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Jackson's future: link to the third world?

Whatever the outcome of the Democratic National Convention next month and the November presidential election, it is hard to imagine Jesse Jackson going back to Chicago and disappearing from the national and world stages.

His forays into the Mideast and Central America present the Washington establishment, be it headed come next January by a Democrat or a Republican, with an opportunity.

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The Rev. Mr. Jackson, like the Rev. Andrew Young before him, clearly has both credibility and persuasive power in that critical area - more than merely geographical - labeled the ''third world.'' A way to continue to utilize those Jackson attributes should be devised.

That making him part of the Washington establishment probably is not the way is indicated by Mr. Young's experience as US ambassador to the United Nations. The man who now is mayor of Atlanta demonstrated his usefulness to the Carter administration in dealing with Africans, Latin Americans, and Arabs before stumbling over the sensitivities of pro-Israeli forces in the United States by dealing too directly with representatives of Saudi Arabia. Before that, he was in and out of hot water with certain segments of the American establishment for being too forthright in voicing the very viewpoint that was the basis of his credibility in the third world.

Jackson - who stunned his Democratic opponents last spring and captured the primary limelight at least briefly by going to Damascus, meeting with Syrian President Assad, and securing the release of US Navy Lt. Robert O. Goodman Jr. - has become a political embarrassment in some quarters by his strong advocacy of the rights of Palestinian refugees and his tolerance of black militant supporter Louis Farrakhan.

Now Jackson has taken his ''move 'em and shake 'em'' act to Central America - and diplomatic china is rattling. As in the case of Goodman's release, the conciliatory signals coming out of Havana and Managua can be said to reflect already existing intentions on the part of the leaders involved.

But sometimes inclinations need to be nudged to become initiatives.

Like Young's, the ''currency'' that enables Jackson to deal with the Castros and Assads of the third world is regarded as tainted by some segments of the US governmental establishment and by powerful special interest groups. Statements that open doors in Damascus or Havana can be irritating or damaging if coming from a UN ambassador or, say, a vice-president. The Young experience illustrates the point. So, giving such an individual an official title would seem to make it almost inevitable that he lose credibility with either one side or the other.

But President Reagan has already demonstrated one alternative. Jesse Jackson went to Syria without White House approval - but with careful briefing by the State Department. Whatever the immediate political effects of his deal with President Assad, the ultimate affirmative results of such contacts could not be dismissed.

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There are many precedents for ex-officio use of individuals with special influence or expertise in foreign affairs, and the methods vary from conferring special envoy status to completely undercover assignments.

It is no coincidence that these two black Americans who have been able to communicate so effectively with critical third-world elements were close aides of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mr. Jackson's Operation PUSH can no doubt keep him well-occupied after 1984 and Mr. Young's duties as Atlanta mayor undoubtedly provide a worthy challenge.

There must be a way to take advantage of the achievements of former candidates as well as office holders.

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