From the new television series, "Counterpoint: A Clash of Ideas," with George C. Roche III.
Mr. Churchill: For 37 years our generation has enjoyed peace, a period unprecedented in this century. It has been a peace that has been based above all on the strength of the Western Alliance—which has meant, in the initial years anyway, the strength of the United States. It has been based upon the strategy of deterrence, and deterrence has worked. We continue to this day to enjoy that peace.
Yet now there are many people on both sides of the Atlantic who are going about marching in favor of peace as if we haven’t got it, as if it is something that we need to look forward to. I think it would be very dangerous indeed if we were to forsake the basis of the peace we now enjoy in favor of another approach that has not been proven. Or indeed, an approach that has been proven the other way—because the peace activists of the 1930s led us directly into the Second World War by causing the Western democracies to disarm in the face of the Nazi build-up. To disarm today in the face of the growing Soviet build-up would be catastrophic.
In 1946 my grandfather Winston Churchill visited a small town in the American Midwest called Fulton, Missouri, where he delivered what has come to be known as one of the most famous speeches of the post-war era, the so-called “Iron Curtain” speech. He warned that our former ally, the Soviet Union, had become a mortal danger to the peace and freedom of the world. It had swallowed up half of Europe and was threatening to swallow up the other half. That was, of course, before the Soviet Union had nuclear weapons. In the years that have intervened the Soviet threat has become far more mortal than it was even in those grim days of 1946.
His prime concern in the postwar years was to insure that the Soviets should never get nuclear weapons. There are many people now who not only think he was right about what he said in the thirties, but who feel that had his advice been heeded in the forties, we would not today be living under a balance of terror.
I’ve yet to meet anybody who would dispute what we all know about the horror of nuclear war. It must be the prime objective of all of us to do all we can, as individuals and jointly, to see that we never have a world war in the nuclear age. But I believe it is vital that we should be ruled in these matters by our head and not by our heart, by our reason and not by our emotions.
I have been to Hiroshima. I don’t believe anyone can go there without coming away with the most powerful feelings. I came away with a determination to do all in my power as an individual and as a member of the British Parliament to see that we never again have a world war. But I also came away with a very strong determination that never would the British people be naked in the face of a nuclear attacker in the way that the Japanese were in 1945.
That is why I disagree with those in Western Europe who advocate unilateral nuclear disarmament. This would leave the Soviets with their infantry intact while completely getting rid of our own nuclear weapons and requiring all U.S. nuclear weapons to be withdrawn from Western Europe. This could set the stage for World War III, and it would be catastrophic.
“The idiot child has the matches now.” These were my grandfather’s words when he heard of the successful testing of the first atom bomb. Today we must eliminate any chance of nuclear war. But this can only be done through strength, not through weakness.
The American nuclear stockpile is less than half today than what it was in 1962. Since 1967 the United States has unilaterally reduced 8,000 nuclear weapons. The Soviets, however, have not reciprocated that restraint in any way, shape, or form.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, former Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, recently stated:
The Soviet goals are quite clear. They have enunciated them. They intend to achieve political, military, and economic hegemony over the globe. They intend to use their immense strategic nuclear superiority and their superiority of armies, navies, and air forces to force the West to accommodate to their expansionism in various parts of the globe. I think that as a country we have failed to recognize the Soviet aim to fight and survive a nuclear war.
The average peace protester may not realize the extent to which the peace movement serves Soviet aims. Vladimir Bukovsky understands the Soviet use of propaganda. He was the leading human rights activist in the Soviet Union, imprisoned there for 12 years for his beliefs. In preparation for this “Counterpoint” program, I asked Mr. Bukovsky about the recent anti-nuclear demonstrations in the United States and Europe. His reply:
Of course, there are some reasons for the anxiety of the people right now, because of the accumulation of nuclear weapons and some tension in international relations. But as a matter of fact, the upsurge of this movement, this huge campaign, was very much instrumented by the Soviet government. In some Soviet publications recently, they quite openly said that they do help peace movements, morally and materially, as they put it. They do help with financing the gatherings, the conferences, the discussions, and so on. They don’t conceal the fact. It gives them more possibilities of manipulating world politics. It gives them a chance to increase their defenses while preventing the West from establishing once again a balance of forces. And above all, it creates hysteria in the world.
