Our Foreign Policy in the Framework of Our National Interests


By CORDELL HULL, Secretary of State

Broadcast over the Network of the National Broadcasting Company, September 12, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 757-760.


IN July of last year, in an address over these networks, I outlined, as definitely as was possible at that time, the chief problems and conditions confronting us in the field of foreign relations and sought to indicate some of the policies necessary for meeting these problems. I pointed out that in the present conflict each of the United Nations is fighting for the preservation of its freedom, its homes, its very existence; that only through united effort to defeat our enemies, can freedom or the opportunity for freedom be preserved—for all countries and all peoples. I spoke of the need to chart for the future a course based on enduring spiritual values which would bring our nation and all nations greater hope for enduring peace and greater measure of human welfare. To this end, I urged intensive study, hard thinking, broad vision, and leadership by all those, within each nation, who provide spiritual, moral and intellectual guidance.

At that time, the military picture was still dark. The United Nations were still fighting a desperate war of defense against better prepared foes. We had suffered a succession of grim defeats. Since then, the military picture has greatly changed. We are now winning heartening victories, in the air, at sea, and on land. Our counter-blows are steadily increasing in power and effectiveness. They are stepping stones to our final triumph over the forces of conquest and savagery. Attainment of complete victory, although now certain,is still a formidable task. Our lesser enemies are fast losing heart and strength. Italy has already surrendered. But our principal enemies, Germany and Japan, though shaken, still possess great resources and enormous strength. They still control vast portions of Europe and of Asia. To defeat them completely, the United Nations need to make, on the battle-front and at home, efforts even greater than those thus far made.

In making these more intensified efforts, it is more important than ever for all concerned to have a clear understanding of what is at stake, now and in the future.

During recent months, public discussion and debate on a high plane have revealed the profound concern of our people with the issues of the country's foreign relations. These issues need to be seen in their full perspective. Unless our people so see them, and unless our people are willing to translate their understanding of them into action, the well-being of the nation—and even its very life—may be gravely menaced.

The foreign policy of any country must be expressive of that country's fundamental national interests. No country can keep faith with itself unless that is so.

In determining our foreign policy we must first see clearly what our true national interests are. We must also bear in mind that other countries, with which we deal in the conduct of foreign relations, have their national interests, which, of course, determine their policies.

Obviously there are, even between friendly nations, differences as regards their respective aims and purposes and as regards the means of attaining them. But there are also immense areas of common interest. By cooperating within those areas, the nations not only can advance more effectively the aims and purposes which they have in common, but can also find increased opportunity to reconcile, by peaceful means and to mutual advantage, such differences as may exist among them.


At the present time, the paramount aim of our foreign policy, and the paramount aim of the foreign policy of each of the other United Nations, is to defeat our enemies as quickly as possible. Here we have a vast area of common interest and a broad basis of cooperative action in the service of that interest.

Every weapon of our military and economic activity and every instrumentality of our diplomacy have been and are directed toward the strengthening of the combined war effort. All these necessarily go together.

The land, air and sea forces of the United States are fighting, with surpassing skill and heroism, in the Mediterranean, over the Nazi-held fortress of Europe, in the far reaches of the Pacific and of Asia. In each of the theaters of war, they are operating shoulder to shoulder, in a spirit of superb comradeship, with the gallant forces of one or more of our Allies.

The resolute will and devoted effort of our people have brought about the greatest miracle of production and delivery in all history. Our war supplies are flowing outward in a constant and ever increasing stream, not alone to those areas in which our own forces are engaged, but to every point on the globe at which the armed forces of the United Nations are fighting.

We are in continuous consultation with our Allies on various phases of military, economic, and political activity—as required by the exigencies of a constantly changing situation.

Our cooperation with our Allies has long since reached the state where contingents of the forces of various Allies are serving, side by side, under unified command. We have developed this type of cooperation with invincible Britain, with intrepid and resolute Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with valiant and determined China, and with the forces of other Allies. It is being rapidly extended as the military operations progress.

To the Soviet Union, whose heroic armies and civilian population have earned everlasting renown through their magnificent feats of courage and sacrifice, we have been glad to render all possible aid. It is our desire and our settled policy that collaboration and cooperation between our two countries shall steadily increase during and following the war.

