The Balance of Blame
The debacle at the Summit last month once again illustrates the immediate causes of World War III. These lie in the fearful symmetry of the cold warriors on either side: An actof one aggravates the other, the other reacts, and this in turn aggravates the one. Behind this symmetry, there are intermediate causes: the frigid contest and the lethal establlshments formed by previous policies and lack of policies of either side. the ultimate causes, of course, seem partof the very shaping of world history in the twentieth century.
Each of the embattled camps contains men and forces that are working for peace and also men and forces that mean war. But in the interaction of the two camps there is one terrible difference between the politics of warmakers and the politics of peacemakers: while the gains made by the , warmakers within each bloc tend to accumulate, this is not so much the case with the peacemakers in each bloc. The scheduling of material measures of defense and attack the immediate source of the peril is speeded up and increased in volume by the successes of the war parties and by their interplay; and these measures are often difficult to cancel. The wreckers on either side readily strengthen the wreckers on the other and the fearful dlalectic between the two is heightened. The mutual frighton which this dialectic feeds and which it increases, accumulates more rapidly and with deeper results than does any mutual trust slowly, tortuously, built by the peacemakers. This symmetry in elite action, and the advantages of the warmakers on either side, are readily illustrated by the blowup of the Summit.
When the statesmen came to Paris for their meeting, they did not come alone and they did not enter a vacuum; each brought with him a legacy of policies and each was a focal pointof pressure from within his own nation and his own bloc of states.
In the United States camp the war forces, I think, were generally ascendant during the two-year period preceding the scheduled meeting, The most immediate and obvious token of this fact was the flightof the U-2, which occurred, we must remember, on the eve of the scheduled Paris meeting while negotiations to stop atomic testing were under way, and at a stage in military technology when it is obvious that a mistaken interpretation of any such flight as an attack could cause a genuine counterattack and thus precipitate World War III.
On the basis of any reasonable meaning of the words, the U-2 flights were provocative; they were a clear violation of international law; more than that, they were acts of aggression. We know of course that "sovereignty" and "aggression" are words subject to endless legalistic definition, and that each side is often, if not continually, "committing acts of aggression" against the other. But we haver merely to ask ourselves what the Americans would do were a Soviet jet shot down 1,200 miles inside "the sovereign territory of the United States." True, satellites launched by Russians and Americans are flying around the globe over all nations, but so far we have not been informed that these are capable of delivering an atomic attack: jet planes are capable of doing just that. the possibility of "accidental" misinterpretation of their intent, if nothing else, places planes and satellites in different categories, at least for the time being. It is also true that all states of world significance employ espionage, but a jet espionage plane, flying over another country's territory, is surely a different matter than a man in a cloak or attached to an embassy with a box full of microphones.
But still, a way out was leftopen by the Russians, for the President at least. He did not take it; he did nor disclaim knowledge of the adventure in the normal diplomatic manner expected. For the first time in modern history, the head of a state declared his personal responsibillty for an actof espionage.
Moreover, high officials of the United States lied -and were caught flatfooted in their lies. First it was said that the plane was on a weather mission and had accidentally lost its way along the border -and that the United States has never deliberately violated Soviet air space; then it was said that United States planes had flown over Russia, but that this U-2 flight was not authorized by Washington; then it was announced that such flights were authorized, that the President was quite aware of them, and that if judged necessary for defense, they would go on. It was also admitted that such flights had been going on for several years. To invade the air space of other sovereign states at jet-flight levels -that represents a long-range and now avowed policy of the United States.
A short while before the Summit, the President asserted that he might leave the meetings early, delegating his part in the negotiatiops to a subordinate. Later, during the interchange of invective, this subordinate, who has a good chance of being the next Presidentof the United States, defended the U-2 flights "under present: conditions." While negotiations at Geneva on atomic tests were going on, the United States announced the resumption of nuclear underground test explosions, thus unilaterally breaking the uneasy moratorium on such tests in effect since 1958. A few days later, the announcement was modified; now the news, was that nuclear explosions were not to be included in the series. During the attempted Summit, the United States defense chief ordered a world-wide military alert, a "pre-combat readiness test."
