11.00 G.M.T.

Moscow: 2 p.m., Washington: 6 a.m.

"ONLY AN HOUR to go for some of them," Quinten said quietly. He smiled tiredly at Major Howard. "Paul, you're about as stubborn as a Missouri mule. You understand the nature of this thing we've been fighting. You understand that we have been fighting although we're officially at peace. It seems the only thing you can't understand is we've finally been given a chance of winning the fight."

Howard shrugged. "There are lots of people who wouldn't agree about the fighting part. At least, they haven't slung any nuclear weapons at us."

"You think they wouldn't?"

"I can only repeat they haven't."

"Not yet," Quinten said slowly. "Not yet because they can't be sure of winning, yet. But on the day they are sure, they'll sling them. They've spent long enough planning for it."

"Well, I don't know. Whenever we've met them firmly, they've pulled back. I agree we had to be as strong as they were, and show them we were prepared to use our strength. But they've always pulled back. I take that to mean our policy's paid off.

"Policy!" Quinten said bitterly. "What policy? Did it rescue Hungary? Or Poland? Did it stop them taking over the majority of people in the Far East? Or keep them out of the Mediterranean? Have you ever really thought what our policy is?"

"Well," Howard said, "sure I have. I guess everyone knows it's basically, a policy of containment. We don't like them, but we have to admit they exist, we have to live in the same world with them. All right, let's find a way of doing it, while at the same time keeping our guard up and letting them know we're ready for them. That's been our policy."

Quinten looked at him thoughtfully. "And how' have we pushed that policy through?"

"Economic aid to the under developed countries. Military aid to Europe. Military strength of our own sufficient to deter any large scale aggression. In the main, it's worked out."

"You think so? Listen, Paul, you don't kid yourself. It's failed. It's failed economically. We poured billions out in aid. Russia watched us doing it, and smiled. In a lot of countries we managed effectively to destroy colonialism. But we didn't supply a political dynamic sufficiently strong to hold off the Communists as well as replace the colonial systems we helped to end. Very oftenas in Chinathe money and goods we sent simply helped to make the rich much richer, the poor much poorer. Because we failed to appreciate that while big business can maybe help to run a highly developed and educated country, it doesn't mean a thing to the peasants of a backward country.

"So what happened? We preached plenty for all in a few years. The Communists simply promised an extra bowl of rice a day immediately the people had overthrown their rulers. An extra bowl of rice can be understood simply. A favourable economic balance created through a hydro-electric scheme that will take six years to complete, cannot. All right, so. they'd have got their hydro-electric scheme, and they never have got their extra bowl of rice. So what? The peasants live at starvation level, like they've always lived. If they grumble, they're shot. There are plenty of them to spare, and now that the Communists have taken over there's an efficient system of control and suppression. Short of a major war, their rulers can never be deposed. Since the war a dozen countries have gone Communist. Name me one that's shaken off Communism,

Howard said, "General, I realise that. But I think it's an over-simplification of the issue. He noticed that Quinten was flushed, and there were beads of sweat on his forehead.

"I know. But it's a fair assessment of what's happened. We've failed militarily, too, because we were outguessed all along the line. When we were thinking in terms of A bombs, Russia thought in terms of bayonets. There were plenty of those available. They implemented the first part of her plan. Unless I'm wrong, the second part was due to be implemented very soon now.

"You see, the Russians had one tremendous advantage. They could set a definite date when they would launch their final bid for world domination. In 1945; that date was twenty or more years off. They planned accordingly. They had bayonet power, but little else. All right, let bayonet power gain as much as it could, then hold what it had gained until the time came for the final blow. They figured correctly that the Western countriesparticularly ourselves and the Britishwere tired of war. We wouldn't fight a major war over the Balkans, or the Baltic States, or even China. Those countries went under. They had minor setbacks. In Korea, for example. But the first part of the plan succeeded, and bayonet power did it for them. When bayonet power was no longer effective, they called a halt until they could replace it with something else. By that time, they didn't think it would be too long in coming.

"The German rocket experts gave them their first breakthrough. A handful of spies gave them their second. Their planners decided that war would be possible from about 1960. Maybe a little earlier if they skipped a generation of weapons. They did just that. Do you follow me?

"Not altogether," Howard said. "They aren't the kind of people to take military risks. Why should they risk skipping a generation of weapons?"

"No risk,"' Quinten said sharply. "No risk at all. We've told them loudly enough and often enough we'll never attack them first. The Rockefeller report drew attention to that, as well as the enormous advantage they gain from it. Remember what it said in 1958? That unless present trends are reversed, the world balance of power will shift in favour of the Soviet bloc. It also said the Soviet's greatest advantage is that the Communists, by their very nature, are ready to strike the first blow. They need only prepare for the way they intend to fight. On the other hand, we must be on the defensive and gear our planning and procurement against any possible form of attack at any possible time. When the first two Russian satellites went into orbit the writing was on the wall. They passed us.

"Ours didn't lag by too much. A matter of months only."

