The present Indo-Chinese crisis again reminds the free world of something which it apparently strives desperately to forget—that the Communist drive to dominate the world is unrelenting, and not to be conjured out of existence. Once more our foreign policy has proved inadequate, indeed seems now to have deteriorated almost to the point of collapse. Sidney Hertzberg tries to analyze why this has happened, and points to the missing vital ingredient that must be supplied if Communism is to be defeated.
The frustration of Franco-American efforts in Indo-China has confirmed a suspicion growing for some time now that U.S. foreign policy simply isn’t working.
The realization is particularly provoking in view of the fact that there has been broad agreement on the basic elements of this policy among Americans who accept the inevitability and responsibility of our leadership in the world. This policy, under both Truman and Eisenhower, has been to build an anti-Communist alliance supported by military might, economic improvement, democratic propaganda, and the miscellaneous arts of diplomacy.
Even as to the specifics of the general policy there have been surprisingly few differences among the main body of its supporters. Some foreign-policy discussions have resounded across the country: the Great Debate over Yalta and China, the Bricker amendment, Dulles’s “new look.” These controversies sometimes clarified, sometimes obfuscated, sometimes revealed a mood. Invariably, they confused and worried our allies. But, for all their noise, they have left the main lines of our foreign policy intact.
Nor has there been any lack of energy in carrying out our policies. We have handed out more wealth than was spent on all the conquests in the history of man. We have done much to prevent world economic collapse. We have helped to rearm dozens of nations and we have access to military bases around the world. We are constantly winning voting contests in the United Nations. We have a network of alliances with almost all the countries in non-Communist Europe and with all those in Latin America. We are as one with Canada. We have military-aid pacts with Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea. We have Point Four agreements in the most exotic places. Indeed the archives of the State Department are overflowing with documentary evidence of the most intricate and far-flung diplomatic concert in history.
This should give us deep satisfaction. Despite the clamor and untidiness of our democratic system, we evolved what seemed a clear answer to an enormous threat. Nobody has come up with alternatives that have impressed us enough to make us turn from this policy. In short, we know what we want to do and we seem to be doing it—and in a cause whose justness seems to us ludicrously self-evident. Nevertheless we are frustrated and sick with a sense of doom.
The trouble is not merely that the Soviet threat stubbornly refuses to collapse. The solemn fact is that the free-world alliance, on which our entire strategy rests, is weaker today than it has ever been, despite all the signatures on the dotted lines.
The evidence of the alliance’s weakness can be seen all around us if we will lift our eyes from the documents. It is reported that we are well regarded in Turkey, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic. Almost everywhere else we are mistrusted. An effective alliance does not require that we as a people be liked by the people we are allied with. It does require a firm popular belief in the purposes of the alliance and in our integrity as the most powerful member of it. These conditions are lacking and their absence throws doubt on the value of all the treaties we have filed away in Washington.
The recent inter-American anti-Communist resolution adopted in Caracas was a mathematical triumph. It was “supported” by seventeen “nations” out of twenty. The assorted Latin American dictators, strong-arm men, and democrats who approved it did so, except for the Dominican representative, without enthusiasm. They then proceeded zestfully to problems of economic improvement, racial equality, and colonial rule; in none of these fields did U. S. spokesmen make a substantial contribution. Can we assume that the men who signed the formal anti-Communist commitment are willing or able to undertake effective measures to carry it out, or that the Communists themselves will be frightened off by it? What relation does this paper triumph have to Communist gains in Guatemala made by exploitation of our old record of imperialist intervention and of our resistance to the basic reforms for which the Communists take credit?
In deciding to arm Pakistan, we knew we would add a deep and abiding emotional flavor to Indian anti-Americanism. The most we could hope for was a counterbalancing advantage in Pakistan; we seem to have missed even this. We hastened the announcement of our military aid in the hope that it would help Prime Minister Mohammed Ali’s Moslem League in the elections in East Bengal, which is the more populous and more developed part of Pakistan. But the Moslem League was not simply repudiated in the elections; it was wiped out as a legal party. This result didn’t necessarily demonstrate that the Pakistanis are against American military aid. It did prove at least that their minds were on other things. The Pakistan pact is a painful illustration of our preoccupation with documents and our ineptitude with social forces.
