« iepriekšējāTurpināt »
Air Force in May. I had just been nominated president of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), which was holding its annual meeting in Washington during the first week in May, and this seemed a good time to make the transition. Ironically, Elliot Richardson left the Defense Department before I did, to become U.S. attorney general.
As I prepared to leave the Air Force, I thought of all the talented and dedicated military and civilian individuals with whom I'd worked. I attempted to say good-bye while offering thanks by visiting several commands during my last week in office. I went to the headquarters of Strategic Air, Tactical Air, Airlift, Logistics, and Systems Acquisition Commands. Flying from one base to the next, I thought of our accomplishments and failures.
The most perplexing was our role in Southeast Asia. Our job there was finished and that was a blessing, but what had been accomplished? Could South Vietnam continue on its own without U.S. military involvement? Even so, was it worth the many American and Vietnamese lives? It was difficult even then to realize the magnitude of the casualties sustained during eight years of fighting. For an extended period, more than 300 body bags were filled and returned to the United States every week. Of course the public was greatly upset.
I remembered the rioting in Chicago at the time of the Democratic Convention in 1968, the shooting at Kent State University, the burning of American flags, and the trashing of ROTC classrooms. I believe there is general agreement now that our military intervention in Southeast Asia was a mistake. There has been a loss of confidence in our leaders. The public is much more skeptical of government than prior to our involvement in Asia. How did this happen?
Before addressing this question directly, it should be kept in mind that both the Johnson and Nixon administrations were faced with the deadly serious cold war. They had to consider the possible impact of their actions on responses by the Chinese and the Soviets in unison or separately. In addition, President Nixon didn't want to upset his delicate plans for opening relations with China. With that said, let me make a few personal observations with the benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight.
The McNamara-Johnson idea was to keep raising the ante. They reasoned that at some point, the communists would break. On the contrary, the more the communists were pounded, the greater their resolve became.
Johnson and McNamara were also naive in their belief that they could hold back communism by fighting the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army primarily in the South while attempting to close the supply routes through Laos.
It was the Nixon-Kissinger view that we should withdraw from Southeast Asia, but only by first strengthening South Vietnam so that it could go it alone. I believed in and supported Vietnamization, as this policy was called. However, this policy by itself didn't permit withdrawal rapidly enough. U.S. casualties during the Nixon administration (21,000) amounted to 36 percent of Americans killed during the war.
The only way to have prevented a communist takeover was to conduct an operation similar to Desert Storm, the successful thwarting of Iraq's plans to take over Kuwait in 1992. We had to attack the North Vietnamese forces and their supporting infrastructure at home. We did take such action but much too late and only when the North Vietnamese reneged on the 1972 peace accords. Although highly controversial at home, the so-called Christmas bombing of selected targets around Hanoi and the mining of Haiphong Harbor immediately brought the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. Early in the war, shipments along the rail lines from China to Hanoi could have been the Air Force's number one assignment, and Haiphong Harbor could have been blockaded by the Navy. Intercepting supplies and weapons in transit through Laos was nearly impossible, however. Moreover, trying to do so placed no direct pressure on North Vietnam.
If the risks of more direct attack on North Vietnam were felt to be too great, the only other option was to negotiate a U.S. withdrawal. President Nixon felt that South Vietnam would fall if the United States withdrew and that the whole area would be subject to a communist takeover according to the domino theory. Furthermore, he felt that the United States would be judged an unreliable ally in the world arena. I can only comment that this perception of the Untied States would, even if it existed, be temporary, but our extended stay in Southeast Asia was a permanent loss at home.
Today, the United States is the only superpower. We do have broad responsibilities in our own interests as well as in the interests of the world community. That said, it is my strong belief that we should never again. risk the lives of thousands of our young men and women unless the future of our country is directly at stake.
The National Academy of Engineering
HE National Academy of Engineering (NAE) was founded in
There had been quite a bit of concern within the engineering community that the NAS, founded by President Lincoln during the Civil War, did not adequately represent engineering on the Washington scene. So a small group of engineers within the NAS got together and recommended that a corresponding academy of engineering be formed. The NAS did not want the engineers approaching Congress for a new charter because the old one was very favorable and no one wanted to see it reopened for revision. So the engineers said, “Okay, as long as we can select our own members and can participate in the management of the National Research Council [the "business end" of the NAS, responsible for carrying out governmental studies], that will be fine."
