The Overstretched Superpower
Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?
WHEN the Government and Parliament of the German Federal Republic commenced their labors in September 1949 they set as their goal the achievement of freedom, welfare and security for all of Germany. In normal times this very general objective would not have seemed anything out of the ordinary; but in view of Germany's special position after the collapse of 1945 it acquired a very special and concrete meaning, and it became the basic principle governing all the measures of the Federal Government, domestic and foreign.
If such an objective were to be realized, the causes of Germany's downfall had to be correctly understood. It is clear that the attempts to carry out an exclusively nationalistic policy, both before 1914 as well as before 1939, ended in crushing defeat. In both cases Germany chose to manœuvre herself into isolation, after which spreading tensions led to war. Each time Germany paid for this policy with a complete collapse, involving heavy losses, human and material. Indeed, under the totalitarian régime of the National Socialists the catastrophe reached such proportions that the German people seemed on the brink of total destruction. The National Socialist attempt to overbalance the surrounding political and economic forces required greater resources than Germany possessed, and ended in terrible failure.
History's lesson was clear; and we were ready to take it to heart. The demand that Germany join in a community of nations whose ideals she shared and whose interests she approximated was accepted by the general public in Germany soon after it was explained by a few farseeing statesmen. Later the decision found concrete expression in Article 24 of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic, which envisages a transfer of sovereign rights to international or supranational bodies, as follows:
(1)~ The Federation may, by legislation, transfer sovereign powers to international institutions.
(2)~ In order to preserve peace, the Federation may join a system of mutual collective security; in doing so it will consent to those limitations of its sovereign powers which will bring about and secure a peaceful and lasting order in Europe and among the nations of the world.
(3)~ For the settlement of international disputes, the Federation will join a general, comprehensive, obligatory system of international arbitration.
All the German Parties, except for the few Communists, joined in the vote of the Bundestag on July 26, 1950, expressly demanding the formation of a European federal state and empowering the German Federal Government to direct its policy toward realizing this aim. It stated:
A resolution shall be submitted to the Council of Europe demanding that a supranational federal organization be created for Europe, which is to base itself on universal, free elections and which shall possess legislative, executive, and judicial powers.
It further demanded:
That the supranational Federal organization shall be granted the authority required 1, to bring about economic unity on the basis of social justice; 2, to make possible a joint European foreign policy that will serve world peace; 3, to create and secure the equality of rights of all European peoples; and 4, to guarantee the basic rights and human freedoms of European citizens and to put them under legal protection.
This formulation of German political will corresponded to similar events that were taking place in other European countries. As happened after the First World War--but this time with incomparably greater force--political leaders as well as the general public demanded that rigid and outmoded nationalism be renounced. Technical and social progress, and the example of largescale unions formed elsewhere in the world, underlined the need of new solutions. A European solution could be meaningful, however, only if Germany were included--a statement questioned by no one. Relations with Germany were nevertheless the source of many difficulties for other states. Memory of the National Socialist totalitarian regime, the horrors of the war and the staggering amount of destruction stood in the way of the immediate realization of the great plans. In spite of this, the strength of the arguments advanced by leading European statesmen with equal idealism and ingenuity justified the hope for success. Germany, for her part, was ready to make an active contribution to the common effort and to seek in the future a better destiny in union with other nations.
But the world to which Germany wanted to belong was split. Conflicts of ideology and policy among the Allies, which had been covered up by the war, came into the open soon after hostilities ended. Since each of the four Great Powers held a zone of Germany under occupation, the growing conflict between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers found concrete expression in a line of demarcation which split Germany. At first glance, therefore, the intention of incorporating all of Germany into a community of friendly nations seemed to have been frustrated, for each zone had practically no choice but to cooperate nolentes volentes with the respective occupying Power. In the arena of discussion, nevertheless, the question arose: Which of the great blocs would Germany side with if she could make her decision freely?
In thought, every individual German was soon faced with the choice between East and West, just as the German state had to make a choice in practical policy. The Federal Government and the German Bundestag, the lawful and only freely elected representatives of the German people, had made the legitimate claim to act on behalf of the 18,000,000 Germans in the Soviet occupation zone who had no way of freely expressing their political will. The three Western Powers expressly recognized this claim, notably in the communique of the Foreign Ministers issued at their conference in New York, September 19, 1950:
Pending the unification of Germany, the three Governments consider the Government of the Federal Republic as the only German Government freely and legitimately constituted and therefore entitled to speak for Germany as the representative of the German people in international affairs.
Thus the Federal Government in Bonn had to make its decision with a feeling of responsibility for all of Germany, independently of the necessary collaboration with the three Western occupation Powers. It had to choose which of the two great communities of nations now taking shape Germany belonged to in light of her history, way of life and obligations. This decision could only be in favor of the free community of Western nations and the democratic principles upon which it is built. German communities and provinces have an old, deeply-rooted democratic tradition, only temporarily suppressed by the National Socialist regime. The Constitution of the Federal Republic once again establishes the unlimited validity of basic rights. German culture is a part of what is called Western civilization. It was quite natural, therefore, for German statesmen and political leaders both to wish and to be able to make a choice that would tie Germany to those nations that stood for the same libertarian ideals as they did. The fact remains, however, that this decision was--and is--a difficult one for German political leaders to make, for it carries the risk that it will sharpen the separation between East Germany and West Germany, and that for a while it might force East Germany even more tightly under the yoke of Communist totalitarianism.
