Courtesy Reuters


In the issue of Time of January 3, 1972, President Nixon is quoted as follows: "We must remember the only time in the history of the world that we have had any extended period of peace is when there has been balance of power. It is when one nation becomes infinitely more powerful in relation to its potential competitor that the danger of war arises. So I believe in a world in which the United States is powerful. I think it will be a safer world and a better world if we have a strong, healthy United States, Europe, Soviet Union, China, Japan, each balancing the other, not playing one against the other, an even balance."

It is a curious statement if taken at its face value. In the first place, it is historically untrue-a pentagonal balance of power produced two periods each of about 40 years of peace between the battles of Waterloo and the Marne and hardly existed afterward; in "the history of the world" the periods of deepest peace have been those of partial or universal empire. In addition, it negates a long-standing American declaratory position against a multiple power balance, symbolized by President Wilson's famous description of it at the Guildhall in 1918 as "a thing in which the balance was determined by the sword which was thrown in on one side or the other . . . the unstable equilibrium of competitive interests . . . maintained by jealous watchfulness and an antagonism of interests."

It abrogates at least a decade or more in which it was the conventional wisdom in Washington that the United States should be "infinitely more powerful in relation to its potential competitor." And finally, it assumes that, as in the eighteenth century, the five powers concerned have broadly the same range of resources at their disposal. This simply is not true today. The Soviet Union and the United States possess a degree of strategic, military and economic resources which the other three partners do not. Western Europe, the United States and

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