Every now and again it is balm for the spirit to loosen one's tie, uncork a jug and ventilate a hush-hush fact of life. Having just endured a conference on West Germany's place in the Atlantic alliance, which resounded with the solemn pronouncements of American and German notables, it is time to ventilate: let's face it, the only time alliance with the Europeans is not maddeningly difficult is when the Europeans are dependent on our troops and factories to liberate them, village by village, from the inescapable consequences of their diplomatic blunders.

Otherwise they are either fretting that we have put too much firepower into Europe or too little. During most of the postwar period the Europeans either have been repining that the United States was drawing them into hostilities remote from their interests or that the United States was about to abandon them to the mercies of the Soviets. They are rarely content.

Under the Carter administration, they could barely restrain their contempt for American softness; today many of the Europeans remonstrate with us for our toughness--and in oratory far more heated than the peeps they reserve for that nation to their east, which has festooned their borders with armor, missiles and troops.

This skittishness is now rampant in Germany, where there is everywhere a surprising fear of war. Bear in mind this is not Poland. This is the country whose Social Democratic Party has since the last decade supposedly ingratiated itself with the Soviets through Ostpolitik. It has cultivated a flourishing trade with the Eastern bloc. Yet now its luminaries are in the mulligrubs.

They talk of imminent war, but they do not attribute it to the failures of Ostpolitik. Nor do they attribute it to the presence of those SS20 missiles that the Soviets inexplicably unveiled some years ago. No, they seem to lay the blame for this turn of events on the people who would place medium-range missiles on their soil to protect them from those SS20s: the Americans.

As the Germans see it, there is bound to be a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviets. The theater of operations will be Germany, and--or so the legend has it--once the United States and the Soviet Union have turned Germany into a bed of cinders, both sides will shake hands and turn their minds to more cheerful matters. Why they think such an exchange would stop with the destruction of Germany is a mystery, but after sitting through last week's conference I can tell you that these fears are held even by influential figures beyond the Social Democratic Party. Conservatives, too, believe in this moonshine.

It is, of course, not unusual for Germans to be driven by foreign policy delusions, but it is unusual for their delusions to drive them toward enervation and pacifism. Nonetheless, this is definitely the direction in which the Germans are moving. Somewhat reminiscent of the despair that afflicted the diplomacy of the Carter administration, the Germans look up from their schnitzel, behold the unruly brutes arrayed on their eastern borders, and murmur "there is nothing that can be done about it."

Now influential voices high in the esteem of Social Democrats, like Peter Bender, urge that Western Europe break with the United States and adopt a policy of appeasement toward the U.S.S.R. The idea seems to be that if the sheep refuse to protect themselves, the wolves will not eat them. Rather, the wolves will rush on and attack the better-armed creatures across the Atlantic. It is a policy of escapism. The Germans live with Russian tanks along their borders. They do not live in Australia. The only influence they have over those tanks comes from a strong Atlantic alliance.

To some degree, of course, the growing enervation in Germany is a legacy of the vacillating policy of the Carter administration. To some degree, it is a consequence of our shabby treatment of our shabby treatment of our erstwhile Southeast Asian allies. The Germans do not want to be the next boat people. They doubt our resolution. Despite all the transatlantic exchanges that have been fostered by European and American groups, the Germans' understanding of us is not terribly sound; and for that matter, understanding of them is often defective. Still, the United States has come to the assistance of Europeans on no less than three occasions in this century: two world wars and the unprecedented Marshall Plan. In those days, we were militarily and culturally far less prepared to involve ourselves in Europe than today. It is time the Europeans realized that we have been their good friends. In fact, we have been their best friends, and they will find none better. erstwhile Southeast Asian allies. The Germans do not want to be the next boat people. They doubt our resolution. Despite all the transatlantic exchanges that have been fostered by European and American groups, the Germans' understanding of us is not terribly sound; and for that matter, understanding of them is often defective. Still, the United States has come to the assistance of Europeans on no less than three occasions in this century: two world wars and the unprecedented Marshall Plan. In those days, we were militarily and culturally far less prepared to involve ourselves in Europe than today. It is time the Europeans realized that we have been their good friends. In fact, we have been their best friends, and they will find none better.