The Day After Russia Attacks
What War in Ukraine Would Look Like—and How America Should Respond
THE various nations of the western hemisphere have much in common as regards the manner of their birth, and all hold as their ideal a democratic form of government. It would seem on this account that there always should have existed a general sympathy and understanding between them. Undoubtedly this was so in the early decades of the last century, just after the United States had terminated her struggle for independence and when South America was battling for the same end. Many North Americans fought in the South American armies at that time. Miranda's first expedition was in large part composed of citizens of the United States. The great liberator, Bolivar, tried to build a state in central and northern South America to correspond to our nation. George Washington was venerated as a hero there as well as here. Shortly afterwards President Monroe, with the backing of Canning, promulgated the Monroe Doctrine, which had as its basic creed America for Americans.
Much might have been expected from such a beginning, but instead of growing together the two great divisions began to pull apart. Various causes were responsible. North Americans obtained business concessions in the southern countries and ruthlessly exploited them. Meanwhile, the South American countries contributed their part to the ensuing misunderstandings through the activities of corrupt officials or oppressive action. We further made ourselves unpopular through boundary arbitrations, etc. Perhaps even more damaging than the foregoing was the assumption on the part of the people of the United States that they were infinitely superior to the southerners.
I personally believe it is a good thing for a nation to have a firm conviction of its worth; but it should have the decency and the manners to keep that conviction to itself. We did not. We showed it constantly, and I am sorry to say at times we still do. We "high-hatted" South America. Very naturally the South Americans, who are sensitive and proud, resented this.
It is easy to believe wrong of someone whom you do not like. Suspicion of every kind was generated. Accusations of every sort were heaped on the United States. Our nation as a whole was judged by the adventurers and drifters who found their way south.
Until the Spanish-American War this trend continued to develop and contacts between the two Americas were slight and unsatisfactory. Indeed, Mexico was the only Latin American country with which we had constant relations, and those relationships more often than not were hostile. We were somewhat in touch with the Indies. As for South America itself, it was remote both from our thoughts and our economic relationships. I remember when I was a small boy being puzzled and slightly shocked on hearing one of my European friends allude to a South American as an American. I felt that that term belonged entirely to citizens of the United States.
The Spanish-American War furnished the opportunity for a new era. It brought us into intimate contact with the Indies. We took over the administration of Cuba for a short time and acquired Puerto Rico. Even that, however, did not immediately draw us into contact with the southern part of the hemisphere. Not till the increasing demands of trade brought improved communications was there opportunity for the citizens of the United States and the Latin American countries to start knowing each other at first hand.
Today, to my way of thinking, the most important foreign relationships of the United States are those with the countries to the south of the Rio Grande. Broadly speaking, the logic of this is evident. The United States can be said to be in large measure a manufacturing country and it will become increasingly so as the years pass. The Spanish-American republics, on the contrary, are in the main agricultural. Their population is sparse. They have great tracts of virgin forests. Their exports will therefore be certain agricultural products in which they excel and raw materials, such as lumber and a variety of minerals. Our forest areas have contracted to a point where they cannot furnish our demand for forest products and must not be further reduced. Canadian forests also have been exploited to a point close to the danger mark. Thus South America will wish our manufactured articles and we shall need many of their agricultural products and raw materials. We are therefore supplementary and complementary to one another rather than competitive.
It would seem simple, where interests are so clearly identical, to establish relationships on a satisfactory basis. Unfortunately this is not true. There is still a wide misunderstanding and antagonism between the two cultures. Neither North nor South Americans are linguists. The people who speak English south of the Rio Grande are as small a group numerically as those who speak Spanish to the north. The old hatreds and misunderstandings bred during the last hundred years rankle still. We must overcome them. I believe Puerto Rico can be a most important factor in doing so. I believe that the United States should look at the Island and its problems with this in view.
Puerto Rico is a little place and economically poor. The Island, consisting of a group of rugged hills surrounded by a narrow coastal plain, is only about 100 miles long and 35 miles broad. The population is large -- over 550 people to the arable square mile. The forests have largely disappeared and the government has no land on which to take care of the expanding needs of the community.
In one fashion or another the United States has been contributing to the support of Puerto Rico. In the first place, a considerable part of the sums expended for governmental purposes in the Island comes from the federal treasury. In addition, of course, Puerto Rican sugar, which is by far the biggest cash crop of the Island, literally depends for its existence upon the tariff wall of the United States within which it stands. In spite of this, misery is great. There is insufficient work, and poverty, sickness and hunger stalk the Island.
