EDITORIAL

If Reagan were a chocolate soldier the world would gobble him up

Peter C. Newman November 30 1981
EDITORIAL

If Reagan were a chocolate soldier the world would gobble him up

Peter C. Newman November 30 1981

If Reagan were a chocolate soldier the world would gobble him up

EDITORIAL

Peter C. Newman

One of the continuing puzzles about the contest for world supremacy between Moscow and Washington is how much difficulty the Americans have in swaying public opinion. For a nation that prides itself on inventing modern mass-marketing techniques and spreading the Madison Avenue ethic throughout the free world, the Americans have been notably unsuccessful in persuading their own allies of the good intentions implicit in their foreign policy moves.

The best example of this trend has been the debate currently sweeping Western Europe about the desirability of dispersing 572 Pershing II and cruise medium-range nuclear missiles among the NATO countries. Public reaction to the contemplated deployment has been almost totally one-sided. Demonstrations in every NATO capital have successfully mobilized antiU.S. feelings, with crowds of up to a half a million turning out to cheer attacks on Ronald Reagan by increasingly hysterical speakers.

In contrast, when a Soviet submarine carrying nuclear-tipped torpedoes ran aground off the Karlskrona naval base in Sweden, no pro-Western demonstrators could be found to rally in London or Bonn or Paris—

and even in aggressively neutral Stockholm only a raggedy band of 400 people showed up. The incident was particularly galling because the Kremlin has long advocated a nuclear-free Nordic zone and boasted that it would maintain the Baltic as a “Sea of Peace.”

Last week’s dramatic offer by Ronald Reagan to keep his missiles on this side of the Atlantic if the U.S.S.R. dismantled its bristle of 250 triple-headed nuclear SS-20s now in place and pointed at Western European capitals did little to change the situation. The U.S. president called it “a simple, straightforward, yet historic message” —and that’s what it was. “With Soviet agreement,” he said, “we could together substantially reduce the dread threat of nuclear war which hangs over the people of Europe.”

Leonid Brezhnev lost no time in rejecting the offer, dismissing it as silly propaganda. The Kremlin seems to regard disarmament as a one-way street which allows them to maintain their arsenal of war intact, while the West is supposed to surrender its deterrent powers to the angry voices of an aroused public opinion. With Communist arms superiority thus safely assured, Soviet leaders would willingly freeze the balance of arms at present levels.

That’s not the path to peace; it’s a certain run to world suicide.