How Carter can do it

It seems evident that President Carter will need to make some changes in his administration if he is to carry out securely the get-ready policy he laid down in his State of the Union message.

These will be necessary in order to:

Build decisive and sustained public support for his new hardline measures which involve sacrifice and risk;

Demonstrate to the Soviet Union that the President and the Congress mean business and that a slight breath of apparent detente will not melt their resolve.

The changes which would seem to me useful for the next 10 months and, perhaps , for the next five years, would be these:

* Forming a Cabinet of national unity. When Hitler's armies began to overrun Western Europe, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed two distinguished Republicans, Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox, to his Cabinet. Mr. Carter has judged the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and its potential for Soviet control of the Middle East to be a threat to American vital interests greater than anything that has happened since the end of World War II. The wisdom -- even the necessity -- of creating a bipartisan Cabinet at the highest level should be as apparent to President Carter today as they were to F.D.R. in the circumstances he confronted. I am not assuming to suggest what changes should be made but the positions which could be considered are Secretary of State, national security adviser, Secretary of Defense, and Attorney General.

* Learning the lessons of Vietnam.Mr. Carter would do well to keep in mind that two civilian presidents -- Harry Truman and John Kennedy -- put American forces into combat in both Korea and Vietnam without the approval of Congress. That must never be repeated. The President has drawn a fairly clear line in the Middle East which, he vows, the Russians cannot cross without coming into conflict -- possibly by force of arms -- with the United States.That is very near to a commitment to war under circumstances beyond our control. Obviously Mr. Carter must not make a significant, riskful move or hardly even draw a breath without making certain that Congress is fully informed and committed. Otherwise we risk going to war under intolerable circumstances or finding ourselves involved in a perilous bluff.

* Rekindling bipartisan foreign policy. The most fruitful and successful period of American foreign policy was made possible by the bipartisan leadership of Republican Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg in association with President Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson. The structure and spirit of such bipartisanship needs to be recovered. Democratic Senator Frank Church and Republican Senator Jacob Javits are of the caliber to make it possible. It survived the hard-fought elections of 1944 and 1948. During that period the US successfully confronted the Russian threats against Greece and Turkey. The conditions are right and ripe for its revival.

* Maintaining candor with the American people. The President's commitment is this: "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."

There are elements of imprecision in this commitment, but if the US ever backs away from its substance it would cause Moscow to conclude that it was an empty gesture. It is important that the President keep the nation fully and continuously informed about the status of this commitment and our readiness to meet it. I think that most Americans would require and welcome periodically a presidential fireside report on a stricly nonpartisan basis.

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