Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
OF THE many roads by which a private citizen may approach consideration of international relations, three are worthy of particular mention: knowledge, emotion, imagination. The last of these--imagination--deserves special thought, for it offers extremely useful help in dealing with a turbulent world, and above all the acutely disturbed new and underdeveloped nations.
Knowledge is the first method of approach; the process for its creation is scholarship. This is the way to develop the specialist, a man who knows a great deal about some aspect of policy in time or space or thought--or all three. Such work is essential to progress in the quest for peace. Without specialists statesmen would lack access to essential knowledge. Not all citizens can be scholars; they have other preoccupations. But all citizens can profit by the research of scholars, for the work of many is summarized and synthesized by secondary writers. Essential knowledge is made available in palatable form, and every citizen should learn as much as possible. Above all, he should think about what he knows. One historical fact, in particular, should enter his consciousness and become firmly fixed: there never was a golden age when men lived happily, securely, without tensions.
When we read history, events are foreshortened. A century or more of progress may be covered in a sentence or two. Thus it seems as though the meaning of events must have been obvious to those who lived among them. But that is a rare occurrence; the normal rule is that only in the long perspective does the significance of the age become clear. A verse in Ecclesiastes reminds us how old is this problem: "For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time." One of the fundamentals a citizen must grasp is that every age has had its problems, its dangers, even its moments of desperation.
The second approach to foreign affairs is emotional. This road is hard packed, for it has been well traveled by idealists. No one with any sensitiveness can look out upon the world without acute awareness of the prevalence of hunger amounting to starvation, poverty almost beyond belief, disease, misery, degradation of life itself. These things prevail among the vast majority.
Those whose responses are primarily emotional will be tempted to make a direct, naïve assault upon these evils. Such sentimentalism is self-defeating; it retards reform by offending those whom it is intended to help. None the less, all impulse to action has its roots in the emotions. As the citizen who tries to be effective in shaping public opinion must seek knowledge, so also he must draw inspiration to action from emotion.
Imagination is the third method by which a citizen can be effective in forming sound public opinion regarding foreign relations. Imagination is not dreaming; by definition dreams are unreal. Imagination can be, and must be, disciplined. Those who wish to strengthen their imaginative powers will draw not only on knowledge, but also upon idealism, the urge "to do something about it." They will go further; imaginative citizens will remember that a stranger's pattern of thought and action, even his value judgments, are largely inherited. They may be modified by skill and patience, but the process cannot be hurried.
Patience must, therefore, be a principal ingredient in the discipline of the imagination. Only by the cultivation of almost infinite patience can the citizen escape the defeatism that arises when the initial effort fails to produce perfection. Such lack of patience tends to be characteristic of journalists; it explains their prevailing pessimism. They look for "news," particularly "hard" news, something dramatic, decisive. They do not usually observe the slow process of evolutionary change because their perspective is too short. Even if they could catch the drift, they would not think it worth a line of type because it lacks "impact." Thus much of the solid progress of the world goes unreported.
The man of disciplined imagination will be happy with progress which, though small, astonishes the scholar, while its slow pace will dismay the sentimentalist. Ignorance, disease, poverty, hunger are not the fruits of imperialism, nor colonialism, nor the industrial revolution. They are as old as mankind and will not be banished easily or swiftly. That is not pessimism; it is a summons to patience.
In the discipline of imagination, persistence comes next to patience. As patience realizes that great results will not be easy, persistence appreciates that even slow progress will grind to a halt unless effort is vigorous and continuous.
If the idea be accepted that a vivid and disciplined imagination is a valid instrument by which the private citizen can think constructively about foreign affairs, we can offer six illustrations of how it can be applied to our relationships with the newly independent, the anciently ignorant, the shockingly poor and the sadly diseased nations of the world.
The first necessity is to rid ourselves of nervousness when "revolution" is mentioned. Politicians often shy like skittish horses at the mere word. That is nonsensical. Thomas Jefferson once wrote in a letter: "What country before ever existed a century and a half without a revolution? . . . the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure."
