“Editorial Notes,” by John. C. Bennett
April 28, 1947
The “new foreign policy״ of the United States has created divisions of opinion in America that do not fully correspond with earlier tendencies of thought concerning foreign policy. We have asked three of our sponsors, two of them members of the editorial board, to write brief articles on this controversial question. It is striking that these articles represent three quite different ways of approaching the problem and three quite different conclusions, though two of the writers say “yes” rather than “no” to the President’s policy in Greece and Turkey.
It is to be hoped that such clear and succinct statements will help to clarify the minds of American Christians on this difficult problem. We will welcome the opinions of our readers and hope to publish in some future issue a number of brief comments.
“America’s New Foreign Policy: A Symposium”
April 28, 1947
Francis P. Miller
The opinion of any American about his country’s foreign policy naturally depends upon what kind of a world he thinks we are living in, and what he believes the role of the United States should be in that world.
In spite of the infinite complexity of the forces now operating in the world, the human drama is not as obscure or as meaningless as might appear on the surface. Out of the wars of the past third of a century two new centers of world power have emerged—Washington and Moscow. These two cities not only represent power, they also symbolize different views of the nature of man and of the relative importance of man and the state. In spite of all the qualifying statements and reservations that can be suggested, and in spite of the enormous increase in the powers and functions of the American government in recent years, the fact remains that in the United States we believe that the state is made for man, and party members in the USSR believe that man is made for the state.
In my opinion the ultimate test of the value of any human society is the view of the nature of man that is held and is operative in that society. Whatever our shortcomings may be, and they are many and grievous, we Americans have inherited a view of man which has come down to us from the Mediterranean civilization through the mediaeval civilization of Western Europe, and this view of man has been more profoundly influenced by the Christian doctrine of the nature of man than that held by any other society. It is the most precious element in our national life. It is the essence of the system we have been trying slowly, haltingly and painfully, to work out on this continent during the past two centuries.
Make no mistake about it, the Russian view of man is similarly the essence of the system being worked out in the USSR. We deceive ourselves if we give facile explanations of the tensions between the United States and the USSR in terms of clashing economic or social systems. The basic cause of tension is not economic or social, it is anthropic.
Between the American view of man and the current Russian view of man, no compromise is possible or desirable. Consequently there can be no real cooperation between the U.S. and USSR (as at present constituted). “Cooperation” means working together to a common end. It means a joint operation for common purposes. Unless we accept the Russian view of the nature of man, we cannot work with the USSR to a common end for human society. The best that can be hoped for is that we can establish and maintain an equilibrium of power in the United Nations while using our resources of every kind to strengthen weak nations, which otherwise might succumb to the expanding Russian system, trusting that with the passage of time the USSR may change within, and that its dream of a world communist state may fade.
It is for the above reasons that I favor President Truman’s program of aid to Greece and Turkey, while fully recognizing the shortcomings of those governments.
I do not go along with the current fad of regarding President Truman’s Doctrine as proposing a radical change in our relations with the rest of the world. There was a radical break with traditional policy, but it occurred thirty years ago when we decided to fight a European nation on European soil. Since then the inevitable and inescapable pressure of events has forced us to assume more and more responsibility for the affairs of the world. The President’s proposal is simply one more step along a road which the United States has been travelling for an entire generation. We have become something more than a world power. We are now, in a certain sense, the trustees of Western civilization.
My only quarrel with the program of aid to Greece and Turkey is that it has not been developed as part of an over-all policy for Europe. I do not mean a financial policy or an aid policy, but an over-all political policy. One of the few great opportunities of history is about to be missed—the opportunity to federate Western Europe, not against anybody, but for its own good. It was within the power of American statesmen to bring this about. Such a proposal would have been in keeping with our genius and with our great political tradition. But no one had the Madison touch or the Lincoln touch. There was no one to speak for the people of Western Europe or to take the lead. Greatness of vision and of courage was lacking. Little men are making our policy, and it is surprising that policy is as good as it is.
Francis Pickens Miller (1895 – 1978) was a politician who supported civil rights, represented Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1938–42, and opposed the Byrd Organization (a state political machine that supported racial segregation and opposed integration with “massive resistance”). From 1942–45 Miller was an intelligence officer with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). As a colonel, he served on the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and became the US representative on the Tripartite Control Committee for Operation Sussex. In 1949 he lost to John S. Battle in the Democratic primary for Virginia governor, and in 1952 he lost to Harry F. Byrd Sr. in the primary for US senator. In addition to serving on the editorial board of Christianity and Crisis, he was a contributor to Presbyterian Life and wrote multiple books.
