In terms of size, population, and wealth Jamaica is one of the world's smallest countries and cannot be termed of major importance to anyone except its own people. It is half the size of New Hampshire. Its population is about the same as that of Newark, N.J. Its total gross national product is worth about $3 billion, compared to the nearly $2.5 trillion of the US.
But Jamaica had an election the other day (while most people were watching the US election campaign) that deserves more notice than it could get at that time. The importance comes in three layers.
On the top layer is the plain fact that after eight years of an increasingly disastrous experiment in Cuban-style socialism the Jamaicans opted massively for a return to Western- style capitalism and for resumed ties with the West. Jamaica came back from the Marxist cold. And Jamaica did it all by itself without any pressures or subsidies or clandestine help from the CIA or anyone else in Washington.
At the next layer down is the fact that this was the fifth time within 1980 that a Caribbean country has voted to gain or retain a pro- Western government. Those who had previously turned away from Marxism and Cuban associations are Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Vincent, and Dominica. Only Grenada remains in the Cuban orbit. Fidel Castro once dreamed of a satellite system of his own in the Caribbean. His neighbors are turning away from him, from his influence, and from his example. He may get Nicaragua in the end, although this has not yet happened.
The bottom and most important of the three layers is the hearing all this has on the shaping of US foreign policy. President-elect Reagan will take office when US foreign policy is at a moment of choice. Will Mr. Reagan return to the old foreign policy of the Truman Doctrine and the "cold war" years when the US played world policeman and intervened wherever Marxism reared its head? Or will he put aside the rhetoric of his primary campaign days and slip into the Nixon doctrine concept of keeping hands off as much as possible and letting most countries do their own thing?
The essence of the Truman Doctrine was US intervention everywhere. The essence of the Nixon doctrine was self-reliance for others coupled with US reliance on alliances and associations rather than on US military power.
The important event to keep in mind about the Nixon-Kissinger formula is that Mr. Nixon first reopened relations with China, then cut the US military establishment from 3.5 million men to 2.5 million men. He substituted China for a million US men under arms. That lower US military level can be justified only by sustaining the new association with China. In the primaries Mr. Reagan talked of resuming formal relations with Taiwan. Later he swung over to the importance of relations with Peking. In that respect he had become a convert to the Nixon-Kissinger line.
Since then there have been further signs of conversion to that line. In his first post-election press conference Mr. Reagan talked about building a bipartisan foreign policy -- which could only be done on the Nixon Doctrine base since the Truman doctrine has been abandoned by the Democrats. It went down with defeat in Vietnam. And in that press conference he also talked about negotiating a new strategic weapons agreement with the Soviets within the context of "linkages." That is also a Nixon-Kissinger concept.
Following the press conference Mr. Reagan turned down the idea of receiving Prime Minister Begin of Israel in advance of the inauguration. Had he done so he would have been undercutting the President in Washington.That would have damaged the possibility of setting up a working bipartisan system after his own inauguration.
Jamaica's election result makes it easier for Mr. Reagan to sideslip from the "hawk" posture of the early campaign days -- if he chooses to do so. To what extent is the world lost whenever a country tries Marxism? It used to be assumed that once a country slipped into Marxism it was lost forever to the West. The burden of action on the US would be great if that is true. Every time a country saves or reclaims itself -- the burden is lightened.
The Caribbean is saving itself. There has even a fascinating report (Washington Post, Nov. 9) that Fidel Castro himself has been advising the Nicaraguans to shun his own formula and keep open their ties with the US.
And then there is Poland -- doing its utmost to escape from the Soviet system and the Soviet grip. In other words the world is not slipping into the Soviet orbit. The slippage is away from Moscow. Which gives Mr. Reagan time and opportunity to seek a truly bipartisan foreign policy -- if his inclinations are in fact in that direction.