New Approaches to Peace


By HERBERT HOOVER, Former President of the United States

Delivered before Joint Session of the St. Paul-Minneapolis branches of the Foreign PolicyAssociation and University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn., September 3, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 3-6.

VICTORY is now inevitable. There will be many more hard months. But every month brings us nearer to the problems of peace. The American people are alive to the need and determined that we must have a lasting peace this time. From coast to coast you are thinking and discussing the ways to peace. You want to make your lives again free from war hardships. You want your sons, husbands and fathers home.

The method of making peace is being hourly discussed in books, in the press, over the radio. Congressional resolutions and political offensives are in motion all along the front of peace ideas.

We have two schools of discussion. In the first are those people who are striving to distill from the world's experience something definite and positive Several notable contributions have been put forward which merit great consideration.

In the second school are those who live in the indefinite or the infinite. Their aims are magnificent; their phrases are sonorous; their slogans are impelling. But when we sift them down, they are mostly nebular words to the effect that we must cooperate or collaborate with the world to preserve peace and restore prosperity. They are a long way from how to do it. Often enough these phrases are doors to political escape. Or alternatively, they are the pavement of good intentions. Theirs is an unreal world of perfect words.

But most of this is exactly the same verbal road which led to Versailles. When we got there we had high ideals, high aims, and great eloquence. Unless we arrive at the end of this war far more realistically prepared, we will have little chance of lasting peace. We must have something far more specific and definite than high aims, high ideals, sixty-four dollar words, good intentions, political avoidance or recriminations. Worse than this, we may out of such material have done no more than lay the kindling for World War III.

On this whole problem, I am daily more and more impressed with the fact that nations have often enough been successful in making war. But nations have never yet been successful in making lasting peace. More and more over the centuries the world has developed the art and method of making war. But the world has never developed an art and method of making peace. More and more the methods of peace have resulted in a wider-spread of catastrophe.

Surely it is time we have a new approach to peace-making. And that path must leave the century-old bright lights of eloquence and nebular words and explore the hard road of experience.

Hugh Gibson and I, from considerable participation in these problems over the last 25 years, have suggested for public consideration some ideas of a new approach. Several of the ideas which we originally put forward have now been adopted by powerful voices.

I propose to explore these ideas further with you. The principles and the program are at least realistic and positive. And they suggest common ground over which those of even divergent views on particular questions can travel with unity toward our common purpose of a lasting peace.

I had a teacher once who said, in effect, that wisdom does not consist so much of sixty-four dollar words about the ultimates as in knowing what to do next. And the next thing after that.

Therefore, I am going to examine with you what to do next. I may state the principles and program first and the reasons afterwards. The program consists of four steps and there are eleven reasons.

Before we start on this exploration I may assure you that it does not embrace the usual democratic process of name calling. That is not a unifying or peaceful approach. From the Sermon on the Mount we learn that the peace-makers "shall be called the Children of God."

It would appear that unifying name only applies to the actual peace delegates and not to those who engage in advance discussion of what the delegates should do. In any event I will not take your time discussing "isolationists," "nationalists," "internationalists," "Fascists" or "Communists." Our job is to find common ground, not to widen differences.

First Step

The first step in our proposal is to reach an agreement, before firing ceases, between all the United Nations that a few leading nations be appointed the joint Managers or Custodians or Trustees of Peace, and that there will not be the usual armistice or the usual general peace conference.

Second Step

The second step is an agreement between all the United Nations before victory over Germany, setting up the terms of a simple Provisional Peace which the Custodians or Trustees shall impose upon belligerent Europe the moment firing ceases, and later on Asia.

Third Step

The third step is a Transition Period from war to peace of a few years, in which the world can cool off and have time for deliberate solution of the long-view problems of lasting peace.

Fourth Step

The fourth and last step, after the foundations of real peace have been laid, is then to create some sort of world institution to replace the Managers or Trustees and preserve peace.

The Trusteeship

Some immediate questions will arise in your minds as to the Trusteeship. A few great victorious nations are going to dominate the world anyway for a while after this war. They must do it of necessity to themselves. They always have done so after every great war. They did it after the world wars of the Napoleonic period and after the last World War. It would be a great and new step to peace if they did it out in the open, by a definite authority with positive responsibilities and limitations.

