A New Approach to Peace


By HERBERT HOOVER, Former President of the United States

Delivered before the Executive Club of Chicago, December 16, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 185-187.

YOUR committee suggested that you've heard a good deal about war of late, and that it might be a relief to you to hear something about peace. Along about the first of May Mr. Gibson and I sent to the publishers a book which amongst other things proposed a tentative step in the solution of post-war problems that might be taken before the victory of the United Nations.

That idea found some favorable support from leaders throughout several countries. My purpose tonight is to expand this plan into a more definite form and to indicate something of the importance which I believe it has.

The idea was that the United Nations should at once agree upon such machinery for peace-making as will avoid delay in resumption of economic and political life among the nations when the firing ceases and will also give time for cooling off and deliberate action and public participation in the major problems of making a lasting peace.

The Western world has seen these gigantic explosions of revolution and tumult and world war before. And when the killing ceased men have met together, resolute upon making a lasting peace. But always invisible forces have also sat at the peace table for good and evil.

The degenerations and the emotions of the world in many ways reach their most destructive point immediately after firing ceases. And peacemakers are at their most disadvantageous moment for rebuilding the world.

Saw Hate, Fear, Revenge

At the end of the last war we had an armistice which lasted for nine long months. And during that time a thousand diplomats of forty nations, in daily sessions, wrangled and struggled to settle the gigantic problems which had been loosened upon the world. And after that there was a long period of uncertainty in the ratification of the treaty.

My immediate job during that conference was with the gaunt realities of hunger and pestilence, which threatened to destroy the very foundations upon which peace must be built.

But that job brought me into hourly contact with the long struggle to rebuild peace and order—and its defeat. Daily I witnessed the age-old forces of nationalism, imperialism and militarism acting under the direction of subtle diplomacy. I saw the rise of selfish interests, the clash of ideals, personalities and of ambitions of men. And hate, fear and revenge also sat at those tables.

The very bringing together of all these interests intensified the conflicts and generated new ones. It created a hundred nests of intrigue. The attempt to solve a hundred problems at once made infinite opportunity for dark corner operations in trade and combinations. The whole world pressed for haste lest the foundations of order should crumble altogether.

I saw the conference degenerate into a gigantic struggle for power. Gradually the spiritual forces of idealism and of justice were driven back by the forces of destruction. The peacemaking was, in the end, swept down the terrible stream of intrigue, power politics and conflict. It was wrecked in the whirlpool of destructive compromise and upon the rocks of selfish interest and emotional action.

Says Peace Was "Imposed"

It was to be a peacemaking open to the world and subject to the check of public opinion. It was to be a "negotiated" peace. All that pretense was soon forgotten. It became an "imposed peace" by the powerful.

The economic clock of the world was slowed down during the long delayed conclusions. Instead of releasing the forces of recovery, the armistice was a period of social, political and economic degeneration. And that just at the time when the hope of men for the future had risen high.

And all this must not be blamed upon the individuals who led that Peace Conference. There were many able and heroic men there. But they were overwhelmed not only by the forces evolved in the conference but by the emotional tides and demands from home. President Wilson and many other leaders deserve credit, not criticism, for the fight they made there.

When victory comes after this war, we must jointly with our Allies again try to lead the world to the promised land across this terrible maelstrom of conflicting forces. If we are to have lasting peace, it will be by cooperation with them in finding it and making it secure.

Warns of New Clashes

It does not take a prophet to anticipate that these conflicting forces will again be in motion the instant hostilities cease in this war. And from the outlook of today we are likely to encounter this stream of malevolent conflict in Europe a year before we see the same spectacle in Asia.

The Atlantic Charter promises self-determination and restored sovereignty to all nations. And again there will be a thousand diplomats of forty or fifty nations involved in peacemaking. Under these promises the liberated peoples will no doubt again instantly set up their own governments the day after firing ceases. In the enemy countries, the defeated leaders and governments will be overthrown. Revolution will march and new men will come into the ascendancy.

Every realist knows that the dynamic forces of nationalism, of economic interest, of ideologies, of militarism, of imperialism, of fear, hate, revenge and personal ambition have not died out in the world. They will clash again. They will haunt the halls of peacemaking. But I believe the will to peace will be more resolute this time. It must be.

