America's Role in World Peace


By EDWARD R. STETTINIUS, Secretary of State

Delivered at the plenary session of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, Mexico City February 22, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 292-295.

IT is an honor and a privilege for me to address on behalf of the government of the United States this conference of American republics on the problems of war and peace. I bring to you the most cordial greetings of the President of the United States and of my great predecessor, Cordell Hull.

We have met here in beautiful and historic Mexico City because we—the peoples of the New World—are at a historic juncture in our own affairs and in our relationship to the rest of the world.

The vital interests of the American republics are equally involved in winning the war and in making the peace.

The United States Government looks upon this conference in Mexico City as a meeting of decisive importance. Our unity has been greatly strengthened by our wartime collaboration. Now it is our task to advance this unity still further, both for the war and in our political, economic and social collaboration in the tasks of peace.

Good-Neighbor Policy Vital

I wish to reaffirm to the representatives of all the governments assembled here that the United States government regards the good-neighbor policy and the further development of inter-American co-operation as indispensable to the building, after victory, of a peaceful and democratic order. I wish also to reaffirm the belief of the United States that this democratic order must be built by all nations, large and small, acting together as sovereign equals.

II. I have just had an extraordinary experience that has driven home to me more sharply than ever before the significance of the fact that the world is now truly united in time and space.

A week ago I was in Moscow, where I paid a brief visit after we had completed our work at the Crimea Conference. Moscow is over 15,000 miles away by the route I came. In the short time since I left Washington, I have traveled 24,000 miles on the business of war and peace. I have flown over the North and South Atlantic Ocean and over points on five of the world's six continents—Europe* Asia, Africa and North and South America. I have come from a conference about war and peace conducted on the shores of the Black Sea to another conference about war and peace meeting ten days later in Mexico City.

Both are concerned with essentially the same problem. For they are no longer purely European problems of war and peace, or American problems of war and peace, or African, or Asian problems of this character. War anywhere in the world today threatens war throughout the world. Peace anywhere in the world today requires a whole world at peace. The prosperity and well-being and security of the peoples of the American continents are bound up with the prosperity and well-being and security of the other continents and islands of the earth.

Oceans No Protection

For a long time we relied for protection upon the oceans which surround these continents. Now we know that there are no barriers of sea or air or land that can separate us from the rest of the world. We have learned our lesson in two successive world-wide conflagrations which have destroyed our sons, consumed our wealth and interrupted our peaceful and creative purpose as disastrously almost as though their battles had been fought upon our prairies or in our cities.

And we are sure now what it is that must be done. It is not enough to stop war at our coast—nor on the oceans that lie beyond our coasts. War must be stopped at tie point, whatever point it may be on the surface of the earth, where war begins.

III. Toward that end we worked at the Crimea Conference. Toward that end we are assembled here. May I be-fore I address myself directly to the tasks of this conference, say a few words about the meeting of the Crimea?

You have all read the communique of the Crimea Conference. You know that the unity of the three powers represented there was greatly strengthened, both for the war and for the peace.

A full measure of credit for this result belongs to the President of the United States, whose vision, courage, understanding and creative purpose were never displayed to better advantage. I want also to pay tribute to the other heads of government, Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill, and to the Soviet and British Foreign Secretaries, Mr. Molotov and Mr. Eden, with whom I worked in such close, friendly and effective collaboration at the conference. They have rendered distinguished service to the United Nations cause.

Basic U. S. Aims Advanced

I reviewed the achievements of the Crimea Conference with the President of the United States when I met him again three days after we had left the Crimea. It is the President's firm conviction that the results of the Crimea Conference have greatly advanced the basic objectives of United States foreign policy.

My purpose tonight is to speak to you of our hopes of what may be accomplished here in Mexico City and of these basic objectives of our foreign policy.

IV. The earliest possible final defeat of the aggressors who plunged the world into war and so gravely threatened the security of this hemisphere is, I am sure, the first objective of the other American republics, as it is of the United States.

Military matters are, of course, not in my field, but it was generally agreed at the Crimea Conference that the military plans completed there in the closest co-operation by the chiefs of staff of the three powers—and the continuing three-power staff meetings there provided for—will shorten the war and thus save the lives of tens of thousands of United Nations fighting men.

