Essays for the Presidency
A Century's Worth of Candidates and Their Advisers Make Their Cases
Rebooting Republican Foreign Policy
Needed: Less Fox, More Foxes
Getting the GOP's Groove Back
How to Bridge the Republican Foreign Policy Divide
The Clinton Legacy
How Will History Judge the Soft-Power Secretary of State?
Renewing American Leadership
Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges
Reengaging With the World
A Return to Moral Leadership
Toward a Realistic Peace
Defending Civilization and Defeating Terrorists by Making the International System Work
Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century
An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom
Securing America's Future
A New Realism
A Realistic and Principled Foreign Policy
America's Priorities in the War on Terror
Islamists, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan
Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster?
A Strategy of Partnerships
Foreign Policy for a Democratic President
Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest
Campaign 2000: A Republican Foreign Policy
Campaign 2000: New World, New Deal: A Democratic Approach to Globalization
A Republican Looks at Foreign Policy
A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy
America's First Post-Cold War President
A Republican Looks at Foreign Policy
A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy
The 1988 Election: U.S. Foreign Policy at a Watershed
American Foreign Policy: The Bush Agenda
The 1988 Election
Foreign Policy and the American Character
After the Election: Foreign Policy Under Reagan II
The First Term: From Carter to Reagan
The First Term: Four More Years: Diplomacy Restored?
The First Term: The Reagan Road to Détente
Beyond Détente: Toward International Economic Security
For a New Policy Balance
The End of Either/Or
Asia After Viet Nam
Policy and the People
The Presidency and the Peace
Two Years of the Peace Corps
U.S. Policy in Latin America
A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy
Putting First Things First
A Democratic View
The Senate in Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy in Presidential Campaigns
Korea in Perspective
November 1952: Imperatives of Foreign Policy
The Challenge to Americans
The Foreign Policy of the American Communist Party
The Promise of Human Rights
Our Sovereignty: Shall We Use It?
European Legislation for Industrial Peace
Labor Under the Nazis
The Permanent Bases of American Foreign Policy
Political Factors in American Foreign Policy
Some Foreign Problems of the Next Administration
Our Foreign Policy
A Republican View
Our Foreign Policy
A Democratic View
The Senate and Our Foreign Relations
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1921-1924
American Foreign Policy: a Democratic View
American Foreign Policy: a Republican View
American Foreign Policy: a Progressive View
After the Election
THE foreign policy of any nation is the resultant of varied forces. Economic conditions, commercial rivalries, dynastic ambitions, and special issues arising from time to time, determine a nation's attitude toward other states. In a democracy, it is also inescapable that a political party in opposition should oppose measures taken by the party in power affecting relations with foreign countries, as well as those affecting only domestic subjects, particularly when the character of the matter involved may be used to arouse public interest or public prejudice. The motto of every political party is, "Any stick to beat a dog!"
Paradoxically enough, in the United States, one of the youngest of the nations, tradition has been perhaps the strongest force in shaping our international course. This was recognized by the group of Senators who in 1919 organized to prevent the approval of the Versailles Peace Treaty, as a means of destroying President Wilson and defeating the Democratic Party at the next general election. They took as the keynote of their campaign the counsels of Washington's Farewell Address and Jefferson's pronouncement against "entangling alliances," and by constant reiteration of the sacred principles of aloofness from European affairs, succeeded in convincing a large part of the electorate that the Covenant of the League of Nations was a snare to entrap America into such an entangling alliance as Washington and Jefferson feared. The Monroe Doctrine also was pressed into service as an assertion of American hostility to the nations of Europe, and the proposed League to preserve the peace of the world was interpreted as a threat to our national sovereignty which would bind us captive to the European juggernaut!