Nor has the free world won the loyalty of Japan’s millions because Prime Minister Yoshida signed a mutual security pact with the United States. Rearmament is vastly unpopular in Japan. Wherever an alliance with the United States is entered into reluctantly, anti-Americanism grows as a political asset.
Our older security sector, in Europe, is stagnating. The European Defense Community, which we regard as the core of North Atlantic security, remains a hope. German rearmament, under any conditions, is losing support in England, our indispensable ally. European economic recovery, which we have decided no longer needs our aid, is still incomplete and its benefits remain undiffused among the people.
The Middle East is more than ever a caldron of hatred, degradation, and violence from which any commitment to the free world would be fatuous. In Africa, France continues to concoct a classical colonial explosion in the North, the Boers pursue a suicidal urge in the South, and in Central Africa British skill in dealing with nationalist passions is faltering.
The current disillusionment with our foreign policy could become useful if it led to a more realistic evaluation of collective military security. We have been so busy piling up military compacts that we have not, until fairly recently, given any sustained thought to how they would actually operate at the crucial moment. There seems to have been an over-simple assumption that, at an agreed signal, the free world would spring into perfectly coordinated action to crush the aggressor.
No precedent exists in history for this assumption. Nations faced with the decision of war or peace don’t necessarily follow previously drawn blueprints—national or international. They act, rather, on considerations of the moment, and through governments of the moment, with old treaties only one of the many guiding factors. This will certainly be true when nations know in advance that the price of war is unimaginable. Nor can we assume that the Soviets will obligingly present the kind of clear and final military challenge to the free world that would eliminate all hesitation.
The confusion revealed by the “new look” controversy gives our allies the right to ask the same question of us that we might ask of them. Here we are, both pilot and powerhouse of the grand alliance. Yet we are still asking ourselves: at what point and by whom is the order given to open fire—and what kind of fire do we set off?
We will not allow ourselves to be nibbled to death by small wars, says Vice President Nixon. What can he mean? If American soldiers who are already involved in Indo-China as “non-combatants” find themselves, by accident or design, shooting at Vietminh troops, and the Chinese Communists use this as an excuse to send more “volunteers” into battle, do we unleash our strategic air force? Do we do whatever we do by decision of the Commander-in-Chief? Do we do it after Congressional consideration? Is Eisenhower really prepared to call on the nation to launch the atomic Armageddon in answer to a Communist “nibble” in Indo-China, in Malaya, in Ladakh? And if he is, and the people approve, would we have the support of the United Nations, of our closer allies, even of the French, who, it says here in the program, are conducting the war in Indo-China? Would we have the support of the British who are responsible for Malaya, or of the Indians who are the defenders of Ladakh? It is in such trying, marginal ways that our military patience will be tested, not in dramatic challenges.
These are questions the administration will not, because it cannot, answer. Eventually, the promulgators of the “new look” themselves deflated it. Driven by questions at press conferences, Eisenhower said he could decide what to do only on the basis of the actual situation before him, while Dulles narrowed his new panacea to reliance on “deterrent” power. Truman and Acheson could agree fully.
In the end, the purely military aspects of the free-world alliance involve a certain fatalism. We must have enough military strength to make an all-out war deadly to Communist aggressors. So long as we have it, we assume they will not start such a war. If they do, our military policy will have failed; it is based on the assumption it will prevent war. We would presumably try to “win” the war. But we don’t let our minds dwell much on the results; we don’t even take our civil defense preparations seriously.
We must have this military security because we can only assume that its absence would invite our destruction. But its presence does not assure the checking of Communist expansion; it only provides the basis for survival. We have no right to assume that the Communists, now or ever, intend to carry out their designs by military methods that would risk total retaliation by us. But Communist military strength—merely by its existence, not use—is a powerful weapon because it imposes on us the burdens of matching strength. It also provides the basis for Communist conquest by other means. So must our capacity for military retaliation free us to meet the threat of such conquest by other means.
Perhaps, with the thermonuclear shot available to both sides, we have reached the ultimate in armament. We are presumably within sight of a comparatively inexpensive atomic device so powerful that no one would dare test it. With both sides capable of total destruction, the arms race would be over. Both sides could remain at ease on their atomic piles while the global struggle shifted to the non-military terrain.
