A FOG OF CONFUSION has blanketed public discussion of U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young's adventures in government. And daily it seems to get thicker. So today we would like to address some of the particular, individual confusions that are at play. They all concern Mr. Young's indiscreet and careless pronouncements, and we will begin with the so-called "point man" explanation of his role. Mr. Young himself has expounded it this way: "I told him [Secretary Vance] that, if he did not mind, I would raise controversial points and talk about them. I said to Cy, 'You can refute and modify what I say, but I'd like to be your point man.'"
The trouble with this metaphor is that where you have a point man you are also supposed to have behind you an army (or at least a rifle squad) . . . and a common objective . . . and a strategy . . . and a high command back in a tent somewhere calling the shots. But none of that is evident in Mr. Young's conception of the point man's role - or in President Carter's apparent acceptance of it. The various utterances that have needed to be clarified or apologized for by Mr. Young, or disclaimed by the government for which he is working, hardly seem to represent any bold staking out of forward positions toward which the administration intends to move in the fullness of time. Rather they seem casual, personal, political and idiosyncratic. To the extent that he is a point man at all, Mr. Young is a point man without either a commanding officer or troops.
Which brings us to the second confusion. For the reflexive response of many people to the observation that Mr. Young is out of phase with State Department policy or protocol on certain issues is: Wonderful! What could be better than having a U.N. ambassador who speaks his mind and doesn't feel constrained by the positions of a fusty, cautious State Department? The conflict here is believed to be between a free spirit and a dead one - the dead one being that of conventional or established diplomacy. But even if you accept this idea - which we, by the way, do not - you are going to have trouble demonstrating the value of Mr. Young's role. For it our government's policy on a broad range of international issues is sorely in need of an infusion of Mr. Young's views and ideas, surely it is not getting them via these random public pronouncements. He should be arguing fiercely for his position within government; he is there to affect policy, not merely to tell us what his view about it is as an individual.
The final confusion has to do with the supposition that, even if Mr. Young is going his own way, well, no harm done. We don't believe it for a moment. The American ambassador to the U.N. simply cannot detach his public comments on public affairs from an official context or suppose that they have no impact on anything except some argument or conversation he happens to be engaged in at the moment. Mr. Young has recently had to apologize for his remarks about British "racism" and for asserting that Britain was "a little chicken" on racial questions. This occured at a moment when the new British foreign secretary was on a diplomatic mission to Africa where he was making an important effort to find some opening to racial peace in Rhodesia. Can Mr. Young's remarks have contributed in any way to the success of his mission? Or were they not more likely to undermine it?
Our point is that this and similarly careless remarks by Mr. Young have a life and an impact outside the ethereal realm of pure debate. The President has reportedly encouraged Ambassador Young to keep speaking out. But both men must know (as Vice President Agnew so amply and recurrently demonstrated) that being outspoken does not represent the sum total or virtue or wisdom. It also matter what yoy say.