speech of a thug, of a dictator whose place in the world’s gallery of aggressors and war-makers is safely reserved.

    On the day of the speech, major U.S. media contented themselves with quoting Donald’s more remarkable statements, starting with his threat to North Korea.  On day two, the editorial boards reached their conclusions on how to handle it and the remarks became more interesting and revealing. The New York Times, for example, allowed itself to point to the contradiction between Trump’s celebration of sovereign nation states, with their own traditions and patriotism and his call for regime change with respect to the three states singled out as “rogues” threatening the world order

    Indeed, the sovereignty for some and not others approach on which the entire speech was built is a fault line of illogic in Trump’s thinking, if we divert ourselves with a rational analysis of what was an irrational speech.  The same fundamental contradiction was inherent in all of US foreign policy these past twenty-five years,  that of some farm animals being more equal than other farm animals, to put it in terms of George Orwell.  However, until now it was masked by the stress on universal values as the guide to foreign policy and as the justification for punishing evil-doers.  When that fig leaf is stripped away, when foreign policy is said to be built on principles of Realism and national interest, then the whole logic of might makes right, and US assertion of its right to be the world’s judge and jury is plain for all to see.

    After he is removed from office on whatever grounds will do the trick, including phony charges of collusion with the Kremlin to win the presidential race, I wish Donald Trump a comfortable retirement to a bar stool at one of the lounges of Trump Tower, which is where he and his bombastic remarks truly belong.

     

     

    © Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

     

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     Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. His forthcoming book Does the United States Have a Future? will be published in October 2017.

  • Does the United States Have a Future as a Great Power?

     

     

    by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.

     

    Twenty years ago posing this question would have seemed absurd. The United States was fully self-confident about its position as the sole surviving superpower in the world which faced virtually no obstacles or objections to its performance of “public goods” that brought order to the world either through the liberal international institutions that it helped to create after WWII and dominated, or unilaterally when necessary through “coalitions of the willing” aimed at bringing down one or another disruptive malefactor on a regional stage. From all sides abroad it heard only “amen” to its claims of exceptionalism and farther-seeing vision that came from its standing taller, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it.

     

    Fourteen years ago, when America prepared for its ill-conceived invasion of Iraq and encountered loud resistance from France and Germany, backed up by Russia, it became possible to wonder whether U.S. global hegemony could last.  The disaster that the Iraqi adventure quickly became within a year of George W. Bush declaring “mission accomplished” rolled on and progressively diminished the enthusiasm of allies and others hitherto in the U.S. bandwagon for each new project to re-engineer troublesome nations, to overthrow autocrats and usher in an age of liberal democracy across the globe.

    Still, the doubts were discussed sotto voce. Governments tended to conform to what the Russians colorfully call “giving someone the finger in your pocket.”  Observers spoke their piece privately against the violations of international law and simple decency that the United States was perpetrating, against the swathe of chaos that followed American intervention across the Greater Middle East.  But such persons were on the fringes of political life and drew little attention.

    What has happened in the past couple of years is that doubts about the competence of the United States to lead the world have been compounded by doubts about the ability of the United States to govern itself. The dysfunctionality of the federal government has come out of the closet as an issue and is talked about fairly regularly even by commentators and publications that are quintessentially representative of the establishment.

    In this connection, it is remarkable to note that the September-October issue of Foreign Affairs magazine carries an essay entitled “Kleptocracy in America” by Sarah Chayes. This takes us entirely away from the personality peculiarities of the 45th President into the broader and more important realm of the systemic flaws of governance, namely the extraordinary political power wielded by the very wealthy and the self-serving policies that they succeed in enacting, all at the expense of the general public that has stagnated economically for decades now, setting the stage for the voter revolt that brought Trump to power.

    And in an op-ed essay in the The Washington Post on September 1st that is remarkable precisely for its identification of the failing political culture in Washington, Senator John McCain says the following:

    “Congress will return from recess next week facing continued gridlock as we lurch from one self-created crisis to another. We are proving inadequate not only to our most difficult problems but also to routine duties. Our national political campaigns never stop. We seem convinced that majorities exist to impose their will with few concessions and that minorities exist to prevent the party in power from doing anything important.”

    McCain himself was till now a major contributor to the poisonous political climate in Washington, to partisanship that tramples patriotism under foot. One thinks of his unprecedented attack on fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul several months ago whom he accused of “working for Putin” because the good Senator refused to vote for the accession of Montenegro to NATO.

