A Post-War Peace Organization of Nations


By ROBERT A. TAFT, Senator from Ohio

Delivered before the War Veterans Republican Club of Ohio, Cleveland, Ohio, May 6, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 492-495.

AT this moment when American boys are anxiously waiting to be conveyed across the Channel onto the continent of Europe, or perhaps are actually on their way, it is right that we think through clearly the reasons why for the second time in twenty-seven years we invade the continent of Europe. The thought and sympathy and deep concern of our entire people go with those men, many of whom may be wounded or lost thousands of miles from their homes. Why, it is asked are they making this tremendous sacrifice?

Obviously the invasion is undertaken because the military authorities believe it is the best way to inflict an overwhelming defeat on Hitler and Nazi Germany. As I see it, our purpose in this war is to assure the freedom of the people of the United States and bring about a condition in which they may work out, without invasion or threats of invasion by foreign nations, the destiny of the American Republic here at home* We are not fighting to spread the Four Freedoms throughout the world, although we hope that national and individual freedom may be promoted by our victory. We are not fighting to establish democracy throughout the world, though we hope that a victory over Germany may show the strength of democratic government and establish nations less likely to disturb the peace of the world. We do not ask and cannot undertake a crusade to spread the ideals which we approve without admitting the right of others to crusade for their ideals. A world of crusaders would be a world perpetually at war. We fight this war for the same reason we fought the Revolutionary War: "to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

To accomplish that purpose the first step is to inflict overwhelming defeat on the aggressor nations which set out to conquer the world. Nothing will discourage aggression in the future so much as the complete punishment inflicted by modern war on a defeated nation. After the present bombing campaign and the occupation of Germany it will be many years before any nation can again convince itself that it can defy and conquer the world. We invade Europe to inflict a crushing defeat on Germany because that is the best way to prevent the recurrence of German aggression. I believe, myself, that it is two-thirds of the job. Even if we should fail temporarily in our plans for a future peace organization, it will be long before anyone again would dare to challenge the United States of America.

The second step, however, is just as essential for complete success in this war. I believe that military victory over Germany is a necessary prerequisite to any hope of setting up an association of nations with any chance of succeeding. We can only assure permanent peace and liberty in this country by the formation of some kind of association of nations to maintain the peace of the world. There has been tremendous debate on this issue but there is also substantial agreement. The Republican Post-War Advisory Council at Mackinac pledged our party to "responsible participation by the United States in post-war cooperative organization among sovereign nations to prevent military aggression and to attain permanent peace with organized justice in a free world." The Moscow Declaration approved by Secretary Hull and the Connally Resolution adopted by the votes of an overwhelming majority of Republican and Democratic Senators, both "recognize the necessity of establishing at the earliest practicable date a general international organization, based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all peace-loving states, and open to membership by all such states, large and small, for the maintenance of international peace and security."

Ohio on Tuesday will give an overwhelming vote of confidence to John Bricker as a candidate for the Presidency of the United States. On April twenty-sixth he endorsed the Mackinac Resolution and stated his belief that "the United States must take her place in a cooperative organization of sovereign nations, bent upon peace and supported by the will for peace among their peoples." Secretary Hull, Mr. Dewey and other leaders of both parties agree substantiallyon the general principles of such a cooperative organization, that it shall not be a world state, that it shall not be based on exclusive alliances, but that like the old League of Nations, it shall be based on the sovereign equality of all states, with more definite commitments to check aggression. A committee of Congress containing representatives of both parties is now working with Secretary Hull on the draft of a detailed covenant to carry out this policy.

There is not much use in debating it further until we can discuss the details. There is too much tendency on the part of our newspapers and commentators to belabor the issue, test every public man by his method of expressing general approval of the proposal, and so concentrate the spotlight that we can't see what is going on in the dark field of foreign negotiation. The danger to the accomplishment of a league today does not come from so-called isolationists or any unwillingness on the part of our people to go ahead. It comes only from the demands of England or Russia, and failures in our own current foreign policy.

First, a peace organization must rest on the firm foundation of organized justice in a free world. There is not much use in talking about an organization based on the sovereign equality of peace-loving states, unless we can be sure that such sovereign equality exists before we start. If we are going to abide by the decision of some international body on the question of what constitutes aggression and who is an aggressor, we want to be sure that England and Russia, at least, as well as all the other members of the League, are prepared in good faith to undertake the same obligation. It is impossible to expect success in protecting the freedom of independent nations unless we are certain that that freedom exists from the start, to be protected. The failure of the Treaty of Versailles did not rest entirely on the failure of the United States to join the League of Nations. It resulted largely from the unwise terms relating to boundaries and economic relations.

The Atlantic Charter definitely recognizes the essential nature of national freedom as a basis of hopes for a better future for the world. It says "First, their countries seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other;

"Second, they desire to seek no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

"Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them." The policies pursued by our government up to this time have not encouraged hope that these conditions will be met. As far as we know, our government has not raised its voice specifically in behalf of the freedom of Poland, Finland, Esthonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. It seems doubtful whether this basic condition of a successful association of nations was mentioned at Moscow or Teheran. Although we have sent more than four billion dollars worth of Lend-Lease supplies to Russia to help carry out the first objective, of winning the war, we have apparently exacted no promises of any kind that will help the second objective, of winning the peace, except the very general terms of the Moscow Four Power Agreement. Of course, this is not a time to determine exact boundaries, but up to this time we have not established the principle of the freedom and sovereignty of these States. England went to war to protect Poland against Germany. Certainly the war becomes a grim farce if we are unable to protect the essential integrity of Poland against Russia.

