General Articles


CORD MEYER March 15 1948
General Articles


CORD MEYER March 15 1948



In recent articles dealing with the conflict between Russia and the Western democracies, Maclean’s has presented the viewpoints of General H. D. G. Crerar, Bertrand Russell, J. W. Fulbright and others to whom the basic proposition is: “Russia does this; therefore we must do that.” In the following article, the proposition is reversed by Cord Meyer, former U. S. marine, author of the widely discussed book “Peace and Anarchy” (.Little-Brown) and president of World Federalists. We ourselves don’t agree with the views Mr. Meyer expresses here, but we think a study of them is essential to any study of the dilemma of our times.—The Editors.

THE first argument that has been used in the effort to induce the American people to accept tremendous military expenditure and renewed conscription is a rational one: So long as other nations remain armed the United States cannot disarm.

In a world of armed states, superior armaments are the only way for a nation to protect its rights and territory. This argument recognizes the consequences of the anarchy in which the sovereign nations continue to exist. But it is much easier to persuade men to hate and fear a particular enemy than it is to convince them that the real danger lies in the pattern of national sovereignty. The vague terror of atomic destruction tends to focus into suspicion of the Soviet Union; this tendency has been accelerated by the fact that Russia is the only nation in the world with sufficient population and resources to challenge the armed supremacy of the United States in an atomic war. Quite apart from ideological considerations, the Soviet Union and the United States are doomed to be the two central contestants in the world-wide competition for arms, bases and allies. Each is the only real threat to the armed security of the other.

But do Americans really understand the basis of the conflict? Instead of being informed of the fact that the Soviet Government is forced by the

nature of world anarchy to attempt to surpass American power, the American people are continuously exposed to assertions that, every effort, at preparedness by the Soviet Union is in reality part of a Communist plot to conquer the world. It must be admitted that there is no possible way of distinguishing between defensive precautions and aggressive intentions so long as nations are armed with the new weapons. However, it is at least inconsistent to declare that there can be no doubt as to the defensive nature of American preparations while seizing upon every similar step by the Soviet Union as incontrovertible evidence of Russia’s insatiable imperialism. But such inconsistencies are the stuff of successful propaganda.

Bombs Prove Nothing

AS THE primitive fear of Soviet attack is L. played upon, the search continues for moral principles with which to disguise the amoral power struggle. These lie ready at hand in the differences between the forms of government, the organization of the economies and the histories of the two countries. Forced by international anarchy to prepare for atomic war, the leaders of the only two nations capable of waging such a war almost inevitably come to exaggerate the points of difference in the two societies. This is their means of persuading their respective populations of the moral value of the sacrifices they are called upon to make in the name of military preparedness. Instead of trying to understand what is common to both societies and to exercise tolerance where

there is genuine disagreement, the effort is continuously to ignore the resemblances and to transform disagreements into battle cries.

The question of the value of individual freedom in relation to the welfare of the majority is profoundly important. But those who believe in the pre-eminent worth of the individual are not going to prove the truth of their conception by building more atomic bombs than those who put the state first. Civil liberties cannot be preserved by using their existence to goad an unwilling people into a preparedness program in the process of which the very liberties that the people are supposedly preparing to defend must be given up.

Whether private or state ownership is the best form of economic organization for a country cannot be settled by the respective efficiency of the two systems in producing armaments. The question can only be settled by the degree of opportunity for unique self-development that they provide the large majority of individuals during genuine peace. Either real differences can be resolved by rational argument and mutual compromise or both parties can recognize the irreconcilable nature of their beliefs and each agree to tolerate the existence of the other.

One thing seems predictable concerning this war of ideas against the Soviel Union within the United Stales. As the burden of armaments grows, the propaganda will grow proportionately until the American people are so indoctrinated with hatred and fear of their potential enemy and so convinced of the righteous morality of their

own cause that they

Continued on page 67

The Russians Are Scared, Too

Continued from page 9

may be willing to submit to all that preparedness now involves.

