Why Does the United States Need 220,000,000 Ski Instructors?

Bruce Herschensohn
Author, The Gods of the Antenna

Bruce HerschensohnFor twelve years Bruce Herschensohn has been the nightly political commentator for KABC-TV “Eyewitness News” in Los Angeles. Prior to joining the ABC affiliate, he spent over a decade in Washington, D.C. serving as an assistant to the President during the Nixon administration and as the director of the Motion Picture and Television Service of the U.S. Information Agency. He was also a member of the Reagan transition team in 1980. He is the author of The Gods of the Antenna and has written for the New York Times, Newsweek the Washington Post, and USA Today.

Mr. Herschensohn delivered this presentation at Hillsdale during the Center for Constructive Alternatives seminar on "The Humane Holocaust: The Auschwitz Formula."

Eighteen years ago John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President of the United States, and he gave what I believe to be one of the greatest inaugural speeches in our history. If, however, he were to give that inaugural address today, then tomorrow the House Committee on the Judiciary would undoubtedly be meeting for the purpose of drawing up a bill for his impeachment. The thoughts that he expressed then have been totally rejected in the minds of the American policy makers of 1979. President Kennedy said, “…let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty…”

But that was in 1961. And today we’ve let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill that we shall pay no more cost, bear no more burdens, meet no more hardships, and that we’ll betray a friend and befriend a foe in order to assure the survival and the success of apathy.

On the day that President Kennedy was inaugurated I had just returned from a very long overseas trip and one of the stops was Germany. I was young enough to ask bold, and maybe even rude, questions. Since World War II had, at that time, ended only fifteen years earlier, I knew that everyone over the age of 35 must have had a story to tell. I was wrong. No stories. It seems that those I talked to told me that during those war years they were ski instructors. None that I talked to had known during the war what was going on. They said they learned the truth when they returned from the mountains in late 1945 and had put away their skis.

I suppose I had a short-lived prejudice, and thank God it was short-lived; I thought to myself, “Is there something in the German nature that made this kind of thing possible?” Wrong. It’s not German nature, but human nature. Many years later, in fact just a couple of years ago, there was a CBS television show in which Dan Rather was going through the remains of a concentration camp with the very noted Nazi hunter Mr. Simon Weisenthal, and Mr. Weisenthal was showing him various areas of the camp. Dan Rather looked over the fence and saw a village and he asked if that village was there when the concentration camp was in operation. Mr. Weisenthal said it was. Dan Rather was stunned, exclaiming that he couldn’t imagine that those people knew what was going on and didn’t do anything about it. Dan Rather just couldn’t believe it. But it was hypocrisy of Mr. Rather because at that very moment a holocaust was going on of which Dan Rather was well aware, and the network for which he worked was well aware, the holocaust of Cambodia. It was barely reported for years.

The holocaust of the 1940’s was prelude to other holocausts and may well be prelude to still more, and the United States, I’m afraid, has turned into a nation of ski instructors. It all started in the spring of 1975 after the April 30th surrender of South Viet Nam. It evolved into a much larger surrender: an American surrender. It came about by one American saying to another American, that never, never again can we allow another Viet Nam. It almost became one word: “anothervietnam.” And the whole world heard us and knew that every conflict to come would be viewed by the United States as “anothervietnam.”

When we use that phrase, we forfeit all power, all decisions, all territories wanted to those who don’t call conflicts another vietnam. Because if one side is prepared to fight until victorious, calling their conflicts “wars of national liberation,” and the other side has preannounced its unwillingness to risk another vietnam, then it is an open invitation to tyranny, to all terrorists, all expansionists, to do their will. And they are doing their will.

I am convinced that our government’s motive is not evil in any way, but it’s the breeder of evil and if our policy continues, then tyranny over liberty is the destiny of this planet.

Only a few years ago, the United States was recognized as the uncontested leader of the free world, and I’m using the phrase “the free world” in the way that divisions are made between the free world, the communist controlled world, and what’s called the Third World. But today we have not only resigned our leadership of the free world; we have resigned our membership. I certainly don’t dispute that we are the freest country of the globe, but in terms of international policy, we have become aligned with the Third World. And a new world order is being brought into existence for your generation. The result of our obsessional fear with anothervietnam combined with our unadvertised international membership in the Third World can be witnessed right here and right now by taking an imaginary trip around the world, following the sun, going westward. For brevity’s sake we’ll just stop off at perhaps a dozen countries:

First, across the Pacific Ocean to the Republic of China on Taiwan, where we’ve already made our choice, and we all know what that choice is. In fact, my use of the expression the Republic of China on Taiwan is only from diplomatic habit, because through the eyes of current American policy it is only a piece of geography and it’s called Taiwan and Taiwan is part of China, and Peking is the sole legal government of China. I’m quoting the President’s words of last December the 15th.