Recognizing, however, the widespread feeling among our people that the great purpose of the World War was to prevent future wars, and that we should not be keeping faith with those who sacrificed their lives to the cause unless our country took some affirmative action to prevent a repetition of the tragedy of 1914-1918, the Republican platform of 1920 declared that the Party "stands for agreement among the nations to preserve the peace of the world." But, it continued, we believe that such an international association must be based upon international justice, and must provide methods which shall maintain the rule of public right by the development of law and the decision of impartial courts, and which shall secure instant and general international conference whenever peace shall be threatened by political action, so that the nations pledged to do and insist upon what is just and fair may exercise their influence and power for the prevention of war.
The purpose and the principle of the League thus were approved, but it was asserted that the Covenant contains stipulations, not only intolerable for an independent people, but certain to produce the injustice, hostility, and controversy among nations which it proposed to prevent.
The Democratic platform advocated the immediate ratification of the Versailles Treaty, without reservations, but stated that the Party did not oppose the acceptance of any reservations making clearer or more specific the obligations of the United States to the League Associates.
The part played by the League issue in the election of Mr. Harding always will be a matter of dispute, but the political effect of the prejudices aroused by the campaign against the treaty was to revitalize the eighteenth century prejudices against any agreement with foreign nations which committed our government to concurrent action or conference with European nations, and to create a miasmatic political atmosphere through which we have had to struggle in all subsequent efforts to reach and maintain the agreements with other nations which the aftermath of the Great War have made imperative.
The Republican national platform of 1924 reaffirmed the Party's stand for agreement among the nations to prevent war and preserve peace.
Yet it again commended the government for definite refusal of membership in the League of Nations. It favored the adherence of the United States to the World Court, on the terms proposed by President Coolidge, but asserted as the basic principles of our foreign policy . . . independence without indifference to the rights and necessities of others, and coöperation without entangling alliances.
The 1924 platform of the Democratic Party, while renewing its declaration of confidence in the ideals of world peace, the League of Nations and the World Court of Justice, as together constituting the supreme effort of the statesmanship and religious conviction of our time to organize the world for peace, recommended that the question whether or not the United States should become a member of the League of Nations, with such reservations to the Covenant as were agreed upon by the President and the Senate, should be submitted to the people by referendum. The absence of any constitutional provision for such a referendum, and its lack of binding effect, emphasize the conviction that this course was adopted as a convenient method of sidestepping the issue. In other words, the political effect of arousing national prejudice against "foreign entanglements," and the easy response to xenophobic appeals, was felt even in the councils of the party of Woodrow Wilson, in relation to the very measure for the preservation of world peace to which he had sacrificed his life. It is not difficult to arouse popular passion and prejudice. But once they have been aroused, it is not easy to allay them or to escape their consequence.
Gustav LeBon,[i] in his epoch making study of the psychology of crowds, remarks that "the destinies of peoples are determined by their character and not by their government." He points out the influential part played in national action by traditions, which represent the ideas, the needs and the sentiments of the past. "Neither a national genius, nor civilization," he says, "would be possible without traditions. In consequence, man's two great concerns since he has existed have been to create a network of traditions which he afterwards endeavors to destroy when their beneficial effects have worn themselves out. Civilization is impossible without traditions and progress impossible without the destruction of those traditions."
The history of American foreign policy since 1920 has been an epitome of just such a struggle. On the one hand has been the dynamic pressure of the actualities of international relationship; the world has been drawn into intimate contact by applied science—the telegraph and cable, the telephone and the radio, the railway, the steamship and the airplane—and by the necessary interchange of merchandise and of ideas, with the inevitable result that every nation is affected by social and economic conditions in other parts of the world. In particular, war anywhere affects peoples everywhere. In the opposite sense there has been in operation the hampering influence upon government of prejudices against international agreements of any kind, the popular belief that a nation can live unto itself and yet share in prosperous foreign commerce with others, the delusion that war can be prevented by mere declarations of "outlawry," without the adoption of effective methods for the peaceful adjustment of international controversies, and the persistent belief that an agreement to act in concert with other nations to prevent war involves an unjustifiable surrender of national sovereignty. LeBon is quite right when he says: "Progress is impossible without the destruction of these traditions."
