U. S. As A Mediator for Peace


By ALFRED M. LANDON, Ex-Governor of Kansas

Delivered before the Rotary Club, Manhattan, Kansas, June 7, 1945

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 557-559.

THE greatest achievement of modern civilization was the development of objective thinking. The processes of objective thinking include toleration—education—accurate information and humanitarianism.

These highly important attributes of civilization reached their finest flowering in the world before the first world war, at least in the United States and Great Britain.

Since then, they have withered steadily under the attacks of a deadly parasite—the art of government inspired mass propaganda and government censorship.

Of course ever since we have had governments, we have had propaganda in favor of the government in power.

For many centuries objective thinking and government propaganda were handicapped by the lack of channels of communication. Both were more or less evenly balanced.

Today's increase in the channels of communications has given government propaganda a big edge over objective thinking because the peoples of the world are not able to digest all the mass information that floods them. Taking advantage of that situation, governments hold back certain vital information and parts of the news for political as well as military reasons and in the torrent of world news these critical omissions are not noticed. In addition, we must realize that today there is a lot of lying going on. Anyone now who would think objectively must as the first step proceed with great caution in spite of the abundance of news. The mission of such organizations as Rotary—the schools—the Press—the radio—and the church is to hold aloft the art of objective thinking.

Without objective thinking, as I have described it, we have nothing left but the naked brute power of feudalism or the chaos of the dark ages.

It is to be expected that objective reporting—showing all sides of the story—is inevitably almost destroyed as the result of war.

Modern war is the complete and total mobilization of allthe efforts of all the people of a country. The Press becomes an arm of the government and has quite properly performed vital services in the war effort. But the Press itself admits that it is prevented from full and accurate reporting of important events and policies. It has the will but not the power to do the job so long as the war lasts.

Today, we stand in need of a constant re-examination of our ideas in the light of swift moving events and the enormous problems that confront us. Today, more than ever, those qualities of objective thinking call for cautious, balanced judgment and keen examination of the facts.

Many in the United States are pursuing a "Hallelujah" policy with regard to Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco. The very government agencies that bally-hooed their accomplishments a few short months ago are now attempting to warn the American people of expecting too much from the conference at San Francisco. What are the important facts of foreign affairs in the world we live in?

First, a large part of the world hates and is suspicious of the British.

Second, a large part of the world fears Russia. I do not mean communism, but I mean an imperialistic, militaristic Russia—Adam Zad, the bear that walks like a man.

Third, Russia fears the rest of the world.

Fourth, whatever their doubts about us, a large part of the world wants American investment and American business connections for political reasons as well as economic. They believe that American connections give them more security for themselves.

Fifth, Europe which for many centuries was the center of the world, is today the center of complete confusion, because of our military victories and the lack of agreed peace policies among the allies. Russia seems to be setting up by ruthless force puppet states in this vacuum that was once Europe.

Britain is fighting for her Empire's life-line through the Mediterranean—France is desperately trying to rebuild the Empire that was hers. And we are still listening to the birdies sing as we have done from Moscow to San Francisco—under the assumption that there is accord on post-war policies among the allies.

These are the plain facts of a situation that confronts us now and will confront us for many years and it is the height of foolishness for us to continue to ignore it.

The job of statesmanship—and all the agencies of public opinion—is to build a bridge of cooperation for peace between a ruthless totalitarian dictatorship and other nations whom the Russians consider equally ruthless.

That is almost a super-human job with America occupying a place of special responsibility. We are not fulfilling it by our emotional approach to the problem either of world peace or of Russia.

The illusion current among many people that all we have to do is to follow the course charted from Moscow to Yalta is a dangerous fallacy that contributes to the difficulties of a satisfactory solution.

Russophiles or Russophobes also contribute to the difficulty of the two people understanding each other.

Basically we have been trying to work with Russia, not only in war but for lasting peace. But Russia is making it exceeding difficult and there are those in the United States who are not, making it easier by their loose talk that we must eventually fight Russia. There are still others who are not helping the situation by insisting that all Russian policies are perfect, and that all criticisms are Fascist's lies.

I must say that I am impressed with the good will and liking the returning American soldier has for the Russians he has met. Perhaps that may have a decisive influence on the future relations of the United States and Russia.

