The Four Policemen



Delivered before the Second War Conference of the New England Council, Boston, Mass., November 18, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 138-141.

THIS nation, you are well aware, is at one of the great turning points in its history. Precisely for that reason, just because we have taken novel and momentous decisions in practical affairs, and must go on to measures we have never taken before, we must find strength in the ancient virtues and guidance in our ancient wisdom. This is the truth, and when you hear from Admiral Standley he may confirm it and demonstrate it, this is the truth which the pioneers and innovators have to learn before they can ever hope to make anything which endures: that when nations move into the future, they do not break with the past but must recover it and must draw ever closer to it.

I have said that we are at a turning point in our history. We may say soberly and without rhetoric or exaggeration that during this past month the foundations of the world which we shall live in have been established and the structure of the coining order of things in the world raised upon it.

It is often hard to realize that so great an historic event has actually taken place. We have had such a long debate about whether we would participate in establishing a new international order, and we have speculated so much about how to establish it, that it may take us time to digest the tact that what we were debating has been decided, what we were talking about has happened.

For we axe all of us rather like the young man who has been so long wondering whether he should marry the girl and whether she would marry him, that he has not yet got himself accustomed to the idea of washing the dishes and tending the furnace.

Senate Action Binding

I realize, of course, that the marriage will not be fully legal and valid until the contract has been submitted to the Senate, and provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur. But we may assume that they will concur in treaties which carry out the Moscow agreements.

We may assume that the meaning of the Connally resolution is that the Senate as a whole is now in honor bound to propose only constructive amendments, and to reject firmly all nullifying and destructive amendments, to the covenants, charters, and agreements which will be submitted to it.

I have no doubt myself that the Connally resolution, which now takes its place among the historic declarations of Congress, was adopted in perfect good faith, that it means what it says, that it is not an empty or tricky formula, but rather that it is a solemn personal pledge upon the conscience of the Senators to do all that they can to promote what Secretary Hull promised to do at Moscow, what the Senate itself expressly approved after it had seen what Mr. Hull promised at Moscow.

What did Mr. Hull promise at Moscow? What engagements did he make, over and above those which have to dowith the prosecution of the war? What commitments did he make which extend beyond the armistice which we shall impose upon our enemies?

In the Joint Four Nations Declaration, the United States declared that it would continue to work with Britain, Russia and China to organize and maintain peace and security, that it would continue to enforce the armistice and terms of peace which are first agreed upon by the Allies and then imposed upon our enemies, and that these four nations will establish as soon as possible a larger general international organization open to all sovereign peace-loving states.

Moscow Pact Specific

Now I should like particularly to call your attention to certain things about this, which if they are clearly understood by our people, should—from now on—simplify the debate.

"I ask you to note that the proposal for a general organization of all the peace-loving nations contains no promise that this large assembly should, by any kind of vote of its members, by majority vote, two-thirds vote, or any vote, obligate the United States or any other country to use military force or even to impose economic penalties against any other country.

The obligation to use force, if necessary to go to war, is not general and undefined in the Moscow Agreements. It is specific. It is definite. It is the obligation to enforce the terms which are to be imposed upon our present enemies—upon Germany, Japan, and upon their satellite states. There is nothing in this agreement which remotely suggests that Britain, Russia and China are pledged to use force against the United States, or that the United States and Britain are pledged to use force against Russia and China.

The underlying principle, the controlling conception, of the whole agreement is that the four great powers are the four principal policemen of the post-war world, though they, are to be aided by the other United Nations and by peaceloving states which are now neutral—that these four policemen have, as the official text says, "responsibility to secure. . . themselves and the peoples allied with them from the menace of aggression."

Who Polices Policemen?

Now this raises at once the question: who polices the policemen? The answer to that question takes us to the heart of the whole problem of international peace and security.

The answer which we have come to is that in the next period of history, for as long ahead as any man now living can see and make practical decisions, the four great powers will be policed by the fact that they constituted a team to prevent Germany and Japan from restoring their military lower and making another bid for the conquest of the world.

On what do we rely to hold this team of policemen together? On the fact that each policeman can be attacked and threatened by either Germany or Japan or by the two of them. On the other hand, it is inconceivable that Britain and America could attack one another.

It is for all practical purposes impossible for Russia to attack the British Commonwealth or the United States; it is no less less impossible for Britain and America to attack Russia. They could not get at one another even if they anted to. It would be like a battle between a whale and an elephant.

