Slogging through the sleet and mire of sophistry, Western leaders are using language unconnected with reality but fine for rationalizing passivity. The important thing regarding the suppression of Poland, they say, is that Russia must respect the principle of "non-intervention"-- whatever that means in an Eastern Europe now in its 36th year of Russian "intervention."
Secretary of State Alexander Haig warned Russia to respect the principle of non-intervention. So did West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, speaking behind the Berlin Wall, where he was meeting with the leader of a regime planted and sustained by Russian bayonets. The West's reflex has been to define the crisis with language implying an alibi for complacency: only Russian tanks count as intervention.
Solidarity's dilemma always has been that its only weapons--strikes--damaged an already desperate economy. The crisis was at hand last week when the regime began attacking Lech Walesa by name (and began calling him names, like "swindler"). The countdown to the current crisis began many months ago when Brezhnev defined Solidarity as "anti-socialist" and "anti- Soviet," thereby emphasizing that if Solidarity prospered, no elite in Eastern Europe would be safe. And even before Brezhnev spoke, suppression was dictated by the logic of totalitarianism, which cannot tolerate rival sources of social authority. But the day after the suppression began, a Washington Post headline announced, "Soviets Reacting with Restraint." And in a national radio broadcast, a Post editor put much blame for the crisis on . . . you guessed it: the Reagan administration. He said that more U.S. aid probably could have averted the suppression.
Like frozen pizzas popped into a microwave oven, the familiar axioms of American liberalism were served piping hot in a matter of minutes: Russia was only "reacting" to events, not acting as an initiator. (Can't you just hear the laid-back fellows in the Kremlin reacting with restraint? "Hey, Leonid--have you heard? Those live wires in Warsaw are giving martial law a fling.") And the crisis reveals not the unchanging essence of the Soviet system but the folly of Americans who failed to seize the opportunity to save that system from another excess.
Within months after the 1968 suppression of Czechoslovakia, the allies were pressuring America to be "realistic" and get on with business as usual with Russia. Henry Kissinger notes that it is two years after the invasion of Afghanistan, four years after 20,000 Cubans commanded by a Russian general arrived in Ethiopia, six years after Cubans appeared in Angola. Thirty Soviet divisions are intimidating Poland (presumably in a way consistent with the principle of non-intervention). Yet there is a European "peace" movement operating on the premise that America is a threat to peace.
As Kissinger says, America is today in the role of supplicant, entreating Europe to allow us to deploy weapons that respond to European complaints that we have ignored Europe's vulnerabilities. These weapons would function to couple America to Europe in the event of Soviet aggression against Europe. (If we only need intermediate-range missiles for use against the Soviet Union in the event of a U.S.-Soviet conflict, we could put them at sea.) Now the suppression of Poland probably will demonstrate that NATO lacks political as well as strategic coherence.
Europe's political climate, and the role of corporate interests and free-market ideology in this Republican administration, make it unlikely that the unpleasantness in Poland will interfere with the Russia-to-Western Europe pipeline, or the sales of U.S. grain and technology that ease the strain that militarism places on Soviet society.
But surely the Reagan administration will reject additional measures that would ease Poland's shortages and debt burdens. The principal reason that had been heard for bailing out Poland was to prevent the regime from reverting to type and cracking down. Whatever merit that argument ever had (it was suspiciously useful as a rationalization for rescuing Western banks from the consequences of improvident loans) vanished last Sunday morning.
Furthermore, America should block Poland's application for membership in the International Monetary Fund. There is no humanitarian duty to ease communism's internal contradictions. On the contrary, the West's duty is to maximize the price Moscow pays for asserting sovereignty over Poland.
No happy ending was probable in Poland, but what is happening is the worst possible outcome for America. Russia is using a satellite regime to suppress Poland and chill all of Eastern Europe while Western statesmen beguile themselves with sophistry about Russia's "non-intervention." This, because General Jaruzelski is as Polish as Pierre Laval was French.