Accord Needed Now


By WENDELL L. WILLKIE, Republican Presidential Candidate—1940 Delivered before the New York Herald-Tribune Forum, New York City, November 17, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 134-137.

THE importance of the military in today's struggle is dear to us all. My concern tonight is with an even more powerful weapon than the gun, and that is the idea.

For however important the role of bayonets and guns may have been in the development of mankind, the role of ideas has been vastly more important—and, in the long run, more conclusive. In historical times, at any rate, men have not often fought merely for the joy of killing each other. They have fought for a purpose. Sometimes that purpose has not been very inspiring. Sometimes it has been quite selfish. But a war won without a purpose is a war won without a victory.

A most outstanding example of a war fought with a purpose was our own American Revolution. We did not fight the Revolution because we hated Englishmen and wanted to kill them, but because we loved freedom and wanted to establish it. I think it is fair to say, in the light of what that freedom has meant to the world, that the victory won at Yorktown was the greatest victory ever won by the force of arms. But this was not because our army was large and formidable. It was because our purpose was so clear, so lofty and so well defined.

1918 Sacrifice Vain

Unhappily this cannot be said of the first world war. It has become almost a historical truism that that war was a war without victory. Of course, it is true that, while we were engaged in it, we thought, or said, that we were fighting for a high purpose. Woodrow Wilson, our commander-in-chief, stated our purpose in eloquent terms. We were fightingto make the world safe for democracy—to make it safe, not just with a slogan but by accepting a set of principles known as the Fourteen Points, and by setting up a full-fledged international structure to be known as the League of Nations. That was a high purpose, surely.

But when the time came to execute it in a peace treaty, a fatal flaw was discovered. We found that we and our allies were not really agreed upon that purpose. On the one hand, some of our allies had entangled themselves in secret treaties; and they were more intent upon carrying out those treaties and upon pursuing traditional power diplomacy than upon opening the new vista that Mr. Wilson had sought to define.

And, on the other hand, we ourselves were not as deeply dedicated to our declared purposes as we had led the world to believe. The net result was the abandonment of most of the purposes for which the war had supposedly been fought. Because those purposes were abandoned, that war was denounced by our generation as an enormous and futile slaughter. Millions had lost their lives. But no new idea, no new goal rose from the ashes of their sacrifice.

Now I think that these considerations lead us inescapably to one conclusion. I think we must conclude that, generally speaking, nothing of importance can be won in peace which has not already been won in the war itself. I say "nothing of importance." It is quite true, of course, that many details must be worked out at the peace table and at conferences succeeding the peace table—details which cannot be judiciously worked out under the pressure of war. We—we and our allies, of course—cannot, for instance, stop fighting the Japs to make a detailed plan of what we intend to do about Burma when victory is won. Nor can we relent in our pressure against Hitler to decide the detailed future of Poland now.

Must Win Principles

What we must win now, during the war, are the principles. We must know what our line of solution will be. Again, let me use the American Revolution as an example. When we fought that war we had no inkling of the actual structure of the United States of America. No one had ever heard of the Constitution. The Federal system, the three branches of government, the brilliant bicameral compromise by which the small states were induced to come into the Union—all these innovations lay as yet in the future, nourished only by the brains of a few great political thinkers—who, themselves, were not entirely clear.

And yet the basic principles of that great political structure that was to become the United States of America were surely contained in the Declaration of Independence, in the songs and the speeches of that day, in after-dinner discussions and private arguments around soldiers' campfires and everywhere along the Atlantic Coast. Even though the great States of Massachusetts and Virginia were held together by the vaguest pronouncements and the flimsiest of political contraptions (the Continental Congress), their citizens were in substantial agreement as to the same cause they were fighting for and the goal they wished to achieve.

Had they not agreed during the war, Massachusetts and Virginia surely would have failed to agree concerning the principles of the peace. They won exactly in the peace what they won in the war—no more and no less. This truth, if it were not self-evident, could be proved by citing one calamity. The people of those states did fail to agree concerning the freedom or the slavery of the Negro. The result was that there grew up around the enslaved Negro in the South an entirely different economy from that which grew up in the North. And this resulted in another and far bloodier war.

Can we not learn from this simple lesson, and from similar lessons of history, what our task is today? I say to you, we must learn. We must know that we shall win in the future peace only what we are now winning in the war—no more, no less.

Two Major Problems

That being profoundly true, we are faced today with two problems: How shall we determine what we want in the next peace? And how shall we prepare ourselves to win it during the war?