Justin Wroe Nixon
The most important new development in foreign policy is President Truman’s proposal for aid to Greece and Turkey. The most important question concerning that proposal is whether it can be fitted into a positive program for establishing peace, particularly in Europe and the Middle East. The first thing we have to do, accordingly, is to ask what the various items of such a program may be. To the writer they involve the following:
1. Resistance to any power that in the interim stage of peacemaking tries to take advantage of the general confusion, and the weakness of specific nations, to extend its own territory, or to achieve permanent control over other peoples. The most serious threat to peace right now, as seen from this angle of vision, comes, to use Under-Secretary Acheson’s phrase, from the “aggressive and expanding” policy of Soviet Russia. The motives for Russia’s policy are probably many. Fear of America because of our wealth, our resources, our technical efficiency and our armaments (including the atomic bomb); the need of a foreign enemy to secure maximum unity at home; the communist belief that an Armageddon between the capitalist and the communist nations is ultimately inevitable; the desire to pick up as many strategic positions as possible before Armageddon comes—these are some of the motives for that policy.
What should the other nations do to counteract the effects of the Russian policy? Obviously they should use the facilities and the resources of the United Nations in every way possible. They should invite its counsel, its criticism, its initiative and its cooperation. They should invest it sooner or later with the requisite power to prevent the aggression of the strong against the weak. But if the experience of the last two decades means anything, it means that waiting until an act of aggression becomes a fait accompli does not fit into a program for peace. If the United Nations is unable to act promptly and effectively we cannot say that unilateral efforts by this nation to “shore up” the economies and defenses of weak peoples are unnecessary. Such efforts in the situation confronting us in Greece and Turkey may help to modify the aggressive aspects of Russian policy before it is too late.
2. The next item in a positive program for European peace (and this is fundamental also to peace in the Middle East) is the economic rehabilitation of the states outside the Russian orbit, particularly those of Western and Central Europe. The continuance of widespread misery in this area will stimulate the growth of communism and result in governments that will lead their peoples to accept a measure of Russian control. With the domination by Russia of the power centers of Europe, located mainly in its western and central portions, peace between Russia and ourselves would be difficult.
The process of economic rehabilitation will certainly be affected by the political settlements made by the great powers. But the economic future of the territory under discussion will be determined largely by the economic policies of our own country. It will take a great deal of money to put the peoples in this territory on their feet and most of it will have to come from us. The goods they produce in their rebuilt factories will compete in foreign markets with our own, and enter our domestic market as payments on our loans. Nor may we forget that the countries, that will use our funds to develop competition with us abroad and on our own soil, will have socialist governments, for in Europe some form of socialism is the only practicable alternative to communism. Will the American citizen deny himself tax reductions in order to make these foreign lands safe for socialism? The Marxists of the Kremlin cannot believe it any more than The Chicago Tribune.
But these skeptics may be wrong. The prospect of an atomic war is frightening. Moreover, our capacity to produce is normally much greater than our capacity to consume, and many Americans may prefer to underwrite a New Deal in Europe as an outlet for our surplus, than to have another New Deal thrust upon them at home as the result of a depression.
3. If the Russians see that aggression on their part will meet resistance and if communism in Europe outside the Russian orbit is checked by growing prosperity, then the decks will be cleared for a mighty effort on our part to achieve an over-all understanding with Russia. This will probably involve sharing the oil resources of the Middle East with Russia; agreeing on international control of strategic waterways; a sympathetic attitude on our part toward Russian loans; and increased collaboration with Russia in the work of all the agencies under the United Nations.
If peace in Europe and the Middle East is to be won by a program along these lines, then aid to Greece and Turkey can be fitted into such a program. The President’s proposal is a warning to Russia that resistance to her policy of expansion will be forthcoming. It suggests also that we are aware of the bearing of economic chaos on high politics. The Vandenberg amendment safeguards the interests and prestige of the United Nations. The main requirement is that we shall follow through on a positive program until we can achieve an over-all understanding with Russia, and develop the United Nations into an organization that can carry the responsibilities we are now attempting to discharge unilaterally.
Justin Wroe Nixon (1886 – 1959) was a professor of systematic theology at The Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and the author of An Emerging Christian Faith (1930), The Moral Crisis in Christianity (1931), and Man’s New Hope: A Religious Approach to Foreign Aid (1957).
