To the Editor:
I read Norman Podhoretz’s article, “The Future Danger” [April], with great interest, especially his views on U.S.-China relations. In his recent visit to Peking, Secretary of State Haig made a premature policy announcement on arms sales to Peking, without, regrettably, there having been any prior national debate on this critical issue. . . .
I recall that, as a college student in 1946, when I warned of the danger of losing China to the Communists, my warnings were rejected on the grounds that such concerns were irrelevant in the atomic age. Ironically, yesterday’s strategic irrelevance has become today’s imperative. Moral allowances are now made for China’s brutal past on the grounds of “strategic necessity,” “parallel interests,” and so on . . . yet it seems to me that U.S. interests will not be served by a hasty tilt to Peking. Many imponderables must be taken into consideration. First, in the absence of any national debate on the issue, the American people are not willing to commit the nation to fight Peking’s proxy war against the Soviet Union. A war between Moscow and Peking, moreover, would be a fratricidal war between Marxist brothers, which should not even involve the United States. . . . People have short memories. Before 1960 Peking and Moscow were brothers. True, they are quarreling now, but they might reconcile later in the 1980′s . . . serious reservations about the policy of arming Communist China have been voiced not only by the ASEAN nations (the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore), Japan, and South Korea, but also by several leading NATO experts, such as Rainer W. Rupp (“China’s Strategic Arms and the Problems of Military Modernization,” NATO Review, March 1981) and Derek Arnould, of NATO’s Political Affairs Directorate. . . .
Then, too, there is the question of what do we need from China and what does it need from us? It should be obvious who needs whom the most, and that what Peking is after is for the U.S. to underwrite its arms industry and modernize its armed forces—at a cost of billions. Already, high-level delegations have visited top-secret facilities like the North American Air Defense Command Headquarters in Colorado, facilities from which even the American press is barred. Aviation Week & Space Technology reported on June 9, 1981: “Front-line U.S. Navy aircraft were examined and discussed in detail by top defense officials of the People’s Republic of China last week during a visit to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger. . . . Members of the delegation conducted extensive discussions with aircraft pilots and systems operators, asking penetrating questions . . . and taking copious notes.”. . .
Dr. Miles Costick, president of the Institute on Strategic Trade in Washington, D.C., has estimated that the Soviets “obtained technical equipment and processes that would have cost them more than $100 billion to acquire without U.S. aid.” Chinese Communist military experts are obviously hoping to follow the Soviet example. . . .
To increase cultural, economic, and trade relations with Peking is one thing, but to arm Communist China is quite a different matter. Hasty alliances with Peking will be detrimental to the best interests of the United States.
Richard H. Yang
East Asian Language & Area Center
St. Louis, Missouri
To the Editor:
. . . I am fully in agreement with the major premise of Norman Podhoretz’s article, that the Soviet Union is very likely, as an inherently aggressive power, to take advantage of the lead it has now built up against the United States across the board. But I should like to express a partial disagreement with Mr. Podhoretz’s views on Communist states at large (as opposed to the Soviet imperialist version of Communism). He says that “not a single country has ever broken free once the Communist yoke has been forced onto its neck.” I venture to suggest that this assertion is a misleading oversimplification. What was happening in Czechoslovakia during the “Prague Spring” but a voluntary dismantling of the totalitarian apparatus imposed by military force on a nation which had had a strong indigenous democratic tradition at the end of World War II? The Russians themselves made it perfectly clear that this was the reason they felt themselves compelled to intervene. They are, in my opinion, making it equally clear at the moment of writing that they forbid the Poles to revert to political pluralism under pain (as with the Czechs) of suppression by military force. I also suggest that the much earlier case of Hungary in 1956 fell into the same pattern.
This brings up the subject of the remarkable political fluidity in present-day China. I would concede that it is premature to argue that China is in the process of abandoning totalitarian Communism, in both its political and economic aspects. But the trends, at least in economics, are sufficiently encouraging, if not downright astonishing, to avoid any final judgment on the process for the immediate future. The possibility still exists that China may give up hard-line Communism on its own initiative.
Then there is “Eurocommunism.” Again, this is a far from unequivocal phenomenon, and there may be some leaders who assume its mantle out of pure opportunism. But, again, it demonstrates that Communism not enforced by Soviet military strength is not immutable. . . .
On the other hand, I must concede that Communist regimes emerging in the Third World (like Cuba and Vietnam) mostly appear to be very willing to serve as the Soviets’ hatchetmen. So some political discernment must be brought to bear on any evaluation of “independent” Communist regimes.
Having expressed these disagreements, I can only offer humble support for Mr. Podhoretz’s basic thesis, that the United States must, as vigorously as possible, reestablish the military force needed to contain the Soviet Union until it is tripped up by its own internal “contradictions.” But the risk exists that it is already too late.
R. J. Friedland
Johannesburg, South Africa
To the Editor:
Disbelief, anger, and anxiety . . . were the emotions evoked in me by the letters on Norman Podhoretz’s article published in your August issue.
“Russian imperialism,” “self-determination” of the “oppressed nations” in the Soviet Union, “Realpolitik,” and more of the same old stuff of the past 60 years, stuff that has again and again been proven . . . to be bankrupt and fruitless. What better proof of such bankruptcy—if more was needed—than . . . Walter Laqueur’s article on the situation in Holland [“Hollanditis”] that follows the remarks of your correspondents in the very same issue!. . .
The struggle is between power hunger . . . and disdain for individual freedom on the one side, and respect for individual freedom and the limitation of power by law . . . on the other side, namely the West. The struggle is between values and not between nations or peoples. It is not a matter of geography. There is, in principle, no difference between the Communism of East Germany, Ethiopia, Soviet Union, Tanzania, or Cuba—the flow of refugees is a one-way street globally.
One cannot possibly treat rationally a disease through a diagnosis based on preconceived ideas or wishful thinking. I believe that the unwillingness to interpret facts in the light of actual experience and present-day reality is the cause of our inability to face the future danger with confidence.
Igor F. Nikishin