With the re-emerging military power of France we have been and are developing a heartening degree of coordinated effort. We look forward to the day when re-born France will again take her rightful place in the family of free nations.

With governments which the Axis powers have driven from their invaded and brutally oppressed but unconquerable countries we have the most friendly relations. These relations reflect our profound and active sympathy for the suffering of their peoples and our determination that the victory of the United Nations shall restore their nations to freedom.

With all but one of the nations of the Western Hemisphere we have today the closest ties of solidarity and association—the fruit of ten years of unremitting labor on the part of all of these nations to build in this Hemisphere afraternity of Good Neighbors. Each of our American associates is making a magnificent contribution to the war effort. Here we have, in peace and in war a highly successful example of cooperation between sovereign nations.

The victories of the United Nations have been the direct result, not of separate and uncoordinated military, economic aid diplomatic action, but of close coordination of all three ties of action, both within each of the nations and among all of them. It is well to recall some outstanding examples.

Our protracted diplomatic effort to achieve a fair and peaceful solution of difficulties in the Far East afforded oir military authorities and those of other countries now in the ranks of the United Nations many months of precious time for strengthening defenses against the combined Axis threats in the Atlantic and in the Pacific, in case Japan should reject a peaceful settlement as she eventually did. The drawing together of the American republics to assure their common defense made it possible to establish a line of communications through the Caribbean, Brazil and the South Atlantic. That line proved to be of invaluable importance alike in transporting equipment to the British forces at El Alamein; in supplying our own expedition to North Africa; aid, at a desperate hour, in putting our war planes into the air over the Pacific islands and in China.

Diplomatic foresight and patient and vigorous activity by the agencies of our foreign policy played an indispensable part in preparing the way by which the huge strategic North African area was brought without heavy losses into the sphere of the United Nations and the French fleet was kept out of German hands. Had Vichy felt it feasible to ignore our diplomatic pressure directed toward preventing the surrender of the North and West African areas to the Nazis and the delivery of the French fleet to Hitler as Laval had Manned, or had Spain entered the war on the side of the Axis as Hitler had hoped, control of the Mediterranean would have early fallen into the hands of our enemies. Instead, the Allied forces converged, with a skill and precision unequalled in military annals, upon this gateway through which we are now invading the European Continent.

The Mediterranean operations weakened the German air force available on the Soviet front; just as the Russian resistance, by holding the German armies on the eastern battle line, prevented Hitler from parrying our thrust toward his southern flank. Meanwhile, our constant military pressure against Japan had its inevitable effect in deterring Japan from aggression against the Soviet Union.

Our diplomatic agreements with fearless Danish officials on free soil and with the Government of Iceland made it possible to guard the great North Atlantic passage as a precious route for our supplies and troops and as defense against attack from the North.

The perseverance of China, the first victim of the movement of aggression, in resistance to Japan, has been aided in no small measure by the faith of her leaders in us, based on their knowledge of our history and policy and on their observation, as time went on, of our efforts to achieve a fair and peaceful settlement in the Far East, our economic support, and, more recently, our military assistance. China's resistance has held enmeshed on her front substantial Japanese forces which might otherwise have been loosed against us and other of the United Nations in the Pacific; and China is playing an important part in the United Nations' program for the winning of the war and achievement of a stable peace.

The agencies of our foreign policy are at all times at work as instruments of national defense. Since the attack upon us, they have been intensively at work in assisting our armed forces to achieve the victories which are now fast increasing in numbers and significance.


Beyond final victory, our fundamental national interests are—as they always have been—the assuring of our national security and the fostering of the economic and social well-being of our people. To maintain these interests, our foreign policy must necessarily deal with current conditions and must plan for the future in the light of the concepts and beliefs which we, as a nation, accept for ourselves as the guiding lines of our international behavior.

Throughout our national history, our basic policy in dealing with foreign nations has rested upon certain beliefs which are widely and deeply rooted in the minds of our people. Outstanding among these are:

1. All peoples who, with "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind," have qualified themselves to assume and to discharge the responsibilities of liberty are entitled to its enjoyment.

