The American people should be grateful that President Reagan has not yet spelled out his foreign policyin detailed manner. If he had, he would likely have been impelled to solidify his campaign rhetoric before reflecting sufficiently on the complextities of the world as it is.
President Reagan has, or the most part, chosen a foreign policy team of able, pragmatic and tough-minded men and women. Although their conservative attitutdes represent a break with those of recent administrations--even Republican ones--there are some grounds for hoping that they will find sensible solutions--provided that they are free of artificial deadlines.
Many of us in Congress would like to see negotiations on a SALT treaty resumed as soon as possible. However, if the Reagan administration were to commit itself to deciding by a certain date what kind of agreement it would like, there is a real danger it would accept the nonsensical and unachievable goal, set out in the Republican platform, of achieving military superiority over the Soviets. A SALT proposal flowing from such a policy decision would be non-negotiable with the Soviets and would not reflect the many good points contained in the SALT II treaty negotiated by the Carter administration. With more time, the administration may realize that placing realistic and verifiable constraints on Soviet strategic nuclear forces through a SALT agreement is just as important as new weaponry toward enhancing American security.
Similarly, on the Law of the Sea Treaty, I believe that the lengthy review of conference issues that the administration has undertaken is beneficial. As time elapses and the new negotiators are exposed to the real world and the views of other governments, the prospects can only improve for American support of a broad, interantionally negotiated treaty.
Also, we ought to be thankful that the Reagan administration has not yet firmed up its ideas on how best to react to the continued Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Although President Reagan has proposed sending large quantities of arms of Pakistan, he has not yet followed through on his campaign suggestion that the United States place a naval blockage around Cuba. We don't need another Caribbean crisis.
There are, on the other hand, a number of examples where our interests have suffered because the Reagan administration has rushed to judgment. In line with candidate Reagan's campaign statement that "the Soviet Union underlies all the unrest going on" in the world, the administration quickly escalated our commitment in El Salvador. We now know that much of the evidence on which the administration based its policy was questionable. As a result of this hasty policy decision, we now find ourselves blindly supporting a government that has been implicated in the murders of thousands of civilians, not to mention six Americans, by its own security forces.
In the Middle East, too, the Reagan administration moved precipitately to institute a new policy based on its anti-Soviet campaign rhetoric. The administration concluded it was urgent to establish a "strategic consensus" directed against Soviet encroachment, which was presumed to be the major threat to American and friendly local interests. In its haste, the administration failed to recognize that the lack of progress in the search for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors was a greater threat to stability in the area than Soviet influence. By concetrating first on the creation of an anti-Soviet coalition, the Reagan administration put the cart before the hourse. The administration would have been better able to deal with the crisis over the Israeli raids in Iraq and Lebanon if it had devoted more time to studying the implications of regional rivalries.
There is a lesson to be learned by both the administration and its critics from the mistakes made and avoided to date: patience is likely to be rewarded. fI am by nature an optimist, and I believe the administration will eventually come up with sensible, broadly acceptable policies if it takes the time.