In any case, there can be no doubt that we are now facing a period in which the Communists will emphasize non-military weapons. In spite of unfinished military business in Indo-China, we have already entered upon a partial détente.
Out of the speculation about Soviet purposes since Stalin’s death, only one thing seems clear: the Communists are encouraging a mood of relaxation. Basic aims have not changed. Moscow will give up nothing. But it will seek to “ease tension” by ordering its diplomats to smile instead of frown, by participating in conferences, by offering trade.
This development, which we must assume presages a Soviet effort to win by means other than overt aggression, is one we should welcome. Actually, it faces the free world with its gravest crisis.
Whatever effectiveness the free-world alliance has had has stemmed largely from the overt aggression of Communism and from the expectation of more to come. Physically expanding Communism alerted free people. The continuation of the threat justified the sacrifices necessary to support armament, and reduced some of the obstacles to unity.
With the onset of a détente, this spur to unity is withdrawn. So desperate are people for an end to their burdens, so anxious are they to believe the struggle is over, that they are likely to see a détente where none exists. Then it will become almost impossible for them to return to a posture of defense if and when the Communists resume the offensive.
Up to now, despite all the weaknesses already noted, it could be said that the free-world alliance had at least a negative unity. Peoples and statesmen may have committed themselves to the rigors of the anti-Communist alliance reluctantly. But they had to; there was no other way to survival. Despite dissension and suspicion, the alliance presumably would have acted effectively in the event of Soviet aggression. But a détente will be the signal for a general lowering of defenses—military, ideological, and emotional. And it removes the restraints on dissension within the non-Communist world.
What is likely to happen to the alliance once the discipline imposed by the immediate threat of Soviet aggression is relaxed? Some evidence is already in hand.
The most urgent crisis today is Indo-China. Let us trace certain consequences the détente has already realized from this crisis.
The keystone of the Atlantic arch, we have decided, is the European Defense Community. The key to the keystone is French approval of EDC, a matter that has been pending for two years. The Geneva conference aroused French hopes of peace in Indo-China. One reason the French want such a peace is that it would mean recalling from Indo-China enough French forces to balance the German forces envisaged by EDC. But, the French felt, approval of EDC before the Geneva conference might have ruffled Moscow and stiffened it against peace in Indo-China. Therefore EDC had to wait. The extraordinary assumption behind this seems to have been that the Communists could be jockeyed into agreeing to peace in Indo-China so that the French would be free to go ahead with EDC. The Communists, of course, have only to keep growling at EDC and unleashing new offensives in Indo-China in order to keep France on tenterhooks of expectation, while EDC expires.
This treadmill was already in operation at the Berlin conference. Bidault, though no great enthusiast for EDC, is committed to it. The only visible alternative to him as French foreign minister was a dedicated opponent of EDC. Therefore Bidault had to be kept in office. He could not have been kept in office after the Berlin conference unless he brought back some hope of peace in Indo-China. This he did in the form of the conference at Geneva. But the Geneva conference was the excuse for “delaying” EDC ratification, and so we were back where we started from.
The treadmill will no doubt remain in operation at Geneva. Bidault, the ostensibly indispensable man for EDC, has resisted any loosening of the French Union, of which the Indo-Chinese states are unwilling and unequal members. But, without an unconditional and irrevocable promise of full independence to the Indo-Chinese, which Bidault opposes, any settlement will invite ultimate Communist victory.
In this situation, the one sure loser, besides the Indo-Chinese, is the United States. EDC is a French invention. We accepted the war in Indo-China as a bitter responsibility despite French imperialist greed and stupidity. We have supported both EDC and the French in Indo-China in good faith. Now, the fact that we still take them seriously is held against us; by some strange neutralist alchemy, continued American pressure for EDC in the face of the bliss promised by a détente makes us the instigators of war in Europe.
We supported the French in Indo-China in the hope that defeat of the Communists would be swiftly followed by the departure of the French, thus eliminating both French and Communist imperialism. Today, the likeliest application of a détente in Indo-China is partition. And there is no evidence that the French can institute the kind of independent Indo-Chinese regimes which could successfully resist infiltration by the Communist Vietminh. At best, the perspective would be indefinite military control by the French in the south and by the Communists in the north. Thus Indo-China would be saddled, not with one kind of imperialism, but with two in conflict. Yet if we resist this solution, we will be the instigators of war in Asia; we—not the French, who have hobbled the struggle against Communist totalitarianism with their senseless colonialism—will bear the brunt of Asian imprecations against Western imperialism.
