WHY WE ARE LOSING THE COLD WAR
What does it profit America to have the world’s biggest bomb if it has forgotten the ideals that made it great? Without a noble purpose, says Hutchison, we are naked and lost
THREE casual and irrelevant exhibits in the bright spring weather of Washington should help us to understand why we are losing the cold war.
Exhibit A: The White House, closed and
dismantled for repairs. President Truman noticed the chandeliers swaying and architects found the pillars and foundations dangerously weakened. For all its solid outer look the White House is a hollow shell—the perfect symbol of our times. If the architects could Continued on page 61
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Why We Are Losing the Cold War
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measure such things they would find the high policy of the United States land Canada) in approximately the same condition.
Exhibit B: At the other end of
Pennsylvania Avenue a Congressional committee stands back and takes its first good long look at the imposing façade and inner weaknesses of the American economy. The glistening, egglike face of Senator Taft, with mouth tightly zippered up against indiscretion— this man who may be the next President and already represents the American past struggling to control its futurestares blankly at the flashlight photographers, at the massed ranks of experts, at a motherly little lady with the disarming name of Dr. Persia Campbell, an economist, who is quietly tearing to pieces the optimistic forecasts of the United States Government.
The nation, in grand assize, is trying to judge whether the Roosevelt economic revolution, like the White House, is a hollow shell. But it is looking for an answer in the wrong
Exhibit C: At the same moment,
in some secret office, anonymous scientists are designing a bomb which, if ever used, is cheerfully guaranteed to extinguish our civilization and perhaps all human life.
These exhibits are not offered, of course, as evidence, but only as parables to support the conclusion that the cold war, at the present rate, will be ultimately lost—a conclusion confirmed by many wise men who cannot talk out
We sire not winning the cold war because our inner structure in America is weak behind the deceptive walls of material power, because we have put economics ahead of ideas, because the hydrogen bomb, called a guarantee of victory, is in fact the terrifying proof of mankind’s defeat.
Few people paused in Washington in the first sunshine of spring to observe the workmen trying to shore up the White House, the economists and statesmen trying to shore up the American budget, the scientists coolly preparing to blow up the world. The most potent, the most democratic, the most humane, decent and wackiest capital in all human history was too busy with its own affairs to have such long thoughts.
Low Tide on the Potomac
It is low tide in Washington this spring. All the electric personalities of the Roosevelt era are gone—the great presence itself, the emaciated enigma of Harry Hopkins, Hugh Johnson and his dead cats, the stoic Hull and Stimson, the grandeur of Marshall, the volcanic Ickes, the corn-breeding yogi, Henry Wallace, the whole incredible army of genius and lunacy, idealism and gutter politics, success and f ailure which remade American society in the 30’s and saved the world in the 40’s. All gone, sucked out to sea in the receding flood.
Low tide, and after the waters have sunk the forgotten snags, derelicts, hidden reefs and dark marine creatures of the nation’s life lie suddenly exposed.
After another war the United States has not suffered anything like the slump of the 20’s, it is robust in health, uncorrupted in government, economically strong but, for all its physical energy, it is spiritually tired.
It is tired of domestic revolution, of
war, of the false hopes of peace. It is even growing tired—or at least sceptical—of mere prosperity, which is perhaps the first sign of its recovery.
Low tide, confusion, mediocrity, a legislature which is the despair of the White House, a White House which too often is the contradictory voice of quarreling experts, a great people who, for the moment, cannot find an instrument to weld their vital forces and articulate their dream—this is Washington in year one of the hydrogen
What has gone wrong? Where did the wondrous and unequaled mechanism of the United States get off the rails? Why isn’t it winning the cold
Superficially the answer is easy in hindsight.
First there was Roosevelt’s total miscalculation of Stalin which, though a historical error of first magnitude, was on the side of the angels and was true, in its generosity, to the best American ideals.
Next came the altruism, euphoria and ballyhoo of San Francisco, when, for a moment, it seemed that man’s long dream of peace could be materialized and guaranteed on paper in the shape of the United Nations.
