Don’t Panic About Taiwan
Alarm Over a Chinese Invasion Could Become a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Where there is no vision the people perish.--PROVERBS XXIX, 18.
THE world has seldom passed through such a period of disaster, discontent and unrest as that which the present generation has had to confront during the past ten years. War, pestilence, famine, and earthquake have been our lot, and the end is not yet.
The war was man-made, and has left in its wake the maximum of hate and the minimum of amity and good-will. Even those who fought side by side and who threw their national resources into the common effort, have come out of it suspicious and less friendly toward one another than they were before. During the fury of battle and ruin the young gladiators who were matched against one another time and again expressed the hope that the end would justify the sacrifice they were making, and that those in high places who had sent them out to death would enter an international pact to end war and protect the youth of another generation. Buoyed by this thought they went gladly and gallantly on. For one brief moment mankind was at the crossroads of destiny and it seemed that the war might bring about a spiritual renaissance which would make for a more wholesome world.
In each country there were men of vision and lofty purpose, urging that the right turn of the road be taken, and of them, by virtue of his eloquence and high office, Woodrow Wilson became the acknowledged spokesman. Unhappily there were those in governmental positions in the United States who saw but dimly where Wilson would lead, and realized not at all the responsibility they were taking when they turned their countrymen from the paths of peace and justice and honor. When the United States Government announced its policy of selfish isolation the effect upon Europe was immediate and profound. The result has been a disorganized and distrustful Europe and a United States sunk to a low level of materialism and official ineptitude. This is the unhappy plight in which the year of 1924 finds us.
Therefore the Democratic Platform this year should be something more than the mere grouping together of familiar platitudes to be used as convenient stepping stones into office. The American people are again hungry for leadership and were never more weary of politicians, their banal laudations of their own party men and measures, and their sweeping condemnation of those of like impulses and purposes belonging to the same order but labelled under another name. When we Democrats ask to be intrusted with the mandate to govern, let us prove by our nominees and platform that we are equal to the task.
Our country has been the favored child of fortune. With a salubrious climate, with prodigious natural and industrial resources, our material progress and welfare have been phenomenal. In the past our people have shown their fibre in both peace and war, and some of our chosen leaders have commanded the admiration and esteem of the entire world. Although we are young we have both ideals and traditions which should be maintained, and, since we are not so rich in intellectual as material accomplishments, we should seek to build where we are weakest. In the beginnings of the Republic we chose our leaders more wisely than now, for although we have a fine quality of citizenship we are not using it to the best public advantage as we did then. That period gave us men like Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Jackson, Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. Since those days we have drifted into a system of choosing our leaders which is producing second and third rate men. It is true we have had a Lincoln, a Roosevelt, and a Wilson, but they have been largely accidental. Lincoln was a compromise between Seward and Chase; Roosevelt was shot into the Presidency; and Wilson perhaps won his election by the schism in the Republican Party.
Unfortunately it has come to pass that we choose our Presidents because of their vote-getting qualities in certain doubtful states rather than for their qualifications for the office they are to fill. When Presidential candidates press their claims upon the nominating conventions it is their availability as vote-getters that is stressed, not their knowledge of public affairs or the policies for which they stand. Sadly enough, the more experience a man has the less available he becomes, because in the furtherance of his public duties he has antagonized this interest or that, or has offended some political or racial group. Of our recent Presidents few were well known to the public in a political way before they assumed office, and the two Democrats elected since the Civil War, Cleveland and Wilson, were not vexed by an official record of more than a year or two.
As our population and economic resources have expanded, the office of President of the United States has grown in both prestige and importance. It is today one of the most powerful instruments of government the world has yet seen, and it is folly to fill it with men of mediocre ability. We have an abundance of material if given opportunity of expression. Even a Lincoln or a Wilson might have died with but a meager reputation had it not been for the office he occupied and for the great war that came during his administration. They each possessed qualities within themselves which raised them to the first rank among statesmen when they were given the opportunity of serving their country in its hour of need.
At present the direction of our affairs, foreign and domestic, has again come to be almost wholly in the hands of the Senate, because there are in the Senate a few courageous men who have dared to take control from the Executive. The Senate has shown so much partisanship and ignorance in dealing with foreign affairs that a strong President might have brought upon it a storm of protest had he taken public issue with it and had he formulated a clear-cut statesmanlike policy. But both Harding and Coolidge have temporized, halted and finally given way.
