Reforming other nations

Your opinion-page column ``US stake in other nations' reforms,'' Oct. 23, suggests that the United States may legitimately interfere in the internal affairs of both the Soviet Union and South Africa, given its own commitment to democracy and the linkage existing between any foreign country's internal system and its international behavior. Unfortunately, US intervention abroad is based on a double standard. For South Africa, it insists that ongoing economic and social reforms are not enough.

The US demands that the ruling National Party in South Africa should relinquish political power but accepts the Soviet Communist Party's political monopoly and merely calls for economic and social reforms.

The US does not ask the Soviet Union to institute such liberties as exist in South Africa, in part as a result of President Pieter W. Botha's reforms. These include freedom to emigrate; freedom for a legal parliamentary opposition; freedom (or at least relative freedom by African standards) for the operation of an oppositional press, independent publishing houses, and independent universities and research institutes that may legally censure the government.

The United States differentiates between South Africa and the Soviet Union to South Africa's disadvantage, even though the Soviet Union is a military danger to the US and South Africa is not. L.H. Gann Senior Fellow Hoover Institution Stanford, Calif.

Vietnam notwithstanding, the US is still all too prone to playing God around the world. In doing so, the US national interest is displaced by some pressure group seeking to promote the interests of some other country, or of a faction within that country. The results, if not tragic as in the case of Lebanon, are usually disappointing, generating confusion and disillusionment at home, resentment and humiliation abroad.

In doing so they forget that nonintervention in the internal affairs of sovereign nations is the cardinal rule of international good citizenship insisted on by all nations. If that isn't good enough, self-determination has been an explicit premise of US foreign policy since the foundation of the republic. Robert K. Olson Hayward, Wis. US Foreign Service (ret.)

The US has no moral right to demand reforms from other countries unless it assumes responsibility for its own internal system, which, as the stock market crash demonstrated, has adversely affected countries around the world. Gloria Giardina Anaheim, Calif.

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