Close
Saved Anthologies

Foreign Affairs Anthology Series

Essays for the Presidency

Library of Congress Theodore E. Burton
Foreign Affairs From The Anthology: Essays for the Presidency
Explore the Anthology

American Foreign Policy: a Republican View

When Colonel House wrote his article, "America in World Affairs: A Democratic View," for the June issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS, he was obviously preparing a campaign document. Whatever constructive suggestions he may have offered, however, were either rudely rejected by the Democratic National Convention or submerged in a mass of vague generalities coupled with unsupported allegations and vituperation against Republicans. One may search in vain in the Democratic Platform for any definite or forward-looking policy in foreign affairs.

Aside from questions which exclusively relate to foreign policy, there is but one Democratic argument to which the scope of the present article will justify an answer, and that is the claim set forth in the Democratic Platform and advanced in the article of Colonel House that Republican control has curtailed foreign trade. Criticism has rested especially upon the Tariff Act of 1922. The plain facts utterly disprove the Democratic contention. A comparison of the eighteen months succeeding the enactment of that measure with the eighteen months preceding shows that imports into this country increased by 41 percent, or in an amount totaling $1,670,000,000. There has been a notable increase in the importation of manufactured articles subject to duty. Exports also increased by 12 percent.

Another fact disproves this Democratic argument so commonly advanced. The volume of American trade during the life of the present administration as compared with that in the years preceding the war has shown a far greater increase than that of England, France, Germany, or any other prominent commercial country. This is true because the United States is now enjoying political stability, and its natural companion, material prosperity. The very serious situation as regards exports of wheat and some other farm products is so readily explained that no elaborate statement is necessary. The waste and the abnormal demand which were features of the war period have ceased. At the same time, agricultural production in Europe has experienced a rapid and substantial recovery, and competition from outlying portions of the world, as from Canada, Argentina, Australia, and India, has caused serious inroads on the demands made upon the United States.

The Democratic Convention did not see fit to adopt the suggestion of Colonel House that the United States become an associate member of the League of Nations, but instead adopted a plank which for evasion and for the attempt to satisfy both advocates and opponents is unsurpassedly ludicrous.

That plank, after praising the League with only the sky as a limit, and stating that there is no substitute for it as an agency for peace, favors entrance only after a referendum, a proposal for which there is no constitutional warrant or practical method, and which would necessarily involve interminable delay. Such a plan is manifestly impracticable and absurd. The futility of leaving a decision to a national referendum could not be more clearly set forth than in the address of the Honorable Newton D. Baker at the Democratic Convention. Thus we have the spectacle of a political party abandoning what was its foremost principle in 1920, and substituting for it an empty promise. What confidence can the people repose in the foreign policy of a party which beats such a pitiable retreat? The Republican Platform was unequivocal in its opposition to membership in the League, at this time.

There are many in the Republican Party who regard the League of Nations as a most worthy conception, and who favored membership in it if limited by proper reservations; but further consideration in the light of later developments has brought a realization of very serious objections. The present Republican attitude toward the League, therefore, can be most aptly expressed in the words of President Coolidge, who called it "at least the attempted expression of a noble aspiration for world association and understanding," in which, however, America sees, "whether intended or not, a diminution of its independence and in its provisions the final sanction not of conscience but of force." The President's renunciation of membership was not an avoidance of duty to the world, for of that duty he is fully conscious. "We realize," he said in his first address to Congress, "the common bond of humanity, we know the inescapable law of service." On another occasion, he said: "We must meet these burdens and overcome them or they will meet us and overcome us."

The treaty in which the League most unfortunately was incorporated was framed at a time when the very natural passions aroused by the war were a dominating factor. It imposed terms as to reparations impossible of fulfilment. Force was regarded as the best guaranty of future peace. Instead of looking to the abatement of hatreds and antagonisms, the treaty was framed for their perpetuation. The map of Europe was remade, and that without regard to natural boundaries. Countries which through generations had grown to be economic units were dismembered. Large populations of superior culture and advancement were placed under the control of those notably inferior. Military considerations received undue weight in the fixing of borders. An express provision was even included in the Covenant of the League to render permanent these boundaries so hastily agreed upon. The whole map of Europe is covered with illustrations of the careless consideration given to this subject.

