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He Sheds 'Inordinate' Fears for Illusions

January 03, 1988|ARNOLD BEICHMAN | Arnold Beichman is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a co-author of a biography of Yuri V. Andropov.

Early in his Administration, President Jimmy Carter made a statement that by his later actions he obviously deeply regretted having made. In a commencement address in May, 1977, he said:

"Being confident of our own future, we are now free of that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in our fear. For too many years we have been willing to adopt the flawed principles and tactics of our adversaries, sometimes abandoning our values for theirs."

Three years later Carter told a New Year's television audience that nothing had so disillusioned him about the Soviet Union as the Red Army invasion of Afghanistan. (I felt then, and do now, that a President who proclaims disillusionment with the Soviet Union is implying that he must have had illusions--something that ought to be regarded as an impeachable offense. At the very least, he ought to fire his State Department advisers who encouraged him in his illusions.) Obviously, by 1980 it was no longer childish to be possessed by an "inordinate fear of communism." The fiery anti-communist rhetoric of presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in his 1980 campaign must have exemplified to the early Jimmy Carter what he had been warning against.

Perhaps it is now time for President Reagan to resurrect Carter's 10-year-old statement and make it his own. For we must not forget what Reagan said in a post-summit interview:

"Possibly the fundamental change is that, in the past, Soviet leaders have openly expressed their acceptance of the Marxian theory of the one-world communist state . . . . Their obligation was to expand and make the whole world (communist). I no longer feel that way; I think we're dealing with an (Soviet) administration that--and this doesn't mean that I'm dropping my guard or anything, but that we have a potential here of a recognition that we have two systems that are competitive, that aren't alike, that have different values, but a desire to prove that we can live in a world together in peace. And this is what I've been seeing in these three meetings, and more in this last meeting with the general secretary."

In other words, if it is true that the Soviet Union seeks no world conquest, then it would seem correct to say that to be fearful of the Kremlin is to suffer from an "inordinate fear of communism." Reagan's challenging discovery that the Soviet Union is no longer preaching world domination and, by my extension, could therefore no longer be considered a Leninist state might be easier to understand if only he would tell us how he arrived at it. The National Security Council must have prepared a paper proving that the end of Leninist ideology had occurred when the West wasn't looking. Reagan must have discussed his finding with someone. Perhaps he was impressed to learn that George McGovern, in a McNeil-Lehrer PBS interview, had announced his support of Reagan and the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. It seems that the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate had freed himself from an inordinate fear of Reaganism. After all, if McGovern can switch rather than fight a Reagan, why couldn't Gorbachev also switch rather than fight?

What could logically follow from the President's historic conclusion is a drastic reduction in our defense budget, in Pentagon power, in CIA expenditures and in nuclear weapons. For, after all, if the Soviet Union no longer seeks world mastery, against whom are we arming at such vast expense? If Ronald Reagan has even extorted a promise from Mikhail Gorbachev that the Soviet Union will cut back on its arming of Nicaragua, why indeed support the Contras?

President Reagan is after all only echoing what President Carter said 10 years ago: "Being confident of our own future, we are now free of that inordinate fear of communism which once led us to embrace any dictator who joined us in our fear." So why do we have to "embrace" such awful people as the Contras, feudalists like the Afghan moujahedeen and militarists like Chile's Gen. Augusto Pinochet? Why can't we be friends with the Soviet Union, which, according to the President, no longer plots to overpower the free world?

President Reagan has told us, in effect, that we must as of December, 1987, free ourselves "of that inordinate fear of communism." Let's all make it our No. 1 New Year's resolution.

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