He basically calls for a much more realistic asessment of where we are vis-a-vis the Soviets and that we ought to be working with them to make sure Stalinism doesn't return and that all of us can achieve our dreams.
His remarks make eminent good sense, and I urge my colleagues who may not have seen the article, to read what he has to say.
At this point, I ask that his remarks be printed in the Record.
The remarks follow:
In `The Russia House,' his newest novel, John le Carre introduced glasnost into espionage. On Sept. 17, while Washington wrestled with the problem of responding to the Gorbachev upheaval, he examined U.S.-Soviet relations at a New York Times luncheon. His speech is excerpted here.
That day, George J. Mitchell, the Senate majority leader, accused the Administration of feeling `almost nostalgic about the cold war.' He was responding to a speech by Deputy Secretary of the State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, who said, `For all its risks and uncertainties, the cold war was characterized by a remarkably stable and predictable set of relations among the great powers.'
It is in America that my good luck and reputation have been made. So if I seem to address myself to that tiny and no doubt unhappy band of social misfits who did not welcome `The Russia House' as a pearl of modern literature, do not think I am here to peck away at sour reviews, but rather to respond to a general point--call it political, philosophical.
In `The Russia House,' the voyage to America has been, in my experience, unique. The unhappy readers choke on what they discern as the book's political message. The word `naive' looms large. They are angry with me for taking away their cold war toys. `For 30 years,' they seem to be saying, `this guy has been selling us honest-to-God political despair. Now he turns round and gives us hope. Who does he think he is?'
`The book,' warns one distinguished reviewer, `has an ideological slant not every reader will agree with.' Another gave the devil its name: `le Carre willingness to accept at face value the premise that the millenium is at hand is, at least, credulous.' A third, alluding to kind words the book had attracted in the Soviet Union, wrote: `Why should Americans care whether Russians like this book or not?'
Which, when you pause a moment, is a pretty startling thing to ask. Why shouldn't Americans throw their hats in the air at the thought that Russians are allowed to read this, or any other contentious Western novel, and that when they do they get a buzz from it?
But no, it seems we are not to be pleased by the notion that Russians should be enjoying the same book as ourselves. Books aren't meant to join nations, apparently--spy books least of all. They should remain this side of the Wall. Spy books should celebrate our incompatibility, specialness, insularity, superiority. Anything else--that's just treating with the enemy.
And if that sounds more like a Soviet attitude than an American one, I can't help wondering whether the 40 years of cold war have bred a silent affinity between the forces of intolerance on both sides.
Who is the enemy now? And who are we, the Western alliance, and who is America, if we can no longer unite against the Great Satan of Communism? And who is the Soviet Union aligned against, if aligned at all? `Why, against America!' say the tough guys. `Forget the cosmetics. They're still out there. Even if Gorby is on the side of the angels, what about those hardliners, those Stalinists waiting to step into his boots? Give 'em a coupla years, glasnost will be as dead as the Charleston.'
But their argument runs deeper. And darker: `Even if we could help the Soviet Union with its reforms, why do it? Why should we, in the very hour where our adversary of 40 years is reaping the whirlwind for his wicked ways--why should the alliance and United States, who have sweated blood and money to bring him to this pass--lift a finger to help him up? So the Soviets are fragmenting? Let them fragment! Took us 40 years to get them there!'
The tough guys are not impressed that the Soviets have made concessions in arms reduction which a few years back would have been dismissed as Utopian wish-dreams. Or that a Soviet leader is conducting a hair-raising and perhaps impossible crusade to implement reforms we have been urging upon his predecessors for decades: `He's still a Communist. He's still a Russian,' they say. They add that it falls to us and not to our defeated enemies to decide when the war is over.
As if we knew.
So they are content, even merry, these tough guys, to watch the Soviet Union sink and perhaps drown in the mire of its misdeeds, on the good old principle that the worse things are for them, the better they must be for us. They say, `It's all a sham: Beneath the cunning Russians smile, the old order scowls away. And besides,' they say, `Gorbachev will never make it.'
Are they right? Or is it possible that after 40 years of being locked into the ice of the cold war, some of us in the West have lost the will, even the energy, to climb out and face a more hopeful future? That after believing so long we could improve nothing inside the Evil Empire, we have to pinch ourselves before we can accept that we really can write tomorrow's script, and help to make it play?
But even supposing we can get what we want, what do we want?
Do we want an independent Azerbaijan--with the probability of an Armenian massacre? If Russia disintegrates, that's not an idle fantasy.
Do we want a rise of Islamic extremism in the Soviet Asian states--to the reviving trumpet sounds of traditional anti-Semitism in Poland and European Russia?
Do we want a return to Stalinist levels of arms production? Not only the Soviet people would be enslaved, we, too, would be locked back inside the iron walls of an ever-mounting military budget and the ever-mounting risk of war.
Do we want the reimprisonment of writers, painters, musicians, dissidents, refuseniks and Jews?--the renewed suppression of free speech, free newspapers?--the restoration of the suffocating party apparatus?
Nai˙AE4ve I may be, though I doubt it. But I am not nai˙AE4ve enough to believe that the danger of such a backlash is over. The aggressive passivity of the Soviet people, hardly woken from serfdom, could still make them accomplices in their own destruction. The new spirit of freedom will insure that the backlash, if it does come, will be ferocious, even by the dreadful standards of Soviet repression.
These things are on offer to us if we want them--or if, by apathy or neglect, we can think of nothing we want more.
Do we want to assist in the shaping of a Soviet market economy? Or is it more convenient to forecast its collapse and watch the prophesy fulfill itself?
Do we want to grab the chance to treat hard and effectively for a balanced arms reduction--and thereby allow the Soviet Union to divert its economic resources to peaceful purposes? Or do we want Russians to go on eating guns not butter into the 21st century, while their leaders cast round for foreign adventures to distract them from the domestic misery?
Have we now entered a new time, where we need the old divisions to justify our galloping materialism? If so, it is no wonder that half of Western Europe, and sections of America, look to Gorbachev for their dreams.
What are our Western dreams? Shall we go on dreaming about more refined ways to kill each other--or do we prefer to dream of a partnership of superpowers that could address itself to tomorrow's enemies rather than to yesterday's? Such enemies as drugs, terrorism, poverty, bush fire wars, the pollution of our air, sea, beaches, rivers, forests?
I do not believe the millennium is upon us. But I do believe we are witnessing an hour in history as momentous as 1917, and that we have yet fully to wake from the morbid confinement of cold war beligerence and seize the brave opportunities waiting on us--though for how long?
So no, not the millennium. Not yet. Just a unique moment in history--perhaps no longer than the blink of a star--when to be a realist it is necessary also to be an idealist, when the improbable is happening every day and the impossible every week, and where imagination and creativity, unleashed in time, may yet sweep us above the slough of hopelessness to which we have been condemned too long. That sounds like a pretty American sort of dream.