The Downside of Imperial Collapse
When Empires or Great Powers Fall, Chaos and War Rise
IF the Declaration of the Atlantic, signed by the President of the United States and by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and released to the world on August 14, 1941, is taken merely as a restatement of the democratic faith in international relationships, nine-tenths of its significance will be lost. The ideas are not particularly new nor is the language unduly inspired. Its true significance lies in the identity of the signatories and in the place where it was signed. The Declaration marks, in effect, the assumption by the two great English-speaking democracies of the leadership of the free world. It serves notice that, when the victory has been won, the ideas that will be dominant in the world will be the faiths and the aspirations and the doctrines that are common to Britain and America. The fact that its only date line is "The Atlantic Ocean" is as significant as the signatories. Nothing could have more dramatically demonstrated the change that has come over the rôle of the Atlantic in the popular thinking of both countries. The ocean is no longer a barrier, a moat, a gap in space. It is a highway, a meeting-place, a common avenue of approach. Implicit in every line of the Declaration is the proclamation that hope for the world's future -- the only hope -- lies in the continued collaboration of the Oceanic Commonwealth of Free Nations.
To the overwhelming majority of Englishmen, and to very many thousands of Americans, this recognition by both nations of their common needs and common responsibilities is the great good that is coming out of the evil of the war, just as for their fathers (and the thought is a warning) the League of Nations was the offset that could be made against the misery of the last war. It is an inspiring picture -- two great nations, each satisfied with what it has got, and therefore devoid of any aggressive intention, joining together to police the world on behalf of their joint ideals of personal freedom, social security, and liberated commerce. To adopt this as a deliberate policy, as the heads of the two Governments have now done, has required, or will require, very substantial changes in the ideas that have prevailed and in the attitudes that have been adopted hitherto. Nor are these changes required on the American side alone. It is true that the American people, if they are to sail this new course, will have to modify or abandon two of their hitherto most cherished beliefs -- the first that they need not concern themselves with what goes on beyond the oceans, and the second, that there is a natural and historical antipathy between American and British interests. But the British people too will have to change both their beliefs and their policies. Britain, it is true, has always been a naval power, but her diplomacy has nevertheless always looked inwards to Europe. With the sole exception of 1870, there has not been for centuries past a European crisis without Britain's participation from the start as one of the protagonists. Indeed, Great Britain has usually been the organizer of whatever Grand Alliance is current. If Britain's policy is now to be based on her membership of an Oceanic Commonwealth, she will not find it so easy (and perhaps not so necessary) to form her European coalitions. This is a point of view which the British Dominions have always expressed; it now receives enormously stronger backing. The shifts in traditional policies will thus need to be as great in the one country as in the other. In the psychological field, it is in Britain that the adjustment to the new policy will probably be found most difficult. If the American people have to learn the responsibilities of their strength, the British people have to learn the limitations of their weakness -- and there can be little doubt which of the two is the more painful adjustment to make.
The goal of the Oceanic Commonwealth is thus not one that can be reached overnight, by a single avowal of policy. On both sides of the Atlantic it will require changes of course and changes of mind. It will have to thread its way through the narrow channel between pride and prejudice. It will come up against suspicion and opposition at every turn. For the moment, the two countries are being brought together by the immense pressure of an urgent common danger. But even at such a time dramatic conversion by the blinding light of sudden inspiration is not to be expected. Neither country, it is true, can simply slip back to its pre-1939 position. The lessons of the war will not be entirely forgotten. To America, it has brought the clearest demonstration of the need for taking sides in other nations' wars. To Britain it has taught the completeness of her dependence on American support. To both, in other words, it has proved the need for coöperation. But for this lesson to be embodied in a practical policy and for the policy to be maintained in periods of lesser stress and cooler emotion requires a long period of reëducation in each country.
In this process of reëducation two things will be essential. The first is never to lose from sight the high ideal of complete unity, or to forget the necessity for mutual assistance which each country has freely acknowledged in the time of peril. The second is to remember that sentiments of friendship and pledges of loyalty are not enough. Britain is a commonwealth of nations, the chief of them a small, crowded and dangerously exposed island, the others large, young, sparsely populated dominions. The United States is a rich, strong, populous and increasingly compact subcontinent. With these differences in circumstance, it is inevitable that there should be differences in opinion, in desires, in policies. The second requirement, then, is not to pretend that there are, and can be, no differences between Britain and America, but to see the differences coming, to be prepared for them, to understand them, and to find means of resolving them without disturbance to the main current of friendship.