Puerto Rico is basically agricultural. Originally the crops were more or less diversified, but in later years many changes have come. Coffee used to be an important article of export and was largely cultivated in the hilly districts. At no time, however, was Puerto Rico able to compete in production costs with the great coffee-growing countries of South America. Her coffee therefore had to be of such grade and flavor as to command a much higher price. Since the collapse of the world coffee market the cultivation of this crop has greatly diminished. Another crop on which the Island depends is tobacco. This also has suffered for a variety of reasons. To begin with, the general economic crisis has destroyed the price. In addition, Puerto Rican tobacco was used for cigars; but the world at large, and particularly the United States, has been turning from cigars to cigarettes.
The coastal plain, which contains by far the richest land, is largely in sugar. From time immemorial plantations there have been in the hands of a comparatively few individuals. The advent of the big sugar companies has tended to accentuate this. The average Puerto Rican is therefore a landless man, either working as a laborer on a plantation, farming on shares, or living in one of the cities.
Of late years there has been a determined attempt to put him back on the soil. This has been carried on by means of a government homestead commission which bought up tracts of land where it placed landless but experienced farmers. These farmers are now amortizing their debt to the government over a period of years. The government, meanwhile, retains agents whose duties do not consist merely in collecting rents, but who are rather in the nature of instructors to the community of small farmers in these groups of homesteads. All possible efforts have been bent towards encouraging the cultivation of vegetables, primarily for home consumption. In addition, possible crops of every sort have been studied with a view to discovering new sources for agricultural development.
The farming problem, besides being complicated by the facts given above, is subject to another great risk. At periodic intervals the Island is swept by violent hurricanes. These are bad enough when they merely destroy the crop, as in the case of sugar; but with citrus fruits and coffee they often destroy the trees, which means that the damage can only be repaired by an entirely new planting and after a long period of growth. In recent years these disasters have been unusually common. Thus there was an exceedingly bad hurricane in 1928 and another in 1932; while in between was a somewhat slighter one which, however, did destroy a large percentage of the crops on the north coast.
Even putting aside the hazards and difficulties described above, Puerto Rico very evidently has too heavy a population to be sustained by agriculture alone. What is more, the population is increasing rapidly. The Island must either have an emigration outlet or turn to manufacturing. Emigration even under more normal circumstances than now prevail is most difficult, for the average Puerto Rican hates to leave his country. Surprisingly little manufacturing is done. The big industry is needlework; which ranges from garment work to embroidery and is carried on both in factories and in the homes. The employees are naturally almost entirely women. There is some hat-making. During latter years a determined attempt has been made on the part of the government to interest manufacturers in the possibilities of the Island. A Bureau of Commerce and Industry was formed for this purpose. So far, however, possibly due to the depression, only a moderate amount of progress has been made.
So much for the gloomy side of the picture. It is only half. The brighter side rests in the fact that the Puerto Ricans are of Spanish culture and largely of Spanish blood. They are, so to speak, members of the family of the United States by marriage, but blood relations of all of Spanish America. They are in an ideal position to serve as the connecting link between the two great divisions. In them and their island the cultures of the north and the south can meet and blend; there the peoples can be explained one to the other. It is the "house of the interpreter" in this hemisphere.
If we deal with the Island rightly it can be of great value not merely to the United States but to the entire hemisphere. But if we are to develop it as a point of contact with South America we must adopt a different set of policies from those we have so often followed. We must recognize the cultural significance of Puerto Rico in particular and of all the Spanish-American countries in general. It is not the same as ours, but non-identity does not imply inferiority.
We must not try to eliminate the customs and culture of Puerto Rico by substituting therefor our own customs and culture. I do not believe that we could do so if we tried; and if we could, Puerto Rico would lose its value. Puerto Rico should not abandon Spanish as the language in which the people express their intimate thoughts. It should merely add to its background of Spanish culture and the Spanish language northern culture and English. We should strive to have the Island a place where Shakespeare and Cervantes are equally understood.
We have been known in the south as sordid materialists. Dollar diplomacy has become a synonym for our actions. If we are to inspire confidence in South Americans we must show them we are anxious to help them in their problems as well as to trade with them. We can do this effectively through Puerto Rico.