Nor should it be assumed that EDC, even if reluctantly adopted by the French and Italians, would automatically become an effective instrument of defense. At least in the beginning, the mere fact that their troops will be serving under the same command with the Germans will mean restless moments among the French. EDC can remain a piece of paper even after it is ratified. It can become something more only as a reflection of European willingness to unite, which has never been strong and will be weakened further by a détente.
But if adoption of EDC doesn’t guarantee positive gains, its defeat or indefinite postponement insures negative results. In every country in Europe, abandonment of EDC would be a triumph for Communists and nationalists, and a setback for those who have wanted, not only European military cooperation, but also the European political and economic community that has been the dream of progressive statesmen for decades. In France, abandonment of EDC would be a boon to those who are still intoxicated with the grandeur of France as an imperial power. In Germany it would not really gratify the Social Democrats. Though they made political capital out of opposition to EDC, its defeat would leave them rudderless, for they have no realistic alternative to EDC as a means to control German militarism yet induct Germany into the concert of European nations as an equal. Rather, it would strengthen German nationalists who want independent German rearmament.
These results are probable because the United States and European-minded Europeans have set so much store by EDC. Indeed it is possible that Moscow’s opposition to EDC springs less from fear of its military aspects than of its political and economic implications. Moscow’s tactic is to divide Europe. Up to now, Western Europe’s internal conflicts have hampered effective military unity even when the Soviet military threat was most obvious. The détente is nicely timed to bury EDC and cripple NATO. And Communist offers of trade, which is the economic aspect of the détente, will further delay economic integration.
In Japan, the détente would increase pressure for unrestrained trade with mainland China, and reduce further the already reluctant willingness to rearm.
Throughout South Asia, the overseas Chinese would fall under the complete domination of Peking, and their effectiveness as instruments of Communist penetration would be strengthened. Communist movements in these countries, with or without the overseas Chinese, would gain in prestige. Right now the non-Communist parties of this area are not merely neutralist in outlook, but anxious to make excuses for Peking and Moscow. The détente would give Asian Communists new influence and weaken the resistance of non-Communist parties to popular fronts. If the Communist homelands achieve respectability, how long can domestic Communists be kept at arm’s length? And how long before the highly disciplined Communist parties take over the popular fronts from the pulpy agglomerations which most non-Communist Asian parties are?
How long before popular fronts become irresistible in France and Italy, because of weariness with trying to find viable combinations of non-Communist parties as well as readiness to accept the most superficial evidence that the Communists have changed? How long before the Communists consolidate their control of government apparatus and mass organizations, long weakened by previous popular fronts, to the point where their divided opposition is helpless?
One of the main characteristics of neutralism is the notion that the Soviets are acting out of fear of the West, that Moscow may be naughty, misguided, and exasperating, but only because it is misunderstood, and frightened. We must be reassuring to Moscow. A détente encourages this delusion. The result would be a continued lowering of all our defenses in order to avoid frightening Moscow all over again.
The more sophisticated extension of this approach includes the notion that Moscow is only interested in filling the reactionary nooks and crannies of the non-Communist world by sporting ideological contests. If the Communists win, it proves only that they are the better team. This attitude abjures value judgments. It regards Communist tyranny as an acceptable alternative to democratic plodding. A détente would sanctify this amorality.
Throughout the world, the effect of a détente on the neutralist approach would be to vindicate it and to make a return to a posture of defense all the more difficult since the neutralists regard such a posture as inadvisable or positively evil in the first place.
But a détente would also have its effects on anti-Communists who still think international relations are governed by diplomats with attaché cases. What better time than a détente for a “general settlement” involving such narcotics as “non-aggression pacts” and Locarnos? There could be no harm in more non-aggression pacts (has anybody read the charter of the United Nations lately?) if we understood clearly that all such documents could be weapons of aggression in the hands of the Communists. Indeed it is not alone pacts, but merely the possibility of concluding them, that arouses a false sense of security.
