Cuba and Peace
To the Editor:
Nathan Glazer’s article, “Cuba and the Peace Movement” [December, 1962] rests on the assertion (repeated, I think, four times) that Russia was upsetting the nuclear balance of power by stationing missiles in Cuba. This, of course, was what the President said in his speech to the nation when he implied that there had been a tacit agreement between Russia and America not to station missiles outside the two countries, and that Russia had broken it.
The truth is different. America has for several years had missiles stationed around the borders of the Soviet Union. It was this action by America—not by Russia—which broke the tacit agreement the President invoked.
Mr. Glazer appears to be arguing that unilateral initiatives by America could not have induced the Russians to remove their missiles from Cuba. His evidence for this is interesting: Russia’s failure to respond to the American desire for a nuclear test-ban treaty in the early months of the Kennedy administration. Glazer seems to be saying that the Russian reaction in that instance proves that the Russians never respond to diplomatic initiative, q.e.d., only the threat of nuclear annihilation was available to President Kennedy. . . .
What makes this assumption still more curious is that giving up the virtually useless American missile bases in Turkey is precisely the concrete unilateral initiative which Charles Osgood and others have suggested. Since Russia’s action in Cuba merely mirrored our previous action in Turkey and elsewhere, and since it was generally agreed that such bases cause a maximum of fear while affording a minimal increment in nuclear capability—one might have thought that Cuba was precisely the opportunity in which to try the Osgood approach.
Instead, far from attempting unilateral initiatives, the President did not attempt normal diplomatic negotiations until he had brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Mr. Glazer barely mentions the Cuban-American (as opposed to the Soviet-American) side of the recent crisis. Would he argue that Cuba was irrational in preparing for an attack from America? Would he deny that the Cuban government offered to accept UN inspection of Cuban missile sites if the United States agreed to U.N. inspection of the areas where this country is admittedly organizing a second invasion force? It is a little strange to see the Cuban crisis discussed without reference to the fact that the aggression in Cuban-American relations since 1959 has clearly come primarily from us.
But even restricting attention to the Soviet-American side of the crisis, and even supposing Mr. Glazer right in his belief that America was virtuously restrained and Russia slyly aggressive, what is he really recommending? He recognizes that it is useless to threaten nuclear war unless one is prepared to wage nuclear war, yet he appears to have joined the chorus of those who think that threatening nuclear war is a new recipe for the conduct of American foreign relations. I wish he would explain under what circumstances nuclear war would be a moral action or a rational means of achieving anybody’s goals. . . .
To the Editor:
Nathan Glazer’s comments . . . contain several relevant criticisms of what passes for the American peace movement; they serve however mainly to illustrate the contradictions within the movement and their effect on its policy pronouncements.
In spite of recent thoughtful inquiry into the possibilities of a unilateral initiatives approach, many in the peace movement try to walk the tight rope between policies which are essentially within the cold war and arms race framework . . . and the development of nonviolent alternatives leading out of the arms race entirely. Unilateral initiatives seldom have been publicly presented as the basic stuff of a revolutionary foreign policy . . . in which acts in every relevant field of foreign affairs are undertaken to transform the nature and context of the present power struggle. They have more often been put forward tentatively with reassurances that one or two initatives won’t weaken our military security . . . or with great fanfare of disclaimers of woolly-mindedness, Communist sympathies, pacifism, etc. . . . Or they have been justified on the basis that Russia has changed and . . . is likely to respond in kind.
In the present American peace movement, it is virtually impossible to explore adequately the development and effective presentation of a radical policy leading toward a world without war. It is as difficult to develop the structure on which to build a creative, vital, yet organized movement. There are unresolved conflicts over method: divergent evaluations of the world situation, the definition of the issues, the composition of a policy framework, the definition of goals. These contribute to the unclear or insufficient response to particular issues, such as the Cuban crisis. The organizations in the peace movement . . . are still developing a basic and dynamic formulation for the future within which subsequent crisis responses could be framed.
Nathan Glazer discusses unilateral initiatives as if one initiative in one field at one particular time in history will provide the dynamic to change the context of present international relations. Obviously, this is unrealistic and an inaccurate statement of what is meant by unilateral initiatives. . . . Glazer sees the future in terms of the indefinite maintenance of the military status quo. This is a virtual impossibility in a world of changing power relationships and expanding technology. It seems obvious that we must go beyond this untenable and precarious balance of terror psychology to find a path out of the nuclear dilemma. We need all our intelligence and resources to develop a truly alternative set of policies. . . .
