What kind of strategy would respond to the international situation many Americans find so ominous today? A few guidelines, at least, can be useful, first about preconditions for effective policy, then about priorities.
One precondition is the need to minimize discontinuity. The American system of government, with its concentration on the president, and the absence of a permanent bureaucracy at the top, is always prone to sudden changes of course. When presidents do not make it to a second term, the risk of hairpin turns increases. When a new president also is of a different party from his predecessor’s, and there is a big shift in Congress, the temptation to repudiate the past and to put Creation in the present is overwhelming. But nothing is more destructive of confidence abroad, more dangerous and ultimately more confusing at home. It is a way both of raising excessive hopes in the electorate, and of telling many voters to burn what they once adored.
In the not so long term, this aggravates the voters’ distrust of politics and politicians, and injects cynicism where trust should be, apathy where what John Stuart Mill called “the invigorating effect of freedom” ought to be felt. Many of the new initiatives, announced not because they are part of a well thought through policy, but because they demonstrate the desire for novelty and symbolize the new priorities, are likely either to backfire (remember the early Carter pressure on Bonn over the German-Brazilian deal, or Carter’s first proclamations about human rights), or to go out of control (would even Mrs. Kirkpatrick and Mr. Lefever be happy with a perfectly likely epidemic of right-wing coups aiming at establishing or at hardening regimes that practice an “average” rate of torture?).
Allies and adversaries alike are unhelpfully upset; insofar as one of our goals is to induce more predictable behavior from our foes, our own unpredictability entails a change of signals, the throwing of new wrenches into the negotiations (as in the case of the Law of the Sea Conference), the raising of new conditions, the failure to pick up dangling threads (as the sad story of SALT II since 1972 shows). Allies keep worrying about the wondrous new initiatives we will invent, the new slogans we will float, and above all the new demands we will make. Two months after the inauguration of the new president, we have already had a flap over the neutron bomb, turned the tiny country of El Salvador into a “litmus test” of alliance solidarity, been told that we should not exaggerate its importance—and failed to respond clearly to the allies’ own concerns about the direction of the relations between Washington and Moscow.
A frequent consequence of this urge to be different is the unproductive detour. Mr. Carter’s attempt to exorcise the weighty ghost of Henry Kissinger led to the doomed March 1977 arms reduction proposals to the Soviet Union, and to a clumsily improvised search for a comprehensive Middle East settlement. In each case, we had to return to the previous path. Will the Reagan administration, after much internal arguing, return—overtly or in disguise—to the SALT II treaty its members have so frequently denounced? Will it rediscover the Palestinian issue, which it now professes to find less important than meeting the Soviet threat in the Middle East, as if Soviet opportunities and American difficulties there did not largely flow from the failure to pursue the Camp David approach with energy, and indeed to go beyond it? Will it revert, in El Salvador, to the view for which Ambassador White was fired—that only a political solution, establishing a democratic coalition of civilians, has a chance of bringing peace and reform to this unhappy country?
A second proposition is that an effective foreign policy presupposes solid domestic underpinnings. It requires, on the one hand, an economic basis. This means a gradual reduction of inflation, allowing for a return to steady growth. A mere injection of money into the economy, by worsening inflation, would once more lead the government and the Federal Reserve authorities to put on the brakes and to provoke a recession. But a strictly monetarist attempt to break inflation by shock therapy followed by several years of recession and high unemployment would be unpalatable politically, at home and abroad. It also means an energy policy that reduces American dependence on imports from the Middle East, and thus decreases the imbalance of bargaining power between producers and consumers, reduces the weight of oil prices for developing, oil-importing countries, and thus helps to save them from increasingly more staggering indebtedness and falling rates of growth. It means, in the third place, a policy of industrial reconversion, to avoid, instance after instance, the bleak choice between bankruptcy and bailouts, between collapse and protectionism.
It is too early to say if the Reagan economic program will provide such a basis; but there are reasons for doubting it. The proposed budget applies the brakes and the tax program pushes on the accelerator simultaneously, in the hope of lowering inflation and fostering growth. But will a tax cut promote savings and investment, or produce an inflationary spending binge, to which the size of the budget deficit and the vast increase in military expenditures would contribute?
