A little history should teach us a little patience in dealing with Africa. When the communists finally won in China a generation ago, their victory was regarded in Washington simply as a Russian takeover. Today communist China is communist Russia’s most fanatical enemy.
To glance back for a moment at the White Paper on China which Secretary of State Acheson issued twenty-nine years ago this August is a timely reminder of how resoundingly wrong an American government could be at one of the great turning points of history. “The communist leaders,” Secretary Acheson said in his preface to the White Paper, “have forsworn their Chinese heritage and have publicly announced their subservience to a foreign power, Russia,” and he called on the Chinese people to “throw off the foreign yoke.”
Nobody knows how many billions we spent in an effort to prevent their victory and how many billions more in the effort to strangle the new regime, but if there could have been a “Nixon visit” in 1950, Peking today would be a powerful military ally of the United States instead of a weak and impoverished giant, America’s biggest welfare applicant.
From opposite vantage points, Washington and Moscow made the same misjudgments then and are repeating them in Africa today. Both the great powers completely underestimated the hold of nationalism, with its deep moorings in geography, tradition, and culture. Both completely overestimated the power of ideology. If there were a Russian opposition party, able to protest the resources being squandered on Africa, its prize exhibit would be Russian intervention in China: the way Russian arms and military advisers built up the Kuomintang armies only to have Chiang Kai-shek turn on them in his hour of victory in 1927 and massacre his communist allies, and the way in which the Chinese communists after years of aid from Russia have become its most inveterate enemy.
On a smaller scale, the same bitter comedy is playing itself out in Indochina. The long series of wars there since 1945 were fought first by the French and then by us on the simple theory that Vietnam was China’s puppet, as China was Russia’s puppet. Yet with our withdrawal from the bloody scene, all three are freshly embroiled in a triangular brawl of their own. Peking and Hanoi are speaking of each other with hatred; China helps Cambodia fight Vietnam, and Vietnam, despite Russian aid, has just announced its ingratitude at UN headquarters. A Hanoi press release said that Chinese reports that it was about to give the Soviet Union use of the naval base we built in Cam Ranh Bay was a “total fabrication.” So dissoluble are the indissoluble bonds forged in war and revolution. Such indeed was our attitude toward France after its help in our own revolution.
The path of empire has never been more slippery than in these days when new nations are striving to be born—and old ones to be reborn—in Asia and Africa. Except where, as in Eastern Europe, Moscow still keeps armies of occupation, its hold is as precarious as that of the old capitalist imperialisms. Yet long after the life has evaporated from Marxism-Leninism in its citadel, American political leaders still cling touchingly to a faith in its magic power.
If Washington were to be believed, Russia has been on the verge of taking over Africa for two decades. In 1960 John F. Kennedy thought he could garner votes by his inflammatory attacks on Eisenhower for failing to hold onto Ghana and Guinea, though few American voters could have given the correct answer if asked what continent they were on. Guinea under Sékou Touré, thanks in part to the aid embargo we imposed upon him, was Moscow’s most faithful satellite in Africa. Moscow had invested $100 million and 1,500 technicians in the development of what was to become a particularly brutal regime.
But Soviet nationals were expelled in 1961, and in the missile crisis of 1963, when the Russians were desperate for ways to supply their distant satellite in Cuba, Sékou Touré refused to let them use the airfield they themselves had built for him in Guinea. Nasser, then their favorite client, was similarly ungrateful when he stopped shipments through Egypt of Soviet weapons to Congolese rebels in the 1960s.
All this is a familiar story to the African experts, but they dare not when in office publicly recall it lest they be accused of somehow being soft on communism. Here is a ready example. In 1963 the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford, the last redoubt still holding out against the revolution of 1917, published a comprehensive symposium on Africa and the Communist World. In his scholarly chapter on “Soviet Political Activity,” Alexander Dallin, after surveying the efforts of Moscow’s once famous (and in Washington highly feared) “Friendship University” for Africans, reported of the black revolution it trained that “no African fellow traveler has ever remained a stable and dependable ally of the USSR.”
