Sound American Policy
WILL GERMANY HOLD THE BALANCE OF POWER?
By BURTON K. WHEELER, Senator from Montana
Delivered at Economic Leadership Conference and Dinner, New York City, June 15, 1944
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 714-719.
IT is a distinct honor to have been invited to speak before this Economic Leadership Conference and Dinner, sponsored by the American Tariff League. After all, it is no secret that I am regarded by some people In this country as a provincial from the back country, a man of narrow nationalistic views, an "isolationist." It may even be
that the thought behind my being invited here was to look over a specimen of genus Americanus. But let me assure you that more than a quarter of a century's experience in public life convinces me that not infrequently I react to public questions in pretty much the same manner as do very substantial numbers of plain American people—people who do not do much talking or writing, but whose franchise is largely determinative of what final American policy shall be.
This evening, I intend to speak to Americans about American policies—foreign and domestic. I fully realize my shortcoming in this field—I am not a silk-hatted, spat-wearing diplomat; I do not speak a half dozen foreign tongues; I do not agree that fascism is good some places and bad in others, or that communism is fine when its adherents are our friends and dangerous only when they are our enemies. I think both are bad for the peoples' liberties and freedoms in any form wherever they are found. I am just a plain American citizen whose ancestors have lived here for more than 300 years and I confess that in my old fashioned way I believe that this country and its government and institutions are better than any other on earth. I shall try to tell you how I see the problems that now face the American people.
You people here, of course, are vitally interested in American foreign policy because today our domestic policies are so dependent upon our present and future foreign policies. Our's is the greatest industrial nation and I understand that your organization represents those industrial interests in our land who are concerned with selling American goods and services. I have read, with a great deal of interest, your "Declaration of Principles." I doubt if there can be any basic disagreement with its four major tenets. But the problems of unfair competition, monetary policy, international exchange stability, the provisions of the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, or Tariff rates—all sink into insignificance compared with what we do in the matter of a foreign policy. These matters can be adjusted to the betterment of national welfare when a secure and stable peace comes to the world; without that they are merely words on the sands of a beach washed away with each rise of the tide.
Since America's entry into the war, I have not participated in a great deal of public speaking. I have felt that the first job was to win the war—to win it fast with the least expenditure of life and treasure.
It is time that the United Nations did something definite and concrete in the way of hastening the end of the war by diplomatic as well as military measures, and something definite and concrete in the way of planning for the peace. And if the United Nations cannot at the moment reach complete agreement, that fact should not deter our Nation from itself doing something.
The foreign policy of a nation is dictated and motivated by the national aims of that state. It is relatively clear why Germany fights, or England fights, or Russia fights, or why Poland and Finland and Greece fought. What are we fighting for? It is not enough to answer—kill or be killed. That, like all half-truths, is misleading. We stultify our national heritage if we regard this merely as a war of survival. We betray our sacred honor and the lives of thousands of our countrymen if we admit for one moment that our objective is solely to whip the aggressor. That theory leads to the conclusion that wars are inevitable. That may be—none of us can be certain about that—but surely the military subjugation of the enemy must be only a means to an end if this Nation's principles and objectives are not to become suspect all over the world.
Are we spilling blood of American boys up and down Europe to crush national socialism, or monarchisra, or limited democracy and pave the way for establishment of communism? Have we changed our role from that of protector of the weak to destroyer of minorities? What do we demand of the enemy before we stop killing them? What kind of governments do we want in Europe and Asia after the war? Are we to continue to fight interminably exhausting our financial and economic and natural resources, and even more important, the flower of our young manhood until we have become a nation of women, old men and cripples, bankrupt in men and materials? Isn't it time that we can do as Pope Pius said last week—"It (is) of the greatest importance that this fear (of a war of extermination) should give way to a well-founded expectation of honorable solutions, solutions that are not ephemeral or carry the germs of fresh turmoil and dangers to peace, but are true and durable; solutions that start from the principle that wars, today, no less than in the past, cannot easily be laid to the account of peoples, as such?"
