The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
IT IS now almost six and a half years since President Eisenhower, in a moving extemporaneous speech in Washington, said, “Since the advent of nuclear weapons, it seems clear that there is no longer any alternative to peace, if there is to be a happy and well world.” In the following year, as Nikita Khrushchev consolidated his power in the Kremlin, Soviet policy, too, came to rest on the same premise. Now Russia and China are engaged in a struggle revolving principally around that policy; the Chinese Reds charge Khrushchev with quaking before American nuclear weapons. In Moscow, the Communist Party organ recently declared that a nuclear war would kill “many hundreds of millions” while “the greatest production centers in the world would be destroyed and entire states would be completely wiped off the map.”
However minimal may be one’s trust of the Soviet Union, it is evident that the Soviets and Americans share this single aim of keeping their struggle short of nuclear war. Only on this point of mutual self-interest can there be any hope of controlling what President Kennedy has called “a deadly business, this competition” in the arms race. Any progress in disarmament depends on Washington and Moscow; without agreement between the two great nuclear powers, the other nations can do nothing; with agreement between the two, the rest almost surely must go along.
Stalin publicly ridiculed the atomic bomb and secretly set his scientists to work to match the American achievement. Malenkov, who first succeeded him, was reprimanded by his colleagues and finally driven from power, in part for suggesting that nuclear weapons had no ideological preference and could destroy both social systems. Only when Khrushchev first gained control in the Kremlin did the Soviet Union, on May 10, 1955, put forward a serious proposal to harness the arms race. Yet this approach to the West was among the root causes of the later attempt by his Presidium colleagues to gang up on Khrushchev following the revolts in Poland and Hungary. It was Khrushchev, however, who survived to trumpet the doctrine of peaceful coexistence, to defend it against those who shared Molotov’s suspicions of any dealings with the West.
That both President Eisenhower and President Kennedy have realized and supported the necessity for some arms-control agreement with Khrushchev is beyond doubt. That in both Administrations there have been powerful voices urging the most extreme caution, often put that way only to mask outright opposition to presidential policy, is also beyond doubt; Harold Stassen, Eisenhowers disarmament chief, was destroyed, partly by such opposition.
The new U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, headed by Republican William C. Foster, is the most serious American effort to sort out the problems and find new approaches. Both the United States and the Soviet Union are driven by the fear that if they do nothing, the world may stumble, by accident or design, into a nuclear holocaust neither side wants. And this fear keeps them at the conference table.
Secrecy, the Kremlin’s weapon
The chief bar to East-West agreement is mutual suspicion. The three-year nuclear-test-ban negotiations came a cropper on the American demand for inspection and control inside the Soviet Union, which the Russians contend are nothing more than espionage. McCloy and Zorin, negotiating at the United Nations last fall on the principles of disarmament, failed to agree on the same crucial point: the Soviets were willing to allow inspection of armaments being destroyed under any agreement but not inspection of the remaining armaments to see if they were within the limits set.
Secrecy is, next to nuclear power itself, the most important Soviet weapon; it inspires recurring American fears of a nuclear Pearl Harbor. In various phases of both the test-ban and the generaldisarmament talks since 1955, the Soviets have offered to lift the curtain only a minimal amount, with even that protected by some form or other of a Soviet veto on the activities of foreign inspectors who might be permitted inside their country.
The U-2 reconnaissance plane, a superbly conceived and engineered venture whatever its ultimate political and diplomatic ramifications, was an effort to crack Soviet secrecy. Today the reconnaissance satellite, cloaked in the deepest American official secrecy, is another effort at the same thing. Its effectiveness is likely to be known to only a handful of Washington officials. The Russians, of course, are well aware of it, and their examination of the photography from the downed U-2 can leave them only the assumption that in time the satellite will be producing the same result.
This is only one example of how science runs ahead of diplomacy. The same element confronted the President in wrestling with the problem of whether to order a resumption of nuclear tests in the atmosphere. American military policy has long been based on the theory, or at least the hope, of what is termed the stable deterrent: the fact that each side had the capability of destroying the other and that this deterred either from attacking the other in all-out nuclear war. Yet last year’s round of Soviet nuclear tests raised the serious possibility that the Russians may have found a counter to incoming American missiles. Therefore, the Administration argument went, the United States must test to find a counter-counter. In a world of electronic mazes where man is supplanted by computers, it is hard to see an end to the concoctions of science.
Sword of Damocles
If this offers only the most somber prospects, one must come back again to the principal fact of the mutual Soviet and American self-interest in preventing nuclear war. Each nation is driven by a desire to keep control, for only these two have sufficient power to make nuclear war. We know Britain has a respectable nuclear arsenal, and General de Gaulle has said that France will have its first nuclear operational unit before the end of 1963. On the other side, Khrushchev may have denied nuclear weapons to his Chinese ally, but he, like the Americans, knows that it is only a matter of time until Peiping, too, enters the nuclear club.
On the American side, President Kennedy‘s alarm over the possibility of another round of secretly prepared and suddenly sprung Soviet tests has led him to add a demand that any inspection system must also offer protection against secret preparations. Soviet scientists, it is evident enough, were kept at their blackboards and in their laboratories preparing the last round of tests even as Soviet diplomats appeared to be negotiating at Geneva on a test ban.