The slightest acquaintance with history makes it clear that revolutions are as old as recorded history--and as current as today's news. The Cromwellian era in Britain was revolutionary; that should remind us that even the most stable institutions have from time to time been shaken to their foundations. The United States broke its ties with the mother country by revolution, and far from being ashamed of the fact, our forefathers made it a matter of pride. Our Civil War was long and costly in life as well as treasure.
Since the eighteenth century, revolution has been endemic in France. In the latest successful instance, when de Gaulle swept into power, legal forms were meticulously followed and violence was latent rather than overt, but the substance of the change was revolution. A series of revolutions occurred in Italy and in Germany, in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the same has been true in Russia. If the well-developed, relatively stable parts of the world have experienced so many explosive changes, there is no reason to be astonished that revolution is not merely endemic but epidemic in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
It is easy to assert that all changes in government should be achieved by ballots instead of bullets, but the realities of human experience make that a mere wish-fancy which a well-disciplined imagination must reject. So common has been revolutionary change that there is a considerable body of literature in its defense. The United States is the source of some of the most eloquent pleas for the legitimacy of revolution. Even a state we regard as conservative, New Hampshire, put this passage in its Constitution of 1792: "The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind." Read again the Declaration of Independence where, among the "causes" of our revolution, appears this statement: "That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
It would be difficult to find more persuasive defenses of revolution. Such statements, too often forgotten or neglected in the United States, are quoted frequently in the new nations. Read aright, our Declaration of Independence makes us kin to all the new nations which have escaped from the status of wards and attained the stature of independence.
Our own interest in revolution did not wane when we achieved independence, nor did we regard it as a blessing appropriate to ourselves alone. From the days of Washington almost to the presidency of Wilson our recognition policy reflected that interest. Jefferson put it in these words: "We surely cannot deny to any nation that right wherein our own government is founded--that one may govern itself according to whatever form it pleases and change these forms at its own will . . . the will of the nation is the only thing essential to be regarded."
We rejoiced in Kossuth's effort to make Hungary free in 1849. At that time Daniel Webster said the United States could not be indifferent to "the fortunes of nations struggling for institutions like our own. Certainly the United States may be pardoned . . . if they entertain an ardent affection for those popular forms of political organization which have so rapidly advanced their own prosperity and happiness." In our current mood his words seem bombastic, but at the time they evoked passionate approval, for they expressed a profound urge to see the whole world free. Abraham Lincoln spoke for all Americans when he spoke of the Declaration of Independence as "a stumbling block to tyrants" and giving "hope to the world for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men." It would be easy to compile a long list of instances when, with public support, the Government of the United States welcomed and encouraged revolution.
Familiarity with our own record will end much of the difficulty in understanding current revolutions. For 1961 is still part of the Age of Revolution that was launched in 1776. Once the citizen has become accustomed to this idea, there will be no temptation to bewail all violent political change. The first essential in an imaginative approach to new governments, therefore, is to realize that revolution is normal, sanctified by experience and by theory.
The second step in the imaginative understanding of new governments is a realization that they will be unstable, that there will be keen competition to govern. The reasons lie plain upon the surface. During a struggle for independence all patriots can unite upon that one common goal, subordinating their differences to the single paramount objective. Deficiencies that have existed in the public service, of whatever sort, can be attributed to the imperial power, taxes can be blamed upon the distant rulers, and every burden can be described as "exploitation." Our Declaration of Independence contained a whole catalog of abuses.
Once independence is achieved, all that is changed. Unity of purpose can no longer be attained by fighting against an outsider; no distant devil can be blamed. There must now be purpose for, not against, and every man is likely to have his own program.
