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McFarlane on the Contras

September 29, 1987

The phrasing of McFarlane's questions shows the shortcomings of his thinking--and of present U.S. policy which tends to agree with him.

He asks: "How will the United States compete with the Soviet Union in developing countries where we have important interests?"

First, let's take the most ancillary point hidden in the phrase, "in countries where we have important interests." This seems to limit our interest to certain countries, whereas all countries are important to both the U.S. and the Soviets in a very small world with terrible economic inequalities and injustices.

Further, these so-called "developing" countries are not developing. Most of them have stayed stagnant for at least a decade since the word "developing" was first applied to them.

As to the word "compete," it is not written in stone that we must always compete in these countries. Cooperative projects are also possible.

Last, his argument begins too late. Take Nicaragua, for example. He asks: "What if Soviet stratagem takes hold in the midst of national upheaval?" We need to be doing compatible and generous work with these countries before upheaval occurs. National upheavals come because we have done little or nothing truly helpful--in many cases we have done harmful things. In Nicaragua's case, we supported dictator Anatasio Somoza. Now we are supporting President Jose Napoleon Duarte and death squads in El Salvador and military repression and grinding poverty in Guatemala. If we get ourselves hated as exploiters, it is difficult to compete with any ideology.

We are wasting our best possibilities by deceiving ourselves and others in just the ways McFarlane's questions suggest.

JEAN S. GERARD

Temple City

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