Right on, Reagan!

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The most significant fact in Washington today is that Ronald Reagan is beginning to recover some of the initiative and independence which recent presidents -- from Nixon to Carter -- had lost.

In a sequence of actions undertaken during his first three weeks in office, Mr. Reagan began quickly repositioning American foreign and defense policy to give the United States a more active and influential role as a leader of the free world.

He is acting independently of Congress but in consultation.

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He is asserting the constitutional authority of the presidency in the conduct of foreign affairs which in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate three presidents had lost to an out- reaching Congress.

He is starting to implement the main foreign and defense policy themes of his campaign with evident public and congressional assent.

Mr. Reagan is reversing the fundamental direction of foreign policy as he has been reversing domestic policy. Let me illustrate what is happening. This headline tells part of the story: "Weinberger suggests US more willing to station GIs in trouble spots abroad."

This is in conformity with the Republican platform. It reverses the position taken by President Nixon after the US hastily quit defending South Vietnam because public opinion and congressional opinion demanded that we get out. Shortly thereafter Mr. Nixon proclaimed that the US would minimize its military presence in distant parts of the world but would be willing to give financial and arms aid to nations defending themselves.

Secretary of Defense Weinberger, reversing the Nixon and congressional policy of being unwilling to station GIs in trouble spots abroad, now announces that the US would be open to placing American troops in Israel and, upon request, would be willing to station them in bases elsewhere in the Middle East.

This is significant change.

President Ford pleaded with Congress to permit him to provide military aid to the democratic forces in Angola after it had won its precarious independence from Portugal. He was refused. This negativism no longer appears dominant in Congress.

This is significant change.

Soon after his election President Carter announced that the US planned to withdraw all its ground forces from South Korea and began that withdrawal. He pressed the issue of human rights so persistently that relations between the two countries were reduced to periodic shouting matches, security faltered, and human rights were not benefited.

Now President Reagan has reversed both approaches. He has declared that US troops in South Korea will remain there indefinitely. President Chun Doo Hwan was received cordially at the White House, and Reagan has made headway on Korean civil rights which eluded Carter.

This is significant change.

Soon after he took office President Carter was dismayed to find that the nearly completed SALT II treaty, instead of limiting strategic arms, actually increased the size of the nuclear arsenals on both sides. Whereupon Mr. Carter sent Secretary of State Vance to Moscow to present proposals to the Soviets for a "radical reduction" in strategic armaments and hoped that the Russians might welcome them. Just the opposite. The Soviets flatly rejected Vance's proposals , announced that they would not even discuss them, and accused the US of trying to trick them into a treaty which would advantage the US and disadvantage the Soviet Union.

Mr. Carter stepped back.

Mr. Reagan is apparently not stepping back. He has announced that he wants to negotiate with the Russians on strategic arms limitation, but that the only treaty that would interest the US would be one which brings a reduction, not an increase, in nuclear weaponry.

That is significant change.

In all these areas it seems to me that President Reagan is moving in the right direction, supported by a congressional and public o pinion which is substantially on his side.

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