Just when I
thought it was safe to pick up Reed Magazine - and lately it has
published some useful critiques of Reed education - I was confronted
over the breakfast table by Professor Edward Segel's fawning
reflections on the latest writings of his old mentor, Henry
historian Segel evaluates Kissinger's work with only the merest
reference to the defining actions of his subject's career. I mean,
of course, the devastation of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and the
destruction of democracy in Chile.
writes: The "balance of power" has been classically defined as a
policy or situation where no Great Power so towers over the rest as
to threaten their political independence or integrity - to its
supporters a sure device protecting Europe against the rise of an
aggressor like Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin. In a proper
balance, all states are generally satisfied with the major lines of
the international system, and all recognize the legitimacy of each
other's existence and their mutual right to pursue their own
interests, within the limits of the system.
with this picture? For a start, Eurocentrism. The balance of power
of Segel's imagination recognizes France's right to pursue its own
interests, namely the colonization of Indo-China; and when France
fails, it recognizes the right of the U.S. to take France's place.
Does it somewhere recognize the right to sovereignty of Europe's erstwhile colonies in Asia and Africa? And how did the balance of power protect the world against the rise of
the aggressor Nixon, and his operative, Kissinger?
of power" is the European-North American collaborative to divide up
the rest of the world. It received a setback when the U.S.
foundered in the jungles of Southeast Asia. The import of the event
that shaped my generation appears to have been lost on a historian
teaching a new generation of Reed students.
reference to "traditional American values" is particularly
disingenuous. With regard to U.S. foreign policy, the traditional
values could best be described as "grab what you can and run."
George Kennan noted shortly after World War II that this country,
with 6% of the world's population, controlled over half its
resources. He correctly expected that situation to be challenged by
those on the short end of the deal, and he argued that the object of
foreign policy should be the preservation of the status quo. As my
brother says, "People all over the world want what we have. After
all, it's theirs."
Here we have
the unfortunate spectacle of Kissinger - who by any objective,
distanced historical appraisal will be ranked as a war criminal -
being reviewed by a follower who apparently has fashioned a career
out of pretending that such pseudo-scholarship as Kissinger's has
nothing to do with Christmas bombings and the overthrow of
Segel's viewpoint represents the attitudes that caused me to leave
Reed 26 years ago to seek an education in the "'real' world" that he
mocks with quotation marks.
It is the
responsibility of my generation, if not others, to continue to raise
the lessons of the Kissinger-Nixon era. Professor Segel calls for
his students to "take over the world," to put their liberal
education to work in managing the affairs of their society.
Producing disciples of the disciple of Kissinger to take over U.S.
foreign policy would be Reed College's great failure.