BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Stanley Karnow, author of the new book In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines, when did you first think you wanted to be a writer?
STANLEY KARNOW, AUTHOR, "IN OUR IMAGE": It goes back to your jelly pad when you are 8 years old and you print your own newspaper for your friends and in school. I guess when I started out in high school, getting out a school newspaper, being an editor of my college newspaper, it's something I always wanted to do. You used the word writer. I consider myself to be journalist if there's perhaps a conflict in those terms, but I've really spent all my life, professional and nonprofessional, in the field of journalism.
LAMB: What's the difference between being a journalist and a writer?
KARNOW: Let's put it this way: Journalists are writers, but not all writers are journalists. I use the distinction because the word journalism contains the French word jour, which means day, and there is a time quality, a temporal quality to journalism as opposed to literature, poetry. You really are under pressure as a journalist. That same pressure exists, I discovered, if you're working for a wire service or you're working for a daily newspaper or you're working for a weekly magazine or a monthly magazine or even if you're writing books. Books take a long time, but still you have a deadline. You want to accomplish it; you want to finish it within a time framework. I'm not saying that poets don't try to finish their poems with a certain deadline.
The other aspect of journalism is that it nonfiction. It may be vivid, it may read like fiction, and I try in my histories or current affairs books to make it vivid and to bring the journalist's instruments and tools to it in depicting things as if they are actually happening under my very eyes, even though they may have happened a hundred years ago, which requires a lot of research. I guarantee, I don't invent it; I go back and read old newspapers, or, if I can, interview people who have recollections. So I try to get that kinetic, live quality into it because, if I can go on, because I believe that history is made by people. It is not made by cosmic forces, it's not ordained or preordained, and so I want to tell it in terms of people.
LAMB: Can you remember why you were interested in being a journalist in the first place?
KARNOW: It's hard to remember what my motives were. I guess I liked to write. I like to toy with words. I remember when I was in high school, I used to write radio plays. This was before the days of television, which dates me. I liked the drama of that and I liked observing events and then trying to recreate them and analyze them if I could.
Of course, I started out as a sports writer in high school. I was the sports editor of the paper. I don't pay much attention to sports anymore, but that was a glamorous thing to do when you were a high school kid. You went to all the football games, and the cheerleaders got to know you, and it was a nice avocation as a high school student. Later in college as an editor of the paper, I mostly concentrated on editorials but also liked to write light feature stuff. In those days my inspiration was the New Yorker magazine, which was funny and lively. I think it's gotten a bit ponderous in recent years.
So I got launched, if you want, or I launched myself in that and, like everybody getting out of college, went out to look for a job and had a very odd way of finding a professional job. I went over to Paris after I graduated from college. I went over there for the summer, liked it, was intrigued and captivated by it and stayed on. Fortunately, in those days we had the GI Bill.
I had been in the Army during the Second World War so I had something like three or four years of GI Bill coming to me. Those were the days when the dollar was strong and, believe it or not, you could actually live in Paris on a hundred dollars a month. Today, it barely pays for lunch. So I kind of hung out, if you want. I mean, I enrolled in school in order to get my GI Bill, did go to classes, did get the required diplomas and so forth, which are really valueless in a way, but by some chance I got hired by Time magazine first as a spear carrier and a general factotum. I spoke French by this stage and eventually became a correspondent for Time, and that was the beginning of my professional career back in 1950.
LAMB: This book is about the Philippines. Right down at the bottom it says, Author of Vietnam: A History That book also was made into a series on PBS. Where did you get the idea to combine your books with television?
KARNOW: I felt that television could do a lot of things in telling a story. You can't really dramatize certain events in words in the same way you could do it on the screen. The old Chinese adage about a picture being worth a thousand words is modest. I think a good picture might be worth a whole chapter in a book, and certain very dramatic events are just almost impossible to capture in words. But television has its limitations.
It's very hard in an ongoing documentary to analyze things. Television requires images and visuals; it requires photographs or film. For example, if you were trying to deal with a diplomatic negotiation, what have you got on television? What have you got to deal with? Usually you can't get into the room to listen to people bargaining, so you either have the opening shot that the negotiators allow the television cameras to do or you get pictures of people getting in and out of cars. None of that's very satisfactory.
