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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In This Issue: 




       (From my column, Daily Times-News, February 25, 1970.)

By Ivan W. Parkins


     Among academic authorities critical of American policy in Vietnam few, if any, rank higher than Hans J. Morgenthau.  As a director and professor of the international relations program at the University of Chicago, he had contributed to the education of hundreds of specialists in the field.  He is the author of several books, dozens of articles, and scores of public addresses on international relations.  At least twice in the past year the editors of the DETROIT FREE PRESS have relied heavily upon his authority to support attacks on American policy.

     Having a slight acquaintance with Professor Morgenthau, and a more extensive one with some of his protégé's and writings, I remain unconvinced by his stand on Vietnam.  Some of my reasons will, I hope, be of interest to others.

     For one thing, in 1965, Professor Morgenthau’s articles in the NEW REPUBLIC and the NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE dwelt heavily upon the danger of war with China and the possibility that our Vietnam effort would reunite the communist world.  In those matters he seems to have been a very poor prophet.

     Also, he relies, in virtually everything I have read or heard from him, upon his great self-assurance plus the suggestion that his opposition is naïve.  At a meeting in Akron, Ohio nearly twenty years ago, I witnessed his ridicule of Professor Frederick Shuman, another leading authority on international relations.  Professor Shuman was noted for his advocacy of a more conciliatory approach to the Communists, and for his concern with world opinion, while Morgenthau was then following a more militaristic, power politics, line.  Especially in view of Professor Morgenthau’s position today, I have some difficulty in excusing his attitude towards Schuman.

     If I am too sensitive of Professor Morgenthau’s arrogance, it may be because I was once the victim of it.  As his student, in 1946, I dared to dispute some of his assertions and was cut down.  The point in dispute was the possibility of revolutions in the future.  He asserted in lectures, and in his POLITICS AMONG NATIONS, 1948, that technological developments had made revolutions obsolescent.  Being much interested in guerrilla warfare, especially the techniques of the Chinese Communists, I questioned that, and was quickly made aware of my immaturity as a scholar.  The 1948 edition of Professor Morgenthau’s book, a great academic success, took no notice of political developments in technologically backward parts of the world.

     Now, Professor Morgenthau is contending that revolutions of national liberation, because of the faith of the revolutionaries, are virtually immune to defeat by military technology.  Somehow, I have the feeling that his present view is no less extreme, and no less myopic, than was his very different view of twenty-four years ago.

 .  .  .  .   .  .

     When one looks at some of the predictions of leading academic critics of the Vietnam War—Schlesinger, that Khe Sanh would be worse than Dien Bien Phu,, and Gailbraith, that President Thieu would not last two weeks after Tet, 1968—it is difficult to believe that such people were making reasoned judgments based upon study of the issue.

     The most common theme of academic criticisms is that the American public and its official leadership are prejudiced or naïve.  The Domino Theory, a moral crusade against communism, belief that communism is still monolithic, and similar ideas are first attributed to the public and to officials and, then, discredited as gross oversimplifications.  Granted that such things may sometimes have limited public and official understanding of the Vietnam issue, I see no reason for believing that the academic critics of our policy have done better.  Claims of the academic critics to special probity regarding Vietnam would, it seems to me, have to rest upon the degrees and positions that they hold rather than upon their performance. 



 From my column January 13, 1971, in the Daily Times-News:

By Ivan W. Parkins


     What does “no cities response” mean to you?  Does it relate to problems of our social environment, to ecology, or to military policy?  I confess that, until very recently, no cities response was (unlike black power, synergetic effects, and the military-industrial complex) new terminology to me.  I was chagrined, therefore, to read that, “No understanding of American national security policy is possible without knowledge of it.”


     I teach, or try to teach, a little about national security policy in my American government courses.  I’ve checked the textbooks I use, they don’t mention no cities response.  I’ve checked several competitive textbooks; they have sections on national security policy, but no mention of no cities response.


     It was from Louis Heren’s book THE NEW AMERICAN COMMONWEALTH, that I got the idea that no cities response might be something important.  Heren is a Washington correspondent for THE TIMES OF LONDON.  He contends that no cities response is “the military strategy of the United States, and as with American diplomacy it has become the strategy that dominates the world.”  Is no cities response a military secret?  Heren cites as its origin a public address by Secretary of Defense McNamara at the University of Michigan, June 16, 1962.


     I gather from the growing emphasis upon seaborn nuclear forces, the scattering of land-based missiles in isolated places, the efforts to develop more accurate rather than larger weapons that no cities response is actually a part of contemporary strategy and not some figment of  Defense Department public relations.  My concern at the moment is not with the policy itself, but with why it gets so little attention.


     One of the principal reviews of Louis Heren’s book, that in ATLANTIC, February, 1968, emphasized Heren’s treatment of national security policy.  It did not, however, mention no cities response.  The next issue of ATLANTIC was devoted to a denunciation of our military policies, under the title SUPERNATION AT PEACE AND WAR.


     It would be difficult to reconcile no cities response with the stereotype of a military policy so narrow and callous that it can lead only to petulance and self-destruction.  Is that why it get so little notice in the press and the textbooks?  No cities response contradicts the picture of our military policy which most journalists and professors are trying to promote.



