The Future of George Shultz

I was pleased to see a Times article boldly address the future of Secretary of State George P. Shultz in Charles Maechling Jr.'s piece (Editorial Pages, Jan. 14).

With the secretary sticking it out, the pressing question is whether he might better serve his country, his President, and himself by resigning. Arguably, he is the lone hero in the present debacle. Though tattered, Shultz is a symbol of a once discernable anti-terrorist policy. But how formidable an advocate is he any longer for the cause?

To the extent he was ever compelling, Shultz will no longer be able to lecture our European friends about the snares of doing business with extremists. And his repeated reassurances to the Arab League of America's neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war are now laughable.

Shultz and his government have been moving in opposite directions. This is, of course, commonplace in a democracy. But when open discord between a secretary of state and a President becomes generally known, the rules of the game abruptly change.

Pressures for Shultz to explain his role in the Iranian affair and his relationship with the President--to the exclusion of other business--will become incessant. The secretary's energies will be divided. His credibility, integrity and hence, effectiveness, may soon be measured in inverse proportion to his continued association with the Reagan Administration.

Because Shultz's ignorance of, and opposition to, the clandestine and messy Iranian- contra maneuver is now disclosed, he does no one a favor by staying on.

The single way Shultz may now advance the cause to which he has been passionately committed is to resign. And if he truly believes that his principle is larger than himself, his resignation is an obligation.

But Shultz is a product of an idiosyncratic Yankee trait, as Walter Lippmann once phrased it: "The almost total inability of Americans to decline an appointment or resign a post."

Apparently, like working people everywhere, secretaries of state are reluctant to trade a great job for a good living. Unlike the British cabinet system, in which dissenting ministers retain their political base in the House of Commons, life after principled resignation in America can be dreary. Compared to manipulating the instruments of power in the world's most powerful nation, private life, in any pursuit, may appear trite.


San Clemente

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