Courtesy Reuters

The Strategy of Territorial Decisions

THERE is a profound psychological difference between a transfer of territory and a change in a trade treaty or pact of international coöperation. Territory is near and plain and evokes personal feelings and group sentiments. To a people conscious of its individuality, "how sweet the silent backward tracings." Such people endow the land itself with a mystical quality, hearing revered ancestors, the authors of past grandeurs and the doers of heroic deeds, speak from their graves in its soil. To all classes, landscape is an essential part of home. Enshrined in every national literature are the changing moods and compositions of river, mountain, plain, forest and shore. All the familiar techniques of living are involved in the complex of feeling, remembered experience and imagination surrounding place and home.

It is title to sentiments like these, and not merely to so-and-so many square miles of land, that is transferred when there is a change of boundaries and rule.

No such serious questions of sentiment or prestige are involved in writing a short-term military alliance or a commercial treaty dealing with goods and profits or a compact embodying the generalities of a world order; for these are not among the spiritual intimacies of life. The links between place and people are countless. The fact that one was born in a certain spot pursues one throughout life. The first question in most census schedules is, "Where do you live?" In common thought today, as in the earliest folklore, one's dwelling place is the center of the universe. Thus national leaders must be especially alert to territorial losses and gains, for they touch the main nerve center of popular feeling.

The dim curves of the future are more likely to be perceived correctly if we bring to the settlement of territorial issues a knowledge of sentiment, tradition and changing national fortunes of the past. Even so, such knowledge is inert and unproductive unless it is combined with judgments based upon a wider political sophistication

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