It is stated with more and more frequency that there is little difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties, and that what difference there is is merely one of personnel. It is true there are times when there are no great issues before the public, and when the minor issues are not of sufficient consequence to cause serious cleavage of opinion, but there is always a fundamental difference between the policies in general for which the Democratic Party stands and the policies for which the Republican Party stands. At the moment this fundamental divergence of views is sharply accentuated.
During the first sixty years of the nineteenth century the Democrats enjoyed an almost continuous control of the national government. Jefferson, our first great progressive, largely changed the theory of our government from that conceived by Washington and Hamilton and interpreted by Chief Justice Marshall. But a long term of power brings to a party's support the property interests of the country, and gradually the progressive party becomes conservative and the conservative party progressive. In consequence, prior to the Civil War the leanings of the Democrats were toward conservatism, and the Republican Party, under the leadership of Lincoln, was the forward or progressive party. Since the Civil War the rôles have been reversed, except during the second administration of Roosevelt.
Today the fundamental difference between the two parties is their divergent attitude toward human and property rights, the Democrats stressing the former and the Republicans the latter. In the long run the Democratic policy will probably safeguard property rights better than the Republican policy for a policy of progressively-minded justice will secure industrial peace and lessen the likelihood of resentful outbreaks, confiscatory in essence and revolutionary in character. Capital seldom learns from experience. The representatives of the property interests of each generation strive eagerly to secure the last vestige of concession and monopoly, and are willing to leave the consequences to fall upon their successors always hoping the break may not come during their own lifetime.
This difference between the two parties covers a wide range, and is indicative of the conservative thought of the one and the progressive thought of the other. It is upon the issues involved in this divergence of opinion that the coming campaign will be fought. In its broad sweep, among other things, we shall find within its scope the entire transportation problem by land and sea; the treatment of monopolies of both raw materials and manufactured articles; the equitable adjustment of the rights of labor, the rights of the consumer, the rights of the farmer, the rights of capital and the rights of the middleman. If the Democratic Party is intrusted with the mandate of government at the coming elections it must deal with each of these problems without prejudice, and in a way to bring about permanent rather than temporary settlements. It will be done in the spirit in which the Federal Reserve Act and the Farm Loan Act were created. When these laws were in the making they were vehemently opposed by some of those now loudest in their praise. They were formed, as all legislation should be formed, with a single purpose for the general good.
The question of the tariff has always been and is now one upon which the two parties totally disagree. The Republican view is set forth in its most aggressive form in the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill, a bill so ill-timed and so excessive that it cost Senator McCumber his seat in the Senate in the last elections. It was said that the Republican leaders realized the folly of going so far at such a time, but were under pledges to do so. Even those who benefited by the bill feared it would cost the Republicans the elections in 1924, but they were willing to risk party defeat in order to have four years in which to reap extraordinary profits, and they callously argued that at the worst the Democrats would probably merely place the rates back where they had been before.
As Adam Smith has pointed out in his "Wealth of Nations," one of the phenomena of popular government is the placid way in which the people accept the burden of indirect taxation and resent the imposition of direct taxation. We hear but little complaint of the excessive load carried by our citizens because of the tariff. On the other hand, a vociferous demand has been made for a reduction of the income tax and against the proposed bonus for soldiers of the World War, notwithstanding the fact that the tariff, directly and indirectly, is costing the people each year a sum larger than the entire income tax and the proposed bonus combined. Barring the cost of collection, all the moneys paid on account of income taxes become immediately available for the expense of government, while but a small part of the moneys which the tariff costs the people goes into the Treasury. By far the larger part goes to those interests protected by the tariff. If the mighty cost of our present tariff could once be borne in upon the consciousness of the people, they would vote to tear it to tatters. While there is no considerable opinion in the United States for free trade, there is a strong sentiment against a tariff in excess of requirements for revenue. Such a tariff could be imposed wholly upon non-competitive articles. It is regrettable that the question cannot be taken out of politics, for it has always been most disturbing to business. The tariff should be permanently settled on a basis for revenue only. This could be done through the Tariff Commission, and manufacturers would soon find that a fixed policy would inure more to their benefit than the changing of schedules every few years.