There's a limited attention span, I think, on the part of the viewer for an analysis of what's going on inside that room, but you can do that in a book. In this book, for example, I was able to obtain the transcript of a debate that went on in the Reagan administration in February 1986 over what to do about Ferdinand Marcos in those final days in the Philippines. So I have the actual dialogue of that meeting when Secretary of State Shultz said to Secretary of Defense Weinberger later in the day what President Reagan said to both of them. I can take the time in the book, I can take the space in the book to describe it, so the book analyzes, interprets, whereas television shows and dramatizes, and the two complement each other and I think give you this rounder picture, this broader canvas or two canvases to work on.
LAMB: Back to the first book, this joint project of the Vietnam history. Whose idea was it to do the combination of television and the book?
KARNOW: The idea of the television series was proposed to me by Lawrence K. Grossman, who was then the president of Public Broadcasting, in a rather nice setting. We were lying on the beach in Nantucket, the summer of 1977, I think it was, and he said, What about doing a television series on Vietnam? I had spent a lot of time in Vietnam, longer than I like to recall, in fact.
LAMB: How long, by the way?
KARNOW: I started going out there in the '50s, so I was there from the '50s and then even in fact for the television series and the book went back in the early 1980s, so I clocked about 25 years of in and out of Vietnam. At any rate, Grossman proposed the television series. I thought it was a very good idea, and I thought it was very farsighted of him at that particular time. This was two years after the fall of Saigon to the communists. The American public was thoroughly uninterested in the subject, and it took us seven years to do it. By the time we did come out, I think attitudes have changed. I like to think that maybe we contributed after coming out to changing the attitudes, but by that time the Vietnam memorial had gone up or was going up in Washington, veterans were getting a new look, and so we were part of this whole new interest in the Vietnam story, which of course has proliferated and expanded since then. At the very beginning when the idea of doing a television series attracted me, I also began to think that I wanted to do a book that went with it as a companion. You can either call the book the companion to the series or the series the companion to the book, whatever.
LAMB: But the series started first, in your mind.
KARNOW: The idea of the series started first, yes. Then I did the book actually along with the series. It wasn't as if I wrote the book and then the series was derived from the book. I'd run up and do my interviews or do my writing for the series, then run back and work on the book for a while. The research of one helped the other. So I was doing them in tandem, which was quite a load to carry, I might add. At any rate, I am not a film maker, I'm a writer, and I had done some television documentaries before, but I did have to learn about what it's like to work on television, although I had marvelous people working with me, the executive producer Dick Ellison, others, Lawrence Lichty, who was the head of research. So I saw it very early on as a combination, as a package of a book and a television series. Others had been doing this for some time. You had Carl Sagan doing Cosmos, Kenneth Clark on Civilization, Bronowski, Abba Ebban on the history of the Jews and so forth. I think it's a very good idea. I think it doesn't always work, but when it does it has a lot of impact.
LAMB: You may tell me this is none of my business, but how does someone over a seven year period live day to day? Did they pay you during this period? You hear of people working on books for years, and you wonder how they make it.
KARNOW: You want to get a handsome advance, if you can, although it's not a way to make money. Working on these things, you could be a teller in a bank and probably make more money than you make writing, even though a lot of people think I became a multimillionaire because the Vietnam book sold remarkably well. I was doing other things on the side. I was doing some other writing and editing, and I'd saved some money, and I was getting paid in a modest way by the television project as well, so while I wasn't getting rich, it was all right. It was comfortable. I don't work for money. I like to earn money" Dr. Johnson once said, Nobody but a blockhead writes except for money" but there are other satisfactions, I think, in writing. If you looked at the average writers across the country you'd probably find that the mean income is something like $6,000 a year. So while you read about these glitzy contracts, of people getting multimillion-dollar advances, you also have to bear in mind that there are a lot of writers who are struggling.
LAMB: When do you feel a sense of satisfaction? What is it?
KARNOW: It's every step of the way. First, you organize. You plan what you're going to do, and you know perfectly well as you start it, when you've got a grasp of the subject" this is before you've even done the research" but you have a kind of road map of where you want to go. That's very important. You may not follow that outline. I think it's very important to do a good job of outlining what you want to do, even if you throw it away. Usually you don't follow it exactly.
