Overleaf: Maclean's editors report from Berlin and the U. S. on pressures that are making the propaganda crisis a real one
EDITORIAL: Canadians don’t normally think of themselves as subject to propaganda. That happens to the Russians and the Chinese, the Arabs under Nasser or the Germans under Hitler, not to citizens of a democracy served by a free press. Yet the fact is that we are, right now, targets of a propaganda campaign for which it’s hard to find a precedent in peacetime. Its object is to make us believe in a crisis over Berlin.
For weeks the reports of U. S. news services have been alerting us to the imminence of a showdown. The western powers are said to be warning Khrushchov to “keep hands off West Berlin.” In the face of “threats” by Khrushchov the West is “standing firm,” set to “defend” West Berlin with nuclear weapons if need be.
And what exactly is it that Khrushchov is threatening to do in Berlin?
He is threatening to go away. That is the menace that has dismayed the Germans and confused the whole western alliance — not a Soviet attack, but a Soviet withdrawal. In the tug of war across the border of a divided Germany, Khrushchov is trying the tactic of letting go the rope. The other team, he hopes, will then fall flat on its back.
It looks as if he might be right, too. A Soviet withdrawal from Berlin would leave no apparent authority in East Germany, no official body with which to deal, except the East German Communist puppets whom the West Germans do not recognize. The West German reluctance is easy to understand—recognizing an East German government means recognizing the division of Germany.
A reunited Germany is the dearest goal of German foreign policy. Because the Germans are now allies, it is also an object of western foreign policy—but our
reason for wanting it is not the German reason. Foi them it’s a matter of national honor, a hope that nc German patriot can let die. For us it is a means of safeguarding peace. We have been persuaded by oui experience, though the Russians have not, that a divided and unreconciled Germany is more dangerous to peace than a united one.
But that, for us, is all. Germany’s national honor is no concern of ours, and German unification only a minor one. To suggest that we ought to fight to save Germany from a fate that we ourselves helped to impose, at the end of another war that Germany started and lost, is simply preposterous. Coming from an American, it shows a gullibility that shakes an ally’s faith in American leadership. Coming from a German it is sheer, staggering effrontery.
We are pledged to fight if West Berlin is attacked —all the N ATT) partners are sworn to treat an attack upon one as an attack on all, and West Berlin is part of that alliance. But we are not pledged to fight for any other interest of German foreign policy, and specifically not to protect West Germany from the necessity of taking some unpalatable steps.
Some such steps are inevitable. It has been obvious for years that as soon as Khrushchov felt he could trust the East German Communist puppets to maintain their hold on the country, he would draw back and leave the West no alternative but to recognize them. He has now been proclaiming, for about three years, his intention of doing so immediately. At last, apparently, he means it.
There is nothing the West can do to prevent this. It’s not what we want, but it’s what we’ve got. To call it a pretext for nuclear war is MADNESS.-BLAIR FRASER
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