I am not proposing an elaborately written piece of paper committing nations to action in unknown circumstances. A mere joint declaration of purpose by all the United Nations would be sufficient. It needs only to be that we continue collaboration in peace making which we have in war and that we do it under the leadership of the principal nations conducting the war; that we do it in consultation with all our allies in the fields in which they are interested; and that we do it for a limited period. If we can do this without elaboratetreaties and documents in war, why not in a Transition Period from war to peace?

I am not proposing a military alliance of a few victorious powers, arrogating to themselves domination over other nations such as has in reality followed those other world wars. Such alliances at once raise the antagonism and suspicion of the balance of the world. A military alliance would undermine the moral influence of the Custodians or Trustees and would add nothing to their strength.

The Provisional Peace

Questions will also arise in your minds as to the terms of the Provisional Peace.

These terms can be made specific and comparatively simple. They are the urgent measures necessary to get the world ling again.

The first need of the world, more urgent even than bread, will be order. And the second need will be food. Hungry people abandon all restraint and defy all order. The next imperative need will be to restore economic production, for the starving cannot long be supported on charity. These questions admit no delay. Without them Europe and Asia will dissolve in chaos.

There are other urgent matters. There must be total disarmament of the enemy. Their leaders must be punished for crimes against mankind. They must return their loot, prisoners and displaced peoples.

There must be the restoration of sovereignty to those nations deprived of it. The Trustees would need at once to determine temporary boundaries for everybody.

The defeated nations should be required to hold free elections of representative bodies excluding Fascist candidates to initiate government and national life so that there will be some responsible body with which to deal.

There should be provisional restoration of the former treaties about posts, telegraphs, ships and planes which are necessary to the reopening of economic life for the whole world.

And the Trustees should at once set up regional councils for Europe, Asia and the Western Hemisphere and such other committees of the United Nations as are needed to work out each of the host of long-view problems without the solution of which there can be no lasting peace.

These provisional questions are not difficult to settle. But they represent the stark necessities required to start the world housekeeping again.

The Transition Period

It is in a Transition Period that the gigantic problems which confront the world must and can be solved.

In the meantime the Trustee nations would need to guide these committees and police the world against any aggressors.

I may enumerate only a few of these problems to indicate their complexity and that time is needed for their solution.

The future of the three great enemy countries and a lot of little ones must be settled.

There are great territories to be justly disposed of. Militarism must be abolished.

The face of these nations must be turned toward peace. Gangsterism cannot be abolished overnight. There is demobilization of the world to be brought about. There are many boundaries to be settled. There are peoples to be freed. There are peoples to be placed under guardianship. The Jewish refugee and the problem of Palestine must be settled. There are gigantic debts and reparations to be considered. There are a thousand problems of trade, of currency, of credit to be solved.

And all of these problems must be solved in such a fashion and with such justice as to allay or still the dynamic forces which have hitherto always bred war anew. Those forces must not be stimulated as they were at Versailles, where they were made stronger for evil and more explosive.

And now I come to the eleven reasons for this program and the dangers we must avoid.

The First Reason

Promoting Allied Unity

The first reason is one that has been made more impressive by the events of the last month.

A statement to the enemy people that there will be a Provisional Peace based upon renewed self-government and revived economic life should convey to them our desire to restore them to the family of nations. Such an assurance to them might bring the war to a quicker end and save much human life.

The Second Reason

Gaining Preparedness for Peace Making

The second reason for this program is that we must resolve a double difficulty. That is how to keep unity during the war and achieve at the same time preparedness for peace in advance of victory. There is a well founded and instinctive fear that negotiation by our officials of the gigantic long-view questions during the war would disrupt the unity of the United Nations. Hence the escapist policy of every modern world war, "Victory first, discuss peace afterwards."

In consequence, aside from a few very general aims and platitudes, victorious nations have usually come to the peace table wholly without any real preparedness for the immense problems they must meet. I agree that we cannot negotiate these long-view questions without dangers. But we could negotiate the urgent matters which lay the foundation of provisional peace. There is no ground for disunity in them. Their settlement beforehand would promote unity. And incorporated in them is the machinery for amiable solution of the long-view questions after victory.

