In the winning team's locker room in Tokyo, there was coach George Shultz, celebrating the triumph over arch-foe Muammar Qaddafi: "You've had it, pal. You're isolated. You are recognized as a terrorist." Nothing was too good for his star, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, "a terrific leader."
As for the statement issued on terrorism by the leaders of the seven industrial democracies, "it was terrific." The secretary of state could not find words to say how happy he was that "it's so strong."
It brought to mind the scene in the Oval Office when President Ford and his team were toasting the "rescue" of the crew of the Mayaguez. Even more to the point, it brought to mind Robert Southey's reprise of the Battle of Blenheim. When little Peterkin wanted to know what good came out of it, the triumphant Duke replied: "Why, that I cannot tell, but 'twas a famous victory."
And so it was at Tokyo, if the main purpose was to set Qaddafi up for a fall. There was much "reaffirmation" of common aims and recommitments to assorted measures to hasten that day. The way administration spokesmen told it, the allies had bought the Reagan line: Qaddafi is job one.
But this was work done by a committee, as the end-product plainly shows. The accent on Libya may be meant to take some of the curse off last month's U.S. bombing raid, in the minds of some of the Tokyo partners. But it takes nothing away from their conviction that Qaddafi is not the only source of state-supported terrorism and perhaps not even as important a source as Syria or Iran.
In the end, the Reagan administration got its due -- and the rest of the summit partners got theirs. The result is scarcely an endorsement of the kinds of military measures and economic sanctions that the Reagan administration might have welcomed. That the administration claims it got more than it could possibly have hoped for is only a measure of how important it was for it to keep its expectations low. That's why it's important to bear in mind what is missing from the final statement on terrorism from Tokyo.
There was no agreement on the economic sanctions that might conceivably work against Libya or other terrorist centers: the concerted application of an economic squeeze by all nations concerned. There is no mention of swift retaliation or of any specific military pressure and not a whisper about last month's U.S. raid on Libya.
So it wasn't a question of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher carrying the day, though you could pick out a passage here and there and make that claim. Terrorism, for example, "must be fought relentlessly and without compromise," the statement says. In the next breath there is a firm pledge "to make maximum efforts to fight against this scourge." But you have only to proceed to the following sentence to see that unanimity was purchased at the cost of considerable compromise all around:
"Terrorism must be fought effectively through determined, tenacious, discreet and patient action combining national measures with international cooperation."
Now that is not Rambo speaking. On the contrary, it states a general rule that is almost indistinguishable from the general rule that has characterized the supposedly fainthearted and craven approach to terrorism of America's principal allies all along.
And that is what a prudent administration ought to be quietly celebrating: a sensible trade-off that provides a framework for the practice of counterterrorism in the future. The test of the Tokyo statement is only marginally the "signal" it is supposed to send; Qaddafi is not the sort of fellow who is likely to respond to words of reason. A better test of the Tokyo statement is in the extent to which some recent clashes were smoothed over. But the best test will be in its applicability to the next terrorist crisis. (The record, alas, leaves no doubt there will be one.)
Consider some composite of recent atrocities: a terrorist act in which Americans are clearly targeted, wherever in the world and, let us say, Qaddafi's complicity is clear. The Reagan administration will be in better shape to seek allied support for strong action -- or to go it alone -- with the Tokyo agreements on general principles as a point of departure. Retaliation was not specifically precluded (terrorism must be fought "relentlessly").
But suppose there is no Libyan "smoking gun" -- or that the finger points to a less accessible source? In that event, the Reagan administration could pick and choose from the Tokyo document, citing the other cooperative counterterrorism measures short of military action and the cautionary tone: "Determined . . . tenacious . . . discreet . . . patient."
That is actually the way Reagan has played it most of the time. Faced with an ambiguous terrorist challenge, he might find it helpful to have the imprimatur of the leaders of the seven industrial nations (including his own) on a policy of uncompromising condemnation of international terrorism -- balanced by a certain restraint.