An election can bring a peculiar hiatus in a country's regard for ''others.'' It can generate a high-pressure zone of self-concern. This is true of an American nation that historically had been isolated by seas and blessed with its own vast internal resources and markets, and particularly in an American election culminating a political cycle in which charges of neo-isolationism, rearmament, decline in Washington pressure on human rights issues, disregard of the US budget deficit, and the strong dollar's international impact have been raised by America's partners. It is worth noting, too, in connection with the commanding reelection bid of an American Republican President who came into office with more of a traditional Democratic officeholder's preoccupation with domestic affairs. And in an election where national prosperity and ''feeling good'' were so dominant.
But there's a wider world beyond America's shores.
The world news of the closing days of the American campaign carried an arresting counterpoint to any nationalistic complacency. This is not to say that the United States should have a plan of action or think of itself as a participant in every other country's affairs. But it needs to keep the world context in fuller view.
In Poland, the murder of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, a popular supporter of the Solidarity movement, begs the question of Polish government and Soviet complicity. It was a political murder. Whether Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's regime was a perpetrator or itself an intended victim, only time will tell. Like the political assassination of Philippine opposition leader Benigno Aquino in August of 1983, the Popieluszko case has generated a demand for an investigation in Poland. At the least, the Popieluszko slaying renews the Polish people's deep longing for social justice and political freedom.
India's complex and volatile society responded encouragingly, on balance, to Indira Gandhi's untimely end. Despite a violent emotional backlash, India's democratic fabric has held, at least initially, through the succession of Mrs. Gandhi's son Rajiv. Ahead lie new elections, a testing of factional strength, the challenge of Sikh independence, and the twin courtships of Washington and Moscow for influence.
In South Africa, black antigovernment protesters in townships ringing Johannesburg and Pretoria draw tear gas and buckshot fire from police - reminders of the nonwhites' ongoing struggle against apartheid. In Chile, the resignation of President Augusto Pinochet's Cabinet after renewed street protests may presage a tighter crackdown on political dissent by the military government.
In the Middle East, stirrings in the Arab world are not perceived with precision. The Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon feeds the radicalization of Israel's opponents. At the same time, adjustments within the Arab world itself may have to occur to prepare the way for resolving the West Bank conflict , as Israel grapples with its economic crisis by austerity moves and confronts the issue of Jewish terrorism and repression against Arabs within its democratic society. In his recent sharply critical appraisal of the Reagan administration's Middle East initiatives, the current US ambassador there was only recording a more widely held view: A new administration will have to start from near the beginning to promote a positive influence in the Middle East.
On a more personal level, Svetlana Alliluyeva's poignant odyssey - which began with the defection of Stalin's only surviving child from the Soviet Union 17 years ago, her uneasy attempt to find peace in marriage and residence in the United States and England, and her return with her own daughter to the Soviet Union - is but a more celebrated version of millions of people's unrequited longing for a homeland. One can only hope the suspension she must feel between the Soviet Union's repressive past and the desire of the people there to get on with the private business of family, of friendships and the passage of seasons, will find some resolution.
From most preelection indications, foreign affairs played a minor role in the shaping of this year's American campaign. Now that the balloting is behind, a reminder of America's place in a larger world society is in order.