Harvard Begins Improving Its Foreign Policy

Back in the days of student protest, the Center for International Affairs and its operating arm, the Development Advisory Service, were hot political issues at Harvard. The CFIA was accused of being the hatchery for theories applied in Vietnam and the DAS of exporting these doctrines, in the guise of economic advice, to other developing countries.

The CFIA and the DAS are still with us, but in the years since they were a regular way station for demonstrations and the target of a bombing campaign, things have changed a good bit.

In fact, this summer the University announced a major expansion in the DAS, and changed its name to the Harvard Institute for International Development. The change is likely to mean a significant enlargement of Harvard's role abroad, in ways that may owe something to those heady days of a few years ago.

HIID will consolidate foreign assistance programs conducted by the old DAS and other parts of the University, with the hope of encouraging an interdisciplinary approach to the problems of developing nations. This is partially in respons a feeling that both research into development and actual projects abroad would be enhanced by integrating specialists in fields such as education, public health and urban planning, with DAS economists.

As one HIID administrator concedes, "The DAS was focused on what we found to be a simplistic version of development--economic growth." To some degree, the more comprehensive advisory capacity that Harvard is now gearing up to offer to the world takes cognizance of the belief that the distribution of economic and political fruits within a society is as important--if not more so--as a country's economic growth, even in developing nations. This was perhaps the most serious question raised by Vietnam-era critics who contended the DAS was insufficiently concerned with the composition and policies of the governments for which it was working.

M. David Landau '72, writing in 1970 in The Crimson, said that "there were two unfailing characteristics which defined the work of [DAS] teams: 1) each client nation was headed by a non-Communist government which remained open and often friendly to American capital investment and 2) in each field project the overwhelming priority was to raise that nation's Gross National Project without as much thought or attention to the social effects of growth or the basic fairness of that country's political economic structure." Such arguments were typical of the articulate brand of criticism to which the DAS was subject. But such judgments are probably no longer accurate.


HIID now has a team stationed in Tanzania, advising that socialist government on drawing up a long-range plan for its industrialization. Michael Roemer, the former project director in Tanzania, says that during the 1970-71 demonstrations, the DAS "perhaps looked harder for projects in socialist countries than we had before." And the Tanzania project, which was first broached to Harvard in late 1970 at the height of anti-CFIA activity, is a blue chip in what another staffer calls a policy of "getting a politically-diversified portfolio of project countries--as they would be seen from Harvard," pursued "as much for appearances as anything."

HIID now says that an existing program in South Korea (where a one-man despotism is rapidly taking shape) will be terminated at the expiration of its contract this year because, as HIID Associate Director John C. Eddison says, "Harvard feels uncomfortable with political developments in Korea in the past year." He adds that HIID would like to end the involvement sooner except that there is some fear of repercussions against Koreans working with the advisory team if a sudden pullout were to occur.

HIID projects (and DAS ones previously) are all conducted by invitation of the host country and do not use U.S. government funding, except for research programs conducted in this country. The United Nations has supplanted the Ford Foundation as the leading supplier of money; together they provide more than 80 per cent. The University gives no direct support and charges for overhead expenses. But most HIID personnel have Harvard teaching appointments, and a prime purpose of the new organizational setup is to allow Harvard faculty more chance for constructive and broadening service abroad.

Perhaps most important to the gradually increasing willingness within HIID to consider different strategies in aiding third world countries comes from the experiences of its young economists abroad. They have found, that policymakers in most of the countries in which they have served are capable enough themselves and thus not in need of much day-to-day advice. So team members find themselves participating more as scholars and researchers than as direct advisors. Also, the pressures of the protests against the DAS forced them to re-examine the ideological baggage behind their approach, they say. And this has produced advice that is more technical and specialized.

The combination of this more scholarly approach now wanted abroad and what appears to be a greater open-mindedness in the type of advice given by project teams has meant both an increased need and an expanded field of action for people in other fields. Such, at any rate, was the logic behind the changes made in June. The revamped HIID, in fact, seems to have been something of a pet idea of President Bok, who started the policy review that spawned it by appointing Raymond Vernon, Johnson Professor of International Business Management at the Business School, to look into ways in which the University's multiplicity of projects abroad in different disciplines could be consolidated into a co-ordinated structure.

Vernon describes Bok as "both intellectually and even emotionally involved in this." And Bok himself has expressed the belief that declining interest in development problems (except in oil-rich nations) gives the University some obligation to take an initiative in this area.

HIID opens up opportunities for people to pursue a career primarily oriented toward work abroad in the context of a University structure. Some HIID personnel have been named as institute fellows, who will be able to work as specialists or administrators within HIID while still being able to use the facilities and enrich the research and teaching of the University at large.

This so-called "third career track" within Harvard has only a minor precedent (some scientists connected with Harvard's Electron Accelerator) and its non-administrative, non-teaching character could allow Harvard to offer continuing expertise to developing nations that would benefit from the relative intellectual freedom prevalent at a university.

As such, HIID appears to be a highly unusual, and perhaps extremely significant new program for Harvard, which needs a new foreign-policy image to counter the one created for it by the exploits of its former government professor in Washington. At any rate, it seems to auger a willingness, at least at the top, to allow the University greater direct participation in the world around it, an old "radical" idea.