The Third Reason

An Armistice is Destructive

The third reason is that no lasting peace can be made as was attempted at Versailles in the middle of a military armistice. An armistice simply suspends the whole world between war and peace. The machinery and routines of both war and peace are out of action. It is thus a period of economic and political degeneration with an agonized world crying out for haste. The end is hasty compromise of principle and justice, not solution.

The Fourth Reason

To Cool off Hate and Greed

The fourth reason for this proposal is that the world must have time to cool off and recover a balance of judgment if a lasting peace is to be made.

When firing ceases the world will be filled with violent emotions. There will be white-hot hate and indignation at the enemy for having brought the world to this state. The air will be filled with fear and vengeance. This is no atmosphere for long-view statesmanship, which must distinguish between guilty leadership and misled peoples. Do not forget we must live with 90 million Germans, 40 million Italians, 70 million Japs and their increment for some hundreds of years yet. We want to get them into the ways of peace if we can.

There will be another emotion present. That is greed or,more politely, self-interest. Each of the victorious nations will face a grim vista of impoverishment. The peoples of each nation will demand those things they believe will restore prosperity and security to them.

And these are not alone the emotions of statesmen. They are the emotions of the people at home. Statesmen are not their own masters. If they ever expect to be re-elected or have monuments to their memory, or get their agreements ratified they are forced to respond to the emotions of their people.

If there be a general peace conference in the midst of all these emotions, as has been the practice hitherto, then 40 nations will send 2000 diplomats to orate, to conspire, quarrel, and grab. The world would be crying aloud for haste, that it be allowed to get back to living again. To keep passion, greed, expediency and compromise of principle out of the settlements under these pressures calls for more than human powers. Certainly if we are to have lasting peace, it must be based on more solid foundations than the emotions of war.

Does not all this suggest the necessity of a cooling-off period which we call the Transitional Period?

The Fifth Reason

To get by the period of Reaction

The fifth reason for this suggested approach to peace is that soon after firing ceases an inevitable reaction sets in. Our boys want to come home—and at once. They want to start life again. Their wives, mothers and fathers want them home. They are bound to bring home all their frictions, dislikes and opinions of the strange peoples with whom they have been operating. At home the people will be war-weary. All the suppressed frictions between Allies will come to the surface. The people just don't want anything more to do with "foreigners." A period of reaction toward isolationism is inevitable. And it would be further fanned by the headlines from a general peace conference, such as Versailles, daily arousing a thousand suspicions or misgivings and confirming their suspicions.

In this period of reaction nationalism will rise to such heights as to endanger all constructive plans. It will be a time of demagoguery and prejudice. The world needs time to let this pass.

The Sixth Reason

The Unknown Shape of Things to Come

The sixth reason for these principles of peace making I suggest is that while nations are actually at war, or in the months after firing ceases, we cannot see the shape of things to come. These shapes are made by forces set in motion by the war and even long before the war. No one can for years predict their ultimate effect. The only thing men can be sure of is that after the war there will be profound change. If it were a question only of putting the world back to where it had been it would be hard enough to do. But the world will never be like that again.

A peace-making that does not take account of these pressures of change will be certain to burst asunder. Surely we need a transition period in which to measure and accommodate these forces.

The Seventh Reason

Real Foundations under a World Institution

There are those who believe we have only to quickly set up some League, or some Council or some World Institution or some Union or World Parliament and then unload all of our problems upon it. It is not that easy.

When issues are vast and intricate it is easy to dodge them that way and then announce that the world will go to the dogs if evil men fail to agree.

Neither anything like the League of Nations nor any kind of world institution to keep the peace could succeed amid the passions, the political and economic chaos that press on the heels of war.

There are a hundred gigantic problems that must be settled between nations before such an agency would have a chance. To force its adoption prematurely is to condemn it to inevitable failure.

The purpose of any world institution must be to preserve peace, not to make it.

They are two entirely different jobs. They must not be confused. Having lived through Versailles, and having had to deal with its consequences, I can give you an idea of what I mean. The Treaty of Versailles consisted of 613 paragraphs, of which only 26 dealt with the League Covenant. It was the 587 outside the League that did most to kill the League, and certainly it was the sins of omission and commission in these 587 paragraphs which laid some of the kindling for this war.