There must be a meeting of the minds when we hold our international conferences. As I have been saying, ever since the Moscow conference, we have had one hallelujah interpretation for the American people which Russia has often and promptly contradicted either by word or deed. This is not the time nor the place to discuss whose fault that is. But at least the Russians have been frank in not permitting us to continue under our delusions. It is our fault that we have. I do say that the Pollyanna fiction of agreement planted in the American press from Moscow to Yalta has added to the difficulties of the two nations. The longer that situation continues, the greater the threat of disastrous consequences to both countries and to the world.

Again and again, I have protested the policy of dodging and covering up the lack of a community of purpose as very dangerous. I repeat that explosions can be generated by smothering as well as by friction.

Whether the fault is ours—or the Russians—or both, our first problem is to establish the right kind of relations with Russia.

A just and lasting peace is the profound desire of the people of the United States. The mere contemplation of the deadly meaning of another world war is enough to call forth the highest statesmanship on our part to prevent another cycle of world wide destruction which will destroy liberty and civilization and bring on a new dark age.

A fundamental of that statesmanship on our part is that the United States must be an honest broker for peace among the nations. Today we stand one of three nations holding the real power of the world—the United States, Russia, and Great Britain. If we in the United States make plain that we are not and will not be a party by action or inaction to any scheme or intrigue to gang up on Russia, or Great Britain, or China, or any other nation, then we have laid the cornerstone for lasting peace.

If we stand firmly upon the principle that the inalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness apply to nations as well as individuals, then it will be extremely difficult for any nation to remain immovably bull-headed in opposing progress toward the realization of that principle.

We must never forget that the peace of the world in the last analysis depends upon the recognition of those inalienable rights.

By force of circumstances the world looks to us as the natural mediator among the powers today. Even the official Russian newspaper Izvestia last Tuesday views with regret that our policy of mediation is changing to a policy of drifting. Whether or not we agree with that interpretation, our vital role among the powers as mediator is acknowledged.

Our role is the promotion of international cooperation, rather than the development of old-fashioned international alliances which, after all, usually turn out to be shot-gun marriages. Thus we carry out the real meaning of General Washington's famous message about entangling alliances. We must make it plain that we will not join any power bloc but will use our balance of power for peace and stability id the world and are willing to assume the responsibilities that go with that. I am speaking for triple cooperation rather than a mere formal British-American or British-American-Russian alliance which inevitably gives rise to opposing blocs in the course of time and changing conditions.

As we go about this business of the honest broker for peace among the nations, we may find it too costly to continue our national habit of day-dreaming and talking in headlines. It has been well said that we in the United States talk toomuch and our Russian allies don't talk enough. Our British cousins, who have had more experience in these matters than we have, are neither maudlin about their role in international affairs, nor tongue-tied. They set us a good example in considered and careful public discussion. They require and get factual reports from their Prime Minister.

To President Truman comes the great opportunity and the heavy responsibility of effecting policies that will offer a sound base for peace, and at the same time continue a united front against Japan. It calls for a tremendous effort of statesmanship.

The prayers and the hopes of humanity go with him in his great work. But he is entitled to more than good wishes. He is entitled to the support of his constituents in certain fundamental decisions he must make that have the gravest consequences for the future of the people of the United States and the world.

We Americans have the custom of closing ranks in great national emergencies.

I believe that today the American people are facing as great an emergency in winning the peace as we have ever faced in our national history. It is time we unite behind our President, as he faces his crucial negotiations with Stalin and Churchill. He will need our united support in his endeavor to develop the beginning at Dumbarton Oaks and San Francisco into a world forum where nations large and small may be heard without fear or hindrance. This would be a great step forward for mankind. But it will never come out of mere wishful thinking or drifting on a sea of misunderstanding.

The nations today are in a state of great change in life andpower.

Our leadership in this inevitable world evolution should be directed toward paths of development without world violence and with consent of the governed.

We cannot merely attempt with fine words to sit on the lid of the explosive forces now working in the world as did the Holy Alliance of Vienna.

Our leadership depends upon the vigor and soundness and unity with which we exercise it. The world is watching not only what our President does, but how we support his foreign policies.