The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
THERE is a constant outcry in America that we have no long-term plan for dealing with the central problem of Soviet-American relationships or, more broadly, of relationships between the United States and the Communist orbit. From the right comes the demand that the President declare that our goal is victory over Communism, or a similar generality.
As Kennedy said in his interview with Premier Khrushchev’s son-in-law, ‟Where we feel the difficulty comes is the effort by the Soviet Union to communize, in a sense, the entire world,” rather than to protect its own national interests. But the Communist philosophy is not going to be altered by American semantics; it is only American and allied power and its skillful application that will effect any change in the Communist position.
The President’s State Department shifts were, in part, an effort to improve some phases of longrange planning. In this held, some of the highest American officials are now pondering a critical question for the future. It stems from the following line of reasoning:
Today, by every intelligence estimate, American nuclear power — and the ability to use it against the Soviet Union — is considerably greater than is the comparable Soviet power. The belief is that this American power unquestionably is the restraining influence on Khrushchev. But, by the laws of weaponry this American advantage will in due course disappear, as Soviet missiles and nuclear submarine developments proceed.
On the other hand, so this line of reasoning goes, one of the Soviet Union’s biggest assets is its ability to keep secret its military power and other aspects of its national life. In due course, this Russian advantage will decrease. The many U-2 flights over the Soviet Union before the fatal Powers mission produced a remarkable set of photographs, which laid bare manifold secrets.
The career of the U-2 is over, but it is being replaced by the observation satellite known as Samos. The Samos operation thus far is classified, but it is known that this project has had the highest priority and that the scientists have said it is technically feasible. The Soviets, of course, know this. They have complained on occasion, but they were the first to orbit satellites, and the West did not object. As the Samos operation becomes more effective, Soviet secrecy will decline. But even the destruction of such a satellite, should the Soviet Union attempt it, would not be fatal, for the sky can be filled with more such vehicles.
This, then, is the question posed: What should the United States attempt to do in its relations with the Soviet Union, looking toward the day when both the current American nuclear advantage and the Soviet secrecy advantage disappear? To find answers is one of the tasks which will fall to the new planning chief at the State Department, Walt W. Rostow, the articulate and imaginative former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, who has moved to the State Department from his post at the White blouse.
The missile-gap controversy
To understand our more immediate plan for dealing with the Soviet Union, one must first glance back at the long argument over the socalled missile gap and what happened to it.
So all-consuming has been American suspicion of Communist motives that from the day we first learned of Soviet missile tests by means of the then secret radar installation in Turkey, the United States government’s assumption was that the Soviets were preparing for a first strike at this country. Intelligence reports, attempting to chart Soviet missile-building capabilities, said that by 1965 (a date later brought forward to 1961) the Russians would have as many as 500 to 1000 ICBMs. American missile production, resisted by the Air Force bomber chiefs and delayed by weight-yield problems until the invention of the hydrogen bomb, was charted at only about 70, a small number compared with the massive figures assigned the Russians. These figures leaked out, created the missile-gap furor, and were partially acknowledged by President Eisenhower’s Defense Secretary, Me Elroy.
The missile-gap controversy first began in Congress some three years ago. While it was evolving into an issue in the 1960 presidential campaign, the U-2 began to bring amazing results. Eisenhower has nowstated for the record that Khrushchev had known of the U-2 flights ‟for several years. Their radar had tracked a number of our planes.”
Responsible officials, including some who were on Kennedy’s side during the election, say that Eisenhower took the risk of tapering off American defenses on the basis of what he was learning from the U-2 pictures and other data the planes collected. Yet Eisenhower was caught in a box; he could not give any such reason while the U-2 was still supersecret, and when the U-2 was caught on May 1, 1960, he at once was put on the defensive both at home and by our allies, as well as by the Soviets.
These U-2 pictures convinced Eisenhower and his aides that the initial American assessment of a Soviet preparation for a first strike had been wrong. The pictures now were read as indicating that the Soviet preparations, like our own, were essentially defensive. These readings also played a part in Eisenhower’s decision to go to the 1960 summit conference, which, ironically, was wrecked by Khrushchev because of the U-2 affair.
When the Kennedy Administration took offeice, all these facts became known to the President and Defense Secretary McNamara, and provided the basis for McNamara’s statement to newsmen last February that he had found no missile gap. It was painful, politically, for the new Administration to concede this, but it represented the facts.
This does not mean that there has been any alteration of the view that the Communists would risk a nuclear attack on the United States if this country were foolish enough to so weaken its defenses that a punishing American retaliatory attack would be impossible. The aim of both the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations was and is to see that such a state of affairs never occurs. But it does mean that the new Administration, like its predecessor, believes the defenses are strong, and that therefore it is possible to attempt to negotiate with the Communists.
Alternative to unclear war
When Kennedy first took office he tried to make an earnest effort to reach agreement on the nucleartest-ban issue as a forerunner to larger agreements between the two great powers. The problem of Laos, the Cuban fiasco. Khrushchev’s raising anew the Berlin crisis, and a general heating up of the Cold War all marked the failure of the initial Kennedy hopes.
That he has not given up, however, was evident from his statements that if the Berlin issue were resolved,
the two great powers could have peace, or at least an absence of direct United States Soviet conflict, for another fifteen years or so. It also is evident that, while Kennedy was driven by French and West German leaders to limit negotiations to Berlin itself, he has not given up hope fora later and larger accommodation with the Soviet Union in central Europe.
