In recent years, Americans have looked at South Africa with growing concern about mounting racial tensions and violence, sources of minerals once considered reliable and the potential for increased Soviet influence in the region. At the same time, many white South Africans have come to believe that the Reagan administration will be more sympathetic toward their government because of South Africa's economic and strategic position and its pro-Western, anti-communist orientation. This gives our government an unusual opportunity in shaping policy toward South Africa.

The development of a consistent policy toward South Africa has been hampered in the past by the assumption that pursuit of one U.S. interest necessarily conflicts with the pursuit of others. The result has been an unstable tugging and hauling by interested constituencies, each ignoring or disputing the importance of the others' concerns. "South Africa: Time Running Out" -- the report of the Study Commission on U.S. Policy Toward Southern Africa -- reached a different conclusion: all of these interests are important, and must and can be protected by a comprehensive policy.

U.S. interests in South Africa include minimizing Soviet influence in the area and maintaining free use of the Cape sea route. One percent of our trade and foreign direct investment is with South Africa, and it supplies the West with a number of key minerals. At the same time, other African nations provide us with 40 percent of our foreign oil, and their diplomatic support is important in many contexts. Sustained racial violence in South Africa could have a corrosive effect on race relations here, to say nothing of the misery it would cause in South Africa. For this reason and because furthering political freedom and civil liberties in South Africa is worthy of our highest efforts as a nation, it is in the United States' interest to promote movement, with a minimum of violence, toward a genuine sharing of political power among all racial groups in that country.

In South Africa, the commission found that whether the government does to reinforce the status quo, internal black forces will eventually alter it. The choice in South Africa is not between "slow peaceful change" and "quick violent change," but between a slow, uneven and sporadically violent evolutionary process, and an equally slow but much more violent descent into civil war.

We also found that major economic sanctions against South Africa by the United States are not likely to be effective: there is no necessary connection between economic hardship and the desired political change, and other key South African trading partners would not join us under current conditions. Maximizing U.S. influence requires both contact and involvement and actions and words that make our fundamental opposition to apartheid unmistakably clear.

Based on these interests and findings, the commission recommended a framework for policy consisting of five related objectives to be pursued simultaneously:

1. To make clear the fundamental and continuing opposition of the U.S. government and people to the system of apartheid.

2. To promote genuine political power-sharing in South Africa with a minimum of violence through the systematic use of inducements and pressures.

3. To support organizations inside South Africa working for change, assist the development of black leadership and promote black welfare.

4. To assist the economic development of other states in southern Africa.

5. To reduce the impact of stoppages of imports of key minerals from South Africa through stockpiling and contingency planning.

The U.S. government should, therefore, broaden its arms embargo to cover foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies and formalize its nuclear embargo. U.S. corporations in South Africa should not expand their operations. They should commit a generous proportion of their corporate resources to improving the lives of black South Africans, and subscribe to and implement the Sullivan Principles for U.S. Firms Operating in South Africa. Those U.S. corporations not now in South Africa should stay out. These measures should be voluntary under current conditions, but the government should endorse them as important parts of overall U.S. policy.

We have limited influence in South Africa. But the extent of our involvement, the strength of black resolution, continued repression, and new ferment behind the facade of Afrikaner unity create an opportunity and obligation to act before U.S. interests do in fact become irreconcilable. A policy based on the framework described here would recognize and serve the full range of U.S. interests in South Africa and, by permitting the constituencies for each of these interests to align itself with the others, command broad and lasting support from the American people.