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The Alliance in D.C.


In the last two weeks, Washington has appraised the first year of President Kennedy's Latin American project, and has concluded that the Alliance for Progress isn't working. Possibly this is so, but it is not for the reasons its critics suggest. The charges that have forced State Department administrators into increasingly preposterous defenses of the way in which $1 billion has already been committed are largely founded on a hopelessly simplistic idea of what the money is supposed to accomplish.

Congressmen considerably less unfavorable to the Alliance than Mr. Otto E. Passmann of the House subcommittee for foreign aid have tended to judge the Alliance by a set of important but essentially arbitrary criteria. These men want (1) tax reform (2) land reform (3) contracts from specific firms or agencies, before they will feel easy about appropriating funds. On the whole, they have remained singularly unmoved by Administration statements that meaningful political legislation often depends on economic stability, that one cannot commit funds absolutely before one has them, and that it is silly to connect every political event in Latin America with the success of the Alliance. The trouble is that expropriation of the I.T. & T. in a Brazilian province, or the fact that Cuba has instituted a stiff rationing program, can seriously affect the Alliance, if American opinion allows them to.

The reaction from Congress has, unfortunately, little to do with its habitual obtuseness; representatives may apply false standards to the Alliance, but they did not fashion them from the air. Both this country's press (through reporting that continually harps on the incongruousness of efficient administrators in a lazy and fragmented continent) and the Kennedy government itself have contributed to the birth of a novel series of banalities about development and planning. They have invented the wrong slogans, and now must live with them.

For the President, the most important problem for the moment is to sell the Alliance all over again to the House. Perhaps he can do so this time; he will never do so again if he fails to organize the Washington branch of the project into a group basically agreed on what the Alliance is for.

After the Bowles shakeup, the Latin American section of the State Department emerged no happier than before; some seven men who cannot be counted on to listen to each other now control hemispheric economic policy. The result is that Dean Rusk travels to Punta del Este to damage the Alliance by splitting Right and Left further apart in Argentina; the President himself has to defend aid to Brazil for lack of other support; and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American affairs, as a former member of the White House staff, is apparently not responsible to his chief.

Each of the seven knows what he wants to happen in Latin America. The problem is not that they each think differently, but that they have not come together to inform the Congress--or the press--what they conceive reasonable goals to be.

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