First, to determine our aims it is clearly necessary to reach substantial agreement with our allies. Here, as in our Revolution, agreement in detail is not necessary, or even desirable. But unless we are to repeat the unhappy history of the first world war, agreement in principle must be won. Moreover, it must exist, not just among the leaders of the allies; the basic agreement I am thinking of must be established among the allied people themselves. We must make sure that these people are fighting for essentially the same thing.

Now what does this mean? It means that every one of us has the obligation to speak out, to exchange ideas, freely and frankly, across the Pacific, across the Atlantic, and here at home. Unless the British people know the way we are thinking in America, and take it to heart, and unless we have a similar idea of what they are thinking in England and in the Commonwealth, there can be no hope of agreement. We must know what the people of Russia and China aim for and we must let them know our aims.

It is the utmost folly—it is just short of suicide—to take the position that the citizens of any country should hold theirtongues for fear of causing distress to the immediate and sometimes tortuous policies of their leaders.

For instance, shall we be quiet when we see our State Department's long appeasement of Vichy? I tell you we cannot fight this war in silence, whatever our experts say. Because if we fight in silence those same experts in the end, even winning the war, win nothing but blood and ashes.

All of Allies Involved

Thus, in order that we may win a real victory we must encourage the utmost amount of discussion among ourselves, and with our allies. Moreover, we must be very clear as to what this word "allies" means. We have many allies—roughly, I should estimate them at a billion people. Britain and the United States are great powers, but they are not the only powers involved in this struggle, nor even necessarily the greatest powers. Russia and China have each already suffered greater losses in this war than all the rest of us put together. Those two enormous nations are also our allies, and consequently, when we talk about reaching agreement among allied peoples, we must mean the Russian and the Chinese people as well as the British people and the American people.

Indeed, we must go further. We must try to find out, and openly to express, the desires and hopes of hundreds of millions of other peoples—in the torn heart of Europe, in India, on the embattled shores of the Mediterranean, in Africa, on the southern shores of Asia and in our own hemisphere. For if some of these people are not now our allies they are potential allies, and they are necessary participants in the world that is to follow this war. We must win substantial agreement with them also. If we do not we cannot win substantial peace.

That then is our first problem—to discuss, and to discuss openly and frankly, the desires and the needs of the allied peoples so that we may all come into substantial agreement concerning what we are fighting for.

Just as you have listened this evening to the representatives of government, of industry, of labor, to aviators of peace and of war, to producers and scientists, so men and women all over the world must discuss and learn and exchange ideas and purposes with which to direct the future.

Discussion Not Enough

But discussion alone is not enough. Having discussed what we want to win in the peace, having set our goals, our second problem faces us: How, during the war, shall we prepare ourselves to attain those goals in the peace? The answer to that is plain: We must learn to work together; we must learn to work with all our allies that we may win both the war and the peace. We must work together today; tomorrow will be too late. Our most immediate common need is, of course, a united military plan arrived at by a board of strategy representative not alone of the United States and Great Britain but representing likewise our other allies.

Even such obviously essential co-operation has not yet been brought about. It is true that we are beginning to work with the British. That is comparatively easy, for we are possessed of the same linguistic and cultural heritage. But we must learn equally well to work with Russians and Chinese in the arduous task of today. And that task is not merely the task of military co-operation, however pressing that may be; it is also the task of working together now for a world at peace. For as I have already said, military victory is fruitless unless on the anvil of war we hammer out joint and honorable purposes.

And how about the goals for which we work. Here again perhaps we may learn from past failures.

After the last war the peace failed because no joint objectives upon which it could be based had been arrived at in the minds of the people. The League of Nations was created full blown; and men and women, having developed no joint purpose except to defeat a common enemy, fell into capricious and irrelevant arguments about its structural form. Likewise, it failed because it was primarily an Anglo-French-American solution, retaining the old colonial imperialisms under new and fancy terms. It took inadequate account of the pressing needs of the Far East, nor did it sufficiently seek solution of the economic problems of the world. Its attempts to solve the world's problems were primarily political. But political internationalism without economic internationalism is a house built upon sand. For no nation can reach its fullest development alone.

There were those among us prior to this war who entertained the notion that America was an exception to this economic law; that America was economically self-sufficient. This war must surely have dissipated such ideas. We have seen our domestic economy and habits dislocated by a shortage of rubber. We have had cause to fear that even our war requirements could not be met. Sugar and coffee rationing have come. Our military and production experts fight frantically to find the methods of allocating our inadequate supplies of copper and of tin.

Submarines have taught us hideously how dependent America is upon the rest of the world's products, just as the airplane has dramatically shown us how the problems of all men are close and interrelated. If, with our great resources, our boasted self-sufficiency disappears so quickly when the flow of goods from the outside world is reduced, it becomes doubly clear that less fortunate nations, in order to develop, must have access to basic raw materials.