"But months are important. I want you to understand that, Paul. As the destructive potential of weapons has increased, so the margin of retaliatory time has decreased. Russian I.C.B.M. sites fully operational even two days before their counterparts over here, can win the war. That's where the Russian planning has been so good."

Not with some of SAC airborne, it's not so good."

"I don't agree. Sure they'll get hit, but how hard? Understand, I don't think the margin of superiority will rest with them long. Maybe two or three months while their sites are operational and ours are not. The short period still to run before NORAD can effectively track their missiles coming in and give us time to fire off ours and get SAC off the ground. But that's what they've planned for. Even a two week margin of superiority would be enough. Maybe two hours. That's why war's too important to be left to the politicians now."

Howard lit a cigarette. He pondered on what Quinten had been saying, Militarily, it made sense. If you could produce a heavy enough initial blow, the chances were you would win. Your weapons had enough sheer brute power in them to swamp opposition. But who could say those weapons would be used? Where did the strictly military line of capability end and the political line of probability start? He said, "So they could hit us, and they could take ús out. If we accept that, we still have to ask whether they'd do it. And if they would, then why."

"First, yes they would," Quinten said crisply. And second, because only then can they achieve world domination. That's their real purpose. Nationally speaking, it's nothing new. Czarist Russia was essentially expansionist. And the nature of a people doesn't change overnight, even if the politicians can't see it that way. They're after nothing less than world domination. For the first time they have the chance to achieve it militarily. Their lead in rockets has given them the chance, but it won't last very long You think they'll let it slip away from them? From sentiment, maybe? Or humanitarian feelings? Or a belief it's wrong to kill? You really think that?"

Howard shifted uncomfortably. Damn it, Quinten was utterly convincing. Yet he knew the reasoning was wrong somewhere. There had to be a fallacy. If you are dedicated to the principle of non-aggression, you cannot just discard the principle on a theoretical assumption. He said, "General, you forget one thing. We've sworn to defend a way of life that gives every man the right to live without fear of attack. I agree with lots of what you say about Russia, and the Russian leaders. But you won't justify killing millions of ordinary people, who just want to live their lives, because you have an idea, their leaders are going to attack us. That way you put us in their class. You put us among the monsters, the animals in the jungles"

"I'm glad you mentioned that. But remember the jungle isn't of our making. You know, when I was a kid I used to read a lot. Anything I could lay my hands on, we didn't have too much money for books in my house. I had nine or ten books which were my own, and I read them over and over. Among them was the Jungle Book. Rudyard Kipling. You ever read it?"

"I don't think so."

"You should. In particular read the story of the little mongoose called Rikki-tikki-tavi, because of the noise he made, and how he was taken into a house as a pet after the river floods swept him out of his mother's nest. In the garden of the house live a couple of cobras, and pretty soon the mongoose kills the male cobra, because it's laying for the man of the house. But the female cobra is left. And she's got a clutch of eggs which will produce a few dozen young cobras. She knows she can't rule the roost in the garden while Rikki's around, so she decides he has to go. She says so, and she means it.

"The little mongoose weighs up the odds. He can handle the cobra if she comes at him. He just has to watch his step, and be ready for her any time. But the eggs hatching out are something else. Once they're hatched and the young cobras become dangerousoperational you might call ithe's gone. He can't handle that many at once, they'll be too strong for him,
"So he waits his chance, and when the female cobra is causing mischief somewhere else; he breaks those eggs, The cobras inside the shells' aren't dangerous to him
yet. But it's just a question of time, then they will be. So he kills them. He doesn't have to ask for proofhis instinct tells him a mongoose doesn't live with a snake. He kills the snakes, or the snakes kill him. So he acts, and he lives. He destroys the eggs, and then he destroys the mother cobra. He's safe, and the people in the house are safe. They can live their lives in peace. It's a good story, Paul, and a good analogy too."

"You really think so?"

"I really think'so. I've forgotten your record of service. Have you ever had personal contact with them?

"No," Howard shook his head. "Not personal."

Quinten looked levelly at him. "I have," he said, "just a few times. One was in Austria. Officially, the war had been over a few days. But the Russian columns were still moving forward. I watched the Mongolian troops enjoying themselves. By that I mean raping women. By women I mean any female they could lay their hands on between six and sixty. All right, they were animals, they knew no better. Bet their officers did, and they refused to intervene. That, I saw personally, There was nothing we could do about it. We had a handful of officers and men there, and they had several divisions. I began to hate them then.

"In Berlin, I went to a party one night. A Russian officer got drunk. Well, that wasn't unusual, but this one got drunker than most. He took me aside. He said he liked me personally, but that wouldn't save me. When they were strong enough, he said, they'd finish us. He meant it, believe me. He's a general now, and commands a Bison division. Funnily enough, he used exactly the terms that were used again just after Hungary had been crushed. 'We'll bury you," hé said. "Give us time, we'll bury you" Just that, no reason given, nothing else.

