Foreign Policy Must Be Handled Constitutionally


By THOMAS E. DEWEY, Governor of New York

Delivered at dinner of the Bureau of Advertising, American Newspaper Publishers Association,New York City, April 27, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 450-45.

I AM very happy to speak before this wartime gathering of American newspaper publishers. Yours is an essential industry because, in America, the press is a vital part of our war effort, it is a vital part of our whole free system. It is an indispensable element of everything for which we fight.

The tragic history of recent years has shown us vividly that freedom of the press cannot exist where there is no political freedom; but the corollary to this basic truth is perhaps even more important: political freedom cannot exist without a free press.

An electorate, fully informed on issues, is as fundamental to representative government as the election itself. And full information through the press is the bulwark of the people's power to check up on their representatives between elections.

We saw it demonstrated in Germany that tyranny can rise to power by the elective process. But in order to stay in power the Nazis immediately set about destroying the freedom of the German press. In all countries men have been elected to office who prove unworthy of the trust. The strength of a free system is that such mistakes need never be fatal. They can be corrected at the polls. But these corrections can be made only if the people are informed.

Guarantee in Constitution

The precious guarantee in our Constitution of freedom of the press is not a mere guarantee to the press. It is a guarantee to the people that their press shall be free. It imposes an obligation on government to permit free dissemination of news and a duty on the press to print honest news. The right resides in the people because it is basic to their liberties.

Freedom of the press today means more than freedom to print what information can be obtained. It means access to the news. It involves the right of information and a corresponding duty to print it.

All of us recognize the need for military censorship. But there is a dividing line between military news and political news, or, if you will, diplomatic news. It is a dividing line which can never be left without scrutiny—which, throughout the war calls for vigilance. Once the fighting has ceased we must insist that all censorship of every description cease with it. We shall need then the uncorrupted word of truth.

I am confident of our future because we have, in fact, a great, free press. I believe our publishers generally are today more conscious of their tremendous responsibility than ever before. They will have much to do with the steadfastness with which we fight through this war. They will have much to do with the intelligence and determination with which we face the even more complicated problems of the peace.

The power of the written word lies in shaping the mind and spirit of man toward high achievement. There is, of course, a wide gulf between a statement of fact or of principles, on the one hand, and epithets or empty promises on the other. In recent years we have had good reason to learn that difference in our domestic affairs. It is not enough to talk about economic security and then pursue policies which promote insecurity. It is not enough to talk about the enterprise system and then pursue a course of action that stifles enterprise.

Question of Foreign Policy

These experiences with domestic policies cannot be forgotten when we think of foreign policies. All of us are aware that there is great concern and uncertainty among our people over our nation's foreign policy. Yet I think it is no more than fair to say that we have had some excellent expressions on that subject lately from the Secretary of State, Mr. Hull. In his address of April 9, Mr. Hull certainly offered a statement of basic principles which deserves respect. His pledge to seek the advice and help of members of Congress from both parties is especially welcome.

Nevertheless, these statements have done little to relieve the concern and uncertainty our people feel. That is not primarily because of dissatisfaction with the words Mr. Hull used. It is because we see reported daily in your papers developments from abroad and other statements from high Government officials at home which do not seem to fit in altogether with the words Mr. Hull has used. It is because we cannot be sure to what extent our foreign policy is actually being handled by the Secretary of State and to what extent it is being handled privately by the President.

What troubles us is not the main objectives of our foreign policy, but whether that policy will be effectively carried out in accordance with Constitutional methods. One way it will succeed. The other way it will surely fail. Foreign policy is not a mere matter of negotiations, of diplomatic maneuvering, or even of treaties and alliances. Foreign policy is the expression of the ideals, traditions and aspirations of a people in their relations with the people of other countries.

In a free republic there can be no such thing as an Administration having an effective foreign policy, unless that policy reflects the will of the people. Here we are, fighting, hoping, praying for a world in which we can have a lasting peace but in almost every discussion one simple fact is forgotten* No foreign policy that fails to represent the will of the people will ever last as long as two years. It will not last beyond the next Congressional election.