Edward L. Parsons
If, as the Charter of UNESCO declares, “wars are made in men’s minds,” there would seem to be some very good reasons (let us put it mildly) for the fear that our new policy moves toward war rather than toward peace. No one need question the President’s sincerity nor that of his advisers. They are not war-mongers. They want peace. They want to build up the United Nations. They believe, or believe that they believe, that permanent peace can be built only through a law-governed world. Nor on the other hand do most of those who are critical of the President’s policy, believing that a peaceful world can be achieved only through good will, cooperation and gradual extension of the power of law, question the role which force must play in the affairs of men.
The real question before the American people is, therefore, whether what the President proposed, and the way he proposed to do it, are necessary for the peace of the world and the security of the United States. It seems a strange way to further peace by turning men’s minds to war. Yet that is clearly what he has done. He has moved from good will to fear, from cooperation to challenge, from the orderly processes of law to economic and military force. Here are the grounds for that statement:
1. War talk has increased immensely in our own country. He has touched the button which lets loose the bitternesses and hatreds and littlenesses of countless people. He has encouraged Red-baiters and the consistent provokers of anti-Russian sentiment (some of them, alas, claiming to be Christian). He has further added to the emotional tension of the foreign policy proposals by initiating a communist “witch-hunt,” well timed whether he meant it or not, to increase fear of Russia. He has successfully divided the liberal forces and increased the confusion of the conscientious citizen who wants peace and law and good-will among the nations. Nor can it be questioned that he has moved one step further along in the process of giving to the armed forces a preponderant influence in shaping policy; and that means encouraging the ordinary American citizen to think in terms of power, not of service, of the quick decisions of force rather than of the slow processes of persuasion and good will.
2. But what of the United Nations, the one available instrument of peace, the one prophecy of a law-governed world? That side of the picture is equally disturbing. No doubt the President did not mean it; but he certainly has succeeded in lowering the prestige of that body. He might have put the matter as plausibly as did Senator Austin in his explanatory address to the Security Council. He might have, but he did not. He ignored the investigation of the Greek border troubles, or perhaps prejudged its conclusions. He ignored the fact that aggression against Turkey is precisely a matter for the Security Council. Trygve Lie [a Norwegian politician and the secretary-general of the UN from 1946 to 1952] courteously, and of course without using names, rebuked him. Senator Austin’s speech and Senator Vandenberg’s later proposal, indicate very clearly that responsible supporters of the UN recognize what has happened. Instead of helping the world to get rid of its ancient mindset that war is necessary and normal, the new policy says frankly that the UN is a good thing, but—.
3. We cannot know exactly what the Russian Government thinks of the matter, but it is easy to guess from what the Russian press has said—that they see in it evidence of what is, after all, the most tragic feature of the whole affair, viz: the definite division of the one world into two worlds. That carries with it the assumption that firmness with Russia means practical hostility, and that (apparently) the only way the two nations can get along is by threat of force. Russia has given us reasons for thinking that such has been her own view from the start; but we don’t know that that is true, and for us to accept it is to repudiate the fundamental principle of that democracy which we profess to represent, that trust and patience and mutual understanding are the basis of a stable social order.
These facts which indicate that the new policy has turned men’s minds toward war rather than toward peace cannot be denied. We know Greece needs help. We know the Greek government is reactionary, ruthless and corrupt. Food is necessary. Money for reconstruction is necessary and its use needs to be carefully supervised. But no one has shown any evidence that if the Greeks are fed and their economic life rehabilitated they are going to turn communist. As to the border troubles action should certainly wait until the UN Commission reports. We cannot promote democracy by the methods of communism. And for Turkey? To build up her army is to say, in so many words, we don’t believe in the UN. It is childish to suppose that Russia is going to move down on the Dardanelles, risking war against the Western world. It is equally childish to suppose that if she did, a Turkish army could successfully defend it. Such aggression is the business of the Security Council and the whole world of nations.
No, there does not seem to be any necessity for the new policy in order to help Greece or to stay communism. It seems (one tries to be objective and unemotional) to make a disquieting picture only the more disquieting. We think back over the imperialisms of the past, the evidences of the hand of God upon history and the doom that has fallen upon nations which grow “drunk with sight of power.” We know that war now means destruction such as has never been seen before. We know that God’s way, Christ’s way, is the way of patience, of good will, of cooperation and of courage. We know that that is the way democracy professes to act. We know that that being God’s way, in the end, no other way works.
Edward L. Parsons (1868 – 1960) was the third bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California and a member of Christianity and Crisis’ editorial board. He later joined the Northern California American Civil Liberties Union board of directors, serving as chairman from 1941 to 1956 and remaining on the board for the rest of his life.