The hypothesis that attributes inflation largely to the size of the federal budget, and therefore prescribes cuts in nonmilitary expenditures as the remedy (along with an increasing supply of goods)—and yet keeps the size of the deficit quite large—may turn out to be more ideological than scientific. Is a stern management of the money supply, designed to curb inflation, compatible with optimistic projections of growth? Won’t the imperative of a return to growth and a reduction of unemployment—indispensable for success at home and abroad—lead to more relaxed money supply guidelines, and higher inflation? Wouldn’t Lester Thurow’s suggestion of tax cuts on investment but tax increases on consumption make more sense?1 The worst outcome would be a continuation of stagflation, and this is certainly not ruled out.
As for energy, a policy unconcerned with conservation, relaxed about alternative sources, and confident in the effect of deregulation and tax cuts on domestic production seems naïve. With respect to industrial adaptation, the commitment to market economics seems both unwise and untenable. To request “voluntary” restraints from the Japanese on their car exports to this country solves neither the domestic nor the foreign policy problems of adaptation.
A sound domestic political basis is also necessary. It entails, first, a reorganization of the executive which makes of the State Department the clear center of decision, negotiation, and execution. We have been promised that this would be the case; but—apart from the fact that such promises have been made before—there are still reasons for skepticism. While the NSC staff and its head are currently underground, physically and effectively, this may not last forever, in view of the greater concentration of hardliners and activists in its ranks. If Mr. Richard Allen stays anonymous, clearly the president’s adviser to whom Mr. Allen reports, Mr. Meese, is both visible and audible, even on matters of foreign policy.
We need, in the second place, more of an effort to include important members of Congress, from both houses and parties, into the policy process, from the start. And we need, above all, a president keen on educating the public. The new president is, in the words of Mr. Meese, excellent as a “management communicator.” To be a good educator, he would have to be a bit more: he would have not only to inspire confidence, to be lucid in spelling out goals and priorities, but above all to be able to make Americans recognize and accept the reality and effects of complexity. He would have to see to it that their legitimate thirst for respect, their concern for honor and pride do not degenerate into the kind of machismo that, at best, is no more than posturing but, at worst (especially when rationalized by slogans, wrapped in spite or paternalism, and acted out by a mix of ignorance and arrogance), could make some Americans far more ashamed than proud. In this respect, the president’s fondness for American exceptionalism, displayed in his inaugural address, does not bode well.
The goal of American foreign policy ought to be not merely the containment of Soviet expansionism but the management and steering of inevitable change. Not all changes are welcome, nor are all changes irresistible or unavoidable. But what is utterly unrealistic is a Metternichian attitude that equates stability with the status quo; what is almost as unrealistic is one that tolerates only the kind of peaceful, orderly change which not even Americans have always experienced in their history.
A few things appear certain, even to one whose skepticism about waves of the future, necessary trends, and philosophies of history is total. Complete and permanent repression is not a safe method of government. Even in countries with very old traditions of iron rule, expert in insulating their peoples from contamination and contact, the spirit and the contagion of criticism and ethnic assertiveness may be felt. Indeed the Soviet Union is probably, along with South Africa, the society whose present “formula” is, in the long run, the most unworkable. Nations such as Chile and Brazil, in which formidable inequities, extreme contrasts of poverty and wealth, rapid growth without benefit for the poor are maintained only by police methods and the control of all organizations by the state, face a stormy future. Countries such as Taiwan and South Korea, with increasing prosperity and rapidly expanding middle classes but no political safety valve, risk having the lid blown off—as happened in Iran. New countries such as Zaire, Ethiopia, or Uganda, whose precarious unity can no longer be assured by the battle against foreign masters, which are wracked by every kind of internal heterogeneity and ruled by small and greedy cliques, are breeding grounds for rebels and tempting preys for meddlers.
