Tough Cop, Good Cop
The most harrowing periods of the Cold War had always been those in which the apparent balance of power had shifted in favor of the Soviet Union. In 1949, the Soviet explosion of an atomic bomb had prepared the way for actual "hot" war in Korea. In 1957, the launching of the Sputnik satellite had inaugurated five years of crisis, culminating in the Cuban missile showdown. In 1979, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan marked the beginning of yet a third period of protracted confrontation.
To many observers, tensions following the Afghanistan invasion seemed as high as at any time in the Cold War. "We are all being carried along at this very moment," George F. Kennan wrote in alarmed tones in the year after the Soviet invasion, "towards a new military conflict, a conflict which could not conceivably end, for any of the parties, in anything less than disaster." "Not for thirty years," he wrote, "has the political tension reached so high and dangerous a point as it has today. Not in all this time has there been so high a degree of misunderstanding, of suspicion, of bewilderment, and of sheer military fear."1
The causes of the turn-of-the-decade crisis were complex, and its roots could be traced to many sources. Yet to a remarkable degree, the impasse at which the United States and the Soviet Union had together arrived could be traced to the practice of arms control. For over a decade, the Western conception of arms control, reinforced by the closely related attitudes of the "Vietnam syndrome," had led the United States systematically both to underequip its military forces and to understate its role in