Building in War for Peace


By DEAN ACHESON, Assistant Secretary of State

Before the Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, July 6, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 633-635..

IN a very special sense it is a privilege to be here tonight. It is a privilege because in few places on this earth can free men and women meet to take stock of their position, to formulate and express together their opinions, to play their part in shaping their own course. Mr. Churchill referred to the British Parliament as the grand inquest of the nation. We have our own grand inquest in Washington as every government official is keenly aware. But it has been a tradition of the American people from the days of the New England town meeting to conduct their own inquests in every part of the country. At no time in our history has it been more essential that you should meet in this University, created to provide the indispensable foundation of a free people, and take counsel together. The country will need all your thought and all your resolution.

A witness before an inquest appears not to expound but to give testimony. It is fortunate that this is so because neither by training nor position is this witness qualified to expound the strategies of the war or of the peace to follow. But an administrative officer knows, because he must participate in some of them, that hundreds of decisions and judgments are, and must be, made in the course of every day's work. He knows that the cumulative effect of these decisions will determine in large measure the scope within which future decisions may be made and future policies determined. He knows the effect of current opinion upon current decisions. Whether we are conscious of it or not, all of us, whether we are public servants or private citizens, are every day formulating the aims and drawing the outlines of the future.

I wish to speak tonight of the decisions which have been and must be made upon one of the most fundamental factors in the war and the peace—our program for supplying the armies of our allies on every front to the full extent of ourpower. Today no one doubts that even the most elementary considerations of self preservation demand that this be done. No one doubts that every front is our front, that a weapon used against the enemy by any ally is well used, and that it is our great good fortune to have fighting with us the skilled hands and stout hearts to use them. No one believes today that it is an act of favor to furnish weapons to those who are fighting so gallantly beside our own men. That decision is made, and there is now no dissent.

Indispensable as that aid is to our allies, we must not exaggerate its extent in relation to our own resources and our own war effort or in relation to the effort of our allies. Only by seeing it in true perspective can we reach wise and just judgments on the questions it presents. In his report of June 11, 1942, to the Congress, the President stated that lend-lease aid for the preceding fifteen months had amounted to four and a half billion dollars and that it was currently being provided at a rate approximately equal to eight billion dollars a year. This year lend-lease aid will represent about six per cent of our present national income and very roughly about thirteen per cent of what we are spending to fight the war. What we can send is limited by the ships available. There is no one of us who does not wish that it could be more. There is no one of us who does not understand the essential strategic function of this flow of weapons and materials and food to the fighting fronts and the people behind them.

But there could be no greater mistake than to believe that our supplies are equipping the armies of the United Nations. Essential as they are, they form a small part of the vast supplies which these armies are using. With amazing skill, determination, and sacrifice our allies have converted every available resource of material and manpower to the purposes of war. We have together created a common pool of material with which the common war is being waged. Our contribution is indispensable but it is a part of a far larger whole.

As our own forces take a greater part upon the fronts, the resources of this pool are made available to them. Precious shipping is saved by supplying them from the nearest sources, and in steadily increasing volume our allies are doing this with food and weapons. Our troops in Australia and Great Britain are drawing to the fullest extent upon the supplies available in those areas and so releasing shipping for materials which cannot be supplied except from overseas.

This energetic and extensive system of mutual aid is more than a way of economizing in the use of ships. It is a symbol of the willing cooperation of the United Nations. Each is now giving the last full measure of its strength and resources, in a common and desperate war. Our thoughts about the terms on which war aid is given and received should be formulated with this in mind. They must be carried out with full appreciation of the contribution of each nation in relation to its own capacity and to the contribution of others.

The basic principles governing these terms have been declared in the agreements entered into with the governments of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, China, Belgium, and Poland and under discussion with other governments. They express the creative statesmanship with which the Lend-Lease Act was conceived. They say both what the final settlement shall not be and also, in broad outline, what it shall be. It shall not be a settlement which will burden commerce between the countries. We have experienced such settlements before and know the full train of evils and misery which they bring. But it shall be a settlement — to use the words of the agreements themselves—"to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between them (the countries agreeing) and the betterment of world-wide economic relations." "To that end," the formal language of the agreements continues, the final settlement "shall include provision for agreed action . . . open to participation by all other countries of like mind, directed to the expansion, by appropriate international and domestic measures, of production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods which are the material foundations of the liberty and welfare of all peoples; to the elimination of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce, and to the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers," and in general to the attainment of the objectives declared in the Atlantic Charter.

These are the principles upon which aid is given and received. The President has stated the heart of the matter in his last report to the Congress. He said:

"By this provision we have affirmatively declared our intention to avoid the political and economic mistakes of international debt experience during the twenties.

"A lend-lease settlement which fulfills this principle will be sound from the economic point of view. But it will have a greater merit. It will represent the only fair way to distribute the financial costs of war among the United Nations.

"The real costs of the war cannot be measured, nor compared, nor paid for in money. They must and are being met in blood and toil. But the financial costs of the war can and should be met in a way which will serve the needs of lasting peace and mutual economic well-being.

"All the United Nations are seeking maximum conversion to war production, in the light of their special resources. If each country devotes roughly the same fraction of its national production to the war, then the financial burden of war is distributed equally among the United Nations in accordance with their ability to pay. Andalthough the nations richest in resources are able to make larger contributions, the claim of war against each is relatively the same. Such a distribution of the financial costs of war means that no nation will grow rich from the war effort of its allies. The money costs of the war will fall according to the rule of equality in sacrifice, as in effort."