One of the great problems of the tropics is agriculture, the other is disease. Neither of them has been studied within the tropics to anything like the extent that it has been scientifically investigated in the temperate zones. Now Puerto Rico has had men of cultivation who have contributed to the liberal arts. But in addition the people of the Island have shown a marked ability in the investigation of the problems connected with tropical agriculture and tropical medicine. The Island is ideally situated for these two endeavors. Though it is so small, it has within its borders practically every type of soil and climatic conditions found in the tropics. It therefore forms a perfect laboratory.
Puerto Rico's work in medicine is exemplified by the School of Tropical Medicine, which is conducted by the University of Puerto Rico in conjunction with Columbia University, New York. The work takes two forms. The first of these is experimentation. Continuous investigations are under way on every phase of disease, ranging from fevers to the intestinal parasites that are the bane of tropical countries. The second phase is training young men to go out and carry on the battle against disease. In other words, the School of Tropical Medicine is a laboratory where scientists from all over the world can go to conduct special experiments and a school where the students from the various countries, particularly those of South America, may receive an education and go back to their homes better equipped to serve.
In both directions the School has made notable contributions. There is a long list of Puerto Ricans, both past and present, who have attained fame in this work. In Puerto Rico the original plans for the battle against hookworm were formulated. Among the Puerto Rican medical men whose names are engrossed on the roll of honor are Colonel Bailey K. Ashford, for his work on hookworm, sprue, anemia and nutritional deficiencies in the tropics; Dr. Gonzalez Martinez, discoverer of schistomiasis of the intestinal canal; Dr. Guiterriez Igaravidez, for his work in tropical tuberculosis; Dr. Morales Otero, for his work in Malta fever; Dr. Carrion, for his work on skin diseases; Dr. Fernos Isern, for his work on the application of scientific nutrition to children in the tropics. Distinguished scientists have also come to the School of Tropical Medicine from other countries, either to lecture or to pursue their own individual investigations.
But the scientific ends served by the School of Tropical Medicine represent only a part of the work that Puerto Rico can do and has done in the field of tropical health. Knowledge is only valuable to the world if it is applied. The problem is not merely to discover diseases and their remedies, but to devise machinery for carrying the new information to the people. In this direction Puerto Ricans have made great strides.
The Health Department of course has its experimental stations on bacteriology, hospitalization, etc., but its departure of most fundamental importance consists of the system of health units which are being established in the Island. For this purpose the Island has been zoned, and as far as funds permitted a unit has been placed in each zone. Each unit consists of a full-time doctor, clinic, nurses and social workers. The doctor coördinates his work with whatever health services he may find in the community, whether municipal or private. His unit forms the outpost which fights disease when it occurs and, more important still, spreads preventive knowledge. The effectiveness of this scheme in tropical countries is illustrated by the fact that after the last bad hurricane, about a year ago, no epidemic outbreaks of any sort occurred.
In addition, the schools in the various communities have been utilized for health work under the joint supervision of the Commissioner of Health and the Commissioner of Education. Teachers are given practical instruction along these lines. Lectures on sanitation and the common diseases are arranged and delivered, not for the children, but for the grown-up members of the community. Scientific terms are tabu. Pictures or slides are used where possible.
I have said enough, I think, to show that Puerto Rico has made considerable steps in medicine and health work which can be of value to other Spanish-American countries if contacts of the right sort are established.
In agriculture Puerto Rico's achievements have been the equal of those in medicine. There is a College of Agriculture connected with the University, and there is also an Insular Experimental Station. Both of these and the Federal Experimental Station have attained notable results. Sugar, as I have said, is the Island's principal crop. By scientific experimentation and breeding, canes have been developed which yield a sucrose content 15 percent higher than those used a short period ago. These species have immunity to the common diseases. Again, irrigation systems have been evolved, having in view not merely the growth of the plant but also the health of the cultivators, for irrigation too often means a great increase in malaria. Fertilizers and their effect on soils in tropical climates have been exhaustively studied, and in some instances the yield per acre has been more than doubled. The investigation of sugar merely typifies what has been done in the case of other branches of agriculture. Coffee, citrus fruits, tobacco, vegetables, all have come in for their share of attention. Standard works on these matters have been published by Puerto Rican students. Dr. Carlos E. Chardon, the Chancellor of the University, and Mr. Edmundo Colon, formerly Commissioner of Agriculture, Mr. Mendez Ramos, Mr. Lopez Dominguez, Mr. E. Matti and Mr. Nolla have done investigational and scientific work of the first value and have reported thereon in writing.
As in medicine, equal attention has been given to spreading knowledge to those who must benefit therefrom. Systems of extension work suitable to tropical countries have been developed and have proved effective in practice.