Therefore we should work today to make available presently to all the United Nations and, when the war is over, to all the world, access to the materials indispensable to economic self-development. This cannot be accomplished by mere declarations of our leaders, as in an Atlantic Charter, particularly when one of the two principals in that instrument has in the last few days seemingly defended the old imperialistic order and declared to a shocked world: "We mean to hold our own." Its accomplishment primarily depends upon acceptance by the peoples of the world. For if the failure to reach international understanding after the last war taught us anything, it taught us this: Even if war leaders apparently agree upon principles, when they come to the peace time they make their own interpretations of their previous declarations.

So unless today, while the war is being fought, the people of the United States and of Great Britain, of Russia and of China and of all the other United Nations fundamentally agree upon their purposes, fine and idealistic expressions of hope such as those of the Atlantic Charter will live merely to mock us as have Mr. Wilson's Fourteen Points. The Four Freedoms will not be accomplished by the declarations of those momentarily in power. They will become real only if the people of the world forge them into actuality. And political internationalism alone will not accomplish them. Real freedom must rest on economic internationalism.

Now, let's take a specific and difficult example of what lies before us if we are to give reality to those freedoms we have proclaimed. The Malayan Peninsula and the islands of the Southwest Pacific are areas containing, among other things, the principal source of the rubber supply of the world. They are inhabited in part, at least, by unlettered and in someinstances, perhaps savage people. Those who sneer when it is suggested that freedom and self-government can be brought to all men feel that such areas must be ruled perpetually by some nation's colonial imperialism.

Now assume that the Allies reconquer those areas—shall we return them to their previous status, where their defense was courageous but inadequate and their peoples undeveloped under the governmental custody of some one nation? Or shall they be wards of the United Nations, their basic commodities made freely available to the world, their safety protected by an international police force; the full yield of their resources used for their own health, their own education and development, and for their training—no matter how long it takes—in the practices of self-government? It is the principles upon which we shall base the solution of such problems that we must begin now to determine for ourselves.

There is another economic condition about which we must be thinking, for it is the most necessary of all the goals to the accomplishment of real freedom. Not only must people have access to what other peoples produce but their own products in turn must reach men all over the world. There will be no peace, there will be no real development, there will be no economic stability unless we find the method by which the trade barriers hampering the flow of goods are removed. Now I know there are many men, particularly in America, where our standard of living exceeds the standard of living in the rest of the world, who shudder at such a prospect, who believe that any such process will only lessen our own standard of living. The reverse of this is true.

Many reasons might be assigned for the amazing economic development of the United States—the abundance of our national resources, the freedom of our political institutions, the character of our population have all undoubtedly contributed. But in my judgment the greatest factor has been that by the happenstance of good fortune there was created here in America the largest area in the world in which there existed a free exchange of goods and of ideas.

And I should like to point out to those who are fearful an inescapable fact: Today, in a world reduced in size by industrial and transportation developments, even our present standard of living in America cannot be maintained unless the exchange of goods flows more freely over the whole world. On the other hand, to raise the standard of living of men anywhere in the world is to raise the standard of living by some slight degree of every man everywhere in the world.

You have heard tonight an account of the economic world of today and its possibilities for the future. Mr. Byrnes has expressed the hope that the regimented economy of war time will expand freely when peace comes. Mr. Kaiser and Dr. Moore have told you there are no frontiers in the laboratory and the factory and the shipyard. That all we have heretofore known of potential productivity will seem slight compared with what can be produced tomorrow.

Mr. Johnston and Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. Watt have pointed out clearly how, under modern industrial conditions, labor and management must find a road to economic stability in order to satisfy the aspirations and the needs of men.

Mr. Trippe and Major Seversky have pictured the amazing developments of aviation and its possibilities for war and for peace. They have shown you what became so clear to me on my recent trip around the world—that the peoples of the world are closer together geographically and physically than were the residents of the thirteen colonies at the time of the establishment of the United States of America.

These are all testaments to the fact that the vibrant forces of modern science and industry are but awaiting the chance to break forth into ever-widening streams of well-being forall mankind. The potential markets for the goods and ideas of the East in the Western world are unlimited; and the demands of the East for the materials and the machinery and the skills of the West are beyond imagination.

But—let me impress on you—the forces that open these streams will come only if the people of the world agree on the methods of their release. We cannot wait until after the war when the already developing spirit of rampant nationalism may hold sway and then expect by some miracle to accomplish what history teaches us must be accomplished while we fight. We must not listen to those who say "Win the war now" and leave post-war solutions to our leaders and to our experts.

We, the people, must begin to solve these problems today, not tomorrow. For we know that bayonets and guns are feeble as compared with the power of the idea.