Fair-Weather Friends—and Foes

BLAIR FRASER March 1 1951

Fair-Weather Friends—and Foes

BLAIR FRASER March 1 1951

Fair-Weather Friends—and Foes



IN ONE WAY the split in the Western camp is not as wide as it looks. In other ways it’s even wider. Unfortunately the latter may prove the more serious.

There was no serious disagreement, for instance, about the guilt of Red China in Korea. The long delay, the reluctance of many nations to back the U. S. resolution of condemnation, did not spring from any dispute about Chinese actions. The argument was not over the fact of Chinese aggression, but over the best way of dealing with it.

That sounds encouraging a mere difference about method. But the difference about method revealed, and accentuated, a graver difference. Western allies are profoundly divided on the nature, strategy and tactics of the conflict in which we are engaged, until the Western alliance itself is in jeopardy. Each faction suspects the other of an unadmitted change in basic policy.

Washington is suspected of having lost hope and even desire for a peaceful settlement in the Far East. Privately, delegates of other Western countries will tell you: “We think

the Americans have decided they must destroy the Communist Government of China. We think they’re going to give full support to Chiang Kai-shek and build up a real war in Asia.”

Americans deny this. They want no more, they say, than a moral condemnation of China and an economic blockade: “Cut off military

supplies to the enemy and cut them at the source.”

That sounds reasonable enough. Why should so-called United Nations go on providing metals and rubber and gasoline to help Chinese troops kill United Nations soldiers? However, there is real disquiet among some allied countries lest the Ameri-

cans go farther than that. It has happened before.

Last fall, when General MacArthur reached the 38th parallel, U. S. delegates assured their friends, “Don’t worry, we’re not going up to the border. We’re going up just a few miles, just far enough to establish a line that can be held.”

They meant it. They were perfectly sincere. Unhappily, these oral assurances were not binding on General MacArthur; he kept on going. When the same U. S. delegates come back today and begin “Don’t worry,” they raise a certain apprehension.

Not without reason, either. When the Chinese sent their reply to the UN cease-fire proposal Secretary of State Dean Acheson rejected it without even having ^een the full text. It seemed to other nations that the Americans had decided in advance the Chinese would refuse to negotiate, and that Acheson would have been dismayed by any other answer.

When Prime Minister St. Laurent asked Prime Minister Nehru of India to get some clarification of the Chinese reply U. S. officials were violently indignant. Actually there was nothing either improper or surreptitious about it—since India is the only non-Soviet nation with an ambassador in Peki ’g, India ík the only channel of communication with China. But Americans thought Canada had double-crossed them. It took a long message from L. B. Pearson, Minister of External Affairs, to convince the State Department that nobody was trying to stab Washington in the back.

And even when the U. S. Government is convinced there remain the American Congress and people. Public opinion is more powerful in the United States than anywhere in the world, and public opinion is in full cry Continued on page 53

Backstage at Lake Success

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for drastic action. This mood is no longer limited to Senator Joe McCarthy and other converts of the Nationalist China lobby. Even the sanest Americans are angry and bewildered at having been let down, as they put it, by “fair-weather friends.”

I had lunch in New York the other day with two old and close friends. Both had spent years in Canada. Both are level-headed men with a high emotional boiling-point. They asked with one voice: “How do you explain the half-hearted line Canada is taking?”

I spent an hour trying, hut I don’t think I got very far. They couldn’t see why anyone would hesitate to vote Red China an aggressor.

“What does a country have to do to prove itself unfriendly?” they asked. “The Chinese are shooting at us. Doesn’t that indicate they are something less than pals?”

* * *

To a Canadian, these are embarrassing questions. After all, we were in the front row of the cheering section when, last June 27, the United States stepped in to block North Korean aggression. We happily applauded the Security Council’s vote of approval. When we were asked to supply troops we had a previous engagement—six weeks went by before we even tried to recruit any. We can hardly blame Americans, now, for thinking that faint hearts have become even fainter among their so-called allies.

Nevertheless, the issue is not as simple as that, not in the eyes of America’s Western allies, anyway. It isn’t a matter of peace at any price, but of struggle on feasible terms.

“People talk a lot about Munich,” one delegate said. “I think the best analogy for today is not Munich in 1938, but Finland in 1939-40.

