ONE OF the dividends from the end of the Cold War has been the opening of records that otherwise would have remained secret for generations.
Major study projects have concentrated on crucial periods in U.S.-Soviet relations, to see what lessons can be learned for the present and future.
One, several years ago, studied the Cuban missile crisis and came to the conclusion both sides were misreading the other's intentions.
The most recent has been an examination of the superpower relationship in the late '70s, when Jimmy Carter and Leonid Brezhnev were the principal protagonists. Records of the two nations' major policy councils are being studied by scholars.
One incident that may have some lessons for the future was the furor in 1979 over the "discovery" of a Soviet combat brigade in Cuba.
A question on Soviet minds was whether the controversy had deliberately been provoked in the U.S. by people wanting to undermine detente. The answer, it now seems, is there was no deliberate sabotage.
What actually happened, it could be argued, was worse. It was, in the phrase used uncharacteristically by both diplomats and scholars, "a screw-up."
Some time in late 1978 or early 1979, U.S. intelligence became aware of the Soviet brigade. There had long been evidence of the troops' presence, but it was neglected because budget cutbacks had reduced intelligence resources devoted to Latin America. (Lesson No. 1 for the present?)
What caused concern in Washington was that the Soviets might be there to train not Cubans but a Soviet motorized infantry brigade.
But for use where? Elsewhere in Latin America?
According to one analyst, "This sort of twisted out of control fairly quickly, both by a failure to respond adequately inside the administration to what was something that was snowballing out of control and also it became a function of. . . the domestic political side of the situation. (Lesson No. 2?)
"First you had Senator [Richard] Stone in Florida, and then later Senator [Frank] Church in Idaho, who both, for their own particular reasons, growing out of some, I guess political vulnerability in their home states with elections coming up, felt a need to use the situation as much for their own political purposes as they could.
"So there were a variety of reasons -- screw-ups on one side, political advantage on the other -- that helped this mushroom out of control."
But it seemed very clear from the discussions that there was no effort from inside the administration to ruin the relationship or, from the Cuban point of view, to ruin the non-aligned summit that was taking place at that same time in Havana.
"It was just a situation that nobody seemed to be able to control."
Senators Stone and Church were defeated in 1980. (Lesson No. 3?)