Ten essays look at Scoop Jackson's national-security battles

Staying the Course: Henry M. Jackson and National Security, edited by Dorothy Fosdick. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 198 pp. $20 hard-cover. $9.95 paperback. It is ironical that these 10 essays on the political thinking of the late Sen. Henry (Scoop) Jackson, whose anti-Soviet strictures tied the White House in knots during the 1970s and helped block ratification of SALT II in 1979, should appear just as a new d'etente is at hand. And it is doubly ironical that this d'etente should not only be supported by Richard Perle, the best-known keeper of the Jackson flame, but also that it should be presided over by Ronald Reagan, whose climb to the top owes much to the forces that Jackson represented.

The elements from big labor (especially George Meany), the cold war Democrats, pro-Israeli hawks, and anti-Soviet intellectuals, who rallied to Mr. Reagan in 1980, had in fact first rallied to Scoop Jackson. This loose coalition easily outfought George McGovern and, above all, Henry Kissinger, who negotiated with Jackson as with a major foreign power. Jackson's often-repeated analogy - characterizing the Soviet Union as a hotel burglar who rattles doorknobs in search of easy picking - was far more convincing to many Americans in the Brezhnev era of Angola, Ethiopia, and especially Afghanistan than it is today.

Jackson was an unusual politician, however, much more than a mere hawk, and the serious, scholarly tone of this university press book reflects this distinction. These essays from Jackson's close followers and associates vary greatly in quality, from the authoritative - though self-congratulatory - insights of Richard Perle on Jackson and arms control; through the strident and self-righteous presentation by Charles Horner on human rights; to the superficial remarks of Bernard Lewis on Jackson's stance toward Israel.

Much is omitted, particularly the steps by which Jackson and Perle developed their coalition, not least among Jewish activists fearful of Soviet support for the Arabs. The connection of all this to Jackson's presidential ambitions in 1972 and 1976 is also scanted. But there is enough in this book to rekindle interests in a politician whose influence lives on through dozens of bright, hardworking followers now well placed in Washington.

Jackson symbolized the classic, pre-Vietnam, cold war consensus by combining liberalism and social justice at home with vigorous anti-Sovietism abroad. Of Communist China he was not fearful, as is clear from the essay by Michel Oksenberg and Dwight Perkins; China he welcomed from the late 1960s as a counterweight to Soviet power. Israel was backed for similar reasons, but also out of horror at Western inactivity during the Holocaust - Jackson came from a deeply religious background - and from sincere admiration for the building of a new, democratic society. When added to a strong NATO and to overwhelming American nuclear superiority, these aces would safeguard the global balance.

For Jackson was very rare among American politicians in possessing a systematic, comprehensive world view, which meshed balance-of-power Realpolitik with messianic notions of American world leadership. His was the generation of the Great Depression and World War II. His parents were Norwegian immigrants, and the Nazi conquest of the old country was not forgotten. His Lutheran soul was forever horrified by what he had seen at Buchenwald in 1945. And he drew conclusions that left him a bitter enemy of all things totalitarian - hence Soviet - and a close friend of all those seeking escape from it, and of those young men and women - ``Scoop's Troops'' - in Washington and the universities who joined the battle. Henry Kissinger's words in his memoirs are appropiate: ``Jackson mastered problems not with flashy rhetoric or brilliant maneuvers but with relentless application and undeflectable persistence.'' This made him a very well-informed and formidable adversary, as Kissinger learned.

Leonard Bushkoff is a free-lance book reviewer.

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