Here at Mexico City the American republics have met to consider what further steps we can take together to that same end—helping to shorten the war.

The solid foundations of the war-time collaboration of the American republics were laid at the conferences of Montevideo and Buenos Aires in 1933 and 1936, and atLima in 1938. In meetings at Panama, Havana and Rio De Janeiro after the outbreak of this war the intention and the capacity of our countries to implement our solidarity was fully demonstrated. We have acted together in accordance with the Declaration of Havana that an act of aggression against any American state is an act of aggression against all of us.

Aid in Hemisphere Defense

The American republics since 1940 have succeeded together in building up the defenses of this hemisphere to an extent never before dreamed of. Their military forces have co-operated in the war. They have increased greatly the military might of the United States and other United Nations armed forces through their production of strategic materials that were transformed in our factories into the fleets of planes and tanks and ships which are carrying the war to the enemy.

The only hope that remains to the Nazi and the Japanese is that the United Nations might now relax their efforts in the belief that the war is as good as over. It is thus more important than ever before that we maintain and strengthen this active war-time collaboration of the American republics.

I have high confidence that our discussions here will result in co-operative action that will hasten the day of final victory.

The second major point I wish to make is this: I am certain that all of our countries will support as absolutely necessary to the future of the world and of this hemisphere the strong and sweeping policies toward Germany agreed upon at the Crimea Conference. This is what was agreed upon: "We are determined to disarm and disband all German armed forces; break up for all time the German general staff that has repeatedly contrived the resurgence of German militarism; remove or destroy all German military equipment; eliminate or control all German industry that could be used for military production; bring all war criminals to just and swift punishment and exact reparation in kind for the destruction wrought by the Germans; wipe out the Nazi party, Nazi laws, organizations and institutions; remove all Nazi and militarist influences from public office and from the cultural and economic life of the German people; and take in harmony such other measures in Germany as may be necessary to the future peace and safety of the world. It is not our purpose to destroy the people of Germany, but only when Nazism and militarism have been extirpated will there be hope for a decent life for Germans, and a place for them in the comity of nations.

Fascist Infiltration Peril

So far as the United States is concerned this is a fundamental of our foreign policy. The world may rest assured that the United States, in full agreement with our allies, is inflexibly resolved upon whatever steps may be necessary to insure that neither Germany nor Japan will ever again have the military or industrial capacity to make war.

We of the Americas have another responsibility to fulfill in the destruction of Nazi-Fascism—a responsibility common to all of us. During the war we have through close cooperation achieved encouraging success in combating Axis economic and political penetration and in preventing Nazi and Fascist sabotage. But we have much yet to do. We still face the danger of secret Nazi-Fascist infiltration into the political and economic life of this hemisphere.

The Axis leaders will, of course, attempt to escape the consequences of their crimes. We must be constantly on the alert for the flight to this hemisphere of Nazi funds and Nazi underground leaders who will seek to find a refuge here that can serve as a base for an ultimate comeback.

The people of the United States are confident that the American republics will join in whatever co-operative measures may be necessary to stamp out utterly every vestige of Nazi influence in this hemisphere. That must be our unalterable purpose.

VI. At the Crimea Conference the Soviet Union and Great Britain joined the United States in a declaration on liberated Europe. This declaration provides for joint action by the three governments to assist the liberated peoples during the temporary period of instability in Europe "to destroy the last vestiges of Nazi and Fascists and to create democratic institutions of their own choice."

Atlantic Charter UpheldThe three powers thus pledged joint action to uphold the right proclaimed in the Atlantic Charter of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live and the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those who have been forcibly deprived of them by the aggressor nations.

This is a third fundamental purpose of United States foreign policy. We intend to make our full contribution toward the building of a world in which the right of every nation to develop free institutions according to its own desires will be upheld. We look upon this purpose as part of the American faith which we have sought to practice in our relations with other peoples.

The United States will not shirk its responsibilities in seeing to it, so far as it is within our power, that this purpose is achieved.

The declaration on liberated Europe adopted at the Crimea Conference is animated by much the same spirit and purpose as the good-neighbor policy. We recognize that all nations are interdependent and that no nation can achieve peace and prosperity alone. We believe that all nations are equal before the law and that the equal rights of all nations, large and small, must be upheld.