Dallin commented sardonically on how “time and again, some ephemeral ‘Marxist’ group would dub itself a Communist party, only to have its leaders and its total membership (sometimes identical) defect without remorse or second thoughts.” The book was edited by a professor since come to prominence in the Carter administration, but Zbigniew Brzezinski has abandoned such astringent realism for the more exciting alarms that endear him to the Old Cold Warriors in Congress, the Old Believers whose faith in the potency of Marxism-Leninism to work miracles remains unshaken.1 Despite more recent communist pratfalls in the Sudan, in Mozambique, in Somalia, and in Iraq, these are the political sectaries who still insist that the Russians can walk on water, even the turbulent waters of Africa.
All we have said so far seems to have been implied by Carter’s campaign speeches on Africa, by the appointment of Andrew Young, by the fresh policies applied elsewhere in southern Africa, and by the “keep cool” speeches last year from Carter and Secretary Vance. Why, then, the sudden hysteria being whipped up over Zaire and Angola?
To find a clear and complete answer is difficult. Every student of African politics comes back appalled by the complexities. But when you begin to study the shift in the Carter administration you begin to realize that the politics of Washington are pretty dark and murky too.
From an anthropological point of view—and sometimes one feels that anthropology is as necessary in Washington as in Africa—American presidents since World War II have had to undergo a puberty rite, to reassure the tribe that the new headman could stand up to its immemorial enemies, the Musku-bumbus, or Russians.
Under Kennedy this need to show that the new president wasn’t “chicken” gave us the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. Johnson stepped up the bombing in Indochina, basically, and for those who knew him unmistakably, because he felt a challenge to his virility. Carter’s recent “get tough” speeches and the ultimatum-like challenge at Annapolis—“confrontation or cooperation”—seem to be in the same traditional mold. The recurrent cost of proving each new president’s manhood has proven a major, and unbalancing, budgetary item; our present inflationary headaches began with the Vietnam war; the last thing we need is a new and bigger Vietnam—or succession of Vietnams—in Africa. Especially if accompanied by a steppedup arms race, this seems a sure way finally to do in the dollar.
Yet behind the scenes, well before the Shaba invasion of Zaire from Angola, there were feelers from the White House for a way to get around the restrictions imposed by Congress in recent years to prevent a Vietnam in Africa. The Shaba invasion began the night of May 11-12. But in the May 1 issue of The New Yorker, an article by Elizabeth Drew on Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the most extensive and informative study of him to date, first lifted the curtain on these efforts. She reported that while Carter had been critical in the 1976 campaign of Ford-Kissinger attempts at covert CIA intervention in Angola and had supported the restrictions placed on such actions by the Clark amendment, Brzezinski had been moving back to the Kissinger African policies.
“In recent months,” Ms. Drew wrote, “Brzezinski has raised the question of whether the congressional restrictions are still applicable; the CIA has told him that they are.” According to Ms. Drew, Brzezinski is critical of the restrictions placed not only on the president but on the CIA. “He is troubled,” she reported, “by the number of reviews to which some activities [i.e. covert activities] have to be subjected before they can be undertaken.” In this he seems to be at odds with the executive order put into effect last January by Carter which requires that “appropriate members of Congress” be informed. It also requires that the president himself approve covert activity of any importance.
But Brzezinski, Ms. Drew went on, “is known to believe that the president should have broad flexibility, including ‘deniability’—that is, that it should be possible to carry out operations in a way that would enable the president to deny that he knew about them.” With this doctrine of “plausible deniability” we are back in the full bloom of the Nixon-Kissinger era. Brzezinski, like Kissinger, apparently believes that the CIA, by covert operations in aid of the rebel movements in Angola, should “punish” the Neto regime and create for Cuba a situation resembling our own in Vietnam. How to bring about a Vietnam in Africa for Cuba by covert American action without creating a Vietnam for ourselves is a question he has not addressed.
The revelations made in the May 1 New Yorker cast important light on certain events since. These show the corruption-through-secrecy and the lack of candor which marked the Vietnam war years. On May 4, Carter said at a press conference, “We have no intention to intercede in any war in Angola.”