Again our own history illustrates the problem perfectly. Thomas Paine, one of the authors of our Revolution, whose "Appeal to Reason" was such a potent force, was as one with George Washington throughout the war. But in 1796, Paine wrote in a pamphlet entitled "Letter to George Washington":
There was a time when the fame of America, moral and political, stood fair and high in the world. The luster of her revolution extended itself to every individual and to be a citizen of America gave a title to respect in Europe. Neither meanness nor ingratitude had then mingled itself into the composition of her character. . . . The Washington of politics had not then appeared. . . .
And as to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship . . . and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide, whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.
The rift after our Revolution was not merely personal; it was revealed in the structure of government. The colonies, having become states, set up a central government, but they had been resisting centralized control and saw to it that it was weak. "The Articles of Confederation" were slow in the drafting (17 months), tardy in acceptance (over three years), feeble in action. Our first national government was a failure.
From the Declaration of Independence to the establishment of our second government in 1789, nearly 13 years elapsed. Even then we had not fully faced reality. The new Constitution made no reference to parties, which Washington and others denounced, calling them factions. Yet between the ideas of Jefferson on the one hand and Hamilton on the other there was a great gulf which neither all the efforts nor all the persuasion nor all the prestige of Washington could bridge. Parties proved to be essential to the operation of the government.
If, with all the inheritance from British constitutional tradition and all the training in self-government which our forefathers possessed, they could not remain united, how can we expect these new nations, most of whom have no such sound inheritance, to do better? At the end of 13 years of declared independence, our government was virtually bankrupt. Even after the new government was set up and fiscal order restored, as late as 1800 Aaron Burr was almost able to steal the presidency from Thomas Jefferson. Few Americans now recall that Jefferson finally won only on the 36th ballot. It took a constitutional amendment to prevent a recurrence of so scandalous a gambit--and to admit thereby how essential a role parties play.
Yet we tend to feel upset if, though none are yet so old as we were in 1789, new nations and new governments show evidences of instability, rivalry among leaders, fiscal disorder--in short the same symptoms we exhibited in our own infant days. In summary, the second point which the imaginative approach must stress in thinking about new nations is that instability is inherent in post-revolutionary states.
A third characteristic of new governments, which imagination should help us understand, is the relationship of the new rulers to their political opponents. During our political campaigns, candidates denounce each other on the hustings; election over, they meet amiably. The transition from one administration to another is extraordinarily smooth. We take it for granted that foreign ambassadors will maintain social relations with leaders of opposition parties, and if, before our election, the British Ambassador had not known Adlai Stevenson, Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn, we would have felt he was not up to his job. Similarly, our Ambassador in the United Kingdom as a matter of course knows Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson.
In revolutionary situations, different rules apply, for the opposition is not a "loyal opposition" or merely a political competitor; it is the enemy. The defeated opponent is likely to be plotting the overthrow of the government and may be assembling clandestine armed forces. In these circumstances, a revolutionary leader will not look with calm upon social or personal relations between foreign ambassadors and his opponents. The effort to maintain such contacts may well lead to the diplomat being declared persona non grata.
Again our own history should assist in understanding this problem. When these new governments curb such normal social contacts on grounds of "internal security," we should recall the dismissal of Citizen Genêt by Washington. We should remember, also, the Alien and Sedition Acts during the administration of John Adams. Like much legislation in today's new states, those acts were aimed at suppressing political opposition. We hope we have outgrown such manœuvres, but the feelings which motivated them survive in the United States today.
It required all our political sophistication to treat Khrushchev when he came for the first time, not as the author of savagery in Hungary, but as the leader of a great power with whom the realities of international life required us to deal. His second trip produced many hostile manifestations. If it is so hard for us to exhibit restraint, we ought to be able to understand the oversensitiveness of weak, new governments menaced by an opposition ready to resort to bullets at the first hope of success.
An imaginative approach should help us grasp a fourth fundamental point about revolutions. Revolution, as the word itself suggests, is like turning a wheel. Start a wheel and momentum takes over to some extent; it rarely stops--except in closely controlled circumstances--just where you want it to.