Our attitude toward Finland is strangely inconsistent with our general professions for self determination. We are apparently insisting that they accept a peace with Russia based on the transfer to Russia of large sections of completely Finnish territory, with the implied threat that if they do not do so they will get much worse treatment, and possibly be deprived of their freedom altogether. Finland was first attacked by Russia without any provocation whatsoever. Its freedom throughout history has always been threatened by Russia far more than by Germany and naturally in a war between Russia and Germany it took the German side. But we are not at war with Finland any more than Russia is at war with Japan. It is futile even to consider a league of sovereign nations if the world is to be full of small nations governed by foreigners and yearning constantly for the restoration of their liberties. A league to be successful must eliminate political sore spots throughout the world, and not create a new rash even more numerous than those created by the Treaty of Versailles. I still have every hope that the Russians will agree to conditions on which permanent peace may be founded, but my impression is that Mr. Roosevelt did nothing whatever at Teheran even to suggest restraint to Mr. Stalin. Our policy seems to have been based on the delightful theory that Mr. Stalin in the end will turn out to have an angelic nature and do of his own accord the things which we should have insisted upon at the beginning.

Nor has there been any effort, as far as one can see, to suggest to the British a more liberal policy in the Far East to carry out the principles of the Atlantic Charter, and make a sounder basis for peace. It is rumored that when Chiang Kai-Shek raised the question of Hong Kong at the Cairo Conference, he was promptly slapped down by Mr. Churchill. Yet, to the layman, Hong Kong would appear to be a Chinese island, appropriately a part of a restored China. Apparently we are about to restore the Dutch East Indies to the Dutch without any conditions as to the freedom of any of those islands, or any arrangement for their determining for themselves their form of government. I believe a successful league of nations can probably be based on the former status of India and the Indies, if there is some assurance of gradual independence or autonomy, but I cannot see that I we are doing anything to urge even that policy upon our Allies.

I do not wish to judge finally any of the problems I have discussed, but I do want to suggest that they are far more important and far more difficult than the theoretical discussion of the exact terms of a covenant of the league of nations.

Furthermore, there are other questions whose sound solution is just as important for ultimate peace. Economic sore spots are as likely to bring about war as are political sore spots. There is general agreement on the principle that every nation shall have access on equal terms to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity. It is furthermore necessary that in some way countries requiring raw materials have markets for their own goods by whose sale they may pay for these materials. Freedom from want for nations is a desirable and perhaps attainable goal, even though it is not attainable for individuals throughout the entire world. Here again we must base the whole plan on freedom and equality of treatment for every nation.

Now this whole problem is very complicated and difficult to work out, but, as far as I know, no steps have been taken in that direction at all. As usual with the New Deal, there is in substance only one solution suggested up to this time. That is that American money and American charity shall solve every problem. The proposed international stabilization fund and the proposed international bank are based on the same fallacy. Almost all the real money to go into these funds is to be supplied by the United States. It is then to be distributed by boards controlled by the financially weak and borrower nations. In both cases our initial contributionis limited, but we may put in additional money. Our initial contribution will be promptly exhausted, and we will then be told that unless we come to the rescue the whole plan for world stability will collapse. Like most spending solutions for domestic problems it resembles the pouring of money down the sewer, but it is just a little worse because our own people do not get any advantage from it.

Of course, we should consult with foreign nations as to their needs, and sit in on international boards to discuss their problems. Of course, we are interested in helping them to stabilize their currency. We must reserve our freedom of action to handle our own cash for stabilizing exchange or assisting other countries. I suggest that we first work out an agreement with England as to the relation of the dollar and the pound, and then consider one by one the condition of the other countries. Their currency status is only a result of their poor economic condition or poor budget policy. The way to deal with the matter is by direct loans in reasonable amount on definite conditions imposed by us. They should be only enough to enable the borrower to import raw materials and other goods necessary for the starting up of its manufacture and its productions. Later, when the country has put its own house in order, England and ourselves can consider the question of stabilizing its exchange. The attempt to support exchange as a first step is utterly hopeless and infinitely more expensive.

There is now in session in London a meeting of the Commonwealths of the British Empire. Mr. Churchill's policy of Empire preference has been made very clear. The American people certainly never intended to approve the abolition of their tariffs and will not do so, and they can hardly object to preferential tariffs among the British Commonwealth of Nations; but I think they could object and should object to any Empire preferences which have the effect of imposing an export duty on raw materials. Exception to the Atlantic Charter or no exception, a peaceful world will depend on equal access to raw materials, and our government should be making every effort to establish that principle. We should also be willing to sit down in a conference to determine what kind of modification of tariffs through reciprocity treaties should be negotiated in order to give the poorer nations a better market to which to export the specific goods on which their life depends.