These later developments -following the shooting down of the U-2 were, of course, responses to Soviet behavior, partof the interaction between the two. What were the actions of the other side, of the Soviet Union?
The Soviet Union, and certainly the Soviet bloc, is not altogether monolithic. It, too, contains peace forces and forces that mean war. Mr. Khrushchev, i t seems clear, is not a dlctator in the manner of Stalin; he is the lead man of a small collegial body that is at the center of the Soviet power elite. Within this elite, different lines of policy are argued, and these arguments are responsive to alternative policies advanced by outsiders -the Chinese elite, for example, or the demands of the Russian people for higher material standards of life. In the period before the Summit meeting, Mr Khrushchev had managed to hold back the cold-war forces in his camp. In fact, inside this camp his own career, so far as it involves decisions about foreign affairs, rests upon the policy of coexistence and negotiation. In his attempts to put through such a setof policies, he has accumulated opponents in his own higher circles and in those of his most important ally. For these opponents of his policies, the U-2 flight and the way its discovery was handled by United States officials were the last straw, providing the excuse needed. Here indeed, as Governor Stevenson said of the flight itself, was the "crowbar and the sledge hammer" for the cold warriors of the Soviet bloc.
Whether or not Mr. Khrushchev changed his own mine is less important than the fact that as lead man of his own elite, he behaved in Paris with ferocious rudeness: he asserted that Mr Eisenhower -scheduled to visit the Soviet Union -would not now be welcome there; and he demanded that the President condemn such flights, that those "directly guilty" for them be punished, and that promises be made that such flights be discontinued. Only then did Mr. Eisenhower state that the U-2 flights had been "suspended" smce the incidentof May 1, and "are not to be resumed " This, it was reported, "surprises Washington." He refused to meet the other two demands in partor in whole. He did not seek out Mr. Khrushchev and apologize for the flight; he did not publicly recognize that such flights were a violation of international law. He insisted that the United States had done no wrong.
Soviet spokesmen blamed the United States invasion of their sovereignty and Washington's handling of the incident for the blowup of the Summit. Then in Berlin, Mr. Khrushchev "unexpectedly took a conciliatory line on the German question. United States and NATO spokesmen generally blamed Mr. Khrushchev's behavior in Paris for the failure of the Summit to get under way; they accused him of attempting to destroy the President's reputation as a world leader. Never for a moment did they acknowledge that the United States' handllng of the U-2 incident might have been the major reason for Mr. Krushchev's behavior in Paris.
Let us for 2 moments back away from this particular series of events. Can any objective analysis of recent international affairs lead us to the view that the Soviet Union is continually and unilaterally responsible for the peril of war? Is it not clear that there is a balance of blame for the cold-war mechanics that are June 18, 1960 taking mankind towards World War III? In the eventof war, I know the following question might become irrelevant, but it is not y e t so. Suppose that war did occur, for example by accidental misinterpretation of espionage planes as atomic attackers: who, then, would be more responsible -- the United States or the Soviet Union?
The answer to any such question, I think, varies with different periods of the postwar era. As of this writing, I think the answer is that the balance of blame would lie more with I the United States. But such balances, on the one side or on the other, are of little comfort to sane men on elther slde. the vital fact is that there is a balance of blame, not where the blame lies at any given moment. This lethal symmetry of action is what is vital, for in it lies the stategic causes of World War III.
When the news of the U-2 flight was announced, I was in Moscow completing a series of interviews with Soviet intellectuals. I had gone there to gather material needed for several research projects. One aspectof my experience impressed me so forcibly that I feel the need to express it here.
