'83 diplomatic agenda: Can one man do it all?
Washington is beginning to expect miracles of George Shultz. In his first months as secretary of state, Mr. Shultz got a grip on Middle East problems and helped to shape a policy that restored negotiating momentum.Skip to next paragraph
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He then moved on to defuse tensions with Western Europe over the controversial Soviet-European gas pipeline. Next, he managed to prevent, at least temporarily, what could have developed into a trade war with the Europeans.
Shultz is now expected by many experts in the bureaucracy to dominate two huge new problem areas: arms-control negotiations with the Soviet Union and international economic policy. An economist, he is already deeply engaged on the economic front. He has been getting briefed on the arms-control issues for some months now.
Some officials are beginning to worry, however, that too much is expected of the hard-working secretary of state. In an administration which has not been heavily endowed with talent in the foreign policy field, Shultz stands out despite his low-key style.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff put it, Shultz has become the administration's ''Mr. Fix-it.''
''What this administration needs is someone who can pull all the strands of international economic policy together,'' said the same Senate specialist. ''Whether he likes it or not, Shultz is being drawn into this. He's the one who's expected to pull order out of chaos.''
The same thing is being said by some officials in the arms-control field.
Even as he moves into these new fields, Shultz cannot simply leave other major issues such as the Middle East behind. Aides say he places the Middle East at the top of his list of priorities, alongside US-Soviet relations, arms-control negotiations, and European security issues. But they say that Shultz has moved international economic problems to the top as well. He is planning a trip to East Asia shortly, and Central America continues to demand a degree of attention.
Shultz clearly has a full year ahead, and some observers are asking: How can one man do it all?
The answer is that Shultz does not try to do it all. He is secure enough to delegate considerable responsibility. The day-to-day handling of the simmering Lebanon crisis, for example, is done by Shultz's deputy, Kenneth Dam, who heads an interagency committee on Lebanon. The secretary also respects the professional diplomats who are working for him in field and relies heavily on them.
Shultz has often remarked that the Middle East could easily chew up all of a secretary of state's time. Although a trip to the region could come later this year, Shultz has so far avoided the temptation to travel to the Middle East. So far, he has traveled a good deal less than any of his recent predecessors. He no doubt noted the toll which fruitless shuttles to Argentina took on his immediate predecessor, Alexander M. Haig Jr. One of the most widely traveled secretaries of state, Cyrus R. Vance, ended his term virtually exhausted.
Shultz conveys the impression that he is moving purposefully and methodically , but with plenty of time for subordinates. Officials in the State Department's Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, which did not win many battles with Mr. Haig, or merit much of his attention for that matter, were delighted when Shultz dropped in unannounced recently to say a word or two to each and every staff member who happened to be on duty at the time. The bureau had been waiting for months for much-needed renovations. The day after Shultz's visit, workmen arrived to carry out those renovations.