Permanent Peace via the Triple Alliance


By GEORGE W. HARTMANN, Professor of Education Psychology, Teachers College,Columbia University, New York City

Delivered at the twenty-first anniversary dinner of the War Resisters League, New York City, February 27, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 341-343.

THREE Great Powers—the United States, Great Britain, and Russia—will dominate the postwar world. This result may not have been intended when each entered the war at different times, but no other outcome was possible as soon as the United States was formally involved. Jointly these key countries can be absolute masters of the entire earth so long as they care to exercise the advantages of the matchless strength they already have. No rivals will be left to dispute this as soon as Germany and Japan, regardless of any merits their counter claims may possess, are forced to accept the subordinate roles the victorious coalition plans for them. The unprecedented constructive possibilities of this situation need to be more widely recognized.

To be sure, both courtesy and a measure of truth require the larger successful associations to speak of itself as the "United Nations"; but the combined realities of power—natural resources, industrialization, possession of strategic points, population, etc.—make all but the Big Three look like very small fry indeed. A disarmed Axis and weakly-armed minor allies magnify the contrast. Potentially, of course, existing satellites may be the organizing nuclei of future competing empires; yet so long as the leading triad desires, such possibilities must remain latent. Both actual and nominal independence of petty realms are gifts preserved at the pleasure of the mighty. The difference between countries eligible to a World Executive Council and those relegated to an "Advisory" Assembly is too clear to be misunderstood.

Some ambiguity about the relative status of France and China remains. Two generations ago, Delcasse recognized that France held her overseas possessions solely by the grace of the British fleet. Subsequent events suggest that the French Cabinet blundered grossly when it rejected England's emergency offer of "Union" in June, 1940. If bargaining capacity is any index, the French state, rehabilitated by others, is clearly in a secondary position. Skillful balance-of-power techniques may conceal or postpone this actuality, but even the deftest playing of the old game of diplomacy (as e.g., by Turkey) cannot give substance to a shadow so long as ultimate control lies elsewhere.Similarly, China impresses one with her vastness; but so do Brazil and Arabia. Since both France and China, among others, could not have been "restored" without the crucial aid of America (self-help alone would never have done so), a long-term reciprocal barrier to full and equal partnership exists, making it unlikely that the Big Three will expand to the Big Five in any other than a purely honorary sense.

Factually, therefore, no matter how disguised or how modified by the notorious "treachery of the future", the world will be divided into three grand spheres of influence. The United States will have unquestioned control over the entire Western Hemisphere and the whole Pacific Basin(Australasia, the East Indies, and the myriad isles of "Oceania" presumably fall within our security system); Britain will really rule Western Europe, the Mediterranean littoral, the African continent, and all the immense stretch of Southern Asia from Syria to Indo-China; and Russia will dominate the massive bulk of Eastern Europe and North Asia from the Adriatic to the Yellow Sea. Such is the probable de facto partition of the globe among the members of the World Trinity.

By default and the exigencies of occupation, Japan will apparently and somewhat unnaturally come within the American sphere; China and Korea seem fated to fall within the Russian orbit. The division of Germany into Russian and British dominated "halves" following either the line of the Oder or the Elbe appears to follow from the logic of spheres "without remainder." This rationale requires puppet states galore, but rigorously excludes true buffer states as too precarious and outmoded. The fulfillment of this policy demands the destruction of German and Japanese statehood and their incorporation within more potent sovereignties. Whether this result is so valuable as to justify the requisite loss in life and treasure is not a matter for present discussion, although good consequence for human welfare could ensue if certain as yet unpledged conditions prevail.

