Both Dreamers and Diplomats Are Needed
STATESMEN MUST FACE THE FACTS
By HONORABLE A. A. BERLE, JR., Assistant Secretary of State
Delivered Before the Rotary Club, Knoxville, Tenn., November 23, 1943
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 150-152.
EVERY State Department man welcomes the opportunity to visit Tennessee. Certainly the Department of State, and the entire United States, owes an enormous debt to Tennessee for having given to the country the most sagacious and successful Secretary of State in American history. Already the debt which all of us owe to Cordell Hull is appreciated; but the measure of it will not and cannot be known until history writes the full and final story.
The foreign policy of the United States has been repeatedly set out by Secretary Hull, and its guiding principles are perfectly clear. Its first task is to assure the independence, safety, and well-being of the United States. Its second is to work towards an organization of the world in which this country and other law-abiding nations can live together at peace under a political and economic system which gives opportunity for steadily increasing well-being of peoples.
These two objectives are not attained by vast and glittering generalities. They rest on steady, detailed, undramatic hard work, applied day by day. We often envy those who are free to draw the pictures of a brave new world which inspire us all. Our task is humbler. We can only say what we think can be done. We endeavor to work towards great goals, but we have to move step by step, as we can find or create means and opportunity. Prime Minister Churchill is fond of quoting a remark of Edmund Burke to the effect that the idealist is always the enemy of the statesman. It is more accurate to say that the idealist is an artist who can draw a picture; the statesman is an engineer who has to use bricks and mortar and hods to build the pictured structure. The dreamer will always be ahead of the diplomat. It is no good criticizing the diplomat because he is not a dreamer, nor is it fair to blame the dreamer because he is no diplomat. We need both; but they have different jobs.
The independence and safety of the United States depend immediately on winning a huge war. It has been fashionable in some circles to assume that this war is a revolution; that all Conservatives, Moderates or other non-Revolutionaries must be Nazis or Fascists, and that the only true defenders of liberty were found in extreme Left-wing groups. Some say, therefore, the war is chiefly to be won by encouraging social upheaval the world over. This is an easy generalization which goes along nicely until it bumps up against the hard facts.
Undoubtedly great social changes are abroad in the world. Undoubtedly the forces set in motion by this war will liberate vast popular forces both here and abroad. But the fact was Hitler, not the Democracies, wanted to create a class war. He hoped, by bribery and threat and propaganda, to make allies for himself in every country in the world, and thereby to create Fifth Columns and open the way for his panzer divisions. In the main he lost that fight, though in a few places he had a degree of success. His victims did not split along class lines. They refused to engage in civil wars. He did not succeed in bringing to his support great classes in the victim countries. Instead, in nation after nation, all groups arrayed themselves solidly against him, irrespective of their social doctrines. Poland, with a Conservative government fought him to the death, just as did Soviet Russia with a Communist government. Norway and the Netherlands have resisted him both before and after their invasion as bitterly as Czechoslovakia. The British resistance, turning point of the war, was first carried on by a Tory government, just as the American war effort was organized by the Liberal government of President Roosevelt. The men who come out of the Undergrounds in Europe—we have the privilege of seeing them in the State Department from time to time—are of every political and religious belief: Conservative and Communist; Capitalist and Socialist; Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish. Nor is the situation different in the Western Hemisphere: Liberal governments like that of Mexico find common cause with Conservative governments like that of Brazil.
It would be merely playing Hitler's game to pretend that the spirit of resistance is possessed only by those holding a particular social faith. The war is essentially the defense of freedom and national life for this nation and for all nations. Without exception, every one of the United Nations has placed its national existence above every other objective; though all realize that their safety must lie in common action.
We in the State Department, accordingly, have been unable to accept the idea that social upheaval was the primary means of defeating Hitler. Rather, the principle has been and must continue to be that of unity in the face of enemies of civilization.
The liberated countries undoubtedly will wish to rebuild their social structures when the enemy is expelled. They may wish to modify and change those structures. But this is a choice for them to make, and not for us. Our obligation was set forth in the Atlantic Charter which contains a declaration that nations have the right to live under governments of their own choosing. At the close of the Moscow Conference, Premier Stalin made a speech in which he set forth the same view: he said,
"The liberated countries of Europe must receive full right and freedom to decide for themselves their form of state."
It may be added that, from a military point of view, the proposition that the United States should engage in a series of adventures for the purpose of intervening in the affairs of other states seems merely absurd. Our divisions are thoroughly engaged in the task of smashing the Japanese and the Germans. Nor have we any intention to scrap the well-settled policy of nonintervention in the affairs of other states. The policy of nonintervention in other peoples' affairs is and must be the first principle of sound doctrine: unless this is the settled practice of nations, there can be no principle of sovereign equality among peace-loving states, and probably no permanent peace at all. The Nazis practiced the principle of forcing their neighbor nations to install governments satisfactory to their ideas. We are content to leave to them the patent on that idea.
In following this line, the Government of the United States follows the oldest, strongest and most successful liberal tradition in the world. The doctrine of democracy established itself spontaneously in the United States in 1776. In the century which followed, representative democracy became the rule throughout the Western World. But this was doneby force of example, and by the free process of men's minds. We need not apologize for that record; and nothing in the history of European controversy during the past two generations justifies us in departing from this American principle.
