The Heritage Foundation

Backgrounder #261 on Latin America

April 18, 1983

April 18, 1983 | Backgrounder on Latin America

El Salvador: What's Next?

(Archived document, may contain errors)

261 April 18, 1983 EL SALVADOR: WHAT'S NEXT INTRODUCTION After receding from public attention, the policy of the United States toward El Salvador has recently reemerged as a contentious issue. Fundamental questions, including whether the U.S. should be involved in El Salvador at all, and if so, in what ways, are being debated. The fate of El Salvador hangs on the outcome of this debate.

The Reagan Administration is correct in perceiving the fa te of El Salvador as important to U.S. security and in defending U.S. involvement in that country. At the same time, many critics argue that the U.S. should force the government of El Salvador to make a political deal with the radical totalitarian rebels p rior to elections. This argument ignores the fact that the most likely result of such a policy would be the eventual takeover of power by forces allied with the Soviet Union. Clearly, there is need for a more coherent overall approach in dealing with El S alvador.

The Administration must rethink its policies regarding El Salvador, for both the near and the long term, and better coordi nate whatever policies it decides to implement. In particular the Administration must address the difficult issue of outside support for the rebel forces. The isprovement of social, economic and political conditions must continue to be a primary aspect of U.S. policy, but such efforts must be tempered by a realistic standard of judgment, understanding of historical and cultural constra i nts, and appreciation of the limitations on progress as long as the radicals' destructive violence continues unabated 2 BACKGROUND The current era of U.S. involvement with El Salvador began in the latter days of the Carter Administration activity had been increasing for some time, Jimmy Carter had maintained an embargo on military aid general offensive in January 1980, the Administration finally supported very limited military aid.

Reagan Administration policy toward El Salvador has passed through four pha ses. In the first, stern rhetoric by then Secre tary of State Alexander Haig in early 1981, calling the rebels activities part of a Ilwell-orchestrated international communist campaignf1 and threatening to IIgo to the sourcell (Cuba indicated that a firm U.S. policy was to be expected. Aid, in fact, was increased over Carter levels with the introduction of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) in February 19

82. Although not confined to El Salvador, CBI had been inspired by the disorder in that nation Altho ugh guerrilla After the guerrilla The second phase stressed economics The third phase began with the arrival at Foggy Bottom of Secretary of State George Shultz. Rhetorical attention to El Salvador noticeably diminished as Shultz delegated most responsi b i lity for policy to the professional staff of the State Depart ment. Policy seems to have been based on a hope that, if El Salvador were ignored, its problems would fade away. The current policy phase began in early February this year, when the Adminis tra tion concluded that substantial additional aid was needed by El Salvador. This increased attention 'came very shortly after the return from the area of U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick who reported to the President that the situation was deteriorating.

In the Fy 1983 Continuing Appropriations Resolution approved in December 1982, Congress appropriated only $26.3 million in military aid (less than one-third the origi.na1 Reagan request and $160 million in economic assistance for El Salvador. In March 1983, the Administration requested $110 million more in military aid 50 million in supplemental FY 1983 funds and $60 million to be reprogrammed from already appropriated Fy 1983 funds) and $67 million more in economic aid, for a grand total of 136.3 million in military assistance and $227 million in economic aid to El Salvador for EY 19

83. Additional military and economic aid was requested as well for neighboring Honduras and Costa Rica.

Consideration of U.S. policy toward El Salvador raises two fundamental q uestions: Is there sufficient justification for U.S. involvement in El Salvador? Are there moral considerations that would compel the U.S. to limit or end its involvement regardless of other considerations 3 THE CASE FOR U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN EL SALVADOR Th e fate of El Salvador is important to the U.S. for a number of reasons:l Historical: Even during relatively isolationist periods the U.S. traditionally has had a strong interest in developments in the Western Hemisphere, particularly Central America. The n ow neglected Monroe Doctrine proclaimed that active (especially military) involvement of hostile outside powers in the Western Hemisphere is not acceptable to the United States.

Geopolitical: El Salvador is closer to Washington than is Los Angeles. More im portant, there is legitimate U.S. concern that the control of El Salvador by forces-actively hostile to the U.S. would have serious impact on other nations in the area which are now friendly to the U.S. At risk too is accessibility to the economically and strategically vital Panama Canal2 and the political future of Mexico.