The foreign policy of the United States finds expression in its intercourse with other governments, carried on, in the first instance, by the President, through the Department of State. But as all international agreements which rise to the dignity of treaties, in order to be binding must be made with the advice and consent of the Senate, expressed by the vote of two-thirds of those present, and as laws and appropriations of money necessary to carrying out treaty provisions must be agreed to also by the House of Representatives, the sentiment of those bodies may not safely be disregarded by the Executive. Thus the foreign policy of the United States is strongly influenced by the opinions and the action of the Senate and the House.
As a matter of history, from the foundation of our constitutional government, the Senate, and at times even the House of Representatives, has insisted upon being recognized as a factor in the determination of our foreign policy. The provision of the Constitution which qualifies the President's power to make treaties, by requiring the advice and consent of the Senate, almost of necessity introduces political factors into our international relations. The House of Representatives has no constitutional part in such matters until it becomes necessary to enact laws to carry out treaty provisions, or to authorize the expenditure of money. Efforts by the House to make these legislative powers the excuse for it to review the process of treaty-making, first attempted in connection with the Jay Treaty with Great Britain in 1794, have not proved successful. President Washington at that time declined to comply with a resolution of the House requesting him to furnish it with a copy of the instructions to Mr. Jay, together with the correspondence and other documents relative to the treaty, in a message which clearly drew the line between the constitutional powers of the Executive and those of the House of Representatives in connection with legislation affecting the carrying out of a treaty. The President's position was sustained, and no successful effort since then has been made by the House to interfere with or override the control of the treaty-making power by the President and the Senate.
The relations between the President and the Senate furnish a different history. Down to 1902, the Senate amended 57 treaties which afterwards were ratified by the President; it amended 24 other treaties which were not ratified, because in their revised form they were not acceptable to the President.[ii] The treaty of peace with Spain, negotiated at Paris in 1898, encountered much opposition in the Senate; it probably would not have been ratified if it had not been that the President had appointed two Senators (Cushman K. Davis and William P. Frye) as members of the Commission which negotiated the treaty. Unfortunately, President Wilson did not follow this precedent in the negotiations between the Allied and the Central Powers at the close of the World War. The method resorted to by the Senatorial opponents to that treaty was to smother it with "reservations," which in effect were amendments, and which the President refused to submit to the other Powers. President Harding profited by this example and included among the American representatives at the Naval Conference at Washington in 1921-1922 two Senators (Messrs. Underwood and Lodge) and a distinguished former Senator (Mr. Root). The more important of the treaties agreed upon at that Conference—that limiting naval armaments and the Four-Power Pacific Pact—would hardly have secured the approval of the Senate without the advocacy of the Senatorial Commissioners. Even as it was, a reservation was attached to the resolution of consent and approval of the last-mentioned agreement, reciting that the United States understands that under the statement in the preamble or under the terms of this treaty there is no commitment to armed force, no alliance, no obligation to join in any defense.
The preamble about which the Senate thus showed its concern merely recited that the four signatory Powers, with a view to the preservation of the general peace and the maintenance of their rights in relation to their insular possessions and insular dominions in the region of the Pacific Ocean, had determined to conclude the treaty; and the agreement was merely to the effect that if any controversy should arise between any of them over any Pacific question which was not settled by diplomacy, they should invite the other parties to the treaty to a conference to which the whole subject would be referred for consideration and adjustment; while if their rights were threatened by the aggressive action of any other Power, they would communicate with each other, fully and frankly, in order to arrive at an understanding as to the most efficient measures to be taken, jointly or separately, to meet the exigencies of the particular situation.
President Hoover followed the precedents set by Mr. McKinley and Mr. Harding, by appointing Senators Joseph T. Robinson and David A. Reed among the respresentatives of the United States to the London Conference on Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament in the spring of 1930, and the ratification of the treaty there negotiated undoubtedly was due in large part to the participation of those Senators.
