The Search for An American Foreign Policy


By CLAIRE BOOTH LUCE, Representative from Connecticut

Delivered before the Union League of Philadelphia, May 12, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 550-554.

ON March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote John Adams, then in the Continental Congress. Here is a paragraph from the letter of a lady whose husband was to become the second President of the United States:

"I long," she wrote, "to hear that you have established an Independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of husbands. . . . If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation. That your sex are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute."

John Adams probably never dared to dispute anything with his strong-minded Abigail—not while he stood in the same room with her, anyway. But a reading of history shows that many of our revolutionary foremothers shared Abigail's convictions about putting unlimited power into the hands of mere husbands. Perhaps this explains why, when drafting the Constitution, their somewhat cowed but still unbowed husbands found it wise, in the interests of domestic tranquillity, to circumvent the whole man-woman question. Nowhere in that document does the word "man" or "woman," in the generic sense appear once. "People," "citizens" and "persons" were the artful ambiguities by which our Founding Forefathers sought to dodge the revolutionary demands of their help-mates. For 133 years after the signing of the Constitution, the ladies continued patiently to demand clarification of this unsemantic language, which while not lumping them outright with idiots, drunkards and criminals, still served to perpetuate the tyranny of their lords and masters at the ballot box. In 1920, their patience expired with a bang, and they did finally foment Abigail's rebellion. The Suffrage Amendment cleared the air, and all America'sladies thereafter had a voice and representation in the laws by which they were bound.

Now I gather, that I am the first woman invited to address this League in its long and distinguished history. It is therefore plain that this League has held out against the gentle but determined spirit of Abigail just 24 years longer than the whole United States Government. In view of such naughtiness, I would be betraying, not only my sex, but the Constitution itself, if I were to stand here and tell you that I am proud to be here as the "first woman" to address you. Feeling as I do (which is as Abigail did 168 years ago), about the contribution that American women have to make in public affairs, I would be naturally more honored if I were the 24th woman to give you the full benefit of her mind about the untidy mess that the majority sex in government, the male sex, has long made of matters.

And now, ladies, we've gotten all the tyrannical husbands in this room whittled down to size of poor John Adams when he jogged home from the last Constitutional Convention to face the eye of his Abigail, which certainly saw right through him.

So I can go on to say, that just as a person, as a citizen, and as a legislator, I am infinitely honored to address the Union League of Philadelphia. For this League was formed by men of exceptional vision and integrity at the time of the greatest crisis which ever faced our country. The roster of your speakers shines with the most deathless names in modern American history. I am indeed proud to be numbered among the least of those who have shared for an evening in your great traditions.

I have been asked to talk tonight about the Search for an American Foreign Policy. Frankly, I fear that on this subject, either as a woman, a person, or a legislator, I have little to say that you will not have heard or read before. How could it be otherwise?

Since the outbreak of the war in Europe, rivers of ink have been spilled in discussing America's Foreign Policy. Before 1941 the great argument revolved around those two words "isolation" and "intervention." Pearl Harbor made that argument clearly academic. To be sure, the argument about, "going in" or "staying out" was academic months before Pearl Harbor. We were in, not because we were attacked; because we were already in, on the sides of Great Britain and China. Pre-Pearl Harbor Lend-Lease to China and Great Britain, and economic sanctions applied to their enemies, were acts of war clearly understood by the Axis, however much misunderstood they were by the American people. This misunderstanding was deepened during the 1940 election by an administration which presented these acts of war as measures calculated to keep the peace. In any case, the flood of words about America's Foreign Policy, past and future, was in no wise abated by the Axis Declaration of War on us. Indeed, it rose higher. And tempers rose with it. Fiercest of course, was the fight in the political arena where seats for Congress are won or lost and where the Diamond Belt of the Presidency is contended for. Politicians, egged on by press and radio, bawled and shouted, howled and hissed, flayed, blasted, lashed and struck out at one another in the most me phi tic verbiage, as they sought to fix the whole blame for our past Foreign Policy on one party or one politician within it. Through this brawl, the sensitive ear caught the sound of many a dull thud, as the statesmen landed their blackjack blows, in the muffled language of diplomacy, seeking to fix the credit for a future Foreign Policy.

