Courtesy Reuters

At War with Nicaragua

The Reagan Administration is at war with Nicaragua. Like other wars the United States has fought since 1945 it is an undeclared war. It is also a small war. No U.S. serviceman has yet fired a shot, but American-made bullets from American-made guns are killing Nicaraguans, and the President of the United States has made the demise of the present Nicaraguan government an all-but-explicit aim of his foreign policy.

Indeed, the President and his closest advisers seem obsessed with Nicaragua, and their obsession has infected their government at all levels. There is ample evidence that no issue of foreign policy-not arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union, not the Middle East, not Poland or Afghanistan, not the spiralling economic tensions within the Western Alliance, not the Latin American debt crisis, not even the civil war in El Salvador-so preoccupies senior officials. Like the much larger war against North Vietnam half a generation ago, the war with Nicaragua touches every sphere of foreign relations. Armed with "talking points" prepared in Washington, American diplomats plead for support from friendly governments around the world, putting additional weight on alliances already sorely strained. Adducing implausible economic criteria, American representatives to international financial institutions use their blocking votes for the political purpose of denying Nicaragua access to funds, and in doing so make it easier for other governments to use the same institutions for purposes antithetic to long-term American interests.

In his speeches and press conferences, the President describes the Nicaraguan leaders the way he does the Russians and the Cubans: all are Marxist totalitarians implacably hostile to the United States and prepared to use terror and deceit to maintain their own power and to undermine their neighbors. But a special hostility is reserved for the Sandinist regime in Managua. Its very existence seems to affront. How dare a nation of 2.5 million provoke a superpower 100 times larger, Mr. Reagan implies. His recent pronouncements on Nicaragua recall the question attributed to an English king obsessed with an

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