There is something almost childish in the wearisome reiteration, in Presidential messages submitting proposed treaties negotiated since the defeat of the Versailles Peace Treaty, as well as in resolutions of approval by the Senate, that the treaty in question does not commit us to any alliance, or to do anything we do not choose to do!
President Harding's understanding of the temper of the Senate led him, in submitting the naval limitation treaties, in 1922, to say:
I am not unmindful, nor was the Conference, of the sentiment of this chamber against Old World entanglements. Those who made the treaties have left no doubt about their true import. . . . Therefore, I can bring you every assurance that nothing in any of these treaties commits the United States, or any other Power, to any kind of an alliance, entanglement or involvement.
The President's argument to the Senate was infinitely pathetic. Two years' experience in the Executive branch of the government had given him a very different appreciation of the problems involved in dealing with the effects of the Great War, from that which he had entertained as Senator during the debate over the Treaty of Versailles. He now pleaded earnestly for Senatorial understanding and approval:
If nations may not establish by mutual understanding the rules and principles which are to govern their relationship; if a sovereign and solemn plight of faith by leading nations of the earth is valueless; if nations may not trust one another, then, indeed, there is little on which to hang our faith in advancing civilization or the furtherance of peace. . . . We can no more do without international negotiations and agreements in these modern days than we could maintain orderly neighborliness at home without the prescribed rules of conduct which are more the guaranties of freedom than the restraint thereof.
Frankly, Senators, if nations may not safely agree to respect each other's rights, and may not agree to confer if any party to the compact threatens trespass, or may not agree to advise if one party to the pact is threatened by an outside Power, then all concerted efforts to tranquilize the world and stabilize peace must be flung to the winds. Either these treaties must have your cordial sanction, or every proclaimed desire to promote peace and prevent war becomes a hollow mockery.
The treaties were ratified with the reservation above quoted. A forward step, although a short one, thus was taken in the direction of overcoming hampering traditions. The influence of the Senatorial Commissioners was evident in securing this result.
It is a counsel of perfection, asserted from time to time, that politics should stop at the water's edge, and that once the Executive has taken a position or negotiated a treaty with a foreign Power, he should then be supported and his action approved by the legislative branch. Foreign governments cannot negotiate with the United States Senate. They have to assume that in international relations the President and the Secretary of State represent the sovereignty of the nation. It seems, then, that agreements concluded by the latter should be ratified by the Senate unless they are clearly contrary to the national interest.
This was the theory upon which President McKinley, one of the most experienced politicians who ever held the Executive office, urged the Senate to approve an arbitration treaty with Great Britain which had been negotiated by his predecessor, Mr. Cleveland. He said:
This agreement is clearly the result of our own initiative, since it has been recognized as the leading feature of our foreign policy throughout our international history—the adjustment of difficulties by judicial methods rather than by force of arms—and since it presents to the world the glorious example of reason and peace, not passion and war, controlling the relations between two of the greatest nations of the world, an example certainly to be followed by others.
Therefore he urged the Senate, "as a duty to mankind," to give the treaty the seal of its approval. But what a writer in this review humorously has described as "Senatorial jealousy of Senatorial prerogative and Senatorial difficulty of making up two-thirds of the Senatorial mind,"[iii] were not overcome by the considerations which actuated the President and the treaty failed of approval.
Nor was another Republican President, also an experienced politician, more successful with a treaty which presented to the world a "glorious example of reason and peace, not passion and war, controlling the relations between" the nations of the world. President Harding, appealing to the Senate in February 1923 for its consent to the Executive approval of the Protocol of the World Court, assured the Senate that
our nation had a conspicuous place in the advocacy of such an agency of peace and international adjustment and our deliberate public opinion of today is overwhelmingly in favor of our full participation, and the attending obligations and the furtherance of its prestige.