Many of the potentially most unstable countries happen to be clients or allies of the US—they range from Guatemala to Pakistan and the Philippines, from Haiti to Morocco and Egypt, from El Salvador to Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Our twin worries, in years to come, will have to be to prevent explosions in such places from becoming manifestations of anti-Americanism, opportunities for Soviet influence; and to prevent explosions and disruptions in the Soviet universe from leading to general war. The one thing we will not be able to do, however hard we try, is to prevent explosions. Rather than direct aggression, it is the exploitation of revolutionary conditions, either through subversion or through encouragement of local revolutionary groups, which is the most likely form of Soviet expansion. In Afghanistan, indeed, it was such exploitation which, having been a failure, led to aggression.
In other words, the key issue—for the rest of the century—is the issue of revolution. And it so happens that, of all major powers in history, we may well be among the least well prepared to cope with it—since our only revolutionary experience was national not social, and since it is against the excesses and local incrustations of capitalism that many revolutions are likely to occur. To try to “coopt” change by rhetoric, à la Brzezinski, will not get us very far. To excommunicate it will get us nowhere. In some countries, such as the Dominican Republic, democratic governments have survived with US encouragement. But to try crassly to manipulate other societies in a quest for progressive moderates, for benevolent centrists, has become a depressing ritual, since in many places such centrists are either ineffectual or the first victims of the contending extremes, and since nothing weakens their legitimacy more than an ardent embrace by us.
If we see in every revolution in which there is a trace of Soviet involvement a test between us and Moscow, we will stagger from one self-fulfilling prophecy to another in the worst possible conditions—we will either face endless military quagmires (or “pacification” campaigns), |or risk dangerous escalations in order to “win” on more favorable ground, or fail. To see in every place where there is an opportunity for our opponents a deliberate target already chosen by them would also be self-defeating because it would allow them to divert attention, through propaganda, from their own exactions; and because it would radicalize large numbers of people, even in countries friendly to us. It is the US, not the Soviet Union, which would appear as the greatest threat to the independence of third world countries, should our interventions on behalf of the status quo turn us into heavy-handed protectors of shaky regimes, and should we behave as self-appointed geo-political policemen.
Obviously, in a world of 170 states, sweeping generalizations are of little use. But a valid guideline would be, wherever we are closely associated with a regime, to encourage timely reform (by this I mean not only economic and social measures, such as land reform, by which we tend to get hypnotized, but above all the sharing of political power, which is what most discontented groups want, since political power conditions their future); for what is destabilizing is not such reform, but immobility. And we should distance or dissociate ourselves from a regime when it resists reform and dooms itself to upheaval, thus becoming a burden to its people and a liability to us.
In all cases where we are not particularly close, we should give no encouragement to regimes that trample the human rights for whose defense we stand (such as the current regimes in Argentina and Chile). And we should—as Carter did in Nicaragua and Zimbabwe—accept ungrudgingly radical new regimes, even if some of the groups that fought for power received support from “unfriendly” sources, as in Angola or Mozambique. We should then use our resources, our influence, and our skills to protect our main interests, to encourage these regimes to have normal relations with us, and to make it clear that it is to their advantage to avoid vicious treatment of internal opponents. When we treat such regimes, from the outset, as delinquents, and try to quarantine or to “destabilize” or to starve them, we foster both unnecessary hostility and the kind of internal reaction that strengthens extremism, paranoia, and repression.
What about Saudi Arabia, some will say? I see no reason to make an exception in that case. The US has to take account of the current regime’s legitimate needs for arms and to have cooperative relations with it; but it must also quietly anticipate the possibility that through revolution, or mere succession, a new regime may appear, which will decide to cut down oil production for purely Saudi reasons. (Note that this case has to be distinguished from that of a deliberate effort, by the USSR or by a coalition of Middle Eastern states, to “strangulate” Western economies.) The US would be in a tragic position if it had to choose between economic disaster and a military intervention that could be economically futile and would be politically catastrophic. The Saudi sword over our heads is an added, powerful incentive for a combined energy policy of the US, its European allies, and Japan. It is not a reason for abandoning these guidelines.
