In response to:

The New Shape of Nixon's World from the June 29, 1972 issue

To the Editors:

Despite my deep respect for I. F. Stone as an acute political analyst, I find myself disagreeing with his conclusions (“The New Shape of Nixon’s World,” NYR, June 29) that Nixon has pulled off a “successful gamble in Vietnam” and that Moscow and Peking have “acquiesced” in it.

I suggest that another interpretation is possible and preferable.

The Vietnamese patriots, Northerners and Southerners, have knocked the Nixon “Vietnamization” program to bits, and with it the infrastructure of the Thieu government. Even in America it is more and more obvious that only terrorization from the air keeps that government from collapsing. The idea that it can successfully take the offensive, except in territory where the noise of the bombs has been succeeded by the stillness of death, is hopeless. It is more and more obvious that Nixon can do nothing but kill. He cannot build a society, an economy, a state that will work.

In the meantime, there are certain problems, unconnected with Vietnam, that can be successfully negotiated, at least to a certain extent. In these circumstances, it seems to me that both the Soviet Union and China are following a sound policy. They are demonstrating that on reasonable matters they are ready to negotiate reasonably. At the same time they are letting the world see and hear that it is Nixon who relies on bombing the Vietnamese to the negotiating table (or “back to the Stone Age”), and that all the savage words of bluster and bombast come out of Washington. The Vietnamese are saying, “Let us alone, to mind our own business.” Nixon is saying, “I will not let you alone. I insist on minding your business.”

One of the rules of successful diplomacy is that when you are negotiating with an adversary whom you cannot convince, you should aim to convince the bystanders that it is the adversary, not you yourself, who is being unreasonable, brutal, savage, uncivilized. This diplomacy the Vietnamese, aided by the diplomacy of the Soviet Union, is pursuing with patience and heroism. The world is being convinced that the danger to civilization comes from America. The tragedy is that the American people, their senses dulled by years of slaughter and body-counting, are behind all the other peoples of the world in realizing this terrible truth.

Owen Lattimore

The University of Leeds


I.F Stone replies:

These tortuous apologetics remind me of those which followed the Nazi Soviet pact in 1939. China could have responded to the mining and bombing of Hanoi by opening its ports to Soviet supply ships and closing ranks with Moscow in support of Hanoi. Moscow, by postponing the summit in protest, would have raised pressure here and abroad upon Nixon to stop a bombing and blockade so severe Hanoi terms it an escalation to a war of extermination. Neither great power cared enough to interrupt its own “business” negotiations with Nixon, for all the fresh blood on his dirty hands.

This Issue

September 21, 1972