The Senatorial mind was not moved by these considerations, nor even by his final and despairing appeal:
It is not a new problem in international relationship; it is wholly a question of accepting an established institution of high character, and of making effective all the fine things which have been said by us in favor of such an agency of advanced civilization. . . . Such action would add to our own consciousness of participation in the fortunate advancement of international relationship and remind the world anew that we are ready for our proper part in furthering peace and adding to stability in world affairs.
The Senate would not yield to such persuasion, even at the insistence of its former member, nor give its approval to a step in international relationship which was in line with the national policy adopted almost from the foundation of the Republic, and which was the fruition of the efforts of a series of presidents, all of whom were members of the political party in control of the Senate at the time of Mr. Harding's recommendation. Nor have his successors, Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, as yet been more successful than was Mr. Harding in securing the Senate's acceptance of this established institution of high character except upon conditions which involve a serious modification of the jurisdiction of the Court.
Senatorial prejudice seems to be a stronger influence in shaping our foreign policy even than national tradition. Indeed, the effect of tradition in moulding our foreign policy is strongest when invoked in opposition to proposed action. And seldom is public sentiment in support of measures recommended by the Executive strong enough to overcome Senatorial opposition. Thus the sinister process of approval "with reservations," which the Senate in late years has found so effective as a means "to keep the word of promise to our ear, and break it to our hope," until now has prevented "our great nation, so devoted to peace and justice," from effecting our adherence to the World Court and thus discharging what President Hoover has described as its duty to lend "its coöperation in this effort of the nations to establish a great agency for such pacific settlements."
The Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact is one outstanding exception to this general rule. That treaty merely committed the nation to a moral principle and involved no obvious agreement for concurrent action with other nations. The whole nation was in favor of "the outlawry of war," and the Pact was adopted on August 27, 1928.
It was not adopted, however, without the spectre of "entangling alliances" again being raised. By the terms of the agreement, which was opened to all the nations of the world, the high contracting parties renounced war as an instrument of their national policy, and agreed that the settlement of all disputes or conflicts should never be sought except by pacific means. An effort was made by some of the Senators who had most actively opposed the Versailles Peace Treaty and the Four-Power Pacific Pact to attach interpretative resolutions to the approval of this treaty. The effort failed. Yet favorable action could not be secured until a report from the Committee on Foreign Relations was read to the Senate and spread upon the records. This report set forth the Committee's understanding of the effect of the treaty upon the right of national defense and upon the Monroe Doctrine; and asserted, (1) that the treaty involved no obligation, express or implied to engage in punitive or coercive measures against a nation violating the treaty; and (2), that the treaty in no respect changed or qualified our position or relation to any pact or treaty existing between other nations or governments. The report, however, stated explicitly:
This report is made solely for the purpose of putting upon the record what your Committee understands to be the true interpretation of the treaty, and not in any sense for the purpose or with the design of modifying or changing the treaty in any way or effectuating a reservation or reservations to the same.
Thus a declaration expressing what the Committee understood to be the meaning and effect of the treaty was spread upon the records, but without being adopted as either reservation or amendment. The Senate thereupon voted to consent and approve.
Since the Briand-Kellogg Pact was ratified, it has frequently been asserted that the lack of even such an agreement as that contained in the Four-Power Pacific Pact, binding parties to it to confer in the event of its actual or threatened violation, is a distinct weakness in the treaty, which should be removed by some further agreement. Secretary Stimson, in an address on August 8, 1932, before the Council on Foreign Relations,[iv] combated this criticism by maintaining that in case of a threat against the Pact, consultation between the signatories is inevitable. He thinks that this fact has not been fully appreciated by well-wishers of the treaty who have desired to see it supplemented by a formal provision for consultation. In his view, the developments of the last three years, particularly in connection with the threatened conflicts between Russia and China and between China and Japan, have made the inevitable consequences of the treaty so obvious, and the positive construction put upon it has imbued it with such vitality, that the misgivings of these well-wishers should be set at rest.
