Philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote that there are three kinds of power--military, economic, and ideological (or political)--and that under the right circumstances each kind can be converted into one of the others. These changes, he said, are something like the transformation of one form of energy into another in physics. And the study of power, Russell added, was the essence of political science.
Russell's three forms of power and their transformation one into another occur over and over again in current world politics. Asian Communists, with their Marxist system of ideas, have been able to capture the minds of Indo-Chinese villagers, recruiting guerrilla fighting forces by citing existing grievances and offering glittering promises of reform. After this conversion of ideological power into military strength, the Communists go on to capture economic resources--the rich rice deltas of north Vietnam, for instance.
The United States, on the other hand, has used its economic power in assistance programs that have helped to save Western Europe from communism and that are now being used in Asia for the same purpose. The West, with its heritage of freedom and democracy, has had its successes on the ideological front also; Western nations are far from defenseless in combatting the appeals of communism. The trouble is that these appeals, false though they may be, often have a strong attraction for the peoples of underdeveloped lands emerging from colonial rule.
A considerable part of the debate about United States policy in Asia has to do with the degrees of emphasis we ought to put on military, economic, and ideological methods. Few voices are raised asking for the end of all economic assistance to Asia; still fewer want us to abandon the various ways of increasing our military strength in the Far East; nor do most critics of our