REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM
- Displaying moral advances from the days when the U.S.S.R. was an ally of the Nazis, Leonid M. Zamyatin, head of the International Information Department of the Soviet Union's Communist party, declared that "if the Soviet Union had any anti-humanistic feelings" it would have destroyed Korean Airlines Flight 007 long before it had. "We tried to save lives," the New York Times (September 10) quoted him as explaining. That must have made Samantha Smith feel better.
- But Hustler publisher Larry Flynt detected treachery. In a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times (September 9), Flynt declared that Congressman Larry "MacDonald [sic] is so nuts that his martyrdom cannot be ruled out as a motive." He, the pilot, CIA operatives, and perhaps the President conspired to bring about McDonald's martyrdom.
- Pravda (September 12) dutifully quoted the Flynt advertisement as an American news story.
- Like a hot knife through butter, Robert Scheer, former editor of Ramparts and now Los Angeles Times reporter on nuclear weaponry, cuts through the rhetorical fog surrounding the Korean airliner "tragedy," and gets to the philosophic bottom line by comparing it with the Israeli downing of a Libyan airliner in 1973:
. . . in the modern world, these tragedies seem to result less from adherence to one or another ideological gospel, and rather more from the irrational atmosphere brought on by heightened tensions between nations and an insistence on war-making rather than negotiations as the chief instrument for maintaining the peace. . . .
Clearly, the compelling lesson of both incidents is that when nations, whether through choice or necessity, adapt a violent, hair-trigger approach to national security, the safety of all is put at risk. And even more clearly, nothing is gained if such incidents are allowed to exacerbate international tensions further, rather than becoming an opportunity for realistic negotiations on concrete procedures for avoiding future tragedies. (Los Angeles Times, September 18)
- Consider, moreover, the dire warning of Claremont Graduate School Professor Emeritus of International Relations Fred Warner Neal, Soviet Affairs expert and member of the Committee on East-West Accord, in the Claremont Courier (September 21):
The official language now employed in connection with the shooting down of an airliner is so extreme that it is not surprising that the Russians may feel we are going off the deep end. The Congressional resolution condemning the action, for example, refers to "this brutal massacre" as "one of the most infamous and reprehensible acts in history"-almost as though Ghengis Khan, the French reign of terror, the Nazi depredations against Jews, the World War II bombings of cities and the Viet Nam War had never happened, to say nothing of the shooting down of other airliners by other countries. That the Soviets handled the matter so badly, and undoubtedly feel conscience-stricken themselves, only accentuates their defensive reaction.
. . . Anger at the destruction of the plane and its passengers is natural. But it is not altogether clear at whom it should be directed.
- Such tragic misunderstandings as the airliner accident are precisely what the Claremont Friends seek to prevent. In June they tacked to the roof of their Quaker meeting house two banners-one in English, the other in Russian-reading, "U.S.A. AND U.S.S.R. DISARM NOW!" The Friends hope that the banners will be read on satellite photographs (Los Angeles Times, June 23).
- But never fear while political scientists are around to inform America of the real reasons presidents act. Consider the Chronicle of Higher Education (September 14) account of this analysis given at the most recent meeting of the American Political Science Association in September: President Reagan's "bellicosity toward the Soviet Union could be explained in part by his inability to express anger in personal situations. As a result," Professor Betty Glad said, "'Mr. Reagan may express it on something safe out there, the Soviet Union.'"