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President Reagan won his office in part because he convinced the electorate that the Soviets had hoodwinked all Administrations of the last decade. He proposed to reverse the unfavorable trend of U.S.-Soviet power relations and, quite simply, to "stand up to the Russians." For the last two years, the Reagan Administration has been trying to translate into policy the basic ideas its members brought into office. To an unprecedented degree, these basic ideas have remained unchanged despite pressures that inevitably drive every President facing the realities of domestic and international politics toward the pragmatic center. Despite various adjustments and adaptations, both the domestic and foreign policies of the Reagan Administration, like the Reagan campaign, continue to display the characteristics of an ideological crusade.
One vital benefit which is struggling to emerge from the prolonged debate about President Reagan's military budget proposals is a recognition that this country and its NATO allies have until now, incredibly, lacked a meaningful and coherent strategy of defense against the Soviet Union. Appreciation of this fact may not yet fully have penetrated the Pentagon or been recognized by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. But it does appear to have reached the White House. The first indication of this came in a little noticed but potentially vastly important statement made by William P. Clark, the President's National Security Adviser, at Georgetown University last May 20. Our new strategy, he declared, would include "diplomatic, political, economic and informational components built on a foundation of military strength." In a limited application of this concept, he noted that "We must force our principal adversary, the Soviet Union, to bear the brunt of its economic shortcomings."
Try to imagine, as Western specialists in communist affairs often do, a Politburo meeting in the Kremlin. It is the spring of 1981, the topic is Poland. Comrade A is impatient: "I thought Kania was one of us. He used to be in charge of their security forces. How is it he doesn't know what to do?" Comrade B is philosophical: "These Poles, they've never liked us, they never will. We liberate them from the Germans, we sell them cheap oil, we give them credit, we buy everything they can't sell in the West. What do we get? Why aren't they grateful?" Comrade C is bitter: "I'm sick and tired of all these East Europeans, but especially of the Poles. They want to be the bridge' between us and the West. (Laughter in the room.) Don't they know we want the West Germans to be the bridge'?" (More laughter.) Comrade D is business-like: "We have better things to do than to worry about Poland all the time. I move that we give this Kania fellow another chance. If he doesn't have everything under control by the end of the year, we'll move in. We'll call it fraternal assistance.' Enough is enough. What will the Americans and the Chinese think of us if we let this thing go on indefinitely? We're patient, of course. We're always patient, but we're not a paper tiger!" The motion carries.
Historians who attempt to look into and prescribe for the future are professionally inclined to offer as much past history as they think they can get away with, and as little prophecy and prescription as they think their readers will accept. Historians have seen too many confident prophets fall flat on their faces to lay themselves open to more humiliation than they can help. We know that all we can do is to help diagnose the problem or, better, expose false diagnoses. We also believe that in doing this it is helpful to consider how a situation has developed, in this instance in casting a backward look over the origins and development of the Western Alliance to see how we have got to where we are now. There is little point in considering where we should be going if we do not first decide where we are starting from.
That the Western Alliance is undergoing one of its recurrent crises is beyond doubt: the important question is whether this crisis is different in nature and more perilous in its likely outcome than those of the past. If NATO simply faces the chronic tensions of an alliance constructed of 16 members of varying size, geographic location and temperament, there is little cause for concern. The disputes of the moment--the questions of trade with the Soviet Union (including the Euro-Soviet natural gas pipeline) and European theater nuclear force (TNF) modernization--will be resolved by inelegant but workable compromises; the petty resentments of the moment will be understood as such: fits of pique which lead to the spats common to any couple, no matter how secure their marriage.
The music has stopped. In August, Mexico, the largest single recipient of Eurocurrency bank credits in recent years, announced that it could not for the time being meet its scheduled repayments of principal on the external debt of the public sector. Service on the Mexican private sector and banking system debt is sporadic or interrupted because of the shortage of foreign exchange. Argentina has in effect been unable to meet its scheduled debt service since the time of the South Atlantic conflict. And, since mid-1982, international bank lending to Latin American countries has all but ground to a halt. As a result, Brazil may find it very difficult to meet its scheduled debt service, since, like the other countries in the area, it needs a constant inflow of funds to pay off old debt.
In the 30 years that I have spent as a U. S. Congressman, I have considered myself mainly a hawk on national defense issues. It is my view that the communist world is deadly serious in its intent to conquer the globe. Toward that end, the communists can be counted on to probe for weaknesses on the part of Western nations. Where weaknesses can be found, the communists will move swiftly to take full advantage. I feel that our defense and foreign policy makers must always be aware of this very basic fact.
President Reagan's address to the nation on September 1 deftly reengaged the United States in the Arab-Israeli peace process. At long last Washington broke free from the straitjacket of deadlocked autonomy negotiations to declare its intention of vigorously pursuing resolution of basic political issues. The success of this initiative will be tested by the extent to which subsequent political change in Israel and in the Arab world produces foreign policies gradually more conducive to compromise.
In the tangled international tapestry certain relationships dominate the pattern. The U.S.-Soviet struggle has colored almost all world politics for a generation. Franco-German entente has ended centuries of European warfare. One relationship which holds much potential for improving world conditions is that between Japan and the United States. This bilateral relationship, conducted within a dense multilateral web in which each nation has many other ties based on interest and sentiment, is now, and will be increasingly, central to any proper functioning of the world economy and polity.
Just over 35 years ago, on August 15, 1947, India and Pakistan became independent states. What should have been a joyful occasion was marred by the ghastly slaughter of half a million people and the uprooting of about 15 million men, women and children. Only a few months before, few people had ever heard of the word "Pakistan," a concept invented by a few Muslim intellectuals in 1933 who claimed that there were two distinct nations in India; this idea was then adopted by the Muslim League at its historic meeting in Lahore in 1940 as implying an independent sovereign "homeland" for those Indian Muslims who would choose to opt out of a Hindu-dominated India. This concept, so reminiscent of the idea of a Jewish "homeland" in Palestine (Gunnar Myrdal called it a form of Muslim Zionism), resulted from the primacy of the twentieth century's dominant political "form"--the nation-state within definite geographical boundaries--into whose Procrustean bed the world's diverse populations had to be fitted willy-nilly.