History Returning at a Gallop

Letter From Paris

Five months ago, in its January 1 issue, Time magazine chose to honor Mikhail Gorbachev as the "Man of the Decade." Although several prominent Frenchmen have suggested that Pope John Paul II has had an equal influence on the tumultuous events in Europe (notably because of his powerful support of the Solidarity movement in Poland), few, I think, can reasonably deny this remarkable Soviet politician's right to this honor. Yet the fact of the matter is that after wading through pages and pages of superlative tributes and encomia, I was not one whit wiser at the end as to Gorbachev's secret thinking and ultimate objectives, which remain—at least for me—as shrouded in mystery as ever.

There were, however, three sentences in Time that brought me up with a start. In a long article entitled, "Rethinking the Red Menace," Strobe Talbott could write: "A new consensus is emerging, that the Soviet threat is not what it used to be. The real point, however, is that it never was. The doves in the Great Debate of the past forty years were right all along."

The enormity of this tranquil affirmation left and still leaves me speechless. For it betrays an ignorance of the certain basic facts of the start of the Cold War that, if shared by millions of Mr. Talbott's readers (which may well be the case), bodes ill for the future. It is, indeed, vain to expect persons who willfully...

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