VII. We are assembled here to discuss the creation at the earliest possible moment—and before the end of the war—of an international organization to insure the peace of the world, by force if necessary. This is a fourth major objective of United States foreign policy, as I am sure it is of the other American republics.

Largely because of the vision and leadership of Cordell Hull, we were able to lay the foundations last fall at Dumbarton Oaks. These proposals setting forth a plan for such an organization were agreed upon by the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and China. Since then these proposals have been studied and discussed throughout the world.

At the Crimea Conference the last obstacle to calling a United Nations conference to adopt the charter for such a world organization was removed. The Soviet Union and Great Britain there agreed to the proposals presented by the President of the United States for voting procedure in the Security Council.

The United Nations conference, toward which we have been constantly striving, has therefore been called to meet at San Francisco, Calif., on April 25, 1945, just nine weeks from now. Invitations will be issued as soon as we have completed our consultations with China and France, who have been invited to join in sponsoring the conference.

The Dumbarton Oaks proposals recognize that the world organization has two tasks: First, to prevent aggression; and second, to reduce and remove the causes of war throughclose political, economic and social collaboration among all peace-loving peoples.

The proposals are designed to prevent lawless power politics and to use the power of the great nations in the interest of the peace and freedom of all nations. They are based squarely upon the principles of the Atlantic Charter and of the United Nations declaration, and they draw heavily upon the ideals and practices of the inter-American system, to which the statesmen of the American republics here present have contributed so much.

The agreement reached on voting procedure at the Crimea Conference recognizes the two essential elements of a successful world organization—unity of action by the great powers who alone have the military and industrial strength to prevent aggression; and the equal sovereignty of all nations, large and small, who must act together to create the essential conditions of lasting peace.

American Republics' Role

We have met here in order to carry further our discussions of the world organization before the United Nations conference at San Francisco. We will not, of course, in this inter-American meeting take decisions on questions of policy that will be explored by all the United Nations together at San Francisco.

However, we should, I believe, examine what steps need to be taken to strengthen the inter-American system for the major role which it should play in the world of the future.

Let me remind you that the Dumbarton Oaks proposals recognize the value, within the framework of a general organization, of regional arrangements for promoting peace and security.

The United States government believes that the stronger we can make the inter-American system in its own sphere of activity, the stronger the world organization will be.

VIII. There is another statement of purpose in the Atlantic Charter which was reaffirmed at the Crimea Conference—the purpose to build a peace "which will afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want."

I can assure you that the United States does not regard this as a rhetorical assertion of vague intentions. We regard it as a necessity if the United Nations are to build a peace that will endure.

We cannot, of course, accomplish this purpose over night. We can accomplish it only by establishing the world organization and by continuing an ever-closer collaboration among the nations of this hemisphere and among all nations toward a rising standard of living and wider opportunities for all men and women, regardless of race, creed or color.

The United Nations, which have fought so successfully together against the Axis in this war, must join together in the years after victory in waging war with equal vigor and unity against hunger, poverty, ignorance and disease. The accomplishment of this purpose is the fifth of the fundamental objectives of United States foreign policy to which I have referred tonight.

U. S. to Offer Program

Consideration of the practical steps that we can take together toward this end is part of the business of this conference, as it was in the Crimea and as it will be at San Francisco.

Here in Mexico City we are particularly concerned with the application of this policy in the Western Hemisphere.

The United States intends to propose and support measures for closer co-operation among us in public health, nutrition and food supply, labor, education, science, freedom of information, transportation and in economic development including industrialization and the modernization of agriculture.

We are also faced with the immediate necessity of preparing to meet the many problems of transition from our war-time economic collaboration to the methods of peace-time collaboration.

It is the fixed purpose of the United States government to undertake, in co-operation with the other American republics, to reduce to the minimum the inevitable dislocations of this transition period.

Adjustments will be required in the production of some strategic commodities, the output of which has been stimulated greatly by the common war effort. My government hopes that a program can be agreed upon by the nations here represented which will provide a basis for accomplishing this adjustment in such a way as to protect the economies of tie American republics.

The war has placed any restrictive controls upon normal trade. During the transition period, which will begin after the defeat of Germany, we should relax these artificial wartime restrictions as rapidly as our primary objective of winning the war makes possible.

