The Long Pretense, by Arnold Beichman
Winston Churchill famously pronounced World War II an unnecessary war. By the same reasoning, Arnold Beichman’s The Long Pretense: Soviet Treaty Diplomacy from Lenin to Gorbachev—an account of Soviet diplomatic deceptions roughly from the treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1922 to the present day—ought to be an unnecessary book. Alas, because of a seemingly ineradicable human propensity to hide from unpleasant truths, the war had to be fought and the book has had to be written. And as it is to this day depressing to think that Western statesmen permitted the monstrous and yet still relatively weak Hitler to march unopposed into the Rhineland, so it is utterly astonishing to realize that after the Soviets’ 70-year record of despotic cruelty, mendacity, and murder, there are still so-called men of good will (perhaps more of them than ever) in need of the kind of instruction Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institution provides here. Of those statesmen in the 1930′s it can at least be said that they had been deceiving themselves about Hitler for only a short time; with regard to the Soviets, some extremely important Americans have been at it off and on for more than half a century.
Beichman’s book is not, as its title and subtitle might suggest, a straightforward historical record of Soviet treaty violations. Actually, it focuses almost as insistently on Washington as on Moscow, its subject being not so much treaties as something Beichman has dubbed “treaty ism.” By treaty ism he means an absolute and continuing belief, unaffected by any form of Soviet behavior, that “treaties on any and all subjects between the United States and the Soviet Union are inherently a good thing.” An added recent component of this belief—according to Beichman one of its current major underpinnings—is the hallucinatory conviction that the United States has no right to respond in any way to any Soviet infraction because of its own surpassing unworthiness—the conviction that came to be characterized as “moral equivalence.”
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