It is certainly doubtful whether the freedoms of speech and assembly can survive the pressures that will be generated by a continuation of the armament race. The first to suffer will be the followers of the policy of the potential enemy, the Communist Party members and fellow travelers who have put the temporary tactical objectives of Soviet foreign policy above the permanent interests of their own country.

More dangerous is the already clear tendency to identify as Communists all those who criticize in any way the official foreign policy of the United States Government or the principles of a private-enterprise economy. Once the freedoms of one section of the population have been extinguished on the grounds of military expediency it is a short step to the suppression of all protest and objection. The fanatical national unity desirable for preparedness can only be obtained by enlisting the majority through distortion and exaggeration of the facts and by denying the right to be heard to the minority who resist the regimentation of opinion.

Friends Who Can Fight

Although physical facts give to the United States and the Soviet Unjon the major roles in the developing competition for power, the other nations of the world have their supporting parts to play in the fateful tragedy. Neither the Soviet Union nor the United States is so strong as to be

able to dispense with military allies. Regimes friendly to the United States can be counted upon for votes in international conferences and for raw materials, markets and manufactured products vital to the preparedness program. If they can be persuaded to co-operate in actual military planning, friendly nations become strategic bases in the event of war. In order to strengthen its own retaliatory capacity and to weaken its only possible opponent, the United States is beginning to adopt a consistent policy of supporting in every way those governments that are reliable allies or might be persuaded to become such while opposing the regimes which have fallen under the control of the Soviet Union.

The methods which can be used to implement such a policy are familiar. Food, loans and favorable trade agreements are means of friendly persuasion, while even arms and men have been lent to those governments which have difficulty in suppressing insurgent factions whose victory might swing a country into the Soviet orbit. So long as modern war remains a possibility, a Machiavellian and conscienceless exploitation of every means of persuasion and coercion seems to be required of foreign policy.

The awkward and tentative beginning of such a policy can already be distinguished in the actions of the United States Government in the Western Hemisphere, in Europe and in Asia. For some time past the United States has been negotiating with South American countries to coordinate defense plans and to standardize military equipment. In return for the trade and protection of the United States, or in fear of the consequences of doing otherwise, the South American countries have on their part voted consistently with the United States on major issues in international

conferences. Opposition to the dictatorial Argentine regime has beten abandoned in favor of increasing cooperation. Here is further evidence that devotion to parliamentary democracy and civil liberty is far from being a root cause of the growing struggle. They are quickly repudiated when they conflict with the imperious dictates of preparedness.

Loans for a Reason

In Europe, a similar employment of American influence can be traced in the effort to strengthen allies and to weaken unfriendly regimes. Those who prefer to believe that the American loan to Great Britain was basically motivated by concern for world-wide economic co-operation should read with care the speeches made in its favor in the House of Representatives. They make it perfectly clear that the need for Great Britain as a powerful ally far outweighed considerations of international welfare. Similarly, a large American loan to France was strategically timed to coincide with the French elections and to influence the voters in favor of those parties which opposed the Communists, while at the same time a Russian shipment of wheat was designed to strengthen the French Communists.

The policy of direct intervention received its frankest expression in President Truman’s speech of March 12, 1947. He called upon Congress for American arms and dollars to strengthen the governments of Greece and Turkey against the threat of Communist domination. By no stretch of the imagination could either of these governments be described as democratic, but in spite of their corrupt and oppressive nature they are to be subsidized by the United States in an effort to control the strategic areas involved. Again it is evident that considerations of power rather than of principle determine the course of our policy abroad. Apparently, the crudest tyrannies are to be considered eligible for American aid so long as they oppose Russia.

It is in China, however, that the contradiction between the requirements of power politics and the American democratic ideology appear most obvious. There are few who would deny that the Kuomintang regime is a corrupt dictatorship relying on terrorism and feudal landlords to remain in power. It is equally clear that the Kuomintang was helped by American interference in the internal affairs of China, long after the need for disarming Japanese troops ceased to provide any excuse for such interference.