The threat to U.S. interests in Central America is serious.

Nicaragua's army already is larger than the combined total of its neighbors, and there are plans to expand it to 200,000. (B razil with a population of 122 million, as compared to Nicaragua's .2.7 million, has an army of 182,000.) Nicaraguan airfields are being improved to handle Soviet warplanes, such as MIG-23s, and 25 Soviet M-54/55 tanks have already been received. Cuba has an army of 225,000 and increasingly powerful air and naval forces.

Cuba, Nicaragua, or any combination of Central American nations could not by themselves constitute a significant military threat to the United States in time of crisis or conflict could ca use a substantial diversion of U.S. resources from Europe or Asia However, having to deal with them Ideological/Political: The U.S. has a legitimate interest in encouraging the development of free political and economic institutions in other nations. The degree and nature of U.S actions in pursuit of these goals must depend upon the specific conditions of the nation involved as well as on the extent of outside totalitarian involvement.

The,primary rationale for opponents of U.S. military aid to El Salvador is the erroneous notion that the decisive aspect of the conflict in El Salvador at this time is the economic-political dimension. There is of course a significant 'lpolitical" dimension For an in-depth rationale for U.S. involvement, see Max Singer, "Can El Salvador Be Saved Commentary, December 1981, pp. 31-36.

See W. Bruce Weinrod Security Implications of the Panama Canal Treaties,"

International Security Review, Fall 1979, pp. 203-269. 4 Certain political, social, and economic arrangements in El Salva dor often strike the Western/democratic sensibility as, in some respects, unfa.ir, and certain segments of the old governing elite and their allies are unappealing to many in the U.S. Other segments of the Salvadoran population, having become aware of the old inequities, have no doubt become dissatisfied with conditions that they accepted unquestioningly in the past.

However, the essential aspect of the conflict in El Salvador is the military dimension. llUnfairll social and economic conditions have existed in El Salvador (and, indeed, elsewhere) for a consider able period of time. This factor alone, therefore, cannot explain why substantial, sustained violence has recently emerged support from Communist nations--that has transformed the situation in El Salvador from a localized struggle into a major theatre of turmoil. The power of the guerrilla effort in El Salvador s imply could not have been sustained without the significant direct and indirect intervention, via training and supplies, of outside Communist forces.3 It is the addition of an extraneous factor--assistance and Moreover, the terrorism and destruction emplo y ed by the radicals make a resolution of the political side of the situation extremely difficult, if not impossible. In other similar situa tions, it has proved difficult for an emerging force to build the infrastructure of free political and economic inst itutions in the presence of continuous terrorist attacks and economic sabotage.

The military dimension and the related East-West dimension of the conflict cannot be resolved by purely political means.

The political problems will be extremely difficult to resolve as long as the forces sympathetic to Western principles are subject to attacks supported and sustained from outside the nation THE MORAL RIGHTS FACTOR Critics of U.S. military aid argue that the government of El Salvador does not deserve military a id (or deserves less than requested) because of moral failings related primarily to human rights violation Says Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y The rebels have openly admitted receiving such aid; see David Wood Salvadoran Rebels Brag of Cuba Ties Los An geles Times, March 14, 1983.

For a detailed discussion of specific human rights cases, see Richard Araujo, "Congress and Aid to Ei Salvador," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 173, March 23, 1982, and for an overview, see testimony of Monsignor Freddy D elgado, Chairman, Human Rights Commission of El Salvador, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, March 17, 1983. 5 I1 just find it hard to accept on moral and political grounds that we should give aid to a country that is killing its people.!I5 Moral i ty in international politics regrettably must sometimes be a forced choice of lesser evils government with what would likely take its place should the totalitarian forces triumph, or with the current Nicaraguan regime, makes a strong moral case for provid i ng the military assistance necessary to assure the survival of the current govern ment Comparing the Salvadoran For example, when a violation of human rights occurs in El Salvador, the government deplores it, accepts some degree of responsibility, and see k s to renew its efforts toward the elimina tion or reduction of such incidents. On the other hand, in those nations governed by the same forces with which the rebels in El Salvador have allied themselves, such violations are neither deplored nor even ackno wledged.