From the day war was declared, many patriotic Americans deplored this inter and intra-party Kilkenny cat fight, as an indecent display of national disunity. They prophesied that it would demoralize the war effort, and compromise the peace effort. Events have proved them wholly wrong. For, in a free national discussion of international issues, no matter how fierce and partisan the discussion may become, the salient facts always emerge. And when Americans know the facts, they generally unite upon an interpretation of them. Today, most Americans see that if we had held aloof, in strict neutrality, Germany would have conquered Europe and perhaps destroyed Great Britain, and Japan would have destroyed China and conquered Asia at her leisure. And they see that the domination of the Atlantic and the Pacific would have been a catastrophe, if not for us, for our children.

And they see far more clearly than they did after World War I that the only safe way for America to stay out of a war which involves all the major powers of Europe and Asia, is to prevent such a war. They see that in order to prevent such a war, our government must use continuously in peace, the threat of our military power, the weight of our economic power, and the good offices of our diplomatic power, all in lively cooperation with other friendly nations. Americans see, as the men of Monroe's day,and Jefferson's day, and Theodore Roosevelt's day, and Woodrow Wilson's day saw, that our nation can never be secure unless we do our strategic, economic and diplomatic thinking on a world-wide scale. We see that our failure to do so, for the past quarter of a century, a period which included eight years of the present Administration, has cost us untold life and treasure. Lord Van Sittart may well have been writing the New Deal's epitaph when he said, "If one can't get one's Foreign Policy straight, the wealth of effort spent on social policies is wasted."

The great casualty in the battle of words since 1939 was not National Unity, but the two unrealistic words which started the battle: "isolation" and "intervention." They have been slain, one hopes forever, by a new word: "Participation." This is not a Democratic word, nor even a Republican word,—though Republicans first began to use it. It is an American word. Today America's foreign policy keyword is "participation," the participation of our nation in the affairs of the world, in order to safeguard our position in it.

Mr. Willkie, Governor Stassen, Governor Bricker, Governor Dewey,—leading Republicans who have been discussed for the Presidency, do not differ with one another or with Mr. Roosevelt that America henceforth must assume an active international role commensurate with her title of the world's leading power, if she is to maintain that title.

This unanimity, arrived at largely through free national discussion, has been achieved, thank God, before the invasion. We are on the eve of what is perhaps the costliest and most delicate military operation in history. America will suffer greatly in the months ahead. We do not yet know how deeply she will suffer. But in those homes which will be left stricken by the invasion, parents will know that their heroic sons died not only to defend their Nation today, but to teach their Nation its most valuable lesson: Participation is the price of security tomorrow,

I have already indicated that our recent acceptance of American participation in world affairs is not something hew in our history. On the contrary, it is a return to our historic policy.

Let me quote from a letter Thomas Jefferson sent in 1823 to President Monroe, at a time when the Holy Alliance on the European continent was making threatening gestures towards this Hemisphere, and Great Britain was offering her help, albeit for reasons of her own national security, inthe shape of a military alliance. This letter of Jefferson's led to the adoption of what since has come to be known as the "Monroe Doctrine."

In these parlous circumstances, Jefferson wrote: "Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of anyone, or all on earth; and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her then, we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship; and nothing would tend more to knit our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause. Not that I would purchase even her amity at the price of taking part in her wars. But the war in which the present proposition might engage us, should that be its consequence, is not her war, but ours. Its object is to introduce and establish the American system, of keeping out of our land all foreign powers, of never permitting those of Europe to intermeddle with the affairs of our nations. . . . And if, to facilitate this, we can effect a division in the body of European powers, and draw over to our side its most powerful member, surely we should do it. . . . With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale and shifted into that of our (Hemisphere) all Europe combined would not undertake such a war. For how would they propose to get at (us) without superior fleets?"