Equally disappointing to advocates of the League have been developments since the Treaty of Versailles was written. Imperialistic ambitions for territorial expansion and commercial advantages have all the while been in evidence. The stronger nations have refused, even within the League, to afford equality of treatment to the weaker. Propositions for disarmament have been framed, but nothing has been accomplished because the conflicting passions of the dominant European nations and their fear of each other's motives have prevented any agreement.

One of the most important provisions in the Covenant of the League of Nations was Article XVII, which provides that in the event of a dispute between a member of the League and a state which is not a member, the non-member state shall be invited to accept the obligations of membership for the purposes of such dispute. Clearly there has been a bitter controversy between France and Germany, the settlement of which is absolutely essential for permanent peace, but the mandatory article which demands an invitation to Germany has been utterly disregarded. It was perfectly well known that the League was helpless to meet a situation which it had promised to solve.

In brief, it must be said that on major propositions the League has failed, and that that which has been accomplished was given only subordinate attention in the plans of its founders.

All this does not mean that the people of the United States do not look with approval on whatever good the League may accomplish. If in any way it has prevented war, we rejoice. There have been some excellent results in humanitarian work. This Administration plans to cooperate wherever American participation can be helpful, and, in the future as in the past, to take part in discussions of direct interest to this country. Such participation has been admittedly useful. It has cost the League nothing. Private American contributions support some of its most important activities.

Many labor under the delusion that our membership in the League would have resulted in a pacified Europe. Those of this opinion have indulged in the beautiful dream that all that is necessary to quiet the raging passions which manifestly persist is for us to say: "Peace, be still!" But whoever seeks a settled Europe must recognize that we are dealing with deeply seated animosities and with rivalries which have developed through many centuries and have been immensely accentuated by the late war.

The futility of any attempt to bring about the peaceful settlement of European questions which does not take into consideration these age-old prejudices is perfectly illustrated by the experience of President Wilson with the Fiume question. On the occasion of his visit to Italy he was received with an acclaim never before accorded to any foreign visitor. Municipalities vied with each other in giving his name to streets and avenues. The people eagerly sought statuettes of him to place in their homes. But when in the utmost good faith he expressed the opinion that Fiume ought not to be claimed by Italy, enthusiastic praise was changed to censure and abounding admiration gave place to ill-will. What the discordant nations of Europe desire, unfortunately, is not the advice or arbitrament of a friendly or impartial nation, but that brand of partisanship which will give support to their ambitious claims. It was only after more than four years, when a spirit akin to despair had arisen from the failure to avert the threat of chaos, that the suggestion of our Secretary of State leading to the Dawes Commission was given favorable consideration. Similar offers made at an earlier date had been received with disfavor.

One of the most important obstacles to membership in the League is the cosmopolitan quality of our population, which is made up of representatives of most races of the earth. No object is more important than to weld our people together, to make of them loyal Americans. We do not wish to destroy their affection for the lands of their birth. We welcome the breadth of vision they bring us. But we must have their undivided loyalty. To gain this we must keep out of the quarrels of the home countries. If the United States had been represented in the League at the time of the Corfu incident every possible pressure would have been brought to bear upon the Government to instruct the American representative to take the side either of Greece or of Italy. Passions would have been aroused that were not pro-American, but pro-Greek or pro-Italian, and the process of Americanization of our fellow citizens would have been retarded, because one or the other group would have thought that we had failed them. Representation on the League of Nations would thus prove a disruptive force in American life, because the United States is not altogether a homogeneous country.

It is to be noted that the most stalwart advocates of the League rarely if ever mention the advantage of membership to this country. They merely try to minimize the disadvantages. In pro-League speeches in France, Great Britain or Czechoslovakia the speakers always stress the value of membership to the home country. In pro-League speeches here, speakers stress only the value of American membership to other countries. It is the first duty of any government to consider the welfare of its own nationals. Anything else is disloyal. It is not sufficient, therefore, to prove that American membership in the League would be of advantage to the world. It must also be proved to be of advantage to America.