But a few days later, Admiral Stansfield Turner, director of the CIA, and Brzezinski’s right-hand man, Carter’s deputy national security adviser David Aaron, approached Senator Clark (D. Iowa), co-author of the Clark-Tunney amendment forbidding direct or indirect—open or covert—US intervention in Angola without express congressional authorization. They wanted Clark’s approval of, or acquiescence in, a plan to transfer equipment through a third party to the UNITA rebel forces in Angola. Clark turned them down, saying it would be against the law. On May 23, when the senator heard that the story of Turner’s request was to break next day in the Washington Post, Clark issued a statement saying, “It is increasingly clear that President Carter has made the decision to reinvolve the United States in the Angola civil war.”
The full story of this effort to circumvent the law is yet to be known. One question, hitherto unanswered, is why Turner and Aaron were foolish enough to approach Clark, perhaps the senator most likely to disapprove of their plan.
But what has not been published until now is that their first approach was to Senator Birch Bayh (D. Ind.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Perhaps they hoped they could get sufficient approval from Bayh so that if the covert operation later came to light they could say they had cleared it with the Senate Intelligence Committee. That committee is bound by strict secrecy rules, which could be relied on to keep this “indecent proposal” a secret. But Bayh refused to go along, and instead said, “You’d better see Clark.” Perhaps they felt they had better risk the direct approach rather than have Clark hear about it from Bayh.
Apparently there were two approaches made to Clark. Aaron went first ostensibly to ask him about indirect aid to the Eritrean rebels. But the Washington Post reported on May 24 that “Aaron also mentioned possible US aid to Angola, but only vaguely, a source said.” The second approach was made by Admiral Turner. As Jody Powell explained to the Washington Post, Turner talked to Clark “about what was possible within the law” and “obviously used several examples.” One of the examples was Angola.
Obviously the head of the CIA didn’t have to go to Clark to find out what was within the law. According to Ms. Drew’s account, the CIA had already told Brzezinski that the kind of covert aid he proposed for Angolan rebels was illegal. Jody Powell the day the Post story was published said Admiral Turner presented “no specific proposals.” But next day (May 25) the Post quoted “reliable sources” as saying that the CIA chief showed Senator Clark a memorandum with specific numbers and types of weapons to be turned over to UNITA through intermediaries.
The admiral, no babe in the wood, “observed,” according to the Washington Post account, “that this plan appeared to conflict with the Clark amendment” and Clark in turn “reportedly agreed.” So ended that seminar.
A more disturbing part of this charade was the White House reaction. “Carter Reported Unaware of Overtures to Sen. Clark,” said the Post headline on May 25. Jody Powell said, “The president had no knowledge they were doing this sort of thing” and said it was Jody Powell’s “impression” that the president did not learn of the discussions with Clark until reporters first raised questions about the story in the Washington Post.
Now the general impression in Washington is that Carter “runs a very tight ship.” It is difficult to believe that an admiral, conditioned to chain of command, would step out of line on so delicate a matter without higher approval, especially since the CIA is trying to rebuild its reputation. Either there’s a quiet mutiny in the White House led by First Mate Brzezinski or this is a case of just that kind of presidential “plausible denial” he advocates.
The Washington Post noted that senior State Department officials were strongly opposed to any such US intervention in Angola. “Senior Administration officials,” the Post reported on May 25, “met at the White House yesterday to thrash out a new policy statement on Africa” to clear up the confusion, and Carter was expected “to reveal the fruits of this meeting” at a press conference in Chicago that day.
Instead, at Chicago on the 25th, Carter effectively changed the subject. He made headlines by accusing the Cubans of complicity in the Zaire raid. The spotlight was taken off the campaign to lift restrictions on covert activities. But in the finer print which few papers published and few Americans saw, he said he had “no present intention” of asking for any modification of the Clark amendment. “Any proposal for modifications of this and other restraints,” he said, “will await our review.”