We cannot expect more than the kind of conservative leadership we have had from President Kennedy (conservative in the sense of refusing to depart from the “established” way of dealing with any problem.) The peace movement cannot and should not tailor its proposals to that which is possible under the Kennedy administration. There is at present no alignment of concerned people in the United States which can put forward relevant policy and action on the rage of social concerns of which peace and civil rights are a part. Unless a vital and organized movement based on non-violence comes about, I do not see how there can be progress toward the kind of society I think Nathan Glazer and I both would agree is a requirement for the future well-being of the world’s peoples. I hope that the peace movement’s lesson from Cuba is that it shall unite to lead and foster this progress.
Anne M. Stadler
Turn Toward Peace National Council
To the Editor:
Nathan Glazer’s article contained several misstatements of fact as well as . . . an erroneous set of conclusions.
Mr. Glazer states that the placement of missiles in Cuba resulted in a “radical change” in the status quo. But in an interview on ABC Television, Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric stated:
. . . the military equation between the Soviets and the U.S. [was not altered] by bringing closer to our shores [some] of these missiles that had previously been ranged against us, or longer range missiles of the same weapon-carrying variety. . . . I don’t believe that we were under any greater threat from the Soviet Union’s power taken in its totality after this than we were before. . . .
He stated further that we have never “threatened to wreak destruction on Cuba.” Can he have forgotten so soon the tragedy of the Bahia de Cochinos? Our continuing economic blockade of Cuba? . . . Our continued support of clandestine guerrilla actions against Cuba? . . . Our refusal to negotiate with the Castro government, or even to continue normal diplomatic—not to mention trade—relations?
Mr. Glazer refers to the newsletter of the Council for Correspondence in his article—yet makes no comment on a theory advanced there by Professor Leslie Dewart of the University of Toronto, which argues that Khrushchev’s strategy was designed to provoke a short-of-war act, in order to restore negotiability by giving the United States a victory. Mr. Glazer’s admission that he found Khrushchev’s withdrawal “astonishing” supports Dewart’s explanation.
All through the article Mr. Glazer emphasizes the refusal of the peace movement “to distinguish between Khrushchev’s attempt to upset the status quo,” and Kennedy’s “defensive” actions. Is it not conceivable that Mr. Glazer should reverse that statement? He refuses to see that Khrushchev may have been trying to restore the diplomatic status quo, while Kennedy unwittingly took us perilously close to nuclear war. . . .
Mr. Glazer’s political evaluation of the peace movement . . . is the analysis of someone on the outside looking in. He asserts that the socialist, pacifist, anarchist, fellow-traveling, and liberal tendencies . . . are nearly equal, or that all are of major importance. . . . But what does Mr. Glazer consider the “peace movement” and where does he find these tendencies manifested? The real “peace movement” is comprised of the groups affiliated under the banner of Turn Toward Peace. The only two “peace” groups of significance that are not affiliated with T.T.P. are the General Strike for Peace, based in New York, and the various Women Strike for Peace groups. The former may be said to have an anarchist tinge, and the latter a fellow-traveling (but not Communist) tinge—but neither are major tendencies within the whole movement, and those who do come from anarchist or fellow-traveling backgrounds are by no means dominant. This leaves the other three classifications: socialist, pacifist, and liberal. While the socialist and the pacifist element is evident in the leadership, particularly that of T.T.P., it does not constitute a significant section of the rank-and-file because these groups have always been comparatively small and in recent years have become smaller. This leaves the “liberal” group; this, I think, is about as close as one can come to describing major peace groups. The very ambiguity of the term is valuable.
. . . If Mr. Glazer is going to write about such subjects as “Cuba and the Peace Movement” he should avoid sweeping generalizations based on imagination. . . . The most disturbing thing about the article was the way Mr. Glazer equated the peace movement with the appeasers of 1939—surely as inept a comparison as I have ever seen.
To the Editor:
. . . Mr. Glazer’s analysis . . . is the latest example of what Karl Meyer of the Washington Post called “the mesmerization of liberals by the cult of toughness which has become fashionable along the New Frontier.”
If Mr. Glazer wishes to comment on the dialogues that have occurred since the use of force, then he must also bear in mind the intensification of the armaments race with increased expenditures and the preparation of such sacrificial lambs as Adlai Stevenson. . . .