Then disillusionment, a hurried attempt to rearm, a massive economic blood transfusion called the Marshall Plan.
The tide of America’s energies and ideals seemed still at the wartime flood but through the golden mists of those boom times a careful navigator could see that already the ebb had begun in the United States and Canada alike.
How Many on Our Side?
The tide in both countries had remained at flood longer after the second war than the first. The yearning for normalcy in all of us was better disguised by slogans, catchwords and official proclamations. But the real tide, the inward motion which decides everything in the end, had begun to fall some years ago. By the first days of 1950 normalcy, under new and respectable names, was the biggest political pressure in Washington, as in Ottawa.
Low tide leaves every idealist for the moment high and dry. The only great man in the American Government, Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, has seen Stalin win in China, almost without lifting a hand, perhaps the largest single victory in the history of human conquest. After this unprecedented debacle he has not dared, up to this writing, to ask a bitter and dazed Congress for the money which will surely be needed to keep the rest of Asia out of Stalin’s grasp. He must await a rising tide.
Meanwhile in western Europe, where American policies had been most successful, the news was not good. The latest upheaval in France may pass but it is now obvious that the Marshall Plan, after its spectacular beginning, will fail of its purpose to make Europe stable by 1952. In the dollar-defeatism of Europe, in its secret distrust of American prosperity and intent, the dollar gap is not being closed and will not be closed, as planned, by increased European exports into America. It will be closed if and when American aid ceases, by still further reduction in Europe’s purchases on this side of the Atlantic; Canada already has felt the first but by no means the last blow. The free, multilateral economy of Bretton Woods, Geneva and Havana is not being put together. It is threatening to fall apart. And the American economy is failing by a wide margin to pay the running costs of government.
On the military side the mobilization of sufficient force under the North Atlantic Pact to meet the existing strength of Russia is years away at best, yet while Russia piles up still more armaments American defense appropriations are being scaled downward. (In Ottawa we have hardly begun to scale them upward.)
Or reckoning the position in terms of population these facts stand out on the map, stark and mountainous: By the calculation of the reliable United States News, of Washington, 1,820,000.000 human beings could be counted in the anti-Communist world in 1945 and 193,000,000 behind the Iron Curtain. In 1950 there were 725,000,000 people on our side. 795,000,000 on the other side and 740,000,000 who might be called neutral As the cold war is primarily a contest for the minds of people, these figures show the balance tilting swiftly against us, even if our material is still preponderant.
Considering the loss of China, the delicate balance in the rest of Asia, the developing strains of the world economy, the overwhelming land power and the atomic discoveries of Russia, the statement of Dr. Harold C. Urey, original architect of the hydrogen bomb, that “we may have already lost the armament race”—considering all the evidence before us. no realistic man in Washington could still believe that the United States and its friends were winning the cold war. If you will think a little further you will see why, without a drastic change of pace, our side is bound to lose it.
The Defeats of an Idea
To say that the cold war will be won in the end by ideas is now a platitude. Platitudes, however, are as ! true as they are dull. They do not lose their truth by repetition. They only lose their force. Thus everyone has talked so much about the war of ideas that nobody pays much attention to it any more.
Yet it is in the realm of ideas, not in the realm of military power or economics, that we are in peril, for if ! we were winning the war of ideas the ! military and economic problems would j solve themselves.
Mark, then, how this deeper war is going.
The free world has turned to North America for money and industrial ! techniques. It is not turning to America for ideas.
The most populous nation in the world has turned straight away, temporarily at least, from America toward Russia.
The people of India, that great question mark of Asia, propose to build their new industry but not their new national life on the American model, as their government has politely but firmly indicated.
The people of Europe are not reshaping their continental economy as the Americans hoped, as Paul Hoffman, the administrator of Marshall Plan aid, demands.