Even revolutionary leaders who are pure in heart, dedicated in purpose, democratic in ideals cannot make the wheel spin and stop exactly 180 degrees from the starting point. Their energies may prove deficient and move the wheel not at all--or only 90 degrees. The wheel may turn full circle--360 degrees--which, in another context, is one revolution. The French Revolution spun all the way from the Bourbons clear around to Napoleon. Revolutions develop a dynamic of their own, and no one can predict just how far they will go. The righteousness of the initial impulse does not always govern the result.
Victory is heady wine. One who has ever lived upon a college campus understands this, for he has observed the behavior of students at the moment of a football victory--exuberant, irrational, abandoned. It is the more intense when the team's record has not been good, and when some break in the game or a dramatic surge has brought victory when defeat seemed imminent. The emotional release is violent. If, with the long tradition of sportsmanship which exercises rigid control over normal behavior, so much ungoverned emotional energy is loosed over what is, relative to the great events of the world, so minor an occasion, how much more readily can we understand the intoxication that follows success in bringing an end to tyranny at imminent risk of life. No wonder it often produces wild excesses.
The fifth aspect of revolution we can also apprehend imaginatively: victors do not take kindly to advice. In gaining independence, they were "do-it-yourself" men. Many leaders in the world today, and virtually all the revolutionaries, have been in prison, in exile or in great personal danger: Bourguiba, Nkrumah, de Gaulle, Adenauer, Gomulka, Tito, Nasser, Diem, Nehru, Sukarno, Castro--and many more. Most of them owe no thanks to armchair critics that they are now in power rather than in graves.
The colonial revolutionaries, especially, feel no gratitude to outsiders. Indeed, did we not do business with their late masters and so "help the enemy"? We gave money and military goods to many of the former rulers, and though our motives were pure and we did not intend to help hold colonies in subjection or suppress revolution, the net result of our aid often was to strengthen the metropolitan power or the predecessor government. And despite our historic anti-colonialism, we have not been wholly free, since we became a world-wide power, to exhibit our real feelings. Our relations with Europe--the necessity for maintaining alliances--sometimes conflicted with our desire for the liquidation of colonialism in Asia and Africa. We urged the Netherlands so strongly to give independence to Indonesia that we strained our relations with that key nation in Europe, yet our diplomatic pressure was neither so overt nor so dramatic as aid to the Netherlands through the Marshall Plan and NATO. Sukarno was aware of our tangible help to his enemy; our intangible diplomatic pressure was not so visible.
Moreover, revolutionary leaders are under severe domestic pressures. In rallying their own people to make sacrifices for the revolution, they made promises, explicit or implicit. They cannot now exercise power without making major changes. It may well be that the first need of the new country is wiser use of the land, improved breeds of hens to lay more eggs, better cows to give more milk. But that does not mean that such programs will have priority, for they are not dramatic and their results appear too gradually to satisfy people whose expectations have been inflated. Having achieved something great and dynamic in the moment of revolution, the new leader cannot ask his people to wait for evolutionary processes to mature over a long period of time. He is the symbol of action, not of more eggs! He will resent counsel to move slowly. As a man of wide experience has put it, we must expect that "new governments may sometimes insist on types of growth which have more to do with prestige than need." The "revolution of rising expectations" has often, therefore, more to do with the dramatic than the necessary.
Independence, we must remember, means freedom to do the wrong thing as well as the right. That ought not to be a difficult concept to grasp, for we have pursued farm policies, for example, which pile up bigger and bigger food surpluses and higher and higher costs and deficits. Those policies add up to economic folly, but have been thought to be politically profitable. Clearly, we are in no position to be overly censorious of those who, with less experience, less training and fewer resources, make mistakes which seem to us serious.
The argument that the development of new nations should be left to private capital--or to "free enterprise"--will fall on deaf ears. The word "socialism," far from holding terrors for them, has deep attraction. The leaders of new states know that most of the free nations of the world have now, or have had, socialist governments. Many of them are more aware than we appear to be that our own economy is a mixture--that government plays a large role in our economic life. The Tennessee Valley Authority is one of our most conspicuous exports. Our railroads were built with heavy government subsidy, and many want more now. Our canals and waterways are all public enterprises, and in most free nations so are railroads and telephones--and the universities.
