GEN. BERNARD Rogers, retiring as NATO military commander, unburdened himself of no mean valedictory grumble in an interview with this newspaper's Jim Hoagland. Referring to the Reagan administration's ''rush'' to an arms control agreement with Moscow and the cascade of other proposals pouring out of the Kremlin, he declared: ''Somebody ought to stand up out there and say to NATO, 'Time out, dammit!' We have moved too quickly, and it is time for us to sit back and think and reorganize. . . .''
Gen. Rogers speaks for the many who feel that a combination of erraticism and uncertainty in the administration and activism and confidence in the Kremlin has strained the alliance badly. There is a widespread expectation that Mikhail Gorbachev may soon come on even stronger to turn some of the West's old arms control offers back upon it, as he did with the ''zero option'' proposal on medium-range missiles. The Europeans' particular fear is now ''denuclearization,'' seen less as deliverance than as exposure to the whims of Soviet conventional power.
But Gen. Rogers may be too sensitive to European NATO jitters. The arms control pact that Washington is ostensibly ''rushing'' toward is one it put on the table -- at European urging -- nearly two presidential terms ago. If the alliance was not fully committed to it then, the Europeans have had a long time to contemplate it. No one could claim that Ronald Reagan's every step, before, at and after Reykjavik, has been calculated to ease the apprehensions Europeans naturally feel during successive phases of great-power tension and flux. Still, it is odd to see an American officer bouncing on the European yo-yo -- wondering whether Ronald Reagan and Americans in general are too much of the Cold War or too much of de'tente. Secretary of State Shultz, calling the Rogers statements "entirely incorrect" and "ridiculous," was understandably furious.
As for Mr. Gorbachev, Westerners have been telling themselves since he came to power that he is agile and determined to win a respite for Soviet domestic renewal. This has turned out to be true. So why do wise and experienced people like Gen. Rogers complain that the West can't cope? The lack of self-confidence is unbecoming and perhaps even a bit self-fulfilling. In fact, Mr. Gorbachev's European initiative is bracing but not invincible. He has some good ideas and some bad ones. The altered climate is also provoking Europeans to think anew about ways in which they could better care for their own defense. Thanks to the contributions made by Gen. Rogers and others, the Atlantic alliance surely has the fiber to sort these various ideas out.