Courtesy Reuters

Toward a Western Philosophy of Coexistence

The barometer of tension has risen and fallen many times during the last 26 years or so of our relationship with the Soviet Union. While some fear the present abatement is no more than a lull or a truce, it seems probable that we are on our way to some new stage. What the nature of this stage may be, however, has not yet become clear in our public discourse, nor have we begun to clarify for ourselves the direction in which we would like to shape events, to the extent that it lies within our power to do so. Despite the distractions of our time, there is an urgency to the task, for decisions have to be made and they should be governed by a perspective that is larger than our immediate national preoccupations.

Let us begin with three questions: How should the present stage of our relations with the Soviet Union be characterized? Are we witnessing a historic shift in the foreign policy of the Soviet Union? What should be our philosophy toward our relations with the Communist world, our objectives, our criteria for weighing alternative policies?


For those who live by words or phrases that sum up the entire situation at a glance, there is no simple substitute for the term "cold war." That term was once defined by the late George Lichtheim as "competitive attempts to alter the balance of power (between the Soviet Union and the United States) without overt resort to force." By this definition, the term still has a certain validity, although it does not convey the elements of collaborative action which have lately become evident; moreover, the term has acquired such emotional baggage, such connotations of absolute and intractable hostility, that it deserves to be retired. The ambiguities of the word "détente," which has come into wide usage, have led to much confusion. In its simplest meaning, "détente" suggests a relaxation of tension, but some have taken this to mean a "

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