When I was a young reporter in Paris, I interviewed the great abstract painter Georges Braque, who said to me, If I knew what was going to come out on the canvas, I wouldn't bother to paint it, because things develop as you go along. So that first sense of satisfaction is getting an idea of where you're going. Then you start researching, and researching is a little bit like panning for gold. You can just lie by that stream looking for those nuggets to come along, and every once in a while something does come along, and that gives you a great sense of satisfaction.
Interviewing people is fun in many ways, especially if you have time to do it, and you can let it spread out a bit, and you can help the person you're interviewing get over that initial nervousness, especially if you're doing it jointly on camera. Many of the interviews I do in the book were being done on camera, or sometimes I would do a pre-interview to determine what I was going to ask them when we taped them on camera. That takes time. Then you begin to hear those things, not that you're trying to direct the person to say something, but then you know that maybe you're getting something original from this person or some new anecdote that hasn't been told before.
Then you plunge into archives and start digging out all kinds of things, and there again you're down there with your helmet light on in that coal mine chipping away or that gold mine looking for this material. Then you get it all and" pardon me if I mix my metaphor, "you're a bit like a sculptor with this enormous piece of granite, and then you've got to chip away at that granite in order to mold that sculpture, and that is a very hard process.
I don't know any writer who thinks that writing is fun. It's hard work, and the way I do it is just as if I'm doing any other job. I get up in the morning and I have breakfast and read the newspapers and shave and shower and get dressed, but I go down in my cellar, where I have my study, and work. I try to get to my machine by 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning. Sometimes I'll run out of steam in the afternoon, but sometimes I'll go until midnight. But you have to treat it as a job; you have to be disciplined. You don't sit around waiting for inspiration. If you do, you're never going to get anything done because it's much more fun taking the dog out for a walk along the canal than sitting down there and writing.
But the thing that keeps you going, I think, is that you have these peaks in which you really do begin to feel that you're getting the story told and this chapter looks pretty good. Very often it looks good, and you put it aside; you look at it two weeks later and it looks terrible. So you go back and you work on it again. Or maybe your editor doesn't like it very much or only partly likes it. So what I'm trying to say is that there are troughs when you're not feeling like working. The best thing to do in those moments is just to get up and take a walk. When you get the whole thing finished, there is that great sense of satisfaction of having completed it and kept it within some sort of reasonable bounds. I write books for the public.
I'm not an academic, and I don't want to throw 24 volumes at people. I assure you that I had enough material to do a 24-volume account of this story, but I wanted to keep it within, obviously, reasonable bounds. Then you wait, and you're in limbo until the reviews start coming out. In this book In Our Image, I must say that I've been extremely fortunate.
I've had much better reviews than I would have dreamed of having. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe have all been very kind. Then again, because you put in so much time, you cock your ear for the ring of the cash register to see whether the book is going to be a good seller or best seller. I think that in my own mind I'm much more interested in the longevity of the book, what the publishers call the shelf life of the book, than I am in the immediate impact. I'm not going to dissimulate and say I don't like to sell books" I think every writer does" but I really hope that the book is around for a long time
. The Vietnam book was published in late '83; it's still on the shelves. It's being used in schools along with the television series, and I must say that I get a great sense of satisfaction and gratification when some high school student or college student calls me up and in effect asks me to do his term paper for him. My wife hands me the phone. She says, Here's another call from Iowa State or the University of Florida, and there's some college sophomore there who's taking a course on Vietnam and wants to ask me some questions which, if he or she were a little more enterprising, they could probably find the answers to in the book, but maybe they just want to talk on the phone, bounce some ideas, and that's very good. I get a lot of satisfaction out of that.
I get a lot of letters from veterans, from Vietnamese refugees or immigrants now living in this country, so you get some sense that you've put something into the world that's still there that wasn't one of those quickie sensations that came and went. So I find that gives me some sense of achievement. I find the same thing if I go out lecturing, which I do as often as I can at universities.
Don't forget that it's interesting about Vietnam, that is, that you have a whole generation of Americans who lived through it, either veterans of the war, GIs, or grunts as we called them. You have the Americans of that generation who lived at home, either students who were protesting against the war, people who were supporting it, and then you have a whole generation of Americans who weren't even born when we got involved. There's an intense interest in Vietnam in the universities and even in the high schools, so that all contributes to this continuing interest in the subject. I do feel that it does give me some role to play in dealing with the subject.
