MACLEAN’S REPORTS

The human side of implacable Dean Rusk

What man on earth could admit he let 15,000 men die for no good reason?

BLAIR FRASER February 1 1968
MACLEAN’S REPORTS

The human side of implacable Dean Rusk

What man on earth could admit he let 15,000 men die for no good reason?

BLAIR FRASER February 1 1968

The human side of implacable Dean Rusk

Backstage in Ottawa

What man on earth could admit he let 15,000 men die for no good reason?

UNTIL YOU MEET a man face to face it is curiously difficult to realize the most obvious thing about him — the simple fact that he is human. Therefore it was not until I met Dean Rusk in Washington, to arrange the interview that appears on page 9, that I understood the futility of expecting any major change in Vietnam policy from him or from the U.S. administration in which he is Secretary of State.

Not that Rusk is any more implacable or deaf to argument than other men. On the contrary, he was willing to hear and discuss any objection to American policy and any proposed solution of the problems of Southeast Asia. He had done so a thousand times, had heard and discussed every proposition that human ingenuity could conceive, and showed commendable patience in going yet again over ground so often traveled.

The point is not that Rusk won’t

listen. It’s that he and President Johnson have already made the key decisions and acted upon them. As a result some 15,000 young Americans have died and about 100,000 have been wounded, and so have countless thousands of Vietnamese on both sides of the 17th Parallel.

To urge a reversal of these decisions is to ask admission that they were wrong, and that the dead men died for nothing. This is not a tolerable thought for the men responsible. It could be entertained by men who had no part in making the decisions {Le., by a new administration, no matter what verbal opinions it might profess in advance) but not by those who have done the deed themselves. Words can be eaten, deeds of this magnitude cannot.

This human fact seems to be more clearly perceived in London than in Ottawa. Theoretically, a British Labor government should be more committed to immediate peace in Vietnam than a Canadian government that values its close ties with Washington. Labor’s left wing includes some of the most outspoken “doves” in the English-speaking world and might have been expected to cause serious trouble for a government already sore beset on other grounds. Nothing of the kind has happened. Prime Minister Harold Wilson has been able to ignore these critics and maintain with impunity a policy of support for the United States. ^

Conceivably, our support for the U.S. in Vietnam might cost us one scat in a general election,” a Labor MP told me. “In the House we have maybe 40 or 50 members who are unhappy about it, but they don’t raise the point very often. If they tried to make it an issue of confidence they’d get nowhere, because of course the Tories would be on our side.”

Tory spokesmen confirmed this appraisal. They have every confidence that the next election will put them back into power in Westminster, and they have no wish to complicate the problems of government by alienating the United States. Anyway, they see no feasible alternative to American policy in Vietnam. U.S. withdrawal, in their view, would lead to unpredictable dislocations all over the world, including the Middle East.

Thus there is no support, among the inner circle of U.S. allies, for the dovelike attitudes and utterances recently popular in Ottawa. But there is also another, even less gratifying reason why Canadian appeals for bombing pauses are ignored in Washington.

Dean Rusk has known < Paul Martin well for years. He knows, among other things, that Martin is not only the secretary of state for external affairs but also a leading candidate for the Liberal leadership and the office of prime minister. It is therefore an accepted doctrine in the U.S. State Department that Martin is cooing like a dove because he thinks it will appeal to more Liberal delegates than any other bird-call in April.

Authorized as second-class mail. Post Office Department, Ottawa.

However unjust or erroneous this sotion may be, it is now an indelible part of the current convention¿1 wisdom in Washington. According-

ly, Canadian “initiatives” for peace in Vietnam are unlikely to have much effect. BLAIR FRASER