The danger is deeper. Nobody has come up with a “general settlement” that is even remotely acceptable to Moscow which does not include some compromise that violates a moral principle. The Communists are not satisfied, and never have been, with quantitative concessions. They operate under the necessity of seeing their adversary, foreign or domestic, immolate himself. There is always some condition, apparently small and unimportant, that nevertheless involves the vacating of a principled position that is an integral part of the free world’s moral case against Communism. In renewed reaching for a general settlement—the “final” tempting diplomatic taradiddle of a détente—we may find ourselves ready to give up our moral case.
We would surely give it up in abandoning the anti-Communists behind the Iron Curtain. A general settlement would write their epitaph. We might relieve our consciences by sending them unofficial messages of cheer. But they would be more impressed by the example of a free world in “agreement” with their oppressors. If we who live in comparative safety accommodate ourselves to the Communist tyranny, we can expect no less from those whose reluctance to do so might mean sudden death.
These are the conceivable consequences of a détente. They would cost the Communists nothing except attendance at a series of conferences each of which would end with hearty toasts and a firm decision to hold another conference.
They need not be regarded as inevitable. But certainly they are at least as strong a possibility as all-out war with the Communists, to which possibility we assign the highest priority for our wealth, manpower, and thinking.
The “new new look,” even if it proves to be an improvement over the old “new look,” would remain at best a military deterrent. It could be of no value in helping us through the quicksands of a détente. It would still leave us ill prepared for the prolonged struggle in non-military fields which we now face.
What can we do in the fields of politics, propaganda, economics, and diplomacy that will not only check the enervating effects of a détente but also turn the tide toward human decency?
We could spend more on economic aid and spend it more sensibly. We could propound, more dramatically, our desire for universal disarmament. We could support, more vigorously, independence for colonial peoples. We could operate in the international field more frequently through the United Nations. We could improve our propaganda—mainly by doing all the above things and by achieving more self-control in handling Communists at home.
I support such measures firmly. To the extent that we don’t implement them, we are guilty of laxness in the common cause, an accusation we often make against our allies. But we are already so late with them that their practicability and effectiveness in the crucial period ahead is questionable.
We can, and certainly should, help to raise living standards throughout the world. But the more intense this effort becomes, the more complicated become political and psychological problems which we have barely begun to understand, much less solve. Anti-Communism and devotion to democracy are not inevitable concomitants of economic improvement.
Our advocacy of disarmament must be steadfast, imaginative, and sincere. But disarmament will be the consequence, not the cause, of international concord. Advocacy of disarmament is therefore essentially a psychological weapon, and in this sort of thing the Communists can match us by slogans, panaceas, and petitions that are no less effective because they are meaningless.
Whether these measures, or any other combination of specific ministrations, will suffice to salvage the democratic alliance must remain unanswered. For we face a more cruel fact, which is that nobody seriously believes they will be put into effect. It is not that the American people are actively against such measures; but, at this writing, they certainly are not for them vigorously enough to force action by an administration bemused with bombs and budgets.
In the past, the apparent hopelessness of a cause has not kept its advocates from fighting for it, and shouldn’t divert them now. But this is no time to remain content with blind faith in lost causes based on some doctrine of automatic progress. In the face of totalitarian Communism, democratic progress is not automatic, it is retrogression that now seems automatic.
It becomes essential therefore to ask ourselves why the obvious imperatives of the democratic cause are not being followed. The superficial answer is that we don’t take seriously, and therefore have not properly prepared ourselves for, the non-military aspects of the struggle. But this answer demands a more searching why, and the more searching answer, I suggest, lies in the weakness of our moral judgment on Communism.
What does it take to make democracy invincible in the face of Communism? It requires a positive faith in democracy strong enough to sustain the primacy of the anti-Communist struggle in the affairs of men so long as the Communist conspiracy remains. Without it, the historic divisions among the nations of the free world reassert themselves and enfeeble the alliance. Without it, the natural yearning for comfort and normality becomes dominant before the threat is eliminated. Without it, men of good will can convince themselves that the many and grievous shortcomings of the non-Communist world make it ineligible to carry on the struggle.
