Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Case for Commitment

July 21, 1986

The nomination of Robert J. Brown, a respected black businessman, as the U.S. ambassador to South Africa is meaningless unless it signals a significant change of policy.

There has been speculation from the first mention of Brown's name that President Reagan might turn to him as part of a strategy to cool the growing determination in Congress to adopt stronger measures, to push the Administration once again beyond the narrow limits of its "constructive engagement" policy. An appointment for that purpose would be a travesty. Brown himself, if all that has been said about him by his friends is correct, would not accept appointment under such circumstances. It would be insulting to him and to all black Americans. Fortunately, there will be a quick clarification, because the President is preparing a new statement on his policy.

Deep and complex problems face South Africa now. In promising an end to apartheid, President Pieter W. Botha has simultaneously undertaken a broadening campaign to exclude from negotiations the African National Congress and many of the other most influential black leaders on the ground that they are part of, or in collusion with, the Communist Party and instruments of Moscow. He has found sustenance in this posture from Reagan's own preoccupation with communism. The situation is further complicated by the unwillingness of Botha to define what power he intends to share with the black majority.

There may not be much room for outside influence by even the most accomplished diplomat. The racist right is not going to yield, and Botha's more moderate allies appear more rigid and defiant by the day. But the fact remains: There was no movement in South Africa, no hint of reform until the global sanctions campaign gained energy and force. Much of the international effort was undermined by Reagan's posture--a posture that helped wreck Namibian independence in the first month of the Reagan presidency and that has encouraged extremists as recently as this year by feeding arms to the Unita guerrilla allies of South Africa in Angola.

The pusillanimous policy can be changed now. What matters, however, is not the race of the U.S. ambassador, but the articulation of a clear, unequivocal commitment of Washington to the black majority, to negotiations by the white-run government with those who best can speak for that majority, for majority rule.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|