Growing Famine Foreseen

And the world will again clamor for haste. The transportation systems, industries and agriculture of all Europe will be damaged or ruined. There is already a shortage of food, which amounts to famine among 180,000,000 of the people. It will extend to 500,000,000. These nations will be without credit or raw materials. Turning the mass-production swords of total war into mass-production plowshares is no idle metaphor.

And the Allied world will itself also be disrupted by the shock of reversing gears from war to peace. And our peoples will be war weary and distracted by the new miseries of post-war.

If we are not again to see the tragedy of Versailles, we must have a new approach to the whole method and process of peacemaking. We must avoid the whirlpools and rocks upon which that conference was wrecked. And the recovery of the world must not be dangerously delayed again.

Two Problems Predicted

There are two separate problems here. The one is the method or the machinery by which we make peace and the other is the settlement of the problems of peace themselves. Our first necessity is to provide a stage for peacemaking thatwill favor the spiritual forces—good-will and idealism rather than old-time diplomacy. We must prevent nests of intrigue that can again do evil. And we must take time to solve these problems.

Now the essence of the proposal that I have made is that we have no armistice, no general peace conference, such as Versailles—that we set the peacemaking in two stages. The first to be an instant "conditional peace" that will turn the world toward political and economic and spiritual recovery without the delays of last time. And then that the world should take time to cool off and work out one by one and separately the solutions of lasting peace.

To do this the United Nations would need to agree in advance to the terms of a conditional peace and to a subsequent program. They will need to impose the conditional peace and enforce it. Enforcement will not be difficult for immediately at the victory the enemy will obviously be required to surrender his arms. The Allies will possess the only remaining military force. And in fact even a small air force could impose conditional peace and the subsequent program.

The declaration of conditional peace should embrace a minimum of

1. The total disarmament of the enemy.

2. The designation of provisional boundaries to nations.

3. The machinery for repatriation of prisoners and civilians driven from their homes and

4. The removal of the economic blockades the instant that the enemy has handed over his arms and

5. The immediate organization to relieve famine and combat pestilence and aid in reconstruction. Otherwise there will be anarchy and no peace and

6. The provisional restoration of all commercial treaties that trade may begin again.

With those minimums the world could move forward.

There will be a host of gigantic problems to be solved afterward. There must be machinery for the preservation of peace. There are the problems of world disarmament and of long-view international economic relations. There are the problems of disposing of enemy countries, and of the government of backward nations, solutions of Europe's ir-redentas and federations of weaker States.

There will be questions of reparations and of intergovernmental debts, the punishment of criminal action and many other measures. And they must be so solved that the dynamic forces of evil in the world which always make for war are extinguished this time and the forces of peace given strength and an opportunity.

Many of these problems must have time for deliberation. Others must have time for the cooling of war revenge and hatreds. Many of them must have time for the development of world opinion and the adherence of people. And they should be separated from each other for solution and they should this time be solved on their separate merits.

Some of them might be dealt with before the war ends and included in the conditional peace.

As a practical fact all of these separate questions will need at the start to be dealt with by separate commissions representing the dominant nations. They would be so dealt with in that same way if we had a general conference like Versailles. There is no particular reason for them to all stick in one place and trade between each other. And, therefore, the plan proposed is to appoint these commissions as parts of the conditional peace. And after each of the problems has been separately examined and reported and negotiated, then the principal governments should act.

Now some will say that this is requiring nations to sign on the dotted line, that that is imposed peace and that it isnot negotiation. As a matter of fact, the peace terms were imposed on the enemy last time—there is probably no other way to make peace with them, and much of them [the terms] were indirectly imposed on the liberated nations as well.

But they were only imposed after the world had had infamous demoralization and its wounds infinitely lacerated. At least, this plan provides a chance for much more adequate examination of the views and the rights of all nations than the process at Versailles.

And the conclusion of these commissions can be open to expression of public opinion. There can be time for debate.

Even if somebody possessed an absolute and perfect formula for these gigantic problems, say, of disarmament, or economic relations or preserving peace, no such settlement could endure unless it were accepted by at least the democratic peoples themselves. And if they are badly formulated they will be upset at the ballot box.

And I may add that for America no agreement is binding until it has been ratified by the people's representatives. If this is a people's war, it must be a people's peace.

