Enter Mr. Shultz
One thing at least was settled in Washington over the past week: American foreign policy will no longer be the end product of the relative persuasiveness of either Alexander Haig or Caspar Weinberger on any particular issue or day.
The name of Mr. Haig has been deleted from a foreign policy-making formula which had unpredictable results built into it.
The evidence is persuasive that President Reagan made his decision to part with his first secretary of state for personal rather than policy reasons. The abrasive Haig ego seems to have been the decisive reason for the separation.
But the important thing to the outside world is that neither friend nor foe could make sense of American foreign policy as it was emerging in the pre-Haig-departure days. It was erratic and unpredictable.
No one could calculate in advance how the decisions would go on any particular subject unless, for example, one knew that Mr. Haig would be out of town, but Mr. Wein-berger present, when a certain issue would come up at the White House.
The removal of the Haig factor from the system means that one cause of the unpredictability is now removed. The Haig ego, which probably sometimes weighed against the very cause Mr. Haig was promoting, will no longer add to the uncertainties.
But this does not mean that automatically and marvelously the policies that emerge form the White House will in the future be marked by that ''consistency, clarity, and steadiness of purpose'' that Mr. Haig said in his letter of resignation should be the hallmark of American foreign policy.
There may well be progress in that direction under the new secretary of state. George Shultz is as impersonal a personality as Mr. Haig is personal. Mr. Shultz may have an ego, but on the record of many years of public service it has seldom if ever intruded into policymaking. He is discreet, quiet, and cooperative. He sells his case by persuasion, not rhetoric.
But not even as wise and experienced a public servant as Mr. Schultz can remove the conflicts that lie behind almost any foreign policy decision in this present administration in Washington.
President Reagan is a politician. No politician breaks willingly or lightly from his original constituency which, for Mr. Rea-gan, includes passionate supporters of the refugee Chinese government on Taiwan, devoted supporters of Israel, and dedicated believers in the proposition that the Soviet empire can, and should, be broken up by applying maximum economic sanctions.
Add that the weapons industry contributed generously to the Reagan candidacy. It can be counted on to contribute further so long as Mr. Reagan holds to his military building program, which in turn is predicated on the doctrine of the implacable hostility of the Soviet Union to the US.
These groups or movements are all represented by active lobbying organizations in Washington. All have generous funds at their disposal. All work daily and diligently to keep the policies of the Reagan administration aimed at maximum hostility toward the Soviet Union, maximum buildup of weapons, loyalty to Taiwan no matter what harm to relations with China, and support for Israel whatever it does.
These movements come in conflict with the main elements of US foreign policy as they have been developed from Nixon through Ford and Carter days. The inherited and established foreign policies are generally supported by the professional career people at the State Department, Treasury, sometimes Defense, and often Department of Commerce.
The result is a constant battle over foreign policy at the White House - with the original backers (and campaign fund suppliers past and future) of the Reagan presidency on one side and the professional career people of government on the other.
A prime victim of this condition is consistency in foreign policy.
A central policy that was once solid and is now often under fire has been and inevitably will continue to be the policy of supporting and protecting the NATO alliance. The immediate issue is the difference between Washington and the allies in Western Europe over the pipeline from Siberia.
Here is an issue where Mr. Haig has done his best (some would say worst) to support the career professionals at State, who support the alliance, and at Commerce, who want the business for American companies. But he is up against Mr. Weinberger at Defense, who believes in the vulnerability of the Soviet economy and the desirability of using sanctions. And Mr. Weinberger on this issue has the automatic support of the weapons lobby and the Israel lobby.
The clearest example of how the system works was provided by the flip-flop over the pipeline during and after Mr. Reagan's recent European trip. During the trip the allies thought they were assured by members of the Reagan party that objection to the pipeline would be soft pedaled.
But the very reporting of that back at home galvanized the opposition. By the time Mr. Reagan got back to the White House, he faced a charge of betrayal on the part of several segments of his political constituency, and Mr. Weinberger.
Does this mean that the President will in fact do his utmost to prevent the pipeline from Siberia to Western Europe from being built, and prevent the Japanese from helping the Soviets drill for oil off Sakhalin?
Not necessarily. It does mean that Mr. Reagan is bound to declare public loyalty to the causes dear to the hearts of his original constituents, who put up much of the campaign funds for the Republican Party.
But there can always be a difference between declaratory policy and operating policy. Mr. Reagan is bound to declare opposition to the pipeline no matter how much it upsets allies in Europe and Japan. But to enforce that opposition may be difficult.
Besides, the sanctions against the pipeline are predicated on the treatment of Solidarity in Poland. Should the Polish government enter into a compromise arrangement with Solidarity that the union could accept, the basis for sanctions would be eroded. In the meantime, American companies could lose business to West European companies.
Mr. Haig could not prevent the declaratory opposition of the White House to the building of the pipeline. Mr. Shultz might find a way around and out from under the declaratory policy when he gets under way. He will enjoy easier access to the presidential office than did the abrasive Mr. Haig.