Furthermore, there is evidence that cartels are already being planned by British trade interests, and even by New Deal Americans to control world trade various raw materials. Clearly this is not in accord within Mr. Hull's principles. The Federation of British Industries has proposed a whole series of quotas, preferential tariffs, import and export controls. Surely there should be hi progress today an international trade conference designed, not to increase our trade or British trade, but to remove economic discrimination which might tend to prevent the success of any organization for peace. We can perhaps be prosperous without any increase in our foreign trade, but many other nations cannot be. What has our government done about this problem, except to propose plans for scattering American dollars around the world? Clearly our government should be making plans of its own for international trade.

The real difficulty in Washington is the philosophy of spending which dominates our government. The only policy we can sec clearly is one of loaning money directly and indirectly, and indiscriminately to every foreign nation that desires it in a fervor of international love, and with the idea that it will create a tremendous demand for our exportable goods. Of course, this policy amounts to giving away the products of our farms and our labor, for the loans will never be repaid. It means inflation and more debt. It is a grand form of international WPA hidden behind the jargon of reciprocal exchange and international cooperation. The sad thing about it is that charity is even more demoralizing to nations that receive it than it is to individuals who receive it. It discourages the nation from measures which are absolutely essential if ultimately it is to stand on its own feet. In the end instead of creating gratitude to the United States it brings abuse and hard feeling for Uncle Shylock.

There is another policy which threatens the success of any attempt to make peace by world organization. That is the policy of those who say that England and Russia and the United States must rule the world. It is found in Walter Lippmann's book, "United States Foreign Policy, Shield of the Republic", in which he urges an alliance with England, Russia, and perhaps China. It crops out in the thinking of many editors and commentators and politicians. It is, in substance American imperialism.

Many are advocating that England, Russia and the United States occupy Germany for a long period, perhaps in three separate zones. The attitude of England today looks rather towards a policy of permanent spheres of influence than it does toward any bona fide league of sovereign and equal nations. Mr. Churchill has suggested that European problems be solved entirely by England and Russia, and a twenty-year alliance has been made looking in that direction.

My own view is that an alliance policy absolutely destroys the hope for a real or successful league of nations. The alliance must be so strong that no one can challenge it successfully. It becomes, therefore, the old balance of power policy. But the very existence of an alliance inevitably creates another alliance. It would cut us from our Latin American good neighbors. Certainly, England and Russia and the United States will have the most powerful military forces in the world for many years to come. Their support of a league as individual members is essential to its success; but the moment they make an alliance they subordinate the league to their interests, and relegate it to a secondary position. They substitute an ideal of force for a rule of law. In effect, a world dominated by a three or four power alliance is not a free world. We cannot maintain our freedom permanently by destroying the freedom of others.

The policy is absolutely contrary to Secretary Hull's views. He made it clear in his speech of April ninth that no conclusions of the four nations should be accomplished without the participation of the other united nations. While emphasizing the importance of the Four Power Agreement, he has repeatedly used language which excludes the idea of alliances. But there are many New Dealers in power in the government today who have the same itch to regulate the affairs of the world and of other nations, that they have to regulate the farms and the homes and the businesses of the American people. I do not charge these gentlemen with being Fascists, but their philosophy is totalitarian. The world is too dumb to understand and a small group of brain trusters must manage their affairs.

I do not believe the American people will ever stand for such a policy. They want this war won and they want the boys home again just as soon as they can get home. They don't want to run the world and the boys don't want to run the world. They see no reason for occupying Germany after every military weapon has been destroyed. If any policing job is to be done in the future it should be done by a volunteer force recruited for that purpose. Incidentally, I don t see any basis for universal military service. The very purpose of this war, and of the peace to be made hereafter, is to prevent a condition in which America shall become an armed camp and be diverted from the progress, the liberty and the pursuit of happiness for which this war is being fought on six continents. I see no reason why all the men required to carry out our defense and our share in enforcingpeace should not be recruited on a voluntary basis if adequate pay and advantages are given. I believe it is important that the President make it perfectly clear that when this war ends it really does end; and that we give up any idea of ruling the world or telling other countries how to manage their own affairs. We do not propose to make the United States part of any world state and have our laws made for us by others. Nor do we intend to make their laws for them. Our plan is founded on the sovereign equality of all peace loving states. We believe that a successful peace can only be based on that foundation.

Many efforts have been made in the past to insure permanent peace in the world. There is no lack of desire or determination to bring that about. The day for propaganda and pious declarations in favor of international cooperation is over. What we need now is:

First, definite steps to persuade England and Russia to join in making a political settlement which will give freedom to those peoples who are capable of self government and desire freedom.

Second, a definite plan for world trade which will eliminate economic injustice.

Third, a determined stand against those who are determined that the United States with or without its allies shall dominate the world under perpetual New Deal dictatorship with streamlined WPA and deficit spending. I don't see any indication that the Administration is disposed favorably to any of these three principles. I have the highest respect for Mr. Hull's sincerity and principles, but he does not have much to say about these basic policies. There isn't much hope for peace as long as the Administration deliberately rejects them.