Would Omit an Armistice

Again, I may repeat, this plan proposes to leave out an armistice altogether and to substitute a preliminary declared peace to be followed by a cooling-off and a deliberative period for the major questions. It proposes to avoid the nests of intrigue and this opportunity for selfish jockeying of a general peace conference. It proposes to separate the problems for settlement and to avoid the trading between them.

Such a conditional peace and the machinery to be set up are not difficult to formulate nor should they be difficult to agree upon among the United Nations, nor difficult to enforce.

It would speed the recovery of the world. And incidentally, it would greatly lessen the amount of financial aid necessary for food and reconstruction, for with the quick resumption of production and trade the world could more quickly help itself.

In suggesting the adoption of such a plan for the machinery of peace-making I know it must be hammered out upon the anvil of debate. No man can claim finality in perfection in such problems as these.

And it's a favorable and an important sign that there is today active debate on the problems of peace throughout the whole Allied world. That is evidenced by the activity of hundreds of organizations, by thousands of meetings, discussions, by millions of pamphlets and by scores of books. And I have noticed no such discussion in the Axis world. Out of these discussions in America there are certain propositions upon which I think there is now fairly general acceptance. And they indicate the certain progress and unity of thought on the discussion. They certainly indicate a resolution to gain a real peace this time.

Lasting Peace as Objective

Those accepted ideas are mainly:

1. The major purpose of this unutterable sacrifice, suffering and death is to win a lasting peace for mankind, and that we are resolute that this time we must make a peace which assures freedom among men. And

2. Lasting peace cannot be attained unless there be cooperation between nations to maintain it. And

3. There must be definite machinery for that purpose.

4. We must have just as effective a preparedness for peace as for war. Part of the failure to win the peace last time was because we listened to the slogan of Win the war first and discuss peace afterwards." And

5. The foundation of preparedness lies simply in public discussion. It lies in examination of the causes of failure the last time. It lies in the advancement of new ideas and the hammering them out on this anvil of debate. And public discussion is not only the basis of preparedness in peacemaking but it is vital if there is to be intelligent public support in the settlements that are made. That even this list of propositions are so generally accepted today is evidence of progress in preparedness from nation-wide discussion.

Now much of the discussion of peace, however, also consists of statements or declarations of ideals and the picture of a better world. They present aspirations and hopes and promises. Such statements are not to be discouraged. But we cannot fly to the realms of peace on the wing of phrases and oratory.

The development of one specific, intelligent step that leads to peace is more important than a thousand orations on the joys of the world to come. Idealism must have a balance wheel of realism—that is, if the day's work is to be done.

We cannot ignore the wickedness of the human animal and the wickedness of some dynamic forces. Our ideals and our aspirations are the compass by which we lay out the road to human progress. But that road must be paved with hard, realistic thoughts and realistic action and preparation if we are to go anywhere.

The Declaration of Independence was an expression of aims and purposes and direction. But the Constitution was the embankment and the pavement of the road to free men. The Declaration came from the yearning of the human heart. And the Constitution came from the heads of realistic men cooperating with each other.

It was easy to compose the Declaration; it was infinitely more difficult to build unity and find lasting freedom through the Constitution.

Settlements that bring lasting peace and freedom to men can come only the same hard road. And we, like the Fathers must distill much of these hard practical ideas from human experience. And I would make an observation on the general discussion of peace problems now in progress. There are many Americans who believed America could contribute more greatly to lasting peace if she kept out of this war.

That die, however, was cast at Pearl Harbor. If we are to attain lasting peace now we must win this war with undoubted victory. And if we win the peace we will have to have unity—and it doesn't make for unity to call names, for that is not the process of peacemaking.

The Sermon on the Mount said:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the Children of God."

I believe that. But some of those that debate peace act as if they were the children of somebody else!

And in conclusion let me observe that this is not the first time the Western World has experienced these long periods of general wars and disorder. From them new shapes of civilization and new forms of nations have emerged. Civilization has taken on new impulses and new directions.

We must expect new forms and new directions from the gigantic explosion that began in 1914. No one can pretend to see these shapes clearly, but even if we are emerging into another era of civilization, then also we will need peace.

In the making of that peace will come a fleeting chance for leaders of mankind to bind the wounds, to restore faith and to bring new hope to the world.

And this time the methods and the foundations of peace must be so wrought that the destructive forces shall be controlled, or again the structures which we may erect to preserve peace will fail.

I thank you.