What could be a more striking moral contrast: in El Salvador the United States is seeking to encourage those forces that would end human rights abuses and move toward democracy; in Nicaragua the Soviets and their allies support those forces that h ave created a quasi-totalitarian atmosphere and have blocked any move toward democratic political reforms. Not only did the Salvadoran rebels 'seek to block the earlier elections, they have pledged that Itwe will not participate in the [upcoming] election s . We will increase the war [and] see if any election day arrives.Il6 In El Salvador, as elsewhere, the leaders of the so-called right in many cases have accepted, albeit grudgingly, significant changes in the status quo, which directly reduce their politi c al and economic influence. Unlike the radical left, these forces do not dismiss elections or their results as illegitimate simply because 'they have not achieved thereby everything they want. But where leftist extremists have taken control, there is no qu e stion of having the moderate right" participate in elections, for the simple reason that there are no elections. As 'Morton Kondracke of The New Republic put it opposed U.S. policy in Vietnam.because our side did not permit elections in 1954 now oppose U. S . policy in El Salvador because we are promoting elections.Il History's lesson is unambiguous on this matter. Quasi-democratic regimes can and do evolve into democracies, while Marxist-Leninist regimes, with their rulers backed by the Soviets, do not It i s ironic that liberals who There are still occasional references made to the repressive l!oligarchy'l of El Salvador. Robert Leiken of the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies rationalizes Lydia Chavez, "Congressman in El Salvador Find s the 'Reality' Elusive,"

New York Times, January 18, 1983, p. A12.

Associated Press wire, March 15, 1983 (12:26 EST 6 sympathy with the insurgency by referring to the current El Salvador government as a Such a standard misjudges the nature of recent deve lopments in El Salvador. While in the past there was such an oligarchy, the "oligarchs" have now lost much, if not all, of their power. The October 15, 1979, coup by reformist military officers resulted in the removal from direct political and economic po wer of much of the old oligarchy.

The radical left's claim to moral superiority weakens even more in view of its having rejected any attempt to work with the reformist government from the very start, though that government specifically stated it would impl ement elections, agrarian reform and respect for human rights. The radical's leadership stated publicly at that time that the violent struggle would continue.

While remnants of the oligarchy undoubtedly are still struggl ing to avoid losing all influence, and some of the newer military leaders undoubtedly are insensitive to democracy and civil liber ties, the frame of reference for evaluating the moral and political situation in El Salvador has been changed by the substantial routing of the old elite. Thi s was most recently demonstrated on March 3, 1983, when the Constituent Assembly voted to continue the land reform program (Decree 207: Land to the Tiller despite intense opposition from the "oligarchs I8 BLUEPRINT FOR U.S. POLICY Military Aspects of Polic y 1) Improved Military Tactics Greater emphasis upon military training should have character ized U.S. policy in El Salvador long ago. At last, however, the Administration is moving in the right direction the year, newly trained troops using more effective tactics could be helping to combat the guerrillas By the end of Among the approaches that can and should be utilized are training infantry battalion leaders for each of Salvador's four teen divisions; providing specialized training, including night maneuv e rs, for smaller 320-man units (known as "cazadores or hunters which would seek out guerrilla units, rather than merely reacting to their attack procuring more and better Testimony of Robert S. Leiken before the House Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs , February 28, 1983, p.

36. Edmund Burke, in Reflections on the Revolution in France, was the first to delineate the difference between totalitarian revolution and the "rebellion" of true democrats. For an evaluation of the land reform program, see Willia m C. Doherty AFL-CIO official), letter to the editor, New York Times, March 14, 1983.

While there have been specific problems with the Salvadoran army, their effectiveness was also hampered by the assignment of some units to preserve land reform efforts 7 transport equipment for mobility; increasing the size o'f the army; increasing the size of the junior officer corps; and stress ing leadership qualities, sensitivity to human rights, and civic action capabilities. Increased training for, and rapid promot i on of, junior officers is particularly important. Gradual integration of all.loca1 and paramilitary forces into the central military command should be considered. Some corruption within the armed forces and weak leadership are currently facts of life. No easy solution to this problem exists, but it can be contained and minimized through the type of training and structural reorgan ization that U.S. guidance would provide.

