Peace Is Inevitable
In the thirties, Werner was sure there would be war. Today he’s sure there won’t be. Here he tells us why
PEACE is inevitable.
I am as deeply convinced that peace is inevitable now as I was deeply convinced in the thirties that war was inevitable.
This conviction has grown upon me after thorough investigation. I recently visited the peacemaking capitals—London, Paris, Washington, New York, with three months in Great Britain and France. I covered the Peace Conference in Paris; then covered the Security Council, the United Nations Assembly and the Foreign Ministers’ Conference in New York.. In Washington I checked my impressions and conclusions.
On this assignment I have talked with—and listened to—a broad variety of statesmen, political leaders, experts of several nations. The gamut ran from Brendan Bracken, Churchill’s Conservative Minister of Information, to the brilliant R. H. S. Crossman, leader of the parliamentary rebellion within the Labor Party; from Vyacheslav M. Molotov to France’s perennial expert on interna-
tional affairs—Pertinax; from France’s Marius Montet (French Minister of Colonies), to Yugoslavia’s Foreign Minister Simich.
I did not believe in war in stormy 1946. The apprehension of the last year seemed false to me, and the panic foolish. My conviction has been confirmed by every phase of my investigation. To be as precise as I can I’d like to make two qualifications:
First: The inevitability of peace does not mean a cloudless international sky. Indeed, there will be frictions, and tensions, and even some dangers. But—there will be no massive threat to peace.
Secondly: The certainty of peace does not
necessarily mean that the world will have a good peace. Peace can be inadequate, mediocre, or even bad. However, the alternative of our time is not war or peace.
The alternative of our time is good peace or bad peace. In the atomic age this spells a tremendous difference.
Three decisive factors determine the chances of peace. The first is the attitude of the man on the street, the second is articulate and organized public opinion, the third is the calculated course of the Big Powers’ .foreign policy. I have observed and analyzed them. They do not run parallel. Nevertheless, they do run in the same direction, and as a whole they are favorable to the preservation of the peace.
I shall start my “travel into peace” with Great Britain.
Great Britain is a peace factor.
Considering the strategic position of Great Britain in the world and her political weight, this is a fact of tremendous importance—one of the weightiest international facts of our time. The British will for peace is sincere, Active and realistic. The Britain of today is not a fighting, expanding empire and not a centre of strategic bases and imperial possessions. She is, above all, a hardworking people
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deeply absorbed in the work of reconstruction.
This is a long, immense task. For decades Great Britain’s main interests will be the peaceful tasks of higher industrial production and export, of better supplies of food, clothing and housing. Nobody can divert the British people from these. Least of all does the Labor Government intend to shift from domestic reconstruction to an aggressive and peacemenacing foreign policy.
Every single member of the British Cabinet to whom I spoke stressed the urgent economic necessities of Great Britain: stabilization of peace, demobilization, manpower. These are the requirements which are the very base of British foreign policy in our time. Between guns and butter the British people and its Labor Government have chosen butter.
In the age of the atomic bomb and long-distance rocket weapons Great Britain is the most exposed and least défendable Great Power. The conviction is broadly spread in the country that whoever might win a World War III, Great Britain would lose. Deprived of military security the country cannot and will not risk war.
For this oldest of world powers, war has ceased to be an instrument of policy. It can regain its security by organized peace only. The broad mass of people understand instinctively, and political leaders know consciously, that World War II was the last war Great Britain could afford.
“Nobody here thinks of war, a war can be only fatal to us,” was how an influential Labor M.P., high in the councils of the party, put it to me.
In two respects, however, the Labor Government must assert its peace policy with particular emphasis. First, the Attlee cabinet stands and falls with a program of economic planning impossible without stabilized peace. Secondly, the Labor Government continues and represents the tradition of the British Labor movement which is pacifist and internationalist. The “rebellion” of the strong Labor Party minority against Ernest Bevin in the House of Commons was taken very seriously by the leadership of the Government and the party. They were impressed. (See “The Revolt Against Bevin,” Maclean’s, Feb. 1.)
The Labor Party believes in the country’s strength and destiny. I spoke to a cabinet member who has the reputation of being the most radical of the Crown’s ministers. He warned me that there was no sugar in the cup of tea he offered me, spoke relaxed and freely. We discussed the international situation.
“You see,” he said, “it is true that the United States and the Soviet Union have more resources than we and therefore are stronger. But we are not weak. And besides,” he added with a sly grin, “we are always on the winning side.”