Now note this: there is just one way in which Russia and Britain could get at one another to wage war. That would be if Germany were the ally of Britain or the ally of Russia. There is just one way in which Russia and the United States could get at one another. That would be ifJapan were the ally of Russia or the ally of the UnitedStates.

Therefore, it follows that if Britain, Russia and the United States are bound together to prevent Germany and Japan from becoming military powers and to renounce any idea of making allies of their recent enemies, the only practicable means by which the four policemen could wage war is eliminated.

China Given Security

You will ask me, what about China? My answer is that if Britain, Russia and the United States cannot go to war with one another because they are united to prevent the revival of Germany and Japan, then China is freed of the menace of japan. This will give her the security and the time to gather her strength and insure her own independence. And since China is also a policeman who will enforce the terms of peace on Japan, she gets the best guaranty that it is possible to have that her vital interests cannot be threatened by any other policemen.

If there are tender-minded people in this audience, I hope I am not shocking them too much by this tough-minded analysis of the structure of peace in the post-war world. I myself want a tough-minded peace because I want the settlement to be tough enough to last.

You will expect me then to say something about the part which our other allies—France, Poland and the smaller United Nations of Europe—and our South American neighbors are to play. I say frankly that they can play their parts only if the four-power agreement holds together and works.

There is no use pretending, there is no use deceiving ourselves with polite fictions, that the military power of Germany and Japan can be kept down without the combined force of the Armies of Russia, the sea and air power of Britain and America. We need every last ounce of this combined power to win the war now, and no one has the right to assume that anything less than this combination of force would be strong enough to prevent another Hitler from trying again 20 years hence.

Part for Small Nations

It is only when the world has been made secure against aggression that smaller nations can live and play their indispensable part in promoting order and peace in the world. There will be plenty for them to do. But in Europe they can do it only if they do not have to deal with Germany, and in Asia only if they do not have to deal with Japan. Germany and Japan are too big for them: only the biggest Powers can deal with Germany and Japan.

But the smaller Powers can and must keep order and promote the community of peace-loving states among themselves—in Europe by the Europeans, in Pan America by the American states, in Eastern Asia by the states bordering on the Pacific Ocean. They can prevent Balkan and Central European wars, Central and South American wars. They can play a great part in helping to promote the development of self-government in the colonial and dependent areas of Africa and Asia. They can play a fully equal part in the development of international law and in the adoption of civilized principles of international life.

They can do, in short, what they are capable of doing. They cannot do more, and if they tried to do more they would end by doing less.

After all, there are very few of you here this evening who are policemen and have to deal with gangsters and criminals. But that does not mean that you haven't plenty to do as equal citizens of the community.

Right to War is Retained

I should like now to go on to another matter which seems to me of prime importance. I said before that the Declaration agreed to at Moscow does not give to any other nations the right to vote this country or any other country into a war. The right to declare war, the power to raise armies and use property for military purposes remains where it has been—in the constitutional process of each sovereign state. I believe this is sound and wise. For I think it is certain that no free people can be made to wage war except under its own flag, and by the decision of its own government.

You may ask then: that being so, what reason have we for thinking that the United Nations will, if they are put to the test, actually use force to prevent aggression?

My answer may surprise some of you.

It is that the great virtue of this agreement to work together is that matters which could become causes of war can usually, if they are examined and dealt with early enough, be disposed of without the use of force.

It would not have required much force to deal with the Nazis in 1933, 1934, or in 1936. On the other hand, if in spite of immediate diplomatic treatment, the menace of aggression continues to build itself up, the fact that we are present from the start, are present in the early stages, will give us warning when there is still time to prepare, and it will make us realize the danger without having to be caught unaware of it, as we were at Pearl Harbor.

So by participating in the diplomacy of the world continually, we can either settle issues before they become dangerously big, or, if we cannot, we should be fully on guard and prepared for them. If we had been on guard and prepared for the Nazis and the Japanese, that in itself would have been a powerful deterrent.

"International Cooperation"

I should now like to make a few remarks about a phrase which we all use these days but which we need to understand more clearly and in a more practical sense. It is the phrase "international cooperation." What does it mean? It means, of course, a general willingness to give and take, to live and let live, and a code of good manners with foreigners—such as never making charges loosely and seeking always to hear their side of the argument before taking our own position.