The breakthrough with the People’s Republic of China last December the 15th was the following: The People’s Republic of China had always made three demands for diplomatic recognition between Washington and Peking; one, that we take all our troops out of the Republic of China on Taiwan; two, that we break diplomatic relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan, and three, that we abrogate the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1954 with the Republic of China on Taiwan. To those demands President Nixon said “no” in 1972, Gerald Ford said “no” in 1975, and Jimmy Carter said “yes” in 1978, and that was the breakthrough. What we did, in fact, was trade a partnership with a friend who fought to save American lives, in exchange for a partnership with one who killed American lives.

Now the reason President Carter gives for this is what he calls a recognition of reality: that there are nearly a billion people on the mainland. I might add that there would be 35 to 64 million more if they hadn’t killed them all, but we don’t discuss human rights in connection with the People’s Republic. And, he claims that whether or not we like a government, if it’s there, we should recognize it. It sounds logical enough, but every international observer knows that if recognition of reality were truly our motive, then consistency would dictate that we recognize, say, the government of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. After all, like it or not, Ian Smith’s government has been ruling the people of Rhodesia since Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1965. The reason we don’t recognize it is simply because we don’t like it, and that’s all there is to it. But, of course, Salisbury is not Peking.

Recognition of reality also means that we reject the standards of the free world and adopt the lack of standards of the third world.

Let’s leave Taiwan and go to Korea where the new reality dictates that while new tunnels are being dug beneath the 38th parallel from the north to the south, and while a huge military buildup is taking place in North Korea, that we respond by saying that nothing will stand in the way of withdrawing American troops. Kim Il-Sung, who is the leader of North Korea, was asked by a reporter from Paris about the differences between the north and the south and he answered, “Unification between the north and the south will begin as soon as the American withdrawal is completed.”

Moving westward there is no need to stop in the capital of the new holocaust, Southeast Asia. The tragic war in which thousands were killed is over and it has been replaced by a more tragic peace in which millions have been killed. And the remnants are spilling out all over the South China Sea. That’s where we should stop and take a look. Two hundred thousand boat people are in the South China Sea. Add to that four hundred thousand other refugees from Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia who came by land to Thailand, Malasia, Hong Kong, and other destinations. All of these people want to live free so much that they have risked death to make that attempt, and each boat is filled with a cargo of absolute human misery. The United States seems to say, “Gee, that’s just terrible, just awful,” then we go on to other things. Some refugees have been picked up, but most of them remain a part of that cargo. Something is wrong when a few months back all of us were so horrified and stunned at hundreds taking their own lives in Guyana, yet we seem to yawn at the plight of hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians who are doing everything in the world just to stay alive and live free. A month ago two hundred of them drowned after they escaped the closed world and were rejected from the free world. And I just don’t understand how we allow this to happen. I know the question is always asked, “Well, what should we do?” First, it just seems to me that we should do what we did in 1948 during the Berlin blockade, that is if we’re still the leader of the free world and if we still have a conscience. We should rush an airlift of food, medicine and supplies—enough to keep them alive and in reasonable health. We should do that today. And tomorrow we should pick them up and bring them to a safe refuge whether it be a carrier or an island and we should process them quickly, and bring them to a final destination. And if it’s to our own shores, good. If those who seek life and liberty are rejected by those who already have both, then those who already have life and liberty aren’t worthy of either. To reject them is clearly to choose their deaths over an inconvenience for ourselves.

On to Afghanistan where last year there was a Marxist coup that created less attention in the United States than the firing of Bella Abzug. We say that the reason that it happened was because of an intelligence failure. Of course, there was an intelligence failure. After the convening of congressional and executive committees of 1975 and the media’s public harassment of our intelligence organizations, there is no way that this country could retain its intelligence capabilities. I have to ask how many of you would today volunteer, if you were a foreign national, to be an informer for the Central Intelligence Agency? The threat is not that you’ll be found out by the KGB, but that you’ll be found out by either the American media or by the House of Representatives or by the Senate or even the Executive Branch, and that your name will be exposed. The truth is that within the past two years foreign informers have decreased 95%.

Next door to Afghanistan another intelligence failure: Iran. No, it’s more than an intelligence failure. Before the fall of Iran, Leonid Brezhnev ordered a military alert and he warned President Carter that any interference in “the internal affairs of Iran” would be considered a matter affecting the security of the Soviet Union. His statement seemed to suggest that Iran was a satellite of the Soviet Union rather than an ally of the United States. In less than twenty-four hours Leonid Brezhnev had his response. Secretary Vance assured him that we would not interfere “in the internal affairs of Iran” and a few days later President Carter reiterated Vance’s pledge. In short, we publicly told both the external and internal opposition to the Shah that we would not forcefully oppose the overthrow of the government. There were so many alternatives that we could have turned to. For one, we could have called an emergency meeting of NATO. Just the psychological factor of President Carter getting on a plane rushing to an emergency session in Brussels and other chiefs of state going to Brussels for that session would have had great impact upon both the external and internal opposition to the Shah. For another, we could have lived up to our CENTO agreement, threatening the use of force since Iran is a member of CENTO and each member of CENTO is pledged to the other’s mutual security. A willingness to use force has often prevented the use of force in the past.