To solve these problems, to allay the forces of destruction and to build a new spirit in the world requires time. And a decisive hand which no world wide institution can exert.

The Temple of Peace cannot be erected until its foundations are well laid. If we make a good peace, it will largely preserve itself. If we make a bad one like Versailles, we shall simply be laying the kindling for World War III. And no machinery for preserving peace will stop it taking fire.

The Eighth Reason

Preserving American Unity!

The next reason I will give you for this program bears upon our American national unity.

The formulation of some sort of World Institution to preserve peace is essential. Yet discussion of its details leads quickly to the most emotional and the most dangerous question that can be raised among us. That is how much we surrender of national independence and sovereignty.

I would like to suggest that if we adopt the Transition Period, we can develop the practice of cooperation in stopping aggression during that time and we will learn much as to method. Of equal importance, our people will have opportunity to consider and debate this whole question away from the emotions of war and the reaction toward isolationism which will inevitably follow. It is my belief that with a growth of experience and understanding the whole sovereignty question will become academic. But it takes time. Decision of this matter at the present time is about as important as the ancient worry over how many angels could stand on the point of a needle.

I have no doubt that with time and deliberation our people will no more consent to liquidate the independence of the United States than Mr. Churchill will consent to liquidate the British Empire or Mr. Stalin to liquidate the Soviet. Republic And none of that is necessary to preserve peace. And I may add that the primary safety of America will always rest in our strong right arm.

The Ninth Reason

Documents are not Peace

The ninth reason for these principles of peace making is that out of five thousand years of war, an illusion has been built up in the human mind that war can be ended andpeace made by signing a piece of paper. Especially if it is signed with pomp and circumstance. The world has deluded itself before now that such a signed paper is the dawn of a new day. Hasty documents written at the end of wars have an infernal way of becoming the prospectus of renewed war.

We must learn that it is the conduct of nations over years which counts, not the papers they sign. A little good will goes further than documents.

The Tenth Reason

There must be Ratification

If we are to have peace, any agreement or any treaty in democracies must be ratified by the people at home. The people must have time to debate, understand and decide.

And we should be careful that our words do not carry more to other nations than we will perform and confirm. Neither by executive action nor Congressional resolution nor public assurance should we give the impression that the United States can be committed to anything without full free action by the Senate of the United States.

Is it not, therefore, better to go one step at a time and deal with different problems separately?

The Eleventh Reason

The Sum of Experience

And I might add an overall reason which comes from the stern Voice of Experience. Do not the great peace settlements which followed the two other world wars of the last 150 years—those at Vienna in 1814 and at Versailles in 1915—confirm every one of these reasons for this program? Does anyone believe that either of these treaties would have been signed five years afterwards? That no abiding successful peace can be written in a few weeks or a few months under these pressures has been proven by the greatest tragedy of modern history—Versailles.

To Sum Up

For these reasons I am suggesting four principles of peace. A temporary Trusteeship or collaboration of the leading nations, a Provisional Peace for each defeated country, a Transition Period of time, and an ultimate World Institution to preserve peace. Is it not the answer that we must first concentrate our immediate thought on definite principles of peace making? And second, does not any program require defined and responsible leadership? And third, must we not have quick and strong action to restore order and the productivity of mankind? And fourth, must we not have time to settle our gigantic long-view questions? Time for emotions to cool off. Time to pass over the reaction which inevitably sets in from war. Time to assess the forces and change set in motion by war. Time to allay the dynamic forces which cause war. Time to deliberate. Time to deal openly with all proposals. Time for the peoples of the world to under stand the solutions proposed. Time to rebuild justice, tolerance and good will. Time to build a real World Institution to preserve peace.

It was six years from the victory of Yorktown to the Constitution of the United States—and it was time well spent.

The die of war has been cast. We have taken up the sword to win lasting peace. For over one hundred and seventy years Americans have fought on a thousand battlefields an always that men might be more free and have peace. Their million graves demand of us that we do not fail them in the halls of peace-making.