These questions bring sharply into focus, it seems to me, the fact that we have failed to exploit a means of speeding the successful conclusion of the war. It is the absence of a simple, clearly understandable policy of what we fight for— what are our peace aims. Our war aims are clear enough— to destroy the enemy's will to resist—to uproot Hitlerism. Fears exist that a new dictatorship will replace the old. What every one wants is the disappearance of all forms of autocracy. That is the earnest prayer of distressed and police-ridden Europe. It is the prayer of the people of the United States as well. But it must be evident that there is no coordination between these war aims and the peace aims— and that lack of coordination may cost this Nation and our Allies precious lives that need not be lost.
It must be realized, of course, that it is no easy thing to bring quickly into being agreements on such major matters as the future fate of a conquered enemy. I am not unmindful that the leaders of the Allied governments face tremendous difficulties in solving mutually acceptable compromises. But throughout the world, among friendly and enemy nations alike, it is the United States of America which is regarded as the leader, the pace-setter, the arbiter, and above all, the friend of the down-trodden and the enslaved. We have a duty, therefore, I believe, to speak in concert with our Allies if possible—alone if necessary—but to speak forcefully and unequivocally on what our policies are and will be for victor and vanquished alike.
Regardless of the outcome of the war, there still will be German people in Europe, probably a German state. The war is not going to bring death to sixty million Germans. A very substantial number of that German people are probably no more in love with fascism than we are. The last free elections in Germany proved that conclusively and every thing that Hitler has done since has convinced some twenty million Germans that he has brought them to disaster. Just as in France, Poland, Italy, Rumania and all the countries in Europe—there is doubt and worry and wonder as to their post-war government—so in Germany there must be ten times that sort of speculation. Will there be a nation—who will govern it—what territories will it comprise—who will control its political and economic and social policies—what will be expected of the people after the war ? These are only a few of the questions that come instantly to mind. And from the Allies, the liberators from the yoke of fascism, is heard two words—unconditional surrender. Beyond that, ominous silence. What choice do many of these enslaved people have under those circumstances, except to fight on— bitterly and endlessly.
And what will happen in Europe the moment hostilities cease? Why, there will be a vacuum—the most tremendous vacuum in government in all recorded history. Most governments in Europe are puppets which will fail with Hitler, and even the others will totter in the political convulsions that will ensue. What an opportunity for power-hungry men, either within those lands or from other lands, to seize control! Under such a situation, war will never end; there will be revolution after revolution; the life and treasure we have expended so fulsomely to end dictatorship may well result in the creation of a series of dictators all over Europe, if for no other reason than to bring stability.
That is a result that we must at all costs avoid. We can do much to avert its initial coming into being by taking action now which will make clear to all the people of the world— the occupied lands, the enemy himself—what we propose to do. And the first immediate effect of any such action will be a definite weakening of the enemy's will to resist, despite all of Hitler's and Goebbel's propaganda.
That is the first problem. Now, what about the second— what do we expect in Europe—what land of governments can reasonably be established with a chance of successful survival? It is not a question of what we desire—we may desire much, but we must face practical realities of what is possible, what will work in that conflicting religious, social, political and economic cauldron that is Europe.
It must be abundantly clear that, as Mr. Sumner Welles has said—the Future of Europe is something which affects the future of every country. And it also follows that to bring stability continental Europe must be represented in the decisions which affect the future of Europe.
What we in this country are most interested in is the establishment of some kind of world order in which it will be difficult—I do not say "impossible" because nothing is impossible—the establishment of a world order in which it will be difficult for Nations to become embroiled in warfare with each other. Today the United States still is the most powerful nation on earth—militaristically, economically, financially. Six months ago we had the unquestioned power and prestige to formulate the kind of peace program which we believed would stabilize Europe. Some of that authority and prestige has been frittered away, but it is not yet too late for this Nation to use its authority to convince our Allies of the kind of a peace we want.
