Map World Peace Now
"WE MUST ASSUME OUR RESPONSIBILITIES REALISTICALLY"
By JOHN W. BRICKER, Governor of Ohio
Delivered before the Ohio Society, New York City, April 25, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 422-424.
FOR the second time within the brief span of our generation, America is involved in a grim and bitter world war. We were caught shamefully unprepared. But today, after months of anxiety and preparation, the tide of battle is running strongly in our favor. Our country again is demonstrating the prowess of her fighting men and the potency of her industrial system. Tough fighting and hard work are ahead. But we shall carry on, with increased determination, until Germany and Japan are decisively defeated.
We well may pause to speculate concerning the reason for our involvement hi these two world wars. We had no territorial ambitions. We had no major quarrels with other nations.
America was settled by people who sought to be free from the interminable wars between the coalitions and alliances of the Old World. But to their disillusionment and sorrow, even in colonial days, they discovered that the New World was an ever-present pawn in the imperial ambitions and rivalries of the European powers.
World War Involvements
Whatever may explain our early involvements I have no doubt as to the principal forces that involved us in World Wars I and II. We were drawn in because we had become of such great importance in world affairs, economically and politically, that we could not escape involvement. Neither Germany in the last war, nor Germany and Japan in this war, could hope to achieve world domination so long as the United States stood strong and free in this hemisphere. The simple truth is that we have always had a tremendous stake in world order and stability. Yet our national consciousness of our commanding place in world affairs has not kept pace with our own national progress. We have not kept ourselves alert to developments threatening world order. And we have not kept ourselves prepared to deal with them before they attained world-shaking proportions.
Instead of accepting, with intelligent self-interest, a degree of responsibility for world events commensurate with our rank, we have allowed events to control us. Almost a half century ago, we assumed obligations in the Pacific. We accepted a direct responsibility for protecting the Philippines. The present Administration failed to fulfill this obligation in the face of Japan's growing power.
During the past decade we have unwisely pursued a course of day-to-day diplomacy. Hitler seized the reins in Germany about the time the New Deal came into power. Though the threat to world peace was widely recognized, our Government did not exercise ordinary prudence for our national security. We squandered our substance in boondoggling and took no heed of the gathering war clouds.
The present Administration sought to appease Japan by selling to her scrap iron and oil, in spite of Ambassador Grew's warnings as to the intentions of her war lords. This policy was continued until late in 1940. Our sons are receiving back those materials today, in bullets and death.
Future Foreign Policy
Any approach to the future foreign policy of this country, I believe, should be based upon three inescapable premises.
First, our civilization cannot survive if it continues to engage in legalized mass murder every generation or two. It must not pervert its scientific discoveries into instruments of destruction. No Napoleon, no Hitler, no Japanese war lord, nourishing overweening ambition, should ever again be permitted to force catastrophe on the world.
Second, we in America must recognize, in view of our vast expansion of territory, our population, our natural resources, and our scientific skills that we must share responsibility for world order as a matter of self interest. I have said before and I repeat now:
"If we do not, after the present most destructive of wars, make a serious effort to build a better understanding among nations, then we must stand convicted before posterity as ignorant, heartless and unworthy reactionaries."
Third, we must assume our responsibilities realistically. The pages of history record many plans for preserving peace. From the Pax Romana to the League of Nations, the common men and women of the world have always yearned to throw off the shackles of barbarism and to establish concord. It is not the people who have failed. It is the leaders of people, through all the ages, who have fallen short of their high obligations. When the governments of the world become responsive to the will of the people, peace will abide.
Again many peace plans are afloat. Too few of them have been evolved with a view to the stark realities which the world will face when this war is over. The machinery of peace will be effective only if it relieves the tensions that cause wars. Only as men diagnose the forces that make for conflict can they provide a cure for this moral malady in our civilization.
World Peace Problems
Let us then consider some of the realities that will confront us as we set about the task of establishing world peace.
First and foremost, we must anticipate temporary economic and political instability in many parts of the world. At the end of the war there will be all too few stable governments in the world. These must be established before any permanent international organization will be possible.
Likewise, there will be multitudes of starving, diseased and homeless men, women and children in Europe and the Orient. Their gaunt faces will haunt the peace table. Millions of their ablest young men will have been killed or disabled.