But it means more than this: it means that we must endeavor to take an enlightened, a long and rounded rather than a short and narrow, view of our national interests.

Let me give you an example. It is, I believe, our national interest that we should have rights to the use of sea and air bases in the Atlantic and the Pacific. The question is how we are to get these rights. If we demand them from Britain, Australia, France, Portugal, Brazil, and threaten these countries if they do not cede them, we might get these bases. But we should arouse the hostility of the greater part of the civilized world. Then, because we had lost our friends, we should need more bases and more armaments to protect the bases, and so far as our own security goes we would be worse off than before we started.

If, on the other hand, we go to the British and the French and the Portuguese and the Brazilians in the spirit of the Moscow pact, and propose agreements for the reciprocal use of their naval and air bases and of our own, we shall not only get more bases by this method than by any other, but we shall gain allies to make sure that the bases will be protected. The difference between these two methods is the difference between an enlightened and a stupid national policy.

Must Restore Economy

If we pursue this matter further we shall come upon what is, I believe, a fundamental truth—namely that the best and most dependable form of international co-operation is an intelligent national policy. It was unintelligent on our part to be disarmed, rich, extended in our commitments, and unwilling to join our present allies in restraining Japan and Germany when they first began their campaign of conquest.

We have paid a heavy price for not being intelligent about our own national interest. If we had done what our own interest really required, we should also have been doing exactly what the best interests of the world as a whole required—we should in other words have been co-operating instead of being isolationist.

This same principle holds equally in the sphere of our economic relations with the rest of the world. Many people seem to think that international economic co-operation means that this country must share its wealth with the rest of mankind. It does not mean that and no sensible person who examines the facts imagines it could mean that. We must, of course, do what we can, and we ought gladly to squeeze ourselves for a time to do it, in order to see that the people who are the victims of aggression, who have stood in the front line for the cause of freedom, shall as quickly as possible be put back on their feet.

But beyond this temporary emergency, international economic co-operation means, I submit to you, that we must restore our own economy and maintain it at reasonably full employment, without great booms and depressions; and international economic co-operation means that in our foreign trade we must adjust our exports and our imports and our financial transactions so as to keep our international accounts in balance.

The fact is, and I believe all informed foreigners would agree, that domestic prosperity in the United States is indispensable to prosperity in the rest of the world. The reason is that the economy of the United States is, in weight of productivity and transactions, very nearly half of the economy of the world. No doubt in the future these proportions will change as Russia and China become more highly industrialized. But we shall for a very long time be such a large factor in the whole world economy that what happens here will affect profoundly every other economically important country. Our booms inflate the world, our depressions depress the world. And therefore what we do here is a decisive factor, for good or evil, everywhere.

Foreign Accounts Must Balance

Along with this we simply have to learn for our own economic advantage, and for the world's, that our foreign accounts must balance. They must balance by normal business transactions and normal loans and investments, without artificial credit and without the devices of controlled exchanges, subsidies, and restrictive devices. For these uneconomic and artificial measures are temporary palliatives which in the end bring disaster.

Therefore we must seek a true economic balance of our foreign accounts. This means that we cannot sell without buying. We cannot lend without being willing to be paid back. If we take this seriously, and regulate our exports, our imports, our merchant shipping, our civil aviation, our foreign financing, by this inexorable rule of procedure, we shall be good economic neighbors of the rest of the world. If we do not do it, we shall, as we helped to do in the Twenties, bring our neighbors and ourselves to an economic, and also to a social, catastrophe.

I know I am at the end of my time, and I hope I am notat the end of your patience. I have been a working journalist too long not to realize that to try to cover so many serious subjects so quickly is to serve up a rather indigestible meal. But all I can say is that these matters have to be discussed, and that they are all so closely interrelated that they cannot really be discussed separately.

Having done this, I am not going to exhort you and ring the changes on your emotions. For we are now, I believe, at the point where we have to make practical decisions which require above all else clear heads and an increasingly accurate understanding of what we are doing and why we are doing it.

Yet as we go forward to deal with these hard and complicated matters, we cannot fail, I believe, to be sustained, and impelled by the knowledge that in these things we are honoring a sacred pledge. It is the pledge which every civilian has given to all who fight and toil and suffer. It is the pledge that we shall not stupidly, negligently, selfishly, squander the blood, the sweat, and the tears with which the age we live in is now sanctified.