   Chance and my long interest in public affairs have revealed a few key points to me.  It began in my teens, the later 1930s. Early in the 1940s I became a midshipman.  With the USNA’s Color Company, I marched in FDR’s third inaugural parade.  The brief comment that my classmates attached to my graduation picture, cited my frequent discussions of public affairs.


     On Monday, following the Japanese surrender, I submitted my resignation from the Navy.  It was accepted, and in January 1946, I began graduate studies in philosophy and government.  One of my early courses was with the professor who would probably do more than any other in America to certify new professors of international relations, and to shape their opinions.  (Some with whom I became acquainted were virtual “disciples.”)


By Ivan W. Parkins

     Charles Kadushin authored a book entitled THE AMERICAN INTELLECTUAL ELITE in 1974.  It was a systematic effort to identify 100 persons who, according to their mutual regard, ranked at the top of America’s pyramid.  John K. Galbraith was a widely accepted choice for first place.  Most were writers, especially for elite periodicals, and many lived in or near New York City.  Among them, severely critical views of our war in Vietnam was one point of general agreement.


     Questioned regarding their chief sources of information on the war, they cited three particular individuals most frequently.  The only one who was primarily a professor and international relations expert was Hans Morgenthau.  Also in the top three were Bernard Fall, a man who had specialized academically and journalistically in French Indo China and in France’s war there prior to our own.  David Halberstam, an American journalist with broad experience in combat coverage for the NEW YORK TIMES and lesser journals was the third key source.


     My brief acquaintance with Fall, also with General Maxwell Taylor, occurred in 1966 at Asheville Biltmore College (now UNC-A).  A senior retired Foreign Service officer on our staff had set up a public forum on the Vietnam War.  As ranking faculty member and chairman of political science, I was invited to join General Taylor and others at luncheon, and to escort the General around campus, visiting classes, in the afternoon.  General Taylor had been an ambassador to Vietnam, aide to President Johnson, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  With Mr. Fall and President Highsmith of ABC, I spent a leisurely dinner and discussion.


    My principal questions to both experts concerned whether or not the public information available, if I chose it wisely, was sufficient to explain the issues relating to our Vietnam War effort.  Both men seemed to agree that all essential information was available to a private person who looked for it thoughtfully.


     Although the two men’s views differed greatly regarding our pursuit of and progress in the war, they did not suggest that any information vital to understanding it was unavailable to the public. My basic viewpoint, that unequal emphasis and neglect  of equally pertinent facts by our media of information was more important than any government misinformation or censorship was reinforced. But, the backlog of disinformation and suspicions imposes upon Americans a handicap that makes any favorable outcome quite uncertain.


By Ivan W. Parkins

    From my column: the Daily Times-News, November 29, 1972:

     This article is an illustration of the use of words and it’s purposeful misinterpretation .

     James Reston, in a recent column, charges President Nixon with contributing to a tyranny of words.  Reston says that corruption of our political thinking leads to misuse of words, and that imprecise use of words further corrupts our political thinking.  With that major premise I am inclined to agree.  But Reston comes to his anti-Nixon conclusion by choosing “permissiveness” as his contemporary example of misused words.  President Nixon, Reston charges, equates permissiveness with slackness and selfishness of character.  I doubt that the President’s usage constitutes any gross abuse, and I further doubt that permissiveness is one of the most abused words in our contemporary politics.


     “Genocide” has been used by antiwar protesters and by black militants with a recklessness sufficient to disregard even growth in those populations allegedly being exterminated.  Mr.Reston’s own paper, THE NEW YORK TIMES, greeted President Nixon’s Cambodian incursion as a “Compulsive Escalation,” in spite of the fact that Richard Nixon is one of the least compulsive and most calculating men ever to lead this country.  “Escalation” was also the scare word of the antiwar movement for our response to the massive North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam last spring.   .  .  .  .


     Reston charges that the President is permissive toward “the most wasteful military establishment in history.”  Mr. Reston deals so recklessly with the awesome history of military waste that we are almost stunned into overlooking the fact that President Nixon has actually reduced the portion of this nation’s wealth which goes to the military to the lowest level in a quarter of a century.  And his obscuring that fact leaves Reston guilty of something more serious than stretching the meaning of permissiveness.


                    THE BATTLE OF WORDS

     The previous article is an illustration of the constant misinformation war that has been going on for a very long time and this battle of words is constant reminder that truth must be promoted in all endeavors, but especially in the realm of public information and America is losing that battle

By Ivan W. Parkins


     It has long been, and it is, my conclusion that the greatest battle America has been losing is the battle of words.  A minority of Americans, favorably situated in the institutions that provide most of our public news and views, has deprived America of key elements of truth.


     That has been mostly a matter of emphasis and neglect.  Nearly all of the most pertinent truths have remained available “somewhere,” often in common references and public libraries.  But the capacity of a minority: journalists, teachers, and artists, to make some items common knowledge and to ignore other items that are of equal or greater pertinence has become a threat to the future of America.


     Now, in 2009, we have on our hands a crisis that is, in part, the product of our decades long war of words.  The information media are becoming more competitive.  But, the backlog of disinformation, suspicion, and illusions imposes upon Americans a handicap that makes any favorable outcome quite uncertain.