We come now to the reeducation of Ronald Reagan. Just as his predecessor did four years ago, Mr. Reagan approaches the presidency with views of the world off to one side of standard American and alliance foreign policy, but with one difference.
The Jimmy Carter of four years ago started from the left. He had to learn the hard way that one does not suddenly summon the Soviets to broad and drastic reductions in the numbers of their biggest weapons, or persuade Arabs and Israelis to loving reconciliation on the banks of the River Jordan, or protect America's access to the oil of the Middle East by first preaching civil rights and then embracing the shaken Shah of Iran as dearest friend. Mr. Carter had to move from soft illusion to hard realism.
Mr. Reagan starts from the other side of center. His words bristle with defiance and guns. He is going to "make America respected again" by building more guns for a world in which Soviet guns cannot force Afghanistan to compliance nor prevent Polish workers from denying Moscow's teachings, and in which American guns cannot free the hostages in Iran, nor insulate the oil of the Gulf from the flare-up of ancient hostility between Persians and Arabs.
Foreign policy in Ronald Reagan's campaign rhetoric was as far to the right of standard US foreign policy as it evolved during the Nixon-Ford-Kissinger years as Carter rhetoric of four years ago was to the left. Over these last four years Mr. Carter has found himself being forced by events and logic back substantially to those policies of his predecessors. He ended up over this past year having made adjustments, but in effect being as an executor of inherited policies.
Mr. Carter's Panama Canal treaty and formalization of relations with Peking were both planned in the Nixon-Ford-Kissinger years. His effort to conclude a SALT II treaty was an attempt to complete years of Kissinger diplomacy with the Soviets.
Mr. Carter made one important adjustment to the policies of his predecessors. In the early Nixon years it was assumed that southern Africa would remain under white domination for the foreseeable future. Mr. Nixon therefore sided, in effect, with the white supremacists of South Africa, of Rhodesia, and of the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique.
US Africa policy began to shift toward black rule in southern Africa under President Ford but took the new line decisively for the first time under Mr. Carter while Andrew Young was his ambassador at the UN. The application of the new attitude toward Rhodesia helped to smooth the transition there from white to black supremacy. The sudden and destructive transition in Angola and Mozambique was avoided. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe with little economic damage and with less disruption than might have been expected.Relations with oil-rich Nigeria moved from bad to reasonably good.
Will the education of Ronald Reagan in foreign policy realism be as slow as that of Mr. Carter, or quicker?
The answer may well depend on whether Mr. Reagan finds a place among his advisers for Henry Kissinger. Dr. Kissinger was the co-architect with Richard Nixon in building what is now standard US foreign policy. If he is readmitted to the councils of the White House and the State Department, his voice will be on the side of continuity.
The way for that return was opened by the departure of Richard Allen from the Reagan campaign team. Mr. Allen had been the principal foreign policy adviser to Mr. Reagan during the primary campaigns.He is considered among foreign policy specialists to reflect the right-wing point of view. Twelve years ago he was the main foreign policy adviser to Richard Nixon and was pushed aside by Dr. Kissinger. He was forced off the Reagan campaign team by allegations of influence-peddling that were printed prominently in the Wall Street Journal.
If Mr. Allen goes to the White House with Mr. Reagan, one can assume that Mr. Reagan will cling as long as possible to the harder line of the early campaign. But if Dr. Kissinger supersedes Mr. Allen a second time, one can expect a swift transition from campaign rhetoric in foreign policy to a standard Nixon- Ford-Kissinger line of policy, probably with the modification of a pro-black tilt for southern Africa.
Mr. Reagan already has repudiated his original pro-Taiwan position and declared himself in favor of the reconciliation with mainland China that has become a center- piece in current US foreign policy. To get into line with standard policy all around he would have to tilt back toward "evenhandedness" between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East. During the campaign he was solidly pro-Israel.
He would have to resume a dialogue with Moscow and attempt to revive a practice of negotiation with the Soviets in place of the full return to "confrontation" that was implicit in early campaign rhetoric.
Fortunately for Mr. Reagan, the problem of the hostages in Iran probably will be out of the way before he enters the White House. The Iranians miscalculated. One presumes from the record that they thought they could get a quick bargain by offering Mr. Carter a chance to buy the hostages back by Election Day.
Mr. Carter did not buy. The surrender value of the hostages has suddenly dropped on the diplomatic market. They are an embarrassment to the Iranians. Mr. Carter no longer has anything to lose by holding out for a fair price. The longer the Iranians hold onto the hostages, the less they will probably get in return. There is no reason whatever for them to think that they could get a better price from Mr. Reagan by holding out till after the inauguration.
As for the Iraq-Iran war, the two sides seem to have fought each other to a stalemate. With just "a little bit of luck" that situation is going to be ripe for a negotiated settlement by the time Mr. Reagan is installed in the White House and is ready to begin operations.
How will Mr. Reagan get on with the allies of Western Europe and with Japan?
That also depends heavily on whether he readmits Dr. Kissinger to his councils. Nothing would so promptly reassure the allies, who have been looking back nostalgically throughout the Carter years to the "good old days" of Dr. Kissinger. It is fascinating to note that in 1968 Mr. Nixon campaigned on Richard Allen foreign policy but entered the White House with Dr. Kissinger at his side. Will Mr. Reagan repeat that story?
If Mr. Reagan does, the course of US relations with its allies may well smooth itself out quickly and marvelously. Of course, some other person could do the same, provided the choice is a person known to have Kissinger approval.