This book, In Our Image, it's really a book about America, not about the Philippines. The Philippines is the landscape, but the story is about America going abroad for the first time in its history at the turn of the century and becoming a colonial power, what we did in our colony and what we've left behind. I think there's no other book that spans this period . . .
LAMB: Who's this gentleman?
KARNOW: Theodore Roosevelt, one of the architects of our war with Spain and the man who was responsible, in fact, for ordering Commodore George Dewey, who was then commander of a small squadron of American ships in Asia. Teddy Roosevelt ordered Dewey to Manila, and that was the beginning of our involvement in the Philippines.
LAMB: As a journalist are you driven to transfer information, or do you find yourself having a strong point of view at this point in your life and you want the rest of the world to know your point of view?
KARNOW: To tell you the truth, I'm not out grinding axes. I do obviously have a point of view. I think only an ameba doesn't have a point of view. The idea of objectivity doesn't exist. The minute we begin to choose anecdotes in telling our stories we are becoming subjective. What I try to do is to be fair, which is different from being objective, which is to tell the various sides of the story. But overall I believe that if you marital your information, if you tell the story and you're putting some guidance in there" you're selecting certain things that are trying to make a point" but overall I like a debate to come out of it. I'd like various readers to find different things in it, and they do. I've had this from experience.
Again, going back to Vietnam, because the results in this one it's too early to tell, but on Vietnam I found myself denounced by the extreme left and the extreme right, and I figured as a result I must be doing something right because I consider myself to be a member of the extreme center. But I want to tell all the stories. I don't want to try to bombard a reader with my opinions. That becomes boring, it becomes polemical, and when you get into history, into the past, it's a marvelous, fertile field for a story teller. I mean, so much of what went on in the past is amusing, it's interesting, it's lively. I'm not a novelist" sometimes I wish I were" but you don't have to be a novelist to tell interesting stories.
LAMB: Who's this gentleman?
KARNOW: That's Arthur MacArthur, who was a general at the turn of the century in the Philippines and one of the early American commanders and the father of the illustrious Douglas MacArthur, who later became the American who probably served longer and was most heralded by the Filipinos.
LAMB: What impact did he have on our relationships with the Philippines?
KARNOW: He was there at this early period. After we had landed in the Philippines, we defeated the Spanish" as I said, Dewey defeated the Spanish fleet in seven hours on May 1, 1898 with the loss of only one man, who died of heat prostration. Then American troops began to come out to fight the Spanish, and there was no battle. The Spanish surrendered in August of 1898, so there wasn't any real war against the Spanish in the Philippines as there was in Cuba, which is really the main reason we went to war against Spain in 1898.
After defeating the Spanish, in the summer of 1898, there was a lot of doubt about what was going to happen in the Philippines. We had a conspicuously indecisive president at the time, William McKinley, and he couldn't make up his mind what to do. Eventually, however, he decided that he was going to annex the Philippines, to keep the Philippines.
He explained afterward to a group of Methodist clergymen that he could not make up his mind, but he said he paced the floor of the White House night after night and even get down on his knees and pray to God for guidance, and then this divine intervention came in answer to his prayers and he was told to take the Filipinos and uplift them and Christianize them, as he put it. Of course, they were all Catholics, having been under Spanish rule for 300 years, but it was an example of how little McKinley knew about the Philippines, which he admitted, by the way, that he couldn't locate on the map.
So we decided to retain these islands, but there was a Philippine nationalist movement that had declared independence, so we went to war to conquer the Philippines. The war was officially called the Philippine Insurrection in our official records; in fact, it was a war of conquest, to put it bluntly. Some 4,000 Americans died in that war, and perhaps 200,000 Filipinos died as well, so it was a rather bloody war. It lasted two and a half years, but we did conquer this movement. Partly it's because the Filipino nationalist movement was inept and disorganized. Then we began our rule of the Philippines.
LAMB: This is a classic picture. Who is this?