Almost overnight, the nature of modern weapons has rendered meaningless the traditional doctrine of no entangling alliances and committed the United States to an unlimited competition for influence in every corner of the globe. Under such conditions, foreign policy can no longer change with each succeeding administration but must be based on a long-range plan directed to the consistent protection of American military power to the exclusion of every other consideration. Many of the decisions will obviously have to be made in secret. Just as the effect of preparedness on domestic policy is to empty democracy of meaning bv the necessity for centralized control, so its effect on foreign policy must he '.to reduce to the vanishing point what influence the American people still exert on the conduct of foreign affairs.

The economic results of such a foreign policy are twofold. On the one hand, the effort to construct a cooperative and stable world economy will have to be abandoned, for Ameri-

can foreign trade and credit are potent weapons in the struggle for allies and are being used as such. On the other hand, the traditional policy of allowing private corporations to trade for profit wherever they desire will have to be given up and tariff barriers protecting American producers will have to be modified.

More consistent use will have to be made of American economic power for purely military objectives. No matter how profitable their trade may be, private companies will have to be prohibited from doing business with potential enemies, in order to prevent a repetition of the folly of the last war in which Japan used American oil and scrap iron to destroy American ships. Huge loans to support friendly governments will have to be passed not in any hope of economic return or to contribute to world prosperity, but simply to strengthen the American strategic position. Preparedness in foreign policy means the subordination of economic considerations to political and military goals.

The implementation of such a policy seems to necessitate the strictest governmental regulation of foreign trade and credit and the use of tariffs and quotas as weapons. The effect must be further centralization of power within the United States and a steady decline in the standard of living. This is economic planning, on the Nazi pattern, not for welfare but for war.

Total preparedness means totalitarianism for American citizens. There is hardly an aspect of human life that will not have to be corrupted to the organized pursuit of military force. Fear of atomic attack must steadily restrict the scope of individual freedom until there is none left. Together

with therr loss of the democratic right to> determine public policy, the large majority of American citizens stand to loise also their right to choose their work and to live where they please. Conscripted to serve in the defense forces or to labor in the subterranean faictories, regulated by police restriction in their attempts to travel or to spreak freely, ordered to leave their homes, subjected to arbitrary search and arrest, forced to work longer hours aft less pay as the armament competition gains momentum, they will be denied theopportunity to develop their individual talents and to exercise that degree of responsibility without which there is no dignity. Neither economic security nor material welfare will result from this sacrifice of freedom. Unless the rivalry can be ended, its unappeasable demands will swallow up ever huger proportions of the national income.

This brutalization of life must be extended even to the control of the mind. Propaganda will be substituted fo>r fact and official ideology will suppliant the free search for truth. Every soiurce of ’public information, press, radio and moving pictures must be perverted. Those who dissent will find the means of reaching the public closed to> them and, if they persist, will face arrest.

If there is complaint against these staggering sacrifices, the answer will always be that they are necessary in order to preserve the sovereign independence of the United States. This is the monumental irony inherent in the whole policy of modern preparedness. In the past, the citizens of the United States have valued and been willing to fight for the independence of their country because of the rights, free-

doms and comparative prosperity they haw thus been able to preserve. Now the attempt to defend national independence by military might leads inescapably to the loss of all that once made it worth defending. Nothing will remain to a driven and degraded people but the comfortless assurance that the United States still continues as an independent member of the anarchic society of sovereign nations, capable presumably of retaliation after an atomic attack.

Russia Prepares, Too

As the speeches of the Soviet leaders have made evident, the Soviet Government has no intention of tolerating the present military superiority of the United States. The armed supremacy of any one nation is a threat to the security of the others and comparative safety can only be found in superior strength. Nor will assurances that the United States is incapable of beginning an aggressive war because of its democratic constitution reconcile the Soviet Government to a position of permanent military inferiority. History provides very little reason for trusting the fate of one’s country to the self-restraint of another nation in its employment of decisive power.