Does anyone seriously believe that Germany and Japan, occupied by American soldiers and bombarded by American propaganda, are eagerly absorbing American democracy, even when it is flavored with American money, American Coke and the sickly sugar of Hollywood?
The people of Britain have confirmed the Labor Party in office and if their vote does nöt%fully approve socialism it certainly does not approve’ privpte enterprise which we North Americans have tried to sell abroad. '
Since we are considering ideas, it is surely significant that three worldfamous thinkerB — Pandit Nehru in
India, Albert Einstein in America, and François Mauriac in France—have placed the United States and Russia in virtually the same low, materialistic and imperialistic category. This verdict is shallow, ignorant and cranky. It is full of ingratitude and calculated to do much mischief. But it indicates a trend of thought among thoughtful men which, however wrongheaded, cannot be igmored.
The North American technique but not the North American idea is conquering the world. The reason can now be glimpsed—North America has given its money and techniques to the world but it has not been able to give itself.
“Sharing,” With Reservations
The thing we can give the world is more valuable and infinitely more potent than money or techniques. The thing we have to give, the thing on which our civilization was built from the beginning, goes by many names and has many manifestations in our lives but essentially it is the supreme importance of the individual human creature in a society which places him above everything else. It is the recognition that we are all our brother’s keeper It is the acknowledgment of the common creaturehood and equal importance of all human kind. It is the acceptance of our daily debt to all other men, known and unknown. It is fhe belief that we can gain the whole world and lose our soul.
We cannot thrust this concept upon other people. We cannot sell it in bright packages like soap. We cannot hand it out like prizes in a quiz program. We can only live it and then share its fruits with those who find our life worth imitating. It is right here that we have failed. Whatever individuals may have done, as a people in North America, as a system, we haven’t shared anything with anybody.
This statement will be passionately denied by every economist in Washington and Ottawa. With mountains of statistics, with blizzards of graphs and diagrams, with all their little paper worlds carried around like dolls in their brief cases, the American experts will prove that the United States has given away more goods than any nntion in history, and the Canadian experts will then proceed to prove that Canada, in proportion, has given still more.
They will prove finally, by undeniable figures, that after we have used all the goods we desire for ourselves we have only so many left over to give away. Thereby, uite unwittingly, they will prove the very contention advanced here. They will prove that we have always limited our giving to an amount which would not imperil for a moment our own standard of living. Indeed, if they are candid, they will agree that we have often used foreign gifts as a means of unloading unmanageable surpluses abroad and, by keeping our economy in precarious balance, have maintained our living standard at an all-time peak. This, we imagine, will encourage imitation abroad, whereas (men being only human, especially when they are poor) it only encourages envy, suspicion and resentment.
In short, we have given only to the point of convenience, only to the limit fixed by pure economic calculation. We have not shared.
The fallacy of such gifts was stated long ago by Lowell, an American poet: "The gift without the giver is bare.” Emerson added: ‘‘The only gift is a
portion of thyself ” At our own McGill University Rudyard Kipling put it even better When, he said, you find a man who is not interested in accumulating wealth “he will presently demon-
strate to you that money dominates everybody except the man who does not want money as soon as it comes to a direct issue between you his little finger will be thicker than your loins. You will go in fear of him; he will not go in fear of you. You will do what he wants; he will not do what you want. You will find that you have no weapon in your armory with which you can attack him; no argument with which you can appeal to him. Whatever you gain, he will gain more.”
The little finger of the forces now loose in the world is thicker than the loins of all our material wealth. Hence we go in fear with no final weapon in our armory except H bombs, which we dare not go without and dare not
Those forces cannot be bought with money nor compelled by force. Their support can only be acquired by our fitness to receive it. There is no other way.
They will be deserved and acquired only if the desperate and undecided peoples believe in us. They will never believe in us so long as they know that we are sacrificing nothing, giving nothing that upsets our economic calculations, doing nothing that threatens our living standards, sharing nothing that hurts.
Though they may be poor, illiterate and barbarous they will know by sure instinct that we do not believe in the idea that we are preaching, the faith we proclaim. They will know that the coin we offer is counterfeit.