Implicit in this interpretation is a recognition (as a sequence of the controversy over the League of Nations) of the unwillingness of the Executive to challenge opposition in the Senate by proposing agreements for future action. If a concurrent declaration of principles against war as an instrument of national policy makes inevitable a conference between the affected powers, in the event of a breach or threatened breach, then it would seem that a recognition of that fact, and advance provisions for the speedy assembly of representatives of the parties and the adoption of methods for regulating their action, would greatly strengthen the force of the agreement. This has been the experience of the League of Nations, and while it is a comforting thought to the Executive branch of the government, desirous of advancing the interests of international peace, that the Kellogg Pact inevitably requires concord of action, it may be doubted whether that fact alone is a sufficient answer to the conviction, universal outside of the United States and shared by a large number of its citizens, that a definite agreement regulating such conference and action would be a desirable addition to the peace machinery of the world. It is a singular fact that in contradistinction to Secretary Stimson's views on the subject, both of the great political parties in their 1932 national platforms have declared themselves in favor of supplementing the Pact by legislation facilitating the calling of international conferences in case a violation of its provisions is threatened.
Another point which must be taken into account in connection with our international negotiations is the inflexible determination of the Senate not to approve any treaty of arbitration which does not provide that when any specific question is proposed to be submitted to arbitration, the compromis, or document of specifications, shall first be submitted to and approved by the Senate. This attitude has made the United States a laggard in the movement towards the adoption, in advance of the development of particular controversies, of a general treaty or agreement to submit international controversies to peaceful settlement by arbitration or judicial determination.
In recent years many nations have entered into treaties by which they unqualifiedly agree that all controversies arising between them, which are not settled by diplomatic methods, shall be determined by arbitration, or by submission to the Permanent Court of International Justice. But the Senate of the United States consistently refuses to approve any arbitration treaty without reserving to itself the right to approve in advance the formulation of the issue to be submitted in any particular case. This is the rock upon which was split the Olney-Paunceforte Treaty of January 11, 1897, above referred to, which President McKinley unsuccessfully urged the Senate to accept.
The Senate's position in this regard is maintained without regard to partisan politics. It is the assertion of a Senatorial prerogative to which both parties seem equally committed.
Another consequence of the defeat of the Versailles Treaty, the making of a separate peace treaty with Germany, and the development of a policy of hostility toward agreements regarding future action, was the adoption of the principle that the United States would recognize no connection whatever between Germany's payment to the Allied Powers of reparations for damage occasioned during the war, and the repayment of the loans made by our government to the Allies to enable them to prosecute the war in which we had become their associates. Despite the very obvious fact that the ability of those governments to repay these obligations to us necessarily depends very largely upon their ability to collect the amounts due them from Germany, Congress and the Executive have consistently asserted that there is no connection between the two sets of payments. None the less, on the suggestion of Secretary Hughes, a commission was formed to negotiate between Germany and her debtors, and from these negotiations came an agreement which gave substantial relief to Germany—the famous Dawes Plan, named after the American who served as chairman of the commission. While the United States Government disclaimed any part in the formation of this Commission, or any responsibility for its work, yet the 1924 platform of the Republican Party sought to derive credit for its accomplishments in the following declaration:
A most impressive example of the capacity of the United States to serve the cause of world peace without political affiliations was shown in the effective and beneficial work of the Dawes Commission towards the perplexing question of German reparations.
In 1930 the work of the Young Committee (also named from its American chairman) received almost as much commendation, although it was not made the subject of Party congratulation in a national platform.
A year later, the condition of the world made it impossible for the American Government longer to escape direct intervention in the European situation. In June 1931, President Hoover, having secured a pledge of support from a large number of the members of both houses of Congress, declared a moratorium of a year in the payment of all international debts, in order, as he said, to give the forthcoming year to the economic recovery of the world and to help free the recuperative forces already in motion in the United States from retarding influences from abroad.