Wealth and productive facilities will have been destroyed. Land will be depleted. Property ownership will be confused. No one will know who the rightful owners are because of the Nazi and Japanese scrambling of property rights and the destruction of title records.
There will be no financial stability. Money values today in the area of combat are highly artificial. If controls are removed, it is probable that many European currencies will collapse.
Many nations will be without resources with which to buy raw materials or foodstuffs, except such resources as may be ade available by the credit of the United Nations. Finally, we may expect a terrific conflict of opposing political forces struggling for dominance. There will be a release of deep-seated and engendered hate, especially in the occupied countries.
Unless these problems are frankly faced and solved, anarchy will be lurking around the corner. With anarchy, the hope of a just and enduring peace will collapse.
United Nations Relief
The United Nations therefore face the necessity of providing food, shipping, supplies, credits—and helping industry and agriculture get started abroad. The United States must do its full share, generously and compassionately.
But we must not be led into assuming a burden intolerable to us and demoralizing to others. We alone cannot repair the destruction of this war. We cannot buy international good will. Our major effort should be to help others help themselves. Any promise to do more than we can perform will breed ill-will and hate. There must be open and frank consideration of our responsibilities. There must be no secret international agreements affecting the post-war world. International good will can be developed by open and honest dealings with other nations and by keeping our commitments.
The long-range economic problems confronting the world are even more complex. I refer to the problems of currency, credit, markets and international trade. After the last war, all nations indulged in excessive economic nationalism. This expressed itself in discriminatory trade agreements, quotas, excessive tariffs, monopolies and cartels, exchange wars, barter systems and many other barriers to international trade and commerce.
Let us not forget that the President of the United States had an opportunity to take leadership in controlling the world-wide economic maladjustment which deepened after 1933. We all know that monetary instability in the world is a serious barrier to international trade—and that trade barriers contribute mightily to wars. They were forces which helped Hitler rise to power.
To meet this problem of instability which existed in 1933, the World Monetary and Economic Conference of London was held. The United States was represented. Suddenly and without warning, the President blasted the conference. It was wrecked just as completely as if a bomb had been dropped out of the skies and taken the lives of all assembled. The present Administration, then and there, indulged in an act of extreme economic isolationism, and the hope of establishing monetary and economic stability in the world was crushed.
The failure of nations to deal forthrightly with the problems of currency, credit, markets and international trade contributed, more than anything else, toward sowing the seeds of present international conflict. The practice of international improvisation should end. The hour for forthright constructive action is here.
These convictions impel me to offer some specific recommendations:
First of all, as I have pointed out, there will be economic and political instability in Europe and Asia at the end of the war. Pending the time when we may establish a permanent international organization, we must have some kind of effective machinery to preserve international order and to help set the nations of Europe and Asia on the road to self-rehabilitation.
The United States, the British Commonwealth and Russia will emerge from this war as the nations having the largest responsibility for world order and the power to maintain it, China is a nation of great potential power. These four nations, in my judgment, while acting as independent sovereign states, must assume joint responsibility for world order until economic and political stability has been regained by the individual nations.
This means that these four great powers should agree now to maintain adequate military, naval and air power in the immediate post-war period. This does not mean an international police force, or a military alliance. The people of this country are opposed to both. It does contemplate that these four nations shall reach a mutual understanding as to their respective military establishments, and that they shall express that understanding in a temporary and transitional compact to be entered into as soon as possible.
Other nations, willing to assume their share of responsibility, should be permitted to join this compact. The compact should also contain the principles and aims which these powers will support in the post-war world. It is important that nations know as quickly as possible what adjustments they must make. Through such a procedure the four great powers, and those who join with them, shall become effective guardians of the peace until a permanent international organization can be established.
Already much valuable time and opportunity to hasten the end of the war have been lost by our failure to make dear, both to ourselves and to our enemies, the prime objectives for which we are fighting.
Permanent Peace Structure
Second, the United Nations should immediately explore the bases for a permanent international structure for peace. Such a structure cannot be completed until stable governments have been restored. The details must be worked out in the light of developing conditions and after open discussion, hosting peace cannot spring full-born by any grandiose plain but step by step in solution of the problems which will confront us. Fundamental principles, however, can and should be agreed upon at the earliest possible moment.
