Africa Notes: The Eagleburger Contribution - July 1983
July 30, 1983
Diplomatic historians are likely to accord Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger's June 23 address in San Francisco an importance not perceived by those present at the National Conference of Editorial Writers, where he delineated the full regional scope of the Reagan Administration's policy of "constructive engagement." Media coverage, with a few exceptions, has been reminiscent of the Indian fable of the four blind men describing an elephant-animated in reaction to specific parts but failing to convey the quite extraordinary dimensions of the whole entity.
The timing of this detailed manifesto was almost certainly influenced by growing State Department concern about several pieces of legislation affecting U.S. relations with southern Africa that have been making unexpected headway through subcommittees and committees of the House. Eagleburger was speaking both to the assembled representatives of the media and to the Hill when he warned that "voices in our Congress, media, and public" are calling for "punitive measures" against "governments which do not please us"-and that the principal effect of these measures would be to reduce U.S. relevance and influence in the region...
While domestic considerations may have determined the timing, there was a message as well for every nation and movement in southern Africa. The speech emphasized the U.S. search for a balanced policy that consciously holds out the option to radical regimes "to diversify their external orientation and to pursue closer economic ties with the West."