How many millions of people died brutally during the period Secretary of State Vance presided so primly and irenically over our State Department? As many as died during the the controversial reign of Henry Kissinger? As many as died during the reigns of William Rogers of Dean Rusk? It is, perhaps, a rude thing to contemplate, and in the genteel presence of Cyrus Vance one ought not be rude. We honor him for never having raised his voice, yet it remains a mystery whether Vance ever thought there might be anything in this world worthy of raising one's voice over.

Did Vance notice those millions jof brutal deaths in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, Africa, Central American and less celebrated parts? Did he think it better than those deaths were attributable to murder rather than to warfare? Very few died with American-made weapons in their hands during his tenure. Most were starved or butchered as pawns in political struggles from which America has now totally withdrawn. Are we a better people for our forbearance? Now that we are no long caricatured as the "world's policeman" have we grown in virtue and in world stature? Is America now more secure, and is the world a more peaceful place without our power looming over it?

Whether or not the former secretary of state ever thought about these questions is not clear. Certainly he never said much about them in public. In fact, he rarely raised any disturbing questions in public. If there was much danger beyond our shores, he never talked about it. Listening to him always left me with the impression that he felt that the greatest dangers to peace existed not beyond our borders but here at home.

More peopel in more diverse places died while Vance inhabited the seventh floor of our State Department than during the peacetime tenure of any of his predecessors in this century, with the possible exception of Cordell Hull. Not only that, but most of those who died did not die fighting. They were murdered. Our foreign correspondents know this as surely as they know how much more difficult it is to get news and hospitality in foreign countries today as opposed to, say 10 years ago. Humanitarians like Leo Cherne of the International Rescue Committee know this even as they know that death and unspeakable suffering continue to grind on -- their precious foods and medicines piling ever higher, unused and unusable thanks to the rising tide of barbarism and agression that has accompanied the gentlemanly tenure of Vanced at State and Carter in the White House.

In leaving the State Department for his native Wall Street, Vance said he left with "one great sadness," that being that 53 Americans remain captives in Tehran. I would have thought that he had many more causes for sadness. There are the aforementioned dead and dying. There is the chaos in Iran, a chaos that began under the Carter foreign policy and would have endured with or without the hostages. The totalitarian menance increases in Central America. NATO drifts from us. The Soviets have surpassed us in tactical and strategic weaponry. Vance's SALT treaty languishes, and there is no Middle East settlement. Has any administration in this century presided over such a calamitous foreign policy? And has any administration created more confusion?

After all, just what is the meaning of this resignation? Did Vance leave because of that failed military rescue mission, the one we undertook 172 days after our embassy was turned into a prison? Did he resign because President President Carter has left the doves and become a hawk? If the president is reacting more strenously to the Soviets, is he admitting that the diplomacy of the past three and a half years proved diplomacy of the past three and a half years proved unsatisfactory? Well, if President Carter is becoming more defense-minded, why was it reported on April 16 that he had ordered a cut in our 1980 defense outlays? Why last week did he throw his weight against efforts in the congressional budget committees to raise defense spending? The Carter administration has been rampant with sonorities about peace and brotherhood, but in truth it has followed a most perilous course. Those of us who have grown to relish a world free of uniforms and the sound of artillery have reason to be very dyspeptic with the present regime of goody-goody obfuscators. Beneath all its guff about human rights and disarmament it has made the world a far more dangerous place than it was just four years ago.

The carter foreign policy has been to be disarmed and abusive. Apparently the new policy will be to be even abusive and no better armed. The dangers to world peace increase. This is a foreign policy wholly designed for home consumption. Carter and Vance are steeped in the left wing's canard that the real danger to world peace is the mob of red-necked Yanks living in the hinterland. Thus, they have crooned to us that our military strength is colossal and that to spend more would be inflationary. They act as though the world beyond our shores holds no danger even as the corpses pile up and the things of our time grow more restless and more powerful.