Everywhere I went in Formosa I asked the same question .
I was searching for an accent of self-delusion or , even , of hypocrisy .
I never found it among any of the Chinese with whom I spoke , though granted they were , almost all , members of the official family who , presumably , harbor official thoughts .
But I questioned , also , professional soldiers , who would not easily be hypnotized by a septuagenarian's dreamy irredentism .
Their answer was : it can be done , and we will do it .
And then I put the question as pointedly as I could directly to Chiang Kai-shek : `` In America '' , I said , `` practically no one believes that you subjectively intend to re-enter the Mainland .
What evidence is there of an objective kind that in fact your government proposes to do just that , and that it can be done '' ? ?
He smiled .
( He always smiles -- at least at visitors , I gather .
He smiled also at a British bloke seated next to me , who asked the most asinine questions .
I recalled sympathetically the Duke's complaint in Browning's `` My Last Duchess '' .
) He smiled , and said a word or two to the interpreter , who turned to me , `` The President wonders where you are going after you leave Taipei '' ? ?
That , I smarted , is a royal rebuff if ever there was one .
I answered the routine question about my itinerary , rather coolly .
Chiang spoke again , this time at greater length .
`` The President says '' , the translator came in , `` that the reason he asked you where you were going is because he hoped you would be visiting other areas in Southeast Asia , and that everywhere you went , you would seek the answer to your question .
He says that if he were to express to you , once again , his own profound determination to go to the Mainland , and his faith that that return is feasible , he would merely sound redundant .
So you yourself must seek these objective data , and come to your own conclusions .
Any information we have here in Taiwan is at your disposal '' .
Fair enough .
What are the relevant data ? ?
For every person on Taiwan , there are sixty in Mainland China .
If the raw population figures are crucially relevant , then it is idle to think of liberation , as idle as to suppose that Poland might liberate Russia .
Relative military manpower ? ?
Less than 60-1 , but at least 6-1 .
The estimates vary widely on the strength of the Chinese army .
Say four million .
The armed forces of Taiwan are at a working strength of about 450,000 , though a reserve potential twice that high is contemplated .
Skill ? ?
Training ? ?
Morale ? ?
It is generally conceded that the Formosan air force is the best by far in Asia , and the army the best trained .
The morale is very high .
Even so , it adds up to impossible odds , except that the question arises , On whose side would the Mainland Chinese army fight ? ?
The miserable people of China , the largest cast ever conscripted to enact an ideological passion play , cannot themselves resist overtly .
They think , perforce , of physical survival : everything else is secondary .
But the army which Mao continues to feed well , where are its sympathies ? ?
The psychological strategists in Taiwan stress the great sense of family , cultivated in China over thousands of years .
It has not been extirpated by ten years of Communist depersonalization .
Every soldier in the army has , somewhere , relatives who are close to starvation .
The soldiers themselves cannot stage a successful rebellion , it is assumed : but will their discontent spread to the officer class ? ?
The immediate families of the generals and the admirals are well fed : a despot does not economize on his generals .
But there are the cousins and aunts and nephews .
Their privations are almost beyond endurance .
In behalf of what ? ?
Leninism-Marxism , as understood by Exegete Mao .
To whom will the generals stay loyal ? ?
There is little doubt if they had a secret ballot , they would vote for food for their family , in place of ideological purity out on the farm .
It is another question whether `` they '' -- or a single general , off in a corner of China , secure for a few ( galvanizing ? ?
) days at least from instant retaliation -- will defy the Party .
But the disposition to rebel is most definitely there .
But there must be a catalytic pressure .
The military in Taiwan believe that the Communists have made two mistakes , which , together , may prove fatal .
The first was the commune program , which will ensure agricultural poverty for years .
The family is largely broken up ; ;
and where it is not , it is left with no residue , and the social meaning of this is enormous .
For it is the family that , in China , has always provided social security for the indigent , the sick , the down-and-out members of the clan .
Now the government must do that ; ;
but the government is left with no reserve granary , under the agricultural system it has ordained .
Thus the government simultaneously undertook the vast burden of social security which had traditionally been privately discharged , and created a national scarcity which has engendered calamitous problems of social security .
The second mistake is Tibet .
Tibet has historically served China as a buffer state .
A friendly state , sometimes only semi-independent , but never hostile .
China never tried to integrate Tibet by extirpating the people's religion and institutions .
Red China is trying to do this , and she is not likely ever to succeed .
Tibet is too vast , the terrain is too difficult .
Tibet may bleed China as Algeria is bleeding France .
These continuing pressures , social , economic and military , are doing much to keep China in a heightening state of tension .
The imposition of yet another pressure , a strong one , from the outside , might cause it to snap .
The planners in Taiwan struck me as realistic men .
They know that they must depend heavily on factors outside their own control .
First and foremost , they depend on the inhuman idiocies of the Communist regime .
On these they feel they can rely .
Secondly , they depend on America's `` moral cooperation '' when the crucial moment arrives .
They hope that if history vouchsafes the West another Budapest , we will receive the opportunity gladly .