The plain fact is that every argument which American leaders have advanced for the preparedness of the United States applies with equal force to the Soviet Union and with more immediacy. To understand the present concern of the Soviet Government with national security, it is necessary to imagine what the attitude of Americans would be if the United States had no atomic bombs and the Soviet Union had a monopoly on them. Moreover, the casualties suffered by the Soviet Union in the war against Germany far exceeded the losses of the United States and its industrial resources were severely damaged while American machinery remained intact. The Russians realize their present inability to strike back with equal force from the atomic attack which the United States is today technically capable of delivering. This knowledge provides the kind of incentive for preparedness which Americans will only be able to comprehend if they are faced one day with the decisive superiority of a potential enemy.

The actual physical measures of defense necessitated by the new weapons are the same for the Soviet Union as they are for the United States. Its military policy must also be based on preparing for the retaliatory war. But there is one significant difference. Whereas the United States enjoys the temporary security of a monopoly on the decisive weapons, the Soviet Union cannot expect to equal American atomic-bomb production for some years to come. In the interim period it is forced to take emergency measures to meet as best it can the eventuality that war may occur when we have atomic weapons and it is without them. This consideration helps to explain as legitimately defensive Russian policies which many have considered irrefutable proof of agressive designs.

Let us examine the timetable of the Soviet Union. In the first place, the simultaneous reconstruction and decentralization of heavy industry can only be achieved through a long-range plan subordinating consumer needs to military necessities. Such a program was actually laid down for the Russian people on March 15, 1946, when the Government announced the details of the new Five-Year Plan, which calls for the rebuilding of heavy industry and for an increase in output of nearly 50% above the prewar level. No mention is

made of atomic development but apparently that is to be carried on simultaneously. Analysis of the provisions in the plan for the production of consumer goods indicates that living standards will be raised very little and that the Russian people will have to reconcile themselves to many more years of hard labor and few' luxuries.

No Time for Democracy

Such preparedness will be extremely unpopular with a people which has had more than enough of sacrifice and which undoubtedly looked forward to a more prosperous and freer life as the fruit of its victory. Sacrifices for armaments are never popular, and they must be even less appreciated when they entail a continuation of such hardships as the Russian people endured during the war. it therefore seems fatuous to demand that the Soviet Government replace the strict discipline of the Communist Party with the more representative methods of parliamentary democracy. An increase in regimentation is rather to be expected and already the Russian people are being exhorted to “the highest pitch of ability and technical skill under iron discipline,” as the government propaganda puts it.

Since political and economic power have already been highly concentrated within the Soviet Union, the essential changes there will be more easily instituted than in the United States. The Soviet Union need take only a few short steps to become the diseiplined armed camp which is the ideal of preparedness, whereas the necessary sacrifices of living standards and traditional liberties will be fiercely resisted in the United States.

The attempt to create a militant faith has reached extremes in the Soviet Union not yet known within the United States. Today there is no aspect of Russian culture and education which does not play its part in steeling Russian hearts and minds to the need for defending the Soviet Union with unlimited sacrifice. The propaganda and agitation board of the Central Committee of the Communist Party has warned the Soviet film industry that “the cinema is a sharp ideological party weapon” and revealed that in the future films would be released only if their themes were valor in war and loyalty to the Soviet Union. Similarly, the publication of the literary magazine “Leningrad” has been suspended with the accusation that it “published many ideal-less and ideologically harmful articles.” The criticism concludes with this statement : “The tasks of Soviet

literature consist of helping the state to properly educate youth, to respond to the needs of youth, to train a new generation, vigorous and confident in its cause, unafraid of obstacles and prepared to surmount all obstacles.”