Some uncertainties about the demarcation lines between the great regions will unquestionably remain. The American area is most sharply defined, but some condominium with Britain in the "naval patrol" of the Atlantic and the Southwest Pacific may emerge. More numerous and extensive friction points between the British and Russian spheres exist; e.g., clashes might develop in or over Scandinavia, the German-speaking districts, the Balkans, the Straits, the Near East, Persia, and the Far East, where the interests of the two Empires have historically conflicted. It seems reasonable to assign the three Scandinavian monarchies, Austria, Italy, and Greece to the British area; everything else in mid-Europe plus all of Turkey by implication must go with the Soviet system. Persia appears doomed to division, with Afghanistan and Tibet probably in the British sphere. Mutual exchange or surrender of jurisdiction or hegemony (with some heed to the preference of the absorbed for one or the other overlord) should not be too difficult in a situation where there seems to be plenty of territorial fruit for both. Perhaps America will serve as the "honest broker" between her great partners. This arrangement may not be strictly democratic, but it promises to work with advantages that should outweigh all admitted disadvantages.

No assumption is here made that the Three Areas are equal in any respect. The American sphere is probably the strongest, the British the weakest, and the Russian intermediate. The British domain is the most dispersed, the Russian the most compact. Greater Russia will be almost exclusively a land power; Britain is primarily a maritime power; the United States is easily the first in the air and the sea, and could probably be such on land too if so inclined, thus constituting the best balanced power of the three. Felix Morley believes that America with its North-South axis and Russia with its East-West axis are the only two great powers left; but this seems to involve too gross an underestimate of British capacity to hold her scattered holdings together and to develop them, a job technically now easier than ever before.

There can be no successful challenge to the garrisons or other media of control by the Great Three within their respective domains. They can last indefinitely because eachwill be self-sufficient with little warrant for seeking expansion at the expense of the other two if the promised internal social reconstruction is accelerated. All will be "satisfied" powers. Britain will have no trouble retaining India by throwing crumbs judiciously, the United States can easily mollify Argentina, and while spiritually there may always be a Poland or a Finland, in material affairs they will have to do as Russia bids. Wisdom sometimes consists in liking what must be. The seat of preponderant authority within each area is unambiguously localizable, Internal wars under modern conditions of armed monopoly will be doomed in advance and most prospective rebels will recognize and act upon this fact. The tri-partite setup looks like the one most realistic and certain way to maintain peace for an indefinite period, even if none too generous at first toward either vanquished, side-liners, or camp-followers.

This pattern with its limited integration of values is far from being what idealistic reformers, progressives, pacifists, nationalists, geographical regionalists, or even conservative internationalists prefer. Its justice, if not its feasibility, can be challenged at a thousand vulnerable points, While it need not be vindictive, it cannot fail to appear so to many population groups allotted to one or the other of the three systems. It is not a true universal federation along classical liberal lines, or even a loose confederation of three constituent federations. Nevertheless, it is an imminent possibility and, granting the existing distribution of forces, the most probable type of world order we shall see in the coming decade. One might call this the stage of pseudo-federalism. Can we view it with favor, even if it never was and still is not a first choice for most of us? Does the inevitable contain hopeful prospects to comfort and conciliate those who must be content with second-bests when they are powerless to realize a more desirable state of affairs? A genuine Parliament of Man and a World Constitution are still to come; but can an inescapable and paternalistic neo-imperialism be made an intermediate step toward that goal?

Conceivably super-empires, whether democratic or not, have their social uses. Peace has become such a primary personal and group value, and total war such utter madness, that even if peace has to be bought at the severe price of temporarily subordinating some branches of the human family to others, such a cost might well be entertained if real chances for advancing living standards and liberalizing social institutions remain. Perhaps our patriotism blinds us, but few of us are prepared to believe that America could be oppressive in the New World even though we do not expect her to foster popular egalitarian revolutions. The British sphere, if enabled to wax fat and tolerant by prosperity, might soon be transformed by heterogeneous peoples into a true Commonwealth of Nations. Despotic Russia, once freed of the incredibly disproportionate burden of military expenditures borne by her new economy, may become more than a benevolent totalitarianism and shortly find civil liberties not incompatible with higher levels of consumption. All this may be no more than a chance, but perhaps it should be given every opportunity to be realized-After all, history has plainly moved in this direction rather than into others once "open" and therefore left us with little else in the way of a live option.