I remarked jocularly to the President that the future of China would be far more certain if he would invite a planeload of selected American Liberals to Quemoy on an odd day .
He affected ( most properly ) not to understand my point .
But he -- and all of China -- wears the scars of American indecisiveness , and he knows what an uncertain ally we are .
We have been grand to Formosa itself -- lots of aid , and , most of the time , a policy of support for the offshore islands .
But our outlook has been , and continues to be , defensive .
A great deal depends on the crystallization of Mr. Kennedy's views on the world struggle .
The Free Chinese know that the situation on the Mainland is in flux , and are poised to strike .
There is not anywhere on the frontiers of freedom a more highly mobilized force for liberation .
The moment of truth is the moment of crisis .
During the slow buildup , the essence of a policy or a man is concealed under embroidered details , fine words , strutting gestures .
The crisis burns these suddenly away .
There the truth is , open to eyes that are willing to look .
The moment passes .
New self-deceiving rags are hurriedly tossed on the too-naked bones .
A truth-revealing crisis erupted in Katanga for a couple of days this month , to be quickly smothered by the high pressure verbal fog that is kept on tap for such emergencies .
Before memory , too , clouds over , let us make a note or two of what could be seen .
The measure was instantly taken , as always in such cases , of public men at many levels .
One knows better , now , who has bone and who has jelly in his spine .
But I am here concerned more with policy than with men .
Public men come and go but great issues of policy remain .
Now , everyone knows -- or knew in the week of December 10 -- that something had gone shockingly wrong with American foreign policy .
The United States was engaged in a military attack on a peaceful , orderly people governed by a regime that had proved itself the most pro-Western and anti-Communist within any of the new nations -- the only place in Africa , moreover , where a productive relationship between whites and blacks had apparently been achieved .
Of course the fighting was officially under the auspices of the United Nations .
But in the moment of truth everyone could see that the U.S. was in reality the principal .
The moment simultaneously revealed that in the crisis our policy ran counter to that of all our NATO allies , to the entire Western community .
By our policy the West was -- is -- split .
But the key revelation is not new .
The controlling pattern was first displayed in the Hungary-Suez crisis of November 1956 .
It reappears , in whole or part , whenever a new crisis exposes the reality : in Cuba last spring ( with which the Dominican events of last month should be paired ) ; ;
at the peaks of the nuclear test and the Berlin cycles ; ;
in relation to Laos , Algeria , South Africa ; ;
right now , with almost cartoon emphasis , in the temporally linked complex of Tshombe-Gizenga-Goa-Ghana .
What the moments reveal
This prime element of the truth may be stated as follows : Under prevailing policy , the U.S. can take the initiative against the Right , but cannot take the initiative against the Left .
It makes no difference what part of the world is involved , what form of regime , what particular issue .
The U.S. cannot take the initiative against the Left .
There is even some question whether the U.S. can any longer defend itself against an initiative by the Left .
We can attack Tshombe , but not Gigenza .
No matter that Gizenga is Moscow's man in the Congo .
No matter that it is his troops who rape Western women and eat Western men .
No matter that the Katanga operation is strategically insane in terms of Western interests in Africa .
( Even granted that the Congo should be unified , you don't protect Western security by first removing the pro-Western weight from the power equilibrium .
We can force Britain and France out of the Suez , but we cannot so much as try to force the Russian tanks back from Budapest .
We can mass our fleet against the Trujillos , but not against the Castros .
We can vote in the UN against South African apartheid or Portuguese rule in Angola , but we cannot even introduce a motion on the Berlin Wall -- much less , give the simple order to push the Wall down .
We officially receive the anti-French , Moscow-allied Algerian FLN , but we denounce the pro-Europe , anti-Communist OAS as criminal .
In the very week of our war against Katanga , we make a $133 million grant to Kwame Nkrumah , who has just declared his solidarity with the Communist bloc , and is busily turning his own country into a totalitarian dictatorship .
As our planes land the war materiel that kills pro-Western Katangans , we stand supinely bleating while Nehru's troops smash into a five-hundred-year-old district of our NATO ally , Portugal .
What explains this uni-directional paralysis ? ?
It is the consequence of the system of ideas that constitutes the frame of our international -- and in some degree our domestic -- policy .
The Suez-Hungary crisis proves that this system was not invented by the new Administration , but only made more consistent and more active .
Key to the puzzles
Most immediately relevant to these episodes in Goa , Katanga and Ghana , as to the Suez-Hungary crisis before them , is the belief that the main theater of the world drama is the underdeveloped region of Asia , Africa and Latin America .
From this belief is derived the practical orientation of our policy on the `` uncommitted '' ( `` neutralist '' , `` contested '' ) nations , especially on those whose leaders make the most noise -- Nehru , Tito , Nkrumah , Sukarno , Betancourt , etc. .
Our chief aim becomes that of finding favor in neutralist eyes .
If we grasp this orientation as a key , our national conduct in all of the events here mentioned becomes intelligible .
And it becomes clear why in general we cannot take the initiative against the Left .