The San Francisco Conference and Peace


By HERBERT HOOVER, Former President of the United States

Delivered before the Foreign Policy Association, Philadelphia, Pa., Broadcast over the National Broadcasting System, April 17, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 424-428.

I KNOW I express the sorrow of the American people that Mr. Roosevelt was not spared to guide the San Francisco Conference. The problems remain and we must carry on. In this spirit President Truman has announced that the Conference will proceed as planned. And it becomes our duty to give every support to President Truman in his gigantic task.

I was glad to accept your invitation to speak to your Association. Philadelphia has always been devoted to peace. It was founded by a faith of which I am a member; this city is, indeed, the place where my ancestors landed on American soil.

Tonight I propose to explore Dumbarton Oaks proposals in the light of experience, particularly of the League of Nations. Indeed, the time has come to appraise frankly the forces we must meet; to explore them with the lamp of experience. The time has gone by for emotional generalizations, and this is no time to engage in destructive debate.

Three years ago Hugh Gibson and I published a study of world experience in making peace. We made some suggestions of principles from this experience that should be incorporated in any organization to preserve peace. Some of this experience was adopted, some important lessons were either wholly omitted or only weakly accepted in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals. President Roosevelt and Secretary Stettinius have stated that plan is open to amendment.

Three weeks ago I published some suggestions directed to strengthening the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.

It was a great satisfaction that ten days later most of these suggestions were also put forward by the representatives of the peace committees of the three great religious groups, the Protestants, the Catholics and the Jews

On the same day, Moscow took me to task for these proposals. They obviously did not have my full statement Anyway Moscow's argument reminds me of an old Quaker friend who said, "If thee do not repent in a measure and change thy ways considerably, thee will be damned to certain extent."

The Present Situation

But before I discuss these suggestions, I should like to make an observation on the present setting of peace.

With the discovery of new methods of killing; with the shift from wars between men to war against women and children and with the gigantic destruction of centuries of men's toil a third world war will mean the extinction of civilization.

When we in America took up the sword, it was inevitable from the hates, revenge and violence which would follow this war that we must hold the sword either alone or jointly with others if we would maintain peace.

If the charter at San Francisco emerges with a reasonable hope of success, the United States must take its full part in carrying it out.

As a consequence of this war, Russia has again, and I hope forever, demonstrated by her gallant armies and by her alliance with General Winter and General Space, that she is impregnable. America by her gallant sons and our alliance with General Ocean and General Invention occupies a similar position. Britain's indomitable people allied with General Endurance and General Diplomacy have shown that they can preserve their Empire. But the survival of Western civilization in the United States and in the world depends upon unity in certain principles common to Britain, France and the other democracies.

It is my hope that no cleavage shall develop between Western civilization and the rest of the world which will involve another world war. Truly the world should be too exhausted to suffer a third world war for another twenty years. In the meantime, it is my belief that with collaboration between the great centers of power in Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Chungking that peace can be preserved, and the processes of peace can be developed in an atmosphere of good will and understanding.

But we must build and build the methods to preserve peace.

To Preserve Peace

There are three general methods by which peace can be preserved:

First, through pacific methods, to settle controversies between nations by negotiation, arbitration and judicial decisions. This is the rule of law and justice.

Second, if these measures fail, then the use of force to stop aggression. This is the police power to enforce justice.

Third, beyond these methods there can be no lasting peace unless we summon the moral, spiritual forces which will diminish or stop the underlying dynamic cause of wars.

Dumbarton Oaks

The League of Nations, as you know, was set up with an Assembly of all nations and a Council partly of permanent members comprising certain great powers and partly of members elected by the Assembly. The League provided for pacific means of settling controversies and for a World Court. It proposed to use economic and military force against an aggressor. The Dumbarton Oaks plan is patterned closely upon the League with somewhat less authority in the Assembly and more in the Council. In the original Dumbarton proposals the machinery of force to stop an aggressor was made much more powerful than in the League. Force was made its major instrument to preserve peace. At the instant summons of the Security Council, economic boycott, the armies, navies and air forces of the world were to stop an aggressor in his tracks. But a compromise as to voting rights of the permanent members of the Dumbarton Oaks Security Council was agreed upon as the result of Russian protest. By that compromise the great nations who were members of the Security Council have a veto power to prevent any designation of their own actions as aggression. Practically, that puts all the great military powers out of reach. And world wars are not started by small nations.

