Courtesy Reuters

Two Roosevelt Decisions: One Debit, One Credit

WHY did the United States not try to reach agreements with other members of the United Nations on political and territorial problems while the war was still in progress? Perhaps no one question about the conduct of wartime diplomacy is asked more frequently than this, and in no field of policy are critics--writing in the perspective of 1950--more sharp in their comments on the shortsightedness of Allied leaders. It is true that the President and his Secretary of State were officially committed to a policy of no agreements on territorial adjustments or political settlements until the war was over, at which time these could be taken up for consideration and decision at a peace conference of the United Nations. This very definitely was also the policy favored by the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate. Perhaps it may be helpful at this crucial juncture of our affairs to review the background of this decision. Another fateful wartime decision, to create the United Nations organization while the war was still in progress, had a happier outcome. How and why that decision was reached I shall also attempt to relate in the pages which follow.

If the great peace conferences of Vienna in 1815 and of Paris in 1919 had taught any one lesson clearly, surely it was that victorious allies invariably quarrel among themselves over the division of the spoils. At Paris in 1919 we saw in particular how appallingly difficult it was to overcome the exaggerated forms of selfish nationalism to which a victorious war gives rise. This was so even though we then were negotiating primarily with Great Britain, France and Italy, Western nations with ideals and practices similar to our own. This time we would be dealing with the Soviet Union. The Stalin-Hitler deal of August 1939 and the Kremlin's subsequent course hardly gave ground for confidence in the inherent altruism of the Bolshevik Politburo's foreign policy. What reason was there to think that, after the defeat of our common enemies, Russia triumphant

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