Such distortion of our concept of art to the end of state power may be amusing until one realizes that a similar corruption may be unavoidable in the United States. As the necessities of preparedness destroy individual liberty, one may expect to see American youth being similarly inculcated with a passionate and narrow orthodoxy.

It is not Soviet propaganda within that country as much as its effect abroad that provokes frequent complaint. Again, however, an objective analysis of the power struggle reveals that Communist believers in other countries are indispensable aids in the Soviet search for security. Like the United States, the Soviet Union is necessarily engaged in the world-wide competition to strengthen allies, to win over such smaller nations as are still neutral and to weaken potential enemies. Since the Soviet Union is at

a great material disadvantage and cannot compete with the United States in giving funds and food to prospective allies, it is forced to rely on the influence of Communist propaganda and the loyal assistance of foreign Communists. In nations like France where the Communists are a powerful minority, active and consistent opposition to the Soviet Union is impossible without civil war. Where the Communists are hopelessly outnumbered, as they are in the United States and Great Britain, they weaken the existing governments internally by capitalizing on the real grievances of certain sections of the population and there seems to be evidence that they serve as useful sources of intelligence concerning weapons and military strategy.

This ideological infiltration has given rise to the suspicion that the Soviet Union plans to rule the world. Many have found further justification for such fears in other aspects of Soviet foreign policy. The quartering of large bodies of Russian troops in the Balkans and on the Russian borders in the Far East is considered to be evidence of intended aggression. Here again, however, the desire for security provides an adequate motive. The Soviet generals know well enough that if war occurs within the next two or three years Russian cities’ industries will be reduced to radioactive dust by American atomic bombs. The best preparation for such an eventuality is to maintain as large a portion of the Red Army as possible on or outside the borders. In the event of attack, the Red Army could then be moved into Western Europe and China to live off the land and to find security from American atomic bombs among people that the United States would hesitate to atomize. If Moscow and Leningrad cannot be protected, Paris and Brussels can be occupied. Until atomic aggression is no longer a possibility, the Soviet leaders must maintain huge occupation armies as a simple and obvious measure of self-preservation.

The Opposing Citadels

Violent opposition has naturally been aroused by Russia’s installation by force of Communist governments in Eastern Europe. But this also can be interpreted as part of the woild-wide rivalry for strategic areas, raw materials and productive resources which is the inevitable consequence of the search for security. The Soviet Government has the alternative in part of Eastern Europe of supporting Communist rule by force of arms or of permitting groups friendly to the United States to gain control of the strategic areas and oil reserves which are at stake. It is not surprising that the Russian leaders prefer the use of coercion to free elections which might result in their loss of this vital area to the opposition. In this respect, Soviet policy in the Balkans is similar to American behavior in China and

Greece. Each competitor seeks to ensure by force that the other does not gain the controlling influence in areas each considers essential to its security. Until war between the United States and the Soviet Union is no longer an eventuality for which they feel constrained to prepare, both governments will demand recognition of the democratic rights of smaller nations where a favorable majority seems assured and will connive in the suppression of those rights if a free vote seems likely to produce a regime friendly to the other. Thus, a continuation of the struggle for power promises to destroy democratic institutions not only within the United States but throughout the world.

The future into which preparedness must lead the American and Russian people should now be clear. Like a malignant cancer, fear insatiably is eating away what is best in the United States and Russia, as the riches of the

land and the minds and bodies of the citizens are hammered into vast machines ready for instantaneous atomic retaliation. When the populations of both states have been reduced to the indoctrinated and disciplined instruments of their respective high commands, preparedness will be complete and life for the individual will be a drawn-out agony of fearful expectation.

In spite of this perfectly predictable outcome of their present policies, the leaders of the two nations continue to promise their citizens peace and security if they will only sacrifice enough in the cause of military superiority. If in truth the American and Russian people could avoid atomic war by building two opposing citadels of power, the sacrifices they are called upon to make might perhaps be justified. But is this the case? It is time to ask how long a peace that is built on mutual fear can endure. TAT