I am writing as a conservative who nonetheless deplores our present foreign policy in Nicaragua. I wish to propose an approach that I think will increase the chance of achieving our aims in that country.
All policy must be based upon a clear understanding of objectives and an appropriate assignment of priorities. In this case our basic aims are two: First priority is preventing Nicaragua from playing a destabilizing role in Central America or elsewhere in the world, and second priority is fostering freedom in that troubled country.
To achieve the first priority aim, we should offer a bargain. We will withdraw all support from the contras, and refrain from any attempts to influence internal affairs in Nicaragua. Further, we would consider extending economic and technical aid. We would keep faith with the contras by offering to accept them (except for criminals) into the United States, or otherwise aid them in relocating. In exchange, Nicaragua would promise (1) to cut its armed forces to a size and complexion appropriate to the defense of the country, (2) to refrain from sending troops outside its own borders, (3) to avoid any actions tending to destabilize other countries, such as aid to the Salvadoran guerrillas, and (4) to allow no terrorists, or foreign military personnel or bases in their country.
If Nicaragua did not agree to these conditions we would impose a blockade on all military equipment and advisers seeking entry to the country, and we would continue our aid to the contras.
Nicaragua would probably accept the terms offered--if not immediately, then after we had demonstrated that we would firmly, carry out the alternative. Our offer would be attractive to the Sandinistas because it would put them in a position to consolidate their power and perhaps even to receive aid from the United States in building their country.
If the Sandinistas do not accept, it might appear that nothing has been accomplished: we would still be involved with the contras, and we would have the additional expense of maintaining a blockade. However, in reality our position would be completely different from the present situation: having offered a fair bargain of self-determination for Nicaragua in exchange for a guarantee that she would not interfere with other countries, we would command the high moral ground, and would consequently receive support for our policy, both within and outside the United States.