Russia Not a Bogey
THERE is no war talk in Great Britain, no war nerves, no war scare. Nowhere have I met so much common sense in the vital war-or-peace question. The average Briton does not believe in war, because in his opinion war would be the greatest nonsense, and is therefore impossible. Of all the big nations the people of Britain are the least responsive to war talk. To stage his great campaigning speech, Winston Churchill had to go to Fulton, Missouri.
Particularly is there neither hate nor fear of Russia in the country. It is true that the Soviet Union has lost a part of the tremendous popularity it enjoyed at war’s end. But this change has not affected the main issue of war-or-peace. A great and independent British journalist, a man of impeccable objectivity and rather antisocialist leanings, told me that in his opinion the majority of the British workers still sympathize with the socialist works of the Soviet Union, and the same impression was confirmed to me by many Labor M.P.’s representing big industrial constituencies.
Co-operation with the Soviet Union is a demand which has a nation-wide basis. It is by no means a monopoly of the
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Peace Is Inevitable
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left Wing of the Labor Party or of the Labor Party as a whole. Many influential Conservatives and Liberals support this demand wholeheartedly and emphatically. I cite the conversation I had in London with a powerful, active and militant Conservative.
This man is the head of a large corporation and controls the connections between the Conservative Party and London’s City. We sat in his office, two steps from the Stock Exchange and the Bank of England, and the hum of the teeming financial district could be heard in the big oak-panelled room. I was astonished. to hear him say that the United States and Great Britain should give to the Soviet Union the industrial equipment it needs to speed up reconstruction, because—he reasoned—a prosperous Russia is a peaceful Russia.
The same week, in Washington, Henry Wallace tendered his resignation as Secretary of Commerce, as the result of ideas which were not much different from those this prominent British Conservative had just expressed to me.
The Voice of the Press
This broad British front for co-operation with the Soviet Union is quite natural. There is no competition for world leadership between Britain and the Soviet such as may sometimes be observed between the United States
and the Soviet Union, and there are no economic frictions or trade rivalries between them similar to those existing between Great Britain and the United States.
I must mention another factor which strengthens Britain’s peace policy. This is the influence of independent public opinion represented by the not-partybound London “Times,” “News Chronicle” and “Economist.” These publications have no party organizations behind them, no organized representation in Parliament or in the Government. The “Times” of today is not orthodox conservative, neither are the “News Chronicle” nor the “Economist” orthodox liberal. They represent a peculiar blend of ideas, with some socialist ideas added to their conservative or liberal inventory. They are active and courageous in the field of foreign policy, they fight for international co-operation, and, in my opinion, they stand rather to the left of the foreign policy of Ernest Bevin.
Thus the only realistic policy for. Great Britain is a peace policy. No great offensive design is possible, because the resources of the country are limited, and the Empire is shrinking. This conviction prevails not only in the Labor Party, but in Liberal and Conservative circles too.
“The course of the big stick is not only morally undesirable, but physically impossible for us as well,” a leading Liberal said to me.
This opinion is shared also by Conservatives to the right of Winston Churchill. One of the most interesting
conversations I had in London was with an influential Conservative. He had bitterly opposed Churchill’s wartime policy: “We encouraged, financed and armed Communist revolution in Europe.” Nevertheless even he agreed that peace is the only possibility for British foreign policy. This was his reasoning:
“The imperial sense has gone, the balance of power has been discredited. Foreign policy is being debated and judged in this country in terms of morale and philanthropy. We are not in a position to have an aggressive foreign policy. No anti-Russian moves are acceptable, and our policy must remain purely defensive.”
Something like a bitter reproach sounded in his conclusions. But he, too, a superconservative, was deeply convinced that Great Britain has no choice other than to make peace.
The Perilous Period
In London I met still another interesting conviction—concerning the timetable of the peace.
Many British experts on international affairs believe the chances of peace may be endangered in the near future, but their long-range view is highly optimistic. These men assume that the most critical period for peace will be the immediate future, the coming three to five years. If the dangers to peace within that time are successfully warded off, the peace, they feel, will be secured. Therefore it is necessary, first of all, to win time in the battle for peace.
This opinion is just the reverse of the view prevailing during the past few months in the United States. It was believed in the United States in the past few months that peace is secure for the next few years, and that a really critical situation will not arise sooner than in five to ten years.
Why this difference? I explain it in this way: the British believe that with the cooling-off period after the war, the international situation will be gradually improved; that, above all, within the next few years Great Britain will be stabilized enough and strong enough to regain complete independence and exert with new and reconstructed power its influence for the maintenance of peace.