There is a more basic question that comes to the surface almost immediately when the Shah of Iran is mentioned or other authoritarian states are mentioned, whether they be in the Mideast, Africa, Asia, or Latin America, and that’s the question, “Should we retain friendship with authoritarian rulers?” Obviously, our support should always be for true democracies, but realistically there are only about a couple of dozen true democracies left on the globe. The rest of the world is divided between authoritarian and totalitarian states, and the conflicts of the world demand that we look at the real and not the imaginary world. Those conflicts demand that we try to work out solutions to the problems as they really exist rather than as we wish they existed. In Cuba, the choice wasn’t between Batista and Jefferson, it was between Batista and Castro. In Viet Nam the choice wasn’t between President Thieu and President Lincoln, it was between President Thieu and Ho Chi Minh and later President Thang. In Cambodia the choice wasn’t between Lon Nol and Woodrow Wilson, it was between Lon Nol and Pol Pot and now the Vietnamese. In Angola the choice wasn’t between Jonas Savimbi and Dwight Eisenhower, it was between Jonas Savimbi and Agostino Neto. And finally, in Iran, the choice wasn’t between the Shah and Jimmy Carter, it was between the Shah and the Ayatollah Khomeini. Since the truth is that there are only a couple of dozen true democracies left in the world, then we should define the differences between the authoritarian and totalitarian states. One has abolished all civil liberties, while the other has varying degrees of liberty. One is expansionist subverting its neighbors and attempting to take them over, while the other is self-confined. One doesn’t allow its citizens to leave its borders, imprisoning its citizens behind watchtowers, minefields, barbwire, walls, while the other permits and encourages free immigration. Yet we ignore all of that, and those who yell that authoritarian governments must go—the Jane Fondas and Ramsey Clarks and Daniel Ellsbergs and others—wash their hands of all responsibility when the easily predictable alternative comes into power with death and concentration camps as the ultimate victors.

Going on to the Mideast, we find an ironic inconsistency in our foreign policy. When an enemy wins a war of aggression, such as the North over South Viet Nam, or Mao’s revolution on the mainland of China or Castro in Cuba, the United States seems to accept that as final. But, when a friend wins a war of defense such as Israel did in 1967, we insist the territory won should be returned. It’s worth remembering that when President Sadat made his very courageous initiative by going to Jerusalem, the Carter administration was not happy with that initiative. It didn’t want it. It wanted all the Mideast parties to go to Geneva under the auspices of the United States and, strangely enough, the Soviet Union. But when the White House became deafened by the world’s applause for what Anwar Sadat was offering, in defiance of President Carter’s Geneva plan, the White House joined in that applause and then said to Israel, “You must give something back in return.” We should have stayed out of it. Vice Premier Teng didn’t give anything back in return for our recognition. Who has? Before the Carter administration demanded that Israel return its occupied territory, it should have re-read American history. The Indians didn’t exactly demand that we take over their land and today, in truth, Jimmy Carter is President of what is largely an occupied territory. Israel is indeed fortunate that Anwar Sadat is President of Egypt, but Sadat is not immortal and Israel’s negotiating position would be enhanced if it were left between the two parties.

Next door to the Mideast is the continent of Africa, where it seems logical to many that the United States should continue to oppose the governments of South Africa and Southwest Africa or Namibia, as it’s called, and Rhodesia, which is soon to be called Zimbabwe. There’s absolutely no question about the fact that they are three minority governments. There’s also no question about the fact that minority governments are morally wrong and that the majority should rule. But, of the 41 other African nations 18 of them are military dictatorships, 21 of them are led by self-appointed presidents for life, and only two of them have elected majorities. Other than Botswana and The Gambia, all the African states are ruled by minorities dictating to majorities. Yet our government only pressures those three governments that at this time are being fought against by totalitarians. And our government has taken the side of the totalitarians. The other minority governments we either praise or leave alone.