But it wasn't fine. The third president of the NAE, Clarence Linder, and Philip Handler, president of the NAS, didn't speak. They were absolutely at loggerheads. Linder felt that the engineers weren't getting the time of day, and Handler got sick and tired of being hassled by the engineers. So the engineers came to the conclusion that they had to separate from the scientists, lock, stock, and barrel. It was onto this scene that I came as fourth president of the academy in May 1973.
The morning before the formal annual meeting convened I met with the academy's council. It was agreed that the membership should be asked at the annual meeting to abrogate the agreement with the NAS and go off on their own. Up to this point, I knew little about the rift between the two groups. I had been a member since 1967, and I had met with Clarence Linder a couple of times before becoming president
to try to find out what he thought the academy's function and goals were. But all I got out of him was a diatribe against Phil Handler.
At the annual meeting, the membership balked at the split. It was finally agreed that no vote would be taken until the new president had had a chance to review the situation. I hadn't been there very long when I started receiving a large number of letters. Out of maybe a hundred, only five or six were for secession. The common feeling seemed to be that there was great strength in the alliance between the scientific community and the engineering community. Furthermore, the two form a continuum-from pure science (the theory of relativity, for example) all the way through the application of science and "engineering science" to commercial development and production. To split the two ends of the continuum would be artificial and do a great disservice to the country. The Congress wouldn't always know on a given issue which academy to turn to. On top of which, our academy didn't have more than $50,000 in the bank, whereas the NAS had an endowment of $50 million!
During the summer I composed a two-page letter to Phil Handler in which I not only said that I didn't think we ought to split but also gave a formula for working more closely together. I pulled the old bureaucratic trick that I had learned at NASA and the Air Force of going in to see him with a draft letter and asking, “How would you like to receive this letter?"
He read it and said, "But it's too late."
Isaid, “Phil, if you believe it's the right thing to do and I believe it's the right thing to do, then it's not too late."
"Well, send me the letter." After he had received it, he invited me to come to the summer meeting of the council of the NAS and explain myself. Some members of the science academy were as negative toward the engineers as some of the engineers were toward them. Nevertheless, I told them that I thought it was a mistake to split. Furthermore, I said that the NAS, being the senior organization, had the final responsibility on all matters of policy dealing with the federal government. Reaffirming that we engineers still wanted a say in the National Research Council, I suggested that from thenceforth the council have seven members from the NAS, four members from the NAE, and two members from the Institute of Medicine. That way, if there was a real rift, the scientists would always have a majority and
could swing any vote their way. I further suggested that Phil Handler be chairman of the council, that I be vice chairman, and that all government studies, including those already under way in the NAE, be transferred to the National Research Council.
The scientists voted to back my proposals. Now all I had to do was get my fellow engineers to agree! Some weren't all that enthusiastic, but the majority went along with me. And Phil Handler and I came to enjoy being with each other and working together. I found him a brilliant, versatile man.
At the fall 1973 council meeting of the National Academy of Engineering, one of our members, W. Kenneth Davis from Bechtel, said, "From where I sit, I think this country is facing a difficult energy situation." In 1970, for the first time, the United States had imported more oil than it had exported. Oil imports were growing rapidly every year. I responded to Davis's concern by saying that the NAE ought to investigate. I invited him to chair a committee, and he agreed. By sheer coincidence, the committee met for the first time in October 1973, one week after the Arab oil embargo had begun. Cars were standing in long lines for partial fill-ups. Suddenly energy was the hot topic. Our committee's report, published in the spring of the following year, got a lot of publicity. We had a press conference and testified before Congress.
When Congress started looking at what we ought to do about the energy situation, they began talking about putting together an agency like NASA. Much to my surprise, I was invited to the Executive Office to discuss personnel for such an undertaking. After meeting with several supernumeraries, I was introduced to Frank Zarb, associate director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). He told me I was on the shortlist to be the administrator of a new energy agency. "Frank," I said, "you've got to be kidding." The legislation for the proposed new agency hadn't been passed yet, and I doubted that it would be. But I said I would be happy to discuss it with the President, if and when it became a reality.
In the summer of 1974, President Nixon resigned and was replaced by Gerald Ford. The enabling legislation for the Energy