The power of the Security Council was thus devitalized to practically the same level of effectiveness as the Council of the old League of Nations. We saw the practical destruction of the League when it failed to stop aggression of two of its own permanent Council members. That was, Italy's invasion of Ethiopia and Japan's invasion of China. (Please do not confuse these voting powers with those in the Assembly which I am not discussing.)

This retreat in the potency of force seemed to me to make it imperative to develop at San Francisco the pacific methods of maintaining peace, together with a mobilization of the forces which would allay or control the underlying causes of war.

Amendments and Additions to the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals

The proposals which I made three weeks ago to this end were seven in number to which I will add two more. They are:

First: There are certain fundamental political rights of men and of Nations that should be specified in the Charter. There are certain moral and spiritual standards of conduct among nations that should be proclaimed. I proposed we should make them effective by the establishment of a World Committee to promote these political rights. This Committee should rank with the Economic and Social Committees already contained in the Dumbarton Oaks plan.

Second: We should provide for peaceful revision of onerous treaties between nations at, say, ten year intervals, in order that political progress in the world should not be frozen with its dangers of violent outbreaks.

Third: We should create regional subdivision of the organization for preservation of peace into three areas, Asia, Europe and the Western Hemisphere; the regional organizations must of course be in harmony with the Security Council.

Fourth: We should insist upon total disarmament of the enemy powers.

Fifth: We should provide prompt proportional postwar reduction in the armies of the United Nations and the establishment of a maximum limit of armies, navies and air power among them.

Sixth: Although it is not a part of the charter itself, I suggested a method by which the war powers of the Congress could be preserved without delay to action in a crisis.

Seventh: Take enough time in formulating the Charter of Peace to do it right.

And tonight I add two more suggestions. There should be a control of military alliances. There should be a definition of aggression. And Senator Vandenberg's proposal that the Assembly be given freedom of initiative should be adopted.

The purpose of these additions is: First, to surround the mechanistic bones of the Charter with moral and spiritual forces. Second, to create those standards of conduct which should be the base of decision by the Security Council. Third, to reach into the causes of war much more deeply than just the settling of quarrels and the curbing of gangsters. And fourth, to simplify the work of the organization.

Mankind has made gigantic progress in methods to destroy civilization by improving upon his previous inventions. Likewise, in our efforts to save civilization from war we must not neglect our previous inventions and organizations of peace both for their successes and the causes of their failure.

The Holy Alliance of 125 years ago and its enforcement agency, the Quadruple Alliance, were set up on the theory that the peace of Vienna should be frozen fast by military power. The League of Nations was set up on a more enlightened basis—that if controversies arose between nations they should be settled by pacific means before force was used.

The League of Nations was the greatest experiment in history. It succeeded in settling many secondary quarrels, but it suffered from several grave weaknesses and many handicaps. My suggestions are directed to remedy these weaknesses and handicaps. That experience furnishes impressive reasons for the proposals I have made.

Allaying the Causes of War

The primary weakness of the Holy Alliance, the League of Nations and Dumbarton Oaks proposals is the failure to face the facts as to the real causes of war.

These gigantic explosions of modern civilization into world wars arise from more powerful forces than incidental quarrels. Quarrels are always the symptoms and not the disease. These forces which cause war are too easily obscured by over simplification. They are not wholly the work of evil men or perverted nations to be reformed even by a periodic spanking of aggressors. For purposes of discussion we can group these underlying dynamic forces as:

First—Attempts at domination of other races and the counter-strivings of nations for freedom. That is, modern imperialism.

Second—Its handmaiden, militarism with its train of armies and military alliances.

Third—Economic pressures.

Fourth—Crusades for faiths, including economic faiths. That is, militant ideologies.

Fifth—The impulses to change which are inherent in the progress of civilization.

Sixth—The complexes of fear, hate and revenge.

As I have said, we cannot make a lasting peace unless these forces be so channeled that they cease to drive the world into wars. That was the major cause of failure at Versailles.

The Versailles Treaty consisted of 623 paragraphs, of which 26 were devoted to the creation of the League of Nations. The origins of the present war lay largely in the 597 paragraphs defining the set up of nations, their boundaries, the reparations, the military and economic questions. Imperialism, militarism, economic pressures, hate and vengeance sat at that peace table. Many of the underlying causes of war were perpetuated and some of them were stimulated to more violence.