The present article is intended to be a small contribution, from the British side, to this second requirement. It is not that the desirability of Anglo-American unity can be taken for granted -- on the contrary, it is an ideal which will require sacrifice and devotion to achieve. It is not that any pessimism need be felt about the possibility of achieving it -- on the contrary, it is the chief hope and stand-by of many hundreds of thousands of men and women who might otherwise despair. But these hopes and ambitions are being preached, with wholly admirable zeal, by several groups of skilled advocates and need no added emphasis here. Not enough attention, however, is being paid to the obstacles that will have to be overcome. Most of the future causes of difference, of course, are invisible to us now. But there are some others, arising directly and inevitably out of the different circumstances of the two nations, which are already clearly visible. It will be a service to the high cause of the coöperation and perhaps even the eventual union of the British and American peoples to give these differences a preliminary examination, so that by the time they reach the critical stage they will be familiar and fully understood. They exist both in the political and in the economic field, and each in turn deserves a brief analysis.
It is clearly impossible, in a few paragraphs, to cover the whole vast field of the future organization of the world. But the nature of the Anglo-American problem can be adequately illustrated by the central problem of the political field -- the problem of deciding what to do about Germany when the victory has been won.
There are, broadly speaking, two kinds of peace that could be made with a defeated Germany. There would be the kind of peace which took as a basic assumption that the German people are fundamentally peace-loving, that having got rid of Hitler and the Nazis they will not make the same mistake again but will settle down as members in good standing of the community of peaceful and liberty-loving nations. For purposes of identification, we can call this the optimistic solution. The other type of peace would be one that refused to take the risk of the German people breaking out again under some third aggressive despot, but determined to keep arms out of their hands at least for a generation or two. This is what might be called the realistic solution. It would impose limitations on the actions of Germany, which the democratic victors would not accept for themselves; on the contrary, they would retain a margin of strength decisive enough to repress all infractions of the treaty by Germany.
It is not relevant here to argue which of these approaches would be the right one. But it is vitally important that those who write the treaty should be very clear in their minds which of the two they propose to follow. Versailles is a fearful warning of what happens when the attempt is made to mix the two, and when the chief supporters of the treaty have differing interpretations of it. These contradictions in the treaty would probably have been enough in themselves to bring the Versailles system to disaster; but they were aggravated by the divergent policies of France and Great Britain in the post-treaty period. French policy tried to make Germany unable to attack again; British policy tried, less effectively, to make Germany unwilling to attack again. But as neither had a free hand, neither succeeded. Germany, under the leadership of Hitler, became both willing and able to start another World War.
After the present war, then, it is essential that the two countries which will have to make and maintain the peace, Britain and the United States, should make their choice clearly and stick to it. Which is it to be? The last of the Roosevelt-Churchill Eight Points made it clear that it is to be a realistic peace. This does not, of course, mean that it is to be a severe or repressive peace. But we have been told that the aggressors are to be disarmed at once, while the disarmament of the victors awaits some future day when all nations abandon the use of force and "a wider and permanent system of general security" is established.
There can be little doubt that this accords with the views of the British Government and the British people. Mr. Eden has spoken more than once of the necessity of making it impossible for Germany (or the Nazis) to start another aggressive war. Mr. Bevin, speaking for the Left, has confessed to having "talked the pacifist palaver" in the past; but he has changed his mind and now says that he will call for the permanent maintenance by Great Britain of a substantial and well-equipped army. These two expressions of opinion are in line with the views of the British people, as expressed in almost all their organs of opinion. "There is not to be a savage peace treaty; there are to be no annexations, no indemnities, no economic disabilities for Germany. But to leave arms in the hands of a people who have repeatedly shown themselves either so belligerent or so gullible, or both at once, as the Germans have done would be madness. The Germans are to be forbidden tanks, aircraft or warships, while Britain and America retain enough of each to make sure that they can police the world. Then if, in a generation or two, the German people give convincing proof of their regeneration, we can all disarm." Such would be a fair representation of the majority opinion of the British people today.
