I regret that columnist Edwin M. Yoder Jr., for whom I have a high regard, is seriously misinformed concerning my views and actions on several important matters "What 'Successes' Abroad?" op-ed, July 17 . I desire to set the record straight.
First, I did not, repeat not, ever "back the Argentine military junta." In fact, I have never backed any military junta anywhere in the world. I made two visits to Argentina, one during the Carter years for USIA and one as U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, as part of a six-nation tour of Latin America. On both occasions, I gave speeches on the United States and the Argentine tradition of constitutional democracy and looked forward to the reestablishment of those institutions in Argentina.
Second, I had no "pro-Argentine" sympathies in the Falklands War. I regarded the Argentine action as an utterly unjustified use of force. I hoped for peaceful settlement and when Alexander Haig's mediation failed, I believed the United States. should remain neutral.
I agree with Ed Yoder that it is difficult to assign responsibility for complex historical events, and I did not intend either to credit Ronald Reagan with having "caused" the arrival of all the democratic governments that have come into being in Latin America during his presidency, nor to blame Carter for all the new Marxist dictatorships that arose on his watch.
As always, indigenous leaders are most important in determining what happens. It is they who deserve most credit and blame.
I do believe, however, that President Carter's Nicaragua policy played an important role in the FSLN's rise to power, and I believe Ronald Reagan's policy has helped democratic institutions take root in El Salvador, Honduras and Bolivia.
I do not believe in America's omnipotence or omniscience. This is the reason I think we should be very slow and very careful about intervening in the affairs of others, and then only when our truly vital interests and ideals are at stake.
For these reasons, I believe the United States should have moved cautiously in the Philippines, as elsewhere. The Philippines, after all, are an independent country, and we are not a colonial power. It is, moreover, always easier to destabilize a government than to construct a new one.