The Sweet Smell of Success

View from the Seventh Floor

by W.W. Rostow
Harper and Row, 178 pp., $4.80

Foreign and Other Affairs

by John Paton Davies Jr.
Norton, 219 pp., $4.00

From the seventh floor of the Department of State where the author of View from the Seventh Floor has his office as Counselor and Chairman of the Policy Planning Council, the international landscape looks pleasant enough. True, old problems remain to be solved, and new ones are to be expected. But compared to what it looked like a few years ago, there is improvement all around. Better still, the landscape has been transformed dramatically in recent years, dotted as it is with “crucial burning-points,” in accord with the desires, if not the plans, of those who dwell on the seventh floor of the Department of State.

It is more than a coincidence that things started to change for the better in January 1961 when the Administration of which Mr. Rostow is a prominent member took office. It is not only that Mr. Rostow is pleased by the view from the seventh floor, but he is also pleased with himself. Looking at a world so greatly improved, he cannot but feel satisfied with his own contribution to these improvements. Admittedly, this is not yet the seventh day on which we can rest content with what we have done during the week.

Three years out,” Mr. Rostow writes, “our feeling is that we are in mid-passage. Both abroad and at home we have made much more progress than is, perhaps, generally realized; but there is distance to travel before the great objectives defined by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, to which we remain committed and toward which we have moved, can be set down in the records of history as substantially accomplished.” Thus we are about at the end of the third day of Creation. We are satisfied with what we have done, and we look forward with confidence to what still remains to be done.

It is impossible to apply to this book the ordinary standards of scholarly criticism. This collection of speeches, supplemented by a magazine article, aims, according to the preface, at “explaining the government’s foreign policy to the public” and at “trying to make clear the relation of the parts to the whole.” In truth, it does nothing of the kind. Instead, with the exception of the few chapters on economic matters, which are brilliant and instructive, it tries to make a case for the foreign policy of the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations in so bland, smug, and one-sided a manner as to suggest a campaign document rather than objective analysis.

The momentous problems which in their intractability impose tragic choices upon the country are reduced to mere stumbling blocks on the path to success. They have been, or will be, removed by the engineering skill of the men of the seventh floor. What about Cuba? “When the American response forced the removal of missiles from Cuba, Moscow’s post-Sputnik offensive was over.” “The Cuban missile gambit was then mounted, and its denouement brought to an end, for the time being at least, the notion that vital interests …

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Letters

Chekhov September 24, 1964