Waging war is so much more costly than waging peace that there is no excuse for the failure of well-off countries to make the relatively modest investments of money that could save many lives. Leading Western diplomats have recently been voicing eloquent appeals for increasing the judicious aid to developing nations that helps them help themselves toward the stability that is a deterrent to strife. The new nation of Zimbabwe has emerged as a striking test case of the democracies' responsiveness to this kind of need.
Zimbabwe is a land of rich potential in mineral and agricultural resources. Minister Mugabe, has not let his Marxist philosophy keep him from launching on a moderate political and economic course. But he has to have outside aid to repair the ravages of war, care for refugees, and achieve the national development to bolster internal order and resistance to communist interference.
Under the original anglo-American plan for peaceful settlement, a fledgling independent Zimbabwe was to receive $1.5 billion. This is still regarded as a reasonable figure for immediate needs of reconstruction and rehabilitation. But after peace came on the basis of later negotiations, only some $250 million has been pledged, with Britain, West Germany, the United States, and Italy among the donors.
It may be true that the Mugabe government is not at this moment ready to handle much more of an infusion than this. donors of additional funds will want to see what specific projects Zimbabwe has in mind to serve developmental purposes without heating up inflation. But no one argues that Zimbabwe will not need and be able to use far more assistance as it goes forward to develop its natural and human resources.
It wants and welcomes private investment, of course, as well as aid. But a recent conference to invite such investment from the West, Japan, and the Arab world was not very encouraging. Mr. Mugabe does put some strings on investments -- to assure Zimbabwean participation in new ventures, for example -- and investors will have to be convinced of net gains for them. However, the resources are there for benefits all around.
To enhance the climate for a future in which Zimbabwe can stand on its own feet -- and be a bastion for stability in southern Africa -- there needs to be enough commitment of aid for the coming years so that Mr. Mugabe can maintain confidence in his moderate path. Just this week some hope appeared in the US, whose proposed $30 million for Zimbabwe in fiscal 1981 has looked so stingy in international eyes. Former Secretary of State Vance and long-time diplomat Averell Harriman appeared before the House foreign affairs subcommittee on Africa and supported subcommittee chairman Stephen Solarz's call for $250 million over the next few years.
This would seem to be a minimum from the country that once led the Zimbabweans to expect $1 billion from it. But if other nations also increase their commitments, Mr. Mugabe should have a chance to realize his country's peaceful promise.