It is the conceit of many who do not recognize the primacy of the anti-Communist struggle that those who do must be negativists who ignore the conflicts among non-Communist nations and the evils within them. But it is precisely because the opportunity of free men to solve their problems—to say nothing of their ability to survive—is sabotaged by Communism that anti-Communism requires highest consideration. It is true that in the end the simple example of democracy as the natural expression of man’s best instincts is the only final answer to tyranny in any form. It is true that improvement of democracy is more difficult during a cold war. But it is also true that democracy of any kind is impossible without victory over rampant totalitarianism. It is therefore true that the anti-Communist struggle is also the struggle for democratic self-improvement.
What can impel men to accept the anti-Communist struggle as uppermost, and compel them to make the sacrifices necessary to carry it on? The threat of violent attack is the obvious and completely effective incentive. Then it becomes simply a matter of immediate self-preservation. But what compels them to so onerous a decision when the threat of destruction is less obvious, as for example during a détente?
It is possible to argue that the threat to democracy, though not immediate, is still there. And because the argument is valid, it will be believed, or at least it will not be easily disbelieved. But whether men will act on it is another question. An attenuated threat is one that man learns to live with; he has adjusted himself to many of them. Men don’t swallow cyanide but they do eat, drink, smoke themselves to death. And they are likely to compromise themselves to death with Communist tyranny if only the process isn’t too fast and too obvious.
It seems to me inescapable that a lasting determination to maintain the primacy of the anti-Communist struggle can come only from the making of a moral judgment, and from a commitment commensurate with that judgment. A moral judgment cannot be confined to a condemnation of Communist physical violence—this is less a judgment than a reflex action. Communism must be judged for its total effect on civilization.
We have of course told ourselves repeatedly, and are constantly being reminded by our spokesmen, that the basic issue is moral. It is a “point” that Dulles makes in all his addresses. But the content of our thinking and the speeches of our leaders are almost always confined to military matters. To cope with Communist totalitarianism as a nonmilitary but still malignant threat, we have few plans and fewer intentions of carrying them out. Despite our moral words, we tend to regard the reduction of the Communist military threat as the end of the Communist threat.
But that is not enough. I am convinced that the imperfect state of grace man has achieved after millennia of effort will be dissipated unless the dynamic, primitive amorality in Soviet Communist totalitarianism is eliminated first.
No democratic society—no society at all—has ever before faced such a challenge. In all its main aspects, it is unique in history. It is unique because no tyranny has ever before had not only the will but also the means to conquer the world, and because these means are not only physical but also psychological. This prospect has imposed on the peoples threatened a unique duty: to organize an alliance that is nothing short of global, that must seek to reach and discipline the heart, mind, and muscle of every person. And the task is unique because it cannot be discharged in one convulsive battle, but demands a grueling, prolonged war of physical, emotional, and mental attrition.
It is a task, too, that is essentially the responsibility—if only because they alone have the means to carry it out—of the heirs of the Enlightenment, a minority of the world’s people largely inhabiting the northern shores of the Atlantic who are trying to give meaning to this tradition through a way of life called democracy. For this view of life and for the view of human beings it implies, the rigors of the anti-Communist struggle may simply be too much. For at every point in the struggle there are hesitations—hesitations which arise legitimately from our better impulses, but which may prove to be our fatal weakness.
All our experience tells us that the worst interpretation of Communism has always been the correct one and that we must therefore set out deliberately to destroy Communism. But this is an aim from which we shrink. We hesitate to believe that there can be a force in the world of such enduring malignancy. We hesitate before this cataclysmic conclusion and its implications because we believe—and this is one of our glories—that there is good in all men, that none is beyond salvation, or at least beyond making a deal with around a conference table. We hesitate because we are concerned with improving human welfare and Communism so often speaks the language of the common good, because we are rational and the Communist dynamic is a phenomenon we cannot fully explain. We hesitate to think that such a force, if it exists, can really conquer the world. And when these hesitations are resolved, we hesitate again because the course that’s left risks a war of self-destruction. These are the hesitations of moral men trying to make a moral decision. He who is without such hesitations may berate the hesitators.
Yet, while maintaining even the most uncompromising opposition to Communism, it is essential to retain the willingness and ability to recognize a fundamental change in its nature, when it comes. Here is one more almost impossible task. Assuming we can draft the specifications for such a change, how will we be able to tell it has taken place? Communists are not simply people we are “against.” The terrifying fact is that they are people who can be seen and heard and talked to, but with whom it is impossible to establish communication. The mechanics of human intercourse is language. For some time now, especially with experience of Soviet conduct in the United Nations, where we “talk to” the Communists constantly, we have been convinced that language, as they use it, is meaningless. Even language fortified by action is deceptive, since Communist dictators can afford tactical retreats designed to strengthen their ultimate goal.
