Détente—Reality and Myth

Détente—Reality and Myth

When the devil is seen in conversation with the pope, one may wonder who is converting whom. And when both the governments of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. profess an ardent desire for detente, one may feel entitled to a definition of that concept. Detente may be an illusion or a deception, a tactic or an attitude; but one thing it is not—a conception of international relations, an institutional framework for peace. At best it is a procedural proposal leaving the participants obligated to explain what the procedure will lead to. Will it be a neater partition of the world into two camps? a better system of alliances? a condominium of two superpowers? a new balance of powers with three, four, or perhaps five players in the game? or a system of collective security? It is easy to show that neither of these conceptions is realistic or will work over a longer period of time; some indeed may diminish the chances of peace. It is much harder to say what we and other leading powers could or should do to make the detente meaningful.

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Lima