Courtesy Reuters

What is to be Done?


American foreign policy is changing, but the machinery of government is not changing with it. As we try to enter what President Nixon has called an era of negotiation, it is time to ask whether the nation is well served by the immense foreign affairs bureaucracies that have grown up in Washington over the past quarter-century. Could institutional reform give new coherence to our foreign policy? How these questions are answered may well determine the success or failure of American diplomacy in the seventies.

In 1902 Lenin asked, in an essay on the organizational problems of Russian Social Democracy, "What is to be done?" and offered this curious answer: "Liquidate the Third Period." The advice is timely, though in a different way than Lenin intended. America in 1970 also confronts an unsatisfactory third period which it wants to liquidate. We are living out the three-part drama of our postwar foreign policy, which opened with the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan in 1947, continued in the Eisenhower and Kennedy years with a global elaboration of these policies, and reached its tragic climax in Vietnam during the Johnson administration. Though our last President was hissed from the stage, the third act of the play continues in anticlimax. It is being "liquidated" slowly as troops come home from East Asia and commitments are reduced elsewhere. It has even received official burial, for President Nixon reported to Congress last February 18 that "the postwar period in international relations has ended." But it will be hard to turn that truism into effective action as long as rigidities built into the bureaucratic process undercut the President's announced policy.

Washington has not one but many foreign offices, autonomous organizations chartered in the late 1940s to wage the cold war on separate fronts. Besides the State and Defense Departments, there is a United States Information Agency (USIA) for propaganda work, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for clandestine operations and research and an Agency for International Development (AID) for economic

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