It is better to help people grow crops than to send soldiers to fight wars caused by hunger and exploitation. With a telling array of points such as this, the American secretary of state has placed himself in the vanguard of an enlightened trend among industrial-nation diplomats. They see that weakness in supporting the economic and social development of third-world countries is no less dangerous than military weakness.
"By failing to support the alternatives to radicalism, we help radicalism to breed," said Secretary Muskie in an important speech this week. He was echoing in his own pithy way the out-of-office remarks of his predecessor, Cyrus Vance, who called America's present record on foreign aid "disgraceful."
Among the 17 major industrial powers the US languishes in 13th place in this assistance as a percentage of GNP. Congress is keeping it in arrears even on the pledges it has made to multilateral developments banks.
The diplomats recognize that humanitarianism alone would dictate helping the worse off help themselves. But, as diplomats, they cannot but point to the utility of such help. As Mr. Muskie put it: "We cannot expect the cooperation and support of others on issues of importance to us if we are unprepared to offer concrete support on matters of importance to them -- particularly their won economic development and social progress."