To begin, a two-question quiz.

First question: since d,etente was codified at the Nixon-Brezhnev summit in 1973, the Soviet Union has forced a nuclear alert by threatening to intervene with troops in the October 1973 war in the Middle East (a war incited and financed by the Soviet Union); has organized and financed the destruction of the Paris accords and a U.S. ally; has intervened with Cubans and others in Angola, Ethiopia, Yemen, Cambodia, Blind Eye on Central AmericaBy George F. Will

To begin, a two-question quiz.

First question: since d,etente was codified at the Nixon-Brezhnev summit in 1973, the Soviet Union has forced a nuclear alert by threatening to intervene with troops in the October 1973 war in the Middle East (a war incited and financed by the Soviet Union); has organized and financed the destruction of the Paris accords and a U.S. ally; has intervened with Cubans and others in Angola, Ethiopia, Yemen, Cambodia, Blind Eye on Central AmericaBy George F. Will

To begin, a two-question quiz.

First question: since d,etente was codified at the Nixon-Brezhnev summit in 1973, the Soviet Union has forced a nuclear alert by threatening to intervene with troops in the October 1973 war in the Middle East (a war incited and financed by the Soviet Union); has organized and financed the destruction of the Paris accords and a U.S. ally; has intervened with Cubans and others in Angola, Ethiopia, Yemen, Cambodia, Nicaragua and El Salvador; has invaded Afghanistan; has orchestrated the crushing of Poland; has made a mockery of the Helsinki agreements; has repeatedly violated the informally agreed-to threshold test ban treaty (although we even changed the way we measure violations, in an effort to avoid the need to make protests that would dampen d,etente); has tried to murder the pope; is violating the terms of SALT II (an amazing feat, considering that SALT II is a tissue of loopholes and ambiguities); is funding and organizing terrorism worldwide; and is continuing an arms buildup unambiguously designed for political intimidation and military aggression. The first quiz question is: why is there a "return to the Cold War"?

Answer: President Reagan gave a speech referring to the Soviet Union as an evil empire.

Second question: the Soviet Union has an army brigade (2,600-3,000 men), 2,500 military advisers (increased 500 last year) and 6,000-8,000 civilian advisers in Cuba. It gave Cuba 66,000 metric tons of military supplies in 1981, 68,000 in 1982 (worth $1 billion). Moscow's annual economic aid to Cuba is $4 billion (more than one-quarter of Cuba's GNP). Cuba has 200 MiGs, including two squadrons of MiG-23 Floggers, at least 650 tanks, at least 90 helicopters, including MI24 attack helicopters, a Koni-class frigate, two Foxtrot attack submarines, at least 50 torpedo attack boats, two amphibious assault ships. A Grenada minister says Cuba will use Grenada's new airport when supplying Cubans in Africa. Cuba, with one-seventh of Mexico's population, has military forces twice the size of Mexico's. The Soviet Union is giving 20 times more military assistance to Cuba than the United States is giving to all of Latin America. In the newest Soviet satellite, Nicaragua, 39 percent of all males over 18 are in uniform, and the regime intends to build a 250,000-person armed force, so one in 10 Nicaraguans will soon be in the military or militia. (All of Honduras' security forces total 20,000. El Salvador's total 32,000.) Nicaragua's regime has built 36 new military bases and garrisons (the previous regime had 13). Nicaraguan pilots and mechanics are being trained in Bulgaria. The regime has received, so far, 50 Soviet tanks, 1,000 East German trucks, 100 anti-aircraft guns, Soviet 152-millimeter howitzers with a range of 17 miles. Cuba has 4,000 to 5,000 civilian advisers in Nicaragua, plus 2,000 military and security advisers. There also are East Germans, Bulgarians, North Koreans, Soviets and members of the PLO. The second quiz question is: about what in Central America does Congress seem most worried?

Answer: fifty-five U.S. trainers in El Salvador.

Events in Central America are spinning rapidly toward a decisive moment in U.S. history. None of the fictions that were used to rationalize acceptance of defeat in Vietnam can be used regarding Central America. The threat there is close, clear and indisputably communist. There the United States will show--will learn--whether it is any longer capable of asserting the will a great power requires, or whether the slide into paralysis is irreversible.

Governments such as Costa Rica's and Panama's are listening as congressional complaints mount. The complaints are against U.S. assistance to armed opponents of Nicaragua's Stalinists, and about even minimal aid for the democratically elected government of El Salvador that is under attack from forces that are extensions, through Nicaragua and Cuba, of the Soviet Union.

The conjunction of these complaints can mean, in effect, the extension of the Brezhnev doctrine in this hemisphere. That is, communist attacks on a regime leech away the regime's legitimacy, and produce pressures for negotiations aimed at "power-sharing" with Stalinists who do not believe in sharing power. But a communist regime, however freshly planted and dependent on foreign totalitarians, as in Nicaragua, must be treated as legitimate and irreversible.

There is a war raging, and if all the substantial, determined military assistance is one-way, there can be but one result. The result will be a communist Central America, and an Iran just a wade across the Rio Grande.