Is it the majority opinion of the American people? Will it be, if the United States is drawn into actual belligerency? It is difficult for a visitor to the United States, even after careful inquiry in several different regions, to determine the answer. There is a greater tendency in America than in England to draw a distinction between the Nazis and the German people. The distinction is drawn in England, of course, but not to the extent of believing that Germany, on the morrow of the flight of the Nazis, could be trusted as an equal member of the community of nations -- or at least as an equally armed one. Great emphasis is laid in America on the necessity for a "just" peace -- the phrase has been on Mr. Willkie's lips, with a reference to the injustice of Versailles. "Justice" as between nations apparently means, in most connotations, equality of treatment. Would a peace which imposed unilateral disarmament on Germany, but no other disabilities, be considered "just"? These questions are hard to answer. On the whole, however, the guess may be made that the American people, at the time the peace treaty is drafted, will be ready to approve the imposition of restraints on Germany's freedom to rearm. Mr. Roosevelt has proved himself a very accurate prophet and interpreter of the American people's wishes, and he would hardly have committed himself to this Eighth Point unless he felt confident of being able to secure agreement to it.
To write the treaty in this way, however, is one thing, to enforce it is another. And such a treaty would require enforcement. Whatever care were taken to nurse Germany's susceptibilities in other directions, it is only too probable that arms inequality would be felt as a grievance by a people with such a proud military tradition. Germany cannot be expected voluntarily to accept these restrictions, or to observe them unless she is compelled to. A treaty of this sort, however generous it may be in all its other clauses, would require a large corps of inspectors, constant vigilance against infractions, and the maintenance by the victors both of the ability and of the readiness to march in at once if the treaty were broken.
This is, of course, the catch about the whole "realistic" policy, for democracies do not remain vigilant, they are not willing to maintain expensive forces just in case there is trouble, and they are not easily persuaded to take any action -- least of all marching in where there may be shooting to do -- until the danger has grown to overwhelmingly threatening proportions. The "realistic" policy, if it is to be successful, involves warning a new Hitler, when he arises, that he will be deposed if he rearms. It would have involved marching into Germany when conscription was decreed in 1935 or, at the very latest, when the Rhineland was reoccupied in March 1936. Now it may be that the British people have had such a bad scare since May 1940 that they will have the resolution and clear sight not merely to disarm Germany but to keep her disarmed. The menace of a vengeful Germany and of a Third German War will be near enough and clear enough, and after the events of 1940 it will be impossible for any Englishman to believe that anybody else will do the job of holding Germany in check for him. We are not justified in feeling any certainty that the British people will be willing, in 1955 or 1965, under the leadership of some new Baldwin, to enforce the peace they have written. But there is a chance.
What of the American people? To them the menace will appear much more distant, much less clear. To many of them it will seem to have vanished with the death or flight of Hitler. Public comment on the Eight Points has made it clear that the "optimistic" line of thought, as defined above, has many adherents in the United States; and if this is the case when the Nazi-German menace is so urgent and frightening, how much more so will it be when the Nazis have fled and Europe has been living at peace for several years? If there is widespread willingness in America now, in the middle of the war, to prescribe universal disarmament as the formula for peace, will it not be armed Britain, rather than arms-minded but disarmed Germany, that will incur American censure after a decade of peace? There is no reason to suppose that this reaction will go so far as to lead the American people to disown a treaty they will have helped to write. But will they assist Britain to enforce it? There will be no escape from the dilemma by saying that it is not America's concern. Britain will insist that the war of 1939 turned out to be very much America's concern and that consequently anything that is done to prevent its recurrence falls in the same category. Moreover, the whole policy is likely to rest on American support, for the British people may not be willing to run the risk of incurring the permanent hostility of a people twice as numerous as themselves unless they are assured of help in the hour of trouble.
It should be repeated, once again, that no assertion is being made here that what has been called the "realistic" policy is more right, or more likely to be effective, than what has been called the "optimistic" policy. But it is argued that either one is likely to be more effective than a mixture or alternation of the two. Germany must be made either unable or unwilling to start another war. To begin with the realistic policy and give her a grievance, and then, when enforcement becomes necessary, to switch to the optimistic policy (it would be "appeasement" by that time) would be the surest way of ensuring the outbreak of another war. The choice of the realistic policy has not been made by the present writer; it is the choice of Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill. The only plea made here is for consistency and resolution in carrying it out.
