Articles

THE SECRET NIGHTMARE OF EUROPE

LIONEL SHAPIRO January 1 1953
Articles

THE SECRET NIGHTMARE OF EUROPE

LIONEL SHAPIRO January 1 1953

THE SECRET NIGHTMARE OF EUROPE

Articles

LIONEL SHAPIRO

LONDON

ACROSS the face of Western Europe, from Oslo to Lisbon, a startling piece of diplomatic intelligence is widely known, widely feared and deeply pondered. But it is never uttered.

It is often hinted at. Sometimes a statesman experiencing a burst of courage will approach it in high-sounding phrases as did Canada’s Lester B. Pearson in his acceptance speech as president of the UN General Assembly: “How can national self-expression, a dynamic and essential force in every part of the world, be realized without setting in motion tensions which would endanger the whole structure of international co-operation?”

It is even passed around like the hidden ball in football, as when a diplomat was heard to exclaim privately: “If only some great and trusted figure would come out with it fair and square! It would be like a rush of fresh air into our stale NATO council chambers. Of course he would have to resign from public service immediately, but what a magnificent way to go out!”

Often this unspeakable thing is spoken only in sign language, as on an occasion a few days ago when a Western ambassador, musing in the cosy intimacy of his own fireside, said, “Well, to tell you the truth, a lot of people here are almost as scared that world war will somehow be precipitated by those'people (at this point he jerked a well-polished shoe in one direction) as by those people (and he jerked his other well-polished shoe in the opposite direction).” What is this dreadful secret which scares the strined Dants of! the brainiest men in Europe?

It is simply this: The Western allies live in fear that the Americans, with the noblest intentions and

Continued on page 43

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE UNITED STATES, IN ITS DETERMINATION TO PREVENT SOVIET AGGRESSION, COULD BLUNDER INTO STARTING A WORLD WAR ITSELF? THIS UNSPOKEN QUESTION, SAYS MACLEAN'S EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT, HAUNTS MILLIONS OF ANTICOMMUNISTS TO WHOM THE PENTAGON IS PART BASTION AND PART POWDER KEG

The Secret Nightmare of Europe

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 5

also the least experienced and least disciplined politico-military force of any modern world power, may unwittingly set in motion events which would precipitate a world war neither they nor the rest of us nor even (one begins to presume) the Russians intend or desire.

This then is the dreadful secret which, after all, is neither dreadful nor secret.

The Americans know it. That extraordinarily prescient observer, Anne O’Hare McCormick, who is as close to the State Department as any American journalist can possibly be, wrote in the New York Times on Nov. 15: “ ‘Anti-Americanism’ is something new in our experience. The hate campaign of the Soviet Union . . . does not bother us too much ... hut the appearance of anti-American feeling in free countries, among our friends and allies, is as bewildering as it is exasperating to the ordinary citizen of the United States . . . Reports from all sides that we are feared and distrusted, that the new Administration is expected to he either isolationist or warlike, are all the more disturbing because they seem to reflect popular opinion . . .”

The man in the street knows it. The other day, traveling from Bristol to London, I was joined in a first-class carriage by that unusual species, a talkative Englishman. He was a ruddy, obviously prosperous motorcycle dealer in Bath on his way to attend London’s annual Motorcycle Salon, and he talked interminably of the success of the racing team he had sponsored at the international meet in Gothenburg, Sweden. Then he said, “Curious thing I found. In Gothenburg they think exactly as we do in Bath. In Bath, you know, we have the Admiralty, thirty thousand of the blokes, and some of them are my customers, including a couple of admirals. I get to talk to these chaps pretty often. They don’t think the bolshies are going to start anything, but the Yanks — that’s something else again. They may get jolly well fed up with the cold war thing, and up goes the balloon. Now that’s not only in Gothenburg and in Bath. Take my father-in-law. He lives up in Leeds . . .”

The Russians know it. They know it so well that they are setting up a brand-new arsenal of political and propaganda weapons to exploit this knowledge. Last October, to almost universal surprise, Stalin promulgated Moscow’s first new conception of grand

strategy in more than twenty years. This superseded the previously held theory that final Communist triumph would come through economic collapse of the West and/or a last convulsive war between the capitalist states and the “peoples’ republics.” Stalin’s new strategy embraces two principal notions: (1) that war between the

Soviets and the West is unlikely, and (2) that capitalist collapse will come through a great conflict between the Western allies and America.

In short, Stalin’s strategy is to feed and encourage this Dreadful Secret in the hope that it will eventually shatter the Western coalition of free nations. Then Moscow will have Europe at its mercy—and eventually the world.