    Gridlock in the federal government is nothing new. In the past decade, work of the federal government came to a standstill when Congress and the President could not agree the conditions under which the federal debt ceiling would be raised.  Such an eventuality was just narrowly averted in the past day.

    Public exposure and ridicule of a sitting president for personal failings, such as the case of Bill Clinton’s sexual transgressions, have been exploited for political gain by his opponents whatever the cost to national prestige. We have lived through that crisis of the political elites and the republic survived

    What is new and must be called out is the loss of civility in public discourse at all levels, from the President, from the Congress and down to the average citizen.  The widely decried personal attacks that otherwise would be called defamation during the 2016 presidential electoral campaign were symptomatic of this all-encompassing phenomenon.  It signifies a dramatic decline in American political culture that the whole world sees and is beginning to act upon in self-defense.

    In what follows, I will speak to each of these levels in the calamitous loss of dignity and reason in the establishment as it bears on the unsustainability of American soft power abroad, which in turn preconditions hard power.

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    Let us start with President Donald Trump, who is attacked in the news daily by the liberal media that represents the lion’s share of all television programming and print publications, media that vehemently opposes Trump’s domestic and foreign policy positions. In their determination to ensure either his impeachment or effectively to strip him of powers, they speak of Trump the way cheaply printed caricatures for the masses lampooned Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution.

    The President is publicly described by his compatriots as an imbecile, a rabid racist, a misogynist, a volatile and impulsive narcissist whose finger on the nuclear button gives us all goose pimples:  this cannot be ignored by the wider world outside US borders and it is not ignored.

    To be sure, Donald Trump has brought a good deal of this ignominy on himself by his intemperate comments on daily events, particularly at home but also abroad, where silence or a nod to conventional verities would be the better part of valor. He keeps his own counsel on foreign affairs and erroneously believes that his instincts are superior to the advice of experts. In his kitchen cabinet, there are no experts.  In the official cabinet, he has for his own reasons assembled a group consisting of Neoconservatives and Liberal Interventionists, who made it easy for him to get confirmation in the Senate but who are all pulling in the direction opposite to the America First concepts of nonintervention in the affairs of other states that he set out in his electoral campaign.

    Trump changes direction daily, even on matters as critical as the likely U.S. response to the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula.  The tactic of unpredictability was an approach he said in the campaign he would use against enemies, in particular against terrorist groups, not to tip them off about U.S. intentions in advance and weaken the effect of eventual U.S. military strikes. But it makes no sense when applied to all other current business, which requires a firm hand on the tiller and sense of continuity and predictability, not constant disruption.

    The net result of Donald Trump’s first six months in office has been to undo the bonds of mutual confidence with our allies and friends, and to put on guard our competitors that America’s role in the world is up for grabs.

    Foreign policy has opened up as a topic for discussion here in Europe ever since Donald scattered the chickens by his loose talk about NATO and America's commitment or non-commitment to the Article 5 provision of all for one and one for all. This has given impetus to the long-spluttering plans to create a European Union army as an alternative to NATO, and as a rallying point for federalists in what will be a two-speed Europe.

    During the two terms of Obama, meddling in the internal politics of China and Russia, repeated hectoring over their alleged human rights and rule of law violations, but still more importantly the wrong-headed policy of simultaneous containment of these two giants through construction of military alliances and bases at their borders put in motion a strategic partnership between them that was once improbable but is now flourishing. The Russia-China axis is underpinned by vast joint investments and promises to remake the global power balance in the decades to come.

    Now, with Trump, the damage to American power in the Pacific region is spreading. His ripping up free trade accords and his incautious rhetoric regarding possible military strikes against North Korea have pushed both Japan and South Korea to explore actively and urgently how Russia can be befriended, at a minimum, for the sake of greater leverage against the big ally in North America. This has been demonstrated with perfect clarity by the meetings of Vladimir Putin with Japanese premier Shinzo Abe and Korean president Moon Jae-in at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok over the past couple of days.