Since no internal predicaments are seriously likely to endanger the three areas, the only real threats can come front each other. Yet such threats need not materialize. As Sorokin says, the probability of peace varies directly with the integration of basic value-systems and their mutual compatibility. Anglo-American bonds—economic, cultural, sentimental—are so well established that it does not seem fantastic to claim that a war between two of the three great spheres approaches the "unthinkable." Serious differences exist and may develop further, but it appears improbable that any crisis will mature to the point of war. This element is a great good fortune to all workers for world peace. Formerly they had to content themselves with such meagre satisfactions as the fact that a war between Switzerland and Paraguay was unlikely; to have a prospect of this sort expanded to comprise roughly two-thirds of the earth's population and surface is a heartening advance. The frightening risk of intercontinental or interracial wars still remains, but the problem of prevention henceforth seems more sharply focused. This assumes throughout that honest efforts toward social justice will be encouraged by the victors, that cultural autonomy will prevail, and that the Atlantic Charter and the Four Freedoms will guide the details of all shuffling of sovereignties and not be discarded as mere "campaign oratory."

If the danger of an overt war between the British and American spheres is infinitesimal, there are but three other possibilities to consider, viz., a Russo-American conflict, a Russo-British clash, or a war between the Soviet Union and the Anglo-American dyad. If either of the first two arise, the realities of interdependence, wholly apart from any official "League" obligations, would quickly convert them into Global War III. Hence, they must be prevented by every reasonable precaution taken well in advance of an outbreak, for such a catastrophe would be another hardly bearable human tragedy.

Many grave and familiar annoyances stand in the way of fully amicable Russo-American relations, but despite gross ideological opposition it is doubtful if any conventional vital interests of either are directly threatened by the other. Unfortunately, Russo-British relations rest on a more precarious footing, partly because of a stronger expansive drive on the part of Russia towards sectors that Britain feels she must regulate. Indirectly, therefore, if Russia pushed English influence completely off the Continent, as Germany temporarily did, the United States might take alarm; similarly, if she encroached on certain Asiatic shorelines as Japan did, we might be mortally offended because of our apparent commitment to holding the balance of power between Russia and Britain. Obscurities concerning the precise territorial disposition of Germany and the Far Eastern countries complicate the picture, but this much at least is clear: World peace after the conquest of the waning Axis rests plainly in the first instance on the avoidance of war-between Russia and Britain. If competition for oil, air bases, and other circumstances shape themselves unfavorably, Russia will either freely become, or be manoeuvred into the position of, the aggressor power, partly perhaps because Britain correctly feels on the basis of two precedents that in a pinch she can always count on her ace-in-the-hole, viz., American support. Knowing this, the new Russia may be restrained from ever pushing any opposition to the point of a war she could never hope to win. The present war has demonstrated again (as though such demonstration were ever needed) that two-thirds of anything is always a greater quantity than one-third. To make the repetition of such a struggle with a foregone conclusion unnecessary is the real task of all the Big Three, although her decisive role in world affairs appears to make it America's peculiar responsibility.

Whatever progress may have been made by the hard route since 1939 may reside in the fact that it is theoretically easier for three entities to agree on any program than for 66 to do so. Persons of good will who can distinguish between description and advocacy in this analysis may have to reconcile themselves to a presumptive semi-permanent threefold division of humanity as the best available scheme of global organization, and resist their efforts mainly to "domestic" improvements affecting individual and group welfare within each region. The broad outlines of foreign policy will have been settled and issues pertaining thereto must consequently retreat for some time into the background. The emerging Triple Authority may be too modest for some and over-grandiose for others. Nevertheless, it seems to provide the structural framework for the world society of the mid-twentieth century and ought perhaps to be more widely but critically endorsed as the most promising means of furthering orderly evolution toward a truer unity. By ensuring peace for a generation, it permits education and other healing forces to lay the foundations for the permanent abolition of war as a pre-condition to the plenty and freedom all men should have. Or does this practical and realistic suggestion smack too much of another reactionary plan to "freeze the status quo" as long as possible?