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IN March 1917, in the third year of the Great War, the political system that had prevailed in Russia for several centuries-namely the Tsarist autocracy-suddenly collapsed. Signs of its disintegration had been mounting ominously for a year or two; the likelihood of its early demise had been widely sensed; yet no one expected it to come just at that moment. For a century in the past, its overthrow had been the dream of liberal and radical oppositionists, some of whom had schemed, worked, even suffered martyrdom, to bring it about. Yet its collapse, when it came, was not the immediate result of any such efforts. It fell because the strains of conducting a prolonged major war, superimposed on more basic weaknesses and problems of adjustment, were simply too much for it.
THE Cold War in its original form was a presumably mortal antagonism, arising in the wake of the Second World War, between two rigidly hostile blocs, one led by the Soviet Union, the other by the United States. For nearly two somber and dangerous decades this antagonism dominated the fears of mankind; it may even, on occasion, have come close to blowing up the planet. In recent years, however, the once implacable struggle has lost its familiar clarity of outline. With the passing of old issues and the emergence of new conflicts and contestants, there is a natural tendency, especially on the part of the generation which grew up during the Cold War, to take a fresh look at the causes of the great contention between Russia and America.
THE rapid rate of Soviet economic development, begun in 1921-1922, was based upon Lenin's theory that socialism and communism could be built in our country if public ownership of the means of production was established and the economy was centrally planned.
THE cataclysmic defeat of the Soviet-backed Arab coalition-primarily the United Arab Republic, Jordan and Syria-in the third Arab-Israeli war has highlighted the basic dilemmas that confront Soviet policy-makers in their unremitting efforts to win friends and enlist allies within the "Third World" of the underdeveloped nations. It has raised to the nth degree the question of Soviet goals and Soviet means. Behind Mr. Gromyko's quick political footwork, which has been designed to rescue Russia's Arab allies from the consequences of their rash challenge and at the same time to overcome the serious blow suffered by Soviet prestige, the Kremlin and its advisers are undoubtedly engaged in an "agonizing reappraisal" of aims, strategy and tactics. The outcome of that review will have momentous consequences for the Third World, for the Soviet role in world politics and for Western and particularly American policy.
HALF a century after Lenin's seizure of power started the global chain reaction associated with his name, there no longer is a single center to direct what is still conventionally described as the world communist movement. The shock waves released by the original explosion continue to travel, but they follow a course profoundly divergent from that formerly traced out by the Bolshevik party and the Third International. Communism as a global phenomenon and the U.S.S.R. as the focus of a planned industrial transformation do not inhabit the same universe. Rhetorical assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, their respective lines of development increasingly point away from each other.
As the war in Viet Nam moves well into the third year of the major phase that began early in 1965 with the deployment of large numbers of American troops, there are indications that the long and difficult conflict is in a state of irresolution, or what the communists describe as "indecisiveness." This does not mean stalemate, a word Washington officials rightly reject, since the military contest on the ground remains highly fluid and damaging to both sides, while the population and economy of North Viet Nam, subject as they are to an ever-widening pattern of bombing, are obviously being hurt (reports from the North say that half a million persons, including perhaps 100,000 Chinese, are now engaged in repairing the bomb damage). In South Viet Nam, American troops and their foreign allies, and occasionally the South Vietnamese, are continuing to win some major battles and with the help of coördinated tactical air, heavy bombing and artillery attacks are inflicting heavy casualties on the communists.
The war in Viet Nam has for so long dominated our field of vision that it has distorted our picture of Asia. A small country on the rim of the continent has filled the screen of our minds; but it does not fill the map. Sometimes dramatically, but more often quietly, the rest of Asia has been undergoing a profound, an exciting and on balance an extraordinarily promising transformation. One key to this transformation is the emergence of Asian regionalism; another is the development of a number of the Asian economies; another is gathering disaffection with all the old isms that have so long imprisoned so many minds and so many governments. By and large the non-communist Asian governments are looking for solutions that work, rather than solutions that fit a preconceived set of doctrines and dogmas.
New evidence suggesting a relationship between malnutrition and mental retardation should be cause for major policy concern in a number of world capitals. The recognition that malnourished children may emerge from childhood lacking the ability to reach their full genetic intellectual potential introduces a new and perhaps frightening note into theories of national development.
No people is fonder of reading the future from the past than the Chinese, perhaps because no other people possesses a past which has for more than three millennia been as minutely recorded and as consistently glorious. The Chinese passion for their own history has bred a propensity for repeating both past triumphs and past mistakes. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the Chinese were in many ways in thrall to their own voluminous and detailed chronicles. When the intellectual sat down to the obligatory study of those chronicles, the profuse commentaries thereon and other quasi- sacred works of great antiquity, he was quite consciously performing an act of affirmation. He was at once affirming his personal commitment to the spiritual and political values of the great central tradition and renewing that two-thousand-year-old tradition. He was excluding any radical change in those values or the society based upon them, and he was severely restricting the possibilities of evolutionary change. Alterations did, of course, occur, some of them quite sweeping. But they occurred within the framework of the central tradition-or, at least, the Chinese could pretend that they occurred within that framework. When they considered the probable shape of the future they could therefore assume that it would, with some variations, repeat the past in perpetuity.
The most significant fact about the Canadian-American relationship may prove to be that the United States is growing less dependent on its allies- including Canada. That Canada is growing more dependent on the United States is a more frequent assumption, especially of Canadians, who make a political sport of accusing each other of abetting this deplorable trend. The United States cares less and less what Canada does because it has a declining interest in our territory for its defenses in a missile age. This trend is unlikely to strengthen our bargaining power in Washington, but it leaves us freer to follow our own course. American independence of Canada encourages Canadian independence of the United States. It tempts us to "neutralism"-if "neutralism" means much in a world shifting from alignment to duopoly, when the "neutralist" heretic General de Gaulle could be outflanked by President Johnson on the road to Moscow.
A discussion of the crisis of population growth must be organized around two sharply contrasting themes: one, of almost unrivaled dangers; the other, of new hope that it may be resolved during the remainder of this century. It is difficult to overstate the importance of either theme. The dangers threaten the entire process of modernization among the two-thirds of the world's people in the technologically backward nations, and thereby the maintenance of their political coherence; they threaten, indeed, a catastrophic loss of life. The hope lies in the fact that there is now new reason to think that, if the world is willing to bend its energies toward solving the problems, it can go far toward doing so during the coming decades. The time has passed when the problem must be viewed as insuperable.
The persistent deficit in the United States' balance of international payments and the continuing loss of gold have led to increasing discussion of national policies relating to gold and the dollar. While the issues involved are quite technical and complex, they are important to the future of the nation and the world. Broader understanding of the forces impinging on the nation's balance of payments is essential if the United States is to react properly to the changes in its role in the world economy.
In the first century of our relations with Japan, both countries swung from extremes of high hope to despair, and back again to hope. Now, with greater opportunities to know each other and with a dialogue reopened between our intellectuals, there should be wiser calculations on both sides of the Pacific. Instead, we are again moving in different directions and, at least for the moment, there is the danger that high expectations will again founder on misunderstandings.