In the Carter period, the argument was that it was necessary to aid Morocco in its war against Saharan guerriinflatllas in order to show fidelity to a friend and to edge Morocco toward negotiations. But it hasn't worked out exactly that way. The United States has shown fidelity to the government of King Hassan, who is warm to Western interests and who has been a relative moderate in the Arab- Israeli dispute. But Jimmy Carter did not succeed in inducing Morocco to enter negotiations, and Ronald Reagan stopped trying. It's not that the war is going better for King Hassan. Quite the contrary. But something else came along.

What happened was that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and the United States mounted an effort to become better able to bring force to bear in the Persian Gulf. Halfway there, Morocco had facilities suitable for the proposed Rapid Deployment Force. This new American requirement gave King Hassan new leverage in his determination to build up his own forces and to run the war his way. So it was that he was in Washington last week to arrange the kind of deal that the United States, as a global power, has made with dozens of other countries with regional or local interests: an exchange of bases for aid.

With the basic idea of this exchange it is hard to disagree, if you believe that the United States has legitimate global interests. The trouble is--the familiar trouble that has plagued American policy since World War II--a global policy can hook the United States into some nasty local situations. The war is draining Morocco, costing it lives, treasure, friends, respect and the calm it needs to work on internal cares. Some of the steps taken to contain her dissent stirred by the war policy, among other things, have been documented recently by Amnesty International: extra-legal arrests, torture, the usual. Even conservative American friends of the monarchy, like the Heritage Foundation, now believe the whole place could blow.

The administration is aware of these contradictions. Its main response is to pour more resources into Morocco so that King Hassan can win the war quickly. But the war has already gone on for seven years. It is necessary to ask not merely whether the king can win, but whether he or the monarchy can survive it. Not just the congressional liberals but likes of the Heritage Foundation are now urging the administration to resume the push for diplomatic settlement--not simply to save King Hassan but to save the American position in a friendly and strategic place.