The intellectual and moral differences between the Soviet and the NATO peoples are much deeper than differences of opinion, of political rhetoric, of ideals, of sincerity of conviction, of levels of reasonableness. So far as their discourse and beliefs are concerned, what separates the their worlds is nothing less than the very definitions of reality in terms of which each observes, thinks, feels and judges. Behind this difference, of course, there are enormous differences of experience, in fact differences of history itself. When one is there, one is constantly aware of the fact thatopinion and information, even of the simplest sort, is distorted (on both sides) by the screen of wholesale condemnation. I am quite certain that for differing reasons this censorship of understanding (even of the effort to understand what the other is all about) is as greaton the Western side as on the Eastern. There is a curtain of iron; there is also on this side of it a curtain of stamless steel. And both are in the mind as well as on the frontiers.
Any understanding is made impossible if one's mind is always tightened up by one's own nationalist definitions of reallty, or by the terms derived from one's experience of, or with, Stalinism. One cannot merely react to a word, a slogan, a proposition which Soviet intellectuals or decision-makers use, thus assuming thatone has understood the intended meaning. One must patiently seek out the meaning; one must slowly build a vocabulary adequate to the meanmgs intended by the other. Only a few people on either side are engaged in this sortof work." And, of course, Westerners who try are liable to be taken to task for "not really understanding the Communist menace," of "being softon communism." Translated, I think this charge usually means:
1. That one is not satisfied to accept the official and quasi-official definitions of world reality, and, in particular of Soviet reality, that now form a common denominator of belief in the NATO countries. On many specific points about the Soviet Union's domestic affairs and international relations -- points merely assumed in my own country -- I am in no position to make judgments. Either I am ambivalentos I admit to plam ignorance. Moreover, I do not think anyone else really knows the facts on which to make judgments; the kind of work required has not been done by very many, and often polltical conditions are such that even the effort cannot be made. As for the higher circles of decision-makers and semi-official spokesmen in either country, I cannot persuade myself that a fruitful number of them are up to the effort required to understand the other's views.
2. the easy charge of being "naive about the Russians" means, I believe, that many of those who do assume that the y "know all about this evil" have made up their minds about the Soviet Union from a great distance and some time ago. Many Western intellectuals have been hurt deeply by their own participation in Communist and other radical movements. They think about the Soviet Union in terms that are heavily freighted with their own experience with Western Communist parties, most usually during the Stalinist era. Many such people are now members of the old futilitarians of the dead Left. I n this respect, I suppose I have been fortunate: Due largely to accidents of my biography, I have never belonged and -- as the phrase goes -- do not now belong to any political organization, Communistor otherwise. Nor, so far as I am aware, have I been a "fellow traveler" of any such organization.
3. Perhaps that is why, in discussing war and peace, I have not felt it necessary or very useful endlessly to repeat what every American newspaper is full of: the unchanging evils of the Soviet rulers. The enormous mass of this sortof writing (which assumes the unilateral guiltof the Soviets for the menace of war) serves to freeze the deadlock at which we find ourselves. It is that deadlock whlch must be broken, and the only possible way to try to break it is to begin at home. To do that one must, as an American wnter, try to bring into severe question the monolithic cold-war posture of his own countrymen and intellectual colleagues. Perhaps were I writing, for example, as a Britisher and mainly for Britain, I would not need to place such stress on this. In that country there has been going on a wide-ranging and quite real debate. In the United States, there has been less a public debate than the noisy interchange of bipartisan banalities and the weary complalning of the old futilitarians.
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, we ought to remember, many generations of social scientists focused their work upon the origins and developmentof liberal capitalism as a world historical phenomenon. Surely Hans Gerth is correct when he remarks that, in a similar way, we must now turn our attention to the rise and development of communism in its several vaneties. Confronted with such a task, anyone who does not experience a great intellectual humility is surely a fool. This is not, of course, a "know-nothing" attitude -- although I am aware that dogmatists on either side of the world encounter will undoubtedly assert that it IS. but no matter. Such exploratory essays as this one cannot be for them. They will not give up their own images, if only because the y are so clear and simple.