2. Each sovereign nation, large or small, is in law and under law the equal of every other nation.

3. All nations, large and small, which respect the rights of others, are entitled to freedom from outside interference in their internal affairs.

4. Willingness to settle international disputes by peaceful means, acceptance of international law and observance of its principles are the bases of order among nations and of mankind's continuing search of enduring peace.

5. Non-discrimination in economic opportunity and treatment is essential to the maintenance and promotion of sound international relations.

6. Cooperation between nations in the spirit of good neighbors, founded on the principles of liberty, equality, justice, morality, and law, is the most effective method of safeguarding and promoting the political, the economic, the social, and the cultural well-being of our nation and of all nations.

These beliefs are among the most important tenets of our national faith. They are capable of universal application as rules of national and international conduct. In their application by other nations and in willingness and preparedness on the part of all peacefully inclined nations to join together to make them effective lies the greatest hope of security, happiness and progress for this country and for all countries.

Vigorous participation in efforts to establish a system of international relations based on these rules of conduct, and thus to create conditions in which war may be effectively banished, is and must be a fundamental feature of our foreign policy—second only to our present over-riding preoccupation with the winning of complete military victory. Here, too, our nation and other peacefully inclined nations have a vast and crucial area of common interest.

In the Atlantic Charter and in the Declaration by United Nations, the nations now associated in this war for self-preservation have clearly expressed their recognition of the existence of this area of common interest. Our task and that of our associates is to utilize this common interest to create an effective system of international cooperation for the maintenance of peace.

As I read our history and the temper of our people today, our nation intends to do its part, jointly with the other peace-seeking nations, in helping the war-torn world to heal its wounds. I am sure also that our nation and each of the nations associated today in the greatest cooperative enterprise in history—the winning of this war—intends to do its part, after the victory of the United Nations, in meeting the immense needs of the post-war period. Those needs will embrace the task of taking practical steps to create conditions in which there will be security for every nation; in which

each nation will have enhanced opportunities to develop and progress in ways of its own choosing; in which there will be, for each nation, improved facilities to attain, by its own effort and in cooperation with others, an increasing measure of political stability and of economic, social, and cultural welfare.

If our nation and like-minded nations fail in this task, the way will be open for a new rise of international anarchy, for new and even more destructive wars, for an unprecedented material and spiritual impoverishment of mankind. Many times in the course of history nations have drifted into catastrophe through failure, until too late, to recognize the dangers which confronted them and to take the measures necessary to ward off those dangers. Post-war cooperation to maintain the peace is for each peace-seeking nation scarcely less essential for its self-preservation than is the present cooperative effort to win the war.


If there is anything on which all right-thinking people are agreed, it is the proposition that the monstrous specter of a world war shall not again show its head. The people of this and other lands voice this demand insistently. There is danger of complacency and wishful thinking. The nations that stand for peace and security must now make up their minds and act together—or there will be neither peace nor security.

It is abundantly clear that a system of organized international cooperation for the maintenance of peace must be based upon the willingness of the cooperating nations to use force, if necessary, to keep the peace. There must be certainty that adequate and appropriate means are available and will be used for this purpose. Readiness to use force, if necessary, for the maintenance of peace is indispensable if effective substitutes for war are to be found.

Differences between nations which lead toward armed conflict may be those of a non-legal character, commonly referred to as political, and those capable of being resolved by applying rules of law, commonly referred to as justifiable. Another cause of armed conflict is aggression by nations whose only motive is conquest and self-aggrandizement. We must, therefore, provide for differences of a political character, for those of a legal nature, and for cases where there is plain and unadulterated aggression.

Political differences which present a threat to the peace of the world should be submitted to agencies which would use the remedies of discussion, negotiation, conciliation, and good offices.

Disputes of a legal character which present a threat to the peace of the world should be adjudicated by an international court of justice whose decisions would be based upon application of principles of law.

But to assure peace there must also be means for restraining aggressors and nations that seek to resort to force for the accomplishment of purposes of their own. The peacefully inclined nations must, in the interest of general peace and security, be willing to accept responsibility for this task in accordance with their respective capacities.