There are honest and conscientious people here and abroad who believe mat such a world order is possible only through a single world government But I do not believe that the American people will yield its sovereign right as a free people in these United States. I do not believe we want to be ruled, directly or indirectly, by any person, or any council; or any world government not under our direct control. The price we paid for our own freedom was too dear for that. That idea—it seems evident now, from the recent statements and views of our highest officials—has died aborning.
There are also other honest and conscientious people here and abroad who believe that a stable world order that will keep us out of future wars is possible only through a military alliance of the larger allied nations—Britain, Russia, possibly, China, and the United States. But alliances of major powers; in all history, and particularly since the Holy Alliance, clearly negates any such contention. Alliances, if history is any judge, tend rather to breed wars. Moreover, an alliance is bound inevitably to involve us more and more deeply in European and Asiatic power politics.
No, the answer in my opinion, is a federation of European states, a sort of United States of Europe, lt is an answer that is buttressed by experience both in the United States and Europe; it is an answer that is practical and workable for Europe and holds out the best guarantee against future involvement in European affairs by this Republic.
Let us explore this idea of an economic federation of Europe—this United States of Europe; let us understand why it is necessary, and why it is more likely to work than any other plan yet considered.
When I returned from a European trip in 1923, I urged that we should take what action we could to help establish a European federation patterned after our own government I thought then that it was an original idea—I learned later that many statesmen had advocated it, notably Briand of France. Today I find myself in the company of such men as Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Clement Atlee, and Sir Archibald Sinclair, all of whom both before and since the war have strongly urged the creation of a federated European state.
Before we look at Europe, let us consider these United States. What do you suppose would have been our history if each of our 48 states maintained exclusive sovereignty with the tariff barriers and business restrictions that flow from sovereignty. We have here the peoples of all Europe; we have customs, social problems and ideas, economic and industrial situations varying from state to state, and certainly from region to region. Yet, we have made a success of union largly because the social, political and economic problems are considered and treated as a national problem.
Basically the problem in Europe is not greatly different. The geographical area is far smaller; the agricultural and industrial problems are more homogenous; even the ethnic and religious differences are no greater than in our own country.
I see here in America the faces of people from all these European countries. I cannot believe that only the good people from those countries have come here and only the bad remain there. I believe these people can get along with each other as well on European soil as they do on American soil. I want to see them try to do so. I want to help them do so for the good of the peoples of Europe and for the good of the peoples of America.
I said a moment ago that we had experience in Europe as well as in the United States to guide us. The future organization of Europe could well be patterned after that of Switzerland. It is well to understand this seeming miracle— a nation made up of twenty-five little states with different nationalities, languages, traditions, customs, and religions united into a pacific and domestic union in the very heartthis boiling and exploding Europe.
Like Switzerland, there is no basic reason why the countries of continental Europe cannot be united democratically into a single federation free of tariff barriers—a single political and economic entity. I have said this before and I shall say it again—the stabilizing effect upon a world that would be created by a great free trade area in Europe as a counterpart to the great free trade area of our own country cannot be over emphasized.
Such a Federalized Europe would negate the possibility of a new and resurgent Germany threatening the weaker neighboring states or even obtaining hegemony in Europe. In such a state, Germans would make up scarcely twenty percent of the total voting population; within it the vast majority of non-German Europeans would be an effective democratic check against Prussian or Junker control of national policies. Moreover, neither the army, the armament industry, the foreign policy, the currency, nor the national economy would be Germany's nor that of any other single European state. Germany, or any other European state, would cease to be a threat to the peace and security of the continent and to the world.
