Ivan W. Parkins


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About Ivan W. Parkins:

Dr. Parkins is a retired professor of Political Science from Central Michigan University.  He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy.  Dr. Parkins served as a naval officer during WWII aboard the battleship Alabama.  He is a recent widower with three daughters, 3 grand children and 2 great grand children.  Dr. Parkins has written extensively, having authored 3 books and a newspaper opinion column for many years. 

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This is a reprint of a Column, in The Ridgerunner, Asheville, North Carolina, 2/14/66


By Ivan W. Parkins

             Most explanations of the war in Vietnam seem unconvincing.  Our Government’s policies there are assailed by spokesmen of both the Left and the Right.  On the Left are those who cannot believe that the Communists are reluctant to negotiate a settlement.  They seem to doubt that the Communists have sufficient reason for continuing such a bloody and awkward struggle.  On the right are those who cannot accept President Johnson’s limitation of the war and his willingness to see it end on nearly any terms, which will leave South Vietnam free of communist domination.  Why are the Communists reluctant to settle?  What would we gain from a negotiated peace at this time?  I suggest that the answer to these questions lies not in any obtuseness on the part of either the communist governments or our own.  The answer lays in the obscure, but vital interest, which major powers have at stake in Vietnam.

Placed in the context of the entire Cold War, and examined carefully, the struggle in Vietnam becomes meaningful.  It is, in fact, a crucial test of what may be the Communists’ best instrument of power.  Hence, it is also a test of our ability to stem the main force of communist expansion.  It is entirely possible that this limited war in Vietnam may some day be regarded as the climactic confrontation of the Cold War.

The communist drive for predominance in the world has been characterized by reliance upon four major instruments of power: the ability of communism to persuade and subvert, the capacity of the Soviet Union to arm for a major war, and the development of communist technology are three instruments which have been carefully tried, and found to be useful, but inadequate.  Only the fourth instrument remains as a likely source of communist advantage.  And it is that fourth instrument which is being tested in Vietnam.

Guerrilla warfare, carried on as part of national revolutionary movements, provides the chief hope for the communists.  It is the means by which most communist regimes have come to power.  It is the means by which France was humbled in Vietnam and the United States harassed in Cuba.  Even allowing for failures in the Philippines, Malaya and the Congo, it is not difficult to see why the Communists would pin their hopes on guerrilla warfare.

Communism’s greatest living figure, Mae Tze Tung, is an authority on guerrilla methods.  Because the methods include a certain ideological outlook, we “imperialists” cannot adopt them.  Because the methods of fighting hit and run, our conventional forces cannot defeat them.  With a little care in preparation and timing, guerrilla warfare can be used to defeat us in nearly every corner of the globe.  Such is the communist belief.  And this belief is what is being tested in Vietnam.  This is why the Communists are so reluctant to negotiate a settlement, and why we can afford to make one on terms which do nothing more than to preserve South Vietnam.

If communist supported guerrillas should now fail, on the site of one of their greatest victories, and on the doorstep of China, who could be persuaded to relay upon communist help again?  In a world where the United States had numerous successful veterans of guerrilla war, on what instrument could Communists pin their hopes?


Inside This Issue

Front Page

Archive 2008

Archive 2009

Disassemble the House

The Political Long View

Media Bias

Book Reviews

War and Their Costs

Broken Congress

Dividing America

Dividing America, Part two

Disinformation, Liberal Ideology

The Supreme Court and Judiciary


The Presidency, Part One

The Presidency, Part Two

Failure of the People’s House

The Republic in Danger

The 2008 Election, Part One

The 2008 Election, The Aftermath

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By Ivan W. Parkins


     There is a millenniums old controversy regarding the proper role of public opinion in government.  In the classical days of Greece it revolved about the likelihood of demagoguery in the public forum and mob-rule.  At least as recently as the early 1930s, it was very evident in Germany.  One great change is the rise of mass media and nearly instantaneous communication.  Clearly, modern media make information available to much larger publics.  To what extent do they also present dangers similar to those of ancient demagoguery?


     Representative democracy, i.e. public opinion reflected in policy making, mainly, through Congress was the answer of our nation’s founders.  But, have not our media become the chief conduits of opinions—often not either public or official?  That is what I believe that I see today.


     Our Constitution (First Amendment) promises “the press” immunity from congressional interference.  But, the mass media of today are much more centralized and pervasive than that of the late 1700s.  Furthermore, the institution that then seemed most likely to rival government was religion, and the Constitution limits its role.


     Today, our communications technologies enable minorities of any stripe and hue to organize nationally and pressure government directly.  Meanwhile, our Representatives have very little direct knowledge of how most of their constituents fare from day to day.


     Even after allowing that the legal rules of who can participate and how are more generous today than ever before, is our political system really more democratic, or is it less so?




By Ivan W. Parkins


     The recent radical changes in the price of oil should make us consider questions that may be more import than the oil situation.  How much of recent turmoil resulted from geology, production, and consumption and how much was due to opinion and political problems?  It is not a question with one black and white answer, but the shades of grey can vary greatly.