I do not agree with British observers that a threat to peace may arise within the next few years. But in my opinion there is a lot of truth in the belief that a strengthened and reconstructed Britain may enhance the chances of peace. Great Britain is not Switzerland—she is a world power. Swiss neutrality covers Switzerland’s frontiers only. But the British peace policy cannot be that of neutrality for Great Britain alone. A consistent British peace policy must affect the world. During my stay in London a weekly asked me to write an article on the question of whether World War III is inevitable. I said in that article that if Great Britain declares peace, no Great Power will be able to wage war.
What I saw in France confirmed my British impressions. No Western Block exists. But there is a unity between France and Great Britain against war. There is a resemblance both in the popular mood and in the political attitude toward peace and war. Western Europe is a kind of isolating layer, a shock absorber against war.
The Frenchman today hates war even more than the Briton, but he is more inclined to speak about it and to spread war rumors. There is a kind of neopacifism, a popular fight for peace, in both western countries. This neopacifism is completely different from the weak pacifism of the twenties and
the corrupt and pro-Munich pacifism of the thirties. It comes from those who fought in World War II with weapons and propaganda, from the members of the resistance in France, from the combatants in England. In France, as in Great Britain, there is a popular tendency to consider any possible future war as a U. S.-Soviet affair which has no relation to western Europe.
Politically France opposes war even more passionately, more absolutely than Great Britain does. For both countries war is not an acceptable alternative, and peace is the only way of survival. But while Great Britain still can take a certain calculated risk of war, France can follow no policy which may include even the slightest risk of war. For Great Britain the consequence of a war is unbearable. But for France the start of a war must mean a catastrophe.
This difference came to mind when I spoke to a Member of the French Cabinet who was Deputy Chief of the French delegation to the Paris Conference. “If war comes, it will destroy mankind,” he said, and added the significant words:
“If the war breaks out, France will be crushed without her participation.”
This was the sharpest formulation of the French policy I heard. France cannot participate in war because she has practically ceased to be a military power. In the age of modern mobile mass armies and superweapons, France cannot rely on her feeble weapons. She can defend herself by a peace policy only. Therefore, France was shocked and frightened by the tensions at the Paris Conference and by the differences among the Big Three. Reconciliation of the Big Three is the main task of French diplomacy because this reconciliation is the only way by which France can secure peace for herself.
France is for Big Three—indeed, for Big Four unity which would include France. But what about the restoration of the French-British Entente as the regional instrument of peace? I was especially interested in looking behind this question because in 1935 I witnessed in Paris the crisis of the FrenchBritish Alliance, and in 1940, during the days immediately preceding the collapse of France, its complete disintegration.
Close French-British co-operation is indispensable for peace. It will come, but let us not be premature about when it will arrive. For this is one of the most complicated and difficult international tasks. In London I heard much comment on the instability of French politics, in Paris much criticism of the Bevin policy. A French-British defensive alliance (on the pattern of the Soviet-British and Soviet-French pacts as concluded in mid-January) will not be sufficient.
How a Rumor Is Born
The work of economic reconstruction in both countries must be somewhat co-ordinated. But for the stabilization of French-British co-operation there is necessary first of all an agreement on Germany—the complete settlement of the German question. Furthermore, the U. S.-British relations must be more precisely defined. It will be impossible for relations between Paris and London to crystallize until after the Moscow conference on Germany this month.
At the fringe of the Paris Conference last September I witnessed the amusing and, at the same time, repulsive event of the birth of a rumor. There was deep peace in Great Britain and France. There was hard diplomatic bargaining in the Palais de Luxembourg where the
conference was in session. There was somnolent quiet in the peaceful Fifth Arrondissement around the premises of the conference.
But somewhere on the fringe of the conference, on the terraces of the little cafés, on the stairs of the Palais de Luxembourg and in the hotel lounges were the tireless war rumor factories where obscure observers, badly informed reporters and the junior diplomats of some secondand third-rate delegations were busy. The standard rumors at that time were: “Something will happen this month in the Eastern Mediterranean!” and “Turkey will be attacked within a fortnight!”
The rumors were wired to London, New York and South America. Then they came back to Paris, in print, and the men and women of the war rumor factories argued: “You see? This has I already been said authoritatively in j the press abroad.”
i The Paris conference did not fail in i its preparatory work. But it did fail in its psychological effect. It had produced the false impression of two forever separated and permanently adversary coalitions. It has favored the rumor factories and the political misinterpretations. It. was falsely believed after the Paris conference that now Soviet diplomacy would stalemate everything, and that the armament race—with the atomic race looming in the background—was inevitable.
