IT IS SAD to think that the Cold War is heating up again just at the time President Carter is working on a new tough image. Some cynics believe that the president's advisers are using the Soviet and Cuban penchant for mischief in Africa as a way to keep Carter from sinking further in the popularity polls in the United States.
The problem with choosing Africa to rally around the president is that no one is quite sure who to root for, and which are the good guys and which are the bad.
Even Feebleman, the neighborhood's leading headliner, is confused.
"We've got to do something to stop the Soviets in Africa," Feebleman said, "before it's too late."
"Who says so?"
"The guy whose name I can never pronounce, who is the president's national security adviser."
"I know who you mean. What should we do?"
"Who have to shore up the dictators who are on our side, so the dictators on their side don't take over."
"Right," I said, "but who are the dictators on our side?"
"We won't know until the Soviets stop giving aid to the other side. I think they're supporting the people's rebels, and our guys are supporting the people's liberation forces."
"No, you're wrong," I told Feebleman. "The people's rebels are on our side and the people's liberation forces are the Commies."
"Well anyhow, we have to support the side that doesn't pillage and rape."
"Both sides pillage and rape," I said. "Don't you remember in Zaire when the rebels went into the Shaba Province and pillage and raped? As soon as the place was liberated Mobutu's Army went in and pillaged and raped the same people. Pillage and rape are not the criteria on which we should base our support."
"Then we have to support the side that asks for aid from us after the Soviets and Cubans give weapons and training to the other side."
"Great, but every time we give money to those who ask our support it winds up in a bank account in Switzerland. Money is not the answer. We have to give them food and weapons and train them."
"Right. That means sending in American soldiers," Feebleman said.
"Hardly," I said. "Carter isn't about to send Americans into Africa at this time."
"Well, if the Soviets are using Cuabans as mercenaries, we should find a country to do the same thing for us," Feebleman told me.
"What country do you have in mind?"
"Panama," Feebleman said. "After all, they owe us one. We did give them back the canal."
"That's a good idea," I said. "It would be very bad form for the Panamanians to refuse. But I still can't see Congress getting us involved until they know who they're rooting for. We're going to have to learn the names of the tribes on our side before we give Carter a chance to use his power to thwart the tribes on their side."
"Let's call what's-his-name, the president's national security adviser, and ask him to give us the names of people in Africa he wants the Americans to support."
Feebleman dialed the White House and got through.
"Who are we supporting in Africa?" he asked the national security adviser.
Feebleman listen for a few seconds and then hung up. He looked perplexed and said, "He told me that was classified information."