If we would have half a chance to think clearly, to understand something so many-sided as the cold war, we must bear in mind what is required of us before we can know. It involves no less than the attempts to understand the whole world scene. I think it is time, just now, for a full-scale reappraisal of "the Soviet phenomena" by the Western intellectual community -- not from the standpoints of Western Communlst parties, of the cold war, of the Soviet's own ideology, of the collapse of various Marxian, non-Communist interpretations about its realities. What is needed is a reappraisal from the standpoint of the Soviet Union's place today in world history and of its meanings for the whole idea of a new left, in the Western countries and in the underdeveloped regions. In the end, it is the image of the Soviet bloc and the quality of the disillusionment with communism that is the point of origin for the weary sophistication about political new beginnings in the United States, all the withdrawal from political concerns, all the fashionable quietism, all the denial of hope itself -- in brief, for the wholesale cultural and political default of NATO intellectuals during the past decade and a half.
If we reject this, posture, then we must carry on from there by making clear our answer to the question: just what do we think of the Soviet bloc and of its prospects?
It is not possible to give here my own full answer to that question; nor is it necessary. So far as Russia is concerned, what is relevant to the issue of war and to the politics of peace is our view of her foreign policy, and of her domestic and bloc affairs insofar as they are likely to affect that policy.
To do even this much requires that we make a serious attempt to draw back from the immediate scene and ,consider the world encounter in something of a historical context. It requires also that we continually keep in mind certain comparisons of the Soviet Union and the United States. For example, it is clear that different images of the Soviet Union turn not only on how seriously we take the new beginnings there since the death of Stalin, but also how seriously we rake the lack of new beginnings and the disuse of formal freedom in the United States since World War II. Weary old stereotypes and fanatical abstractions obstruct our judgment of both.
The black-and-white view is not adequate. It is not true that the one side is dogmatic, the other side openminded. Whether one agrees with them or not, the views of many Soviet spokesmen and intellectuals are every bit as "reasonable" as those of many Americans. Soviet men and women, moreover, are every bit as sincere as are Americans -- and often, I think, more so, if only because they have experienced war in a manner quite beyond the actual experience of Americans.
I do not believe the Soviet bloc is a total lie, and the American alliance a half-truth. Both are full of lies; both are full of truths; the ideological war that they wage is, more often than not, a conflict of hypocrisies. All in both of these systems, the one big lie that ought to concern us most is the military: the lie that war is still a basis for any conceivably human policy. On this point, the balance of blame is very difficult indeed to draw up, but of course behind this common military metaphysic there are two quite different systems of life, at different stages of historical development, and also different kinds of development and aims.
1. First of all, we must continually recognize the enormity of the Soviet's experience in World War II. No one can talk with anyone in the Soviet Union without realizing what twenty million dead has meant to them: it is beyond the imaginative power of most Americans, for whom the war meant a very small proportion of dead, and no devastation at all. On the contrary, the war meant a great boom.
For the Soviets, "the West" includes West Germany, which yesterday was Nazi Germany and which today, rebuilt by United States aid, is NATO's spearhead, and tomorrow will be fully nuclear. They remember the long wait for a Second Front; the sudden ending of lend-lease aid when the shooting stopped; the threat "to roll back" what they see as the Soviet buffer power, when the United States felt it had a monopoly on atomic weaponry. And they see the U.S. bases for missilry and for SAC -- both armed with H-bombs encircling them -- and used as the take-off points for invasions by jet planes of their air space.
3. In view of all this, and much more -- some true, some imaginary -- they see Soviet diplomacy, and especially Mr. Khrushchev's efforts, as most conciliatory: they reduced their armed forces twice, which even if militarily unimportant, is important to them; they stopped nuclear test1ng unilaterally; they terminated some bases abroad; they took the initiative in the evacuation and neutralizing of Austria; they exerted themselves In trying to stop the civil war In Indochina; they have tried continually to talk with Western leaders in an effort to reduce tensions; and they have proposed what they think of as the major plan for total disarmament; and-after the Summit debacle-they have refrained from the expected action on Berlin, and reformulated, their disarmament proposaIs in an effort to meet various Western objections. Forget, for the moment, their motives, cynical or not; the point is, they have constantly taken the initiative.