The President’s willingness to accept a Communist election victory in Berlin, assuming free debate and a fair count, was certain to arouse the ultra-right in the United States, which demands a declaration that only total victory over Communism will suffice. But it was. nonetheless, a courageous thing to say, for the alternative is nuclear war.
The current American intelligence estimates also mean that this country can move in a more orderly fashion into second-generation missiles and that some earlier programs can be cut back or eliminated. But, because of the complex nature of the arms race and of the arms themselves, and because of the secrecy involved in intelligence, it is difficult to explain the factors going into such a judgment either to Congress or to the public. In addition, there is in this country, as Eisenhower warned in his Farewell Address as President, a vested interest in missiles, aircraft, and space programs on the part of industry, and, in many cases, on the part of members of Congress whose areas are deeply involved economically.
Thus, in struggling with the new military budget for the fiscal year beginning next July 1, the President has had to consider a host of factors: the degree of faith to place in intelligence on Soviet weaponry, the necessities of the Pentagon, the economic and political involvement of the military manufacturers, and the general state of public opinion.
The radical right
In this latter category is the President’s concern about the radical right. The initial Administration reaction to the John Birch Society and similar groups was that they were only another form of ultraconservatism. But last fall the President’s brother. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, made a swing across the country which took him into southern California. There he discovered that a private Democratic poll, intended to sound out 1962 campaign issues, showed that the number-one domestic issue was internal subversion.
This was a key factor in President Kennedy’s determination to speak out, as he did in both Seattle and Los Angeles, before this type of antigovernment philosophy spreads. The most critical aspect of the problem is whether, by equating negotiation with appeasement, the ultraright will be effective enough to tie the President’s hands in the Berlin crisis.
In practical political terms, the rise of the superpatriots presents, first of all, a problem for the Republican Party. The main question is likely to be whether pressure wall push the GOP in the direction of the far right. In Arizona, Senator Goldwater is a hero. He has acknowledged close friendship with John Birch Society leaders, and they, in turn, see in him a possible leader of national stature. Above all, Goldwater gives the Birch Society and other rightist groups an aura of political respectability.
In Texas, more and more conservative Democrats are now saying out loud that they are Republicans, a move made possible by two Eisenhower victories in the Lone Star state plus Nixon’s near victory there in 1960. But Texas Republicans are not of the Eisenhower-Nixon school; they are Gold water Republicans. Senator John Tower and Representative Bruce Alger, the two Texas Republicans now in Congress, are both at the far-right side of the party; and others who aspire to run for governor or for House seats next fall are following the Tower-Alger line.
This far-right Republicanism is the only kind which can siphon off enough conservative Democratic votes in Texas to produce victory at the polls.
The California primary
But the story in California is quite different and is of infinitely greater significance. California, especially southern California, is famous for its dissenters, both to the far left and the far right. Today the far left has all but evaporated; it is the far right which is politically active, and it is active almost entirely on the Republican side of the fence.
The testing very likely will come in the Republican primary this June, when Senator Thomas Kuchel seeks the renomination of his party. Kuchel, a moderate Republican of the Eisenhower-Nixon variety, is now the Republican Whip in tire Senate. With the death of conservative Styles Bridges of New Hampshire and the retirement of conservative John Marshal Butler of Maryland, the influence of Kuchel, along with that of other moderates, such as Leverett Saltonstall of Massachusetts. should be on tire rise. But this will be possible only if Kuchel wins renomination and re-election.
His opponent in the primary will probably be Representative John H. Rousselot, one of the two members of Congress who have said they are Birch Society members (the other, Representative Edgar W. Hiestand. is also a Republican from the Los Angeles area). Rousselot has been speaking all over California, and he is being urged to oppose Kuchel. A number of politicians in both parties would like to see him make the race in order to find out just how much strength the far right can produce at the ballot box.
Kuchel has been the target of considerable right-wing abuse. But what is most worrisome to him is the drift of some of the Republican Party machinery in California. The Los Angeles County Young Republicans have come under control of the far right to such an extent that their outgoing president publicly proclaimed the latest election of his group a “triumph” for the Birch Society. In San Mateo County, the Republican organization invited Senator Strom Thurmond, the South Carolina Dixiecrat presidential candidate of 1948, to address the group. Thurmond, like Goldwater, is a darling of the right, and he has said that if the GOP would nominate the Arizona senator, he would surely sweep the South in 1964.
This sort of rightist movement within the California GOP has tended to siphon funds away from the Nixon and Kuchel types of Republican. Major California businesses have sponsored some of the antiCommunist right-wing crusades on television and radio. Other concerns have suffered business reprisals for refusing to do the same. Republican leaders say that at least two state assemblymen of moderate stripe have refused to run again because of the right-wing pressures. In short, the 1962 primary in California may become the most important test in the nation of the power of the far right.
Political dopesters think Kuchel will win, as they think Nixon will win in his bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination against former governor Goodwin Knight. The Nixon-Knight contest does not involve the far-right issue, but a third candidate in the race, state GOP legislative leader Joseph Shell, has John Birch Society support.
California is now the nation’s second largest state in presidential electoral votes and soon will surpass New York; hence the critical importance of the direction of the Republican Party there. Only if California veers toward the extreme right can the Gold water faction have any hope of capturing the Republican party nationally.