IN ITS LAST, and undoubtedly most disturbing Central American policy decision, the Carter administration last week resumed military aid to El Salvador's repressive junta. In some ways, it was no surprise that Carter, who for four years has touted human rights, should reveal the hollowness of his ideals in his final presidential flourish. His administration has increased aid to the regime of Jose Napolean Duarte from $1 million to almost $6 million in four years.
The price of this aid has been the deaths of countless Salvadorans and seven Americans; and the junta our government labels "reform-minded" has proved incapable even of controlling its own American-armed military forces. Carter's resumption of military aid sets the stage all too well for Ronald Reagan's escalation of this support, harming the Salvadoran people and staining the American conscience once again as it supports the people's adversary.
During his campaign, Reagan issued a not-so-subtle farewell to human rights, promising to base his foreign policy on "the world as it is." In the case of El Salvador, the president would do well to see the reality of the situation: a repressive military junta opposing a majority of the people and the opposition party they support. The United States must not, for the next four years, continue to support a government that stands only because American guns and money back it.
To avoid a debacle, such as those caused by America's self-serving and short-sighted policy in Cuba, Chile and Nicaragua, the United States government should immediately recognize the government supported by the people of El Salvador. If the opposition is to overcome the repressive regime that rules the country by terror now, the United States should either halt its aid to Duarte or, for once, aid the popular forces. Only with the victory of El Salvador's leftist guerrillas will peace return to the embattled Central American country.