In the world as it is, American foreign policy will have to be complex and to take advantage of complexity. This has several implications. The first is the end of unilateralism. The diffusion of power, in the third world as well as among the industrial countries, the appearance of new regional actors, the ability of the lesser ones either to combine their interests in a variety of groups and bodies, or to appeal to their bigger neighbors or to distant powers for protection against outside threats—all of this makes it impossible for the US to impose its own concerns (or obsessions), so to speak, from above and outside, and to assume that it is in the higher interest of others to share and to heed them. In this sense, the battle over the Panama Canal treaties was highly symbolic; it was a battle about accepting the end of the colonial era.
If we face major threats in parts of the world we deem essential—the Persian Gulf, Central America—we have no other recourse than to enlist the support of the main states in the area. If we want them to give priority to the threat of invasion or subversion by the Soviets or their proxies, and to make sure that our own military assistance does not end up supporting the local ambitions and grievances of the states we assist, we must also cooperate with the countries of each area in order to help them resolve intra-regional disputes. We can have a unilateral Central American policy only at the cost of antagonizing not only Mexico (a nation of growing importance for our future) but Venezuela, the other democratic republics of the area and of Latin America—and even some of the authoritarian ones, whose distaste for radicals is matched by their dislike for the big stick of Washington. To be sure, in a case such as that of El Salvador, the countries in the region may disagree on the best solution. But most of them agree on what would be the worst one—American military intervention—and we could do far worse than enlist their cooperation in the search for a political compromise.
In the Middle East, we have found that even Arab countries divided over Camp David agreed in their reluctance to provide us with bases—not because of the decline of our power, but because of our failure to use it in the one case, the Arab-Israeli dispute, that concerns them all. After the Israeli elections, unless Israel comes forward with an initiative that could lead to a breakthrough comparable to Sadat’s in 1977, it would be in our interest to enlist the support of our European allies (many of whom have good contacts with Israel’s Labor Party, the likely winner) as well as that of all the non-rejectionist Arab states in the search for a solution of the Palestinian issue.
In the case of Southern Africa—Namibia, the future of South Africa itself—the cooperation of European states, especially Britain, and of key Black African countries will be indispensable; any rapprochement with South Africa will be shortsighted.
What this requires is a willingness on our part not merely to share the burdens and divide labor in a task defined by us but to devise a policy together. This does not mean encouraging selected allies whose own designs could prove deeply divisive in a given part of the world (as Iran did under the Shah, as the King of Morocco tends to be because of his Western Sahara adventure). It does require regional efforts aimed at coping with local threats—that of the Soviets in the Persian Gulf, that of Qadhafi in Central Africa—and providing such groupings with assistance, rather than shortcircuiting them with our own forces. Insofar as these would be needed, as against a Soviet threat of invasion in the Middle East, to have available a quickly deployable force stationed outside the area would be preferable to the permanent stationing of ground forces in it. The theoretical advantage in deterrent and war-fighting power permanent ground forces might enjoy would be smaller than the political costs of stationing them in so unstable an area where the winds of nationalism are so strong.
The first inclinations and initiatives of the new Reagan administration with respect to unilateralism are far from reassuring, although one of the most important issues—a common strategy with the Western Europeans and Japan to deal with Soviet influence outside the NATO area—has not yet been addressed. In El Salvador, the Reagan administration’s decision to increase its military assistance to the government was made without anyone in the region, including, it seems, that government, asking for it.
Another implication of complexity is the need for selectivity, because of the limits on American power. The US must have both “power politics” goals—to preserve from aggression the territory of its allies and to preserve access to vital natural resources—and “world order” goals—to preserve chances for a humane and reasonably prosperous world. But, especially if America’s economy does not recover speedily, the means at our disposal will have to be used intelligently. A world-wide crusade, stretching the meaning of security to extend to the internal order of states, or making of “friendly” states an essential ingredient of a tolerable international milieu, is clearly beyond our means, as well as likely to be counterproductive. But a policy of accommodating change and accepting revolutions, while more modest in its goals, still ought to make use of varied incentives to promote such important objectives as nonproliferation, the protection of human rights, and the improvement of economic conditions in developing countries.