Perhaps the picture has been painted in too sombre colors. Possibly both peoples will have learnt a lesson from this war before it is over and that both will exhibit the "clear thinking and courage" so signally lacking in the democracies in recent years. Perhaps the treaty can be drawn in such a way as to increase its appeal to the American people. For example, it could be left to an international body, not to Great Britain alone, to determine whether Germany had broken the treaty, and the policing force, though its backbone must necessarily be either British or British-American, could similarly be international in form. But when all these adjustments have been made, the question will still remain: will the United States be prepared in time of peace to use force, or at least to assist the use of force by others, to enforce a treaty? It can hardly be expected that the two countries should see eye to eye in a matter of this sort. Great Britain has felt the weight of the bombers, it has been brought close to starvation. It is a small island, virtually part of the European Continent, close to a disciplined, skilled and intelligent people who outnumber the British by almost two to one. Naturally, it will be more fearful, more vigilant, less able to comfort itself with easy optimism than a vast sub-continent, three thousand miles from trouble, almost self-sufficient, with a secure margin of population and industrial power and confident in the belief that there will always be time to do something about it later on.
Neither attitude can be put down to defects in the national character, other than the common defect of being a democracy. The Americans, if they were reduced to a third their present size and transferred to the British Isles, would almost certainly react as the British do. The British, in the days when their position in the world was similar to that which the United States now has, certainly pursued a not dissimilar policy. It would, therefore, be just as foolish to think that the differences in view are due to differences in moral rectitude as to believe that they can be removed by argument. It will have to be taken for granted that the two nations view things differently and they will have to learn how to serve the common ideal of collaboration while retaining their differences.
In the political field which we have just been discussing, the British view, for all its vagueness and incompleteness, is nearer to precision than the American. In this field, it will probably be Britain that seeks American concurrence in her proposals. But in the economic field the reverse is true. The views of the American Government have been clearly and precisely formulated -- for example, in the memorandum presented by Mr. Sumner Welles to the French Government during his visit to Paris early in 1940. America believes in the so-called "liberal" foreign trade policy -- that is, in free exchanges and in the gradual reduction of customs tariffs; she dislikes all preferential arrangements that give one country advantages over others. In a peculiar sense, Mr. Cordell Hull has made these beliefs his own; still it is true to say that "America" believes in them, as any British visitor to the United States will discover. The general opinion does not perhaps embrace all the details of Mr. Hull's views. It certainly does not go so far as to advocate, or believe possible, a general downward revision of the American tariff. But there is no doubt that American opinion is set hard against all forms of exchange control and against all, or nearly all, forms of preferential arrangements. Nor is this merely the fashionable opinion of the moment; it is in direct accordance with the interests of the United States.
British opinion on these two points is less clearly formed. Until the outbreak of the war, the British Government looked on exchange control with a disapproval as strong as the American; but since the outbreak of the war, exchange control has been found necessary in Great Britain, and there are many in London who are impressed by the advantages of the system. As for preferential agreements, the Ottawa system is perhaps the outstanding example; but in more recent years, there has been a movement away from the narrower conceptions of imperial preference -- a movement which led to the American-British-Canadian Trade Agreements of November 1938. In this economic field, then, it is American ideas that are likely to take the initiative, and it is already apparent that it is in this direction that British concessions will be looked for. When Senator Gillette criticizes the absence in the Eight Points of any "British concessions in the cause of peace" presumably this is what he means.
If it were merely a question of changing minds or adjusting ideas, there can be no doubt that British opinion would be anxious to comply. After all, it is less than ten years since the United Kingdom was a Free Trade country and there is still not another country in the world whose interest in the maintenance and increase of world trade is more close or profound. In any foreseeable time, Great Britain will continue to import half of her food and more than half of her raw materials, and will require open world markets to enable her to pay for them.