4. The Soviet people also remember well-although ambivalently as yet-what Stalinism meant. They remember the forced labor, the, terror, the spying, the inhuman acts. And they feel now, since his death , that they've begun to get a new deal. At the top of this feeling there is the desire and the eipectation that they are going to have more and better consumers' goods and a relief from harsh labor; they hope that labor itself is going to be made, by automation and by organization, more pleasant.
Again, it does not matter so much whether we believe this: the point is that many of them believe it. And it is upon the basis of such beliefs that Soviet foreign policy is built. that policy now rests upon their general world outlook, the course of the cold war and of Soviet diplomacy during it, and the feeling of getting a new break.
Let us now reconsider a few points about which many of us have already 'had our minds made up for us.
Can we trust the Russians? The answer is No. As a simple matter of faith, we cannot trust the elite of any great power state. We cannot -- we, meaning ordinary men and women -- cannot trust our own leaders, either; nor the CIA, the top echelons of the Pentagon, nor the men of SAC. We cannot trust de Gaulle or "the French." All of which is merely to say: It's dangerous all over.
Any state, any power can be trusted only insofar as what is at issue appears to it to be in its own interest. The useful question, accordingly, is not, can this or that nation or elite be trusted? But, first, what do they believe is to their interest? And second, are they sane or insane about the use of nuclear weaponry? The answer to the second question, I believe, for both the American and the Soviets is: They would seem to be more insane than sane. But consider the first question.
Aggression is not some eternal characteristic of any state; it is a feature at one time or another during the rise of all great power states. It is the weak nation that tends to be "the troublemaker," the strong nation that calls for "peace and order"; for the strong feel -- with justification -- that they can continue their economic and political ascendancy without "making trouble," without resorting to open violence. Policies for peace are all the easier to pursue when you are already on top of world affairs, especjally-economic affairs. Moreover, you are in a position then to make treaties and other agreements that are to your interest, and such treaties are more likely to be honored than are those which in various degrees have been forced upon you by your weakness. It is, as E. H. Carr has indicated, something like business-labor squabbles: the stronger is "all for peace," the weaker is the "troublemaker"; the cards being stacked against them, that is the only way the weaker can see to gain whatever they want.
During most of its brief history, the Soviet Union has been very weak among the states of the world -- militarily, and also economically, polltically' and culturally; it has not had the industrial grid, its population has been uneducated, and it has suffered the moral onus of political and cultural tyranny.
But now, in 1960, various features of the general weakness of the Soviets have been eliminated; others are in process of elimination. In fact, the world equilibrium of weakness, and strength is shifting and probably will continue to shift; in the next two or three decades, perhaps in less time, it will be the West that is becoming the weaker, the Sino-Soviet bloc, the stronger. It is happening first in military matters; but soon it will become apparent in general economic levels, and in the cultural power to attract the underdeveloped and the uncommitted world.
It is during this world historical shift -- as it becomes, more generally obvious -- that, out of its weakness, the West may be tempted to become the "troublemaker." On the basis of this great shift, "the balance of blame" for war may well also shift; the blame may move more towards the West, in particular the United States.
Back of this whole shift there is indeed a competition of economic and political systems: the one publicly owned and centrally planned, the other capitallst in economywith mixed elements and with some welfare subsidies and formally democratic in its political organization.
So far as the science machines of each system is concerned, the Soviets already reveal their advantages. I believe, if there is no war, they will also reveal the advantages of their economy, including, above all, higher and more equalitarian standards of living. It is not at all unreasonable to believe, as Isaac Deutscher has suggested, that this will lead to greater political and cultural freedom -- first because of the greater social efficiencies which such freedom provides, and second because of the political pressures of the highly educated population that the Soviet Union is going to have.
Whether we believe all this or not matters less than that the Soviets do believe it. In view of this, what is Soviet foreign policy today?