Radical insurgencies, even abetted by outside Communist aid can be blocked. Examples a bound, including the Hukbalahaps in the Philippines and the Communist Party in Malaya (now Malaysia and in Greece. In Latin America, insurgencies have been blocked in many countries, including Bolivia, Uruguay, Argentina the Dominican Republic, and Venezu e la. The latter case is most instructive, since an evolving democracy was able to fend off a totalitarian movement and has since become a stable democracy.1 2) Dealinq with the Privileqed Sanctuary Can El Salvador's elected government stop the rebels so lo n g as they receive outside assistance? How, exactly, does the Reagan Administration propose to,inhibit or block the flow of outside support to the rebels? How, specifically, does it expect the government to put an end to the military or political dimension of the radical threat, if outside support is continually available at the option of the Sandinistas and subject to increase without real cost to them? Unless these questions are answered convincing ly, doubts will continue as to whether the Administration has a real long-term strategy for dealing with the military aspects of the conflict, and efforts to gain public support will not be successful.

The answers lie in development of an Administration strategy for dealing with the outside support for the guerr illas strategy should be presented, in closed session to the appropriate congressional panels, as an integral part of the overall U.S approach.to the conflict. If they balk at this program, then there should be a reassessment of the U.S. role.ll This If C o ngress lo For a discussion of the successful Venezuelan struggle with Communist insurgents, see Raymond Estep, "Guerrilla Warfare in Latin America 1963-1975," Directorate of Documentary Research, Air University Institute for Professional Development, 1975 , 31 pp.

It would appear that recent developments in Nicaragua may in fact be consistent with the policies suggested here.

Congress to totally blo ck such activities. U.S. diplomacy also should demand that all factions in Nicaragua be represented in a new government determined through free elections l1 It would be a mistake for 8 were ultimately to block such activities, then Congress alone could be held responsible for continuation of the problems. It may well be asked why the U.S. should observe the self-imposed ground rules of international conflict that allow the Soviets to arm those seeking to overthrow forces friendly to the West, while the U.S . cannot take measures to end or raise the cost of such outside interference. And other options need to be considered such as increased patrolling of the Gulf of Fonseca to block ships bringing in supplies; a multilateral or OAS force to block land, sea, o r air infiltration of supplies. At a minimum, the U.S. should do everything possible to assist in the detection of outside infiltration 3) Options for Endinq Outside Involvement As things now stand, the Soviets assist the totalitarian forces in El Salvador via their Cuban proxies at no cost to themselves. Means must be found to make the Soviets and Cubans bear some costs for their involvement in this situation, even if paid in other regions of the world.

For instance, there is no reason why the U.S. should not step up its minimal aid to the Afghan rebels. Although such a move is called for in any event, it would also be a signal to the Soviets that they cannot continue to stir the pot cost free.

This is the type of quid pro quo that the Soviets understand p erfectly well. As for Cuba, at an absolute minimum, Radio Marti should be approved, and the pressure on Cuban forces in Angola increased via support for the UNITA forces (which would require repeal of the Clark Amendment prohibiting such aid 4) The Pitfal l s of Gradualism While Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger correctly counsels that the Salvadoran conflict should be resolved Ifat the lowest possible level of participation and conflict by the United States,"12 there is danger that this could become a pol i cy of gradual escala tion. This means that the U.S. would increase its involvement only in reaction to moves by the other side, a policy that has been tried before and has failed. It results in protracted conflicts that totalitarian societies can sustain longer than democratic societies can. Instead of a policy of escalation, the U.S. must determine what needs to be done regarding El Salvador and do it.

Diplomatic Policy 1) External Peace Initiatives For diplomatic, propaganda, and psychological reasons, t he U.S. must pursue all avenues that would allow a peaceful resolu tion of the conflict, provided such actions do not undermine the legitimate government of El Salvador l2 Washington Post, March 14, 1983, p. A15. 9 Regional initiatives are appropriate. In t ernational involve ment, especially by other 'Latin American democracies or via the Organization of American States (OAS), to supervise elections assure the safety of all participants and factions, and help implement election results and to oversee an amn e sty program could be very useful and should be encouraged.13 'Itds puzzling that such initiatives have not already been explored. The U.S could also offer to end its direct military involvement if an effective multinational military task force were.create d to interdict the flow of weapons from outside Salvador.