With respect to security, selectivity means concentrating our resources on improving the state of readiness and the equipment of our conventional forces, at the cost of returning to a peacetime draft if this appears necessary to build up adequate reserves. We need, also, more abundant means of air and naval transportation for the rapid deployment, reinforcement, and supply of our conventional forces. The navy needs anti-submarine protection and air defense against Soviet attack submarines and planes, and more ships for the Persian Gulf; but vulnerable supercarriers and revamped old battleships with cruise missiles are a dubious investment. All this is far more important than strengthening our nuclear forces. Our main problem there, the vulnerability of Minuteman missiles by the mid-1980s, is significant far less for its military effects—as an incentive for a Soviet strike, or a military disaster should Moscow strike—than for its psychological ones, the effects on our own perceptions and on those of our allies. And it can be dealt with by several possible policies.
First, we could try to negotiate a new agreement with Moscow to allow missile site defense, at a time when Soviet missiles are likely to become vulnerable to American strikes also. This would make sense only when ballistic missile defense is technically safe, and if there is an arms control agreement limiting the number of warheads each side can use to overwhelm the other side’s defenses. In any case, it may not be to our overall advantage, since it would protect a far greater portion of the Soviet nuclear arsenal than of ours (land-based missiles constitute only one-fourth of ours, but four-fifths of theirs).
We could, alternatively, make Minuteman missiles mobile, underground or, should this prove to be financially and politically too costly, on submarines near the coast. Neither the MX nor a new strategic bomber is necessary. It is more important to deprive the Soviets of the one advantage their alleged war-fighting strategy can theoretically count on than to increase or improve our own nuclear war-fighting capacities beyond our regular program, which includes already air-launched cruise missiles and more accurate missiles on Minuteman and on our nuclear submarines. The latter, as well as most of our planes, would in any case survive a Soviet attack on Minuteman.
It may be argued that deterring a Soviet conventional attack on our European allies, or in the Persian Gulf area, requires an American ability to strike first with nuclear weapons, which would be aimed at Soviet military targets. But, on the one hand, there are many other targets besides Soviet missiles; and on the other hand, technological progress is going to make Soviet missiles vulnerable anyhow, without the MX or a new strategic bomber. To use the experts’ jargon, we already have, and will increasingly have, “counterforce capabilities,” and while the Soviets may have a temporary advantage, it is neither decisive (given the formidable risks the Soviets would incur if they attacked our land-based missiles) nor irremediable.
What we surely need is “crisis stability,” which means forces neither so vulnerable as to tempt the other side to strike first, nor “so provocative to the other side as to induce the attack it seeks to deter.”2 An American policy of piling up the MX, a new strategic bomber, cruise missiles, middle-range missiles in Europe, and perhaps ballistic missile defenses, would be provocative. Moreover, to concentrate on strategic rather than on conventional forces would put the main burden of conventional rearmament on Bonn and Tokyo, with disastrous results, including bitter and divisive reactions both within Germany and Japan and from neighboring powers. To go for both a conventional and a strategic arms build-up would put an enormous burden on the economy and divert resources from other forms of power and other policies.
A selective policy means, above all, a new attempt at establishing a mixed relationship with Moscow. The preconditions are clear: First, we need to improve the military balance in Europe, with respect to NATO’s conventional and middle-range nuclear forces. There is no justification for a doomsday view of the current conventional balance in Europe, but the trends of the 1970s are disturbing. The Warsaw Pact forces have a considerable lead in artillery, armored vehicles, attack helicopters, and offensive chemical warfare; their equipment is standardized; they have shorter lines of communication, and the number of long-range aircraft available to them has increased. NATO forces have an advantage in precision-guided munitions, anti-tank weapons, and tactical aircraft. But they can no longer expect to compensate for their quantitative inferiority with qualitative superiority, in view of Soviet progress in quality; and above all, they must try to overcome their opponents’ current advantage in being able to build up their forces much faster. NATO needs more “prepositioned” stocks in Europe, quicker reinforcement capacity, and increased reserves.