In connection with this action, the President made the following statement of his position regarding German reparations and the debts of the Allied Governments to us. He said:
Our Government has not been a party to, or exerted any voice in, determination of reparation obligations. We purposely did not participate in either general reparations or the division of colonies or property. The repayment of debts due to us from the Allies for the advance for war and reconstruction were settled upon a basis not contingent upon German reparations or related thereto. Therefore, reparations is necessarily wholly a European problem with which we have no relation.
I do not approve in any remote sense of the cancellation of the debts to us. World confidence would not be enhanced by such action. None of our debtor nations has ever suggested it. But as the basis of the settlement of these debts was the capacity under normal conditions of the debtor to pay, we should be consistent with our own policies and principles if we take into account the abnormal situation now existing in the world. I am sure the American people have no desire to attempt to extract any sum beyond the capacity of any debtor to pay, and it is our view that broad vision requires that our Government should recognize the situation as it exists.
This course of action is entirely consistent with the policy which we have hitherto pursued. We are not involved in the discussion of strictly European problems, of which the payment of German reparations is one. It represents our willingness to make a contribution to the early restoration of world prosperity in which our own people have so deep an interest.
Congress, in the Joint Resolution of December 23, 1931, ratifying the agreements made by the President, went beyond him and declared it to be against the policy of Congress that any of the indebtedness of foreign countries to the United States should be in any manner cancelled or reduced; and nothing in this joint resolution shall be construed as indicating a contrary policy or as implying that favorable consideration will be given at any time to a change in the policy hereby declared.
Beyond a general commendation of the conduct of our relations with foreign nations by President Hoover, no reference is made in the Republican platform to these acts.
The Democratic platform merely states:
We oppose cancellation of the debts owing to the United States by foreign nations,
which is precisely the position expressed by the President in the statement above quoted. It does not go to the length of the Congressional declaration against any reduction.
In connection with the moratorium on intergovernmental debts, President Hoover asked Congress to re-create the World War Foreign Debt Commission. It will be recalled that the negotiations to fix the amount of the indebtedness of the various Allied Powers to the United States, and the terms and conditions of payment, were entrusted by Congress to a Commission especially created by it; the powers of the Commission were sharply circumscribed by the Act, and no agreement modifying the terms of the settlements so reached was to be possible without Congressional approval. In recommending the re-creation of this body, the President stated that
as the basis of the settlement of these debts was the capacity under normal conditions of the debtor to pay, we should be consistent with our own policies and principles, if we take into account the abnormal situation now existing in the world. I am sure the American people have no desire to attempt to extract any sum beyond the capacity of any debtor to pay.
He pointed out that it was clear that a number of the governments indebted to us would be unable to meet further payments in full pending recovery in their economic life; that it was useless to blind ourselves to the obvious fact; and, therefore, that it would be necessary in some cases to make still further temporary adjustments. He recommended, therefore,
in order that we should be in a position to deal with the situation . . . the re-creation of the World War Foreign Debt Commission, with authority to examine such problems as may arise in connection with these debts during the present economic emergency, and to report to Congress its conclusions and recommendations.
No action was taken by Congress in response to this recommendation, and the Republican platform is silent on the subject.
The Lausanne Conference, in July 1932, invited the League of Nations to convoke, at a convenient date and place, a conference on monetary and economic questions; and invited certain governments to appoint experts to represent them at that conference. It also resolved to invite the Government of the United States to be represented on the same basis as the governments of the other nations represented. Public opposition was at once expressed in this country to taking part in any such conference, if it were to consider the Allied debts, or the effect of tariffs imposed by the United States upon imports from other countries. The United States has now indicated a willingness to be represented, provided those subjects are excluded. Obviously, if the conference were to observe any such limitation, it would deal with only a part of the problem and would eliminate perhaps its most important part. The precise policy to be adopted probably will not be settled until after the presidential election. It is to be hoped that when that event is past, the United States Government may be willing to enter such a conference without reservations, and proceed to a full discussion of all matters affecting our international relations. No harm can be done to the essential interests of the United States by such a course, as no recommendations of the conference would bind our government unless and until approved by Congress.
