Gurtov, Melvin 1941-

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GURTOV, Melvin 1941-

PERSONAL: Born September 2, 1941, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Bernard (an IRS revenue agent) and Sally (a homemaker; maiden name, Gruber) Gurtov; married Leigh Anne Fansler (a spiritual teacher), May 29, 1982; children: Ellene, Marci, Alia. Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1963, M.I.A. and certificate in international affairs and East Asian studies, 1965; attended Stanford University Inter-University Center, Taipei, Taiwan, 1965-66; University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, Ph.D., 1971.

ADDRESSES: Home—7335 Southeast 32nd Ave., Portland, OR 97202. Office—Division of Political Science, Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, OR 97207; fax: 503-725-8444. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Rand Corp., Santa Monica, CA, research associate in social science, 1966-71; University of California—Riverside, Riverside, CA, associate professor, 1971-76, professor of political science, 1976-86, department chair, 1973-74; Portland State University, Portland, OR, professor of political science, 1986—, director of International Studies Program, 1986-92, director of Asia Programs, 1992-96. University of California—Davis, visiting professor, 1975; Waseda University, visiting scholar at Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies and Center for International Education, 2001; visiting lecturer at other institutions, including University of California—Santa Barbara, 1969, California Institute of Technology, 1971-72, and University of California—Berkeley, 1975. Portland-Suzhou Sister City Committee, member of board of directors, 1988-95; Oregon Peace Institute, member of board of directors, 1988-93; Northwest Regional China Council, board member, 1987-95, president, 1993-95; public speaker on international issues.

MEMBER: Association for Asian Studies, International Studies Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Haynes Foundation fellow, 1972; Oregon Committee for the Humanities, grant, 1989, scholarship, 1990-93; senior Fulbright scholar in Korea, 1994; 50th Anniversary Research Award, Korea Fulbright Foundation, 1995-96; award from Asia Research Fund, 1999; grants from U.S. Department of State, Hyundai Motors of America, World Forestry Center, Japan Foundation, and Korean Foundation.


The First Vietnam Crisis: Chinese Communist Strategy and United States Involvement, 1953-1954, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1967.

Problems and Prospects of United States Policy in Southeast Asia, Rand Corp. (Santa Monica, CA),1969.

Southeast Asia Tomorrow: Problems and Prospects for U.S. Policy, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1970.

China and Southeast Asia—The Politics of Survival: A Study of Foreign Policy Interaction, D. C. Heath (Lexington, MA), 1971.

The United States against the Third World: Antinationalism and Intervention, Praeger (New York, NY), 1974.

(Editor, with Sudershan Chawla and Alain-Gerard Marsot, and contributor) Southeast Asia under the New Balance of Power, Praeger, 1974.

(Editor, with Jae Kyu Park, and contributor) Southeast Asia in Transition: Regional and International Politics, Institute for Far Eastern Studies (Seoul, South Korea), 1977.

Making Changes: The Politics of Self Liberation, Harvest Moon Books (Oakland, CA), 1979.

(With Byong-Moo Hwang) China under Threat: The Politics of Strategy and Diplomacy, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1980.

(With Ray Maghroori) The Roots of Failure: United States Policy in the Third World, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1984.

(With Dariush Haghighat) Global Politics in the Human Interest, Lynne Rienner (Boulder, CO), 1988, 4th edition, 1999.

(Editor and contributor) The Transformation of Socialism: Perestroika and Reform in the Soviet Union and China, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1990.

(Editor, with Devorah Lieberman, and contributor) Revealing the World: An Interdisciplinary Reader for International Studies, Kendall/Hunt (Dubuque, IA), 1992.

(With Byong-Moo Hwang) China's Security: The New Roles of the Military, Lynne Rienner (Boulder, CO), 1998.

Pacific Asia? Prospects for Security and Cooperation in East Asia, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Contributor to books, including Vietnam and American Foreign Policy, edited by John Boettiger, D. C. Heath (Lexington, MA), 1968; The Cultural Revolution in China, edited by T. Robinson, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1971; Indochina in Conflict: A Political Assessment, edited by J. J. Zasloff and A. E. Goodman, D. C. Heath (Lexington, MA), 1972; The Changing Order in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula, edited by Manwoo Lee and Richard Mansbach, Institute for Far Eastern Studies, 1993; and Korea's Amazing Century: From Kings to Satellites, Korean Fulbright Foundation/Korean-American Educational Commission, 1997. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals in the United States and abroad, including Pacific Affairs, China Quarterly, World Development, Journal of East Asian Affairs, Current History, Contemporary China, Nation, Studies in Comparative Communism, Southeast Asia Record, and Oregonian. Editor in chief, Asian Perspective, 1994—.

Gurtov's books have been published in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.

SIDELIGHTS: Political scientist, academic, and author Melvin Gurtov worked for a few years as a research associate for the Rand Corporation beginning in the mid-1960s. He prepared several books and monographs for Rand before leaving the company in 1971 to take a professorial position at the University of California at Riverside. One of the last projects Gurtov completed under the auspices of Rand, China and Southeast Asia, the Politics of Survival: A Study of Foreign Policy Interaction, would become controversial after its author supported Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg's denunciation of U.S. policy in regard to the Vietnam War. As Henry Raymont phrased it in the New York Times, Gurtov and Ellsberg both asserted that U.S. government policy in Southeast Asia was "designed to deceive the American public." Following Gurtov's decision to second Ellsberg's criticism, Rand requested his resignation as a consultant and asked that Rand's name be dropped from copies of China and Southeast Asia. Long respected as an authority on matters concerning politics in Southeast Asia, Gurtov has since penned, edited, or collaborated on several other titles.