The Republican Party advocates membership in the Permanent Court of International Justice. Unlike the League, this is not a political but a judicial body. Adherence to the protocol under which it was established would be in full accord with American traditions. To try to build up a new Court merely because it happened to be the group of nations comprising the League which made possible the establishment of the present court, is merely to avoid the issue and to show a quite unjustified fear of the League.

It is unfortunately true that certain senators of both parties have in the past opposed American participation in the Court, but in the declaration of the Republican Platform there is no ambiguity: "We endorse the Permanent Court of International Justice and favor the adherence of the United States to this tribunal, as endorsed by President Coolidge." This adherence is to be under certain reservations, already informally agreed to by the most important nations having membership in the Court, which will prevent possible political entanglement with the League. President Coolidge said in a recent speech: "I feel confident that such action [adherence to the Court] would make a greater America, that it would be productive of a higher and finer national spirit and of a more complete national life." The Republican Party as a whole follows the courageous leadership of the President. One of his first acts, when Congress meets in December, will no doubt be to urge adherence by the United States to the protocol of the Court. There should be no doubt as to the issue.

The President has also promised that in case there is favorable action under the recommendations of the Dawes Commission another conference will be called to promote the cause of peace. Such a gathering in our own city of Washington, in an atmosphere of impartiality and good-will, would no doubt accomplish still greater results than the earlier conference of 1921-22. That conference was the most notable advance in the direction of disarmament over a very large area which has occurred in many years, very different from the futile discussions conducted by the League. The beneficent results of the Washington Conference did not come from its spectacular quality; they came because the Government had well defined aims, a practical agenda which it was able to carry through. The conference promoted peace through removing causes of misunderstanding, quite as much as because it put an end to competition in the building of capital ships. A long-standing treaty between Japan and England, which was a serious embarrassment to our position in the Far East, was abrogated. A new era of justice to China was assured. Means were provided for the settlement of controversies in and around the Pacific. These results are well-set stones in that durable structure of world peace which it is the policy of the Republican Party to build.

Colonel House criticizes the omission to consider the claims of Russia at that conference. The implication is that the Soviets should have been invited. Such omission proved the wisdom of the Republican Administration. If an invitation had been made and accepted, preposterous claims would have been presented, and the probabilities are that the Conference would have broken up in disgust. What would have happened is well illustrated by the farcical result of the Genoa Conference. Prime ministers and diplomats assembled there with high hopes, but the outcome was barren and discord was aggravated rather than diminished. There is no similar record of so futile and ridiculous a succession of daily gatherings, except in the wrangling and wearisome meetings of the recent Democratic Convention; this latter body, nevertheless, reached a conclusion, which neither the Genoa Conference nor any other international meeting in which Russia was included has succeeded in doing.

There has been no ambiguity in the attitude of the Republican Party toward Russia. There should be no recognition of a government which ignores the sacredness of contracts and all property rights, which bluntly avows that, if its interests so demand, agreements with other nations can be violated at will. There must be no recognition of a government which brutally tramples on human rights. Furthermore, for us to enter into relations with a government constantly striving for the destruction of our own government is unthinkable. These broad issues are above party politics, and the Republicans have never made them an issue. The general rule under which a governing body in control of a country is to be recognized cannot weigh against those moral and political principles which cause us to look askance upon a régime which violates every principle of constitutional government and ignores all international obligations.

It should be added, however, that non-recognition of the Soviet Government indicates no lack of sympathy for Russia, nor of appreciation of the fine qualities of the Russian people. When other nations looked on helplessly, an appropriation of twenty millions was made from the Federal Treasury by a Republican Congress for the hungry and the starving in the Volga Valley, and both by public and private benevolence our people have rendered most efficient aid. We earnestly hope for a reborn democratic Russia to which we can lend assistance without stint.

Let us consider the traditional and practically uniform policy of the United States in foreign affairs. It has been one of careful non-interference and strict neutrality in all that concerns Europe. Even before the Declaration of Independence, a committee of the Continental Congress headed by John Adams framed a model treaty in which he first employed the words "entangling alliances," and advised their avoidance. Beginning with Washington, without respect to party, this has been the general attitude of our chief executives. It was true of Wilson until just before our entrance into the Great War. Washington laid down certain general principles which were followed and approved by Jefferson, Monroe, Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce, and Buchanan.

