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About Ivan W. Parkins

 

©Ivan W. Parkins 2014,  All articles, text, web pages property of Ivan W. Parkins.  Use of any material requires permission of the

author and can be obtained by contacting,  rwhinkle@americanpoliticalcommentary.com

Mt. Pleasant, Michigan 2014

Front Page

Volume 7, Issue 1

January 1, 2014

THE DIVISION OF AMERICA

The Intellectuals

By Ivan W. Parkins

 

             A MAJOR FACTOR IN America’s division into social factions, and into two political factions that are increasingly committed to two hostile political parties, has been the precipitous growth of professions that think of themselves as THE INTELLECTUALS.  Very rapid growth of higher education, television, legal endeavors and related professions has provided careers to millions.  And, where millions of ambitious people seek employment they can discover, or create, the need for more of it.  But, how much more is beneficial to society?  And, how can less intellectually inclined, but often talented, citizens pay for the training and employment of THE INTELLECTUALS?  America’s political fracturing is partly the result of this. 

             We have learned a good deal about the political need for some restraints on accumulations of wealth through banking and trade.  We need now, to consider some restraints upon THE INTELLECTUALS, especially upon the large numbers that the rest of us must pay to create and employ.

ACADEMIC CRITICS OF VIETNAM

       (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.

  WHOSE TYRANNY?

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.

 

MORALS, MILITARY and the INTELLECTUAL

Opinion column, Daily Times-News, 02/18/70, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

 

 

The human toll of military combat is so great that only a brute or a fool could fail to question the causes and excuses for war. It is not easy, however, to comprehend what a specific military effort, such as that in Vietnam, costs and accomplishes, apart from the combat itself.

 

SATURDAY REVIEW, February 14, 1970, carries an “essay review” by Father (Professor) Daniel Berrigan, S.J., who admits to having destroyed draft records and other acts of protest. The burden of the review is an emotional charge of insensitivity and brutality aimed at the military. It is illustrated with references to a particularly nasty incident of rape and murder committed by Americans in Vietnam. With monumental self-righteousness, the reviewer juxtaposes his behavior to that of the persons, “whose decisions make such crimes inevitable.”

 

That numerous crimes, unrelated to combat, have been committed by our troops in Vietnam is not to be doubted. But the crime rate of Americans is also regrettably high under other circumstances. If military leaders are personally responsible for crimes of our troops, what responsibility do clergymen and professors bear for the crimes of errant church members and students?

          

             Nowhere does Father Berrigan assert, much less attempt to prove, that the crimes of our troops in Vietnam are more numerous or more brutal than the crimes which similar numbers of young Americans commit as civilians in the United States. Neither is any evidence offered that the South Vietnamese would enjoy a more secure life in the absence of our troops. In short, nothing more substantial than the tone of the review would contradict even the extreme hypothesis that our military presence in Vietnam is having a humane and salutary effect upon both our own men and the South Vietnamese.

 

Berrigan is unabashedly eloquent in both his charges against those who support the Vietnam War and the sanctimony of his claims for the protesters. But his eloquence is an affectation of diction and style, utterly lacking in logic and substance. Such a polemic discloses much more about the character of the persons who write, publish, and accept it than it does about the character of those it maligns. Logically, it is an expression of crude prejudice against a superficially defined group of “others,” and does not deserve to be treated with greater dignity than any other outburst of bigotry.

 

That a work so lacking in the elements of logic and reason should be chosen for publication in a magazine as prominent as SATURDAY REVIEW can only raise doubts about the probity and integrity of the magazine’s editors.

 

How much of the intellectual establishment has committed itself so self-righteously against the war in Vietnam that it feels no need to examine its own position and arguments? And, since intellectuals claim exemption from conventional demands of patriotism based on their special role as thinkers, is not gross neglect of that endeavor evidence of moral turpitude?

 

 ©I.W. Parkins (2/18/1970)