KARNOW: Who are you looking at, the water buffalo or the man sitting on it? The question, of course, is who weighs more. The man on the water buffalo is William Howard Taft, who was the first American civilian governor of the Philippines, came out there in 1901 and stayed for four years, later went home to become secretary of war at a time when the War Department was responsible for the administration of the Philippines and of course later was elected president and never forgot those early years in the Philippines. These 13 years or so when he was governor, secretary of war and president, he was very responsible for setting the pattern of our colonial rule that lasted until 1946.
LAMB: When he was there, how many Filipinos were there?
KARNOW: The population was probably around 6-8 million. There had never really been a census. It was in those years, of course, a fairly large population. It's interesting that a Filipino movement, a political party called the Federalist party, which Taft had helped to organize and finance, had as one of its planks statehood for the Philippines. Its leaders came to Washington in 1904 to plead for statehood, to become a part of the union, and the secretary of state at the time Elihu Root rejected them largely on racial grounds. He claimed that we had a racial problem in the United States, and he didn't want any, quote, more colored people in this country. Those were the mores of the times. Those were the norms of the time, I might say.
Another factor of course was to bring an area of 8 million people into the union would have made it the biggest state in the union. It would have been rather odd, so to speak, to have the tail wagging the dog. You would have had more Filipino congressmen than congressmen from any other state. Incidentally, to this day there's a statehood movement which claims about 5 million members. The Philippines today has a population of about 60 million, so imagine how many Filipino congressmen you'd have up on Capitol Hill if the Philippines ever became a state.
LAMB: This picture?
KARNOW: That is President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing into law in 1935 the legislation that turned the Philippines into a commonwealth and also, more importantly, scheduled independence for 10 years later. Of course, independence was delayed for a year because of the Second World War.
LAMB: I have another photograph of another president and a couple of other figures that the audience may recognize. Who’s the gentleman with the straw hat out front?
KARNOW: The man with the straw hat is Douglas MacArthur, then the military adviser to the Philippine commonwealth government. He had been chief of staff in Washington. He retired and then was offered this job to go out there and to help form a Filipino army.
The man behind him also in the white suit directly to his right, that sort of baby-faced gentleman there, is Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was then a major and was MacArthur's deputy chief of staff during that period of the 1930s. They hated each other. They had terrible fights. Eisenhower was later asked, Did you ever know Gen. MacArthur? He said, Yes, I studied dramatics under him for seven years.
Years later when Eisenhower was president, somebody asked MacArthur if he had known Eisenhower, to which MacArthur replied, Best clerk I ever had. There was something incompatible about their characters. MacArthur was a monumental egotist, a talented man, a skilled man in many ways. Eisenhower was essentially a rather modest man, and they disagreed over policy. MacArthur was absolutely convinced that his plan for defending the Philippines would work, and Eisenhower had strong doubts about it. In the end they broke up and they disliked each other intensely.
LAMB: What impact did Gen. MacArthur have on what we know today as the Philippines?
KARNOW: The big thing that MacArthur did and what really has made him almost a deity to the Filipinos is that soon after the outbreak of World War II when the Japanese occupied the Philippines and MacArthur was forced to leave the country, he left his little redoubt on the island of Corregidor and fled to Australia and he vowed to return" those famous words of his, I shall return. Incidentally, it wasn't We shall return. It was I shall return" again, a reflection of this ego. And he did, he did.
In 1944 as he fought his way up through the Pacific, he approached the Philippines, and there was a big debate in Washington among the strategists of where he should go next on his way as the American forces approached Japan. Many strategists in the Navy and Army wanted to attack the island of Taiwan. MacArthur insisted that we had a commitment to liberate the Philippines, and he finally won that debate, and he did liberate the Philippines.
I went back to the Philippines with MacArthur on his final journey there in 1961, what he called his sentimental journey. Millions of people came out and he could have got elected king if he decided to run. There was tremendous emotion, and to this day there still is toward MacArthur.
LAMB: How much time did you spend around him?
KARNOW: Just those few weeks on his return. I served in Asia during the Second World War, fortunately not in his command. A lot of American soldiers, a lot of GIs had tremendous reverence for him. I was over in the China-Burma-India theater, and that was not the Pacific where he was. He was a man with faults as well. I mentioned the ego, his tremendous ego, which tended to blur the achievements of other generals in that theater. Compare him to Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the supreme commander in Europe.
