A Change of Stance in the Cold War?

A Change of Stance in the Cold War?

In foreign affairs, no rule applies over long periods of time. Only the simple-minded imagine that, once committed to a crusade, a government must continue it until either victory or defeat. Or like children watching a Western, they assume that the good guys are always on the same side, and that a bad guy will act equally tough on all fronts. People a little more sophisticated may assume that bad guys too are smart and, without ceasing to be bad guys, may behave nicely toward one adversary while preparing a confrontation with another.

In such a view, the United States and the Soviet Union are now working for a detente between them because they both foresee war with China. This view, I submit, attributes to the State Department and the Kremlin more planning and calculating than they are capable of. It might just as well be that the present loosening of the NATO and Warsaw pacts was forced upon both quite accidentally at the same time and that, accidentally also, tension in the Far East increased at the same time for both of them. Far from being the result of clever co-ordination, the simultaneous moves toward relaxation in Europe and tension in Asia may have no more sinister source than the natural dynamism of the previous condition and the clumsy fumbling of diplomats. President Johnson should neither be blamed for premeditating the Vietnamese war nor praised for seeking “new and imaginative policies” in Europe.

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