The killing of the passengers of Korean Air Lines Flight 7 by Soviet air defense forces has resulted in heightened tensions between the United States and Russia. In the US, there are ongoing efforts to exploit this incident on behalf of increased arms budgets and to take a tougher stance against the Soviets in a variety of forums, from the United Nations to strategic arms negotiations.
On an emotional level, it is easy to agree with ''get tough'' measures. However, it is emphatically not in our best interests to begin another round in the cold war.
The Soviets have very few real friends. Correspondingly, US citizens encounter little heartfelt animosity abroad, although there is no universal acceptance of the US as the benevolent, freedom-loving nation we believe ourselves to be. Peoples of other nations share our anger over the Korean airliner incident, but they recognize that such actions are normal Soviet behavior and there is little that can be done to alter Russian attitudes.
If we can restrain our anger, this incident provides an opportunity for the US, a chance to ease world tensions and reduce Soviet influence.
We need to stop trying to compete with the Soviets on their level. We can't win a propaganda war with a nation that totally controls its own mass media and is without scruples in dealing with truth. We cannot compete in an arms race with a nation that is willing to divert all needed resources to military development, with little regard for other legitimate needs of its people. We need to stop concentrating on competing with communism and focus instead on excellence within our own democratic, free-enterprise tradition.
Our conflict is not on any battlefield, but in the minds and hearts of men and women. We cannot lose if we concentrate on our strengths. Communism has little to offer unoppressed people.