Mr. Glazer should also be concerned with those in the peace movement who were not thoroughly convinced that 41 missiles and a few bombers actually shifted the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States which now has overwhelming supremacy in missiles. . . . The liberals whom Mr. Glazer now patronizes were the same ones who were not hypnotized by Kennedy’s talk of “missile gap” during his search for power.
. . . A more reasonable view of the situation would connect what happened in Cuba with the Soviet Union’s desire to maintain the status quo in East Berlin. Recent events in India point to an increasing gap between Khrushchev and Mao Tse-tung which could make for more rapid peace settlements than the show of power in a part of the world distant from Khrushchev’s fundamental involvement. Perhaps if Mr. Glazer had read Erich Fromm’s May Man Prevail? he might be skeptical of the realism of “‘realists’ who deduce all policy from the axioms of power.”
Brooklyn, New York
To the Editor:
Nathan’s Glazer’s article said that statements by peace organizations issued at the time of the Cuban crisis were “less likely to gain support than any major effort they had undertaken in recent years.” He quoted from a typical advertisement that criticized Kennedy’s unilateral action and his failure to go to the UN first and called upon both the US and the USSR to withdraw and negotiate. I agree with Mr. Glazer that the American public is not supporting this attitude, but applauding Kennedy as a brilliant player of the chicken game. Even Mr. Glazer is blinded by the dazzling success of the Cuban operation in brinkmanship. Fortunately, Mr. Kennedy seems well aware of the odds against continued success in this game; in his television interview dealing with his first two years in office he remarked thoughtfully that we can’t afford too many confrontations.
Mr. Glazer is not so cautious; while he doesn’t propose that America initiate another confrontation right away, he is impressed by the fact that there may be more opportunity for fruitful negotiation between East and West as a result of the use of force than could have been achieved by peaceful initiatives. This is the newest, most seductive style of militarism. . . .
Although it is obvious that peace organizations would not offer enthusiastic support for a policy of brinkmanship, Mr. Glazer sees another reason for their failure to back Kennedy . . . : their persistent equation of Russian and American motives. . . . Mr. Glazer is right in saying that the Kennedy administration . . . genuinely wanted to end testing. We were far ahead in nuclear weaponry, stockpiles, number and protection of delivery systems, etc. . . . Had the peace movement been more sophisticated in these matters it could have stressed that both our and the Russian attitude toward testing was quite predictable at that stage of the arms race. We were willing to call a halt while we were in a position of strength and it was Russia’s turn to feel that they must . . . draw closer in military power. This is the way an arms race spirals.
The peace movement is ineffective in these areas because so much of its strength and leadership is drawn from the ranks of the religious pacifists. Such people are repelled by a close study of weaponry and power politics. Let us not exhort them to be practical but rather ask ourselves why we, the realists . . . are not assuming a larger part in peace organizations. . . .
To the Editor:
Nathan Glazer’s article . . . contains several misconceptions about both the “peace movement” and the reality of the Cuban crisis and its implications for the cold war. . . .
Glazer sees the recent missile buildup in Cuba the way the mass media do: Khrushchev tried to sneak missiles into Cuba and in so doing upset the “status quo”; and Kennedy’s actions headed off a possible second Pearl Harbor. The facts are otherwise. . . . The missiles were brought on the decks of Soviet ships, the installations were built in the open and along main highways in some instances, and the launchers erected without regard to camouflage. This activity was easily observed by U.S. planes and all sorts of foreign newsmen. . . . If we knew nothing about it until the President’s alarming speech, the fault was with the government and the newspapers and not with Soviet and Cuban sneakiness. Secondly, as Mr. Roswell Gilpatric stated shortly after the crisis began, the Soviet missiles in Cuba were putting us in no more danger than if they had not been there at all. . . . Intermediate range missiles, at little cost to the Soviet Union, could have restored the balance of terror. The Soviet Union is badly outgunned in hardened long-range ICBM’s and these missiles were obviously to be its insurance against the first-strike monsters. As for Kennedy’s heroic limiting of nuclear weapons to our allies, the recent deal for an independent nuclear force for NATO ends such dreams. . . .
Another error of Glazer’s is equating these days with 1939. Nuclear missiles have permanently foreclosed such analogies. . . .
Only the ‘“Peace Movement” points the way for both reason and morality. I think it not unreasonable to assume that we will all really be in trouble, and neither Kennedy nor the new Realpolitik of “images” and mass media “national unity” will get us out of it.
Harvey A. Abrams
To the Editor:
Nathan Glazer, like several other cold war liberals, seems to be more belligerent than the President of the United States. The President stressed that the action taken with regard to Cuba was not a policy; there were special circumstances involved which dictated application of the method used, and even this, he admitted, was taking the risk that “if any one of the sides makes a major mistake, there will be 150 million deaths within the first 18 hours.”
