Perle's Departure From Pentagon

Thanks for a look at John Pike's article (Editorial Pages, March 13) on retiring Pentagon official Richard Perle. I found it most revealing, though likely to give ammunition to right-wing paranoia; it is as clumsy an example of selective memory, bias, and indeed character assassination as I have ever seen. One doesn't have to be a Reaganaut to recognize this--just follow the article's own argument.

Perle's career (Pike says) has been based on "hostility to the Soviet Union," rather than genuine concern about Soviet intentions and policy. Indeed, Perle "has little interest in encouraging changes in Soviet society," merely a "determination to renew the Cold War." OK, then obviously Perle must oppose all arms control, as indeed the article argues. Right?

Oops. Perle not only joined five years ago with those proposing, but still approves, our striking a bargain on intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

But aside from the whole question of Perle himself: Am I the only one getting awfully tired of the notion that only right-wing nuts have anything but blissful trust toward the Soviet Union? Pike forgets (to put it charitably) that those trusting the Soviets (including myself, back in the 1970s) have been consistently snookered; for instance, the greatest arms buildup in Soviet history took place during the "detente" period. Under those circumstances--and remembering that, as of this week, it is still possible to be sentenced to jail in the Eastern Bloc for running an unauthorized jazz musicians' group, for crying out loud--is a cautious skepticism so hard to understand?

I believe that Americans would like nothing more than to feel unthreatened by the Soviet Union. It is not conservative dogma, but the long, ugly history of Soviet dishonesty, dictatorship and aggression, that prompts Americans of many political orientations (including my John Anderson-voting, moderate self) to be wary of "new" Soviet intentions until they prove out over time.

Like it or not, it is completely possible to be pro-choice on abortion, scared to death of the Religious Right, appalled at the Edwin Meese Justice Department's erosion of our liberties, and still rather cautious in evaluating Soviet motives and acts.

Indeed, doesn't it stand to reason that liberals, cherishing individual freedom as they do, would be more cautious than anybody else when dealing with governmental PR experts with a long track record of oppression and lies?

In the final paragraph, Pike imputes his own faith in the Soviet Union to Americans at large. At this point, I think he's mistaken. Until more can be seen, in view of literally all the historical evidence available to date, might that not be fortunate?


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