Next, we move up to Europe where the forces of NATO become weaker each day as the opposing forces of the Warsaw Pact become stronger each day. In 1961 it was said that “only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they’ll never be employed.” That was our justification of our build-up in arms which proved itself during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But today we say only when our arms are reduced beyond doubt, and a SALT agreement is signed and the B1 bomber is stopped, and the building of a nuclear aircraft carrier is cancelled, and the Minute Man assembly line is brought to a stand-still, and our navy is cut in half; only then can we be certain beyond doubt that no one will attack us. Today, a chief concern of our European allies is the proposed SALT II Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. This treaty has also become the highest priority of the Carter administration. If it’s enacted, it will make us the first power in history to seek permission of an adversary before building weapons of defense against that adversary. The first question that we should ask is, “Can the Soviets be trusted to keep their side of the agreement?” And the shelves of international law offices answer the question, their volumes filled with broken treaties and agreements of the Soviet Union from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, on to the League of Nations, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, the agreement of Bratislava between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia, and most recently, the violations of the SALT I Treaty and the Helsinki Accords.

Having answered that question, the most important question then becomes the whole theory of mutuality. Should the United States sign an agreement that gives us only parity or mutuality of strategic weapons? That puts us at a tremendous disadvantage even if the agreements will be kept. The reason is that every nation in the world recognizes that the United States is not going to strike first. We’re not famous for our Pearl Harbors. We haven’t used nuclear weapons since the end of World War II. No matter the defeats we suffered overseas, including Viet Nam, not once did we use nuclear weapons. The threat of a first strike rests with the Soviet Union. And if not a first strike, then nuclear blackmail based on a first strike. Therefore, our mutuality of forces, once achieved, will be lost immediately. Soviet character and their past record dictates that we must have initial superiority of forces to be secure.

Next, across the Atlantic we go to Latin America, and stop at Nicaragua where there have been 22 armed invasion attempts by Cubans in the last decade. A half-year ago, the Sandinistas National Liberation Front announced its intentions to join with the Palestine Liberation Organization for the purpose of fighting Israel, Nicaragua and “U.S. Imperialism.” Why? President Anastasio Somoza’s trouble started back in 1961 when President Kennedy requested that Nicaragua be used as a base for the CIA to launch its Bay of Pigs invasion. At tremendous risk, President Somoza agreed. Within a month of that time. Castro publicly announced that President Somoza would live to regret the decision that he gave President Kennedy. He has lived to regret that decision. Further, he offered both President Johnson and President Nixon Nicaraguan troops to fight along side our troops in Viet Nam. Now, we’re paying him back. We have just made a demand that an election be held in Nicaragua prior to the constitutionally provided election that will occur in 1981. We have also demanded that the electoral districts be redefined as the opposition to President Somoza wants them, and that registration of voters does not take place. President Somoza wants normal registration because he fears foreigners will cross the borders and vote. Further, we have demanded that President Somoza leave the country before the election, not allowing him to campaign. That isn’t all. We have demanded that his family leave with him, and if he loses the election we have insisted that Somoza and his family be banished from Nicaragua until the next election. Would any Chief of State agree to these demands? Would ours?

Our American policy is now well known to the chiefs of state of Latin America: to befriend Castro is to have both Castro and the United States as allies. But to befriend the United States is to have both Castro and the United States as enemies.

The last stop before coming home is Cuba itself. We’ll ignore the Panama Canal. Today in Cuba, Soviet pilots fly in MIG 23’s in direct defiance of the Kennedy-Krushchev agreement of 1962. And we do absolutely nothing about it. Though we tend to call the incident in 1962 the Cuban missile crisis, it’s an inaccurate description of the event. The United States insisted that both missiles and aircraft—there were 33 of them called IL28’s—be removed from Cuba at the same time, and only then would we release our blockade. Shortly after the removal of the missiles and the IL28’s, there was an exchange of letters between President Kennedy and Chairman Krushchev which, in fact, was an agreement that the U.S. wouldn’t invade Cuba and Krushchev would promise that the Soviet Union would never again bring offensive weaponry into Cuba. Since late 1962 the United States has been conducting overflights to make sure that the agreement was kept. We stopped in 1977, since President Carter felt those overflights were interfering with relations between the United States and Cuba. Today offensive weapons are back in Cuba. Not a word is said by the administration. But not a word would be expected to be said by the newest member of the Third World.

Ninety miles from Cuba is Florida. We’re back in the United States and it’s winter and we’re skiing.

I want to repeat that I am positive that President Carter’s motivation is not evil. I believe that his motivation is to avoid an immediate crisis, but by doing that, he has engaged this nation in a policy of postponement. Each delay guarantees that the impending crisis is going to be larger than it would have been the day before. Just like a person, a nation has to make the difficult decisions as a master or it’s destined to make them as a slave.

Near the conclusion of John Kennedy’s inaugural address he said, “Let the word go forth that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of human rights around the world.” Today, less than two decades later, we witness and permit the accelerated undoing of human rights around the world as we become a member of the Third World.

Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy. Only we can do that.

Let’s end the snowstorm and keep alive his words that echo what should always be the spirit and the meaning of the United States of America.