There are many things to be done in making our government more responsive to the will of the people which the Democratic Party will sponsor. One of these is submitting a Constitutional Amendment permitting treaties to pass the Senate by a majority vote instead of a two-thirds vote as now. Or it might be well to have both the House of Representatives and the Senate act upon treaties by a majority vote. War can be made by a majority vote of the two Houses of Congress. Why should the making of peace be made more difficult than the making of war? If this change in our government procedure had been in force in 1919 the deadlock which occurred between the President and the Senate could not have happened, and the disastrous consequences of it might have been averted. Our failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and the Tripartite Treaty will probably be reckoned by historians as one of the greatest lapses of moral and intellectual leadership of which this nation has been guilty.
While our domestic affairs have been conducted without imagination and with a lamentable lack of constructive statesmanship by the Harding-Coolidge Administration, it is to the conduct of our foreign affairs that we must look with regret and humiliation. We have abdicated the noble position our citizen soldiery won for us during the war, and which Wilson crystalized by his masterly oratory and far-reaching diplomatic successes. It is in this fruitful field of endeavor that the Democratic Party may again have its opportunity for service.
In foreign affairs the contrasting attitude of the two parties has become marked. Up to the time of the bitter controversy between President Wilson and the Senate there was no sharp difference as to what part the United States should play toward the rehabilitation of Europe. Now the split is basic. It may well be that many unbiased Republicans differ but little from the Democratic point of view, and even President Coolidge and Mr. Hughes are under popular suspicion of favoring a wider participation in world affairs but of being too timid to resist the courageous and dominating irreconcilable Senators in their own party who will have none of it. Therefore the Coolidge Administration, following in the footsteps of the Harding Administration, is attempting timorously the things they fear to do boldly.
The Democrats should, and doubtless will, promise to bring about a conference among the powers to agree upon laws governing the rights of both belligerents and neutrals upon land and sea and in the air in time of war. There has been but one attempt to agree upon sea laws since the Declaration of Paris in 1856, and that was the futile Declaration of London in 1909 which the World War found unratified by many of the powers concerned. This is a serious question and has already been too long neglected. The freedom of the seas is perhaps the most vital international problem yet unsolved, and it is a serious indictment of present-day statesmanship that no serious attempt has been made since the World War to solve it. The sea is a more fertile breeding place for war than either the land or the air, for beyond the three-mile limit it belongs to no country, and any nation or nations undertaking to exercise undue privileges must reckon with others whose ships sail it in pursuit of their legitimate rights.
It was natural to suppose that the enthusiasm with which the Washington Naval Disarmament Conference was received by the American people would have led the Republican Administration to further and more effective efforts in that direction. Just why they fell short of completing the task is something of a mystery, for, surely, sufficient encouragement was given them by public opinion to have justified a thorough piece of work.
Nothing indicates better than the final treaty made at Washington the folly of bringing foreign affairs into partisan politics. On the one hand the Wilson Administration was condemned for wishing to entangle the United States in a universal attempt at disarmament and peace, on the other the Republicans bind the United States to maintain a pact between a few powers which has within it grave possibilities of future war. The Washington Conference undertook to make certain commitments and guarantees in the Asiatic Pacific without in any way considering Russia. When the pact was made Russia was not in a position to protest, but when this great Asiatic-European power emerges from the welter of revolution and its aftermath, it may not acquiesce in the disposition which was made of things in which it has a vital interest. Even if one may not be disposed to criticize the conclusions of the Washington Conference, much can be said in criticism of the inconsistency of the attitude of those who saw one way when Harding was dealing with foreign affairs, and another way when Wilson embarked upon a much greater, a more permanent and less entangling enterprise.
The Republican policy toward the Philippines illustrates the wide divergence of thought between the two parties. By implication, by promise, and by virtue of the advancing public opinion of the world we should give the people of those Islands a steadily increasing measure of independence. At a time when Great Britain has given Ireland and Egypt the direction of their domestic affairs, and is in course of working out a measure of independence for India, the United States Government, under Republican Administration, refuses to meet the reasonable demands of the Filipinos. The argument that our rule of the Islands is best for their inhabitants, that they are not sufficiently educated and versed in the art of government and are not to be trusted with the direction of their own affairs, is an age-old argument, used by the powerful to hold in subjection the weak. If backward nations are ever to become self-reliant and forward, they must have their training in the school of experience. We should give to the Filipinos such help and counsel as we have given the Cubans, for the day has come when they should walk alone. Let them have a Governor-General if needs be, but let him serve merely as the symbol of our authority and as a warning to envious nations to keep away. His power should not be greater or other than that of governors in the British Dominions.