These men who engineered revolution want now to manage the economy. They remember that the hated imperial control followed in the train of private trade and investment. We tend to think that the normal sequence is for trade to follow the flag, but their own history tells them that it was often the other way round. The Belgian Congo started as a private speculation of King Leopold, who became fabulously wealthy without notable benefit to the Africans. The Indonesians saw the Dutch grow rich, while they remained poor. This experience, many times repeated in many places around the world, created the image--still dominant today--of capitalism as exploitation. They view with deep suspicion, therefore, great capitalistic enterprises coming from abroad. Having once found that process a prelude to colonialism, they are doubly shy.
Many of the new nations fear the rule of prices by a free market, for they are producers of raw materials--tin, rubber, coffee, tea, cocoa, jute, and so on. Asians can point to a United Nations calculation that in recent experience their reduced incomes from such exports, occasioned by falling prices in free markets, just about offset the grants-in-aid. They are also aware that the United States puts quotas on oil, zinc, copper, sugar, and that it deliberately sets out to defeat the free market in agriculture by government intervention. Why, they ask, should we be critical when they follow the same pattern of political suppression of economic forces?
Moreover, many new nations have not the wealth to support free enterprise. There is no accumulation of domestic capital with which to finance industrial development. Poverty is so intense that domestic savings can be found only, as in Russia in Stalin's day or now in Red China, by grinding the faces of the poor and letting millions starve. If, therefore, the nation is not to become totalitarian, the money must come from abroad. But so sensitive are the new leaders that they will regard any advice, any cautionary devices connected with aid, as "strings."
The ordinary requirements which we all accept when borrowing money, they resent. They see them as manifestations of economic--and ultimately political--imperialism, and having just escaped from one form of dependence they do not want to fall into another. Our history ought to remind us that this is the normal mood of debtors. The resentments of our Western states at what was regarded as "Wall Street control" are classic. When mortgages were being foreclosed, the great Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton, exploded: "A lump of butter in the mouth of a dog, one gulp, one swallow, and all is gone." Many a Westerner in the mid-nineteenth century regarded that as the restrained statement of a moderate.
These things partially explain why our foreign aid program is not uniformly a "success." We need to do many things better, but the point is missed completely by those who feel that, if only we had a different organizational structure or more money or made this, that or the other change in procedure, our troubles would disappear. There is no simple, easy way to achieve the desirable ends. We must do the best we can, profiting by experience, not endlessly repeating the same errors, but accepting, nevertheless, the inevitability of failure to attain Utopia in a short time. The growth of economic freedom, as of political freedom, is a slow process, with many painful setbacks.
Appreciation of the fact that each individual nation has a unique perspective upon history is a sixth way in which imagination can help the citizen grasp the realities of a revolutionary world. Depending upon the national points of view from which it is observed, the same historical event carries wholly different significances; what seems trivial to one appears vital to the other. Each nation tends to regard its version as "truth," overlooking the validity of other viewpoints.
When this national emphasis is forgotten, present difficulties are too often attributed to current or recent episodes, whereas the roots of trouble frequently lie deeper in divergent national interpretations of history. Such difficulties will not disappear rapidly, or be eliminated by some change in the style of our diplomacy. In South America, in Africa and in Asia many nations feel that we are obsessed with the menace of Communism. We can justify that concern to ourselves, for we have experienced the retreat from Wilson's vision of a world safe for democracy, and have seen the rise of Soviet confidence that Marxism-Leninism will embrace the entire world.
The historical tradition of many nations makes other menaces --such as imperialism, economic or political--seem much more real. Their experience has not sensitized them to the Communist danger. When we try to transfer our justified alarm to them, they not only do not accept the warnings, they resent them. Our interest in their development is seen as an effort to draw them into a power struggle which they regard as irrelevant to their concerns.