Although Jefferson counseled it, and Monroe was well disposed to it, in order not to antagonize overtly other European powers, we did not sign an alliance with Great Britain. But in effect, Monroe secured an assurance of an off-the-record alliance. This off-the-record alliance alone made it possible for him to propound the Monroe Doctrine. An Anglo-American participation was just as firmly embedded in the terms of the Monroe Doctrine, as the ladies were embedded in the word "persons" in the Constitution, though unhappily it took 150 years, and an amendment to the Constitution to clarify that fact. Unhappily, it has taken two world wars to clarify the fact to Americans that the Monroe Doctrine was a document based on the theory of our active participation on the side of a friendly European power, when an unfriendly European power, strong enough to dominate the Atlantic, threatened either of us.

Participation is also a return to the Foreign Policy of Elihu Root and John Hay and President Taft and Theodore Roosevelt. At the turn of the century, these statesmen participating, at a diplomatic level, in the struggle for power in the Orient after the Boxer Rebellion, followed Thomas Jefferson's advice closely. By demanding, and getting a Free China, by snatching her from the maws of every ravenous European and Asiatic major power who sought to partition her, they drew over to our side the Orient's potentially most powerful member. That vigorous act of participation is today paying this Nation dividends in the Orient. Fifty years ago, Hay, Root, Taft, and Theodore Roosevelt had a far more lively appreciation of the importance of American participation in the Orient than our present Government seemed to have until one short year before Pearl Harbor.

Indeed, it is interesting to remember that in 1897, long, long before the airplane became a major weapon, Theodore Roosevelt wrote a letter to Admiral Mahan, expressing the fear that Japan might one day launch a surprise attack on Hawaii, and asking htm how this contingency could best be prepared for militarily.

However, there is no need to review the case against handling of our Foreign Policy the last quarter of a century at great length. It can be made very briefly: The prime object of any peaceful nation's Foreign Policy is to maintain the security of the nation from attack. If the nation is attacked, and its position seriously endangered, the custodians of its Foreign Policy have failed. The present custodian had two terms in office to implement our Foreign Policy so that we would be secure against attack. We were attacked. And in two oceans. This was the greatest Foreign Policy failure in our history to date. The very measure of it was the size of the attack, and the cost to our nation: So far 180,000 casualties and an estimated 200 billion dollars. Nor is the end of it in sight for us.

Neither is it profitable to night, to quibble with the legal mechanics and immediate objectives of our present Foreign Policy. This would be an effort to read lessons in day-to-day diplomacy to those who possess facts which are not available to anybody but the High Commands in Washington, London and Moscow.

What I want to discuss tonight is America's Foreign Policy—not the New Deal's or the Republican Party's Foreign Policy. I mean, our Foreign Policy for the imaginable future. That is to say, for about the next quarter of a century, of the lifetime of our children. Such a discussion transcends many of the foreign policy issues which will be evoked during the next election. It transcends even the question of whether the next President should be a Democrat or a Republican. It concerns, not men and women who are Republicans or Democrats first, but men and women who are Americans first: yourselves, for example.

We know that the keyword is participation. No longer do Americans discuss if we should participate. The area of discussion is how we should participate—to what extent? And what are the objectives and yardsticks of participation for the future?

But before we go into that long range discussion, let us consider momentarily one fact that has been astonishingly characteristic of all American thinking since Stalingrad, and since it became plain that the Japanese could not take Australia or Hawaii. The fact is this: since then, all Americans have at all times been certain of victory. The very fury of our debates on the postwar era proves that we know, in our bones, as the expression goes, we are certain to beat-down our enemies to whatever point we consider will assure us of military victory.