Nothing could serve Stalin’s purposes better than a continuation of this whispering and gesturing campaign by ever-growing masses of the Western peoples and their diplomats. He would prefer it to develop until it becomes a monster growing under the cloak of official silence. The time has come, in my view, to let the Dreadful Secret out of the bag. It will cavort troublesomely, to be sure, for a little while; then it will die, as it must, because it feeds only on silence and timidity among the allies.

Moreover, it is peculiarly Canada’s function to release the secret. We Canadians know and like the United States and its people better than any other nation on earth. We don’t have to he convinced of their abhorrence of war; we know it to be at least the equal of ours. Nor do Americans have to be convinced about us. The deepestdyed midwestern isolationist doesn’t endow Canada with a cloak and dagger as he might Perfidious Albion or Atheistic France. We have no need to worry about the temporary ire of a few Congressmen whose combined votes might cut down the size of a foreignaid program. Nor are our leaders subject to the suspicion that they might he playing Stalin’s game; they settled Canada’s Communist spy problem before any other nation, promptly and permanently

If the job must be done, it is Canada’s duty to do it because no other nation can do it as easily, as harmlessly, as successfully. We might even find an area of agreement with Andrei Vishinsky, the Soviet Foreign Minister, on this point. He once said, “I always listen with great attention to the Canadian delegate, because he often says what others think but are afraid to say.”

Why is it that the United States is “feared and distrusted”—to use Mrs. McCormick’s phrase—among its friends and allies? In fairness to the distinguished lady’s context, her reply should be given. »She writes: “It is the inevitable hut as yet more or less superficial reaction of the poor against (lie rich, of overstrained economies against the strain of rearmament, of old and long - independent peoples against the nagging compulsions of dependence. In »some countries, moreover, opposition to American leadership or American policy is a convenient cloak for opposition to local governments . . . This is especially true of the Bevanites in England, the illassorted ‘neutralists’ in France, the »Socialists in Western Germany and, of course, of the Communists everywhere . . .”

The explanation is valid enough as far as it goes, hut l don’t think it goes far enough. It might explain an unfortunate but human resentment against the rich, powerful leader of the West, but it does not explain the much more serious problem of distrust and fear.

The U. S. .State Department’s obser-

vers, who are anxiously seeking the reasons for the terrifying notion that war might be precipitated by an American hand, are looking in the wrong direction. They should lower their sights, swing them around, and set them on Washington; specifically on the Pentagon, and especially on the checkrein which the White House and the Congress are supposed to hold on the mushrooming military establishment.

Every European diplomat with whom I have discussed this fearful notion that America might precipitate war sooner or later speaks the same two dreaded words: The Pentagon. Let it be_ remembered that these diplomats re not Communist dupes or illinformed, resentful people subject to Communist propaganda; they are the nen who are straining every effort to .inking the Western alliance under unerican leadership a strong, bright nd burnished reality.

ivBritain, these long weary months ’’ting and fruitless negotiation in bring wry memories of the nn days two years ago when Arthur had successfully stormed Inchon beaches and stood poised ‘1 triumphant on the 38th parallel, could have negotiated an armistice n, with the snap of a linger, on the \;e terms we are trying to wring om the Communists now. If there' an element of hindsight here, the British sadly point to the record of those autumn months which shows that the preponderant weight of British idvice was to hold MacArthur on the parallel and negotiate there and then, long before the disastrous involvement >f the Chinese.

But MacArthur could not be held, nd at least one of the reasons he would lot be held was that there was no ingle man or agency in Washington >ig_enough to overrule his recommenion. The subsequent events in the acArthur drama, especially the Presiient’s eggshell walking on Wake Island o meet this amazing chieftain, conoced Western Europe that there is a ighly dangerous element in this young aexperienced country which has sudnly become the most powerful miliy nation on earth.

Europe and Britain also have their litary heroes—their Montgomerys id Juins—who are temperamental martinets, but there is never any question in their minds or in the minds ;f the people that they are the absolute servants of civilian authority.

The closest British version of Mac^ •'thpr is Field-Marshal Montgomery. November, addressing a dinner íe Savoy Hotel, Montgomery ■£Uiked, “There was a time when Attlee would call me down to No. \xpowning Street and give me a ^Amg-off when he didn’t like something I said.”

The notion of small, colorless Mr. Attlee “ticking off” Montgomery who was then a field-marshal, a viscount, and Britain’s most famous war hero, omes normally to the British. Attlee lidn’t use kid gloves; he summoned ;he Field-Marshal to No. 10 and told him off. Small wonder, then, that Western Europe watched the MacArthur drama and set to pondering what is happening in the vital relationship between the White House and the personalities of the Pentagon.

It set to pondei'ing even more deeply when the MacArthur incident was followed by a series of outbursts by American military figures, including the Far East Airforce chief, General Emmett (Rosy) O’Donnell, who complained to the Press, in effect, that he couldn’t get on with his job because his hands were tied by the State Department.

