WHEN YOU think about it, there were few surprises at the nonaligned summit in Havana. Once an out-and-out Soviet satellite like Cuba is accepted as authentically nonaligned, and allowed to run the meeting, what other result could realistically have been expected? Fidel Castro, by his parliamentary abuses and his pro-Soviet stands, trod on the toes of some members. But he dominated drafting of the meeting's major declaration and wound up firmly in control of the between-summits organizational machinery. On the key politcal issue, he and his like-minded mates did not succeed in their attempt to read Egypt out for making peace with Israel, but they did put Egypt on probation -- no small blow.
Pity President Tito, who invented the nonaligned movement after his break with Moscow in order to cultivate an international atmosphere that would keep the Soviet block from pulling Yugoslavia back into the fold. He had one thing mainly in mind: to have the summit affirm, by refusing to bless the Soviet-sponsored Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, that one country should not invade another. But the summit did not make the affirmation. Mr. Castro took the movement a long symbolic step toward condoning a post-Tito sqeeze on Yugoslavia.
Some countries stood up the mob and took stands consistent with their interests and with American interests, too. The dreary anti-Americanism that is the lowest common political denominator of so many Third World nations nonetheless flowed strong. This happened, mind you, deep in the third year of an administration regarded as uniquely sympathetic to Third World sensitivities and concerns.
Some Americans would make alibis -- and in the most condescending way: those poor little Third World dears are, you know, so put upon; they must be allowed to voice their frustrations; privately they do so like the United States; anyway the United States is hardly blameless.
No. The Havana shriekers should be listened to, not patronized. Giving them alibis denies them the dignity they otherwise demand. The summit sent the United States a message, and Americans should not shrink from reading it. The message is that the common ground is regrettably narrow. The United States cannot turn its back on the shriekers, any more than they can turn their backs on the United States. But the limitations of basing policy on assumptions of fundamental under-the-skin camaraderie must be recognized. If for those at Havana the summit eliminated the pretense of nonalignment, for the United States it should have dispelled our rosier illusions about the Third World.