Because of the weaknesses and handicaps of the League it was not strong enough in after years to cope with the situation created by the war settlements. Some superficial thinkers assert the League failed because the American people refused to join. That would not have saved the Treaty of Versailles.

Men at Versailles realized the weakness of the League, but they said we should avoid difficult questions in the Covenant. They said what we needed to do was to get some sort of League going and it would solve these questions. It never did. The same kind of voices are being raised today decrying any attempt to improve the San Francisco agreement.

Now we are fighting the second world war because of these sins of omission and commission in the Treaty of Versailles and the League's inability to preserve peace.

Establishing the Rights of Nations and Men Against Domination

Twenty-eight years ago President Wilson among his points sought to infuse a moral and spiritual element in the peace. He sought to establish the political rights of nations and of men. He sought to formulate standards of conduct and law among nations. He sought to curb and allay the causes of war. These ideas received scant support at Versailles.

When this second world war came twenty years later, we were told repeatedly and eloquently that after the defeat of the enemy the great purpose of the war was to establish the political rights of nations and men. Those rights as proclaimed by Mr. Wilson's points were again reaffirmed in the Atlantic Charter. Twenty-six countries signed it including Russia. These principles and others were affirmed in the Moscow and in the Yalta declarations and in a hundred speeches of our leaders in war.

These statements specifically include the right of peoples to equal sovereignty, freedom from aggression and domination by others and the right of nations to determine their own government without interference. They particularize that there shall be no aggrandizement, no annexations, and no territorial changes without the freely expressed wishes of the peoples; that nations have the right to determine their wishes by unfettered elections, by free secret ballot and under international control if necessary. They assert the right of freedom of the seas in peace times and equality of trade. They also proclaimed disarmament; that nations should never use war as an instrument of national policy; and that peace must be based upon justice.

Beyond these rights and standards of conduct of nations there are the rights and protections of human beings. These have been eloquently and repeatedly stated by our leaders in this war. Their establishment is proclaimed to be also one of the purposes of the war. Their all-inclusive term is freedom of men. They at least include protection of persons from execution or imprisonment without fair trial; prohibitions against compulsory labor or slavery in any disguise; protections to minorities and backward peoples; the freedom of speech, of the press and of religion.

Nor are these rights of men strange ideas. The essence of them appears in American, British, and also the Soviet Russian constitutions.

When we come again after twenty-five years to San Francisco to write the Charter of Peace, why do we not remedy the failure of a quarter of a century ago? There is nowhere else in this treaty making that we record the moral, spiritual and lawful standards of conduct among nations and men.

Nor should this be done by timid references to the Atlantic Charter with all its qualifying words of "hopes" and "de* sires." If these principles are right, they should be boldly stated.

Vital experience in all this matter is to be derived from our American experiment in government. There was genius in the mechanism of the American Constitution. But its transcendent genius was its great moral and spiritual base in the Bill of Rights. This government would never have endured had it been a mechanism alone.

And if these rights are to be effective, they cannot be left alone to perform themselves. There should be a World Committee in the new organization whose job is to look after them.

By the magnificent valor of the armies and navies we have won the Battle of the Atlantic, the Battle of the Pacific, the Battle of the Philippines. We are near to victory in the Battle of Germany and the Battle of Japan. But are we winning the Battle of Freedom?

Americans must face brutal facts. As the result of this war the area of human freedom will shrink by whole nations. It is shrinking in many nations. Are we going to dodge these issues at San Francisco?

Easing Strains by Peaceful Change

Three years ago I stated that one great weakness of theLeague was that it made no adequate provision to ease strains by orderly change in agreements between nations when they became onerous or inapplicable. Inasmuch as violation of peace treaties became aggression, the League became the defender and the guarantor of the status quo. In fact the intention of some of its founders was just that. Its failure to ease pressures contributed to World War II.

Once we settle down to peace again there will be treaties defining boundaries and other relations or imposed relations of nations. The aggressor will again be anyone who violates the then existing situation. Thus the world organization and thus the American people automatically become the guarantor of a new status quo. And as the war settlements have not yet been made we are in the dark as to what we are about to guarantee.

Abundant experience after the last war demonstrated that dangerous pressures are sure to arise. There will be provisions imposed during the heat of war emotions. There will be the shift in economic pressures and populations. There will be the growth of ideas and inventions. There will be the development of backward nations which become conscious and capable of self-government.