The application of this principle is translated into the day by day work, dealing with the territories which we are progressively liberating, in company with our Allies. Wc have not used the force of American armies, destined to fight the Nazis, to compel erection of improvised political governments against the will of their peoples, in spite of the fact that certain factions have earnestly and sometimes bitterly urged this course upon us. Rather, the attempt has been made to open the way for healthy political evolution in these countries. It has been necessary to provide a reasonably stable economic life, and to open the streams of information and public thought. Once this is done, and subject to military necessity, we can rely on the peoples of these countries to recreate their own political life. This does not please some who are anxious for partisans of particular political factions; nor does it satisfy some European political personalities who have found refuge on our shores. Yet it is, I think, the only wise and sound course.
There are some who say that the United Nations should boldly announce that there will be no return to the system previously existing in Europe; that every effort should be made, now, to assist in destroying the political life which existed before 1939. Since the Continent of Europe is at present silenced, the first effect of any such policy would be to leave every European country voiceless, without even the external symbols of their continued life. Until these countries are liberated, no one outside them can secure a new mandate. Every government in refuge has recognized and declared that its first act, on liberation, must be to submit itself to the judgment of its people, which can then make such changes as they choose. Quite likely there will be changes; for those who have fought out, underground, in their own countries the terrible and bloody battle against the Nazi invaders will unquestionably emerge from the struggle, covered with wounds and sweat, claiming their right to be heard as representatives of the silenced and struggling masses. Having faith, as we do, in the common and kindly people who are the mass of Europe, we can safely leave it to them to decide the forms of their government. The contribution we can make is to give them, by force of arms and continuing victory, their freedom to speak once more without fear of Gestapo or danger from German bayonets. To take any other course would be to deny the essential democracy of our being.
Many of the arguments addressed to the Department of State—and I have no doubt the same arguments are directed likewise to the British Foreign Office and to the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs—should more properly be directed to the people of the countries whose affairs are discussed.
In terms of day to day work, these problems present themselves in a light somewhat more difficult than that of mere generalization. An army moves into a country and frees it from German domination. At that moment the only organized force in the country is that of a group which had maintained itself through the previous phase. Every other element of political life is either dead, in concentration camps, in hiding, or in exile. Even information as to the outside world has been cut off. Slowly the elements of political choice have to be reassembled; the news of the world has to be readmitted. Relationships of neighborhoods, trades unions, town and dfy governments, provincial life, and eventually national life, have to be reestablished. The evolution goes on; representative men appear; they take their place in the public lifeof the country; set out the doctrines they represent, and enter into the structure of the government as public opinion acceptstheir ideas.
It is natural to expect controversy in the difficult work of European reconstruction. These controversies largely arise from, or continue, the bitter political divisions in the Europe of before the war. Representatives of practically every European party and from practically every European country are present in the United States. Between themselves they carry on much the same sort of warfare that went on in the European capitals. Being exiled, each of these representatives claims to speak not for his party but for his country; for a purely party claim would have little appeal to the public opinion of the United States. When opportunity arises, these claims to represent other countries can be referred to the people of that country, who are and must be the final judges. This does not satisfy some claimants, who wish to be recognized now as spokesmen for their still captive countries, and to be assisted with American money and men to take power in those countries. The United States Government has consistently taken the view that it had no right to make such decisions, least of all in respect to friendly countries. In some quarters the disappointed candidates have turned their criticism on the State Department; and some of that criticism has been both ill-founded and unscrupulous.
To all non-enemy groups the Department has zealously guarded their freedom of speech, their freedom to organize, their right to state their own case, and to present themselves to such public opinion as may be available. Each group has been very glad to avail itself of this right. Some groups, unhappily, are very anxious to see this right denied to other groups with whose views or aspirations they disagree, and seem to feel that the Government of the United States in some dictatorial fashion should suppress their rival groups, I need hardly say that there is no likelihood that this Government will depart from its traditional position—which is in fact the strongest liberal tradition in the world.
The true aim of enlightened foreign policy now must be to place world affairs on a new footing—a basis in which, as Secretary Hull observed the other day, spheres of influence, special alliances, and ail the shoddy tricks of balance-of-power politics and imperialist operations can be discarded. This has to be done in the name of common humanity; but it equally has to be done in the interest of the United States. It is a titanic job.
It will not be achieved by cultivating hatreds, or taking sides in stale European controversies. It cannot be based on civil wars, disingenuous propaganda, or political trickery. The vast problem of securing a reconstituted world system which can maintain peace and recognize human rights can only be carried forward by finding and increasing a common denominator of public opinion. This must be such as will enable countries to establish peace within their own borders, and to join in establishing a peaceful framework for the whole world. Increasing bitterness and factional rights within nations, or the differences between nations, can only impede the largest and most important work we have to do. And it can only hinder and impede the pressing and immediate necessity for winning the war.
The time is long since past when any group seeking to lead public opinion in international affairs can be merely negative. Progress today depends, not on the number of things you can find to oppose, but on the number of things you can find to support. Tangible and permanent advances, embodied in well-founded institutions, have to be based on programs studied, thought out, and commanding such wide-spread approval that they can be put into effect. None of these plans will satisfy everyone's hopes.
But we have arrived at the stage where a modest achievement which has in it the power of growth is better than a lost cause, and another generation of want and fear and agony.
I think that the true forward movements when they come will not talk the language of hatred. They will not endeavorto set neighbor against neighbor. Their political weapons will not be slander and falsehood. They will be based on the age-old constructive principles of justice, kindliness, and a search for truth. Not otherwise has any society been permanently founded; and no international society will well serve either the United States or any other nation unless it rests on these timeless qualities in human life.