I believe that the United States must take her place in a cooperative organization of sovereign nations. We want no supergovernment. We want no dictatorial world state. Moreover, declarations and acts of our allies indicate that they likewise want no supergovernment or dictatorial world state. A cooperative organization of sovereign states, bentupon peace and supported by a will for peace among their peoples, can solve the international problems that lead to war.
The major purpose of such an institution must be to establish a reign of law among nations. We need to develop judicial processes for the settlement of justiciable questions. The Hague Tribunal and the Permanent Court of International Justice have demonstrated that much can be accomplished by this means to avoid recourse to arms. They can be made more effective.
Personally, I have always felt that the United States should join the World Court. It is vital that there be a continuing study and revision of the principles and procedures of international law and tribunals. We also need more adequate machinery for the settlement of non-justiciable questions by mediation, conciliation and arbitration. Every problem solved, every commitment kept, will strengthen the program for peace.
The Republican party at Mackinac took the initiative in bringing our post-war international program down to the hard ground of common sense. Its proposals may well be our guide.
Third, the United States, Great Britain, Russia and China should now inaugurate a continuing study of such problems as currencies, credits, tariffs, air rights, markets and international trade.
Money Standard Question
Of special importance in such a study is the problem of the money standard. This problem should be approached from the standpoint of stabilizing the currency of individual nations. International economic stability must be built upon the foundation of a sound money and sound economic policy in each of the individual nations. Our first step is the establishment of a sound internal economy in the United States.
In formulating a program for monetary stabilization, all visionary plans, such as the Keynes and White plans, must be avoided. There is no need for resorting to radical theories. The best hope for the future lies in the return of the world in due course to the international gold standard. In spite of its defects, the gold standard is the most satisfactory basis of stability the world has yet known. People generally have confidence in it because they can understand it better than any other monetary standard. It requires less management and hence it is less subject to manipulation by international politics.
In short, I believe that we should begin with what we have found best in our experience and endeavor to improve it by international cooperation.
Fourth, the United States is distinctly in need of consistent and competency in its diplomatic relations.
The State Department again must be permitted to exercise the initiative and responsibility that marked the administrations of such able Republican Secretaries as Seward, Blaine, Hay, Root and Hughes. We need a President who will permit his department heads the latitude to exercise the responsibility that is vested in them. The United States has just as able, adequately trained and thoroughly experienced career men in the diplomatic service as any other nation. They are thoroughly familiar with the individual problems and viewpoints of the various nations. This nation has the "know-how" in international relations. A Republican Administration will use it. No one man knows all the answers, but someone knows each answer.
Finally, in our dealings with other nations, we must act fairly, but with resolution. Too often in foreign affairs the present Administration has exhibited before the world indecision, vacillation and weakness. A strong nation should have a strong policy.
The time has come when an American President should be courageous enough to speak out for America—for our rights and for our convictions. For example, I believe that the President, supported by the Congress, should insist upon the retention of certain strategic military and naval bases and air fields which have been built with American money. We should be just as diligent in protecting our own national interests as our allies are diligent in protecting theirs.
Must Remain Powerful
We can exert a wholesome influence in the world only if we ourselves remain powerful. After the last war, the United States held certain ideals before the world. Many of those ideals were promptly repudiated by the statesmen of Europe. We ourselves let them go by default. We yielded, and we lost the respect of other nations. Indeed, we earned their contempt, and, worst of all, the armistice proved to be only an armistice. That tragedy must not be repeated.
America's cooperation with other nations must not be at the expense of her principles, her honor, her ideals or her form of government. But I believe we can have international cooperation with justice and with honor, and that America must play her full part and do her full share. To do otherwise would be to break our covenant with those who struggle and die for us at this hour.
That is what our fighting sons and daughters are thinking. That is what fathers and mothers everywhere are praying for. Our great objectives must be: the speedy winning of the war; the establishment of a just and enduring peace; and the maintenance of a strong America—an America firm in her convictions, cooperative in the building of a better world, and free to enjoy the blessings which can only be assured in a world delivered from the scourge of war.