Military power we must have so long as Russia arms against us, much more than we have now, but it will not protect us if the free world, our essential ally, does not trust our ultimate motives.
Therein lies the key to all the teeming confusions of Washington today, confusions not so obvious but deeper far, because they are confusions of the spirit and the conscience, than the outward confusions of the New Deal and of the war combined.
The sovereign question is not foreign policy, not economic policy, not budgets, politics or personalities. It is much simpler than that. It is whether we in North America have surrendered our faith in the divinity of man in a purposeful and ordered universe and quietly accepted the opposite view of our enemies.
The Tide Will Rise Again
This concerns ideas only but it is no abstract question for Sunday pulpits. It is the most practical of all questions in our daily business and in the cold war.
It is practical because our kind of society has never been controlled and never can be controlled by anything but an idea. If it is ever controlled by mere force it will not be our kind of society any longer. We shall then have lost the cold war by total surrender.
Observing the low tide at Washington, the Russians think they have good reason for confidence. They see only the flotsam and jetsam, the queer creatures on the sand. Let them look deeper into the substance of America. Let them remember the overwhelming energies of this continent five years ago when it knew it was at war. Let them imagine, if they can, how those energies will surge up again if the nature of the present struggle is fully grasped. Let them look back on American history and note how the tide has always fallen only to rise again.
There is and has always been in this people a vast, latent and frustrated pool of good will, of understanding, of willingness to sacrifice, of faith in their own spiritual origins. They are groping
for an answer to questions never foreseen and still only half seen. They will find the answer, if it is found, within themselves.
That ultimate discovery is no more than a hope yet. You can document and map the losses of the cold war. You cannot document the prospects of victory because it must be won primarily by intangibles. You cannot map men’s minds. Yet there are a few vague portents of ultimate victory.
For under its shiny chromium surface the United States for the first time is unsure of itself. Many times these great people have asked themselves what has gone wrong with their economy or their politics. Now they ask themselves what has gone wrong with their inner life.
At first this unsureness is bound to appear to foreigners as weakness, and it is on this appearance that Russia bases its current strategy. The same appearance of weakness fooled King George III and the men who thought that they could smash the Union in Lincoln’s time.
In those two crises the weakness of the opening debate turned into the strength of a people united not by force but by agreement. The third crisis produces the same preliminary symptoms. In the motion picture of their history this is where the American people came in.
The Dervish Dance of Politics
The third crisis, though it appears new, is really the same crisis, met and mastered twice before. In the first test the American people “brought forth a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In the second they thought they had saved that conception and that proposition for all time. They were wrong. In the third crisis, which now rushes toward the point of no return, the American people begin to perceive, dimly as yet, that everything America has achieved, everything it has owned and been must be forfeited if it fails to project not its physical power (a relatively simple business) but the power of its original idea to other peoples, whose support it needs for survival. Still more dimly they begin to perceive that the idea cannot be extended by compulsion.
David E. Lillienthal, the distinguished former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, put it this way: “Our security rests not on material things at all but on the spirit of the people. We are a people with a faith in reason, and when we lose that faith and substitute for it faith in weapons we become weak and are lost, even with our superatomic weapons.”
Don’t be deceived by the gaudy exterior of Washington, the dervish dance of politics, the synthetic smile of the President. This, the third installment of the recurring crisis, is the supreme crisis of American history. Since only America at the moment can lead and safeguard other free peoples, it is the largest crisis so far in the history of human freedom.
Dean Acheson and the men around him know that, willy-nilly, the free world is in America’s keeping, that all America’s labors, perhaps all the labors of men through 5,000 years, will be blown into atomic dust or weakly surrendered if that crisis is not met.
Acheson and his larger objectives are momentarily beached by the low tide. This is only a hope, which neither Acheson nor anyone else can support with concrete evidence, but after the events of this spring we may be able to look back and see that the tide, even now, had begun to change quietly m the night. ★