Central American diplomatic initiatives calling for mutual withdrawal of U.S. and Cuban forces from El Salvador and Nicaragua respectively and for negotiations by the latter governments with their o pponents, are a reasonable starting point for regional discussions. Other regional initiatives also may prove helpful.

In any event, provisions for free elections in both nations are an essential part of any agreement. However, the U.S. must not become th e prisoner of the priorities and interests of other states, which do not share Washington's international political and security responsibilities and do not have the capability to enforce agreements.

Regional security, too, should have high priority. If t he private economic sector, the middle class, and emerging democratic political institutions in Central America were strengthened, and the local military capability to deal with Marxist-Leninist insurgencies at their low initial levels were increased, the likelihood of the need for massive U.S. involvement would be much lower 2) Cooperation from America's Friends The U.S. should seek improved cooperation from NATO allies.

Not only is Central America important to U.S. security, which in turn is essential to the survival of a free Western Europe but the establishment of more Soviet bases in the Caribbean area will lower U.S. capability In the event of crises.in Europe or the Persian Gulf. It could cause a reassessment of U.S. strategic priorities, including o verseas basing of U.S. troops l3 Some congressional critics of U.S. policy have attacked such safety guarantee efforts even before they can be developed, thereby also giving the left a further rationale for not participating. For example, Senator Christop h er Dodd (D-COM stated that "I don't think you'll find (the OAS) effective at all Believe me, I wouldn't risk my life on the willing ness of the OAS to guarantee my safety Bernard Weinraub OAS Role Sought in Salvador Vote," New York Times, March 17, 1983, p. A

10. There is precedent for OAS involvement in establishing and implementing election procedures; see, for example, Henry Wells, "The OAS and the Dominican Elections Orbis, Spring 1963, pp. 150-163 10 The U.S. at least must be able to depend on its all ies not to publicly undercut its position; it also should expect its allies to stop helping Nicaragua by means of government controlled or subsidized financial transactions until the Sandinista junta stops aiding the Salvadoran rebels, This matter should be on the agenda of the May 1983 Summit, when the leaders of major Western nations meet in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Political Aspects of Policy 1) Internal Reforms The United States must continue fostering democracy in El Salvador which includes provisions for an amnesty program, as well as election security for candidates and the safeguarding of civil liberties. At the same time, the U.S. must develop realistic expectations as to what can be accomplished; it would be unpre cedented if a fully functioning d e mocracy were to be established under wartime conditions in a country where political culture and history do not provide strong support for democratic institutions It should support implementation of the Pact of Apaneca Economic reform should be pursued. I n particular, political appointees with experience in the private sector, rather than foreign aid bureaucrats, should be placed in charge of assisting agricultural and industrial development. Encouraging unrealistic expectations about the growth of a free e conomy and the develop ment of stable economic institutions during this time of civil strife should be avoided. l4 Only by encouraging the productive segments of El Salvador's economy can the country once again achieve economic growth. The failure to comp ensate landowners in the land reform program has forced many productive, talented people out of agriculture and led to the exodus and lack of production by other landowners who fear similar treatment at the hands of the program experts.

Also, long-term political stability would be threatened if former landowners were to harbor grievances over compensation.

No reform is more crucial to assuring U.S. support than implementing the rule of law. Creating a judicial system that works, avoids corruption, and plac es no one above the law is the single development that would be most likely to solidify U.S public support for aid to El Salvador. While the U.S. is provid ing training for military personnel, training should also be given to judicial and law enforcement p ersonnel. The Reagan Administration's Project Democracy would be very appropriate for El Salvador and other areas of Latin America as well. The number of Central Americans studying in the U.S. should be greatly increased l4 For discussion of the economic progress that has occurred, see Joseph P.

Mooney, "El Salvador: True and False," Policy Review, Summer, 1982, pp 54-57. 11 The U.S. should continue its vigorous encouragement of the observance of human rights by the Salvadoran government and its allies. At the same time, Congress should require t h at human rights certification take into account the activities of the Marxist-Leninist forces, in order that a fair and balanced assess ment of the overall situation can be made 2) Cautious Involvement in Internal Affairs Outsiders rarely understand the n uances of internal political rivalries. Often groups or individuals openly backed by the U.S or other foreign governments become tagged unfairly as puppets of that nation, thus.reducing their effect within their own country.