It would be cruel to recall the Republican promises and boastings of 1920, or to relate the unhappy story of the debacle that has overtaken and overwhelmed that party. The tale is too humiliating to our national pride to cause any patriotic Democrat, for party reasons, to be glad of what has happened.
The Republican Party has had its chance to meet the needs of a critical hour in history, and has failed the expectations of a people who gave it their suffrage generously. At home, industry is slackening because the purchasing power of Europe has diminished. Europe needs all the food stuffs which we produce, but cannot send commodities in return with which to pay for them. In consequence, many of our farmers in the West are bankrupt because their surplus products have no markets. Deprived of their full European outlet what they raise barely brings returns equal to the cost of production and transportation. Because of these conditions there is something akin to a political revolution brewing west of the Mississippi.
When the lofty purposes of the Wilson Administration were in the making, the enemies of the Democratic Party derided the efforts to create a spiritual upheaval in behalf of peace and a better understanding between nations. When it was sought to bring about a unity of purpose in ameliorating social and hygienic evils that haunt all mankind, it was said that Wilson and his advisers were dreamers. When the sanctity of treaties was urged as one of the necessary steps toward a higher code of international morals, we were answered with the slogan "America First." And so the story went, day by day, whenever something was urged tending to lead peoples away from material things and selfish purposes.
No matter how close the policies of the Democratic and Republican Parties have been in the past they parted ways when Woodrow Wilson became President, and the schism has since become wide and deep.
When Wilson relinquished office on March 4, 1921, American prestige stood at its highest point in history and our flag was the symbol throughout the world for international peace and honor. In foreign lands the humble and oppressed looked upon it as their hope for the future, and they reverently, and with something akin to awe, made obeisance to it. It seemed then that our democracy was ready to come into full flower and that we were to justify the heritage which had come to us through the toil and wisdom of the founders of the Republic. But idealism gave way to materialism, and instead of looking upon the world from the mountain top we find ourselves in the valley of despair.
What we are doing toward international cooperation we are doing haltingly and grudgingly. While it is true that the United States Government is now represented in the League of Nations Committees on Health, Anthrax, Opium, Customs Formalities, Communications and Transit, Traffic in Arms, and the Traffic in Women and Children, yet, as Raymond B. Fosdick well says: "The whole matter of our relationship is to the last degree unfortunate. It is irregular, erratic, ineffective, undignified, and incomplete: irregular, because it has not the sanction and has perhaps even the disapprobation of Congress; erratic, because it is guided by no fixed rule or policy; ineffective, because while America sits in many preliminary commissions, her voice is silent when the very questions on which she has spent great effort are put to a final decision in the ultimate bodies of the Council and the Assembly; undignified, because America, the richest nation in the world, uses League machinery and League facilities without her government contributing a penny to their upkeep; incomplete, because opposition to the League has prevented cooperation in many other League activities of genuine interest to America, such as disarmament, finance, economics, mandates, treaty registration, international law--in short, nearly all questions of international cooperation."
No adequate substitute for an association of nations created to maintain peace can be devised. Conferences such as the recent one at Washington may serve useful purposes, and may remove causes for war, but the real danger of war oftentimes comes over-night. It is then too late to call conferences, as was shown in 1914. Viscount Grey, than whom there is no better authority, has said that if the League of Nations had been in existence in 1914 war might have been averted. In an international crisis there must be machinery at hand ready to become immediately operative.
President Coolidge and his spokesmen are assuming that the peaceful, unaggressive attitude of the United States and its willingness to enter into negotiations to settle differences with other powers are sufficient to keep us out of war. History tells another story, and if this fatuous policy is to be our guiding star toward peace we shall have some day a rude awakening. That method has been tried and found wanting.
The League of Nations may not serve all the high purposes hoped for by its sponsors, but it has become humanity's last hope. Its name was suggested, and its creation largely brought about, by men within the Republican Party--Taft, Lodge, Lowell, and their colleagues; and the World Court, its very necessary adjunct, was mainly the work of Elihu Root. The League to Enforce Peace which fostered the movement for the existing League of Nations had no more eloquent advocates than Mr. Taft and Senator Lodge, and the League they had in mind was predicated on force. At Paris in 1919, when the Covenant was in process of formation, it was at first thought that the new and hopeful instrument should be called an "Association of Nations," because to the French the word "league" meant nothing. But because the American organization of the League to Enforce Peace was so widely known it was considered best to use the dual name, League of Nations and Société des Nations.