We must seek also positive measures to promote constantly rising levels of international trade among the nations of this hemisphere and among all nations—much higher than we ever enjoyed before.

Economically sound industrial development and the modernization of agriculture are essential to sustain these higher levels of trade and to fuller employment and rising standards of living.

Stable Exchange Needed

This requires arrangements to assure reasonably stable rates of exchange and to promote international investment in profitable new enterprises which will increase the productive capacity of the countries of the Western Hemisphere as well as in other parts of the world.

We should take the necessary international action at the earliest possible moment. Supplementary measures of various kinds are also required on a national level to encourage foreign investment. In our country we propose to extend our operations in this field, making full use of the facilities available, including the Export-Import Bank.

By collaborating in these economic and financial measures and combining them with our programs of mutual technical assistance in industry, agriculture, labor, cultural relations, public health, nutrition and their related fields, we can achieve together the rising standard of living that we all seek.

IX. The nations of the world today are face to face with an historic crisis and an historic opportunity—an opportunity greater than any offered to all the generations of men who have preceded us.

We of this generation for the first time have it truly within our power to build a lasting peace and to build it in such a manner that a new world of freedom and opportunity for all men can actually be realized within the foreseeable future.

The achievement of these tasks is the joint responsibility of all peace-loving nations large and small. A special obligation also rests with the great powers which are carrying the main burden of the war. Effective and continuing collaboration among themselves and with other peace-loving nations is essential both to victory and to peace. That sacred obligation was recognized and met at the Crimea Conference.

It is equally true that neither victory nor peace can bewon without the full support of the American republics and without effective and continuing collaboration among themselves and with the rest of the world. That sacred obligation we must recognize and meet here at Mexico City.

We know that without the contributions that have been made by the American republics in the war the United Nations could not defeat the Axis aggressors.

New World's Peace Role

This American strength—this strength of the New World—must also be built into the structure of peace if that structure is to endure.

I am thinking not only of the factories and farms and mines and forests—of all the developed and still undeveloped wealth of these Western continents.

I am thinking not only of the power and the will of our nations to use this wealth for the good of all the people.

I am thinking also of those beliefs for which Americans of all our countries have lived and fought—beliefs that form for our peoples an unbreakable core of unity.

We believe in the essential worth and integrity and equal rights of the individuals and of individual nations, large and small.

We believe in the people and therefore in the right of the people to govern themselves in accordance with their own customs and desires.

We believe in peace, not war, and we have sought to practice peace, not war, in our dealings with each other and with countries in other parts of the world.

Americas' Opportunity

Let us recognize that this hour of our greatest opportunity is also an hour of danger and difficulty. We can easily lose this opportunity as we can seize and use it. This is partly because our old enemies, aggression and tyranny, are now able to use for the corruption and oppression of the minds of men the very science that we seek to use for the enlightenment and freedom of men. So long as Nazi-Fascism exists anywhere in the world—or if it is ever permitted through disunity or indifference on our part to re-establish itself anywhere in the world—our peace and freedom are endangered.

Victory in this war will not of itself resolve the difficulty, nor banish the danger. The months and years immediately ahead will see the supreme test of the faith that has always animated the American peoples and of the abilities and energies that have built the American nations.

I cannot escape the feeling that these are the times for which all that has gone into the making of the history of the Americas up to now was but the preparation.

The beliefs that have united the American peoples with each other can now unite them with the other freedom-loving peoples of the world. The unfinished pattern of the American purpose can now be completed in the larger fabric of a world purpose.

To this task and to this opportunity I ask the representatives of the nations represented here to join in dedicating ourselves.

"Cannot Escape History"

I am reminded of the words of Abraham Lincoln to the Congress of the United States at a critical moment in the history of my country. They are words which might well be engraved in the hearts of all of us at this hour. He said: "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. . . . We—even we here—hold the power and bear the responsibility."

That is what Abraham Lincoln said.

If we succeed—and as Americans who pioneered two virgin continents and founded here a new civilization, we know that all is possible—if we succeed, future generations will look back upon this conference in Mexico City, and the conference in the Crimea and the United Nations conference in San Francisco as among the great historic milestones on the road to a lasting peace and a new world of security and opportunity for all mankind.