    Russia’s evolving political entente with both South Korea and Japan is providing support for the launch of ambitious foreign investment projects in its Far East as announced at the Forum. These include one which has the potential to re-shape the imagination of regional populations for a generation to come: revival of plans to build a 50 billion dollar rail-auto bridge linking Hokkaido with the Russian island of Sakhalin, thus uniting Japan with the continent and facilitating freight shipments across Russia to Europe. For its part, Korea announced infrastructure investments for the Northern sea route linking their country with European markets through sea lanes kept open by Russian icebreakers.  Like the Chinese One Belt One Road, these plans all dramatically reduce the importance to world trade of the long-standing US policed sea lanes off Southeast Asia up to and through the Suez Canal.

    Of course, the low point in America’s image in the world today under Trump is not entirely new. By the end of his two terms in office, George W. Bush had driven American prestige to what were then all time lows even among Europeans.  There was a brief resurgence of American popularity at the start of Barack Obama’s tenure in office. But that was quickly dissipated by his failure to deliver on the pledges of his campaign and inaugural address, as Guantanamo remained open, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued and as drone strikes proliferated.

    But Donald Trump has shaken up the world order by repeatedly questioning the public goods that the country claimed to be delivering these past decades, opening a void without projecting a new vision of global governance. In the meantime, the unique value of America’s public goods is being eroded as alternative suppliers step forward.

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    It is commonplace today within the United States to put all blame for the shocking decline in political culture at the door of President Trump with his boorish language and behavior.  However, as we noted from the outset in citing Senator John McCain’s recent op-ed, Congress has contributed mightily to the erosion of civic values by its vicious and counterproductive partisanship.

    And yet a still greater threat to our democracy and to the sustainability of our great power status has come from the inverse phenomenon, namely the truly bipartisan management of foreign policy in Congress.  The Republican and Democratic party leaderships have maintained strict discipline in promotion of what are Neoconservative and Liberal Interventionist positions on every issue placed before Congress. Committees on security and foreign affairs invite to testify before them only those experts who can be counted upon to support the official Washington narrative. Debate on the floor of the houses is nonexistent.  And the votes are so lopsided as to be shocking, none more so that the votes in August on the “Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act.”  This measure removed sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia from the category of Executive Order and mandated them by federal law.  In the Senate it passed 98 to 2. In the House, the vote was 419 for, 3 against.  Such results remind us of the rubber stamp legislature of the USSR, the Supreme Soviet, in its heyday.

    That particular vote was still more scandalous for its being drafted and passed without any consultation with US allies and friends, though its intent is to control their commercial and credit policies with respect to the target countries under sanction.  For Europeans, in particular, this puts in question their ability to pursue what they see as great economic benefits from trade and investment with Russia and Iran. In this sense, Congress demonstrated that it is pursuing a still more radical program of America First than the President. In-your-face unilateralism such as this works directly to the detriment of the country’s standing in global forums.

     

     

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    It would be comforting if the problems of our political culture began and ended with the elites operating in Washington, D.C.  However, that is patently not the case.  The problem exists across the country in the form of stultifying conformism, or groupthink that is destroying the open marketplace for ideas essential for any vital democracy.

    Some of us have called this the new McCarthyism, because the most salient aspect of groupthink is the ongoing hysteria over alleged Russian meddling in U.S. domestic politics. The denunciations of “stooges of Putin” and the blacklisting from both mass and professional media of those known to deliver unconventional, heterodox views on Russia and other issues of international affairs is reminiscent of what went on during the witch hunt for Communists in government, in the media during the early 1950s. 

    However, no one is being hounded from office today. There are no show trials, as yet, for treasonous collusion with Russia.  So, it would be safer to speak of an atmosphere of intimidation that stifles free debate on the key security issues facing the American public.  Absence of debate equates to a dumbing-down of our political elites as intellectual skills atrophy and results in poor formulation of policy. The whole necessarily undermines our soft power and standing in the world.

    Groupthink in America today did not come from nowhere. Debilitating conformism was always part of our DNA, as is the case in a great many countries, though its emergence has been episodic and in varying degrees of severity.  The present acute manifestation in the United States goes back to the mass paranoia which followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks when the  George W. Bush administration introduced the Patriot Act, gutting our civil rights in exchange for the promise of security.