Would any of you have the settlement otherwise? If so, this is the time to search your hearts and minds and speak. What do you wish to ask in return for the aid you give? That aid will probably be greater in total amount than the aid we shall receive, because our resources are greater, because the drain upon them has been less.

Do you wish an accounting of benefits given and received on the theory that they represent mutual debts, to be computed in dollars, and set off against each other to measure a balance owed in money? Do you wish to set on one side the value of a tank, its guns and ammunition and on the other an appraisal of those who died in it under a desert sun? What is the equation between the planes sent to Russia and those figures in the snow before Leningrad and Moscow? We know the value of everything which has gone to China. Are we to value those years in which the Chinese held the eastern front alone? I do not think that any of us want this accounting. I doubt whether we care even to think about it very much.

What is it, then, that we do want? We must know this before we can ask. Do we want money? More gold buried at Fort Knox? And how is it to be provided? Those nations which have been quickly defeated face the future with their foreign assets virtually intact. Those which have fought on, and made the victory possible, have bled themselves white in the process, selling what they had for the means to continue the fight. Would anyone propose that we should ask in addition an impossible mortgage upon their future? Such a proposal would not be a strategy of either war or peace. No, we do not. want money, because, of all settlements, we know that it is the most impossible and the most destructive.

Do we want the articles we sent replaced? So long as the need exists, this broadly is the function of lend-lease from our allies to us. But when the need ends do we wish to require the continuation of armament production? Or if we require some arms do we wish to rely upon others for them? This is the very opposite of American policy in the past which has led the fight for the reduction of armaments.

Do we want goods? In the past we have fought any such suggestion with the fury of an untamed broncho. We shall have to learn better. But the problem will be to take goods in exchange for what we must continue to send if our allies —and our enemies—may rebuild their lives. We must buy in order that they may buy from us. Our present aid cannot be repaid in goods. To attempt it would destroy us all.

What is it, then, that we do want? I believe that it is what has been provided for in the agreements already made. If you ask yourselves and your neighbors what it is that you want, the answer will not be money, or to get back the guns you have sent abroad, or to get goods except in the course of trade. The answer will be that you want a chance to live fully and in peace. You want a world in which some half mad man and his bigoted crew on the other side of the earth will not bring down your lives and your houses about your ears once every quarter century. You want opportunity, a job in which you can use your powers, a job which may not end any Saturday, one that will provide the material and spiritual means for a life which is not mere existence. You want a system where the inevitable hazards of life do not fall on those least able to bear them, where education and a chance to use it are open to talent.

The agreements open the way — and about the only way — in which these wants of every man and woman in every country can be more than wishes. They do not lay down a blue print for the future. No man can do that now. They do not promise Utopia. But they chart the fundamental course in the field of economic policy which, if faithfully followed and supported by political organization to maintain peace, cannot fail to take us farther along the road than in recent years it has seemed possible to hope.

They provide first that the steps to be agreed upon between us and our allies shall be open to participation by all other countries of like mind. They are to be no exclusive arrangements, no excluded peoples among those who wish to work with us to the common goal. This is the principle of the Atlantic Charter embodied in the agreements — that there shall be equal access to the trade of the world and to its raw materials for all nations large and small, victors or vanquished. At the base of the whole settlement is to be fairness and equality, the rejection of special privileges and vindictive exclusions.

The second principle calls for united action by all nations, correlating for this purpose international and domestic measures, to expand production, employment, and the exchange and consumption of goods. No one, of course, can doubt that the opportunity for full and secure lives which the peoples of all countries demand, and rightly demand, and will insist upon having, is only possible through increased production, employment, and the movement and consumption of goods. But one can well doubt the possibility of achieving these goals unless there is unity of effort and unity in the timing and direction of the efforts of all nations. Too often in the past action in one country has been frustrated because at the same moment others have been moving in the opposite direction, or because a powerful country has been moving in one direction in its international policy and in the opposite direction in its domestic policy. The second fundamental principle of the agreements is for common efforts on all fronts at the same time to expand production, employment, and consumption.

The third principle is the elimination of discriminatory treatment in international commerce and the reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers. It is plain to every one of you that at the end of this war there will be a need such as we have never known to move goods between nations — to feed and clothe and house millions whose consumption has for years been below minimum requirements, to restore devastation, to build and rebuild all the means of production, and, in the years beyond, to move that far greater volume of goods required by the standards we are determined to achieve. It is plain, also, that any such movement is utterly impossible if the nations or any important group of them continue to put impediments in the way, attempt to corner markets for themselves, or resort to devices of any sort to check the flow of goods and back it up upon its sources.

Throughout his whole public life Secretary Hull has striven tirelessly to make our own and all other peoples see the folly and the tragic end of such practices. Even when the shadow of war was lengthening over the world, he made desperate efforts to break the network of restrictions which were choking the production and the movement of goods. But peoples continued to believe that they could solve a world problem in isolation. The agreements declare as a basic principle that this cannot be done and will not again be attempted. They lay down as the course for agreed action, that along which Mr. Hull has so steadfastly pointed the way.

These are decisions which have been made in the course of war. I submit to you that they have been well and wisely made, that they bear within them the promise of a peace which shall dawn with hope. It will be a dawn long awaited by millions from whom hope will have been the only sacrifice not asked and freely given. But the dawn will come. Its promise is in your hands, in the hands of your fellow citizens, in the hands and thoughts and will of the people everywhere. Yours is the power and yours the responsibility — not at some future time, not in plans for the world after the war, but in what you think and do and want now.