And let no man think that there will not be unpredictable forces and pressures in the world after this war. If we can scan former convulsions of the modern Western world we Me that, following these long periods of general war and disorder, new shapes of civilization and new forms of nations have emerged. Civilization has taken new impulses and new directions. We must expect new forms and new directions from this gigantic explosion. No one can pretend to see these shapes clearly. But we must not attempt to freeze the world again, or it will explode again.

If peaceful means are denied, war becomes the only available solvent.

Regional Organization to Relieve Strains

Another weakness of the League was that its Council was overburdened with all the minor troubles and confused voices of the world at every session.

To relieve these strains there should be a definite regional set-up into the three great separate areas of the world—Europe, Asia and the Americas. The Asian Council could by virtue of its interests include not only the Asiatic nations but also Britain, Russia, France and the United States.

The regions could each settle most of their problems far better than it can be done by more distant nations. This confusion of voices led secretaries of State to by-pass the League. And Secretaries of State should be the representatives in person on these regional councils within their own areas. It would lend dignity to the organization. It would thus cure another of the League's weaknesses of sending a boy to do a responsible man's job.

Each region should have the first responsibility to keep the peace and devise policies for peace. Any use of force

should be reserved to the Security Council. It would thus be free to deal only with questions that contain dangers of world war. This method would also give the smaller nations the larger voice they need. It would relieve America and other nations from the strains of many a minor foreign dispute. This would seem to be practical for Mr. Churchill has endorsed it. The Department of State has already taken a long step in this direction at the Mexico City conference.

Stopping Militarism

Another lesson we learned from the weakness of the League was the lame provision for reduction of arms and the lack of control of military alliances. Herein are the sleepless bacilli of militarism.

I proposed that at San Francisco we should stiffen the whole attack upon these causes of war; that we agree to total disarmament of Germany and Japan with no manufacture of weapons for a whole generation or until they have forgotten the know how of war. And equally important, that the United Nations should set up a program to reduce progressively and proportionately their own arms and do it quickly after the war.

There should also be some control of military alliances by the Security Council. The multitude of these alliances after the last war inspired fear, counter-alliances, increase of armament. They made for balances of power, and they created voting blocs in the League. They not only weakened the League but they contributed to World War II.

Defining Aggression

Aggression in this world is not confined to the old-fashioned threats or to military action or even to economic pressures. Our experience with the Nazis who infiltrated their poisonous propaganda and fifth columns into the lands of peaceful neighbors should indicate that there is a new form of aggression in the world.

Therefore the San Francisco Charter should agree upon a definition of aggression to include direct or indirect subsidized governmental propaganda in other nations. The enforcement of such a provision would help cure that cause of wars which grows out of crusading faith, political or otherwise.

We Should Not Be Stampeded Into Blunders

We cannot hope for perfection. In any event the Dumbarton Oaks press release does not purport to be the form of a treaty. It is a statement of principles. It must be drafted into precise terms. It is the height of wisdom that the people of the world should have a chance to see its final wording and to have a period in which to consider and even improve the agreement before it is signed. It will be more certain to last.

We do not have to hurry. If we take six years to make war it might be a good idea to take a few more months to build a sound organization to keep the peace. It was seven years from Yorktown to the Constitution.

The War Settlements

Beyond the San Francisco charter one-half of the making of peace will lay in the political, economic and territorial settlements of the war. If we do them well, peace will largely preserve itself. If we do them badly, no organization to maintain peace can succeed. I shall discuss these questions on some other occasion, but here I may say that we must not again sow dragons' teeth. And appeasement is a dragon's tooth.

In Conclusion

Truly peace is a matter of spirit; it rests upon moral forces, upon the building of good-will among mankind.

The Sermon on the Mount launched that transcendent concept of good-will among men as the basis of peace. And despite all his violations man has received from that Divine message an undying inspiration to strive for peace. Those spiritual concepts of peace have at least brought it to pass that every war must be professed by its leaders as a war of defense and for the purpose of securing peace. They have brought into the world the concept that aggression is an infamy. And that domination over unwilling people is immoral.

The great purpose of America in this war is lasting peace. That is all that we can possibly get from this dreadful sacrifice of life and the awful burdens upon our children. If the world will cooperate to give our children this boon, their tears will not be less but their labor over years to come will be brightened with confidence and the future lighted with hope.

We must not fail now.