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A citizens' foreign policy

The Reagan administration may be challenged at home and abroad for seeming not to have a foreign policy, but a concerned segment of the American people does seem to have one. The latter emerged in the final report of a nationwide poll while the President and his aides were still assuring everyone that their alleged lack of a policy was purely in the eye of the beholder. If Mr. Reagan ever decides to give that much-deferred address on the subject, he ought to be aware that there is an enlightened audience for it. The Foreign Policy Association has counted more ballots than ever, over 60,000, in its 27th annual "Great Decisions" survey.

Mr. Reagan could not but be pleased that his favorite foreign issue, US-Soviet relations, drew the most ballots, about 9,500, among the poll's eight topics. And we have a particular interest in the replies, since various views on these topics were covered in the Monitor's "Great Decisions '81" series keyed to an association program including study groups and broadcast discussions.

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The poll participants are described as typically having more education and more exposure to international affairs than the national average. What is the citizens' foreign policy, as it might be called, that prevails in their replies?

It would:

* Rebuild America's conventional military forces. Counter Soviet challenges in the third world. Continue superpower negotiations on arms control, trade, and technology transfer. Delay or reduce deployment of new US missiles in Europe if the Soviet Union provides equivalent concessions.

* Assist China's modernization and economic involvement with the West without supplying offensive weapons.

* Work closely with Egypt and Israel toward success in the Palestinian autonomy negotiations.

* Publicly support "one person, one vote" in South Africa. Quietly adopt incentives and penalties to encourage political settlement between black people and white people there. Make the Sullivan principles on equal employment conditions mandatory for US firms doing business in South Africa.

* Keep hands off while Central American states settle their own future.

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* Insist that countries receiving foreign aid give priority to basic human needs. Raise the US development assistance budget from 0.2 percent of the gross national product to the United Nations benchmark of 0.7 percent.

* Act in close consultation with NATO allies and Japan on issues of importance to them even if this means compromise and delay.

* Restore US industrial competitiveness through such means as cooperation among business, government, and labor as well as tax incentives for business and upper income groups -- without relaxing antitrust, antibribery, environmental, or safety laws.

Is Mr. Reagan listening? There are a number of points where the citizens' foreign policy coincides with things said by administration officials. There are points of difference, too. What does the President himself think? He correctly says that you don't have to give a foreign policy address in order to have a foreign policy. But, if you have a foreign policy, would it not be helpful to both the government and the public to spell it out?

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