Carter went on to say that the existing provisions of the law “will, of course, be faithfully observed by me.” But he added that “we must resist further restrictions” by Congress. In the meantime Carter tried to raise popular anger against Angola. Its government, he said, “must bear a heavy responsibility for the deadly attack” on Zaire…. “And it’s a burden and a responsibility shared by Cuba.” This seemed part of a buildup for punitive action against Angola and Cuba. It was in no way a disavowal of the Turner-Aaron mission. “I’ll never lie to you,” Carter said in the campaign. But he never promised not to engage in plausible denial. We are back in the old groove worn deep by LBJ and Nixon during the Vietnam war.
The Chicago statement was not extemporaneous. A team of high-level officials worked on it May 24 and then again the morning of the 25th, when final revisions were wired to Chicago. This is what it said of Cuban involvement. The words must be read carefully:
We believe that Cuba had known of the Katanga plans to invade and obviously had done nothing to restrain them from crossing the border. We also know that the Cubans have played a key role in training and equipping the Katangans who attacked.
This turned out to be a masterpiece of disingenuous statement. On May 18 the State Department informed the press that Castro had called in Lyle F. Lane, the chief US diplomat in Havana, and denied any part in the Zaire invasion. Only the bare denial was disclosed and this was interlarded with the kind of “informed speculation” designed to discredit it. But Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News on June 9 disclosed another part of Castro’s communication which the State Department had withheld. Castro told Lane he knew of the plans for invasion a month or more in advance and had tried unsuccessfully to stop it.
The Washington Post broke this story in its later editions of Saturday, June 10. The New York Times on June 11 said it learned from Senator Clark that the information was first disclosed when Senator McGovern, who had obtained the full text of the Lane communication from the State Department, read it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in executive session Friday, June 9. The cable described, the Times reported, “the evolution of the rebel attacks and his purported efforts to stop them.” Castro said he failed because Agostinho Neto, head of the Angolan government, was ill at the time and under treatment in Moscow. The executive session was held, at Senator McGovern’s request, to hear from Admiral Turner evidence of Castro’s complicity in the Shaba invasion. Even the chairman, Senator Sparkman of Alabama, normally an administration stalwart, said he did not think the evidence conclusive.
The whole affair was reminiscent of the way in which the Johnson administration manipulated the Senate and the country in the Tonkin Gulf affair. Selective disclosures and claims of “intercepts” too secret to be shared even with the Senate built up a false picture of what had happened and won Johnson a blank check for bombing reprisals against North Vietnam.
At this writing no one in the Senate has yet demanded that Lane’s full report on his conversation with Castro be made public. It is classified but whom is the secrecy stamp protecting? Carter or Castro? Nor has any senator asked about our electronic surveillance of Cuba. It would seem that Castro, if he tried to stop the invasion from Havana, had to use telephonic or wireless channels of some kind. Can it be that these escaped our surveillance? Or was the American government made aware by these messages of what was going on? Why was the full text of the conversation with Castro withheld? The effect, if not the purpose, was to inflame public opinion in this country.
So already, even before we get more deeply involved in Africa, the falsehoods, inseparable from these distant and unpopular interventions, begin to pile up. The result is an almost universal skepticism not only on Capitol Hill but in the State Department itself—if not indeed in the bowels of the White House itself—about the president’s accusations against Cuba. His effort to counter his loss in credibility, in a televised press conference just as this issue went to press, was not a stellar performance. He began with a Freudian slip, soon corrected, saying that Castro had 20,000 troops in Zaire, when of course he meant Angola. Then he committed a geographical boo-boo, which was corrected only later in the official transcript, by saying that the invasion came from southeastern Angola. There, in a country almost twice as large as Texas, Cuban troops are concentrated in their fight against the UNITA rebels. The invasion actually came from the opposite corner of the country, in the far northeast, where the Cubans are weakest. Carter ended by shifting the accusation from a charge of Cuban complicity in the invasion to a charge that the Cubans could have done more to stop it! It was an inglorious exit from a propaganda battle Carter himself had provoked.