     Robin M. Mills has a Master’s Degree in geology; he had been employed by Shell Oil, and is since Petroleum Economics Manager for the Emirates of Dubai.  His book, THE MYTH OF THE OIL CRISIS, 2008, is formidable reading for an amateur like myself, full of technical details and references.  But, he does answer some popular arguments clearly and with apparent factual authority.


     One popular argument is that the “easy” oil is gone.  Mills contends that that idea is based largely upon a neglect of history and the related politics.  Colonel Drake’s first well, in 1859, was difficult and dangerous for the technology of that time; D’Arcy’s 1908 discovery of oil in the Middle East was also a formidable undertaking.  Today, what seems likely to be the easiest oil is not being developed mainly because of political bans.


     Another argument of those who want rapid change to other fuels is that the energy needed to produce oil from sources such as Canada’s tar-sands or from shale is so great as to make those sources uneconomic—EROEI (energy return on energy invested).  That is a reasonable off-the-top-of-the-head argument, but it ignores the facts. Shell computes its EROEI from shale at 3-5.5%.  Mills says that the ratio is even more favorable for nuclear and coal alternatives.


     He ridicules the idea of complete energy independence, citing North Korea and Myanmar as current examples, and very poor.  Expertise is to be regarded with a liberal portion of salt.  Mills quotes 1928 Nobel in physics winner Robert Millikan on the nuclear energy idea as a “utopian dream” and as “childish”.  Mills regards nuclear fusion as feasible within the lifetimes of persons now living.


      Is our oil crisis mostly an oil problem, or is it mostly an opinion and political problem? 121508 I.W.Parkins


By Ivan W. Parkins


     What pleases me most about the planned rescue of our auto makers is that both the President and the President-Elect favor it.  Greater unity in national leadership may be more important than the precise terms of any plan.


      The crisis of recent months has, in my opinion, been more of a panic than an economic crisis.  We remain very rich, but not well organized.  In that, this does resemble the early 1930s.  Then, FDR became a popular hero chiefly because he rescued us from the panic that destroyed several less mature democracies.  His economic measures were makeshifts, but what he did in advancement of national leadership and organization became a major blessing for us and for the free world during WWII. It also made possible much of the post-war social progress.


     How our auto industry will ultimately fare is problematic.  In the past, both railroads and steel have declined greatly after new competition made older business methods, especially labor practices, unprofitable.  Let us hope that those lessons are now applied.


Column, Daily Times-News, 12/13/69, Mt. Pleasant, MI

By Ivan W. Parkins

             How adequate is the technological explanation of Western power and influence in the world?  The rise of the West, beginning in the fifteenth century and ending (apparently) in the first half of this century, is often attributed to military and industrial technology.  That interpretation has now become the basis for charges that the West, especially the United States, is to technologically oriented, too lacking in humanity, to be fit for leadership.  It appears, however, that the technological explanation of Western dominion and the charges following from it rest chiefly upon the illusory perspective of looking backward.

             Five centuries ago, when Portugal and Spain began the explorations and conquests, which led to Western domination of the globe, Westerners held little, if any, technological advantage over the Arabs and the Oriental peoples.  In fact, Westerners were indebted to Arabs and Orientals for a very large part of their technology.  The rapid technological advance of the West, which is so much emphasized in our histories, did not produce a great margin of advantage until the nineteenth century.

             Clive, at Plassey, in 1754, faced an Indian army which not only outnumbered the British and native allies, but which also had more and heavier artillery.  Again and again in the colonial wars (at Fallen Timbers; in the Opium War, in the Philippines) Western armies relied heavily upon the bayonet.  It was not a few dozen muskets and suits of armor, which enabled a handful of conquistadors to take Mexico and Peru.  The advantage lay in the quality of Western political direction and discipline.

             Mention of the Opium War suggests another aspect of the problem.  The opium trade was promoted by Westerners, because of the difficulty of producing other commodities with which to pay for the products of the Orient.  Until late in the nineteenth century the West had few surpluses of manufactured goods and the East showed little desire for what the West did produce.

             The growth of Western power and influence are much more easily and adequately explained by such nonmaterial factors as nationalism and economic enterprise than by technology and material wealth.  Technological advantage and material wealth have resulted from the superior development and utilization of human resources made possible by Western politics and economics.

             The best argument for inverting the technological explanation of Western political and economic dominance is contemporary.  Recently, we have witnessed the emergence of Asian and African peoples as they acquired substantial knowledge of Western politics and economics.  The material and technological gaps between ourselves and those peoples are probably wider now than they have ever been in the past, yet former Western colonies and protectorates continue to gain independence.

             It is chiefly by an unhistorical projection into the past of our present technological pre-eminence that we are tempted to attribute the rise of the West to military and industrial technology.  Many of us have allowed our perspectives to be limited by contemporary technology.  But few of us have erred so egregiously or premised such a heavy burden of conclusions upon the error, as do those who now denounce, as merely technological, the heritage and achievements of the West.