As for middle-range nuclear weapons capable of hitting the Soviet Union, their need arises from the rapid deployment of the mobile and precise Soviet SS20 missiles, and from the Soviet construction of the Backfire bomber—weapon systems unmatched so far by NATO. The purpose of these Soviet weapons seems to be to make it possible for the Warsaw Pact countries to wage a purely conventional war in Europe, in the hope that the US would be deterred from the first use of its strategic, long-range nuclear weapons against Soviet territory by the fear of Soviet retaliation on the US, and that NATO would be deterred from resorting to its own short-range nuclear weapons (most of which could not reach the Soviet Union) by the ability of new Soviet missiles and bombers to destroy NATO’s military objectives, including troop concentrations and nuclear installations. The NATO decision, in December, 1979, to deploy 108 mobile middle-range Pershing missiles and 464 ground-launched cruise missiles capable of reaching the Soviet Union means that the Soviet Union would, in invading Western Europe with conventional forces, expose itself to nuclear attack launched from Europe on its own territory; and the burden of initiating a strategic, intercontinental nuclear war would then rest on the USSR, not on Washington.
A second precondition is a Soviet willingness to move toward a generally acceptable solution in Afghanistan, one that would include withdrawal of Soviet troops. Large-scale, overt American arming of the Afghan resistance, united to any diplomatic offer of a political solution, is likely to be counter-productive: it would incite the Soviets to dig in (and help justify their fake rationale for invading), and it would require a commitment to the Pakistan regime that could harm both our relations with India and our nonproliferation policy.
The French president has suggested a conference of neighboring countries, regional powers, and permanent members of the Security Council dealing with the end of external interferences and aiming at the withdrawal of foreign forces and a neutralization of the country. This leaves aside the crucial question of the Afghan regime. It is unlikely that the Soviets would withdraw all their forces as long as the regime seems incapable of surviving by itself. But some indication of their interest in the French proposal or some Soviet initiative that would go beyond their ritual statements of the past twelve months would be needed, even if this marks only the beginning of a long bargaining process. Such a new position would have to be less equivocal than Brezhnev’s offer, at the recent Party Congress, linking Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf.
A third precondition would be Soviet restraint in the aggressive use of force in other parts of the world—no more Afghanistans, and no invasion of Poland.
The objectives of a new relationship with Moscow cannot be the same as those of détente in the 1970s. Then, we hoped for a swift reduction of the burden of armaments, and we hoped to convert Moscow to our notion of international stability. Moscow hoped to bring about a reduction of America’s presence and influence in the world, and to obtain a kind of political condominium. But we can no more prevent the Soviets from trying to affect the “correlation of forces,” by exploiting opportunities in the third world, or by trying to drive wedges between the Western Europeans and ourselves, than they can prevent the reassertion of American influence and the resistance of Americans and others to the Soviet dream of a world run by the two superpowers together. In other words, each side had excessive expectations; and each one should learn from the experience: the Soviets, that the tilt in “correlation” can go either way, and that political condominium is beyond their reach; we, that agreements with Moscow mean neither ideological demobilization on their part nor a Soviet endorsement of the status quo. However, neither the mutual disillusionment of recent years, nor the new American mood of confrontation, nor the change in the military balance makes a revised policy of détente (under that or any other name) unadvisable or absurd.
As I have suggested before, the aim of foreign policy ought to be to make it possible for each of the two powers to play its own game, in such a way as not to violate the vital interests of the other. What is involved is not a fading away but a taming of the competition; not an explicit code of conduct demanded of the other side, but a change in the means and intensity of the contest, and a clear understanding both of what each side deems intolerable and of what measures it would take against the other if the intolerable should occur.
The immediate objectives are also clear. One would be to preserve the gains that have been achieved, by our allies, through their own détente process. The West Germans have, with some shrillness, pointed out the importance of these gains: improved contacts between families in the two Germanies, and between Western and Eastern European countries; military “confidence-building measures” between the two alliances; above all peace in Berlin; and a variety of economic deals, thanks to which Western Europe, in a difficult period, has found export markets as well as means to diversify its energy imports.