Major Objections

Among our people there are differences of opinion with respect to details and methods; but, I insist, there is overwhelming agreement upon the main objectives. Those major objectives are:

To carry on the war to total crushing victory, and in so doing to drive home to the aggressor nations a lesson that will never be forgotten.

To organize in cooperation with other nations a structure of peace backed by adequate force to prevent future wars;

To establish and maintain in our relations with other nations conditions calculated to promote world-wide economic stability not only for the sake of the world, but also to the end that our own people may enjoy a high level of employment in an increasingly prosperous world.

There is, I am confident, no real dissent from those major objectives on the part of any substantial portion of our people. They have been proclaimed by men of all parties and subscribed to by men of all walks of life in all parts of our country. They constitute the fundamental principles of our foreign policy because they represent the will of our people. But once again let it be said that these objectives cannot be attained by mere words.

As to the winning of the war the point needs no argument. We shall win the war only by the work and sacrifice of all our people. We shall win it by the courage, strength and suffering of our righting men and by the unremitting effort of our war production forces at home. To win the peace will require equally great determination, and over a longer period of time. It will not be sufficient when the fighting ceases merely to draw up a treaty and then forget about it. We must not repeat the tragic error of twenty-five years ago.

Central Error in 1919

The central error of our course in 1919 was the false assumption that words could create a peace. Then, as now, there was much wishful thinking. Men everywhere wanted to feel that a treaty which proclaimed peace would suffice to assure it and that from there on they could relax. The war leaders of the world wanted to feel that by signing their names to a treaty, they had brought their task to an end. The very idea that fine words made a peace bore within it the seeds of its own failure.

Within a few years the reality of Germany bore no relation whatever to the word picture of Versailles. This was because those who drafted the treaty were tired war leaders. They could not find within themselves the physical and mental strength to make the peace a living reality.

We have learned much since 1919. The experience of two world wars has taught us that we cannot remain unaffected by what happens elsewhere in the world. It has shown us also that unprovoked aggression against a freedom-loving people anywhere is an attack upon the peace of the whole world. We may again be tempted to feel that with the defeat of our enemies and a proclamation of peace we can afford to rest on our oars. But the truth is those years that follow will be decisive. The maintenance of peace will require continuing labor and forbearance. When we have ceased to wage war we shall have to wage peace.

Germany and Japan must not only be utterly defeated and completely disarmed—they must not be left in a post-war environment which might enable them to maneuver as a balance of power. After 1919 lethargy, jealousy and power politics resumed sway among the Allies. In that environment Germany quickly eluded the controls of the treaty of Versailles.

If after this war we reproduce the same political climate, we will get the same results. No initial measures against Germany and Japan, however drastic, will have permanent value unless they fall within the setting of a durable cohesion between Great Britain and ourselves, together, I hope, with Russia and China. To deal effectively with our enemies and also to solve many other post-war problems will, as I have said, require solid relations among the United States, Great Britain, Soviet Russia and China.

We have a long background of friendly working relations with Great Britain and China, which will make easy their continuation. As regards Russia, it would be stupid to ignore the fact that during the twenty-four years between the Soviet revolution and the German attack on Russia our relations were not of the best. There were faults on both sides. If after this war we relapse into the old suspicions, the future is indeed dark. But there has been genuine improvement growing out of our partnership in this war. The American people have sympathy and admiration for the peoples of the Soviet Union.

There are and still will be fundamental internal differences between our countries. Our economic and social systems will not be the same. But our political dissimilarities from Russia need not be the sources of friction if we seek and find the many practical ways in which we can work to a common end.

Russian affairs are in the hands of hardheaded, realistic leaders. That is nothing we should be afraid of provided we are equally realistic and devoted to our country. If we are, the United States and Russia can deal with each other with candor while building firm and mutual respect and friendship.