    Though the revelations of Edward Snowden have shown the full extent and potency of the  instruments of surveillance over the general population that were introduced by the Bush administration after 9/11, there was enough of state control exposed in the Patriotic Act text to silence anyone with doubts about US government policies at home and abroad.  When the harsh personalities of the Bush immediate entourage were replaced by the liberal talking officials of Barack Obama, people breathed easier, but the instruments of surveillance remained in place, as did the Neocon middle and senior officials in the State Department, in the Pentagon, in the intelligence agencies.  Thus, for a whole generation the Washington narrative remained unchanged, giving encouragement in communities across the land to Neocon-minded administrators and professorate of our universities, publishers and owners of our mainstream newspapers and other arbiters of public taste.  That is quite sufficient to explain the current atmosphere of intimidation and groupthink.

     

     

     

    It is improbable that any Humpty-Dumpty successor to Donald Trump can put the pieces back together again and restore American dominance to where it was at the close of Bill Clinton's first term as president. Given American hubris, will our political class accept an equal seat at the global board of governors or just walk away from the table?

    © Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

     

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     Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. His forthcoming book Does the United States Have a Future? will be published in October 2017.

  • The Red Book

     

    by Gilbert Doctorow, Ph.D.

     

    One of the endearing features of the Harvard Alumni Organization is to oversee the production of class books for each graduating class at five year intervals from graduation to the time of collective extinction, which may be 75 years out. Bound in the college colors, this is the proverbial Red Book.  No doubt other prestige universities across the United States have a similar practice, but I will limit our consideration here to one college, which happens to be iconic and thus broadly representative of the American establishment. I will further restrict our consideration to one Red Book issue, that of the Harvard College Class of 1967, my class. These limitations have one purpose:  to arrive at some conclusions based on close study of a control sample as opposed to a broad but superficial survey of elites in general. This exercise is very timely given that the 2016 election was largely fought over the issue of the American establishment’s conflictual relationship with the broad public. So who are we in this establishment?

    Despite the best efforts of cheerleading volunteer editors from our class, who tend to occupy these positions for decades and have their network of helpers, the submission of entries by classmates has its ebb and flow, with greatest success rates coming in sync with the most hyped and attractive reunions, the 25th and 50th. The first marks the time when professional and familial ambitions have reached flight altitude. The second marks the high water of success and the onset of decline.  These are times to report, times to be seen, if ever and many classmates who were silent finally make their contributions. Our class had something like 75% participation in the 50th year Red Book, and so it is very indicative of who we are.

    Professionally who are we?  The single largest field is clearly health services, and within that, it is psychology and psychiatry.  I will not speculate on what demand for such services says about our society at large, but the fact is striking.  After that, quite predictably, many classmates have made their careers in law and in the justice system.  The third great profession is education, mainly higher education but also going down into secondary and primary education, both public and private. 

    After that comes business, though here there are some surprises.  Relatively few classmates made careers in large corporations.  A great many were self-starters, entrepreneurs who founded their own companies.  That attests to considerable self-confidence and risk taking. 

    Indeed, very few classmates served in the federal government or other large bureaucratic institutions.  Regimentation apparently is not readily accepted by individuals as talented and ambitious as my Harvard classmates. These talents are multi-dimensional and explain the rather high rate of mid-career changes in occupation, from sciences to arts or vice versa.  No doubt these unusual career decisions were facilitated by substantial financial success at an early age that made experimentation possible.

    There are among my Harvard College mates and Radcliffe graduates reporting in the Red Book a very few star performers who enjoy national name recognition.  These include Lou Dobbs (before he fell from grace), the Hollywood and Broadway actor John Lithgow, and several politicians who reached the national stage. One,  Richard Morningstar, was for many years a key official in the State Department in charge of Eurasian energy matters and ended his career as US ambassador to Azerbaijan.  Tom Ridge reached national prominence as Governor of Pennsylvania and then served George W. Bush as the first Secretary of Homeland Security. The most recent big name is Richard Blumenthal, current U.S. Senator from Connecticut, who has been highly visible of late in his attacks on President Trump over Russia-gate and who received pay back in kind from Donald in some fairly vicious denunciations of his misrepresentations of his Vietnam War service.  Sad to say, these political stars all have their place in my personal rogues’ gallery since they one and all have been champions of U.S. global hegemony and stoked the confrontation with our nuclear peer, Russia, putting the security of us all in great jeopardy today.

    A much larger number of classmates have achieved state, regional and national reputations in their chosen professions, though they may be invisible to the general public.  They are the chairmen of law associations, or highly decorated research scientists or educators at the head of the national organizations of their discipline.

