Courtesy Reuters

Then and Now

Foreign policy is not a game of chess, though it is often called that. There is no fixed board and there is no book of rules to say that a certain move will be successful or that a contrary one will fail. The treatises on diplomacy are guides to techniques. Books of etiquette that tell how to hold a teacup or fold a handkerchief do not help when the ceiling falls in the parlor or a baby must be delivered in a taxicab. So with diplomacy, the human factors determine whether an emergency is handled well or badly.

The most telling factors are often the unspectacular ones-character, good sense, stamina and adaptability. Craftiness and professional finesse also count, of course; great liars, great bluffers and great gamblers have their day. But when manipulators of history forget that the pieces they plan to move about have minds of their own they can be abysmally wrong. What blunders could be more colossal than Stalin's calculation that it would be profitable to let Hitler loose against the West, or Hitler's deliberate choice to fight on two fronts, or Mussolini's decision to sell Italy cheap to the loser?

It of course is open to sober and experienced statesmen to make "right" moves or "wrong" ones in compromising the ideal and the practicable, program and decision. What turns out well may have been due partly to good luck or the rashness of the antagonist and what ends unsatisfactorily may nevertheless have been the best choice between two uninviting alternatives. In the climactic emergency, war against a remorseless enemy, the closest a nation may come to winning, even given wise and indomitable leadership, is not to lose. This is infinitely more, however, than is admitted by people who argue that wars never "settle" anything. Germany and Italy are independent going concerns again. But did Hitler reserve the same fate for defeated France, Britain and the United States? The Punic Wars settled something for Carthage; there is not

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