But these gains also created problems for both sides. They have been accompanied by new developments heightening the underlying tensions in Eastern Europe. While Eastern Europe was never stable, as the eruptions of 1953, 1956, 1968, and 1970 in East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the huge exodus from East Germany in 1960 and 1961 have shown, dissidents there can now invoke the Helsinki agreements and will probably continue to do so, notwithstanding the imprisonment of forty-five Helsinki monitors in the USSR. The economic ties Gierek sought with Western Europe only worsened the plight of Poland’s economy, helping indirectly to produce the Solidarity movement, with all its potential both for deep reforms and for serving as the target of another Soviet invasion—possibilities that hang in the balance as this is written.
Conversely, Western European business deals with Moscow can also lead to contradictory results. First, they provide the Soviets with technology that can be used for military progress, or can facilitate the transfer of the Soviet Union’s own resources to the military sector. Secondly, Western European dependence on Middle Eastern oil may be compounded rather than relieved by dependence (soon to be as high as 30 percent) on Soviet natural gas. Even if, as the West Germans argue, the Soviets might hesitate to embargo such supplies of energy in a crisis, since their clients would retaliate, it is not clear that the losses would be even; and above all the economic ties between Western Europe and the Soviets expose our allies not so much to outright blackmail as to the risk of showing themselves too accommodating on political, strategic, and human rights issues in order not to jeopardize their economic benefits. The Soviets find it much easier to pursue a two-track policy of political and strategic advance and economic cooperation, since both tracks serve their overall purpose—the increase of their power and influence. Nevertheless, until now, there have been mutual gains, and they deserve to be saved, even if it is time for the allies to discuss in common the desirable scope and limits of economic cooperation with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
It is true that France, in recent months, has moved closer to Washington. This is partly because the French president, in his reelection campaign, faces more of a foreign policy challenge from the Gaullists than from the Socialists; partly because the French, who have their own nuclear deterrent and took no part in NATO’s decision in December 1979 on middle-range nuclear forces, are more skeptical than the West Germans about arms control for nuclear weapons in Europe; partly because of their intense sympathy for the Polish freedom movement; partly because they feel that their past gestures of friendship toward Moscow have not been rewarded; partly because they hope to occupy the mythical position of moderators—friends of Washington, abandoned by an immoderate Mrs. Thatcher and a not-so-friendly Helmut Schmidt.
But, especially after the presidential election, France can be expected again to give priority both to the Paris-Bonn connection, without which the European Community or European political cooperation—Giscard’s grand designs—would not function, and to its own freedom of maneuver, which requires that tensions between the superpowers remain low, American strength be undeniable yet not overbearing, and relations with Moscow promising.
A second objective is the pursuit of arms control. Recent statements by Brezhnev suggest a possibility of incorporating the main provisions of SALT II into a SALT III treaty that would go beyond them in dealing both with limits on the deployment of new classes of submarines and with short and middle-range nuclear forces in Europe. He has, indeed, incorporated into his basket of flowers several proposals of French and West German origin (although with thorns that have been grafted on by him). This makes it more difficult for us to reject them as mere propaganda, and several are worth exploring.
The present reaction against arms control in this country is a typical example of the tendency to throw away a tool because it has failed to do a job we were probably quite wrong to expect it to do—whether it is restraining competition in the third world or stopping the Soviet build-up—rather than appreciating what it can do. The fact is that without a limit on the number of warheads each type of missile can carry, the threat to our land-based missiles would become far worse, and it would be futile to invent schemes to make land-based mobile missiles: the more holes we would dig, the more warheads Moscow could aim at.
Bringing about strategic arms limitations and a comprehensive test ban soon would make the future arms race both more predictable and more restricted. It would allow us to concentrate, in our military efforts, on the more serious problem of conventional forces. It could provide the basis for the negotiation of serious discrete issues arising in the near future. These issues include: ballistic missile defense; antisatellite weapons; land-based missile vulnerability; verifying the number of mobile land-based missiles (should their increasing vulnerability, on both sides, lead each power to seek solace in such mobility); and curtailing ground and sea launched cruise missiles.
