I HAVE been reading a book by Raymond Aron, a very distinguished representative of French political thought, which discusses with much insight the effect of the ideological division between the United States and the Soviet Union upon the world in general and France in particular. In his view there are but two great political systems in the world, with the rest of us forming a no-man's-land between them. "The whole of Europe" between the Russian frontier and the Atlantic is, he says, "comparable only to the Balkans before 1914," because it consists of weak and divided countries for control of which the two great "empires" are contending.[i] He does not actually name England as one of these Balkan states; but he presumably puts her in that category since the British Commonwealth, of which she is part, is not in his opinion a world factor worth mentioning.
There is always something tonic in the clear-cut quality of French thought; and this example of it is indeed challenging. Only six years have passed since the British Commonwealth was standing alone but united against a Power which had all Western Europe at its mercy -- only six years since, in truth, the existence of that Commonwealth altered the course of European and world history. Yet here is a distinguished French thinker dismissing it without discussion as nonexistent. Is he right or is he wrong?
No one will dispute one cardinal point in M. Aron's analysis, to wit, the utter insufficiency of isolated nation-states either for self-defense or for self-maintenance as prosperous economic units in the world of today. But he himself will not, I am sure, deny that the term "isolated nation-state" requires some substantiation when used to describe any of the nations of the British Commonwealth. Their association may seem to foreigners to rest upon a tissue of imponderables which cannot be convincingly evaluated, as can a written federal constitution which combines a number of provinces or states under a federal government with overriding
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