The plans for inauguration of Ronald Reagan on Jan. 20 inevitably call to mind a ceremony which studded the history of ancient Rome. It was called a "Triumph." The Oxford dictionary defines it in the following terms:
"The entrance of a victorious commander with his army and spoils in solemn procession into Rome, permission for which was granted by the Senate in honor of an important achievement in war."
In the United States an election victory is treated as the equivalent of success in war. The troops who accompany the victor on his triumphal entry into the capital are politicians rather than legionnaires. The spoils are what the victors expect in the form of future jobs, policies, and contracts rather than in the form of slaves and wagons of gold and jewelry.
But the essence is the same. A change has been registered in the focus of power. The newly influential are taking over from the losers.
On Jan. 20 in Washington the troops of politicians who sponsored the rise of Ronald Reagan as a national figure, who dominated the Republican convention of last summer, and who labored during the election campaign itself will have their moment of glory. They will parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. They will attend the gala balls that evening. They will enjoy their day of triumph.
But some triumphs mean more, or less, than others. The splendor of the ceremony does not necessarily measure the degree of change ahead in policy or direction or personalities. The Jan. 20 event is billed as a splendid ceremony, but already many a faithful promotor of the Reagan candidacy has been his own services and his ideas pushed aside.
This is most prominently true in the two most important places -- defense and foreign policy. In both cases the transition teams made up mostly of old-time Reagan faithfuls have been sent home with only a perfunctory word of thanks and for the most part with little prospect of jobs.
Most shocking to the old-time backers of the Reagan cause has been the dismissal of Prof. William R. Van Cleave, director of the defense and strategic studies program at the University of Southern California. Professor Van Cleave has long acted as Mr. Reagan's main adviser on military affairs. He headed the transition team for the Department of Defense. He was widely expected to be the new secretary of defense or at least the deputy for policy. And he did not get either.
The secretaryship went to Caspar Weinberger who made a name for himself in the Nixon-Ford era for toughness in trimming budgets. The number two spot at defense went to Frank Carlucci who is a veteran career civil servant of long Washington experience who will transfer to defense from the Central Intelligence Agency.
Neither Mr. Weinberger nor Mr. Carlucci has ever been associated with the publicity organizations which have been demanding large increases in US military power. Mr. Van Cleave had been a member of the Committee on the Present Danger which has been a leading advocate of a big arms program increase.
So the superhawks have been cut out of the defense picture even before they can share in the Reagan "triumph."
And insofar as the testimony of Alexander Haig before the Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations is a measure, the same applies to most of those who favored drastic change in foreign policy. The former NATO commander sounded no more bellicose or reactionary than Cyrus Vance would have sounded. It almost seemed as though the prospective secretary of state had been coached by Mr. Vance. Certainly there was nothing in his testimony to justify the anxieties of the career foreign service experts.
Judging by that public testimony he is not going to try to revive white supremacy south of the Sahara. He is not going to turn his back on the People's Republic of China. He is not going to send the marines into Latin American countries for any reason, certainly not to back up military dictatorships. He won't promise to repeal the Panama Canal treaties. He is aware of the enormous importance to the US of a strong system of alliances. He does not think the Soviets are about to capture the whole world tomorrow. He knows they have economic and political problems which nullify some important part of their military power.
It will be a splendid "triumph" as theater. But after that, so far as we can judge now, there will be a lot of continuity in foreign and defense policy, and perhaps, too, in economic policy. At latest reports we taxpayers are not sure to get those tax cuts rig ht away after all.