We may select two typical expressions of this general policy, one by a Democratic president, the other by a Republican. James Buchanan said in his inaugural address: "To avoid entangling alliances has been a maxim of our policy ever since the days of Washington, and its wisdom no one will attempt to dispute." Benjamin Harrison said in his inaugural: "We have happily maintained a policy of non-interference in European affairs. We have been only interested spectators of their contentions in diplomacy and war, ready to use our friendly offices to promote peace, but never obtruding our advice."

Of this general policy, observed for much more than a hundred years, there can be no doubt; but it is maintained that our entrance into the Great War and the close relations now created by commercial and social intercourse dictate a change. That we are more interested than formerly in world affairs, and that our position has been changed by the mighty growth of this nation, may be conceded. There is still, however, a firm foundation for what Washington said: "Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none or a very remote relation, hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

This does not mean that we have not the keenest interest in what happens abroad, nor does it mean for a moment that we should not render friendly offices, not merely in extending benevolent aid to the suffering, but in seeking by friendly intervention to compose differences whenever such action would not cause resentment or be futile. Along these lines the present Administration has met the new situation, has maintained the prestige of the American name, and has sought to solve the duties which changed conditions have imposed upon us. Indeed, the Republican Party recognizes that in foreign affairs this, the strongest nation, should not merely assert its claims but should manifest a disposition to grant generous concessions.

Democratic utterances to the contrary, the Republican Party has a well defined policy. In the last issue of FOREIGN AFFAIRS Senator Lodge detailed some of the achievements of the Harding and Coolidge Administrations in their conduct of foreign relations. Without repeating this notable list it must be plain to an unprejudiced observer that the present Administration has maintained a definite program. It has pursued a single, undeviating policy which, broadly speaking, is the protection and extension throughout the world of American rights and interests in such manner as to remove causes of difference and to promote international good-will. Neither the President nor the Secretary of State is an opportunist. Both are building for the future in furtherance of a wise, unhurried, generous national policy.

The Administration has been compelled to realize that in America as in all countries there are two groups of citizens representing extreme views on foreign relations. They may be called jingoes and sentimentalists. They are equally dangerous. One group, distrusting or even hating all foreigners, purely selfish in their motives and in their thinking, endanger peace by their bumptiousness. The other group, purely sentimental, professing such affection for all foreigners that they look askance at their own compatriots, endanger peace by their supineness. Since human nature is not perfect the road to peace lies somewhere between the two extremes. To this road the Republican Administration has held. Its responsible leaders have always given supreme regard to the greatest good of the United States of America, in full knowledge that so-called isolation is impossible and that the greatest good of one means the greatest world good. In these modern days a country prospers in direct, not in adverse ratio to the prosperity of its neighbors--and its neighbors are all the nations of the earth. The Secretary of State said in New York in May, 1924: "There is only one avenue to peace. That is in the settlement of actual differences and the removal of ill will."

It is the purpose of the Republican Party to conclude a series of treaties of commerce and amity to replace old treaties no longer applicable to modern conditions. A treaty along these lines has already been signed with Germany and awaits action by the Senate. Others are in the process of negotiation. They are based on the principle of unconditional-most-favored-nation treatment, a forward step in American practice which has been adopted because of its simplicity, fairness, and ease of interpretation.

One by one the various problems raised by the systemof mandates established under the Treaty of Versailles are being settled. The treaties already negotiated with various mandatory powers have conserved to America for all time the right of the open door in the mandated territories. American trade, in consequence, is gradually developing. But perhaps the most important aspect of the treaties is that they confirm the rights long since acquired by great missionary interests. Probably few people realize the number of Americans who devote their lives to the improvement of backward races, or the volume of money that flows out from this country to make their humanitarian work possible. These self-sacrificing Americans are nobly supporting and vitalizing the idea of the mandate principle.

