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oceanic oval formed by the Greater and Lesser Antilles contains the strategie choke points through which 13 major trade routes lead directly to the canal. Millions of tons of strategic cargo are transported over these sea-lanes en route to the United States and its allies. Bauxite from Jamaica and Surinam, copper from Chile and Peru, manganese from Brazil, and petroleum from Venezuela are only a few of these strategic materials, all vital to the U.S. economy as well as defense needs. To protect these nautical lifelines the U.S. Navy historically has maintained air and sea surveillance and control of the area.
Admiral James L. Holloway III, Chief of Naval Operations, is painfully aware that economic interdependence is a fact of modern-day life. As he has publicly acknowledged, the United States has defense treaties with 43 nations, 41 of which lie overseas. By volume, 99 percent of our overseas trade is carried by ship. Therefore, Holloway warns, any threat to our friends and suppliers overseas or to the connecting sea-lanes is a direct threat to U.S. security. Hare these considerations been lost sight of by proponents of the view that interdependence means that the United States has no choice but to turn over the canal sometime in the next uncertain 30 years? Apparently they fail to see that America's national survival and that of its allies may depend on protecting the sea arteries which safeguard this economic interdependence. In this complex picture, the canal plays an important, if not key, role, as the Soviet planners presumably realize more fully than much of the American public.
Following the canal negotiations with fascinated interest are the Kremlin's Americanologists, including those Soviet leaders who determine the frequency of naval cruises into the Caribbean. These cruises, which U.S. analysts identify as political tests of the extent of American toleration, have prompted Washing. ton to monitor carefully any Soviet naval ship visits to Cuban ports. Let us note. too, that the continued appearance of Soviet naval units has the ominous result of "conditioning” Washington and Latin American governments to view such visits as routine and ultimately to accept them without protest. It is evident that under our noses the Soviets have managed to secure de factor naval bases in Cuba.
There is little doubt that Moscow understands the strategic importance of the Caribbean-Panama area. Two Soviet military writers, Y. Antonov and V. Komarov, observe correctly that Latin American strategic raw materials such as petroleum, iron, copper, and tin are of "inestimable value to the Pentagon." Another Soviet military expert. I. Yermashov, notes the importance of Latin American silver, antimony, zinc, and manganese to the U.S. economy. All of these materials are carried by sea to the United States. That is to say, the United States would be severely, not to say fatally, damaged if it were forced to fight a war while the Caribbean sea-lanes were sealed off by prowling Soviet submarines, surface ships, and aircraft operating from bases firmly established in Cuba, Panama, or elsewhere in the area.
It may be assumed without question that astute Soviet strategists have assigned as a principal mission of the Soviet Navy in war the interdiction of the maritime highways connecting the United States with its allies and its sources of strategie raw materials. We should not be surprised that Soviet submarines, aircraft, and surface ships appeared in the Caribbean beginning in the 1960s. The Cuban ports of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Antilla now are replenishment centers for the Soviet fleet. Soviet submarine commanders cruising in the Caribbean and South Atlantic are training their crews to operate in this prime hunting area against the same type of targets which drew the German U-boats in World War II. Significantly. the Soviets-with some 200 attack and 140 missile submarines and the Cuban ba ses-enjoy advantages not available to the Germans. The latter began World War II with only 57 U-boats, yet sank some 2.3 million tons of shipping in the
Moscow's interest in the canal assumes more significance now that Panama enjoys cordial relations with Castro. In January 1976, General Torrijos mompleted a triumphal five-day tour of Cuba. He was accompanied by an elated Fidel
. For a comprehensive analysis of the Soviet naval presence in the Caribean, spe Barry M. Blechman and Stephanie E. Levinson, "Soviet Submarine Visits to China " in Naral Institute Proceedings, September 1975, pp. 30-39. See also Lieutenant nmmander Jack L. Roberts, "The Growing Soviet Presence in the Caribbean: Its Politico. Military Impact Upon the United States" in Naval War College Revievo, June 1971, pp. 31-41.
Castro flushed with the victory of his 12,000 troops in Angola. Torrijos acclaimed Cuba as “representing a beautiful tomorrow" and acknowledged its “just support" for Panama. In 1976, the Cuban Embassy in Panama boasted a staff of 60 people, a figure difficult to justify by the usual standards of diplomatic relations between two small countries with insignificant commercial connections. By comparison,
the U.S. Embassy has a staff of 45, plus 44 others who administer the generous Till aid program supported by the Agency for International Development.