Understandably enough, then, some people in Germany looked for an alternative course. Actually, the thought of joining the Eastern bloc was never seriously considered: too many Germans have personally experienced the meaning of Communism. The Soviet attempt to Bolshevize East Germany by force has made the German people fully immune to Communism, and aware of the aims of Soviet foreign policy. Nearly everyone now knows that freedom, prosperity and security are the antithesis of what is found in collaboration with the Soviet Union.
On the other hand, the idea of German neutrality has undoubtedly exercised a certain attraction on many Germans who hoped in this way to overcome the division of the country. It became more and more clear, however, that this hope was based on a fallacy. For if Germany is divided, not as a result of a domestic conflict but as a result of the tensions among the Great Powers, then the split could not be ended by any efforts which Germany herself might make toward neutralization. The most important factor would continue to be a general relaxation of tension in the international situation.
But beyond that, a neutralist rôle would also prevent Germany from establishing solid bonds with other members of a real community of nations. Thus a goal generally recognized as right would be abandoned in the hope of mollifying the Soviets. Neutralization would throw Germany back once again into isolation, and under conditions, moreover, in which she would lack the strength to protect the liberty of her citizens and the freedom of her territory. There has been talk of armed neutrality as a means of meeting this objection. Germany would have to be extraordinarily well armed indeed to protect her neutrality by force; but this very armament would in itself induce Germany's neighbors to rebuild a united front against her.
In my opinion, a neutralized Germany would certainly be an unfree Germany. The East would not permit Germany to remain in a position where she would be at liberty to decide to join the West with all her human and economic potential. Even more, as the London Times realistically wrote, the West could not allow Germany to retain freedom of action to carry her great potential into the Eastern camp. The upshot of "neutrality" thus would necessarily be recourse to one scheme or another that would leave Germany controlled from outside. In other words, neutrality presents no solution compatible with freedom. And from whatever direction control was exerted, Germany would be driven, against her will, to renew a policy which Germans know from experience to be catastrophic.
Finally, but far from least, the neutralization of Germany would make European integration impossible. Perhaps this is the reason the friends of the Soviets propagandize so strongly for it. Not much imagination is required to see what consequences would follow a failure of the plans for integrating Europe. There would inevitably be a general relapse into outmoded nationalistic policies, after which, divided and weakened by rivalries, the Continent would lie as open to Communist subversion as to direct Communist attack.
Recognizing all this, the German Federal Government has planned and developed its foreign policy to assist European integration. From the outset, its best energies have been directed to bringing about a united Europe which, in turn, is to be firmly bound to the Atlantic community. The Government has been especially active in collaborating in the two great plans which will form the foundation of the future European federation, the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Defense Community. In this it has been supported by a majority of the German Bundestag and by preponderant public opinion in Germany. The fact that the Federal Republic was still under an occupation regime seven years after the end of the war stood in the way of its full membership in those organs.
Partnership is not possible without freedom. Democracy consists of self-determination both at home and abroad; and limitations on that right always constitute violations of the democratic principle. Germany seeks freedom, for only so will we be able to assume the responsibilities which we wish to accept in the world of free nations today. None but the free can carry responsibility.
For this reason, the signing in May 1952 of the German-Allied Contractual Agreement to lift the occupation is a further step-- perhaps the essential one--on the road to the incorporation of Germany into the free world. Throughout the West, not only statesmen, but that famous character, the man in the street, recognized, or at any rate felt, the significance of the event. If anything else were needed, this is shown by the fact that the forces of opposition were promptly mobilized.
Opposition was, of course, mobilized in Germany also, where misgivings have been expressed even in the ranks of the governing coalition. There is apprehension of the Russian reaction. There is fear lest the division of Germany become permanent. There are doubts as to whether the Western World is capable of sustained action. There is skepticism concerning the plans for integration. And people are weary of the occupation. The original drive that set the policy of integration in motion has slackened. The gap between intention and fulfillment--as happens so often when men strive for a goal--is still wide. It is hard for words and plans alone to create new realities or to modify old ones. Postwar actions still embrace remnants of wartime policies which were based on enmity and directed toward destruction and subjugation. Obstacles are being removed, one by one, but even today Germany's advances toward freedom now and again come up against a barrier left standing from the days of unconditional surrender. The doubts about present policy that one hears in Germany are, in part, a symptom of this period of transition.
By now, however, there has been talk enough. Europe must realize plans by action. That is exactly what the German-Allied Contractual Agreement, the Schuman Agreement and the European Defense Community are doing. When the treaties come into force Germany will be promoted into the ranks of partnership with the free world. She is ready for it.
