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EVEN the least thoughtful of diplomats must look nowadays with dismay upon the field of his professional activity. If it is the purpose of diplomacy to develop and diversify international relationships, to avoid international conflicts, to foster understanding and thereby promote confidence, tolerance and mutual esteem, then clearly it has failed and failed miserably. And today, to make its tasks still more difficult, new causes of conflict between nations are being added to those which the past has accustomed us to consider as usual, if not inevitable.
We have often relied upon the play of divergent and conflicting currents of opinion inside a given country to temper that country's foreign policy and mitigate whatever asperities it might from time to time display. In other words, we placed a certain measure of confidence in the ability of individuals to reason for themselves and to offer independent criticism. Such a view implied, of course, that a considerable number of persons had received an adequate education and as a result were capable of offering resistance to irrational emotionalism. In the world in which now we are living that conception of the rôle of the individual is no longer as generally valid as it used to be, and in large and important areas it is energetically repudiated. Education, far from taking as its essential purpose the development of an autonomous personality, is becoming a factory process for the wholesale manufacture of standardized automatons conditioned to respond to emotional appeals. In many lands, propaganda is substituted for education and a crude emotionalism has usurped the place of those qualities, moral and intellectual, heretofore intimately linked with the very idea of the human personality. Nor is the child the only victim. The adult is preyed upon by the same forces, and thanks to a directed press and the influence of the motion picture and the radio shows unmistakable signs of becoming incapable of independent thought and action.
Coincidently with the eclipse of the individual as such there has developed a new conception of the state, or rather a conception which has been known in history from time to time, particularly in the Orient, but which today can be described as new because of the vastly more powerful instrumentalities through which it can act both at home and abroad. We have thought of the life of the individual as composed of a complex network of coördinated loyalties: religious, domestic, professional, recreational and political. These loyalties are now being suppressed in the name of a single, all-embracing loyalty to a super-state, which relentlessly strives to appropriate to itself the whole man -- soul, mind and body -- and which demands from its followers not the rational and voluntary service of the citizen but the blind worship of the fanatic.
In its long history nationalism has at different times meant different things. In its more idyllic phase it espoused humanitarianism and became identified with the cause of liberty not only in some one particular country, but throughout the world. The nationalism of today is often of a very different kind. The difference can perhaps best be described in the terms of modern psychiatry: over-compensation or the striving of the individual to escape from some weakness or from the memory of some painful experience by developing out of all proportion qualities entirely opposite to, or at least incompatible with, those associated with the weakness or the painful experience. The timid and defeated boy, for instance, becomes the blustering and over-aggressive adult. In fact, the relationship between feelings of inferiority and superiority is often so intimate as to amount to cause and effect. Much of modern nationalism is essentially an attempt to escape from a painful past and to endow the resulting superiority complex with an ideology. And just as the individual who seeks to achieve by over-compensation a precarious adjustment between his weakness and the world of reality is apt to adopt a peculiarly aggressive type of intolerance and a will to domination, so does the nation swayed by a neurotic nationalism tend to express itself along similar lines.
An age which is witnessing the submergence of the individual in the nationalistic and totalitarian state has also seen a radical transformation in the scope and character of war. We have traveled a long way from the small professional army of the eighteenth century to the nation in arms, chemical warfare and the mechanized fighting forces of today. The abolition of any effective distinction between armed forces and civilian population began during the Great War. The results of war among modern industrialized countries can no longer be stated satisfactorily in the old and comparatively simple terms of victor and vanquished. There is no real victor in such a war, and its results are to be measured in terms of a general deterioration of the processes of civilization, if not of a destruction of civilization itself.
To the diplomat, the consequences of the emergence of these newer forces in international affairs are clear. The totalitarian state, in the founding and maintenance of which violence and intolerance have played an important part, tends eventually to seek an outlet for its feverish and emotional nationalism in aggression outside its boundaries. The extreme centralization of authority, the development of propaganda technique, and the suppression of public opinion mean that such aggression can be planned and carried out with a consistency and an efficiency before unknown. Finally, the nature of modern warfare has vastly increased the destructiveness of sudden aggression. At the very time, therefore, when the task of the diplomat has become more difficult, the consequences of his failure are more appalling in extent as well as in degree. What is he doing to meet this responsibility and avert these consequences?
Diplomacy is a conservative profession and clings to its traditional methods. Those who fill its leading positions are often older men accustomed by many years' service to a set way of doing things and adjusted to dealing with an official class which is very much the same the world over. The frequency with which a diplomat is moved from one country to another naturally makes him prone to fall in with traditional procedures and conventional points of view. If we look at the matter broadly and include in our survey not only the diplomat but others interested in international problems, we may distinguish four principal techniques.
There is in the first place the technique of routine. Its devotees fall into two categories, superficially different but fundamentally the same. There are those in countless diplomatic missions and consulates the world over who are carrying on a daily round of small duties, and often carrying them on conscientiously and well. There also are those, as a rule in high places, who are devoting themselves wholeheartedly to the solution of the larger problems of diplomacy, but whose approach, qualitatively speaking, does not differ from that of the first group. In each there is the same painstaking regard for the traditional procedures, the same unwillingness to penetrate beneath the surface of problems, the same instinctive fear of novelty.