In building cruise missiles, we may repeat the mistake we made when we failed to push hard for a curb on MIRV at a time when we were ahead. In the long run, unlimited cruise missiles may become a curse for us, if the Soviets should multiply conventional as well as nuclear cruise missiles. Arms control could save both sides from a costly and dangerous drive for superiority.
Moreover, negotiating limitations on or reductions of both strategic and middle-range European-based nuclear weapons is a political prerequisite for the acceptance by the West Germans of the new NATO missiles I have described above. The NATO program of December 1979 needs both a military rationale and a political base. The willingness to negotiate is the only way of containing the wave of nuclear pacifism that has spread over part of the British and West German Left and over the smaller Western European countries, where the new American emphasis on counterforce war (for instance in last year’s Presidential Directive 59) and the ominous rise in mobile and precise nuclear weapons in the two alliances that face each other in the middle of Europe have reawakened the latent fear of a nuclear war fought over Europe.
A last objective in our policy toward Moscow would be a renewed search for agreement on matters of mutual benefit. Economic cooperation can be one of them, especially with respect to the development of Soviet energy resources. The pursuit of a joint nonproliferation policy is another. There may be a joint interest in political cooperation in the Middle East, an area from which it is impossible to exclude either great power, which neither one can dominate, where each one finds its clients either troublesome or unreliable, and where the risks of confrontation far exceed the advantages of stirring the pot of troubles.
We face two Soviet threats. One is military—capacities for aggression (neither unlimited nor universal) and the ability to provide arms to groups and governments supported by Moscow. The other is political—the ability to exploit or exacerbate revolutionary tendencies or conflicts in the third world. But the Soviet Union has little to offer to countries in quest of economic development and political self-reliance. Its control over its Eastern European satellites is shaky and costly, its influence over distant clients is often temporary, and it suffers from political and economic rigidities which could cripple its effectiveness as a superpower or oblige it to sink its energies into drastic, painful, and unsettling internal reform. Against the Soviet military and political threat, against a Soviet temptation to find in external adventures a diversion from the domestic problems, we must follow a multiple strategy. We should combine defense measures, preventive diplomacy, and policies aimed at increasing the capacity for national and collective independence of other countries. We should also preserve possibilities of mutual arrangements with Moscow, given the waste of resources the arms race entails, the perils of confrontation, the fact that a large number of issues require some cooperation, and the Western ability to affect Soviet choices.
We should not let ourselves either be obsessed by Soviet strengths or lulled by Soviet weaknesses. The former are manageable. The latter are real, but not less serious than the present economic weaknesses of the noncommunist world in general and of the United States in particular (such as the decline of American productivity). And we could make our own economic weaknesses worse if, emulating Lyndon Johnson’s mistakes in the mid-Sixties, we combined vast military expenditures with tax cuts and if our nonmilitary industries were obliged either to hide behind disastrous protective barriers or to succumb to the competition of countries that invest fewer financial and human resources in defense.
The directions suggested here are not those which our new leaders are inclined to follow. But they may find that their own analysis—which makes of the Soviet-American conflict the omnivorous issue of our time, and attributes past difficulties with allies and clients to our earlier failure of will and power—is far too simple-minded. They may come to see that the projection of a bipolar grid on regional disputes and internal turbulence all over the world is unsuccessful; that their neo-nationalism and their emphasis on military power antagonize more nations than are impressed; that their dislike of North-South bargains is putting the US at a disadvantage: that their view of Soviet expansionism is too militant to be widely shared by those who also deem Moscow dangerous. Then, perhaps, a chance would come for a more constructive approach.
The twin perils of the 1980s are a mismanagement of our contest with the Soviet Union, which may occur if its leaders feel altogether confident in its might, trapped by an unreformable and creaky system at home, and entirely cornered and surrounded abroad; and a mismanagement of the world economy, which the risks of a prolonged recession in the West and the shaky condition of the international financial and monetary systems might well provide. Against these dangers, the fundamentalist reaction that now prevails in the US has little to offer; it may indeed contribute to them. The hard crust of confidence, however, may be thinner than it appears.
(This is the second part of a two-part article.)
April 30, 1981