Ambiguity often seems inseparable from government, to reconcile contending viewpoints and to keep options open. But it can easily be carried to an extreme, and that may well be the case now with Carter’s stance on Africa and SALT. Certainly the Annapolis speech, which was billed as an exercise in clarification, has only served to exacerbate relations with the Soviets without making clear what Carter’s policy is.
The president is asking Congress for greater flexibility, and this is a code word for weakening the restrictions imposed by Congress on the executive and the CIA in order to prevent a new Vietnamese-style entanglement abroad without a “pause for reflection,” without advance consultation with Congress. The tricky way in which the Carter administration has been seeking secret congressional acquiescence in a covert CIA “little war” in Angola, à la Laos and Cambodia, along with its disingenuous handling of the diplomatic exchanges with Cuba, make it evident that we need more, not fewer, restrictions on the executive.
There is another kind of flexibility involved, which the president does need, but he himself is undermining it. The situations in Africa are extraordinarily complex and murky, as are the issues in the SALT talks. The White House can only achieve sufficient flexibility to deal with them if it educates the public to an awareness of these complexities, for they require diverse policies and diverse attitudes in various areas. The president cuts down his ability to act pragmatically when he creates hysteria, jingoistic passions, and melodramatic scenarios. To make “toughness with the Russians” the simplistic standard of politics on Africa and SALT is to imprison himself in costly absurdities.
The key issues in Africa are to prevent civil and racial war in Rhodesia and Namibia, settle peacefully the conflicts in both areas, and then press South Africa toward a sane adjustment in its racial policies. Both Washington and Moscow have common interests in this because a failure could so worsen their relations as to endanger the peace of the entire world.
Without some guerrilla activity, without some aid to the Rhodesian and Namibian guerrillas from the other side, Britain and the United States would have no leverage whatever in trying to bring about a peaceful transition to majority rule. The Western powers need Russian cooperation in seeing that this aid does not go so far as to endanger a settlement. In southern Africa, as in the Middle East, convergent actions by the two superpowers are a necessary component for stability. A new wave of anticommunist hysteria will hinder effective helmsmanship in these turbulent waters.
A cardinal point for effective policy in both big capitals is to remember that this is basically an African question. Irresistible forces are moving toward the emancipation of black Africa from racial exploitation in a struggle that cannot be stopped. It can be poisoned and it can wreck the peace of the world. Or it can be helped toward the peaceful settlements necessary if the industrial resources and human assets, white and black, which Africa needs to pull itself out of impoverishment and hunger are to be preserved from destruction.
We and the Russians both will only lose all credibility with the Africans if they feel that they are being sacrificed again, as in the nineteenth century, to a new great power struggle. In Angola, earlier efforts to end what are basically tribal divisions in a coalition government were upset by CIA interference, and this is exactly the kind of covert destabilizing operation the Clark-Tunney Amendment stopped and the Turner-Aaron visit to Clark was designed to start up again.
There ought to be an American ambassador in Luanda, the capital of Angola, as Andrew Young has urged over and over again. Every other NATO country has recognized the Neto government. Gulf Oil, Boeing, National Cash Register, and many other US business concerns are doing business with Neto, as is Krupp, and even the South African de Beers Diamond Company. Only the US stands aside and still hopes covertly to “destabilize” that regime. In this respect, Carter is resuming the Ford-Kissinger policy he criticized so severely in the campaign. Yet Neto’s cooperation is crucial for a settlement in Namibia.
If Carter wants to draw a line in Africa and dare the Russians to cross it, he had better be careful that the line is not drawn in quicksand like the Mobutu regime in Zaire. And he had better be sure that the Congress and the American public do not begin to feel that, like his predecessors in dealing with Indo-china, he is not disclosing the full truth about what he is doing and about our knowledge of events in Africa.
An example: Castro told the Washington Post (late edition, May 13) that early in 1976 the Cuban and Angolan regimes decided to distance themselves from the Katangan forces because Angola needed “peace to reconstruct itself” and that meant peace with its neighbor, Zaire. It is difficult to believe that the CIA, with its electronic surveillance of Cuba, its agents in Africa, and its close ties with our NATO ally, the Belgians, is not in a position to confirm or deny this.