Men of great vision have dreamed for years of collaboration between nations—of peaceful adjudications of their differences. How better can this be achieved than through the
creation of a great federalized state within Europe which may bring peace to lands which have been soaked for centuries with the blood of mankind in futile wars? When the European state reaches stability and strength and experience, what possibilities will then ensue for the formation of an international organization of nations juridically able to maintain world peace simply because the hothouse of most wars will have been eliminated?
The longer we wait to openly espouse the idea of such a democratic federation or united states, the more difficult and dangerous will the situation become. Already there are evidences that this policy of "wait and see" will bring us into troubled waters by war's end. While we "wait and see," Russia has not remained idle. I should, perhaps, interpolate here, that I am not criticizing Russia or its leaders. They are pursuing policies which they deem best for the welfare of the Soviet Union. From a purely Russian standpoint, its policy of a weak and disunited Europe with many of its states leaning heavily on the Soviet for economic and military support is readily justified. What Russia's policy will finally be—whether a Soviet-dominated federation, or an alliance of the border states with Russia, or complete integration within the Soviet of many of the smaller nations will depend largely upon whether we have the power we now have to bring about a peace that is in the interest of our people.
Russia, I believe, can be "sold" now on the idea of an economic European federation if it can be demonstrated that neither Britain nor the United States will dominate such a federation, and that it can be so constituted that a resurgent Germany will not be able to use it to build up a military power strong enough to threaten Russia.
Britain's problem is not dissimilar to that of Russia's, although in England there is already a substantial body of public opinion which favors a sort of united states of Europe. Britain, like Russia, throughout her history has been threatened by continental nations. And throughout history she has used the balance of power and disunity in Europe to save her. In Britain, like in the United States, there are men who oppose the impairment of British sovereignty by membership in a European union. The idea of the British parliament being under the direction of a majority of continental nations is repugnant to them. And there is the even more ominous argument that such an involvement would lead to dismemberment of the Empire, simply because Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are unwilling to bind themselves to the European continent. These men in Britain are not unwilling, however, to sponsor a European federation which would not include Britain. There are, of course, others in Britain who fear the future with a united Europe and prefer a postwar Europe divided by a new balance of power. It is this segment of British public opinion which, if followed, must inevitably lead to a clash with Russia over the extent of the balance of power to be exercised by these two great states.
But there is hope in Britain for the more realistic and practical course. A year before the outbreak of the war, Churchill wrote:
"Why should Europe fear unity ? As well might a man fear his own body. . . . I believe that Europe will be driven, sooner or later, to question the monstrous absurdity of his own organization. . . . The conception of a United States of Europe is right. Every step taken to that end which appeases the obsolete hatreds and vanished oppressions, which makes easier the traffic and reciprocal services of Europe, which encourages its nations to lay aside their threatening arms or precautionary panoply, is good in itself, is good for them and good for all."
Mr. Atlee, leader of the Labor party, has said that Europe must federate or perish!"
It does not take a prophet to see that the situation being what it is in Europe, Britain cannot go it alone. Mr, Churchill made this clear when he said, speaking of the idea of a European federation—"All this will, I believe, be found to harmonize with the high permanent interests of Britain, the United States and Russia."
Unless the United States takes an active and forthright part in pushing the idea of a democratic union of Europe, we face at the end of the war, what will amount to a partition of the continent into British and Russian spheres of influence.
Is it so difficult to realize what a return to this balance of power means? Isn't it clear that regardless of Germany's military defeat, she will have won the war politically? For it must be plain that both Britain and Russia will woo the new Germany in an effort to keep her out of the other's sphere of influence. In effect, Germany will hold the balance of power. Am I conjuring up spooks and goblins? Well then, has not this bidding for Germany's favor already begun? How interpret Russia's "Free German" Committee already functioning in Moscow? How interpret the shrewd Russian propaganda which tells the German people that Rus- 1 sia does not seek the dismemberment of the German Reich? How far and how long can Britain remain quiet and not make counter-bids unless a definite European policy is decided upon now?