The master aims of the Soviets' policy are (1) to maintain the existing boundaries of the Sino-Soviet bloc; (2) to ccnsolidate the material and other gains that have been made at such terrlble cost; and (3) to increase these gains within their consolidated boundaries. Moreover, the Russlans are a people aware of a plan: they want and they expect, If there IS no war, to transform what is rightly called "Stalin's empire" into an international economic and political unit which will flourish economically as a whole, and each member of which will be politically stable.
For them peaceful coexistence is not merely a slogan or a deception. It is a yearning and it is a guideline. Their aim abroad is --above all -- to gam time in which "to make a demonstration" of the economic and poIltical results of their system at home. As far as "the restof the world" is concerned, they believe that such a demonstration of the superiority of their system will be sufficient "to bring them over."
These feelings and these aims, I believe, pervade Soviet society today, from its still half-Stalinist elite to its most primitive collective farm. For some Soviet citizens, it is "only a hope;" for others, it is a probability. But it is in view of such feelings and in terms of such aims that the foreign policy of the Soviet Union must be understood.
That the Russians want to do all this, there can be little doubt; that they can do all this, if there is no war, they have little doubt. We must always remember that they believe time is on their side -- and on the side of peaceful change in the world. They think their system can defeat capitalism on every front by peaceful competition, which means without resort to force or violence.
No people want war; that goes without saying. The questions are: what about the deciders, and what about their ideas of the means and policies that are now "needed"?
The Soviet elite as a whole do not want war; they are very busy with many other thmgs, and they see clearly what is a fact about their own economy -- that war preparation is sheer waste.
The United States elite as a whole do not want war, either. But the historical position they occupy within US society and in the world divides them deeply; their dogmatic pursuit of certain interests they hold dear makes it likely, on balance, that they will adopt policies that further the chances of war:
1. The frequent Soviet charge that "U.S. munitions makers" are causing the cold war I do not think an adequate statementof the economics of the situation. Some corporations do indeed urge the continual preparation for war, and the relation in many minds between such preparation and possible slump, or between these preparations and continuing prosperity, cannot be denied. Capitalist profits of quite huge amounts are made out of war preparations in the United States; to an unknown but probably considerable extent, the prosperity of capitalism probably is based on war preparations. These facts cannot be considered as making for peace in the world. Certainly that is a minimum statementof the case.
2. We should remember that there is no market other than the military for the products made under many quite enormous contracts with aircraft, missile, electronic and spacecraft corporations. Moreover, the research, development and manufacture of such weaponry are very much in line with the crackpot waste built into US. capitalism; in a truly beautiful way, they combine inflation with quick obsolescence. If there ever was a capitalist boondoggle, this is it. Defense spending does not compete with private enterprise; it does not conflict with the short-run interests of any major pressure group; it does not lead to any serious domestic political issues. True, it makes for higher taxes, but corporptions are now able to treat much, of their taxload as part of their "costs of production" to be passed on to consumers. Moreover, the sort of government programs that would be necessary, in the opinion of many economists, to replace the defense economy -- to maintain prosperity without arms -- are exactly the sort that are most distasteful, politically and economically, to those who, in the name of free enterprise, now benefit politically and economically from the arms race. Imagine the uproar were it proposed to launch a $60 blllion "socialstic" program of urban renewal, valley development, school construction? Welfare spending does compete with private enterprise; it does conflict with the short-run interests of major pressure groups; it does lead to domestic political issues; it does increase taxation, etc.
Certainly a major political effort would be required to do away with the permanent war economy of the United States. It has been, and it is, a major basis of this nation's prosperity -- and a built-in partof the US drift and thrust toward World War III.
3. None of this sort of economics is true of the Soviet Union. Whatever the case in the United States, in the Soviet Union there are no internal economic reasons for war preparation, nor for imperialism in any form. the situation was different immediately following World War II, when the economic motive was conquest for booty: the attempt to further "original accumulation" and to make good the devastation of World war II. But this is no longer the case; their industrial momentum allows the Soviets easier ways to continue their industrialization.