The Belgian connection is important. The organization which ran this year’s invasion of Shaba Province in Zaire was Nathaniel M’bumba’s Front for the National Liberation of the Congo. Curiously it is allowed a headquarters in Brussels, where it holds press conferences. There was suspicion that the Belgian government was ready to deal with it if the invasion had succeeded. The Katangan gendarmes, the core of M’bumba’s forces, are after all the natives whom Belgium trained and on whom it relied in its original effort to break Katanga away from the Congo in the Sixties and thus preserve full control of the Union Minière holdings in that province.
Specialized publications dealing with Africa and Third World affairs in the past eighteen months have reported revolts both civil and military in Zaire as well as preparations for the recent invasion. At least one publication (Africa Report, July-August 1977) wrote that while Neto’s MPLA was sympathetic to the FNLC “there is little evidence to indicate that it [the MPLA] was willing to stake its own existence in support of the [Congolese] rebels.” Surely the African desk of the State Department and the CIA, and above all the Belgians, must have been well aware of all these currents, and of the shifts in Cuban and Angolan policy.
To take a stand in Zaire, side by side with France’s neocolonical empire in Africa, is to take a stand on very shaky ground. Neither Nigeria nor even Liberia has expressed support for the “pan-African” force mustered, with great difficulty, by France to save Mobutu; and Nyerere of Tanzania has spoken up strongly against it and asked whether it meant that Carter had changed his African policy. Mobutu’s is one of the most corrupt and repressive regimes in Africa. Its ill-paid and ill-disciplined troops are indicative of how badly Mobutu has organized the country he has ruled for more than twelve years. Indeed, his first step in using the new Moroccan troops was to organize them into a new private guard for himself. Apparently he can’t trust his own Congolese followers. There was testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee two years ago that real wages had fallen 35 percent during the first decade of his rule, while he himself had grown rich.2 His strength is his weakness, and the foreign banks which have lent him between two and a half and three billion dollars must either prop him up or take a loss on their folly. Mobutu’s rule is in this respect a replay of a corruption that undermined the regimes we once supported in China and Vietnam.
What Nyerere objected to was not the rescue of Europeans but the use of the rescue operation to save the tottering Mobutu regime and bail out the foreign banks. “We reject the principle,” he told the diplomatic corps in tanzania (Washington Afro-American from Dar es Salaam, June 13), “that external powers have the right to maintain in power African governments which are universally recognized to be corrupt, or incompetent, or a bunch of murderers, when their people try to make a change.” In Belgium, at least, there seems to be considerable support for the view that the mining operations would be more secure if Zaire had a less corrupt and more popular government.
In Ethiopia the Russians and Cubans have been propping up a regime as murderously repressive as Zaire’s. In this respect there is little to choose between Mengistu and Mobutu. But if the US and the Soviets hadn’t switched sides all too recently between Ethiopia and Somalia, we rather than they might have been impaled on the Horn of Africa, and helping Mengistu’s struggle for control of the Eritrean seaports. Great-power rivalry serves only to raise the level of fire power in these endemic tribal hatreds when a new plague of locusts, drought, and hunger are the urgent common enemies. In that far-off waste land of desert and mountains, Ethiopia’s oldest and most famous friend, King Solomon, would have found it impossible to sort out the multifarious rights and wrongs. Why should Somali herdsmen have to pay attention to relatively new international boundaries across the desert lands they have grazed from time immemorial? How can Ethiopia build a stable nation if these herdsmen make a mockery of its border? Why should Eritrea be subject to Ethiopia when its nationhood has long been recognized? But how can Ethiopia live and prosper if it loses its ancient outlets to the sea in this coastal region Eritrea claims? We couldn’t wish a finer mess on Moscow.
Let’s not link the other issues, complex enough in themselves, to these insoluble tangles of racial and tribal rivalries. Above all, let us not hurt the human rights movement in the Soviet Union, and the cause of brave men like Orlov and Shcharansky, by linking human rights in the Soviet Union with what Africans see quite rightly as a new Franco-American plan to reinstitute a new colonialism in part of Africa.