The series of New York conferences has dispersed the hangover of the Paris conference. I came hack from Europe optimistic for two reasons: first, I had seen the strong peace potential of Great Britain and France; secondly, I was not scared by the slow procedures of the Paris conference and did not believe for a moment in any clash in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean.
The deliberations in New York brought a new topic to the fore: the confrontation of U. S. and Soviet policies.
This was a gigantic topic. I believe that the New York Conferences which proceeded in many tiers (Security Council, UN Assembly, Foreign Min| inters’ Conference) were the most I important of the postwar parleys, more j important than Potsdam. Compromise ! on the satellite treaties and the resolution to go to Moscow to prepare the treaty with Germany were to be expected. They belonged to the diplo| matic routine. There was even more ; political weight, however, to the achievements of New York which were produced beyond a set and formal pro-
gram and came almost surprisingly well.
They were: the revelation of the
Soviets’ long-range peace strategy; the success of the UN Assembly as the first real experience with a world parliament; and the challenge of the world disarmament program including atomic control.
Having observed the anatomy of peace for six months from many vantage points, I think that these results of New York were decisive.
Misunderstandings about and misinterpretations of Soviet foreign policy were superfluous even during 1946 (and earlier). But they will be an inexcusable nuisance after the New York conferences. Soviet policy is based on a very realistic appreciation of American power. It is not anti-British, and is observing with the liveliest interest and earnest respect the work of planned reconstruction under the Labor Government.
Following Molotov’s concise and precise sentences I was impressed by the calm, cold-blooded objectivity with which the chief of the Soviet diplomatic apparatus watched the international development. The Soviet Union wishes peace not for a few years, not a shortrange peace, but a long-range peace, for generations. It is ready to compromise on the single issues as well as on a world scale. It is willing to relieve pressures as it has in the Middle East, and if necessary, even to retreat without much complaint as in Azerbeijan.
This general line of the Soviets’ foreign policy gives new opportunities for settlement of two other major issues I just mentioned: the strengthening of the United Nations and the disarmament action. The Soviet Union is now deeply engaged in the UN, has become one of its main pillars.
The Disarmament Deal
The first formative year of the UN was undoubtedly a success. Increasingly, the policy of the Great Powers is bound to UN, is passing through its channels.
On the other hand, the UN is now inseparably connected with the disarmament action. The disarmament debates are the strongest impression I carried away from the New York session. There is a world majority for disarmament, and the UN offers it a tremendous sounding board which echoes all over the world. Disarmament gives to UN a vital and urgent theme.
In the UN forum the disarmament program can first be extended, become
all-comprehensive; and secondly, it can be proclaimed there by a courageous improvisation. In the atmosphere of the world assembly, the longing for peace solutions may be voted not wholly dependent on the cautiousness of the diplomatic chancelleries and the conservative calculations of military experts.
An unrelenting moral pressure which insists on disarmament will come from all corners of the world. On the other hand, the reduction of arms promises to become a very realistic business.
The Soviet Union is striving to avoid the atomic race. For economic and strategic reasons, both Great Britain and the Soviet Union are interested in the highest possible degree of arms reduction. (Therefore, Molotov’s and Sir Hartley Shawcross’ speeches were the highlights in New York.) If the United States insists on the most effective control of disarmament, it can have this control. All else is merely details.
Therefore a big barter is possible: effective control of disarmament (the Soviet concession) for the abandonment of the atomic bomb (the U. S. concession).
Having witnessed these developments in New York, I went to Washington. Compared with the climate a year and even six months ago, the judgments on international affairs there have been changed substantially .Washington is now convinced that there will be peace for a short term at least.
Among the competent people, experts on international affairs, the leading personnel of the State Department, nobody expects a Soviet thrust in the Middle East any longer. There is generally more confidence in the Soviet Union. The apprehensions have receded. The atmosphere has been cleared and the anxieties of 1946 have been retrospectively revised.
A man from the State Department said to me apologetically: “Last spring I, too, was inclined to panic. I was wrong . . .”
It is believed in some influential circles in Washington that the atomic settlement is not merely a matter of disarmament, but above all of power, and that the present relationship of power favorable through the atomic bomb to the U. S. should not be abandoned lightheartedly. The U. S. negotiators on the atom will probably be tough. Among all international compromises, that on atomic energy will be the most difficult, but still it is possible, it