The claim Mr. Glazer makes that the Cuban action removed the need for unilateral initiatives is quite unwarranted. No one denies that force can be used; the point is that its use in the long run must trigger a larger blow-up, which will have, at the very least, the consequences Kennedy described. The fact that this blow-up has not occurred up until now does not make its occurrence any less likely the next time; on the contrary, one could argue that it makes it all the more likely.
The claim that unilateral initiatives are no longer necessary, since the use of force has brought a “new fluidity” to American-Russian relations, has little support in fact. Although a treaty on the cessation of tests seemed imminent before the Cuban crisis, it is at present still pending. Nor have any other settlements, major or minor, been reached. . . .
To put it in simple terms, the whole thing is like driving a car at a speed of 100 miles per hour: it is quite all right as long as you get away with it; but the thrill of danger should not mislead us into thinking that it is a safe way of getting around. We must find a more effective way of conducting international policy than driving humanity to the brink of disaster every time a local conflict arises.
Cuba may, however, have had one new consequence: it shifted the danger of miscalculation from Russia to the United States. Russia might, it is true, be somewhat more careful now; but, especially in view of what many in the press and some of my liberal friends have been suggesting, will the United States be?
Department of Sociology
New York City
Mr. Glazer writes:
One point comes up consistently in most of these letters: The Russian action did not upset the status quo, the missiles there were not important, and Kennedy was faking. Gilpatric is quoted twice on this point. I cannot follow this reasoning. If the missiles there meant nothing, and changed nothing, then why was this expensive and elaborate and dangerous operation undertaken? I assume Kennedy is as authoritative on this point as Gilpatric. And without knowing the context of Gilpatric’s remarks, I would nevertheless point out that there are obviously contexts (for example, when one is defending the administration’s relatively moderate position against Congressional extremists) in which an administration spokesman would try to play down the seriousness of the Russian action. The Russians having agreed to withdraw, to continue emphasizing the danger of the missiles could only exacerbate improving relations, aside from giving support to opponents attacking the competence of the administration’s conduct of defense policy.
The inability of many of these letter-writers and particularly Mr. Lynd to detect any significance in the presence on this side of the Atlantic for the first time in history in 1962 of some tens of thousands of Russian troops and some of their most advanced weapons, is to me incredible. It is as if a historian were to say it was of no significance that American soldiers were permanently placed on the continent of Europe after World War II because we had the atom bomb anyway; or that it is of no significance that Russian troops are stationed on the Elbe, because they could get there fast enough from 500 miles back. History is made up of such distinctions that seem not to matter to the letter-writers.
A second point about distinctions, and this comes up most prominently in Mr. Lynd’s letter, but also in Mr. Ireland’s: Kennedy did not threaten atomic war, atomic destruction, or to wipe out Cuba. Between the embargo on aggressive weapons and atomic war there lies a wide range of reactions. Mr. Lynd is simply irresponsible when, speaking of what Kennedy actually did, he says “only the threat of nuclear annihilation was available to President Kennedy as an appropriate response to Russian missiles in Cuba.” There was no such threat, and I made a point of this in my article. Khrushchev has specifically threatened to use his atomic rockets to wipe out a number of specified countries to advance his foreign policy objectives. For example: he threatened to wipe out Israel, England, and France, if they continued their attack on Suez; he threatened countries which served as bases for U-2 flights; he threatened this country if it should attack Cuba. I contrasted this behavior with that of the American Presidents, who have emphasized that the atomic weapons are for the purpose of deterring their use against us or our allies, and have only suggested they might be used in the case of a massive attack on Western Europe. Mr. Lynd cannot see the difference between an embargo on aggressive weapons and a threat of nuclear annihilation; Mr. Ireland thinks that our desire to see a hostile government in Cuba overthrown is equivalent to Khrushchev’s threats of atomic annihilation.
As to Professor Etzioni, I do not see how he can get the idea from my article that I believe belligerence is the only posture to adopt toward Russia. For example, I suggest in the article that it would be a good idea to reduce our nuclear stockpile—unilaterally. But as to Cuba, just what would he have suggested?
Fortunately, most of the leaders of the peace movement make much better distinctions than these. The attitudes and reasoning exhibited in these letters is far worse than those I attacked in my article and not characteristic of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy or the leaders of Turn Toward Peace.