THE BOTCHED COUP in thenSoviet Union should have been annoccasion for somber reflections. For anfew days it appeared that U.S. foreignnpolicy, built almost entirely around thenperson of Mikhail Gorbachev, mightnbe in ruins. The failure of the plot,nwhile it has temporarily restored Mr.nGorbachev’s fortunes, could not disguisenthe pitiable condidon into whichna great empire had fallen. Here it was,nthe great state apparatus which, a decadenago, had made the worid tremble,nnow reduced to impotence in the facenof a blustering demagogue with andrinking problem. It was more like anminor episode in the history of Montenegronthan a major chapter in annimperial chronicle. The Americannpress, which never gets anything right,ncould only stir up paranoia over whonhad his hand on the big button.nThe lighter side of the coup wasnprovided by President Bush, who keptnon insisting that Mr. Gorbachev’s overthrownwas “unconstitutional.” Allnthese years, Republicans had been insistingnthat the Soviet government wasna despotism or, more recently, an evilnempire. Mr. Bush himself had evennsigned up as an advocate of democraticnglobalism, a crusade based on the Wilsoniannpremise that the only legitimatenregimes are those that have been democraticallynelected. We must have beenndozing when Gorbachev won an election,nbecause it is our recollection thatnhe gained his power the old-fashionednway: he seized it. Like Stalin andnBrezhnev and Andropov, Gorbachevnowed his position not to the will of thenpeople but to the decision of a fewnhard-eyed men who pulled the strings.nSome of those men, not so hard-eyednas their predecessors, had evidentlyndecided that what the Politburo gives,nthe Politburo can also take away.nIt is hard not to feel some sympathynfor the plotters. The restoration of anhard-line regime would put an end tonplans for a Western bail-out of thenSoviet economy. During the periodnwhen the coup’s success seemed likely,nII Sabato interviewed GianfranconMiglio, the hard-boiled political scientistnat the Catholic University of Milan.n6/CHRONlCLESnCULTURAL REVOLUTIONSnProfessor Miglio was frank enough tonsay what many of us were thinking:n”Why should we tear our clothes? ThenWest would have had to furnishnGorbachev with unlimited assistance.nA blood-letting with disastrous economicnresults.”nEven American optimists realizenthat the same Pre’sident who taught usnlip-reading is now saying that we won’t,nrepeat won’t provide direct financialnassistance, but to save his old friendnMr. Gorbachev and his new friend Mr.nYeltsin, George Bush will find it impossiblennot to be generous with othernpeople’s money. If only those bunglersnhad succeeded!nActually, the Washington politiciansnof the jointly ruling party in power,nshould have appreciated the position innwhich their Communist counterpartsnhad found themselves. All that talk ofnreform was fine, so long as it promisedngreater efficiency and Western tradencredits, but this business of autonomynfor the republics was too much. Undernthe proposed unity agreement, thenrepublics would have reassumed a largenmeasure of control over their ownntaxes. But with the collapse of the coupn(if that is the proper name for whatnlooks more to be an attempt to blackmailnGorbachev), the rate of imperialndisintegration was hastened.nRevolutions, even if they are stagemanagednin the beginning, take on anlife of their own. The French Revolutionnbegan as a coup by the uppernclasses who wanted to wrest powernaway from the king and torpedo hisnreforms. They quickly lost control.nWhat defines a revolution (even anpeaceful one) is not the aims of thenarchitects but a hidden agenda thatnonly reveals itself in the unfolding ofnevents. When Gorbachev was onlyntalking about reform and openness, thenethnic minorities of the U.S.S.R. wentnon a rampage, and when an attemptnwas made to curb Gorbachev’s democraticnreforms, the really importantnresponse has been the declarations ofnindependence issued by republic afternrepublic. As of late August, Yeltsin wasnalready getting nervous. Wait until thenautonomous regions of his own federa­nnntion begin to get restive. Yeltsin thendemocrat will be replaced by Yeltsinnthe nationalist, just as Stalin the Communistnturned into the defender ofnHoly Mother Russia.nAmericans, meanwhile, rejoiced atnthe discomfiture of the hard-liners,nwithout stopping to wonder why wencan’t have the same deal over here.nAutonomy and local government arennothing less than justice in Estonia, butnwhat about South Dakota or Alabama?nWe call them states, after all, and thenfederal “Republic” agreed to by ournancestors accorded all the states somethingnlike sovereignty within their borders.nIf even the evil empire is willingnto concede some measure of localnautonomy to its constituent republics,nwhy can’t the good empire do thensame? Ah, but there is a vital differencenbetween the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.nOver there, some of the citizens at leastnwant their freedom, and they want it sonbadly that they are willing to stand upnto tanks. We, on the other hand, prefernthe cozy comforts of servitude, andnconfine our rebellion to letters to theneditor or the endless stream of littlenreports issued by think tanks.nPerhaps the obvious parallelism betweenntheir “captive republics” andnours explains the reluctance of GeorgenBush and so many “conservatives” tonrecognize the independence of thenBaltic states. Political liberty has a waynof spreading. Today Vilnius, tomorrown— Raleigh?n— Thomas FlemingnTITLE X FUNDS to'”family planning”nclinics that dispense abortionncounseling were prohibited last summernas a result of the Rust v. SullivannU.S. Supreme Court decision, whichnsingle-issue organizations indignantlyndenounced. It is ironic that the verynpeople who claim that governmentnshould stay out of abortion decisionsnare the very same people who wantngovernment to pay for them. Theirnoutcry prompted Congress to overturnnthe ruling and fund such clinics. AsnPresident Bush contemplates a veto,nmulti-issue taxpayers would like to in-n