Gurtov's first major book-length work, however, was The First Vietnam Crisis: Chinese Communist Strategy and United States Involvement, 1953-1954. In this book, he discusses the roots of United States involvement in the Vietnam War. He tells of French mistakes in dealing with its former colonial territories in Southeast Asia, and of a treaty signed by the United States during the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower that promised the French air support for its military operations against the Vietminh—the forerunner of the Vietcong. The French requested American help in its battle for the Vietnamese city of Dienbienphu, but at that time the federal government feared that air support would lead to troop commitment—a fear that became reality during the following decade, after the French pulled out of Vietnam in defeat. Harvey G. Simmons, reviewing The First Vietnam Crisis in Canadian Forum, praised the work as "one of the most important books published on the Vietnam problem in the past few years." The critic also asserted that its "fascination . . . lies in the author's recounting of the forces brought to bear on Eisenhower convincing him that . . . the projected American air strike against Vietminh positions around Dienbienphu . . . was unwise."

In 1974 Gurtov published The United States against the Third World: Antinationalism and Intervention. This volume puts forth the idea that American foreign policy with regard to Third World nations operates on the assumption that international stability is more beneficial to the United States than small, national revolutions—even if those revolutions lead to greater freedom for Third World citizens, rather than to communism. Gurtov asserts that even if the guiding ideology of a Third World nation's revolution is communism or socialism, that nation should still be allowed self-determination without interference from the United States. Applauding The United States against the Third World as "a forceful critique," a Choice reviewer concluded that the book "should be of interest to all college and public libraries." A Library Journal critic labeled it a "well-documented account of U.S. adventures abroad from the Eisenhower through the Nixon years."

Gurtov teamed with one of his graduate students, Byong-Moo Hwang, to write China under Threat: The Politics of Strategy and Diplomacy. In this book Gurtov and Hwang argue that the policies of communist China, rather than being aimed toward world domination as long believed by many within the United States government, have been formulated and implemented with the sole purpose of protecting the ongoing communist revolution within that country's own borders. The authors illustrate their point through discussion of China's role in the Korean war during the early 1950s, the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1958, a 1962 border conflict with India, the Vietnam War, and border conflicts with the then-Soviet Union in 1969.

Critical opinion of China under Threat varied. M. L. Baron suggested in the Political Science Quarterly that its authors were too easy on the Chinese government. Baron cited what he described as the way in which "during the 1950s and 1960s, analysts of Chinese foreign policy stressed Peking's aggressive, warlike ways," and judged that "Gurtov and Hwang thereby inadvertently reverse the studies of the 1950s." "Instead of the Chinese being the permanent aggressors," Baron continued, "they are now to be viewed as the permanently aggrieved. No doubt the truth lies somewhere in between." A Choice reviewer expressed the reservation that Gurtov and Hwang exaggerated the role of Chinese leader Mao Zedong in that nation's policy, while D. D. Buck in the Library Journal hailed the collaborative effort as "a challenging new interpretation," and concluded that the authors "present their case ably and argue it well."

For The Roots of Failure: United States Policy in the Third World, Gurtov teamed up with Ray Maghroori. Though, like many of Gurtov's other volumes, The Roots of Failure discusses Vietnam, it also examines United States foreign policy with regard to the nations of Iran and Nicaragua. With Maghroori, Gurtov asserts that the policy of the United States toward all three of these countries has been similar—and similarly flawed. Though both authors outline a possible substitute foreign policy, which they label a "global-humanist alternative," they express the belief that neither their proposal nor any other radically different plan is likely to be adopted by the United States government. "For alternative courses of action even to be put on the decision-makers' agenda and debated as 'live options' requires radical alterations of their ideology, values, and attitudes," warn Gurtov and Maghroori. "It also requires major changes in the way foreign-policy bureaucrats perceive and act upon problems." Keeping this declaration in mind, Paul W. Van Der Veur in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science questioned the efficacy of The Roots of Failure, but nevertheless commended it as "an interesting and stimulating work." B. W. Jentleson in Choice praised the volume as well, calling it "one of the more forcefully argued yet still empirically based critiques" within his realm of experience.

Gurtov once told CA: "As my sense of injustice and abuses of power sharpened in the 1960s and 1970s, my teaching and research interests in international affairs changed. I teach and write with the hope of promoting social justice, peaceful resolution of conflict, and protection of the environment; and my perspective is that of a global citizen rather than a United States citizen wedded to the 'national interest.' Respect for the great diversity of human life and compassion for those less fortunate are values I learned in childhood and try to take seriously in and outside my work."



Gurtov, Melvin, and Ray Maghroori, The Roots of Failure: United States Policy in the Third World, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1984.


Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, March, 1986, Paul W. Van Der Veur, review of The Roots of Failure, p. 158.

Canadian Forum, February, 1968, Harvey G. Simmons, review of The First Vietnam Crisis: Chinese Communist Strategy and United States Involvement, 1953-1954.

Choice, March, 1975, review of The United States against the Third World: Antinationalism and Intervention, p. 142; May, 1981, review of China under Threat: The Politics of Strategy and Diplomacy, p. 1325; May, 1985, B. W. Jentleson, review of The Roots of Failure, p. 1405.

Library Journal, October 1, 1974, review of The United States against the Third World, p. 2464; January 15, 1981, D. D. Buck, review of China under Threat, p. 134.

New York Times, September 24, 1971, article by Henry Raymont.

New York Times Book Review, June 4, 1967, p. 3.

Political Science Quarterly, fall, 1981, M. L. Baron, review of China under Threat, p. 517.

Times Literary Supplement, May 25, 1967, p. 431.