El Salvador is a sovereign nati on; its people and leaders have pride in their own culture and customs. Washington should resist the temptation to become actively involved in deciding who should be El Salvador's leaders of time, some of the institutional reforms encouraged or sponsored b y the U.S. will most likely result in personnel changes that the U.S. would like to see At the same time, over a iong period THE REAGAN ADMINISTRATION AND U.S. POLICY 1) Priority Attention to El Salvador Except for the earliest months of the Reagan Admini s tration El Salvador appears to have been overlooked by U.S. foreign policy machinery until quite recently, and the effort to present the case for. U.S. involvement in El Salvador has seemed uncoordi nated and contradictory. A mechanism is needed to ensure such coordination It is difficult to understand why the Administration suddenly decided to take serious notice of El Salvador in early February 19

83. No crucial changes in the internal situation had taken place at that time. To compound the problem, the Administration has requested from Congress amounts ranging from $60 million to 110 million for aid to El Salvador approach to El Salvador seems to have been confused.15 Clearly, the White House On the'military side of the equation, too, questions must be r aised concerning the approach in the early days of the Reagan Administration.16 Why, for example, has the Administration l5 Ironically, the person who appears to have been the catalyst for increased attention'to El Salvador, U.N. Ambassador Kirkpatrick, w as not even invited to'a briefing for Secretary of State Shultz on Latin American issues held on November 19, 1982.

Along these lines, it does not make much sense for U.S. and Salvadoran officials to be openly describing upcoming areas of planned attack as they did recently, thus giving the guerrillas time to plan a counter-strategy.

See "Salvadoran Plans 2-Track Campaign," New York Times, March 12, 1982 p.

1. Of course, this could have been a clever feint by these officials unfortunately, there is nothi ng in the record thus far to indicate such a degree of cleverness by those pursuing this effort l6 12 stayed under its own self-imposed ceiling on the number of advisers sent to El Salvador? Why has it taken over two years for the Administration to place radars in Honduras, which can track the aircraft resupplying the radicals?

The role of the State Department also raises troubling questions and is a source of confusion concerning the real Reagan policy on El Salvador. For example, there were reports of a State Department effort to open negotiations with the guerrillas using Spain as an intermediary, and recent indications that State Department officials told certain Senators that the Administration would accept a substantial reduction in its military aid request.

Both reports subsequently were denied, but they compound the confusion as to what Administration policy is and who is in charge of it. Even when the White House is involved directly policy is far from clear. After a White House official stated tha t the U.S. would take 'la11 necessary measures" to prevent a radical takeover, a White House spokesman later hurriedly explained that this did not really mean Irallil necessary measures.

Salvador. Preferably, this would not be a Foreign Service Officer bu t a special appointee fully in tune with the Reagan approach to foreign policy and backed by solid presidential authority What is needed is a full-time policy coordinator for El 2) Improve Public Awareness of Outside Involvement The strongest argument for increasing U.S. assistance to El Salvador is that the rebels receive outside assistance and support.

The extent and nature of outside assistance to the rebel forces so far has not been made clear to a sufficiently wide audience. The State Department issued a White Paper" on outside involvement in February 1981, but little was heard after that.

The Administration can and should appeal to the American public's sense of fair play, as most Americans would endorse the principle of helping a popularly elected government defend itself.

Getting the truth to the American people requires'two steps 1) a declassification to the maximum extent possible of informa- tion relating to the nature and degree of outside support for the rebels 2) a full-scale educational camp aign by'the Administration explaining why the U.S. must assist El Salvador. The long overdue installation of AN/TPS-43 radar systems in Honduras, which can pick up small aircraft infiltrating supplies, should prove helpful provided the data are disseminat e d 3) The Role of Conqress Even though it may be technically possible for the Adminis tration to procure funds for El Salvador without going to Con gress, this could prove counterproductive. Congress must share the responsibility. This would present the is s ue to the nation in the form of a full debate with visible up or down votes on 13 funding.17 Anything else would allow congressional critics of assistance to El Salvador to go on the rhetorical attack without ever having to take the responsibility for the consequences of failure to provide the necessary aid. In this way, a policy of providing support can and should obtain the approval of the Congress 4) The Challenge of Neqotiations There is no reason for the U.S. to negotiate with the rebels.

