Enter Mr. Shultz
One thing at least was settled in Washington over the past week: American foreign policy will no longer be the end product of the relative persuasiveness of either Alexander Haig or Caspar Weinberger on any particular issue or day.
The name of Mr. Haig has been deleted from a foreign policy-making formula which had unpredictable results built into it.
The evidence is persuasive that President Reagan made his decision to part with his first secretary of state for personal rather than policy reasons. The abrasive Haig ego seems to have been the decisive reason for the separation.
But the important thing to the outside world is that neither friend nor foe could make sense of American foreign policy as it was emerging in the pre-Haig-departure days. It was erratic and unpredictable.
No one could calculate in advance how the decisions would go on any particular subject unless, for example, one knew that Mr. Haig would be out of town, but Mr. Wein-berger present, when a certain issue would come up at the White House.
The removal of the Haig factor from the system means that one cause of the unpredictability is now removed. The Haig ego, which probably sometimes weighed against the very cause Mr. Haig was promoting, will no longer add to the uncertainties.
But this does not mean that automatically and marvelously the policies that emerge form the White House will in the future be marked by that ''consistency, clarity, and steadiness of purpose'' that Mr. Haig said in his letter of resignation should be the hallmark of American foreign policy.
There may well be progress in that direction under the new secretary of state. George Shultz is as impersonal a personality as Mr. Haig is personal. Mr. Shultz may have an ego, but on the record of many years of public service it has seldom if ever intruded into policymaking. He is discreet, quiet, and cooperative. He sells his case by persuasion, not rhetoric.
But not even as wise and experienced a public servant as Mr. Schultz can remove the conflicts that lie behind almost any foreign policy decision in this present administration in Washington.