And if Communist words and actions are meaningless to us, then ours probably are to them. Men who will use these basic tools of civilization to destroy it are not likely to believe that it is possible for anybody to mean what he says or does. Perhaps we shall know Communism has changed when it is possible to establish simple human communication with the Communists. We must watch for the change as intently as we must avoid the tendency to assume it is there when it isn’t.
Another risk in maintaining the prolonged struggle against Communism is that anti-Communism will become the property of the anti-democrats. While moral men seek ways to defeat Communism with patience and fortitude, amoral demagogues seek to exploit the inevitable frustrations of the slow, sober struggle. In the emotional atmosphere of these frustrations, the know-nothing anti-Communism of McCarthy can look like the only valid anti-Communism. There are many ways in which McCarthy has cheapened American democracy and weakened the democratic alliance. But McCarthyism’s greatest hurt to the democratic cause may be its prevalence as a substitute for the kind of cool-headed, constructive, long-term program to advance democracy at home and abroad which, along with armed strength, is essential for triumph over Communism. Perhaps we must accept the fact that ambitious and unscrupulous men will exploit Communism demagogically in order to achieve power, and in the process siphon off democratic reserves needed in the critical struggle ahead. This factor in politics is one of democracy’s built-in weaknesses. In the face of Communism, it can be a disastrous weakness.
A detente with Communism, then, involves the risk of throwing the whole game away. To avoid doing so requires transcendent moral purpose.
Unfortunately, moral purpose is not something that can be achieved through a five-point program; it is not the sum total of planned specifics. It’s there or it isn’t, depending on the strength of men’s faith in their way of life.
Sometimes a leader expresses it. For a moment it seemed that Nehru, as the heir of the Indian nationalist struggle fathered by a great moral leader, might provide the moral spark in the struggle of the free. But this great reservoir of moral strength was drained in fighting Western imperialism. There was nothing left for a struggle against Soviet imperialism.
For a while the British Labor government performed acts of such extraordinary statesmanship in England and in Asia that it exerted a kind of moral example, not so much because of its specific actions or because of Attlee’s personal magnetism (possibly because of his lack of it), but because it all represented the maturation of British Labor’s humane purposes. However, this too seems to have run its course.
A spontaneous sense of moral purpose arose out of the Korean conflict. Truman was its midwife, but essentially it was leaderless, It made possible the first war fought for clearly moral ends.
Our immediate difficulty is that the Eisenhower leadership has not impressed itself on the world as a moral one.
On the record, as it were, Eisenhower is a moral man. His state papers and speeches contain eloquent affirmations of the faith of free men. No one has the right to doubt that the President deeply believes these affirmations, even though they are filtered to the public through screens of speech-writers and television experts.
We are also told that Eisenhower’s administration is the most prayerful Washington has seen within recent memory. Of course, prayer is not necessarily religion, and religion is not necessarily morality But neither is an excess of public praying necessarily a revelation of a hypocritical heart. Mahatma Gandhi, who prayed in public daily to the gods of all religions, was undoubtedly a moral leader. But the prayers of the Reverend Dr. Daniel F. Malan have not made him one, nor did the prayers of the Reverend Father Charles Coughlin. Whether justified or not, Eisenhower is in danger of becoming the global image of the local community leader whose fierce devotion to Sunday churchgoing does not dim the suspicion of his neighbors that his weekday activities will not stand up in the sight of the Highest.
For the present administration, the task is especially difficult since moral leadership is an unexpected quality in generals and Republicans. Mr. Dulles, in his anxiety to avoid the appearance of soft-headedness, too frequently gives the impression that the struggle against Communism is a logistic problem in which morality is item 3 (b), following “manganese.” At best one gets the feeling that the moral issue has been raised to strengthen morale, and that it could be de-activated if only the imminence of the Communist menace subsided.
At any rate, neither for Americans nor for America’s allies has this administration’s leadership expressed or evoked the great moral resources that must reside in democratic society if it is to survive.