We remember the names of the famous generals like Omar Bradley or Maxwell Taylor or Matthew Ridgway or George Patton because Eisenhower gave them publicity. We only remember one man in the Pacific although there were other very competent generals like Eichelberger, but he blotted all those people out.
LAMB: What was he like to just sit and talk to?
KARNOW: From my own brief experience with him, MacArthur tended to deliver speeches. Maybe this was because it was late in his life. He talked himself out; he'd said everything he was going to say in his life. I was a reporter. He wasn't about to let what little hair he had down in front of me, and so I found those few occasions to be rather stilted, not terribly comfortable.
LAMB: This picture?
KARNOW: That's Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos" Marcos was the president of the Philippines" with Lyndon Johnson on a visit to Washington in 1966. Lyndon Johnson wanted above all to persuade Marcos to send Filipino troops to Vietnam, and Marcos was very, very clever. He extracted a lot of money from Lyndon Johnson for 10 battalions of Filipino troops but in fact only sent one over and used the rest of them to build roads for political purposes back home.
LAMB: This photo?
KARNOW: That's Richard Nixon with the Marcoses, and to the right is Pat Nixon. They didn't get along very well. Nixon, whatever you may think of him, was sensitive to Marcos's efforts to manipulate him. At the bottom we have Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, visiting Manila in 1969, dancing with the beautiful Imelda Marcos while Nancy Reagan on the other side of the room dances with Marcos. That first trip that Ronald Reagan took to Manila really scratched his mind and from then on he kept referring to the Marcoses as his very good friends and in the end was very, very reluctant to see them overthrown.
LAMB: How would you describe the Filipino as a person?
KARNOW: There are very few peoples in the world that I've encountered who were as hospitable and genuinely warm as the Filipinos are, especially toward an American. Looking at it from a point of view of a reporter, there is almost total access in the Philippines if you go over there as a journalist. I'm not exaggerating to say that you could arrive on a Thursday evening and be having breakfast with the president of the country the next morning. The breakfast may stretch into lunch, it may stretch into dinner and it may stretch into a weekend in the country with them.
Filipinos are very talkative. Of course, I understand as a reporter that they want something, I mean, that they're trying to sell themselves or sell whatever policy they had. Nevertheless, there is a kind of congeniality in Filipinos, and it's not only the president. It's right down to the lowliest peasant.
The book and the television series that we produced, we had to go out with the Filipino communists into their areas, and they're just as friendly and congenial as you might find in the government, so there is that extreme warmth. You get a sense from Filipinos, even those who are rhetorically anti-American, rhetorically critical of the United States, that there is a profound feeling of a pro-American sentiment there that transcends all that sort of nationalist rhetoric that you hear mainly in Manila.
LAMB: This is I think the final photo in your book.
KARNOW: That is President Corazon Aquino" Cory, as we call her" delivering a speech to the joint sessions of Congress in September 1986 about six or eight months after she was catapulted into office. That was a really memorable moment. Her visit to Washington really was one of her crowning achievements. Interestingly enough, when she went down that aisle of the House and the congressmen were all wearing yellow ties and yellow cummerbunds and yellow flowers because her color was yellow, all of that kind of sentimentality of Philippine-American relations bubbled up and suddenly there was this great rediscovery by Americans of this connection that had gone back to the turn of the century.
LAMB: What do the people who run the Philippines, like Mrs. Aquino, think of us?
KARNOW: She said" and she's not a woman to dissimulate" she said in her speech before Congress that the three years that she was in exile in Boston, from 1980 to 1983, were the three happiest years of her life. She'd gone to school in New York as a young woman.
There are very strong ties. Now, they're two countries, and two countries obviously have their differences, but deep down it's my experience that Filipinos do have a very strong pro-American sentiment. Some of the harshest critics of the United States, when you do a little scratching, you discover their children live in the United States, they have American residence permits that permit them to come in and out of the United States, they own houses in the
United States. When you get down into the villages, it's very rare that you don't find somebody who's got a cousin in San Diego or an uncle in Cleveland. There are a million and a half Filipinos living in the United States, and they will soon be the largest Asian minority. So these ties are not going to disappear overnight. The issue at stake right now are the two American bases in the Philippines, the naval base and the airfield. The Filipinos want more money for them. Perhaps they deserve more money for them. There have been recent negotiations which produced an interim agreement. There are going to be new and fresh negotiations. I think a compromise of some sort will be reached.
