A new 'aide' offers advice on Poland, the allies
It is reported that a Californian (William P. Clark) may soon become President Reagan's national security adviser. The Monitor's Bonn correspondent tries to imagine what his first in-house memo might look like.m
Memo to: The Boss.
Re: Poland, West Germany, and civilization.
The irony: Marvelous! The US-West German ''tough cop-nice cop'' routine is the most effective combination of outside pressure that could be applied to persuade the Polish generals to release detainees and return to civilian law. Granted, outside pressure probably has no more than a marginal effect, but marginal is better than nothing.
The danger: This act would be brilliant if it were the result of coordinated planning. Unfortunately, it's not. It is the result of a disarray that threatens to be more poisonous -- yes, poisonous -- than anything the alliance has experienced thus far.
The tough cop suspects the nice cop of angling for his own side deal with the bad guy. The nice cop suspects the tough cop of callous self-righteousness in egging on Solidarity to resist to the last suicidal Pole. Both are scandalized by what they regard as the quite remarkable immorality of their fellow cop.
There are all sorts of reasons for this divergence, which I'll address later. For now I'll note only that it's false -- utterly false and scurrilous -- for the Germans to think that our position is motivated by the parochial desire to win South Chicago votes. And it's false -- utterly false and scurrilous -- for Americans to think that the German position is motivated by the mercenary desire to hang onto Soviet contracts while all other East-West relations fall into shambles.
Our motivation is moral outrage at Soviet repression of neighbors against their clear wishes, in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968, in Afghanistan in 1979-80, in Poland in 1981-82. We're letting the Russians know we've had it.
The motivation of the Germans is that despite their bitter joint history (or perhaps because of it) they care deeply about the Polish people. West German voluntary private aid for Poland is probably larger than that from any other Western country, as package after package goes off in the mail. (Quite a few of those parcels, incidentally, are being sent personally by former East Prussian estate owners to those who dispossessed them of their lands.) The motivation of Germans is that they don't want to see the Poles cheer-led by bystanders into a Russian massacre, a la 1863.
The main point I want to make here is that if Moscow succeeds -- through no cleverness of its own, but through our own blunders -- in splitting the US and West Germany, the Russians will have achieved a much greater coup than any victory in Poland would be. We absolutely must not drift into some inexorable Greek tragedy of estrangement.
The hypocrisy: There's more than enough for everyone to share. We are surely justified in asking why West German leftists are so exercised by those 30 to 50 American military advisers in far-off El Salvador -- yet so subdued about the snuffing out of a grass-roots movement claiming the allegiance of an incredible one-third of the population in nearby Poland. Those same leftists are surely justified in asking why we are so laudatory about military rule in Turkey and Pakistan and South America -- yet ready to make a crusade against military rule in Poland.
Evaluation so far: It would have been intolerable to shrug our shoulders over the crushing of Solidarity and say we couldn't do anything anyway. Soviet sphere of interest, none of our business, and all that. That would have been acquiescence in this -- and the next -- salami slice. There are times when you have to protest irrationally, as it were, even when you can't back your words with compelling deeds. West Berlin has always been one of those cases: totally indefensible in any military sense -- but indispensable in any psychological sense. In a different way, Poland is another such case.
Shock treatment was clearly necessary. You might draw an analogy between what we faced vis-a-vis the Soviet Union and what Jaruzelski faced vis-a-vis Solidarity. The problem for both of us was: How do you fire warning shots after warning shots have lost all their impact? In 1979 we repeatedly told the Russians of our concern about Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. They invaded anyway -- and then were terribly surprised that we got so upset about it.
Similarly, in Poland the Russians kept warning Solidarity with pointed military maneuvers -- and party chiefs Kania and Jaruzelski kept warning Solidarity about the Russians. Solidarity just laughed, gave some Bronx cheers, and impudently called for a referendum on the two most sensitive issues for Moscow, the communist system of government, and alliance with the Soviet Union.
When you get to that stage, symbolic signals don't work any more. The only thing that has any effect is action. For Jaruzelski, blitz martial law. For us, economic sanctions on Poland, and, when these were brusquely dismissed by Brezhnev, economic sanctions on the Soviet Union.
Withholding of our meager technological trade with the Soviet Union isn't going to ''punish'' the Kremlin; that's clear. What it could do, however, is deter. Deter Jaruzelski from thinking he could with impunity let martial law drag on indefinitely. Deter Jaruzelski from becoming another Gustav Husak, from rearresting the professors he's been releasing and turning Poland, like Czechoslovakia, into a little Siberia of the intellect. Deter the Russians from invading Poland if Jaruzelski loses his iron control.
History: You can understand our and the Germans' different impulses. Europeans have lived for centuries with moral ambiguity, with realistic acceptance of limits, with vulnerability, with traditional taboos, with war every generation (until the post-World War II period).
Americans haven't (and especially Californians haven't). Our tradition is different. It's no tradition. Leap before you look. Move on and start over.
I remember a German diplomat saying to me years ago: ''You Americans have suffered Watergate, Vietnam, the oil crisis. Good. Now you've lost your expectation that politicians will be honorable, that you will be invincible, that your resources are unlimited. Now you're just like us. Europeans learned these things long ago.''
He was wrong. We're not just like the Europeans. We're still impatient, eclectic, pragmatic. We think problems are made to be solved -- and solved by acting, not thinking excessively. We expect the white hats to win in the Western -- and more than that, we expect to know who the white hats are.