The President has accepted the widely held view that American scientists cannot be kept on the job in a similar way, since our government lacks the powers of compulsion and direction available to Moscow. But it also is evident that during the long test moratorium, the United States did not really try to keep its scientists working on new developments to be tested when and if the moratorium ended. Indeed, some of those who have struggled with the test issue over the years believe that the only possible security for the United States, even were there a formal testban treaty, would be to keep the scientists at work just in case.
But there is another line of reasoning which must be taken into account. When our scientists are uncertain that they ever will be able to test a new weapon or concept, they tend to be more conservative in developing a device. This is because they fear that a new or radically different device might blow up accidentally and create both domestic disaster and an international incident. Their fear, so the argument goes, inhibits the scientists’ thinking and daring; safety becomes a major factor.
Hans Bethe, the Cornell physicist who headed the presidential panel studying the Soviet tests, has abandoned his long espousal of a test ban. He now feels that there no longer is validity in the two reasons for which he had advocated a treaty: to stabilize the U.S. technical advantage of 1958, when the Geneva talks began, and to obtain an inspection system which could be a precedent and example for inspection in general disarmament.
Bethe now advocates control over and disarmament of strategic delivery vehicles — that is, of large manned bombers and long-range missiles. This has been De Gaulle’s view, but while they are, indeed, the greatest threat, they also present enormous problems in any armscontrol scheme, problems which come back to the Soviet determination to protect their advantage of secrecy.
Thus, the United States and its allies remain faced with the seeming paradox to which the President has alluded: to continue improvement and development of armaments, while at the same time searching intently for ways to control the arms race to which such improvement and development contribute. There is, as President Eisenhower put it in 1954, “no longer any alternative to peace,”but there also is, as President Kennedy put it. little security in a continuing nuclear arms race.
Red China’s famine
According to the best figures available in Washington, Communist China in 1961 produced about the same amount of grain as it did four years earlier, but there were at least 60 million more mouths to feed. Three bad crop years, a compound of natural disasters (the official explanation) and mismanagement, including the commune system (to which American officials give nearly equal weight), produced this disaster. To cope with it, the Chinese have been buying grain and sugar from free-world sources, excluding the United States, at a total cost estimated for 1961 at half a billion dollars in precious foreign exchange.
Another bad year in 1962 would further slow industrialization; even a good year would not recoup the staggering losses. China’s xenophobia now can only become more intense, its anti-Americanism more virulent, if, indeed, that is possible. Certainly, then, there is no current visible atmosphere which would induce the United States government to use some of its grain surplus to feed the Chinese.
Yet it is not beyond the realm of possibility, as hinted at indirectly by some Chinese sources, that Peiping would swallow its pride and offer to buy from the American stockpile, assuming it can find foreign exchange beyond what already is committed for purchases this year and next from Canada, Australia, and elsewhere in the free world.
The President so far has skirted the issue of public policy involved by noting that, at least until quite recently, Peiping was exporting some foodstuffs despite its own dire situation. State Department planners have been wrestling with the problem of public policy, but are reported to have come to no firm conclusions. The temper of the Congress and the country remains strongly anti-Peiping, yet there are the surpluses, costing our taxpayers a billion dollars a year just to store them, and there is, too, the quiet voice of conscience.
Should we feed China?
In a recent study, the Friends Committee on National Legislation has attempted to evaluate the pros and cons of the question. The study advocates lifting the embargo on the sale of food and offering to provide famine relief under the surplus disposal law, which permits grants of food to friendly people regardless of whether their government is friendly or not. It is suggested that such food be channeled through the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s freedom-from-hunger campaign.
The study argues that to take this step would conform to American humanitarianism, help create “a new and more generous pattern of international conduct and behavior,�� and “might help counteract the virulent anti-American propaganda in China.” The first reason is true enough, but the other two are certainly open to serious doubt.
One high Administration official has suggested that the choice facing the United States is this: either let the Chinese sink further into famine, and thus risk the possibility of a desperate Communist move into the rich and underpopulated food areas of Southeast Asia, with a likely direct confrontation with U.S. military forces; or feed China, contain it, but help make Communism succeed on the mainland. Others reject these as the choices. They say that China | will not dare move into Southeast Asia, where the Chinese were suspect long before Communism was ever heard of. They believe that Mao would do as Stalin did in the years of Russian famine — let millions die while feeding the Communist cadres and the key industrial workers.
Goldberg‘s impact on labor
Arthur J. Goldberg, who will not be fifty-four until August, delights in reiterating that he is the second oldest member of the Kennedy Cabinet. His age, however, has little relation to his energy or to the record of accomplishment or degree of respect he has achieved so far as Secretary of Labor. For a man who long served as a partisan labor attorney for the steel union, Goldberg has achieved an amazing degree of labor-management impartiality. This is not to say that he does not believe his department’s job is to look after the workingman.
Perhaps the key test of Goldberg’s ability this year will be whether he can Help to bring off a new steel contract considerably in advance of the June 30 strike deadline. Steel is the major contract expiring this year; the outcome in Washington will play a major part in determining whether inflation can continue to be kept under control. At the President’s direction, Goldberg has been telling the union it must keep its objectives within the range provided by increased productivity in the industry, because management, under Kennedy pressure, last year refrained from a price increase.
Mood of the Capital
Politics is very much in the Washington air now that primary time is at hand. The Democrats are at least talking of reversing the usual trend of off-year House losses for the majority party and thus emulating the Roosevelt gains of 1934.
The Republicans, on the other hand, not only are relying on the historic facts but are talking confidently of a conservative trend in the country, despite the continued high showing for the President personally in the opinion polls.