These things may be in the American tradition of freely speaking the mind but they frighten Europeans, and as long as the State Department is seeking reasons for Europe’s fear and distrust, they must be set down.

Another prime example of the lack of discipline exercised over the Pentagon occurred last Oct. 8 when Minister President August Zinn, of Hesse, told his startled legislature an amazing story. He said that between one thousand and two thousand young Germans had heen recruited by the United States into a secret sabotage unit for use in the event of a Soviet invasion. The youths, said Zinn, were financed with American funds and trained in the handling of machineguns, grenades and knives. When the Americans discovered that the youths had also prepared a list of nonCommunist German democrats to be “liquidated” on a given signal, the organization was disbanded.

The U. S. High Commissioner listened incredulously to this story. Both he and the State Department started investigations, and three days later it was embarrassingly admitted that Zinn had spoken the truth, even less than the full truth. The amazing fact was that the youths had been recruited from among the Bund Deutscher Jugend, a neo-Nazi outfit.

Who did this? It was established that it was the work of the U. S. Counter Intelligence Agency and that it was done without the knowledge of the High Commissioner who represents the State Department.

To be sure, the whole project has

been abandoned and, one hopes but has not been told, that its instigators have been disciplined. But the very fact that it could happen, and did, sends shivers down the spines of Europeans who are sitting on the powder barrel.

Of lesser immediate importance, but dangerous over a long period, is the growing ill - will between American troops and the peoples of Britain and Western Europe, a problem which has just now begun to exercise the attention of leading American newspapers. Incidents involving phlegmatic Britons have recently been added to those which regularly cause anxiety among the volatile French.

Last October at busy London Airport a British engineer driving a tractor toward a recently arrived British passenger plane passed close to an American military transport which was parked near the hangars. According to the airport engineers, who almost went on strike over the incident, an American armed guard drew his pistol, made the engineer put his hands above his head and detained him nearly an hour. In the same month street rowdies in Manchester made a series of attacks on American servicemen and for four days the city was put out of bounds to American airmen stationed nearby.

These incidents are in themselves minor but they reflect a general spirit of distrust which flows from deeper and more ominous sources. The general attitude of even the bestbehaved American troops seems somehow to frighten Europeans into false and dangerous beliefs.

Here again the Pentagon has failed to reflect the spirit of the American government and people. A study of a long list of indoctrination pamphlets designed to instruct American troops on their behavior in Europe reveals that in no real sense is the American soldier told the basic reason for his presence in Europe. His behavior is patterned on the belief that he is there to defend Europeans. How different his attitude might be if he was given to realize that he is engaged in the defense of the United States—a matter which, in the Canadian case, is hammered home to Canadian troops right down the chain of command from brigadier to buck sergeant.

These examples of irresponsibility, mostly by the Pentagon, lead directly to the heart of the problem. The British and Western European peoples have few doubts of the nobility of the American purpose. A hundred and fifty years of shining leadership in the progress of democracy is not erased in a few months. Only a militant Communist will claim the American people are intent on war.

What frightens the European peoples is simply this: The fantastic growth of American military power in the last ten years has not been accompanied by a parallel growth in discipline by the commanders of this huge fighting establishment. An imbalance has developed between the elected authority of the people and the young eager officers who have been pushed up to posts of great responsibility faster than in any army in history. MacArthur has been shelved but scores of new generals are confirmed at every session of Congress. These men are stationed around the rim of an explosive world, often facing within hundreds of yards the potential enemy. These men come to their delicate posts with a real sense of the immense power of the American nation, with a violent loathing and contempt of the Soviet, and often suffering from the recently born military tradition that the civilian authority is vacillating, even treacherous, and certainly lacking in a dynamic sense of duty toward America. The body and heart of the American nation are sound, but who knows what trigger finger will set off a local incident which cannot be contained? Especially in 1954 when American power will hit its maximum.

The election of General Eisenhower as President has quickened the problem and, in a sense, has divided it. Many people think that this great personality wielding a strong hand in the White House will quickly correct the imbalance between the Pentagon and the people, and that the great fear will slowly be dissipated during 1953. Others think that the election of a military man, even one as compassionate of character as Eisenhower, will increase the imbalance if only by the bald fact that a general is in complete command of both military and civilian functions of the executive branch.

No matter how civilian - minded Eisenhower turns out to be, the basic solution, in the view of many European diplomats, lies in a truer and franker association of powers in the North Atlantic alliance, an association in which there is more equality of voices and much less silence, more open discussion and less secret brooding.

The key to a realization of this dream lies in exploding the fears of America’s European allies. This can he accomplished only by America itself. But first, somebody has got to tell America that the fear exists. On this question the NATO diplomats are looking pointedly at one another, but their eyes seem to be lingering slightly in Canada’s direction.