Nothing in American foreign policy is more important than our relations with our nearest neighbors, the countries of Latin America. The advent of the Republican Administration found these relations uncertain and strained. Now, toward the end of four years of straightforward, clearly defined and firmly executed Republican policy this uncertainty has been succeeded by confidence and friendship.

The satisfactory settlement of the long standing controversy with Mexico and the resumption of normal relations between the two countries was in itself an important achievement. But in the final analysis even more important was the subsequent vigorous American support of constitutional government in that country, a support which has had a salutary and heartening effect throughout Latin America. The unfortunate custom in some of the smaller countries to the south of us of changing their governments through revolutions instead of through constitutional methods has been checked because of the announced intention of the Government of the United States not to recognize governments created in such a manner. This policy has been given permanent effect by the signing of a treaty in which the United States joins with five Central American countries. When a revolution recently broke out in Honduras a conference was called of representatives of the other Central American states, under an American chairman. This was entirely successful, and it is believed that the new Honduran Government, in spite of another flurry of revolution, will shortly assume power as the result of fair and popular elections. In Nicaragua, revolution has been averted largely because of the unswerving position of the United States. Since the establishment of the independent Republic of Panama there have been no diplomatic relations between Colombia and Panama, a dangerous situation. The earnest efforts of this Administration have brought the two countries together so that at last entirely friendly relations have been established. The long-standing controversy between the United States and Colombia has been terminated by a treaty. British cable lines have long held a monopoly in South America to the great detriment of American cable interests and of free and inexpensive communication. Because of the firm stand of the Department of State the doors of communication have been opened to the fair and free competition of all.

There have been many treaties negotiated and signed by various Latin American nations during the last four years with the assistance of this Government, all of them treaties which foster good understandings and therefore tend to make war almost impossible. The most important of these, the impulse towards which was given by Washington, is the treaty of arbitration signed by sixteen nations, which affords a splendid example for the nations of Europe. Latin America recognizes the family ties that bind together the nations of the American continent. The Administration has maintained the principles which make for peace and helpful progress in its open support of constitutional government in Mexico and elsewhere, in its successful endeavors to bring about arbitration of the ancient Tacna-Arica dispute between Peru and Chile, and in carrying through the far-reaching arbitration treaties of Central America. It has proved its altruism and its unselfishness by putting the Dominican Republic on its feet. What the Administration has done for the Dominican Republic it is doing for Haiti, and the withdrawal from Santo Domingo is proof, if any proof were necessary, that just as soon as Haiti can maintain a sound and just government the United States will withdraw from there as well.

The Republican policy toward Latin America has resulted in a spirit of coöperation, friendship, and peace in the Western Hemisphere which is quite new in history, and which has made the Americas a model for the Old World to emulate.

One Democratic attack must be answered both because it is quite unjustified, and because the subject of the attack happens to be an excellent example of the constructive policy of the Administration. The Democratic Platform says: "We condemn the Lausanne Treaty. It barters legitimate American rights and betrays Armenia for the Chester oil concession. We favor the protection of American rights in Turkey and the fulfilment of President Wilson's arbitral award respecting Armenia."

The United States was at no time at war with Turkey. Although there was sentiment for such a declaration, the Democratic Administration opposed it, even though the terrible Armenian deportations of 1915-1916 had already occurred. We could not, therefore, participate formally in the peace negotiations at Lausanne. American delegates were sent to that peace conference, however, to ensure recognition of the principles of equal opportunity, the upholding of the rights of Christian minorities, and the protection of American interests, particularly as regards our educational and philanthropic work. The Allies were negotiating with a new Turkey, conscious of nationality, free from the incubus of the old régime, with forward-looking institutions largely modeled on those of the United States. (Both the Sultanate and the Khalifate have been abolished and a republic established.)

It was obvious from the outset that this new Turkey would insist absolutely on the internal freedom which could only come from the abolition of the capitulations, and that it would refuse to establish an independent Armenia carved out, as was the plan, from Turkish territory in which the Armenians were a minority. In this connection it may also be well to point out that this particular plan for an independent Armenia has long since been dropped by responsible Armenian leaders. The only people who continue to urge it are propagandists in this country whose agitation results only in jeopardizing the safety of Armenians in Turkey. The American delegates at Lausanne were of the greatest assistance in causing stipulations to be included in the treaty of peace in which the Turkish Government guaranteed to the minorities civil and political rights, the free use of their languages and religion, and equal treatment under the law. The minority peoples were given precisely the same status as the Moslem Turks, and above all these rights were made a part of the fundamental law of the land. The minorities now hold a stronger position than ever before in Turkish history.

