Make it two in a row for President Reagan -- indeed, two in a short month. Haiti's Jean-Claude Duvalier has now been joined by the Philippines' Ferdinand Marcos in the slowly growing ranks of out-of-work dictators.
Secretary of State George Shultz was becomingly modest in his Tuesday-morning explanation of the events that led to Marcos' decision to step down, one day after his last inaugural, after 20 years of undisputed control of the islands and taken-for-granted support of the United States.
"I would suppose," said Shultz, "that if you conceive of yourself as governing a country and see people switching over, (you) have to conclude (you are) not able to govern. But basically, this is not something the United States has done; this is something the people of the Philippines have done."
Well, yes. But, as was the case with "Baby Doc" Duvalier, it was something the people accomplished with a gentle shove from Washington.
In spite of President Reagan's equivocal remarks in the wake of Marcos' televised theft of the recent presidential election, the administration got itself on course, joining the Filipinos themselves in moving farther and farther away from Marcos. By the time of Tuesday's inauguration (his electoral rival Corazon Aquino also held her inaugural that same day) the bulk of Marcos' support was from a dwindling portion of his military. The only remaining question was whether Marcos would leave office quietly or only after a bloody revolution.
The Reagan administration and Congress helped him make the right decision, by letting him understand that he could count on U.S. help and sanctuary only if he stepped down immediately. The plight of Duvalier, now an interntional pariah, must have underscored the choice.
One encouraging aspect of the American role (once you get past the question of why the United States should have a role in the internal politics of the Philippines) is that the administration refused to let its Philippine military bases be used to extort support of a government that clearly had lost the support of its people. Another is that it looked beyond the left- of-center politics of Aquino and understood that continued U.S. support of Marcos would have made a communist takeover more likely, not less. And finally, the administration managed, for the second time in the month that marked the anniversary of the Grenada "rescue operation," to come down on the side of the peasants.
But if, for now, Reagan's foreign policy seems as glorious as his domestic policy is deplorable, it is still far from perfect. His Central American policy seems more concerned with anticommunism than with helping the people. His anti-Marxist policy in Angola prompts him to support Jonas Savimbi, the South Africa tool who can never win his war against the Angolan government but who can only make peace impossible.
He still finds it difficult to understand that anti-communism is only half a policy, and that failing portends trouble in many parts of the world. Indeed, I find myself wondering what Reagan would have done if the Philippine communists had thrown in with Corazon Aquino, whose platform they found too tepidly centrist for their taste. Would his fear of communist ascendancy have led him to prop up the Marcos regime, leading the Filipino people to identify America with their oppressor?
But those are speculative concerns. For this month, at least, the Reagan foreign policy is a howling success. If all's well that ends well, he is entitled to any bows he cares to take.