Nation: The Fall of Andy Young

Secrecy, deception and pressure politics trip Carter's friend

It is very difficult to do the things that I think are in the interest of the country and also maintain the standards of protocol and diplomacy ... I really don't feel a bit sorry for anything that I have done. And I could not say to anybody that given the same situation, I wouldn't do it again almost exactly the same way.

With that touch of bravado, Andrew Young last week announced that he had resigned as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Jimmy Carter, expressing "deep regret" in a handwritten letter, accepted the resignation of his close friend, fellow Southerner and one of his earliest and staunchest black political backers.

Washington was startled, as were capitals around the world, for in his 31 months at the U.N., the freewheeling Young had demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to ride out and survive the controversies that he generated. But this time there was no stilling the uproar when it was learned that Young had met with an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization, in violation of repeatedly stated U.S. policy, and then deliberately misled the Department of State about the meeting.

It was soon clear that Young had become too great a liability for a White House that has been striving to demonstrate that it is capable of national leadership. Not only had Young's deception gravely embarrassed Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, but the meeting with the P.L.O. had enraged Israel and threatened to derail U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East. American black leaders, on the other hand, were angry at Carter for so readily accepting Young's departure, and they hinted that the President might pay for his action with lost black votes. Several of them also blamed the dismissal on Jewish pressure and warned that it would exacerbate tension between U.S. blacks and Jews.

The furor over Young erupted just as Robert Strauss, a special U.S. envoy for the Middle East negotiations, was heading back there for talks with Israeli and Egyptian leaders. He had already faced a gathering crisis over Israeli concern that the U.S. was reaching out to try to bring the P.L.O. into the Middle East peace process, a prospect that is anathema to Jerusalem. Said Strauss on the plane to the Middle East: "The Young affair ... reinforces the unfounded suspicions that the U.S. is dealing in the dark with the P.L.O."

Things did not go well during Strauss's two-hour meeting on Friday with Israeli Premier Menachem Begin. On the matter of most concern to the U.S., how to draw the Palestinians into the current talks on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Begin reiterated his country's position that there must be neither change nor dilution of the Camp David accords or

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which implicitly affirms Israel's right to exist as a state. Strauss basically concurred, but added that the U.S. favors "a reaffirming and a building on" of 242 with a new draft that could cite 242 and include the Camp David language recognizing the "legitimate rights of the Palestinian people." He told the Premier that the U.S. "might go forward with a resolution of its own in the U.N." along these lines.

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