One of the most striking instances of different national perspectives upon history--as a cause of profound misunderstanding--is the Monroe Doctrine. It has customarily been treated in our histories as a wholly defensive concept. From the standpoint of the United States, it was an anti-imperialist pronouncement designed to let the nations of this hemisphere develop without external interference. The angle of vision of Latin countries is different. When we undertook to speak on behalf of this hemisphere, it is undeniable that we "took Latin America for granted," since no nation had given us authorization to speak on its behalf. From the Latin point of view, we were at least impinging upon the policy formation of independent nations; to that extent we committed a trespass upon their sovereignty. It was a manifestation of the unconscious arrogance that arises from the consciousness of power. Inconceivable as it may seem to us that Monroeism could be identified with imperialism, for some Latin nations that identification seems natural.
Once this divergence in perspective is grasped imaginatively, many episodes which appear as almost insignificant in our history are seen to loom decisively large in theirs. To us Cuba is a small nation in which we have taken an avuncular interest. Cubans read history differently; for a century our statesmen spoke of the acquisition of the island as inevitable. Even after we decided against annexation, we retained control through the Platt Amendment, which limited the power of Cuba to act as a sovereign state and authorized intervention by the United States. We exercised that right from time to time, treating the Cubans as wards and determining who should govern them. The liquidation of the Platt Amendment did not occur until 1934. Cuban history stresses the reality of our control rather than the philanthropic purpose which our histories emphasize.
Mexicans recall our war with them in 1846-1848, as a consequence of which we took California, New Mexico and parts of three states. President Polk asked authority to occupy Yucatan; President Pierce arranged the Gadsden Purchase; President Buchanan proposed intervention and the occupation of two Mexican states. Even after the Civil War there were considerable periods when Mexico lived in perpetual fear of imminent invasion. Woodrow Wilson twice invaded Mexico, and sought to determine who should be its president.
The United States acquired as many of the Caribbean islands as possible and wanted more. The purchase of the Virgin Islands was negotiated by Seward, and consummated in this century. We took over Puerto Rico from Spain. President Grant's acquisition of the Dominican Republic was defeated by the Senate, but later the finances of that republic were supervised by the United States, and it was militarily occupied and governed by us for some years. In 1915, during occupation by Marines, a virtual American protectorate was established over Haiti by treaty; it went further than the Platt Amendment in establishing American control. Fiscal independence for the two republics was conceded only 20 years ago.
In 1879 President Hayes called the proposed Isthmian Canal "virtually part of our coastline." To us that seemed logical enough; to others it looked like imperialism. The British commented that the President's view would deny the states in the vicinity of the Canal "as independent a position as that which they now occupy." A Republican Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, spoke of "a long-established claim of priority on the American continent," and a Democratic Secretary of State, Richard Olney, announced that the United States was "practically sovereign on this continent and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which we confine our interposition." Later Secretary Philander Knox spoke of the area as "a portion of the world where the influence of the United States must naturally be preëminent." The word "naturally" was galling in the extreme as were the earlier statements based upon our overwhelming power.
When Theodore Roosevelt said, "I took Panama," it seemed to us merely a brash statement about a regrettable episode. For Colombia and Panama it was an event decisive in their history, one which has bedevilled our relationships ever since.
The Roosevelt corollary to the Monroe Doctrine assigned the United States an international police power; we were to determine unilaterally when, where and how much we should intervene. From the Latin point of view, we were saying: "Might makes right." The gospel of the corollary was followed by three administrations, the most extreme of which was that of Woodrow Wilson. He set out to "instruct" the Latin American republics in democracy. He held it "our peculiar duty" to teach them "to elect good men" and establish "order and self-control." He was willing to act in some cases "even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process." Under the impulse of these dogmas, he violated the sovereignty of several nations, occupying some and controlling others.
