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The diplomatic business is a competitive one. Most countries set lofty standards for their representatives. In various capitals colleagues of the corps respect or sneer at each other's professionalskills, are attracted or repelled by each other's graces and accomplishments, and sometimes selfishly cheer a rival's ineptitude. Good diplomats serve national interests cheaply and effectively. Bad ones do a great deal of harm.
It is not unlikely that within the next two years nearly every country in Latin America will be governed by an elected civilian regime. This might surprise most Americans, accustomed as we are to thinking about the region in terms of coup-prone military governments and repressive oligarchies. We are surprised too at the recent embrace of democracy in Latin America by the Reagan administration. Some of its leading representatives went about touting the virtues of authoritarian government; but the administration has found that it is good politics to promote democracy and free elections in Central America and the Caribbean— and politically impossible to resume aid to regimes with bad human rights records. In fact, “Project Democracy” is the latest buzzword of Reagan's Latin American policy.
“The environment today is threatened not primarily by lack of knowledge about our problems and what to do about them, but by a massive failure of will.” So said Maurice F. Strong, chairman of the International Convocation for World Environmental Regeneration held in New York City this past February. Mr. Strong, it may be recalled, had served as the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, and later as the first executive director of the United Nations Environment Program when this agency was established to give effect to the many-sided resolution adopted at Stockholm.
World trade is often a purveyor of social and political values as well as of goods. The economic development of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore—and increasingly China itself—will likely bring attempts at changing today's standards of international commerce and law to bring them into greater conformity with those that prevail in the East. As this process unfolds, different concepts of obligation— as between the Judeo-Christian tradition prevalent in Europe and areas settled by Europeans and the Confucian tradition prevalent in China and other countries of East and Southeast Asia—will become far more noticeable than in the past.