4. The power of the U.S. elite as it is now politically constituted rests very largely upon the permanent war economy and the military ascendancy. These in turn rest publicly , upon the maintenance of a paranoiac view of the Soviet Union, as well as upon the military metaphysic. That the formal mechanisms of more democratic methods of decision exist here makes all the more urgent the maintenance of such conditions. In the Soviet Union, it has been true that internal political command has rested to some extent upon the fear of attack from outside, but as the standard of living rises and other successes of the economy become evident, and as the regime becomes more flrmly legitimized -- and it is so becoming -- this basis for political stability declines in importance. Increasingly, the rule of the Soviet elite rests less upon fear of war than upon the realization of plans for domestic development.
5. Just now the United States is, or feels itself to be, behind the Soviet Unlon in the arms race, especiall y in missiles. Gwen their military metaphysic, this must be an experience of desperation for the power elite. Accordingly, they are likely to continue with their utmost energy the attempt to gain "a position of strength," i.e., to continue their pursuitof the endless spiral. There are good reasons to believe, moreover, that Soviet technology will continue to lead, less perhaps because of the excellence of their science machine than because of the capitalist stupidity of the United States.
6. Many US decision-makers and spokesmen are coming to believe that time is on the side of the Soviet system; indeed, that "history" itself is going against our system. The truth, I believe, is that among some sections of the U.S. power elite and some circles of NATO intellectuals, there is a growing sense of the whole Soviet prospect as I have outlined it above. Many key members of the power elite are coming to believe that the Soviet Union has a momentum and a sense of direction far greater, far more vital, than the United States and other Western capitalist powers. They are very much afraid of the outcome of a peaceful competition between the two systems. Only by an act of military will, some of them believe, can the United States win out in the competition between the two systems -- although what such a "victory" might mean, they do not really know, or at least never say. The Soviets believe that they can win without war.
I think that is the decree of truth, contained in the idea that Soviet military strategy is an adjunct of political policy, whereas the United States has made its political policy an adjunct of its military strategy. What is the world political policy of the United States of America?
The prospect I have outlined is only one basis of Soviet policy. The Soviet elite still do cling to the military metaphysic; they still have in their camp an upcoming nation, China, which is still adventurously weak in international affairs. Like the American, the Soviets' elite persist in the delusion that nuclear war is still a means to ends other than the suicide of mankind. Is there any doubt that they will resort to nuclear violence if they feel they need to in order to "defend" their system and make possible the fulfillment of their many domestic plans and aims?
If the fateful interaction of the tmues, and their ascendancy within each bloc goes on, then it will not matter much where the overall, historic balance of blame lies at any given phase of the interplay towards mutual annihilation. To break the deadlock, to break out of the spiral of causes, unilateral action is now necessary.
At this juncture, the point about the balance of blame that I want most to make is that if the United States will now take the initiative, in a manner I shall presently describe, there are good reasons to believe that the Soviet Union will quickly follow suit. For the forces within Soviet society that would press the country's elite in this direction are very strong. Why, then, does not the United States try to shift the balance of blame? Why does it not make clear that it is not afraid to meet, in political, cultural and economic terms, the fact of the Soviet Union and its bloc?
That the United States ought now to take the initiative IS easy to say. Avd it is easy to do. Moreover, it is easy to state how it might be done with the fullest measure of "military safety.
What the United States ought to do is to announce to the world an over-all program in which we specify the approximate dates on whlch each of the plan is provisions is going to be put into effect, the initial actions should be unilateral. We should say: The United States is gomg to do this and this and this, regardless of what other states allies or enemies do or fail to do. Later provisions of the plan, our announcement should make clear, will be put in to effect if other states respond in stated ways to our initial actions and to the plan as a whole. These later steps are subject to later negotiations to be held after the United States has begun to actout the plan.