“Finland was attacked by Russia

—a clear case of aggression. Some Allied governments wanted to rush to Finland’s aid. They got a force together, they issued winter uniforms. France actually sent a brigade as far as Norway. They asked Sweden to let them move troops across Swedish territory, and luckily the Swedes refused. The expedition petered out.

“I remember the arguments at the time. Some people said ‘Don’t do it; you’ll drive Russia into the German camp.’ The answer was always the same: ‘Don’t be naïve; Russia is in the German camp.’ That was only five months before Hitler invaded the Soviet Union.”

He didn’t pretend that the analogy between Finland and Red China is precise. Even Nehru of India, staunchest of all believers in an eventual split between Moscow and Peking, admits that “if war came tomorrow China would be on Russia’s side.” But hope does persist in many countries, including Canada, that the split will come in time. If the present crisis could be resolved, and we go back to cold war for a few years, the basic conflicts of interest between China and Russia might become apparent even to a Communist Chinese.

Meanwhile, we have a stronger enemy on the other side of the globe. If we get involved in war with China, which is no threat outside her own limited orbit, we leave ourselves weaker in face of the real foe, Russia. To most Canadian officials this is mere realism. That’s why they think it’s the Americans, rather than the British and other “go slow” counselors, who “don’t realize there’s a war on.” There’s a war on, all right, but it’s wider than some people think, they say.

* * *

Thus the argument of expediency. What about basic principles? What about the concept of collective security, to which we are all plighted?

This is where the Americans suspect us of a change in policy, and they too have good reason. There has certainly

been a change in thinking under the grim stress of the past six months.

It hasn’t been easy, and it’s by no means unanimous. There has been deep heart-searching on all sides.

I listened to Sir Carl Berendsen, the respected delegate from New Zealand, deliver a very odd speech. Half of it was impassioned and pungent oratory, as he called for immediate condemnation of the Chinese as flagrant aggressors. The other half was lame; he moved an amendment to make it doubly sure that having declared the Chinese aggressors the UN would do nothing much about it.

“He’s giving two speeches,” a veteran observer explained. “The first one is Carl Berendsen speaking—he feels very strongly on the principle of the thing. Right’s right and wrong’s wrong, he says; if we’re forced out of Korea, all right, but let’s have no doubt about where we stand or whether we’re coming back. It’s like Crete, he says; we had to get out, but we came back. He lost a boy in Crete, so he’s paid the full price for that opinion.

“But he has instructions from his government, evidently, and his government goes along with Britain. They don’t want a war with China at any price. So he has to move this amendment, poor man.”

Canadians had plenty of heartsearching to do, too. Over the years Canadian delegates have probably done as much talking about collective security as anyone in the world. But lately the Canadian Government has been forced into a change of mind, at least for the time being.

As one minister put it, “You can’t afford collective security in a twopower world. You simply cannot enforce peace and punish aggression in every remote corner of the globe when you have a real powerful enemy facing you across a vital frontier.”

* * *

This is not a betrayal of the United Nations. As the U. S. Government itself pointed out not long ago, in an official publication called “Our Foreign Policy,” the United Nations was never designed to deal with aggression by a major power.

Neither is it a return to isolationism. No member of the present Government would have Canada withdraw within her own borders and let the rest of the world go hang. No member of the Government would have Canada shirk her proper share, indeed her utmost effort, in defense of freedom. Rather, the impulse is to conserve our strength for the vital areas and not be drawn by Russian feints into concentrations at the wrong points.

We have no strength to spare in 1951. Outside Korea the U. S. has three trained divisions—one at home, two in Europe. All the rest are green recruits in need of at least a year’s training. European allies among them have seven or eight more. Russia has 175, and we are even worse outnumbered in the air.

This means terrible danger. Some responsible observers think that already the chances of peace through 1951 are no better than 50-50. War in China might turn the odds definitely against it, for Russia is hound by treaty to come to China’s aid in the event of attack.

Naturally the treaty wouldn’t mean anything if the Kremlin preferred to ignore it, but the Kremlin might not. Even in Russia there is such a thing as public opinion. Even in Russia people can be got to fight more easily and with better heart, with a plausible pretext. If the Kremlin really wants a war this spring, China might come in very handy. ★