Commentary Magazine


A Program for the Cold War

To the Editor:

Of the many grave matters that remain at issue between Staughton Lynd and myself [“The Origin of the Cold War,” February], and which cannot be debated in this brief space, there is one point of personal privilege, as it were, to which I must reply. It is Mr. Lynd’s insinuation that I am a “preventive warrior.” He does me a profound human, as well as political, injustice—especially since nothing in my article warrants such an imputation.

I am the prisoner of no fears, as Mr. Lynd suggests, nor would my foreign policy posture—which he is ungracious enough to guess at incorrectly—help bring about a nuclear holocaust. On the contrary, the approach I would propose promises to prevent without a war the erosion and ultimate destruction of our national interests and of institutions of freedom around the world.

I believe in forthrightly taking the measure of a self-declared enemy and combatting him as skillfully and flexibly as the situation demands. I believe this must be done not only as a matter of indispensable self-defense, but as the very precondition and essential concomitant of responsibly meeting the rising expectations of underprivileged people throughout the world. For nearly a half-century of experience ought by now to have taught us that where Bolshevism comes, whether in Russia, China, Eastern Europe, or elsewhere, new and more fearsome forms of servitude, degradation, and terror appear. This is as much a danger for the new nations as for us.

Their revolution of rising expectations, including the necessary planning, need not everywhere and at all times be carried forward by authoritarian means. I submit, indeed, that American foreign policy, in attuning itself to this revolution, will in the long run be self-defeating if it is not equally geared to helping the new nations attain just political as well as economic institutions. The satisfaction of material needs alone is hardly a sufficient foreign policy objective. To it must be coupled a genuine, steady endeavor to aid in the establishment of indigenous forms of institutions that will enhance individual liberty. Such a dual mission is worthy of a nation with the traditions and spirit of Western civilization.

In that context, I can have no less concern for the aspirations of the people of Eastern Europe, China, and Russia than for those of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Freedom is for me as indivisible as peace, and a program aimed at the enhancement and extension of political and economic freedom, at the creation of institutions that allow for maximal options and choices, requires resistance to tyranny, whatever its form. This is how I read the relevant passages in President Kennedy’s State of the Union address, and I will happily stand on that.

Moshe Decter
New York City

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