Avoiding Post-War Disputes


By JAMES W. GERARD, Diplomat and Lawyer

Delivered over WINS, March 21, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 397-398.

FOUR Senators, two Democrats and two Republicans have suggested consultations by the United Nations as to the problems of peace after the war. Smacking a little of dividing the tiger's skin before he is caught, and containing the germs of disagreement among the Allies, the plan nevertheless has won a certain measure of popular support. I hope, however, that the lines laid down before any such conference takes place are broad and not too detailed, otherwise disputes are sure to arise.

If and when such a conference meets, it seems to me that the first thing to do is to delimit the territories of the world after the war, always supposing the United Nations win a complete victory. That is where Russia will be heard from. The Russians will want at least the borders of Czarist Russia. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, little new nations, were carved out of the old Russian Empire after the lastwar and it is not unreasonable on the part of the Russians to ask their return. Any part of Poland, however, presents a very difficult question. Perhaps the Russians will ask for an eastern slice of Poland, Poland to be compensated by territory taken from the east side of Germany. Posen the old capital of Poland was with a large section of territory German by boundary but Polish by tradition and feeling.

The question of the Far East is simple. All of the territories taken from China at any time by Japan must be restored to China, and the other lands of the Far East, such as the Philippines and so forth, must return to their pre-war status.

Perhaps there will be great exchanges and transfers of population. After the last war hundreds of thousands of Greeks were transplanted from Turkish territory to Greece and hundred of thousands of Turks from Greek territory toTurkey. This work was superintended by our own Henry Morgenthau, father of our Secretary of the Treasury, who performed this difficult task with great skill, tact and success. Nothing can be more productive of future war than an attempt to divide Europe as was done after the last war when theorists and professors gathered in Versailles while their wives in Paris were fighting for government automobiles to go shopping. The professors enjoyed themselves hugely by putting a farmer's house in one nation and his farm in another, a mine in one country and the workmen's houses in another and so forth.

After all, as I have said, this principle of self-determination, in itself, leads to the utmost confusion and it will be better to return, as far as possible, except as to Germany, to the old borders of Europe before the war.

The second problem is that of Germany and I again repeat that a great force of Russians, Chinese, British and Americans must be maintained to keep Germany from again disturbing the peace of the world.

After the last war there was too much ridiculous jealousy. For instance, after we had entered the war and won, and I take Hindenburg, who ought to know, as my authority, the British suddenly became jealous and suspicious of the United States because we had created a great Navy, and at the Washington conference demanded that we destroy some of our best new ships while on their part they nobly tore up a few blueprints. There must be none of that feeling after this war, and I sincerely believe that that sort of international jealousy is a thing of the past in the Britain of today.

For years we had viewed, without alarm, a great British fleet patroling the sea and the British after this war should not be thrown into a fever of jealousy and suspicion if they find a great American Navy patrolling the seas for the protection of the peace of the world and American merchant ships carrying American goods in an endeavor on the part of out manufacturers and working men to win some of the carrying trade.

Last Tuesday I read in the New York Times that American manufacturers complained that their goods were discriminated against in India and that certain materials needed in India are to be supplied solely from the United Kingdom. Matters of this kind are not conducive to good understanding between nations.

In the fixing of political boundaries there is one point in which we and all the Americas are vitally interested. As a small return for the freeing of France, Dakar should be given to the nations of the Western Hemisphere so that there can be no threat in the future of the invasion of the Americas by any nation from that point of vantage.

But even before the fixing of national boundaries and the establishment of a force to keep the peace must come the question of aid to the starving and the sick of Europe. The conquered nations, the Jews must be helped first and I suppose that something will have to be done for the Germans, but let the Argentines attend to them. The rich of Argentina have favored the Axis and have refused to join the United Nations of the Americas. Let them send their grain to the Nazis, that should not be a burden imposed on the people of the United States.

Perhaps the next question after the helping of the sick and starving, after the fixing of national boundaries and the setting up of the International Army of Peace, will be, "What Shall Be Done wkh the War Criminals?" There must be orderly trials. At these trials the judges will he hampered by the fact that necessary witnesses have been murdered so the evidence to be submitted will he largely circumstantial.

It is said that the Nazi leaders have salted down great sums in neutral countries. These sums they must disgorge for the benefit of the despoiled and the plundered.

After the last War I was for the League of Nations hook, line and sinker, but I was soon disgusted by the conduct of the conquering nations. For instance, it was arranged that there should be a vote by the inhabitants to decide whether part of Silesia, the southeast finger of Germany, should remain German or go to Poland. The population voted to remain German but nevertheless the League of Nations handed over this territory to Poland, something which, as I wrote at the time, would create as great a feeling of injustice in Germany as did in France the cession of Alsace Lorraine to Germany after the War of 1870.

Then Italy bombed Greek Corfu instead of submitting to the League, and England said that the question of her relations with Egypt were her problems and not one for the League. So all in all, I decided that the nations of Europe were at their old game and that the League would fail.

It is a matter of regret that the five thousand young Frenchmen who are holding out in the mountains of High Savoy in France, to the south of Switzerland, have been encouraged by the dropping of food and arms. They will undoubtedly be wiped out or enslaved by the Nazis, At the present time and in the future they, even as workers in Germany, could have been most useful when the invasion of the continent finally takes place.

Returning to the idea of a pre-peace conference to go into the questions of tariffs and reciprocal trade agreements at present would be to court disappointments, disputes and confusion.

It is fortunate at this time when the income tax collector stalks the land that so many of our people have been thrifty and saving in the past years and can contribute from incomes derived from the coupons on bonds, dividends on stocks and the interest on mortgages, loans and bank accounts and the rents of real estate. Were this not so the whole burden among individuals would fall on the farmers and wage earners of our country.

Back in 1920 I tried to run for President in a small way. In the Democratic Convention at San Francisco in that year I had the votes of South Dakota and Montana, representing a great territory in area, but a very small number of delegates.

Going over old clippings a few days ago I found a statement issued by me at that time which does not read so badly today. Part of it reads as follows:

"I do not believe in cure-alls or catch phrases. A paramount issue should be based on a paramount need. To my mind, the paramount need is the ending of government extravagance and the reduction of taxes. Normal, sane business conditions should he restored, our foreign trade encouraged and American citizens protected in all countries. The government should give up much of the private business it now carries on and should confine its business activities to devising means for cutting out the middleman, thus giving the farmer more for his products which will cost the consumer less.

Men cannot he made to work by threatening them with jail or by governing the country industrially by injunction. The trade unions have come to stay. You cannot expect the workers to abandon the unions, but the moment the unions or any other organisations seek to usurp the functions of the government or to put themselves above the government, they must be put down with a hand of steel." Not so out of date today.