"Then I saw it spread from Russia. To the Balkans, to Eastern Europe, to China. Troops taken prisoner in Korea were forced to stand naked on the ice of a frozen river while water was poured over their feet until they were part of the ice of the river. Until they were prepared to say anything, sign anything, to preserve their sanity. Some of them didn't give in. They lost their feet. Sometimes they lost their minds, sometimes their lives. My nephew was one of the lucky ones. He just lost his life.

"I didn't see what happened in Hungary, but some of my friends did. Remember the wild excitement of the first few days? A torch had been lit, we said. The human spirit is unconquerable after all, we said. The crash as Stalin's statue fell was supposed to be the signal for the re-birth of freedom. Instead, it heralded the entry of the Red Army.

"The armour moved in and slowly crushed the life out of Budapest. Tank crews fired high explosive at crowds of helpless women and children. Some of the Russian troops sickened of their task, and refused to carry on. So the Kremlin fell back on their old standby. In came the Mongolians, and they behaved with their customary savagery. The revolt was smashed.

The Russians marked the fact we were prepared to sacrifice a nation rather than risk a war. They marked the fact we preferred to preach sermons to the British and French because they'd seen the grip the Reds were getting on Egypt, and had done something about it. Their I.C.B.M. was coming along fast. Our reluctance to act gave them fresh proof they'd be able to fight a war exactly when and where they chose. They went to work. It was that Christmas of fifty-six I decided they had to'be smashed.

"You know what's happened since. Their satellites. Their I.C.B.M. sites almost ready. Their phoney ending of H-tests. You're damn right they could afford' to end them. In the six weeks before they made the announcement they'd tested enough bombs to keep them going for at least three years. You've seen the figures, you know that's true. And the way they planned things, by the time that three years was up they wouldn't need the bombs any more. They'd have blotted out all opposition.

Quinten paused, picked up his pencil, and began doodling on his notepad again, "That's why. I acted, Paul," he went on, his voice quieter and lower pitched than it had been a few seconds before. "Because it was not only expedient, it was right. Because it wasn't wanton aggression, but sheer self-defence. Do you understand?"

Howard stood up. He walked over to the window, and gazed out at the darkness which had flowed over the base when the airfield lígltíng was turned off. "I 'think I do," he said levelly. "I think I understand, General, and I'm beginning to think..."

He broke off abruptly as in the distance a dozen red flames and two white lines of tracer blazed suddenly in the darkness. Almost at once the thuds of the explosions were heard' and then heavier, louder explosions as a couple of Skysweepers from one of the concrete flak towers joined in. He swung round. "General, we're being attacked."

Quinten looked, at the wall clock. Eight minutes after eleven. It was too soon. He wondered how they'd managed to mount an attack so quickly. "I expected it," he murmured, "but not this fast. All right, so we'll hold them off as long as we can. There's no sweat."

Howard looked at him. Quinten was unruffled, not in the least perturbed by the attack. A moment ago, Howard had found Quinten's reasoning valid. He had almost spoken right out in favour of the general's action. But this was something else. Out there Americans were killing Americans. That couldn't be justified ever. He felt a sudden surge of anger at whoever had ordered the attack. And a cold, bitter hatred of Quinten, who was prepared to let his own men die.

He forced himself to speak soberly and quietly. That way Quinten might listen to him. "General, those are our own people out there attacking, and our own people defending. Your plan's safe now. For God's sake stop this unnecessary killing." There was a continual background of noise as he spoke. Out on the wide expanses of the base lines of tracer were appearing in thirty or forty different places.

Quinten sighed. "I don't like it, Paul, any more than you do, but it's necessary. There's still an hour before the eight forty-third bomb. If whoever's attacking can walk right in they might be able to locate Bailey or Hudson in time to get the code group from them. I can't risk that." The telephone on his desk rang. He picked it up. "Sure," he said, "I know what uniforms they're wearing, they're trying to take the base aren't they? . . All right then, throw in everything we'veI got . . . Sure, do that" He replaced the phone.

Howard moved slowly over to the desk. Quinten placed his right hand near the automatic, but did not pick it up. "Give orders to stop it, General," Howard said quietly. "There are men dying out there, men who trusted you and believed in you. Don't do this to them."

Quinten shook his head. "They're unlucky, Paul, but they're honoured, too. They're dying to save our world. They're dying for peace on earth."

Howard turned away from the desk and went back to the window. Out on the base the fire fight was noisier, more vivid. Both sides were fully committed now. Hot lines of shells stabbed through the air, clawing at their targets, exploding in vicious red flashes as they hit. Howard felt empty and cold. He knew it was no use arguing further. Quinten's resolve was inflexible.

Quinten lit a cigarette. His mental anguish was greater than Howard could suspect. He loved the base, and he loved the men under his command. Each explosion, each rattling burst of automatic fire, stabbed painfully into his mind. Peace on earth, he, thought. That's what they're dying for. It's worth it; it has to be. On earth peace, goodwill to all men. A few will suffer, but millions, will live. He picked up his pencil. He knew what he was doing was right.

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