DISSENT PAPER ON EL SALVADOR AND CENTRAL AMERICA DOS 11/06/80
To: Dissent Channel
Re: DM-ESCA # 80-3
Statement of Purpose
The Reagan Administration's first international crisis may well be in El Salvador. Candidate Reagan's foreign policy advisors have made deeply disturbing statements about their plans for Central America and the Caribbean basin.
However, should President Reagan choose to use military force in El Salvador, historians will be able to show that the setting for such actions had been prepared in the last year of the Carter Administration. There may still be time to change course during the transition period. If the effort fails we will continue to argue for a negotiated resolution of the conflict. We recall, perhaps with unwarranted optimism, that it was Mrs. Thatcher--and not her Labor predecessors--who brought the Rhodesian crisis to a peaceful end. We hope that moderation and reason will prevail among President Reagan's appointees.
We see current US activities in El Salvador as leading to increased military engagement with far reaching implications for our strategic interests in the Caribbean basin. Support for our policies is limited and unreliable. Our identification with the governing Junta in that country has placed us in a collision course with key regional actors with whom we need to maintain friendly and cooperative diplomatic and economic relations.
By contrast, the non-military, negotiated solution proposed in this paper may well enjoy broad international support and acceptance. This option is seen as most effective in achieving the two key objectives of US policy in this region: limiting Cuban and Soviet expansion and promoting the emergence of stable and pluralistic governments.
The views articulated in this paper are shared in private by current and former analysts and officials at NSC, DOS, DOD and CIA. Employees from other agencies active in El Salvador and Central America--but normally excluded from policy debates--also contributed to these notes. In this case, their close contact with the situation in the field provided us with valuable insights and uncommon objectivity.
Members of Congress and their staffs, concerned by developments in the region and disturbed by the implications of some aspects of current policy, also participated in this effort.
It is our intention that this dissenting paper circulate widely among makers and executors of policy, in the Carter and Reagan administrations. We trust it will promote open discussion of realistic alternatives to our potential escalated military involvement in Central America and the Caribbean.
Summary and Recommendations
The Carter administration has gradually increased US political diplomatic, economic and military involvement in support of the civilian-military coaltion government in El Salvador. This involvement is extensive and growing. The resources invested in this effort exceed those allocated to any other hemispheric crisis since 1965.
Resource allocation and official public statements have identified our strategic interests in Central America and the Caribbean with the fate of a relatively weak, unpopular and internationally isolated regime.