Courtesy Reuters

Coping with Code Words

I Recently attended a round-table discussion of distinguished and imaginative Latin American leaders during which two speakers berated various countries for lack of "political will." In the first instance, what the United States needed to do to demonstrate its political will was to provide tariff preferences for imports of manufactured goods from less- developed countries. In the second case, political will was needed for Latin America to achieve an integrated, Hemisphere-wide, common market. To repeat: the speakers were men of substantial intellect.

What they were saying was true. But it was so obvious that it did not need saying. A lack of political will must reflect an unwillingness for some reason(s) by some country(ies) to do something. That, too, is self-evident. And yet the code words "political will" were used.

That set me to thinking about code words in international conferences, particularly those on political-economic issues, such as this round-table discussion. The American public knows a good deal these days about code words: about busing, neighborhood schools, workfare and welfare, job quotas, increases in employment as opposed to rising unemployment, budget limitations, disclosure deadlines for campaign contributions. But all these are domestic usages. A glossary is needed in the foreign field.

There are more international conferences than is generally realized. I counted the number during the month of October 1972 listed in a State Department publication, and it added up to 74. This is more than three conferences getting under way every working day of the month, and did not include the General Assembly of the United Nations or any of Henry Kissinger's meetings in Paris or Saigon or any other bilateral or informal get-togethers. Thousands of delegates go to these meetings; hundreds of newspapermen report on them; millions of persons read about them. I became concerned that without a glossary none of these hundreds, or thousands, or millions understood what was being said. Hence, this partial compilation of international code words as a service to persons interested in foreign political-economic

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