Inevitably a major responsibility to work together will fall upon the United States, Britain, Russia and China in the first few years following the war. They will be the strongest nations. They will be the nations with the greatest power to preserve peace or to undermine it.

In some countries we may for a time face confusion. We must wisely and without intrusion into their domestic affairs seek to make that period as brief as possible. We shall need the participation of these nations. The peace of the world will require the support of all peoples. We are all agreed that there must be prompt measures to establish a system of general international cooperation.

First came the Republican Mackinac charter, then the Moscow declaration and the Fulbright and Connolly resolutions. All agree in proposing an arrangement which will regularly bring together the representatives of the nations to discuss, to plan and to seek agreement about matters of common concern. This will not be accomplished to perfection overnight or in a few months. It must be a matter of growth and experience and everlasting hard work.

World's Economic Problems

It will not be possible to solve immediately the economic problems of the world. It will take time and patience to restore currency stability and trade relationships and to promote the general economic well-being.

Here it cannot be too greatly emphasized that the role of the United States will be decisive. We will be truly effective in helping with the economic rehabilitation of the world only if we first restore at home a healthy, a vigorous and a growing economy.

There are false prophets who for years have been telling us that America has ceased to grow; that its period of vigor is over. They would have us believe that our economy has become mature. They say it is static, that it can continue to function only by constantly taking ever more expensive patent medicines. Yet these same people now talk glibly of a WPA for all the rest of the world.

To hear them talk, Uncle Sam must play the role of a benevolent but slightly senile gentleman, who seeks to purchase the goodwill of his poor relations by distributing among them the dwindling remains of his youthful earnings.

I utterly reject that proposition. America is still young, still vigorous, still capable of growth. Certainly we shall play the part of a good citizen in the community of nations. We shall deal fairly and generously with our neighbor nations throughout the world. This we shall do because it represents the practical idealism for which America has always stood and because it is good hard common sense. Goodwill cannot be bought with gold. Goodwill flows irresistibly to the man who successfully manages his own affairs, who is self-reliant and independent, yet who is considerate always of the rights and needs of others.

U. S. Land of Opportunity

Traditionally, America has occupied this role for 150 years. This country won the admiration of the world because we had here something to which the people of all nations aspired. We had a society of free men who believed in themselves and in the future of their country. We were in sober truth the land of opportunity. Here beyond everywhere else in the world there was a field for economic enterprise and human progress.

For the sake of the men and women who are working and fighting and dying to win this war, for the sake of their children and for the sake of the world we must work to make America once more the land of opportunity.

It is particularly incumbent on us solemnly to view our obligations tonight. As we meet here, hundreds of thousands of the youth of America stand poised on the shores of Great Britain for the mightiest invasion of a defended coast line in history. Every one of those young men knows that the future of his country and of freedom itself may hang on the success of this terrible venture. Every man knows the price he may have to pay.

Nothing any of us has said here tonight will be of import unless the invasion is crowned by ultimate success. The infinite patience, preparation and training behind this gigantic effort may well serve us as a standard for our own acceptance of our future responsibilities. Surely it is a minimum standard for the infinite patience, preparation and toil we should be willing to give for peace. No sacrifice for peace will ever equal the ultimate sacrifice we expect of our young men in war.

The very least we can do, therefore, as we look ahead tonight to hopes of a peaceful world, is to pledge to ourselves and to those who die for our country that we shall accept the challenge they lay before us. We can resolve to accept the responsibility which our own greatness and importance as a nation place upon us—a responsibility which two world wars have shown is utterly inescapable.

Let us recognize that this peace we pray for and our young men die for will have to be worked for over many years. Let us be flexible, earnest and devoted enough to make it a reality.

If the newspapers of America will accept the challenge of peace as they have of war, we shall have made a great beginning. The years of labor ahead will be successful only if an informed people support the effort—only if they know the size of the task. We shall need in these years, as never before, a courageous and a free press in the United States of America.