Now, it is important for Americans to understand quite clearly why we believe, almost to a man, after the early days of the war, in victory over the Axis. Perhaps if we are clear in our own minds about our reasons, we will have discovered some yardsticks by which to measure our objectives in participation in the affairs of the world tomorrow.

Were we, for example, sure we would win, because as Christians, we believed God was on our side? But our side is also Russia's, whose current notions of God differ radically from ours—indeed are largely non-existent. We know that God is always on the side of every individual soul who fights with Faith in Him, but can we be sure that God is on the side of nations who have renounced Him? We know we cannot thus order Divine Partisanship.

Were we sure, as citizens of a great Republic, that we would win because our form of government bred tougher and more patriotic fighters than our enemies? Or offered more hope to the conquered peoples of Europe and Asia? We know, alas, the answer. Our Soviet and Chinese friends are far removed from a practice of British and American forms of democracy. Yet their fighters are quite as tough and patriotic as our own, and they have borne more of the brunt of battle. Furthermore, we are alarmingly aware that Totalitarian Ideology threatens everyday to make more headway in Europe and Asia than Democratic Ideology. Indeed, so potest and insidious is the appeal, even to some Americans, of both Fascism and Communism, that never aday goes by but what an American leaps to his feet to shout that while we are "winning" the war abroad militarily, we are in danger of "losing" it at home politically.

No, neither the dignity of our cherished libertarian principles, nor the Christian basis of our moral and intellectual values in themselves, are the reasons we hold forth for victory.

The hard and self-evident fact is that our political ideals, and spiritual visions have survived this war only because they have been supported, in time, by sheer brute force, by a tangible material strength in excess of that of our enemies. Not our faith in the validity of our ideals, but our knowledge of the strength of our arms, is the true basis of our certainty of victory.

We know—always knew we would win because we knew we had preponderant physical power on our side. Let us analyze that power.

First, we have machine power: As Mr. Stalin has amiably noted, American production genius—our skilled working men, our superior management, our brilliant scientists and technologists—manipulating one of the world's greatest national sources of raw materials and commodities—have outproduced our enemies. Today, American production, packed into ships, planes and guns, is delivering the greatest wallop-power in all history. And our American machine-production power has richly increased by that of Great Britain, particularly by her machine-power at sea.

Secondly, we are winning because, on our side, we have preponderant manpower: The prodigious manpools of Russia and China. While Great Britain's and America's air and seapower continuously patrols and bombards the heart and occupied rimlands of Asia and Europe, the two great land armies of our Chinese and Russian Allies, driving out from the interior of Europe and Asia, squeeze our enemies down to the mouths of our naval cannons.

Predominate Anglo-American machine power, plus predominate Chinese and Russian manpower are today the two great factors in licking the Axis, though both manpower and machine-power have been richly supplemented, of course, by the resources and cooperation of our South American and other Allies.

It is imperative to bear these facts of manpower and machine-power in mind quite clearly when we think of our future Foreign Policy.

Now here are some statistics on manpower, which we have seen has been one great determinate of victory. This is the way world manpower, i.e., population is distributed:



South America


The Commonwealth (and British Isles)


All European Nations


Soviet Russia








In terms of manpower America today is not in a superior position. It is no accident that the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoon of the year was one depicting our war manpower troubles and shortages.

Therefore, we Americans must count our strength, as a major power, in some other way. Of course we do. We know that our strength lies in our raw materials and commodities and in our capitalistic productive system, and in our know-how by which our nation has, in two world wars, fashioned enough mobile machine striking power to beat our enemies over vast distances. But let us consider our power ratio in those physical resources deemed essential to conducting a modern war.

