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A STABLE STRUCTURE FOR_ A STABLE FOREIGN POLICY Charles McC. Mathias, Jr. JLncident more than intent, circumstance rather than conscious choice, have shaped not only American foreign policy but the way it is made. Although our talent for improvisation has saved us from many perils, it has also steered us on an uneven path in world affairs. We pursue consistent goals but along a wandering course and at an irregular pace, as though we had all the time in the world. We are, however, running out of time, and we need to design both a strategy for wielding our power effectively and a system for executing that strategy efficiently. Yoked together by the Constitution, the president and the Congress bear joint but dissimilar responsibilities for determining foreign policy. The furrow they cut will never be perfectly straight, but it can and must be more direct and purposeful if the people are to follow it with confidence and if other nations are to respect our aim. "Consistency," Helmut Schmidt remarked in 1980 in one of his thinly veiled attacks on the Carter administration's foreign policy, "is a key element if you are seeking to stabilize the world." Stability, indeed, is what we seek, have sought since 1945, and will continue to seek as long as we can manage at home and abroad to reconcile order with liberty. To achieve consistency, however, we require both consensus about our purposes and continuity in pursuing them. My enthusiasm for the Reagan administration's foreign policy is, to say the least, bounded. One would think that after nearly three years of trying to deal with the world as it is, even the most ardent ideologues would lose some of their fervor. But the president's speechwriters still Charles McC. Mathias, Jr., has been a senator from Maryland since 1969. From 1961 to 1969 he served in the House of Representatives. Senator Mathias is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. 99 100 SAIS REVIEW contrive to inject overdoses of righteousness into the White House rhetoric. Still, every now and then, the administration's simplistic twentymule -team world view of good guys shooting it out with bad guys gives way to something more realistic. For example, the president has not consistently retained the purely confrontational attitude toward the Soviet Union that his talk of immorality and an "evil empire" foreshadowed . Even under great stress, he responded to the appalling brutality shown in the destruction of the Korean airliner with an assured and reassuring combination of indignation and restraint. President Reagan has drawn the right lesson from this heartless demonstration of Soviet military rigidity and callousness: the need to be strong in facing such a regime and the need to be persistent in efforts to reduce the nuclear menace it poses to the world. Our posture as arms control negotiators, and as sellers of grain and pipeline equipment is now more nearly in line with that of our nato allies. While we remain far from the more constructive policy that I would like to see pursued, we are less isolated from our partners in the West and less intemperate with our rivals in the East than we were. To the degree that there has been progress, we have moved in the right direction. In the Middle East and in southern Africa, the administration has not produced results equal to the responsibilities it assumed or the intentions it announced. But in both regions, where change comes gradually if at all, the United States remains committed to the goals it set long ago and to using its influence to attain them. Where difficulties cannot be quickly overcome, continuity counts, and this administration appears willing to persevere. It is in international economic policy that the Reagan record is most helpful and most perverse. The rapid response to Mexico's emergency last year and the expanded commitment to the International Monetary Fund in 1983 are encouraging signs that Washington has rightly read the inexorable connection between the solvency of our trading partners and our own prospects of recovery. By contrast, however, the cryptoprotectionism that governs our practice in controlling steel and automobile imports, among others, is a sin notjust against...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-4724
Print ISSN
1945-4716
Pages
pp. 99-106
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
No
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