It is interesting to recall that the Democratic position regarding world cooperation for peace has never been better stated by anyone than by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge before the League to Enforce Peace at Washington, May 26, 1916, when, among other things, he said:
"Probably it will be impossible to stop all wars, but it certainly will be possible to stop some wars and thus diminish their number. The way in which this problem is to be worked out must be left to this League and to those who are giving this great question the study which it deserves.
"I know the obstacles. I know how quickly we shall be met with the statement that this is a dangerous question which you are putting into your agreement; that no nation can submit to the judgment of other nations, and we must be careful at the beginning not to attempt too much. I know the difficulties which arise when we speak of anything which seems to involve an alliance. But I do not believe that when Washington warned us against entangling alliances he meant for one moment that we should not join with the other civilized nations of the world if a method could be found to diminish war and encourage peace.
"It was a year ago that in delivering the Chancellor's address at Union College, I made an argument on this theory: that if we were to promote international peace at the close of the present terrible war, if we were to restore international law as it must be restored, we must find some way in which the united forces of the nations could be put behind the cause of peace and law. I said then that my hearers might think that I was picturing a Utopia, but it is in the search for Utopias that great discoveries have been made. 'Not failure, but low aim, is the crime.'
"This League certainly has the highest of all aims for the benefit of humanity, and because the pathway is sown with difficulties is no reason that we should turn from it. . . ."
As for the World Court, admirable as it is as an adjunct to the League of Nations, it is a mere gesture without it. Our entrance into the Court without using the League machinery would add nothing to our present position. Any nation, in or out of the League, may use the World Court when it desires, and members of it need not use it if they do not wish to do so. Membership does not make its use compulsory.
Because the focus of the Great War was in Europe and because a new adjustment of frontiers necessarily and rightly followed, there inevitably has been throughout that continent an aftermath of social and political upheavals. The opponents of the League of Nations in the United States have used this troublesome period of readjustment to frighten the timid and ill-informed. If their lamentations were heeded one would think the League made in Europe and for Europe's purposes alone. It is in fact, as President Wilson has said, the extension of the Monroe Doctrine throughout the world. The South and Central Americas so regard it, and have sought its sanctuary. They are no longer willing to accept our overlordship, and with changing times and conditions we would be wise not to insist upon it. Great and powerful as we are we cannot continue to go successfully against the public opinion of the entire world, nor indeed should we so desire, either on the score of moral conduct or material advantage. Let our ambition rather be that of a mighty republic using its moral influences and strength for high and unselfish purposes. Let us mingle with other nations as one of them and not stand as one apart. Let us seek their friendship not their hate. And above all, let us be unafraid,--unafraid to speak the word of conciliation, unafraid, if need be, to speak the word of warning, --and so do our share toward helping the industrious and frugal throughout the world to garner peacefully the fruits of their labor and industry.
In the London Times of September 5, 1922, the writer suggested as a compromise that the United States enter the League of Nations as an associate member. The United States entered the World War as an Associate Power and did not become a party to any secret treaties or to any of the understandings which the Allies had among themselves. We fought as valiantly and threw our resources into the cause as prodigally as they, but we were free and untrammeled from beginning to end. The Democrats should declare at their forthcoming Convention that if successful at the polls next November they will pledge the President to ask Congress by joint resolution to authorize the United States to become an Associate Member of the League of Nations without in any way committing the country to the Covenant. Thus the fears of the timid could be dispelled regarding a superstate and an entangling alliance (Articles 10 and 16). If the Democrats are courageous and wise and worthy of leadership they will denounce political expediency and cowardice, and declare that the time has come for this Republic to stand side by side with other nations intent upon saving what is left of civilization.
By taking this nobler attitude in international affairs we may yet salvage something of our honor and self-respect from the wreck of Republican misadventure. We may then lay wreaths on our heroic dead, lying in the valleys and on the hillsides of France, with uplifted hearts and clean consciences, and again stand with all our moral and material strength on the side of universal peace and the brotherhood of man.