The peace movement is not something new. In the 1930s there was a very major peace movement that paved the way for the Second World War, by its insistence that the governments of France and of Britain should unilaterally reduce their armaments at a time when it was already known that the Nazi government was embarked on a massive rearmament campaign. We, in fact, sowed the seeds of the Second World War. How easily people forget the past. Norman Podhoretz, editor of the American magazine Commentary, told me during the filming of documentaries for this program:
Sir Winston Churchill said in the 1930s that every time the Nazis did something that began to wake up the Western democracies, they would wait and let the lesson be digested and forgotten before moving again. By the time the West really did wake up, it was too late and World War II, which Sir Winston called “an unnecessary war,” broke out. I fear that we’re engaged in a similar process now. In fact, the analogies between the 1930s in England and the situation in America today are frightening. Some of us are trying desperately to sound the Churchillian warning against arguments that were used by Neville Chamberlain and others in the 1930s in England, who said that Hitler was not, in fact, aggressive; was not, in fact, a real threat. The Soviet Union is a threat fully comparable to the threat that Nazi Germany posed to the West in the late thirties. And America has now become a nation which is vulnerable to the political blackmail that nuclear parity or superiority makes possible for the Soviet Union.
Podhoretz is not exaggerating. There is no doubt that the West, and the United States in particular, has become number two in military strength. William Van Cleave, professor of defense and strategic studies at the University of Southern California, cites a study done for the U.S. Department of Defense in 1978 which identified over 40 comparisons of nuclear strength and traced each one from 1962 ahead to 1982. In 1962, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, all forty-some indices favored the United States. In 1978, at the time the study was done, only seven or eight of them favored the United States. And today in 1982, none of them do.
The only analysis one can give of the Soviet attitude is that it’s naked, old-fashioned imperialism. We have documented evidence of the Soviet use of chemical and biological agents in their attack on Afghanistan. We have documented evidence of enormous Red Army violence in suppression of the resistance movement in Afghanistan. “Counterpoint” has obtained a dramatic filmed interview with members of the Afghan resistance. In it one of the freedom fighters asks: “Do you people in America really then honestly believe that the Russians want Afghanistan and Pakistan? The Russians want the oil of the Middle East. They don’t need us; they need you!”
Tens of thousands of Afghans have died in their struggle against the Soviet invaders, while thousands in the West picket their own governments for peace. Here again is Vladimir Bukovsky’s view of those pickets:
Most of these people are very sincere, if somewhat naive. Most of them are quite naturally anxious, frightened by the prospect of war. This fear, this anxiety, is very skillfully exploited by the Soviet propaganda as well as by certain organizers connected to Moscow. Lenin described this phenomenon quite candidly back in the twenties when he said, “The people in the West most valuable to us are the so-called ‘useful idiots.’ They are better than the comrades in arms or the fellow travellers.” That was his phrase, very cynical. That concept continued to be developed after his death, and Soviet foreign policy today still relies heavily on the “useful idiots.”
Because this point is crucial, let’s hear two more respected American voices about it. First, writer and activist Midge Decter:
I do not believe that this movement is moving by what it claims it is moved by, namely, terror of nuclear destruction. This movement has far more to do with a desire to see the United States disarmed and disabled.
The United States has been given the responsibility in the years since World War II to be the defender of something which is becoming a more rare and more precious commodity every year, namely, the principle of liberty and freedom. And the people who wish to see the United States cease and desist from an active role in the world are people who are being very careless of American freedom; in fact, who have very little love for it.
And finally, Admiral Zumwalt once again:
In my judgment, the peace movement is composed largely of well-meaning and idealistic people who simply have not had the relevant experience to realize that a freeze would permanently freeze Soviet strategic nuclear superiority and increase the likelihood of war.
I believe that these well-meaning people tend to believe that the freeze is the first step toward disarmament. I am convinced that it is the last step. I’m an older man who spends more time worrying about what will happen to his children and grandchildren than I do about what will happen to me. I believe that my country has never been in greater danger than it is at the present time, as a result of the mistaken philosophy that led us to permit the Soviet Union to achieve immense military superiority. I believe that the only hope for those children and grandchildren to live their lives in a prosperous and democratic society is for us to regain the kind of military capability that will deter Soviet expansionism and motivate them to work with us to achieve sensible and balanced arms control agreements.
