Henry Kissinger's commentary on what "is deeply wrong in the Atlantic Alliance" (op-ed, Dec. 21) reflects the profound misconception afflicting most American discussion of our foreign affairs. The main thrust of the article is that what is wrong with the alliance is a lack of strategic doctrine and that doctrine is conceptualized as military only.
But diplomacy is as much a component of our national security and strategic doctrine as are conventional and nuclear forces. The "realities of security" include diplomatic resources. I know this is difficult to perceive for a former secretary of state who refused to take American ambassadors with him in his talks with foreign officials abroad. But the fact is that diplomats worth their salt are capable of shaping that doctrine by helping to influence public and governmental opinion in the countries to which they are assigned. But for this, they must be highly educated, highly trained, highly resourceful, highly skillful--and treated as members of our security team.
Thus, the fact that "something is deeply wrong in the Atlantic Alliance" suggests that something is deeply wrong with the quality of our diplomats. They are not doing their job effectively. They are too bland, too conventional, too desk- bound, too preoccupied with meeting Washington's reporting requirements, too little informed, too little consulted. They are, therefore, not dynamically asserting and explaining American foreign policy and the thinking behind it. They are behaving like sedentary bureaucrats.
The result is that we have not convinced Europeans, or anyone else, that we are doing all we can to bring a skillful diplomacy into play so as to reduce the chances of war. That is at the center of our problem not only with NATO but with every other alliance and country of the world. Whatever may be their miscalculations from time to time, the Soviets are where they are--in Cuba, in Angola, in in Afghanistan and in Poland, and in possession of those intelligence documents we lost in Seoul, Saigon and Tehran when our embassies were seized or abandoned--because diplomacy is central to their strategic and tactical thinking.
There is an almost genetic inclination in the American mentality to dismiss diplomacy as "mere words." Even if this were so, let us reflect that words are among the most powerful weapons in the world--if well chosen, skillfully employed, well timed and reinforced with additional words and maneuvers. How powerful they are depends upon who uses them and with what resourcefulness, but which schools of secondary and higher education in this country teach rhetoric? How rigorously are candidates for our diplomatic service examined in it? How much of it is taught successful candidates after their commissioning?
Diplomacy, however, is not mere words. It is also political maneuver, and this implies forethought, initiative and leadership, not waiting for things to happen and then reacting. It implies advance consultation and cooperation with our allies. It implies being there "the fustest with the mostest"--in ideas, in cultural, economic and technological assistance, in all those innumerable little acts that convey friendship and concern. Until we grasp this, we are going to be as heavyfooted and ponderous as dinosaurs--and, shortly, as extinct.
Once we perceive these things we will deliberately seek diplomats of the order of Dwight Morrow, Averell Harriman, David Bruce, Llewellyn Thompson, Chip Bohlen and Arthur F. Burns, whom we will never acquire in adequate numbers by our current hit-or-miss methods of education, recruitment, examination, preparation, rotation and promotion. Then we will stop wringing our hands over how much more military force we need and how little the European peoples understand us and our strategic and tactical thinking. We will then begin to understand ourselves.