By taking the initiative, then, I do not mean merely to talk; I mean to talk and to begin to act. It is not, of course; necessary to carry the principle of unilateral action "to an extreme." No government, for example, is going at once to destroy all of its weaponry. But that is not necessary. When one proposes -- as I do -- unilateral nuclear disarmament by the United States, one need not propose that we destroy all such devices a tone blow. What is necessary is that we begin to destroy them, publicly, in full view of invited observers from the Soviet Union and other nations; and that we announce the conditions under which we are going to continue, on a stated schedule, to destroy the rest.
Is it not time for U.S. spokesmen to stop repeating ad nauseam that every action of the USSR is "Merely Propaganda"? Is such propaganda of-the-deed as the Soviets have put out "merely "propaganda"? If it is that, it is also a quite possible new point of departure In the interplay of the superstates. The United States itself ought now to make such propaganda. For example:
If the plan for "general and complete disarmament," twice now proposed by the USSR, is "merely a bluff," it is not difficult to show up that fact. Begin to meet the initial provisions of their proposal by word and by deed. Begin to cut back the nuclear stockpile. Begin to abandon the overseas bases. Announce the schedule of this cut-back and this abandonment. State the conditions under which it will continue. This need not in any military way be dangerous. Begin to exercise the controls and the inspections the Russians have proposed. Then, after the program is under way, raise questions of better inspection and firmer controls by each side of the other.
What is there to lose by such action? The US stockpile, we are told, is now huge enough to slaughter all the people of the world and to devastate all major means of their livelihood. Even in the insane terms of the military metaphysic, there is nothing to be lost by such a line of action. Destroy half the stockpiles, abandon half the bases, and still there would be ample ammunition and ample means of delivery to insure military safety, in accordance with the weird and ghoulish ideas of safety now prevailing in the higher circles.
How many Americans have actually read the full texts of the Soviet disarmament proposals to the U.N. -- for example, the second draft of June 2, 1960? I think I am as aware as anyone can be of the perils and difficulties of any such proposal. But I do not understand how any reasonable person who really is against war, who really is against the waste and the peril of the arms race, who really does not fear a genuine peace, can fail to respond to these concrete proposals in some such manner as I have just outlined.
If these and other such proposals are not met by the US. elite, by the American people, or at least by one of the two political parties, will that not correctly be judged as one more welghty item shifting the balance of blame onto the United States of America? Will not that be one more item for "the Chinese view" within the bloc?
To put the point in this way, to urge that a Soviet proposal be taken seriously and acted upon, even in a tentative way, is to run the risk of being labeled "soft on communism" and all the rest of it. I have reason personally to know that. But must we not ask: If we take such charges seriously, allowing them to inhibit our attempt to think clearly -- as they are intended to do -- will it be possible to propose anything that might break us out of the military metaphysic and the paranoid trap, that might enable men to get off the road that is leading to World war III?
For Americans today, I think the answer is No, it would not be: For that charge is itself part of the stalemate, part of the inhibition maintained by cold warriors among the U. S. elite and various circles of the NATO intellectuals. From the other side, too, the reverse charge of "being softon America" is part of the stalemate maintained by Stalinist die-hards and other cold warriors of the Soviet bloc.
That is why we should not hesitate to consider why so many Americans have lost even the vision of peace, why there is such an absence of realistic American programs for peace, why U. S. decision-makers are so inert when confronted with proposals by others. And that is why we should, each of us, begin to set forth and to debate, in the most partisan manner open to us, guide lines to peace.
In doing this, should we not remember that the only realistic military view is the view that war, and not Russia, is now the enemy? Should we not keep in mind that the only realistic political view is the view that the cold warrior on either side, not just the Russian, is the enemy?
But don't all such proposals, you say, amount to "appeasement"? Don't they add up to "another Munich"? The answer, I believe, is a flat No. This fallacious historical analogy the Soviet elite are more interested in developing their existing society than in expanding its borders by force; nuclear weaponry -- the Soviets know well -- presents a qualitatively new peril; above all, they believe they can "win" in the competition between the two systems without resort to arms. If we do not want war, that is the competition we must face up to -- in economic, cultural and political terms.