A readjustment of the Allied war debts on the basis of the capacity of the debtor nations to pay, in the light of the latest agreements between the Allied and the Central Powers, may well be reached without going to the point of cancellation. The moratorium agreements of June 1931 recognized, despite the protests quoted, the necessary interdependence of the reparations obligations and the war debts to the United States. The political force of the principle of isolation, adopted in 1920, obviously is diminishing. Sooner or later the inevitable logic of the situation will compel a candid study by the creditor nations, including the United States, of the effect upon their debtors' ability to pay of the capacity of their debtors to provide the needed funds. At a time when hard economic facts press closely upon individuals and nations alike, preconceived political positions will have to yield place to intelligent realism.
The national platforms of both the great political parties, adopted in June of this year, contain interesting divergencies from previously asserted position. While the Republican platform asserts that
the Party will continue to maintain its attitude of protecting our national interests and policies wherever threatened, but at the same time promoting good understanding on the varying needs and aspirations of other nations and going forward in harmony with other peoples without alliances or foreign partnerships,
it also declares that throughout the recent controversy between Japan and China
our government has acted in harmony with the governments represented in the League of Nations, always making it clear that American policy would be determined at home, but always lending a hand in the common interest of peace and order.
It further asserts that the American Government has taken the lead in applying the Kellogg Pact, following the principle that a breach of the contract, or the threat of a breach, was a matter of international concern, wherever and however brought about. It refers to this government's statement that it would not recognize any situation, treaty or agreement brought about between Japan and China by force and in defiance of the Kellogg Pact and declares this principle, associated with the name of President Hoover, was later adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva as a rule for the conduct of all those governments.
This is the so-called "Hoover doctrine," which was referred to by Secretary Stimson in his address before the Council on Foreign Relations, above mentioned. The Republican platform speaks of it as having been adopted by the Assembly of the League of Nations as a rule for the conduct of all those governments. This is an inference from the endorsement there given to the action of the American Government in notifying Japan and China that it would not recognize any situation, treaty or agreement which might be brought about by means contrary to the covenant and obligations of the Pact of Paris. Important as this action was, it may reasonably be doubted whether it established a general rule for the conduct of all nations in all cases which might seem to involve violations of the covenants of the Pact. The implications of such a doctrine are far-reaching. Its application would require conference and specific understanding among the signatories. It is difficult to see how it would be applied practically, except through the machinery of the League of Nations. Indeed, the assertion of the doctrine involves the longest step yet taken by the Government of the United States towards practical membership in the League, whether formal or informal.
The orientation of the Republican platform is more toward coöperation with the League of Nations than that of the Democratic platform, which fails to mention the League. Both parties declare their approval of measures for the maintenance of the peace of the world, and specifically approve the Pact of Paris. But the significance of the positive action of the party in power cannot be disregarded.
Events have proved more powerful in the last few years than reiterated traditional principles, or the artificial methods of political expediency. Political parties employ temporary instruments for the advancement of their temporary interests; but in the last analysis nations realize their destinies more through what Bismarck called the imponderables than through ephemeral expedients of partisan advantage.
[i] "The Crowd, A Study of the Popular Mind." London: Fisher Unwin, 1910, p. 92.
[ii] "The Treaty-Making Powers of the Senate," by Charles C. Tansill, Journal of International Law, Vol. XVIII, p. 459.
[iii] John W. Davis, "The Permanent Bases of American Foreign Policy," FOREIGN AFFAIRS, October 1931.
[iv] Printed as a Special Supplement to FOREIGN AFFAIRS, Vol. 11, No. 1.