LAMB: Based on what you've seen in history, what will our relations be 10 to 20 years from now?
KARNOW: Let me put it in terms of what I would like to see rather than looking into my clouded crystal ball and predicting what in fact will happen. In terms of our relationship, I think the biggest challenge to the Filipinos is to develop a sense of their own national identity. Here is where history teaches us something" here is a county whose whole history has been colonial history. In fact, there's no country in the world that has been a colony longer than the Philippines. The Spanish arrived there in the 16th century, and they finally got their independence in 1946. Before the Spanish arrived, there wasn't any sense of nationhood.
The Filipinos have to develop this sense of nationhood, and that's going to be a major challenge for them. Only when they can do that can they begin to become truly independent from the United States because the independence they got in 1946 was a kind of dependent independence. They depended on us for aid; they depend on us for advice; they depend on us on numerous occasions to help them pull the chestnuts out of the fire. They're depending on us right now for help fighting the insurgency. So they have to make it on their own, and that's going to be the major challenge for them, and I think it will color their relationship with us. They have to be able to stand up as a . . .
LAMB: This is what the cover of the book looks like. Stanley Karnow is our guest. The title is In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines. How much are they living in our image?
KARNOW: The image is there. When we went out there, we tried to turn the Filipinos into facsimile Americans, and we did to a certain extent. Filipinos copied our music; they copied our dress. We taught English and English is still the common language of the country. Young Filipinos dream of going to American universities. That gives them a big cachet when they come home. But deep down they still have their own values, and their values are different from ours.
We have a society that we like to think is based on civic virtue, on impersonal institutions. Philippine society is based on personal relationships; it's based on family ties and ritual kinship ties. They march to a different drum beat from us. I'm not going to judge whether theirs is better or not. So when you look back on almost a hundred years of this American-Philippine relationship, the Americanization of the Philippines Americanized the Filipinos but didn't make them Americans.
LAMB: You were born in New York City in 1925.
LAMB: You got a degree from Harvard.
KARNOW: That's right.
LAMB: You studied also at the Sorbonne in Paris. A lot of your writings in the last several years have been in the Far East. Where did you get your interest?
KARNOW: I started out as a reporter in Paris in 1950 and worked there as a correspondent for Time magazine, had some interludes back at Harvard as a Nieman fellow, '57/'58, and finally in '58" I had been spending a lot of time when I was based in Paris covering events in North Africa. There was a war going on, the Algerian war, an effort by the Algerian nationalists to gain their independence from France, so I actually opened my own bureau in North Africa.
As so often happens with big organizations, I'd hardly got settled down there than there was an opening in Hong Kong, and they said, Would you like to go? Of course, I jumped at it. So example of how one's life can get steered by just some fortuitous change; I mean, some bureau might have been opened in South Africa or Latin America. Perhaps I would have gone there.
But Asia always interested me, not that I had any special knowledge. As I said, I had been out there during the Second World War, but I was just a GI and I really didn't learn a lot. I did though, as a GI in that area in south Asia, I just found it absolutely fascinating. I found it exotic and I felt that even then that I was only scratching the surface of it, and I really welcomed the chance to go back and learn more about it. I can tell you one thing about Asia: The more you know the less you know because, as they say, it's a lifetime university that never awards a degree because you never get to the stage where you can claim any expertise.
I think people who claim to be Asia experts are using the wrong word. I think you can say you're an Asia specialist, but it's very complicated area. I think we can learn a lot about it and we have learned a lot about it, but it is subtle, complex and different, and terribly different.
LAMB: How many years did it take you to write this book about the Philippines?
KARNOW: It took me about four years to do the book on the Philippines and the television series. I'd like to say that I started going out there in the late '50s when I was assigned to Asia, so it's got something like 30 years of research in it, even though at the beginning I didn't have any idea of writing a book but I was always gathering string and gathering notes. My advice to every reporter is keep your notes. You never know what you're going to do with them someday.
LAMB: How much videotape or film shooting did you have to do for your PBS series?