Widely different from the technique of routine is that of the idealist. Here again there are distinctions to make. Starting from the premise that things are very wrong indeed and that fundamental changes are therefore in order, one sort of idealist espouses changes so general in form and predicated upon so optimistic a view of human nature and so contrary to the teachings of history that their application is obviously impossible. Another group ascribes to some one specific and often quite realizable change a broad reformative value which it cannot possess. Both manifestations of the idealistic technique are particularly characteristic of the United States. The reason is clear. In our vast country, bounded by oceans on two sides and with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, we do not know the cramped feeling and the haunting fear that make an idealistic approach to international relations so particularly difficult in Europe. That is why so much of our idealism is misunderstood abroad and why it fails to produce the desired results; it also is why, as a defense reaction, we are so prone to ascribe to the European rather more than his share of original sin and of a tendency to intrigue.
Another of the approaches to international affairs -- the economic -- is also especially congenial to the American mind, nor will anybody with a knowledge of contemporary world problems contest its partial validity. Only when the scope of the economic factor is so extended as virtually to become economic determinism does it become dangerous. But with Americans it naturally tends to gravitate in that direction. When we are puzzled by some problem of domestic policy we often say (or at least we used often to say) that what is needed is "a good practical business man." In the same way we tend to emphasize the importance of economic and financial factors in international situations to the limit, and beyond.
The legal technique in international affairs has had many distinguished exponents. Specialists in international law and lawyers have held innumerable high offices and played various rôles in world politics, sometimes as advisers, often, particularly in the United States, in an executive capacity. It is fair to say that on the whole those who have adopted this technique have tended to see international relations in terms of contracts and juridical mechanisms rather than in terms that are more fundamental and realistic. Their chief instruments have been argument and rebuttal and an appeal to reason. But obviously that sort of activity covers a relatively restricted field.
If now we put side by side in our minds the picture of international relations as they exist today, and the four principal techniques by which they are handled, a startling fact emerges. Not one of the techniques puts the men who operate it into direct touch with or gives them any adequate control over the forces which actually are shaping international relations at the present time. The exponent of the routine or traditional technique is not interested in these forces; he does his daily task and asks no questions. The idealist is absorbed by his great dreams or by his favorite little panacea. The economist will listen to nothing but economics, and the international lawyer is indignant and bewildered when his treaties are violated and his arguments flouted. We are in somewhat the same position as the doctor before bacteriology became a recognized branch of medicine. We have no adequate picture of the disease entity and we are ignorant of the causative agent and of how it is transmitted. As a result, we treat symptoms.
To influence the forces which today are shaping the relations of states we must pass over most of the people who are dealing with those relations day by day in what we are accustomed to consider a practical way, and we must fix our attention upon the creators of ideas and upon those who can invest ideas with the emotional appeal necessary to their wide propagation. In other words, we must go to the primary school teacher, the professor of history, the newspaper editor and correspondent, the film director and the popularizer of certain theories concerning the nature and function of the state. And in our investigations of these persons and their activities it is to the sociologist, the psychologist and the psychiatrist that we must appeal for help. These specialists have done much in recent years to increase our knowledge of both the normal and the abnormal behavior of groups and individuals. To help discover a realistic and more hopeful approach to international relations we should enlist their services for study along some such lines as the following:
Left to himself, the average individual in the average country is chiefly concerned with supporting himself and his family and winning the esteem of his local community. Foreign countries normally play little part in his thinking and even less in his emotional life. Foreigners are vague beings, probably somewhat inferior, but certainly remote. That is the situation at one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale is a government which in certain instances has all sorts of complicated international schemes collectively designated by the term "foreign policy" and personalized in statements that x country "wants" this or "resents" that. Just what is the relationship between the peaceful sentiments of the average individual (or at least his indifference to adventurous national projects) and the aggressive foreign policy of the government to which he owes allegiance? What happens between these two points, and why?
Behind the surface differences of race and nationality there of course lie a host of other differences shaped through the centuries by environment and tradition. What is the nature and scope of these differences? Should they be distinguished in kind or degree from the differences of people belonging to the same country? How are they stimulated so as to become pathological, and how can they be kept within reasonable bounds? Are they compatible with a supra-national ideal? The sort of investigation indicated by these sample questions deserves to be undertaken seriously. It should not be impossible to develop a tolerance, even some real understanding and appreciation, of the differences indicated. In other words, might we not, while following quite calmly and deliberately our own way, learn to take satisfaction in the fact that other people are following different ways? What can be done to break down the concept that people who are like us are good, but that people who are unlike us must for some reason be inferior? Could not history be so taught in the schools that it will furnish a basis not merely for a proper regard for our own country but respect for other countries as well?
We constantly hear about national honor and national prestige. Exactly what do those concepts mean? Who defines their content at any particular time? How is the definition reached and by what means is it made acceptable?
But even comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the forces which today shape international relations would not be sufficient. When the sociologist, the psychologist and the psychiatrist have made some progress in investigating the kind of question we have suggested, then we must appeal to the philosopher to fashion the new knowledge into a coherent whole and reformulate our values. It is not a panacea that we need and seek, not another of those programs which deceive by their very precision and completeness, but rather a new philosophy of international relations which will stir individuals, whether in an official position or not, to think about those relations more actively and open-mindedly, less formally and more humanistically.
In view of the momentous problems which confront the modern diplomat there is nothing academic about the question, "Can diplomacy be successful?" The answer to that question is "No," if diplomacy keeps its traditional point of view and follows traditional methods. "Yes," if it sets out courageously to understand the forces and explore the human motives which really determine international relations in our day. "Yes," if it tries with heart and mind to discover an answer to the question recently propounded by Mr. H. G. Wells in the pages of this review: "Is there not a broader, more general pattern of human civilization which we might possibly emphasize and bring into fuller operation than it is at this present time, in order to prevent this idiotic and unnecessary game of national antagonisms from culminating in war and possibly the destruction of civilization?"