Do you believe that the American people are fighting the war for a new balance of power in Europe? Do you believe the American people are fighting the war to restore rubber, oil, tin and copra exploitations to a few individuals who have become members of the peerage through the use of slave labor? Do you believe that the American people are fighting a war to establish communism in Yugoslavia or the other Balkan states? Do you believe the American people are fighting the war to give Russia a slice of Finland? Do you believe the American people are fighting the war to give trucks and tanks and railroads and airplanes to one nation so that it, in turn, can give them to another nation to build good will between these second and third recipients of our substance? Do you believe that the American people are fighting the war to wash every coral beach in the Pacific with their sons' blood for the right in the postwar world to pay rent for the use of airfields on such islands? Isn't it a sad commentary on affairs when in this democratic Republic the people do not know their own country's foreign policy?
War, it has been said, is but an instrument of foreign policy. Therefore, when foreign policy loses direction, war loses its meaning. The contrasts between the powerful military might of Britain and the United States and their unimpressive political effort, between their military resolution and their political irresolution are significant. Both here and in England people are askings—"What is the war about?" To defeat the Germans? Of course—that is our immediate objective. But that alone is not enough. The defeat of the foe is a necessity, but something far more fundamental must be accomplished for the security, the well-being, the honor, prestige and principles of this Nation are at stake.
Any consideration of foreign policy and the stabilization of Europe to prevent future wars must necessarily include a consideration of our domestic postwar problems. They will be many and they will require the best efforts of every thinking American lest we lose here in this country the freedom,the economic security, the liberty, and the kind of government we are fighting for.
If it is sound judgment in time of peace to prepare for war, it is equally good sense in time of war to prepare for peace. We have much to learn from Britain on this score—the English are not idle. Even in the darkest days of the London blitz, English merchants and exporters continued zealously to guard their markets. Nor have they failed to take advantage of every opportunity since to prepare the way for British trade in the postwar world.
What have we done? Our Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act is still law. We are continuing to foster a "good neighbor" policy in Latin and South America. I sometimes have grave doubts of the degree of success of these programs to date. This may well be due to lack of proper administration or to the exigencies of war.
But it seems to me that the situation which will face us economically in the postwar world will be vastly more complicated than before the war while the policies and the plans which guide us are of a pre-war vintage.
It may be well to examine briefly the facts that have added to the complexity of the economic position in which the United States will find itself in the postwar era. For the past generation United States exports, expressed as a percentage of national income, have progressively decreased. Only during periods of war, or reckless foreign loans, have exports reached relatively high figures. But hi many foreign countries exports constitute as much as forty percent of their national income. It is obvious, therefore, why such countries seek to broaden their markets by every means including propaganda directed against all American tariffs. It may not be realized, but it is a fact nevertheless, that in the pre-war period United States tariffs were on the average—and I desire to emphasize the word "average"—among the lowest of the major exporting and importing countries. I have in mind, of course, that the word "tariffs" includes such devices as quotas, exchange controls and embargoes.
In recent months this propaganda stemming from abroad and echoed here for the elimination of tariffs has been replete with the words "equal" and "free" access to raw materials by all nations. Frankly, I do not know, and have not been able to learn, just what is meant by this "equal-access-to-raw-materials."
Again we hear some of our super international "do-gooders" say that because we are—they should say we were—the richest nation in the world we should enter into some kind of a "share the wealth" agreement with the other countries of the world. We should lend-lease—never to be returned—our manufactured goods as well as our raw materials*
Our country has about six percent of the world's population but in normal times possesses and produces about one-third of the world's income. Even if we are to re-distribute our wealth and our income on a come-one, come-all basis, the percentage increase for the remaining ninety-four percent of the world's population would be fractional. And what would happen to our own standard of living 1 I am not ashamed to argue that we owe our first duty to our own people—although it has become fashionable in some quarters to depreciate such a philosophy.