The principal historian of the Monroe Doctrine has recorded that by 1915 Monroeism had "been deeply charged with an assumption of the right of control, of superior power, of hegemony over the other states of the New World." How better describe imperialism?
To use a current term, we made satellites of a number of nations. From our standpoint, American imperialism was distinctive: we did not intend our control to be permanent but a transient phase during which the people for whom we accepted responsibility gained experience in self-government. In the second place, the element of exploitation inherent in classic imperialism, though not wholly absent, was subordinated to philanthropic purpose. The recipients of our unwelcome attentions, however, resented our assumption of superior virtue and did not accept at face value our protestations of good intentions. The management of satellites proved unrewarding; it did not produce desired results and it deeply implanted fear of "Yankee imperialism" throughout Latin America.
There is, indeed, a whole literature in Latin America which interpreted Monroeism as imperialism. As a consequence, when Cleveland intervened in the Venezuelan boundary dispute, his initiative, instead of evoking support, was viewed with grave suspicion in Mexico, Chile and Argentina. An Argentinian statesman, later president of that republic, championed Spain against the United States in 1898. When we presented resolutions in Pan American conferences, they often met with suspicion that we were seeking hegemony rather than defense of common interests. During the First World War the Mexican Government was sympathetic to Germany.
We see the episodes mentioned and many others as marginal incidents in our history, and, in any event, part of a closed book. From our point of view, we have exchanged the expansive and imperialist dreams of earlier times for the status of counselor and friend, though our relationship to events in Guatemala in 1954 seemed to Latins to go much further. The one who exercises power and the one upon whom it is exercised almost always have a different interpretation of the motives involved. The slightest hint of condescension, even in connection with economic aid, is sure to evoke deep resentment. If we approach the matter imaginatively, we will not be surprised at the lingering fears of the Colossus of the North, or at the persistent suspicion that we have not wholly abandoned imperialist ambitions.
We think we have learned at great cost that we must not let dislike of political and social retrogression induce us actively to manage other people's affairs. We may use such diplomatic instruments as are available, but beyond that it is unwise to go, except in concert with other nations through the Organization of American States or the United Nations. Otherwise, we set ourselves up as moral imperialists, seeking to choose not only our own course of action but also to direct the lives of other nations.
Latin America illustrates the need imaginatively to remain constantly alert to the different historical perspectives of other people as we attempt to understand their prejudices and fears. What we sometimes take for jealousy of our might and our wealth is, to some extent, a reaction to unconscious arrogance when we speak all too glibly of "our position of leadership." Leadership should be a combination of wisdom, courage and persuasiveness. The more fully we appreciate the folly of mistaking dominance for leadership, the sooner will the underdeveloped nations accept the sincerity of our purpose.
There has been a growing feeling that the problems of foreign affairs have become so complicated that the private citizen cannot be expected to understand them, much less make a positive contribution to their resolution. Concurrently there has been a surfeit of demands that Washington officials should develop "bold, new, imaginative policies and plans." This is tantamount to asking that those eminently desirable ends should be achieved in a vacuum. That is not only undesirable, it is impossible. We do not have a government of experts, and if we were to try to form one it would be utterly disastrous to the whole concept of democracy to which we are deeply committed. The expert has an essential but none the less a subordinate role to play; he can advise, but he cannot take the place of political leadership. By its very nature political leadership loses its effectiveness unless there is a significant degree of public consensus behind proposals for action. Many a novel and constructive idea, possibly conceived by experts but responsibility for which was accepted by a political leader, has come to nought for lack of intelligent popular support.
So long as the United States remains committed to the democratic process, there can be no substitute for effective citizenship. The development of that effectiveness with regard to foreign affairs depends to a great extent upon the application of imagination to help in achieving an understanding of events in the world. Long ago Aristotle argued that citizens need not be experts in order to exercise a sound judgment in public affairs. Time has proved him right. In practice, freshness of official thought is often stimulated by imaginative suggestions from individuals or groups of citizens. They are then ready to rally support for courageous alterations in old policies that time has made sterile.