Of such materials the

U.S.A. (owns)


South America


British Isles and the Commonwealth


European Nations










Great Britain's Colonial Possessions


European Colonial Possessions


A normally intelligent child could tell you that, if our nation, with only six per cent of the world's population and 16 per cent of its resources, were ever attacked by a combination of major European and Asiatic powers, and could find no allies, we would be wiped off the map as a free nation. Even with loyal South America, and with Great Britain and the Commonwealth fighting beside us we would have tough going. For the power situation has changed since Jefferson's day, although his principles of power still hold true. Asia and Europe have industrialized greatly since the time when the British could throw a throttling lariat of ocean borne machine power around the continents. The manpower and machine-power of nations are not constants. The populations of India, Russia, China, the Big Three, in the heart of Eurasia, are growing by leaps and bounds. Their industrial know-how is increasing almost as rapidly as Japan's did during the last century. Nothing stands between the ability of Russia and China to industrialize on a western scale, but the time to lick their terrible war wounds—and to acquire some blueprints. Blueprints for railroads, refineries, factories, battleships, and and airplanes. And India, too, is a nation slated for great industrial expansion. Yes, there are mighty nations aborning in the world—none so mighty as we today—but possibly tomorrow.

Only 50 short years ago this nation was a secondary military power. But when this war is done, America will emerge as the military Titan of the world. We will have a navy two and a half times bigger than that of the British. We will have the greatest air force in the world. Our factories will be tuned up to such pitch that we can supply, if we will, not only our whole nation with every consumer commodity imaginable, but some of devastated Europe and Asia to boot. Our rapid industrialization has elevated us to the pinnacle upon which the might of a modern nation rests: its ability, while maintaining high living standards, to manufacture and deliver, buy and sell in times of peace a vast volume of the multiple goods of commerce, and in times of war, rapidly to deliver decisive striking power.

But as that power rose and developed, unmolested for 150 years in an ocean world, largely because of a friendly British navy, so it can fall if we do not protect it. Our future security will depend on our own ability, at all times, to maintain a preponderance of physical power sufficient to defend ourselves, against any combination of resurgent enemies which may arise against us. To discourage and forestall by ardent and effective statesmanship, the rise of unfriendly combinations of powers anywhere in the world, should be the primary objective of American participation in the affairs of Asia and Europe. But in forestalling and discouraging the aggressive spirit in other nations, as Jefferson knew and Theodore Roosevelt knew, nothing is more effective than the encouragement of and association with friendly ones. With such we should "most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship." We must bind them to our side, be it by unilateral, or by multilateral methods, by alliances, or better still within what is today called "some system of collective security." In the column of our friends—who must always be defined as those willing to tight by our side and one another's if the vital interests of any are endangered—we must number nations such as China and Russia, whose manpower can supplement our own woeful shortage, whose raw materials and commodities will supplement our lack, and, wherever possible, whose ideals of government have the same moral basis as our own. For as we have seen, the yardsticks by which we must participate in the world's affairs are the alignments of manpower, machine-power, and moral power on the sides of the peaceful nations.

Some of you are no doubt thinking, yes, we understand those manpower and machine-power yardsticks, but what about the yardsticks of geography? Is geography no longer a factor in the security of nations? Does geography no longer give our Hemisphere some measure of immunity from aggression? Are our three oceans, after all, no longer beneficent barriers? If we stay strong and tough and armed to the teeth behind our oceans, will we not be safe from attack from Europe, Asia, or across the Pole? The answer, so far as oceanography goes, is yes and no. Yes, if we and our friends command the trading and striking surfaces of our oceans; no, if the command of them should slip away from us.

It has always been an American fiction, of course, that these were multiple oceans. A hundred years before Wendell Willkie emphasized to Americans that it was One World, the British had emphasized to all of Europe and Asia that it was One Ocean. They commanded the One Ocean of the World, purposefully collecting an empire with battleships, but spreading willy-nilly civilization in the bottoms of their trade ships. Eventually, however, the train on tracks caught up with the ship on the sea, as a carrier of traders and warriors. Vast continental land masses were swiftly united by railroads. And then, across the land's surface, on wheels, as across the sea's surface on bottoms, rapidly transported men with guns began to blast away at one another, and also at the battleship boys who had settled on the rims of their continents. Once on wheels, manpower and raw materials became as effective in war and peace as manpower and raw materials on bottoms.