The gravest link of all is with SALT. Of course, tension between the superpowers will encourage the bitter-enders against SALT. Here Moscow and Washington bear a joint responsibility. The Soviet sentence of Orlov for monitoring the Helsinki agreement does testify, as Carter said at Annapolis, to the amazing fear of any dissent in the stale and shuttered Kremlin. Surely there are those among a new generation of Soviet leaders who will want to break away from policies identical in this respect with the Romanovs. Let us help them by keeping the cause of freedom in Russia clear of imperialist hypocrisy and inflammatory cant, as Carter does not when he speaks in one voice to repressive Russia and in another to the equally repressive Shah and the Saudis.
Africa is a passing storm, but SALT involves the future of the planet. The alarming, the crucial, and the urgent fact is that new technological developments just over the horizon threaten to end the balance of terror on which world peace has been precariously poised in our generation. That is the message in the excerpt published here from the latest annual survey of the respected International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. It deserves the widest reading and discussion. But so far I have seen only one mention in the American press of the institute’s warnings about the arms race and that was a single paragraph quoted by Henry Bradsher in the Washington Star May 24. The African section of the report has been widely noticed, but not its forebodings about SALT. Unless a lid is placed on the strategic arms race promptly by a new SALT agreement, these new technologies, which vastly increase the precision of the ICBMs and with it the temptation to a pre-emptive strike and the fear of such a strike, may soon destabilize the world.
It is no answer to fall back on mobile ICBMs, or to invent a new form of shell game by building twenty empty holes for each real launching pad to fool the other side. This enormously expensive new escalation in lunacy will only succeed in driving both sides missile-mad. And Carter had best not speak so complacently about how America is ready to bear the cost of a new arms race and can do so, as he said at Annapolis, “without excessive sacrifice.” How much is “excessive” in the shadow of Proposition 13’s victory in California, and the suffering it portends for the poor, the elderly, and the underprivileged? There couldn’t be a worse time to spend more on arms.
Carter, as a nuclear sub commander, seemed to come into office with some overriding assets—a personal knowledge of the nuclear danger, and a gut commitment to end it. But these seem to be eroding. We must hope he isn’t being contaminated by a certain gaiety on the subject on the part of his national security adviser. When Elizabeth Drew interviewed Brzezinski, she asked him about an earlier interview in which he was quoted as saying that the idea that a nuclear war would mean the end of humanity was “baloney.”
This was his cheerful reply, as given in The New Yorker of May 1:
It’s inaccurate thinking to say that the use of nuclear weapons would be the end of the human race. That’s an egocentric [apparently, he meant ethnocentric] thought. Of course, it’s horrendous to contemplate, but in strictly statistical terms, if the United States used up all of its arsenal in the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union used all of its against the United States it would not be the end of humanity. That’s egocentric. There are other people on the earth.
This celestial objectivity should enormously hearten the men with their fingers on the triggers in the White House and the Kremlin.
—Washington, June 14
July 20, 1978
Dallin is still refusing to work himself into a sweat. In Newsweek June 12, he writes, “When we toughen our rhetoric, as Brzezinski has, we make it easier for the hard-liners in the Kremlin. All this verbal escalation simply fuels Moscow’s backstage dialogue and provides ammunition for those who argue that détente won’t work. The code of détente is unwritten, and each side reads something else into it. In the early Seventies, there was a feeling we were stabilizing the status quo. Kissinger oversold that idea in this country, but the Soviets never bought it. As far as they are concerned, parity means equal opportunity to meddle in international affairs. I’m not as alarmed as some people. I don’t see any great Russian master plan. They are interested in asserting their influence as long as there is no great risk involved. And so far, there isn’t. The trouble is that they have misread the American public. The price they pay is not in terms of a showdown on the battlefield, but in public support for SALT and other agreements.” Such calm is not Brzezinski’s style. ↩
Testimony of Stephen R. Weissman of the University of Texas at Dallas, p. 106, Hearings on Angola, African Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, February 2, 1976. ↩