Moscow notes happily that Panama has joined the Third World and is an ardent advocate of “political pluralism,” a current catch-phrase in the lexicon
of international egalitarianism. Pluralism has been described, accurately, if chat perhaps unkindly, as a philosophy embraced by a hodgepodge of small have-not
states. As neutralists, they consider themselves exempt from any obligation to mesc major power blocs. With seeming impunity, they can engage in aggressive politics
against major countries, as Panama itself has amply demonstrated in its attacks O on the United States in the forums of the United Nations and the Organization of American States,"
In August 1976. Torrijos attended the fifth meeting of the Bandung Conference det of nonaligned nations at Colombo, Sri Lanka. Among the resolutions passed was
one urging U.S. evacuation of Panama. A second resolution recommended that
the United States grant independence to Puerto Rico. Such is the pressure brought u to bear by the Third World on the Yankee "colonial power."
Some State Department officials, journalists, and university scholars play down
the strategic importance of the Panama Canal because of their belief that if Che war came, the canal would he wiped out by long-range missiles. Administration appeare supporters are correct when they assert that the nuclear threat is real and cannot
be lightly regarded. Opponents of this view are equally correct when they argue that to overplay the nuclear threat is just as wrong as to downplay it. As regards the likelihood of nuclear war, any evaluation becomes, at best, a judgmental one, as the following comments suggest.
Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., who was Chief of Naval Operations during 1970–1974, and must be considered well informed on Soviet matters, is one expert who views the missile threat in less than apolcalyptic terms. He asserts that the dominating theme in the Kremlin is survival, a concept flowing from the "historic inevitability" theme of Marxist doctrine. Consequently, the Soviets will never enter a war unless thay are sure they will win after acceptable losses.
Other military strategists reason that neither Moscow nor Washington is inclined to resort to a war of mutual suicide, with its horrendous and unacceptable consequences. One military scholar, retired Navy Captain Raymond A. Komorowski, observes that both the Americans and the Soviets will go to almost any lengths, short of total defeat, to avoid a massive nuclear exchange. Proponents of this view ask why the Kremlin should risk a major war when it can continue to erode U.S. military power, first, by supporting limited “wars of liberation” fought by proxies, and second, by mounting political operations designed to weaken control by other states of maritime trade routes and choke points such as Panama, the Turkish Straits, Gibraltar, the Suez, and the like. There is no cheaper way to cut off the United States from its allies and sources of strategic raw material. One may conclude that although the nuclear threat cannot be swept under the rug, neither can the strategic essentiality of the canal be downgraded. In short, the threat of long-range missiles as an argu
ment for diluting U.S. control is, at best, debatable and may not be valid grounds 2:!! for a phased U.S. withdrawal in the next 30 years. mens The administration's idea that the United States could protect the canal if
Panama "had a stake” in it is persuasive. However, critics fault it because the sationale is flawed. The assumption that Panama, in the years ahead, could Military officers and State Department professionals such as Ambassador John Cabot have not forgotten the prolonged bickering on canal defense during 1940–1941. At a time when the Axis juggernaut was rolling over Europe to almost certain victory, Panama raised maddening obstacles as Washington tried to obtain defense sites outside the Canal Zone (as guaranteed" by the treaty of 1936). The sites were finally obtained, but not until the United States had agreed to generous concessions which Cabot recently described as black. mail."
De counted on to remain steadfast in its formal "guarantees" to the U.S. for ininterrupted use and defense of the waterway is contradicted by the record.
i ? This they did with some success until U.S. Ambassador Patrick Moynihan's outraged
reaction in the United Nations in 1975 dispelled any notion that the United States was 4 helpless Gullirer. Episodes which led the world to believe that the United States vas a paper tiger were this country's failures in the 1960s to react strongly to North Sorea in the capture of the USS Pueblo (AGER-2) and the shooting down of the EC-121 lectronic surveillance plane. the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and the setback of the Vietnam
Far. All of these incidents may be perceived by other nations as symptomatic of a funda* nental national weakness of will.
Not apparent to the pro-treaty advocates is the simple fact that no one knows what lies ahead. Who could foresee that in 1950 the canal would suddenly resume its wartime role as a link in the supply pipeline to Korea? In June 1962, who could predict that in October ships of the Pacific Fleet would sail on emergency orders to join the blockade of Cuba? Again, in the summer of 1975 who could have anticipated the sudden emergence of Cuba's foreign legion (with Soviet help) onto the battlefields of Angola ? Or who would have known that Cuba would become a base for launching anti-Western missions into Jamaica and Guyana, both uncomfortable close to the canal?
Torrijos' flirtation with Castro. coupled with saber-rattling warnings that Panama's patience is running out, raise the specter of torrorism and sabotase Violence in Panama is nothing new. The last major disorders were in January 1964 when riots flared up after an initial clash between Panamanian and U.S. students over the display of a Panamanian flag at an American high scbo! in the zone. Failure of the Panamanian President to call out the National Gnard from its barracks to quell the outbursts resulted in a three-day street battle which claimed some 21 Panamanian lives, some of them by Panamanian bullets Four Americans also died.