One of those well-intentioned American peace agitators, William Sloane Coffin, has gone so far as to quote my own grandfather out of context on this subject, as if Sir Winston were advocating hasty disarmament when he warned in the late 1940s: “The Stone Age may return on the gleaming wings of science. Time is short.”
The fact is that my grandfather, when he made that particular statement, was referring to the short time while the United States would still have a monopoly of nuclear weapons. He was looking ahead to the day when the Soviets would have not only acquired the nuclear technology, but would have built up a large inventory of nuclear weapons. He wanted to get us out of that situation. He wanted the Western allies, led by the United States, to bring matters to a head with the Soviet Union before they had nuclear weapons. It was the failure to do so that led ultimately to the present balance of terror, the unhappy condition under which mankind lives today.
There is one condition, however, even worse than a balance of terror, and that is an imbalance of terror. And there are those in Western Europe who form a major activist core of the peace movement who would, if their advice was heeded, lead us directly to such an imbalance. Basically, what is being said by the peace movement on both sides of the Atlantic is that the time has come for the West to show restraint, for the West to take an initiative in the hope that the Soviets will follow suit. But the fact is that is precisely what the West has been doing for the last 15 years under successive U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democrat. We have seen massive restraint.
Since 1968 the United States has not deployed a single strategic nuclear missile. You have been absolutely constant at 1,710 submarine and silo-launch missiles. Has that been reciprocated by the Soviets? Not a bit. The Soviets during the same 15-year period have been adding two nuclear missile launchers every week—l00 per year—until they have managed to shift the balance of power, once massively in favor of NATO and the West, to the point where it stands today—heavily in favor of the Soviet Union.
It is the same in conventional weapons, which are far more powerful and deadly today than they were in the days of the Second World War. The Soviets can mobilize 30 million men in an emergency. The United States can mobilize not quite three million. That is the extent of the disparity.
Now my opponent, Mr. Coffin, has referred to the sentiments of the Soviet people, suggesting that they do not want war any more than we do in the West. I couldn’t agree more. The tragedy is, and the real difference between the Soviet Union and us in the Western democracies is, that nobody consults the Soviet people for their views. They do not control their country. One looks forward to the day when they will. But it is a narrow clique in the Kremlin that rules the Soviet Union and it is they who decide Soviet policy.
Mr. Coffin, like many of the peace activists on my side of the Atlantic, has put himself in the position, which I imagine to be quite an embarrassing one for him, of seeking to advance and defend the proposals of Mr. Brezhnev. One of these, specifically, is the so-called “no first use” of nuclear weapons.
My reply is simply to point out that NATO goes one very large step further than this proposal. We say as an alliance that we will not make first use of any weapon when it comes to an East-West confrontation. NATO is solely a defensive alliance which has as its aim the maintenance of peace and of freedom, having seen half of Europe swallowed up already.
There remains the constant danger that Soviet ambitions, whether it be in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, or potentially against Western Europe could, given the chance, lead to a major confrontation. So we must never leave them in any doubt as to the strength of the Western alliance and our determination to insure the survival of freedom and democracy.
Yes, we have peace as our objective. But let us do it through strength, and let us have as our aim multi-lateral disarmament, not any unilateral freeze or unilateral disarmament, which could only be catastrophic.
Dr. Roche: The issue examined here is vital to all of us. It’s a matter of life and death for ourselves, for our children, and for their children. I know you and I will do whatever is necessary to see that they have a chance to grow up and lead their own lives. No amount of political double-talk, no amount of media slant, should keep us from protecting the future for our children.
I personally believe that we have to be militarily strong to protect that future. Only strength and courage, yours and mine, can insure a lasting peace. We can’t settle for anything less. You may disagree with my prescription for peace, but you should agree that peace is too important to be left to the usual politicians and the usual media. President Eisenhower was right when he said, as we saw on an old film, in one of the documentaries prepared for this show, that peace will only be achieved by the active involvement of people like you and me.
That’s what Hillsdale and Shavano are all about, and that’s why we’re bringing you “Counterpoint.” So how about it? Are you willing to get involved?