Two experienced authorities on government are counseling President Carter to replace the top level of the administration's foreign policy establishment. This proposal appealed to me the day Mr. Carter delivered his turnabout State of the Union address to Congress. I hope it makes sense to the White House. It deserves to be carefully explored.
Let me put the proposal in perspective and indicate something of its urgency.
The President has affirmed, with evident support from Congress, that the US will resist, by military force if necessary, any Soviet assault on American vital interests in the Middle East.
But if this "Carter doctrine" is to become a deterrent to further Russian aggression it is important that the Kremlin get a strong signal that the US is united behind the President and that the administration is unwaveringly resolved to stay on its new course.
What will do this more than anything else will be for the President to replace the highlevel advisers who have been counseling him that the Soviet Union meant no harm and was as devoted to "detente" as we were. The need is to demonstrate to the Russians that the US government will be staffed at the top with officials who are at one with the President in his new perception of Soviet objectives and in his determination to act accordingly.
New policies need new people to sustain them.
The two who are already advocating that the President reorganized his foreign policy establishment are an influential Democratic Senator, Daniel P. Moynihan, former Ambassador to India and the United Nations; and a distinguished professor of political science, Paul Seabury, author of numerous works on foreign policy.
Senator Moynihan says:
"The leaders of Europe and Asia and certainly those of the Soviet Union will be watching closely to see whether the President's new announcements and actions are accompanied by change in the administration itself which will signal that the new positions arise not in response to the immediate necessity of doing something, anything, in face of overwhelmingly hostile acts, a response which could soon fade as other events come to the fore. Or whether to the contrary, persons whose past judgments comport with the administration's new policies will appear in the ranks of the administration with the clear implication that the new positions are to be sustained."
Professor Seabury of the University of California put the case this way:
"If America's reputation as a credible power is to be recaptured, our foreign-policy establishment must be taken apart and put together again. Personnel changes must be more than cosmetic. They should be instituted now by President Carter, not by whomever happens to be elected next November.
"The President must reach down into his own administration -- the State Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council -- to establish new men free from the shibboleths of Vietnam and Watergate."
Mr. Carter has already done it once. The need for changes in the foreign-policy establishment is far greater than when the President made his shifts in his Cabinet a year ago.
Public opinion responded promptly and favorably to the President's State of the Union address. Many Americans had reached the same conclusions before Mr. Carter explained his new awareness of Russian purposes and began to organize resistance at home and abroad. I feel sure that, if the President responded to the Moynihan-Seabury proposal, he would consolidate public support for his new policies, which would itself send a message to the Kremlin.
The need is not only to mobilize a united administration.