KARNOW: We did literally hundreds of interviews with everybody from Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos to President Aquino, various members of her Cabinet, communist insurgents and of course the other side, the American side Secretary of State George Shultz, Adm. Crowe, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, former ambassadors, CIA men, Americans who had grown up in the Philippines, who reminisced on what life was like in the '20s and '30s. So we have a vast, vast archive of material plus that's film archive or taped archive plus notes and books and audio tapes, those pre-interviews we did, documents of all kinds. Given that Philippine experience, this country is a treasure trove of material, whether it's the National Archives in Washington, the Library of Congress, different university archives, Army war colleges like the one in Carlisle, Pa. There's where our history reposes, and it's there. Anybody who wants to be a historian just needs a pass to go into these buildings which are open to the public.
LAMB: Did you do all the interviews yourself?
KARNOW: I did most of the interviews on camera. Again, having spent all those years out there, I knew all these people, so it was easy enough for me to call them and get to see them. I had the access. I think, however, that given their hospitality, the access would have been there for anybody.
LAMB: What are you going to do with those hours and hours of interviews that never got into the what is it? three hours of documentary on PBS.
KARNOW: Yes. As usual, again like writing a book, it's the chipping away at that big block of granite in order to produce that sculpture. I would hope that we could find the university or foundation that would be interested in taking these things because they are, I think, quite invaluable.
LAMB: You've worked for the Saturday Evening Post, NBC News, the Washington Post. You were an associate editor of the New Republic. Which of those did you enjoy most?
KARNOW: I've got this attitude of a reporter, which is the story I'm working on that day is the greatest story I've ever done in my life. Wherever I worked I liked it. They were different kinds of media, and I adjusted myself to each one. I tried to. Some gave me more satisfaction than others.
Being able to write long pieces for the late and lamented old Saturday Evening Post was particularly satisfactory, but on the other hand working for a daily newspaper was marvelous. Being out in Asia, being on your own, having receptive editors, and without getting a power complex because I think that's the affliction of many journalists, but it was very nice to be able to write a story and know that the president of the United States was reading it the next morning, along with my wife's Aunt Katy, who was also one of my readers.
I must say that I can't think of a better profession to be than a foreign correspondent. As I've often said, it's the only profession in which you remain an adolescent all your life because it's fun, it's romantic, you're on your own, you have responsibilities but you have freedom as well. I regret as my own children are not terribly interested in that profession, but . . .
LAMB: What do they do?
KARNOW: My oldest son's a lawyer. His wife, my daughter-in-law, is an anthropologist. My daughter's a professional photographer and quite successful. My youngest son is just about to graduate from Harvard.
LAMB: From what you've learned as a reporter and a journalist and a writer and a television producer, if somebody made you secretary of state what are some of the principles you would use in our foreign policy in Southeast Asia?
KARNOW: Let me preface it by saying I would reject the offer if I was offered the job. I think that the main thing we have to understand about dealing with other countries is that they've got their internal dynamics just as we have. Every time we face a foreign policy issue and you study it carefully, you discover that domestic politics is probably the largest quotient in the formulation of foreign policy. Other countries have the same thing.
We beef about the Japanese and their trade problems. They've got a legislature, they've got political parties, they've got pressure groups and vested interests, and the same is true whether you're going to talk about Asia or Europe. I think our biggest problem because we're so new to the world is that it's hard to put ourselves inside the skins of the people of other countries, and I think that's where you have to start. When you don't do that, when you don't try to see things from their point of view, then you get into trouble.
Mind you, it's very important that you have to realize that you are representing the United States" your main client is the American people" but you are only to get along with other countries and progress in getting your problems dealt with if you try to understand it from their point of view. We're so young that we've only spent a few years out in the world. It's only essentially since the end of the Second World War that we've been really exercising authority and influence in the world.
LAMB: Next project for Stanley Karnow?
KARNOW: I would like to look into the possibility of a book and another television series on this vast influx of Asians into the United States. Mind you, I am not calling it the Yellow Peril as some people are just the contrary. The interesting thing about the Asians" the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese, the Cambodians, Indians, Pakistanis" coming to the United States is they're coming in with all the old American virtues "family, hard work, risks and endurance, stamina. I think they're making a positive contribution to this country.
LAMB: Here's the book, In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines. Stanley Karnow is the author, and he's been our guest for the last 60 minutes. Thank you very much, sir.
KARNOW: Thank you, Brian.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1989. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.