    The great majority of classmates have reached material prosperity and respectability that makes them the pillars of their communities. They are public spirited and generous donors to worthy causes.  They serve on the boards of cultural, educational and other local associations. They work for social justice in their communities.

    All of this is to the good, and matches the expectations one might have for graduates of the country’s top elite school with a distinctly left of center political orientation.  However, leafing through the thousand plus pages of the Red Book, I was struck by the way classmates’ vision and interests are concentrated in their families and communities to the exclusion of the broader nation, not to mention the world at large.

    Out of the 900 or so entries, you can count on one hand those who expressed any concern about the state of the nation.  And the world outside U.S. borders appears in their writings almost exclusively as a destination for prestige tourism.  Now that many are semi or fully retired, those still in good health are going through their “bucket lists” of must-see locations around the globe.  Indeed, many of the photos that were sent in for photo gallery of this Red Book were chosen to show off desirable backgrounds like the Eiffel Tower or similar. 

    Aside from the few foreigners who were in our class, there are almost no American born Harvard classmates who might be considered to be citizens of the world.  Yes, to be sure, we have educators who taught semesters abroad on Fulbright or other grants.  Yes, we have businessmen who traveled widely and even served some time stationed abroad. And there are some diplomats among us but nearly all were political appointees for whom the posting represented a reward for campaign contributions.  None of these professional travelers suggest in their class reports that the experience abroad changed their outlooks in any way.

    The net result is shocking provincialism among the country’s best educated and most successful professionals who are my classmates. That was confirmed in face to face meetings we had over the four days of our Reunion and in group discussion events.

    The key event of our reunion was about how the Vietnam War affected us all, for which 3 hours were allocated in one of the larger auditoriums.  In preparation for the event classmates were invited to send in personal accounts of the impact of the war on them. About 175 did so, and the organizers compiled from this a pdf book which was distributed to the class ahead of the Reunion on a strictly confidential basis.

    The intent of the organizers of the book and the event was to mediate a reconciliation between those who served in the Armed Forces during the war and those who didn’t. The reasonable assumption was that at 50 years distance any hot feelings from our youth will have been dissipated.  Indeed, the event was quite civilized and innocent.

    It also revealed something otherwise not the least bit obvious:  that the Vietnam War had almost no impact on the lives and careers of the Class of 1967 though we graduated right into the midst of the draft and the civil disturbances of the antiwar movement.

    A fairly large minority of our class did serve during the war, but only a tiny proportion of those saw military action in Southeast Asia.  A large contingent of those who served did so as doctors in training, and most of those served their time in laboratories of the National Health Service or in other capacities which in no way slowed their advance along their career lines. This is not a judgment, merely a statement of fact.  Another large contingent found positions in the National Reserves and remained stateside.  Others volunteered in order to secure places in the Coast Guard or in the Navy (including one or two who chose submarine service). Anything but the infantry!

    A majority of our class did no military service and avoided the draft by a variety of respectable and less than respectable stratagems.  Some entered the Peace Corps. Some entered the domestic equivalent, VISTA. Some secured teaching positions in the public school systems which conferred draft deferrals.  Some found ways to get medical exemptions, by hook or by crook.  A very few claimed and were recognized as valid Conscientious Objectors, and did their national service working in hospitals performing menial jobs.  It is interesting that out of 1200 not one said he considered leaving the country, though moving across the border to Canada or finding refuge elsewhere was discussed a lot in the media at the time.

    My conclusion is that the convulsions which tore apart Berkeley and other public universities seem not to have influenced the course of action and mentality of my classmates. The war was an inconvenience which with or without connections one could deal with and then move on.

    Is it surprising then that today the problems of the wider world, the military and economic posture of our country in that wider world, are of little interest to Harvard ‘67? This is not burn-out and retreat to one’s near surroundings.  It’s all the same “I’ve been blessed” that turned up in the Red Book entries of my class from the very first issue 45 years ago.

    The sad, and possibly tragic thing is that the self-satisfaction, the smugness and false sense of security in these entries and the indifference to the broader world and our country’s role in making it the mess it is, means that all the talent and prestige of this elite brings no weight at all to bear on the nation’s politics, least of all on its foreign policy. Our politicians in Washington, D.C. get a free ride.

    © Gilbert Doctorow, 2017

     

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     Gilbert Doctorow is an independent political analyst based in Brussels. His latest book Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. His forthcoming book Does the United States Have a Future? will be published in the autumn of 2017.