For one thin g, there already is an on-going democratic political process in El Salvador, which provides the opportunity for universal participation. For another, there is ample international precedent for a governmental decision not to engage in discussions with cert a in other parties; neither Israel nor the U.S for instance negotiates with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Nor does the U.S. currently recognize the governments of Vietnam or Kampuchea. There are times and circumstances when a refusal to talk can be considered normal political practice. Negotiating with the rebels would grant them de facto legitimacy; it could enhance their credibility and undermine the position of the government that U.S. policy supports.

And, once talks begin, many of the forces now urging such talks will begin to urge that the pro-U.S. forces make concessions so that the talks might ttsucceed.tt All the pressure will be from one side, since the totalitarians will have no such pressures p l aced on them by their patrons in Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union It seems pointless for the U.S. to sanction negotiations whose only acceptable end, according to the rebels and their backers, would be to establish a political power balance prior to e lections. In effect, the left is saying that, as a precondition to elections, it must have a predetermined position, no matter what the outcome of the elections. The Washington Post has aptly termed this Itasking for the moon.t1 It would make any election meaningless.

Even if a political agreement could be reached, is there reason to believe that the rebels would honor it? Not if history is to be trusted. When one side in an agreement is composed largely of those who have totally rejected the existing poli tical l7 With respect to the approval of the reprogramming of FY 1983 funds, which has until recently needed only the approval of the Senate and House Foreign Operations Subcommittees, the involvement of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would seem a l so to call for a role for the Armed Services Committee which is in a better position to evaluate the require ments for military aid 14 economic, and social order and have devoted their lives to this goal, it is unlikely that they will settle for less than total power. Because a democratic political culture encourages the belief that the other side will abide by the rules of democracy and fair play, El Salvador and the U.S. will tend to let down their guard after an agreement has been reached. The historica l record is clear that power-sharing agreements between democratic and totalitarian forces almost always lead to the triumph of the totalitarian forces.18 Observes Flora Lewis, hardly a sympathizer with Administration policy: ItVietnam, Cambodia, any numbe r of places should have taught us by now that die-hard opponents seeking total power by force, don't negotiate and abide by compro mise. 1119 Regardless of soothing comments by a few former participants in the Salvadoran political process, it is clear that those who control the guns are committed Marxist-Leninists. In their actions seeking to disrupt the March 1982 elections, and in their recent statements threatening open regionalizationl' of the war and asserting that they are "friends of the governments of Cuba and Nicaragua the rebel leadership in the field leaves no doubt where it stands.

CONCLUSION The Reagan Administration finally appears to have realized the importance of El Salvador and the need for increased attention to its fate. The Administratio n's requested assistance package will meet the military, political, and economic requirements necessary to deal with the rebels' threat. Substantial reductions in this proposal would be most unwise. If Congress cuts off aid l8 For a specific case history o f a Communist takeover of a coalition government see Paul J. Maynard, "Negotiating Under Fire: Lessons from Laos," Wall Street Journal, March 29, 1983, p 34. For a trenchant analysis of "why the worst get to the top" when totalitarians take power, see F. A. Hayek The Road to Serfdom (Chicago 157 and 151.

New York Times, March 7, 1983, p.

15. For details on the Nicaraguan experience, see Richard Araujo, "The Nicaraguan Connection: A Threat to Central America," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 168, Feb ruary 24 1982; and Statement of Adriana Guillen before the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. See also Karen DeYoung, "There is a Red Menace in Latin America," Washington Post, March 3, 1983, p. B

1. Former Sandinista Alfred0 Cesar says, am ong other things, that he "now believes that Marxist-Leninists within the Sandinista leadership were lying when they promise a pluralistic, democratic government and were waiting for the right moment to take over For discussion on the factions of the radi cal forces, see Alexander Kruger, "El Salvador's Marxist Revolution,"

Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 137, April 10, 1981 University of Chicago Press, 1944 pp l9 15 to yet another set of U.S. allies, Congress must accept the ultimate responsibility.

Focus on the importance of El Salvador must be maintained.