I fail to understand these men who on the one hand openly admire and praise Stalin for looking out for Soviet Russia first, and regard Churchill as the world's foremost figure because he says plainly that he has not become the king's first minister to dismember the empire and on the other hand sneer at those whose primary concern is the well being of their fellow Americans. To me, it is self evident that if we reduce living standards appreciably here, we jeopardize not only the national well being of our population—but bankrupt our own government. I should like to impress upon you as forcibly as I can that dictators are but the trustees of bankrupt nations.
In analyzing this problem we must recognize that we already have owed to us some thirty billion dollars worth of reciprocal lend lease, if the original understandings for repayment in "kind" are honored; we possess the bulk of the world's merchant shipping. Until recent years our greatest imports in value were such things as silk, rubber, sugar, wood pulp, and the like. We have now developed nylon, out of coal, air and water—which even before our entrance into the war was threatening to displace silk almost completely. And there are many other competing fibers of a more or less similar sort, waiting to find their way into the market. The cost of nylon is, for most purposes, well below that of the natural imported silk and this cost is continually declining. Never again will the American consumer have to pay Five Dollars or Six Dollars a pound for silk or its equivalent. Some other products that have also felt the hand of science are—news print, wool, rayon, vegetable oils, copper, aluminum and the even lighter magnesium metals. Laminated wood, tin, lacquers, plastics, dehydrated and frozen foods, drugs and synthetic products of all kinds. Never again should there be great fluctuations in the price of rubber. Whether or not the United States continues to import a certain quantity of crude rubber, the very fact that we have the artificial product which can be made at a competitive price, will put a ceiling on the price that can be charged for the crude. Thus the American manufacturer will be saved the losses and grief arising from speculation in vast inventories at rapidly fluctuating prices, and the American consumer will get his rubber tires at a price which can largely be predetermined.
We used to think it impossible, because of the higher labor costs, to grow great quantities of beet sugar in this country. However, recent developments in machinery and technique have more than cut in two the labor cost of producing beet sugar, and only a beginning has been made. A recent careful examination of all imports into the United States during the year 1939, of an annual value exceeding ten million dollars leads to some conclusions which may surprise the uninformed. It appears that such progress has already been made that, if it were necessary, the United States could get along very comfortably under its own steam, importing not more than one-fourth or one-fifth as much in value as it actually imported in the year 1939. Under urgent war conditions, the figure of necessary imports could even be cut to a substantially lower point, provided we were importing only for the purpose of taking care of ourselves, and not for lend-leasing to the rest of the world.
I am not recommending as a policy, that the United States try to restrict its imports in this manner. I am merely stating that all the figures and facts, when properly analyzed, indicate that in normal times the rest of the world is not likely to have a great supply of commodities which we urgently need, and which could be counted upon to be used in payment for heavy exports from the United States.
Such are the facts seeming to compel a nationalistic selfsufficient economic policy for the United States. Added to them is the growing desire on the part of our people to cease all squandering of our money and resources.
On the other hand, do we want to revert to the policy of China and Japan prior to the 19th Century when a commercial contract with the outside world was forbidden? The result of that policy was ruinous. It held those countries to a medieval economy while the rest of the world progressed through the industrial revolution into the machine age.
It would also seem desirable to have sufficient competition from foreign sources to insure at all times reasonable priceson all commodities for our consumers and insure efficient operation of our domestic production. Furthermore, our merchant marine will be worthless without a flourishing foreign trade.
It is therefore imperative that we avoid extremes. Let us exercise caution in reaching conclusions. Americans have never lacked in initiative or enterprise. If these are coupled with careful analysis plus a continued investigation of the facts not only by our government but by each individual company, I have no fear of the outcome.
Our boys who are scattered throughout the world are returning and will return with first-hand knowledge of every country on the globe. This information alone will be invaluable. Armed with complete data and exercising the cautious courage which is attributed to all Yankees, we will follow victory at arms with victory at home.