That's what was so exhilarating about the last 16 months in Poland. We knew who the good guys were -- Solidarity. Solidarity was so -- well, American. It aspired to nothing more than what we take as our birthright: the right to determine our own destinies. It utterly ignored limits -- the limits of fear, of geography and history, of paralyzing suspicion, of habitual self-censorship, of the Soviet flotilla maneuvering a few miles off the Gdansk coast where Solidarity was holding its flamboyant, haggling, irreverent congress. We Americans understand that kind of can-do spirit.
We don't understand the ambiguities of that non-smiling Jaruzelski, who has managed to take Solidarity's certainties away from it and leave it no clear-cut enemy to fight. A Jaruzelski whom the Germans regard as a nationalist avoiding the worse fate of Soviet intervention and fierce bloodshed, perhaps even unto a second annihilation of a whole generation of Polish elite like that wiped out at Katyn wood. A Jaruzelski we regard as little better than a quisling. We don't understand the built-in precautions of the European. We find the concept of the lesser evil repugnant.
''It was a year made more bitter by the behavior of the European powers, . . . who ignored or were ignorant of [the Russians'] hesitations, . . . saw only the gaoler's hand, or a dark and mighty giant looming with terrifying immensity over gallant and defiant David. By demonstrative and insincere admonitions they encouraged the suicidal resistance of the Poles and outraged Russian pride.
''The result was that the very bloody Polish insurrection and the moral support (if that is the correct term) offered the Poles by the European powers closed the ranks of the Russians as nothing else could have done, not only in the face of the outside world but in the face of the radical critics of the system, few as these were inside and outside Russia. . . . At the same time the upsurge of chauvinist emotion (in Russia) created a favorable climate for imperialist adventures where these could be undertaken without immediate collision with the European powers.''
No, that's not a retrospective look at 1982 from the vantage point of 1983. It's a look at 1863 from Edward Crankshaw's book ''The Shadow of the Winter Palace.'' If we aren't careful, however, it will apply today.
Would we fight a war for Polish self-determination? No. 1982 is not 1939. Europe was split at Yalta (the French notwithstanding); Poland is in the Soviet sphere. Ike and Dulles gritted their teeth over Soviet butchery in Hungary in 1956 -- and did nothing. LBJ gritted his teeth as Soviet tanks rolled over the Prague Spring in 1968 -- and did nothing.
In a different sphere Jimmy gritted his teeth as Soviet airborne troops fanned out in Afghanistan -- and set up the Rapid Deployment Force. Our administration gritted its teeth as Jaruzelski declared martial law in Poland in 1981 -- and prudently let it be known there would be no military reprisals.
Our only recourse, therefore, is diplomacy - diplomacy and wise economic sanctions. No matter however gratifying it might be to our own estimate of ourselves, we must not irresponsibly overstep the line between moral sympathy for the Poles and what might be mistaken for moral exhortation of the Poles to vicarious heroism. We must not become so intoxicated with proving the bankruptcy of communism by a debacle in Poland that we jettison the whole slow liberalization in Eastern Europe that has been achieved only through the lessening of East-West tensions.
Recommendations, Poland: Let's therefore play it cool for a couple of weeks. You've acted, and acted strongly. Now wait and see how Jaruzelski and Brezhnev react. Let the deterrence sink in. Hold off on the next steps that might only convince the Russians that they would have nothing more to lose from the West if they did intervene directly in Poland.
Jaruzelski has promised that there will be no return to pre-Solidarity conditions in Poland. The Germans are giving him, provisionally, the benefit of the doubt. We, on the contrary, are placing the heavy burden of proof on him.
Our skepticism is grounded in history. The usual pattern of governments that do not rule by consent is that they do not willingly increase the elements of consent. The most probable development is that Jaruzelski will feel comfortable only with continued strict controls -- or that, he will be dumped and replaced by a more orthodox rival more beholden to the Kremlin.
Having said this, however, I have to add one caveat. Events often don't follow the pattern, especially in Poland.
(You may remember that time back in the 1950s when Poland asked the West to exempt a shipment of copper from the existing strategic embargo list. The Poles claimed they needed the metal to reconstruct the war-demolished Old Town in Warsaw. We all smirked at this transparent coverup for bullet production -- and were dumbfounded when the copper they finally procured did, indeed, end up in the meticulously reconstituted gargoyles and gutters of Stare Miasto.)
What it all adds up to is uncertainty. So let's give the measures that have already been taken in common with Western Europe time to operate. (Yes, the most effective levers on Poland -- economic aid and rescheduling of Western debts -- have been applied by the NATO allies in concert.)
German and American banks are both refusing any more leniency toward their Polish debtors. The American and German governments are both seconding this stand. The American and German governments are both holding further economic credits in abeyance during martial law. These -- and not the additional US atmospherics of fishing and aircraft landing rights -- are the most important things for Poland.
And let's allow the Polish Roman Catholic Church -- which is far more experienced, informed, and subtle than we can be in evaluating the Polish scene -- to be our litmus for the moment. The measures we have already taken should help strengthen the hierarchy in its attempt to restore dialogue among the Polish leadership, Solidarity, and the Church itself.
Recommendations, West Germany: We get infuriated when the Germans lecture us that righteousness is no reliable guide to policy or that you shouldn't keep poking a bear with a stick without knowing just how you're going to use the stick when the bear starts to snarl. In the same way, the Germans get infuriated when we scold them for being complacent about the Poles (actually, they're close to frantic).
It has become something of an East Coast fad to vent our frustrations at our impotence in Poland by kicking the West Germans. (After all, they used to be Nazis, didn't they? And they might even be pacifists now. Rapallo. Hitler-Stalin pact. Exasperating Ordnung. Not crossing a street against a red light even when there's no car in sight. That sort of thing.)
This kind of spleen solves nothing, however. It risks rending NATO irreparably. And that would be our greatest possible favor to the Russians -- and disfavor to the Poles.