Time is not on the side of the U.S. because (1) democracies are not successful at sustaining protracted or ambiguous conflict involvement; and 2) an insurgency is T.3 difficult to contain after th e inability of the constituted forces to maintain order and make minimal economic progress have allowed it to reach a certain level.

Human rights certification will also come under renewed consideration in July 19

83. If the certification process is to b e continued, it must provide a way to take into account the violations of the insurgents, as well as the historical record of such insurgencies in ignoring human rights when they come to power. The importance of the military aspects cannot be under estima ted. Is there an instance in history when a force dedicated to violent change has made political concessions unless its options for military victory had been foreclosed via military action?

In all the debate and discussion, one crucial fact is consis tentl y overlooked--the current government's attempts to implement the very social, economic, and political reforms that any reason able member of the democratic left in the U.S or El Salvador could want.20 The primary factor preventing or inhibiting the implem entation of these reforms is the guerrilla's campaign of economic sabotage. The guerrillas are not fighting to make changes that the government refuses to make; they are fighting for political power.

If the situation in El Salvador is viewed from the persp ective of the security interest of the United States, then there is an East-West element to the conflict, just as in the case of the Sandhistas' open alliance with Cuba and the Soviets As a world power, the United States has no choice but to recognize and deal with the East-West aspects of the struggle, as it also seeks to ameliorate social and economic conditions A Ifpolitical solution1' based upon a pre-election power-sharing agreement would be a mistake. Policymakers must act upon conclu sions based upo n the best judgment about likely developments.

History and logic indicate that a power-sharing arrangement with the radicals would most likely lead to their takeover of power.

Few, if any, congressional critics of U.S. policies argue for a total cutoff of aid.

Vietnam, there is no real sympathy expressed for the insurgents Probably because of the experience of 2o This is not to say that all such "reforms" are necessarily the mo st useful or fair that could be devised 16 as such, but the rhetoric of the critics presents dangers. They are beginning to take their rhetoric seriously and are positioning themselves in a way allowing no out but full opposition of U.S involvement in El Salvador.

The fundamental problems facing the Reagan Administration in dealing with El Salvador are .external to its specific policies.

These problems include the breakdown of the post-World War I1 foreign policy consensus, which accepted the necessity of U.S marginal involvement in insurgency situations where U.S. interests were at stake; the impatience of a democracy and its difficulty in dealing with protracted conflict;21 the manipulation of symbols of Ilsocial justiceit by .Communist forces and their allies in a way that disarms many Western liberals; and the belief that differences can always be compromised through rational discussions. Whether the Reagan or any other Administration can successfully overcome these factors remains to be seen.

The fina l outcome in El Salvador is not yet predictable. It At some point is predictable, however, that, if El.Salvador falls to the Marxist Leninists, the U.S. will be confronted with similar dilemmas elsewhere in Central America within a short time all American s concerned about the security of their nation will acknowledge the threat. By that time, this threat will have to be dealt with in ways and at a cost much more severe than would have been the case were the requisite will mustered now.

Irving Kristol has p ointed out As If we are prepared to allow a Castro-type insurrection to succeed .in El Salvador because it is a poor, under developed country, then we should be resigned to seeing similar insurrections achieve the same success in Honduras, Guatemala, Pana m a, Peru, Bolivia, Equador Colombia and Lord knows where else. The "domino effect doesn't operate automatically, but with our cooperation it will surely occur.22 It may be that the American public is not prepared to pay the price necessary to assure the op p ortunity for the people of El Salvador to evolve in a democratic manner. The challenge to the Reagan Administration is to alert the American people to the danger An Administration pulling in one direction and a Congress pulling in another is a formula for foreign policy disaster. The Administration has the duty and responsibility to make a credible case for U.S. assistance, to make military and political decisions 21 22 The classic analysis of this matter is Robert Strausz-Hupe et al Protracted Conflict (N ew York: Harper Sr Row, 1958).

Irving Kristol What Choice is There in Salvador The Wall Street Journal April 4, 1983, p. 16. 17 primarily upon what needs to be done, and to carry out those decisions in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

It can do no more.

By giving 'the needed priority to El Salvador, the Administra tion has begun this process determine whether it is allowed to carry out policies needed to maintain the possibility of political pluralism in El Salvador The debate in the mont hs ahead will W. Bruce Weinrod Director of Foreign Policy and Defense Studies

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