PRESIDENT TRUMAN, in his message on the State of the Union, described the principles for which the United Nations are fighting in Korea as "the foundations of collective security." He was stating, in my view, a simple truth. But that it should be uttered by the Chief Executive of the United States at this time of decision in world history is a matter of profound significance. Until now, collective security has never been more than a concept, idealistic but abstract. Its effective interpretation, as we in Europe have confirmed in the acid test of experience, insists that the diplomacy of the peacemakers must have the backing of arms. Only in such a way can collective security perform its essential function, which is to avert war instead of merely permitting some to survive it.
The first invocation of collective security was in the days of the League of Nations. Maybe it did not fail by a very large margin. But it did so because of a reluctance, understandable enough though misguided, to use force. A contributory factor throughout the League's history was the nonparticipation of the United States. I do not think that there would be much dispute today as to the immense psychological influence which America's absence brought to bear on the calculations of potential aggressor and potential defender alike. It is therefore not surprising if present events are seen by some Americans as nearly a complete reversal, in a comparable situation, of the pre-1939 relationship between America and Europe. We in Europe now appear, in the eyes of the pessimists, to be the "absent," while the burden, psychological and actual, of giving effect to collective security seems to them to rest solely on the United States. This feeling is understandable, but it is not justified. Yet even as a minority view it deserves attention.
No country has better reason than Britain to know the reasons for such a mood in America today. We have had long experience of being both
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