The success of an organized system of international co-operation with the maintenance of peace as its paramount objective depends, to an important degree, upon what happens within as well as among nations. We know that political controversies and economic strife among nations are fruitful causes of hostility and conflict. But we also know that economic stagnation and distress, cultural backwardness, and social unrest within nations, wherever they exist, undermine all efforts for stable peace.

The primary responsibility for dealing with these conditions rests on each and every nation concerned. But eachnation will be greatly helped in this task by the establishment of sound trade and other economic relations with other nations, based on a comprehensive system of mutually beneficial international cooperation not alone in these respects, but also in furthering educational advancement and in promoting observance of basic human rights.

There rests upon the independent nations a responsibility in relation to dependent peoples who aspire to liberty. It should be the duty of nations having political ties with such peoples, of mandatories, of trustees, or of other agencies, as the case may be, to help the aspiring peoples to develop materially and educationally, to prepare themselves for the duties and responsibilities of self-government, and to attain liberty. An excellent example of what can be achieved is afforded in the record of our relationship with the Philippines.

Organized international cooperation can be successful only to the extent to which the nations of the world are willing to accept certain fundamental propositions.

First, each nation should maintain a stable government. Each nation should be free to decide for itself the forms and details of its governmental organization—so long as it conducts its affairs in such a way as not to menace the peace and security of other nations.

Second, each nation should conduct its economic affairs in such a way as to promote the most effective utilization of its human and material resources and the greatest practicable measure of economic welfare and social security for all of its citizens. Each nation should be free to decide for itself the forms of its internal economic and social organization—-but it should conduct its affairs in such a way as to respect the rights of others and to play its necessary part in a system of sound international economic relations.

Third, each nation should be willing to submit differences arising between it and other nations to processes of peaceful settlement, and should be prepared to carry out other obligations that may devolve upon it in an effective system of organized peace.

All of this calls for the creation of a system of international relations based on rules of morality, law and justice as distinguished from the anarchy of unbridled and discordant nationalisms, economic and political. The outstanding characteristic of such a system is liberty under law for nations as well as individuals. Its method is peaceful cooperation.

The form and functions of the international agencies of the future, the extent to which the existing court of international justice may or may not need to be remodelled, the scope and character of the means for making international action effective in the maintenance of peace, the nature ofinternational economic institutions and arrangements that may be desirable and feasible—all these are among the problems which are receiving attention and which will need to be determined by agreement among governments, subject, of course, to approval by their respective peoples. They are being studied intensively by this government and by other governments. They are gradually being made subjects of consultation between and among governments. They are bring studied and discussed by the people of this country aid the peoples of other countries. In the final analysis, it is the will of the peoples of the world that decides the all-embracing issues of peace and of human welfare.


The outbreak of war made it clear that problems of crucial importance in the field of foreign relations would confront this country as well as other countries upon the termination of hostilities. It became the obvious duty of the Department of State to give special attention to the study of conditions and developments relating to such problems. As the war spread over the earth, the scope of these studies was extended and work upon them was steadily increased, in so far as was compatible with the fullest possible prosecution of the war. By direction of the President and with his active interest in the work, the Department of State undertook through Special groups organized for the purpose, to examine the various matters affecting the conclusion of the war, the making of the peace, and preparation for dealing with post-war problems. In doing this work, we have had collaboration of representatives of other interested agencies of the Government and of many national leaders, without regard to their political affiliation, and the assistance of a specially constituted and highly qualified research staff. We have been aided greatly by public discussion of the problems involved on the part of responsible private individuals and groups, and by the numerous suggestions and expressions of opinion which we have received from all parts of the country. In proceeding with this work we envisage the fullest cooperation between the Executive and the Legislative branches of the Government.

We have now reached a stage at which it becomes possible to discuss in greater detail some of the basic problems outlined in this address and in my previous statements. I hope to be able to undertake this from time to time in the early future.

The supreme importance of these problems should lift them far above the realm of partisan considerations or party politics. It is gratifying that both in the Congress and elsewhere great numbers of thoughtful men have so approached them. A heavy responsibility rests upon all of us to consider these all-important post-war problems and to contribute to their solution in a wholly non-partisan spirit.