SEPTEMBER 17, 1962
NEW YORK—In these days of world uncertainty, I am very thankful that we have a President who can keep steady control of himself in spite of the hotheads in the Congress and in the Pentagon. I am equally thankful that the American people also seem to be able to remain calm about the Cuban situation.
President Kennedy's assurances that we have no intention of going to war over Cuba shows admirable restraint. So does his ability to read past the initial hot words of Premier Khrushchev's statement and through to the much calmer concluding passages.
Khrushchev, of course, can afford to say truculent things to us because he does not have to repeat them to his own people. He can threaten us with World War III, but the Russian people will not know that their leader has threatened war. They will be told simply that Russia is always ready to accept any reasonable proposals made by anyone which may prevent war. Even a dictator must play up to his people; but in his case, they rarely need to be told even half the truth. There is the further advantage that he can urge his people to keep on sacrificing and working hard because of the threats from others, yet need never tell them about the proposals and his refusals.
As to Cuba itself, I wonder how bad the food situation really is. The latest reports seem to indicate that the people on the whole are more interested in their food shortages than they are in the amount of Russian military build-up being brought into their country. Castro himself seems to be losing some of his glamor and some of his fire. Perhaps he is coming to realize that even though he is far away from the Soviet Union, Russian officials can fasten a heavy iron hand over a government they wish to control.
In any country of the world, the man in the street has to think first of where he and his family are going to find food, clothing and the other basic necessities. I doubt if the Cuban people are any more ready to sacrifice indefinitely for a belief in the Soviet way of life than they are for a democratic way of life. And even the Army, after all, is made up of men with families who have many of the same interests as the run-of-the-mill citizens of the country. A dictator relies on the loyalty of his army. If that begins to waver, he is uncertain of his hold.
It may well be that Castro is getting to this point. Perhaps a number of the South and Central American states should join with us in sending in food for distribution to the people. Instead of bolstering the regime, this might very well be the straw to shift the balance. It might make the Cuban people feel that they preferred food and goodwill among their neighbors which would lead to trade, rather than the build-up of military protection and control from a country almost the other side of the world.
I should like to call my readers' attention to the Wilderness Bill now pending in Congress. Preservation of areas of wilderness under our Forest Service has always been of interest to me, as it was to my husband. It is therefore a matter of concern to see that the bill as reported by the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, instead of building the strength of our wilderness system, would actually undermine it.
The Senate, under a committee headed by Clinton P. Anderson of New Mexico, has already passed a strong wilderness bill, and the two versions must now be reconciled in conference. Lack of space prevents me at the moment from pointing out in detail the differences between the two bills. For the present, I would suggest that all those who are interested in conservation should write their Senators and Congressmen urging that the House bill be rejected and the Senate bill passed in its original form.