Cuban Communist organizers were linked to this managed violence. In 1977 as in 1964, there are probably hundreds of students and urban youths who are susceptible to urgings by radical leaders to declare "war" on the gringns. As in 1964, Castro-trained subversives, acting independently of Torrijos and possikls backed by Soviet funds are standing by, ready for the signal to create chans by sniper fire, Molotov cocktails, arson, and bombings. This is the nightmare which haunts Washington policymakers who profess to dread "another Vietnam."
Left unsaid in most public discussion of the controversy is the sobering fact that Panama needs the canal for its very existence. The Panamanian business and industrial community certainly would condemn any acts of brarado which could turn Panama into a battleground. Many of the 62 international banks upon which Torrijos depends for financing urban development and other "nation. building” programs are well aware of what has happened to their branches in the devastated city of Beirut, Lebanon, and would he quick to evacuate their wealth and their staffs. American aid would end. Torrijos probably knows hetter than anyone the tragedy which would result from a quixotic and ill-starmed guerrilla campaign and would move to prevent it. It is safe to say that middle class urban Panamanians feel the same way.
A terrorist war against the United States would mean that all life-sustaining revenues from the canal would end for a period of years. The fate of Egypt and the Suez Canal is all too recent. No one knows what the future holds bir Torrijos' threats of another Vietnam comprise what is prohably a "worst-egor scenario, broadcast more for their value as rhetorical blackmail than as
as credible possibilities.
The unknown factor in this picture is Panama's National Guard. In Lati American countries, the military almost always determines the eventual fate controversial leaders. Traditionally, the Latin American military caste consider itself the guardian of the nation's soul. Thus did Torrijos as an obscure liectenant colonel justify his coup d'etat against President Arnulfo Arias in 1 What is the attitude of the National Guard's senior officers? Would the regime's failure to maintain stability create alarm among them? Would these offer permit anti-Yankee radicals to launch a self-destructive wave of terror again the Canal Zone? Or would they turn against Torrijos in favor of a more moderate leader? Such are the forbidding uncertainties of Panamanian politics.
8 For an account of Washington frustrations caused by President Armnlfo 128 and others, see Lester D. Langley's “The World Crisis and the Good Neighbor PC in Panama, 1936–1941." in The Americas, October 1967, pp. 137-152. Sre alon Th Washington Post. 15 May 1975. "Misleading Canal Debate." article hr John C former Chief of Division of Caribbean and Central American affairs and chief V.S. B tiator for the treaty of 1955 between the United States and Panama.
Torrijos' claim that all of Latin America supports him is challenged by retired Ambassador Willard Beaulac, who, during his career, headed five different U.S. embassies in Latin America. He judges that most Latin American nations, while rendering ritualistic support to Panama on the canal issue, are privately reluctant to see the benefits of orderly U.S. administration transferred to an uncertain fate in the hands of an unstable Panama. Robert Corrigan, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, write in The New York Times that Latin American diplomats privately assure their American colleagues of their hope that the United States will hold onto the canal while publicly siding with Panama, largely out of an imperative of "Latin American solidarity." 10 However, if Panama persists in flaying the United States in the forums of the United Nations and Organization of American States, then seasoned diplomats such as Beaulac say that negotiations should be suspended. Americans have a deep-rooted aversion to diplomacy under blackmail, even though such oratory may be directed primarily at Panamanian voters.
Meanwhile, Torrijos may be learning that political leadership sometimes imposes on one the necessity to accept an unpleasant choice from among several undesirable courses. If he backs down and agrees to U.S. control and defense, then the radical students and his left-wing supporters will condemn him. In addition, many of Panama's conservatives are against a Torrijos-sponsored treaty because they believe that a joint defense means continued Washington support for the dictator and his National Guard. If he maintains his stonewall position past 1977 (his “year of decision"), radicals may plot his removal. But, in the final analysis, if revolts against his regime break out, moderate officers may fly him out on the first plane to Miami. His standoff with Washington may have put Torrijos out on a limb from which there is no safe return.
One need not doubt that Torrijos is acting in what he perceives as his nation's interest. Panama wants the canal for riqueza, dignidad, and soberania (wealth, dignity, and sovereignty). These justifiable goals, regrettably, clash with the cruel reality that small nations, like innocent bystanders in a street brawl, are sometimes unwillingly caught up in great power struggles. Pragmatists of the realpolitik school will reason that Panama's lot can be roughly equated with that of Finland, Sweden, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other small nations. It is linked inexorably to that of a major nation, and whether that major nation is a "good" democracy or a "bad" totalitarian state is beside the point. Unfortunately, national weakness and small size do not necessarily endow a tiny nation with immunity from global wars, whether cold or hot. Finlanders, for eaxmple, have accepted the truth of impaired sovereignty with resignation, while Panamanians probably do not recognize the sense in which their situation can be compared to Finland's.