So far I have dealt merely with what has been done. The vista for the future is very wide. There are many subjects which have not been touched which clearly are worth while. In an earlier paragraph I alluded to the fact that the north might need forestry products from the south. Puerto Rico offers a splendid place in which to carry on experimental work in forestry. Wood in the tropics grows approximately five times as fast as it does in the northern countries. In the continental United States we have consumed our forests and are consuming them far more rapidly than they can grow. We cannot afford to continue this policy. Unquestionably the disastrous floods in the Mississippi Valley, which cost so much in life and property, have been due in great measure to the deforestation we have so recklessly pursued. In the future we must draw from those parts of the world where crops of timber can be quickly raised and where the acreage lies. To prepare us for this we need a forestry station to investigate what woods may best be used in our manufactories, how it can be raised, and where it can be obtained.
Let us now return to the broader aspect of the problem, namely the bearing of what I have outlined on the ultimate relationships of the nations forming this hemisphere. I believe that by developing the services described above we can be of benefit not merely to Puerto Rico and to the United States, but to the other countries as well. We have neglected and mishandled our relationships with the nations south of the Rio Grande. Often we have approached them with no other thought than to exploit them for the benefit of some individual or group in the United States. This has been shortsighted in the extreme. No permanent good can ever come to a part of the citizens of a country at the expense of all its citizens. By the same token, no foreign relationship of lasting value can be built between nations on a basis other than mutual understanding and benefit.
We of the United States therefore should strive first of all to understand and appreciate the ideals and aspirations of the Latin-American republics, and second, to be of service to them to the end that all may profit thereby. No better instrument of attaining this end lies at hand than Puerto Rico. Through the School of Tropical Medicine we will be discovering the cures of the diseases which have devastated tropical peoples. If it is developed as it should be, it will draw young men from all the central and northern South American countries, and probably many of the Puerto Rican graduates will go to those countries to practise. The same holds true in agriculture. The experimental work will be of great value to all the Latin-American nations. Furthermore, the young Puerto Ricans can go to them and help in the organization of agricultural services.
These are not impractical visions; already much has been accomplished. Young American citizens born in Puerto Rico are now in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Cuba and Santo Domingo, some of them acting as production directors for large companies or agricultural associations, others serving in the respective governmental departments of agriculture. Many of them have been sent at the direct request of the governments concerned. There are many other examples. At the request of the Colombian Government, Dr. Chardon six or seven years ago visited the Department of Antioquia in that country for the purpose of making a detailed study of the School of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. The study was made, and the Governor of that State passed legislation to put the recommendations into effect. A few years ago the Ecuadorian Government sent its Director of Agriculture, Dr. Abelardo Pacharno, to Puerto Rico to study the organization on the Island. Panamanians and Peruvians of attainment and distinction, besides many others from other countries, have come to the Puerto Rican Experimental Station for study.
At Rio Piedras is the University of Puerto Rico. It could symbolize the ideal of which I speak; it could well be a gathering point for scholars from both north and south. In literature there should be classes on Spanish writings from both Spain and the South American countries. These classes might well draw students from the north to learn of Cervantes, de la Vega, and Ruben Dario. At the same time there should be courses on English literature where boys and girls of the Spanish countries could hear of Shakespeare, Milton and Walt Whitman.
There are numerous practical phases that should be developed. The law school could teach Roman law for the benefit of North American students and our Common law for the students from the south. Special features could be a part thereof. For example, here in the United States we have developed over the past years new methods of dealing with public utilities. South America is on the threshold of this development. It would be of real value for many South Americans to get an opportunity to study our legislation on this subject in a university where they could understand the language.
The illustrations I have given could be multiplied many fold. We might well make Puerto Rico a base for cultural and scientific work the influence of which would be felt through both continents.
There is still another aspect of what I have been discussing, and that is the use to which Puerto Ricans might be put in our dealings with South America. The United States has both governmental and business relationships with all of the South American nations. From a practical standpoint, what could be better in these positions than young Puerto Ricans, Spanish by blood and tradition, Spanish-speaking, and yet American citizens with a thorough knowledge of the English language and of American customs?
To sum up, it must be admitted that Puerto Rico is not and almost certainly never will be an economic asset to the United States. She is far more likely to continue to be in need of federal aid. On the other hand, as I have tried to indicate, from the broad aspect of international relationships she can be of great value both to our country and to this hemisphere. She can and should serve as a connecting link between the two great cultural divisions.