The Contractual Agreement itself is voluminous and not free from inner contradictions. It could hardly be otherwise, for it covers three developments--an agreement liquidating the state of war and the occupation; a pre-peace treaty; and an alliance. A political development which normally would find expression in three separate agreements spread over several years is here embodied in one agreement. Some of the contradictions arise from the fact that the contract must embody remnants of the occupation and control-commission legislation, since the participation of the Soviet Union in a final peace treaty is not attainable. Thus the agreement reflects the Germany reality, still weighed down with problems.
It is a useful instrument, nonetheless, to give reality to the solemnly proclaimed goal which the Federal Republic and the Allies together hold--namely, that the German Federal Republic is to become a member of the European community on a basis of equality, and that a completely free and united Germany is to be restored in a peaceful manner.
The Contractual Agreement and the agreement concerning the European Defense Community should be ratified as soon as possible, in order that European political, social and economic conditions can be stabilized. The speed with which they are ratified will do much to determine the valuation placed upon the movement for European integration by public opinion in Britain and America. It is not surprising that the Soviet Union is trying to prevent or delay ratification; the Soviet Government will certainly continue to obstruct it. We have seen from experience, however, how often the U.S.S.R. is frustrated by its own provocations, manœuvres and blackmail. This time again we may hope that Communist efforts will be self-defeating.
The building of the Schuman Plan organization and the European Defense Community will demand extraordinary efforts from all the participants. The Federal Republic is ready to do its full share in this work, although at home it must still carry great burdens in connection with the work of healing the wounds of war. Simultaneously it will do all that it can to promote the process of integration in other fields, and to complete the effort of unity by the establishment of a political organization in Europe. It knows that in this it sees eye to eye with those representative of everything that is best in the Western World.
Doubtless a feeling of solidarity will be created by the mere fact of collaboration in great tasks. Thus will the German people know that, at last, after long years, they have found welfare and security in a world-wide federation of free nations. And, on the other hand, the rest of the world will have evidence that the new democratic Germany is a capable and reliable partner.
In the immediate future the Federal Republic will not be able to do more than fit itself into the structure of rights and duties which the free world has erected for the fulfillment of these great goals. But the Federal Republic will try to act as deputy for all of Germany. Before too long it hopes to be able to make the full contribution of a reunited Germany to the peaceful coöperation of nations. Though we Germans do not deceive ourselves as to the difficulties in the way, we think our hope has sound foundations. The Federal Government very early in its career suggested a practicable method for bringing about German reunification: free elections, under international control, for an all-German constituent national assembly. In no other way can the slavery in the East Zone be kept from spreading its grip over the whole country; and in no other way can freedom again be brought to the Germans of the East Zone.
In these years of rebuilding, the Federal Republic has prepared spiritually, politically and economically so that from the first day of peaceful reunification every citizen of Germany can live free from fear and need. It further has taken care that the German-Allied Contractual Agreement should lay a firm foundation for the future of all Germany. Thus it was agreed that the Peace Treaty which will eventually be made with reunited Germany will be the result of free negotiations; and further that a united Germany will have, as a minimum, the same status that the Federal Republic will acquire after the German-Allied Contractual Agreement has come into effect.
Naturally, a satisfactory solution of the question of German unity depends on the attitude of the Soviet Union. Patience as well as firmness will be needed to convince the Soviet leaders that a reunited Germany, which is a member of the community of free nations, can have normal relations with Soviet Russia. Moscow need have no fear, for example, that a reunited Germany will harbor aggressive intentions against the Soviet Union; on the contrary, Germany will be concerned with raising the standard of living in both states through an intensive exchange of goods. The essential structure of the European community, as well as of the Atlantic community, ensures that both of them can follow peaceful aims only and can harbor no preparations for aggression--in a word, can prepare only for defense. Strength for defense is needed; indeed it is reasonable to believe that the real cause of the latent danger of war today is the crass disproportion of military forces which began in 1945. An adjustment in the relationship of forces is an essential precondition for the maintenance of peace. After examining the situation, the Western Allies--who had guaranteed the security of West Berlin and the Federal Republic--came to the conclusion that the participation of German forces would measurably strengthen the defense of Europe without changing the purely defensive character of the Allied military system. The Federal Republic accepted this view and did not deny the ensuing Allied request. Today the German public is giving this policy increasing support. Because the Government did not wish to arouse any doubts as to its peaceful intentions, it has opposed the creation of a national German army and favored the participation of the Federal Republic in an integrated European army. This decision should also be appreciated in the Soviet Union.
On the other hand, the Soviet Union ought to recognize that Germans will never acquiesce in the attempt to impose Bolshevism on all or part of Germany. Russian political leaders should further understand that Germany cannot afford to be neutralized, isolated, encircled and dominated. She would like to share the lot of those who, like her, seek freedom, prosperity, security and a better future.
That is why we accept and stand by the German-Allied Contractual Agreement. We are no longer alone. After the bitter experiences through which Germany has passed in the brief span of one generation we understand the full force of this statement.