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'Calling Off the Cold War'

November 12, 1985

Pfaff naively assumes that the "Cold War could be called off--if Moscow wanted to call it off." All the United States and Western Europe want, he says, is for the Soviet Union "to leave them and the rest of the world alone"--i.e., stop making trouble.

If leaving everyone alone would mean that there would be no more revolutions, then Pfaff would be right. However, so long as there are repressive regimes (many of them subsidized by us), there will be unrest, and people will revolt. And even if Moscow scrupulously withheld support for all foreign insurgencies, would we ever believe that a "home-grown" guerrilla got his ideology from, say, the Managua Public Library? No, we have a history of assuming that if "Communist conspiracy" is there, the Soviet Union is the culprit. Even when Marxist ideology is clearly irrelevant, as with the Iranian revolution, we still find it hard to believe that, somehow, the Soviets are not in bed with the mullahs.

Thus, Soviet leaders are in a classic "Catch-22" situation. Of course they will always be much lower than the angels, but they would never be able to convince us that they have ceased being the devils we see. If the Soviet Union did not exist, we should have to invent it in order to explain to ourselves why oppressed people persist in threatening the status quo.

Oddly enough, Pfaff is almost right; only the address is wrong: "The Cold War could be called off--if Washington wanted to call it off." Prof. Stephen E. Cohen of Princeton, in his article (Editorial Pages, Nov. 3), "Gorbachev is Ripe for a Deal," says that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev needs only one thing to mollify the resentful "old-line Soviet conservatives" back home: "U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union's right to equal political status in world affairs." This recognition will bring the detente and arms control Gorbachev needs in order to finance his domestic program. To amend Pfaff, "This is something in (our) power to decide."

GEORGE DeWITT

Seal Beach

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