The Reagan administration has pulled out of World Court proceedings in the Nicaraguan case, saying the forum is being used "for political and propaganda purposes." But of course. What other purposes did Nicaragua ever have? That's insufficient reason, however, for the United States to engage in unilateral political disarmament. Better to stay at The Hague and argue that whatever it's doing with respect to Nicaragua, it is doing with its friends in collective self-defense against Nicaragua's depredations against them. That is its case, isn't it?
Regrettably, the World Court is not the only or the most important forum on Central America from which the administration is currently departing. It has just suspended the bilateral talks with Nicaragua that it has been conducting since mid-1984 in Mexico. The reason given for halting the talks is the same as the reason cited for entering them: to induce Managua to be more cooperative in the Contadora discussions of a regional solution. The impression conveyed is that the administration is toughening its line.
To what purpose? It is four years since Ronald Reagan entered the White House, and the basic ambiguity of his policy remains intact. Acceptance of a Sandinista regime moving toward peace with its citizens and neighbors is stated as the administration's goal. But its support of the contras and the longings plainly visible in its heart of hearts suggest to the Sandinistas, and to many others, an intent to overthrow the regime.
A clear sign of the possibilities of coexistence is needed. The form it should take is for the administration to let the contra operation end. This is the Carlos Andres Perez solution. The former president of Venezuela declined to attend Daniel Ortega's inauguration as president of Nicaragua on grounds that the Sandinistas had discouraged a role for the opposition and thereby "cheated" friends of their revolution. Yet he opposes the U.S.-sponsored insurgency and is pressing for the withdrawal of both the American and the Cuban-Soviet presence in the region and a consolidation of the Nicaraguan revolution on the basis of pluralism, a mixed economy and nonalignment.
That world-class democrats like Carlos Andres Perez still see a way is powerful reason for the United States to help him find it.