Some diplomatic confrontations have no ready solution and must be endured by both parties. To date, so far as can be learned from press reports, the United States has offered reasonable concessions to Panama, including substantial material benefits and Panamanian participation in running the waterway. When Washington will have made its last concession, then prudence requires that we draw the line. If this action seems harsh to some Americans, others may perceive that our long-range interests demand it. To do otherwise may commit this nation to a diplomatic quagmire from which we could extricate ourselves only with the greatest of difficulty.
Is there any way out of this impasse? Obviously no instant answer has yet been found. Probably to many Americans it goes against common sense for Washington to agree to entrust the canal to a caudillo whose support by his people is in question and whose actions demonstrate that he is not a warm friend of the United States.
Meanwhile, during their televised foreign policy debate on 6 October 1976, President Ford and Governor Carter took strong positions. Said Carter, “I would not relinquish practical control of the Panama Canal anytime in the foreseeable future.” President Ford responded with a forthright declaration that the United States “must and will maintain complete access to the Panama Canal" and that U.S. “national security interests” would be maintained. Predictably, General Torrijos charged both of them with "great irresponsibility” in their statements. Cleary, U.S. interests, as affirmed by the two candidates, were not congruent with Panama's goals.
• Letters to anthor. 23 September 1975 and 11 February 1976. Willard Beaulac has served as U.S. Ambassador in Paragray, Cuba, Colombia, and Chile. He later was Deputy Commandant of the National War College.
10 Robert F. Corrigan, "Panama Canal: The U.S. Stake," letter to The New York Times, 12 June 1976, p. 36.
A basic dictum of U.S. foreign policy holds that U.S. security rests upon the defense of the western hemisphere. Rightly or wrongly, many Americans undoubtedly believe that this defense is linked to the continuous security of the Panama Canal. In its capacity as protector of the hemisphere, a role it now carries out with defensive diffidence, the United States has proved time and again that it will not hesitate to act as arbiter in Latin American flareups. As recently as 1965 President Lyndon Johnson ordered 25,000 troops to the Dominican Republic to end a bloodbath which cost the lives of some 2,000 people.
What has this to do with Panama? The point to be drawn is that when the final chips are down, the strategic importance of the waterway makes improbable a U.S. surrender of de facto control. Painful though the thought may be, the chances are that if the circumstance so require, the United States will not hesitate to act firmly if its defense interests are in jeopardy.
OCTOBER 25, 1977. Mr. MICHAEL K. DEAVER, Deaver & Hannaford, Inc., Los Angeles, Calif.
DEAR MR. DEAVER: I wish to acknowledge your letter of October 3 to Mr. Robert Dockery in which you enclose a copy of Governor Reagan's statement before the Subcommittee on Separation of Powers of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Committee is pleased to have a copy of this statement and will make it a part of its hearing record.
I regret very much that we were unable to work out a mutually convenient time for Governor Reagan to testify before the Committee on the proposed Panama Canal agreements. I think the record should show, however, that the Committee initially contacted the Governor's office on September 22 and invited him to appear any time during the week of October 10. Sincerely,
John SPARKMAN, Chairman.
TESTIMONY BY HON. RONALD REAGAN Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to appear before you this morning to testify. You are concerned, as I am, with Constitutional and other issues arising out of the proposed Panama Canal treaties, and I appreciate this opportunity to share my views with you.
It is necessary first to comment on the Constitutional issue. Even though I am not a lawyer myself, I can appreciate the hours of research lawyers put into these matters. In reading about the Panama Canal, its history and its operations as well as its national and international significance, I found myself spending more and more of my time studying the legal cases and opinions which bear on the Canal and our relations with Panama. There is a plentiful supply of logic and common sense in those cases and opinions.
The Executive branch argues that the President's treaty-making powers under the Constitution are enough to dispose of U.S. territory and property without any implementing legislation by the Congress; that transfers of property as specified in a treaty become self-executing once the Senate ratifies the treaty. Historically, Congress has held to a different view, though there have been enough ambiguities over the years to revive the argument with each new case.
At a glance, the United States Constitution does seem to be ambiguous about the matter :
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 gives the President authority to negotiate and enter into treaties.
Article VI. Section 2 declares that treaties are the supreme law of the land.
But, the Constitution also places a Congressional act and a treaty on the same footing.
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 grants "The Congress", meaning both houses. the power to dispose of territory and other federal property.
Treaties, of course, must not be in violation of the Constitution which grants various powers to the President, the Congress and the States. All of these, at