But for one factor in this war, German mobile land power might have conquered all Europe, and also knocked British seapower off the rim of that continent for keeps. That factor was airpower.

For this is the great new fact of this era: this one-land-world, this one-ocean-world, is totally encircled and contained within a one-air-world. The air provides a new surface on which man can now travel and trade or deal death and destruction, which goes all around the globe, and over the land and over the sea. It annihilates typography and oceanography. It circumvents all geography.

Any strong combination of aggressive nations which has the blueprints to build long-range transports and bombers, and the assembly belts to build them on, and a disciplined population to man the belts and the planes, can fly forth great armies whose only concern with geography will be to ascertain what big city in what continent they had best pulverize first. In an air-world allies are to be sought less and less for their precise geographical positions and more and more for their manpower and industrial and moral ones.

It was because I felt so keenly the terrible potentialities of air power in the hands of aggressive nations, that I dared to raise my voice as a Freshman Congressman over a year ago on this question. I urged Americans to remain strong in the air after the war, to maintain our air supremacy as we intend to maintain our naval supremacy. I said months and months ago that it would be folly to internationalize all sky space, as some members of the Administration were then urging upon us. However free we are with it to our friends, we must control the air space above our own nation, if we are to protect ourselves effectively against our enemies. International Air is only possible or safe under an international government and a world-state. Although I was bitterly attacked at the time for saying so, as you all remember, the position I took is now generally accepted throughout the Nation.

To recapitulate, the primary objective of future U. S. Foreign Policy must be to bind a constellation of peace loving, well populated, industrialized nations together in order to discourage and forestall the rise of aggressive, well populated, industrialized power-combinations either in Asia or Europe. In this effort, we must show particular concern for the South American nations and the smaller nations of the world. For what was once a moral inclination of this nation—to protect the small peace loving nations, has now become a physical necessity. We will be most richly rewarded where we encourage democratic procedures and help to restore and animate the economies of friendly nations. For the nations, small or large, which enjoy the maximum of liberty and prosperity will naturally gravitate toward us. Nor must we forget what the British learned the hard way, after Munich, that while you can buy up small, peace loving nations and strengthen them, you cannot buy off big, aggressive nations and weaken them.

In closing, let us remember, too, that years before we can be certain that we are pursuing a Foreign Policy which will insure the security of our children, the New Dealers, and the Old Dealers as well, who claim today to be the only fit custodians of the peace, will have been garnered to the bosoms of their ancestors.

The agreements made at Moscow and Teheran and Cairo, the peace treaties that may be signed in the next few years, however just and whoever signs them, even the collective security systems to which we may shortly subscribe, will operate smoothly only so long as the major signatory nations remain content with them. No treaty or league has ever remained binding, alas, on nations who found that its strictures had become useless or disagreeable, and who were permitted to amass the force to break them.

I feel I must point out this unhappy fact. As Emerson says, "God offers to every mind its choice between Truth and Repose." Let those who will, repose in the false assumption, that the mere re-election or election of a President, or even the acceptance by the nations of the world next year of some written plan for postwar security, however ideal, will keep America secure for a quarter of a century.

'God's country" is an understandable Americanism. We may well be God's chosen nation, but it rests on us to prove it, by our wisdom in providing for the common defense, and in aiding and abetting everywhere the causes of Freedom-loving and Peace-loving nations. In the midst of a terrible and devastating civil war, a domestic war, that greatest of all Republicans, Abraham Lincoln said "we shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth." His war-mission was domestic, but his peace-aim was international. It was to preserve a free America for mankind. He knew what a free America meant to the world. He would be the first, today, to tell us what a free world means to America.