In the negotiation of the treaty between the United States and Turkey the American delegates at Lausanne could not ignore the treaty already negotiated by the Allies. America could not demand of Turkey a position of special privilege, since this would be contrary to American practice and would lead to dissension. Our capitulations, furthermore, rested fundamentally on the fact that the treaty of 1830 with Turkey, in giving us most-favored-nation treatment, only put us on an equality with other nations; that equality we maintain under the new treaty. The policy of the open door is fully recognized. As the report of the Foreign Policy Association on the treaty says: "It is difficult to ascertain upon what basis we could justly claim more."

Of especial popular interest is the welfare of the great American religious and educational institutions in Turkey. Political opponents of the treaty, therefore, have liked to assert that there has been a failure to secure the safety and continuance of these humanitarian enterprises. They forget that the representatives of these institutions in Turkey, who know best how they can be protected, have repeatedly urged the ratification of the Lausanne Treaty. Further, the opponents of the treaty have overlooked or ignored the substantial safeguards which the treaty settlement provides. As Dr. Gates, President of Robert College, says: "It gives us the good-will of the Turks instead of their ill will." Dr. Barton, of the American Board of Missions, also strongly favors the treaty. Should Democratic opposition in the Senate bring about its ultimate rejection American humanitarian enterprise in Turkey would indeed face disaster.

There remains the criticism that America has deserted the minorities. We could have insisted on an independent Armenia only if we had been willing to send an army and navy to Anatolia to fight for it and to support it after the war, but no American is so blind as to believe that this would have been possible. A commission headed by General Harbord reported that an army of 250,000 men would be required. The Wilson arbitral award as to Armenia, furthermore, was rendered under the Treaty of Sévres, unratified by either the Allies or by Turkey and now a dead letter. Would the Democratic Party declare war against Turkey on this issue, even though contrary to world opinion and the opinion of the most intelligent Armenians as to what is best for their own people?

The Chester concession, of course, had not the remotest connection with any of these questions. It was not under consideration when the treaty was negotiated. The Department of State took no part whatever in securing it. It was a purely private enterprise and no questions have arisen in connection with it calling for action on the part of the Government. Neither during the Wilson Administration nor during the Harding and Coolidge Administrations, did the Department of State make any representations whatever concerning it to the Turkish Government. The criticism of the Administration in this regard is entirely without foundation.

The Republican Party believes that the foreign policy of the nation should be as American as its domestic policy. It recognizes the rights of an American citizen in India as well as in Indiana, and proposes to protect those rights so long as the citizen does nothing to forfeit them. It believes that by protecting legitimate American enterprise, by insisting on equality of treatment, it earns the respect of other nations and sets an example of fair dealing. It believes that America is high-minded, inspired by unselfish ideals, and seeks therefore to preserve American independence of action as our greatest asset for aiding other peoples. It knows the value of service to humanity and insists that the highroads and bypaths of this service shall be kept open the world over. It recognizes the just settlement of disputes and the avoidance of unnecessary causes of difference as the basis of good-will, and it knows that good-will is the only sure foundation of world peace.

The Republican Party subscribes to no quack remedies or panaceas. No conventions and covenants can remake human nature in a day. But strict justice, tempered with generosity and understanding, builds international confidence and reduces to a minimum the danger of the injustice which rouses human passions. Honest foreign policy must be farsighted, friendly, strong for the right but considerate for the weak, courageous, unselfish without weakness, consistently progressive. These, I believe, are the fundamental principles upon which the foreign policy of President Coolidge and of the Republican Party is built. Such a policy is the life breath of peace, and affords assurance of an America of constantly growing influence and helpfulness in world affairs.

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.

Continue

Close We are offering free and open access for a short period of time. Read more about why we are doing this.

Days
Hrs
Min
Sec