Carnegie book faults Kissinger's Central America report
It may not be a best seller, but it's becoming a hot item among some Washington insiders, especially Democrats. Official publication date for this new book on Central America is Jan. 30, but a number of congressmen and senators have already obtained their copies in the form of advance proofs. So have some 50 to 60 staff aides.
The 300-page book, produced by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and published by Pergamon Press, is providing a counterpoint to the recent Kissinger Commission report on Central America.
The Carnegie Endowment is prohibited from publishing for partisan purposes. And the 17 authors of the book entitled ''Central America: Anatomy of Conflict, '' were not told to produce an alternative to the Kissinger report, much less a Democratic alternative. But the book is clearly a different source of information and is, in effect, being regarded by some specialists as a Democratic alternative to both the Kissinger report and Reagan administration policies.
The Carnegie book's authors do not agree on every point. Indeed, they strongly disagree on some. But in contrast with the Kissinger report, the majority of the 17 authors argue that the United States must make more progress on the diplomatic and political front in Central America if any major economic aid package, such as the Kissinger Commission proposes, is to work.
At a press conference that followed publication of the Kissinger report, five of the experts who contributed to the Carnegie book held a press conference at which they described the Kissinger report as ''fundamentally flawed.'' Robert S. Leiken, editor of the Carnegie study, argued that to recommend increasing economic and military aid, as the Kissinger Commission does, will strengthen powerful economic and military groups in Central America which are stymying reform and blocking negotiations.
''Central America needs a political settlement to make Kissinger's economics work,'' said Mr. Leiken.
''The (Kissinger) Commission's report says that it supports a 'political settlement' but that this settlement can only be achieved via an increase in US military assistance,'' said Leiken. ''We believe that by increasing US military assistance to the Salvadorean government, we would be further from a political solution than ever. In fact, the war will be widened, because we will be giving assistance to the most intransigent elements in El Salvador and in the region, and that includes the Salvadorean government and the Hondurans.''
Leiken and his colleagues noted at their press conference that the Kissinger Commission approves of continued US aid to insurgents fighting the Sandinista-led government in Nicaragua. They stated that while they sympathized with Miskito Indians and Nicaraguan dissidents who were being repressed by the Sandinistas, support for the insurgents contradicts the principles which the four Latin American nations constituting the ''Contadora Group'' have advocated. The Kissinger report supports the Contadora Group's negotiating efforts.
In his lead essay in the Carnegie book, Leiken argues for a link between negotiations in El Salvador and efforts to get the Sandinista leaders to broaden political participation in their regime.
As he explains it, support for negotiations in El Salvador between the government and guerrilla representatives would be the ''most effective and least costly bargaining chip'' which the US has with Nicaragua. As Leiken sees it, the Contadora Group - Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama - could use its influence to further this process.
Critics of the Carnegie report are likely to argue that it points in the direction of ''power sharing'' between the US-supported government and the leftist-led guerrillas and might therefore lead to a guerrilla takeover. The Kissinger Commission argues against power sharing and in favor of elections in which the guerrillas might participate. The guerrillas have said ''no'' to this idea, saying that their safety would be threatened in any election organized by a Salvadorean regime which has, they say, supported the activities of right-wing assassination squads.
A senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and a specialist on Soviet strategy in Latin America, Leiken said that he had worked every day of the week for several months on end in order to get the Carnegie book ready for publication at about the time when the Kissinger report came out. The effort involved compressing what is normally an 18-month publishing process into three months. Essays for the book were commissioned from a group of former government officials and scholars familiar with Central America.
Although an attempt was made to ensure diversity among the authors, the book appears to hold more appeal for liberal and moderate Democrats and Republicans than it does for some other groups.
Seven of the 15 authors have in recent months been called on by Democratic Presidential candidates for consultations on Central America issues. Two of the authors - Viron Vaky and Robert A. Pastor - held high positions in the Carter administration. Ambassador Vaky was an assistant secretary of state for Inter-American Affairs and Dr. Pastor was the senior member of the National Security Council staff in charge of Latin America.
In any new Democratic administration, one could easily imagine as many as half a dozen of the Carnegie authors being appointed to White House and State Department positions.
Richard McCall, deputy staff director of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, said the Carnegie book is likely to be ''an extraordinarily useful document.''
Staff members of the Congressional Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, a group of more than 130 liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans whose chairman is Rep. Jim Leach (R) of Iowa, said that there is keen interest in the Carnegie report in the Congress.