Unfortunately, however, this is not the end of the matter. Certain hard facts about the postwar situation are likely to impose severe limits on Britain s freedom of action. Let us take, for example, the matter of exchange control. It is already apparent that the United States dollar is likely to be a very scarce commodity throughout the sterling area. Various attempts have been made in recent years to construct a Balance of Payments between the two countries, and though the published results have never been accurate enough to warrant quotation here, the story they have told has been plain enough. Throughout the pre-war decade, the sterling area had difficulty in meeting its dollar commitments. In good years, the current account (that is, merchandise trade and services, but without capital transactions) just about balanced. The raw materials bought by the United States from the British colonies, plus American tourist expenditures in Great Britain and the West Indies, just about wiped out the net balance of exports of goods from the United States to Great Britain. In bad years, the sterling area did not succeed in selling to the United States as much as it bought. And, in most years, there was a steady flow of capital from sterling to dollars. In general, it can be said that the sterling area managed to obtain the dollars it required only by selling to the United States virtually the whole of its current output of gold and part of its accumulated reserves as well.
It is, of course, impossible to predict the circumstances of the postwar period. But they will hardly be more favorable to sterling vis-à-vis the dollar than those of the period just described. Great Britain's factories are being bombed (not very extensively, it is true); the British mercantile marine is being sunk; British foreign trade connections are being disrupted; British liquid reserves of gold and investments have been exhausted. It is almost certain that the pound sterling will be weakened and the dollar strengthened by the war, and that the sterling area will have even greater difficulty than before the war in obtaining a sufficient supply of dollars. Moreover, there is the factor of possible repayments of Lease-Lend borrowings to be taken into account. It has been suggested more than once in the United States that Britain might make repayment in tin and rubber. In general, it is a just and reasonable suggestion. But it would vastly increase the scarcity of dollars throughout the sterling area.
In the classical theory of the free exchanges a situation of this sort would be corrected by a depreciation of the pound, which would cheapen British goods in America and make American goods dearer in the sterling area. But in this particular case it is questionable whether the remedy would work. British goods do not, in general, sell on price in America. The amounts of tin and rubber that are bought depend on the activity of the automobile industry, not on their prices; indeed, it has been true in the past that more has been sold when the price is high than when it is low. Similarly, the sales of English pottery, Scotch whisky and Irish linen depend more upon the amount of money there is in America than upon their price. On the other hand, many of America's exports to the sterling area, particularly the automobiles and the machinery, are virtual necessities for the maintenance of industry and trade. It would be rash to go so far as to say that there is no rate of exchange between the pound and the dollar that would balance the accounts in a free market. But it might have to be a very severe depreciation, which could hardly be expected to be welcome in either country. Moreover, a severe depreciation might induce a stampede of liquid capital from London to New York and thus defeat its own object.
In these circumstances, it may be difficult for the British authorities to avoid the retention of some form of exchange control. Moreover, it may have to be exchange control specifically against the dollar; it may be that all other currencies will be plentifully available in London and that only the dollar will be scarce and subject to rationing. Obviously, the dangers of recrimination would then be raised to a maximum. But the British action, in the circumstances that have been postulated, would not be due to jealousy of American trade, to imperial exclusiveness or to congenital wickedness. It would be due to the simple truth that commodities in short supply must be rationed -- the more so when the previously existing reserves have been exhausted.
What can be done about this difficulty? In the first place, circumstances may shape themselves differently. The United States, in its unfailing generosity, may accept recompense for the Lease-Lend goods in some form that does not put a mortgage on the normal flow of British-American trade. The continuance of the gold-buying program may provide an extra source of dollars for the outside world. The tourist traffic may grow to even larger proportions. The level of domestic prosperity in the United States may be so high that American purchases of British goods will be substantially higher than before the war. In general, anything that increases American buying from the sterling area will help to solve the problem. By this means, it might be possible to leave the flow of current trade and services to be settled in a free market, without restrictions, and to confine the exchange control to the movement of capital. If the problem can be reduced to these dimensions, it is certainly soluble, for the American authorities have themselves from time to time called for a curb on the import of "hot money."
Nevertheless there remains a severe risk of dollar shortage which the British Government will not be able to forget. The fact is unpalatable, but it remains a fact, that it will be impossible for the British Government in the post-war era to regard the purchase of goods that have to be paid for in dollars as being exactly on a par with the purchase of goods that can be paid for in sterling or in some other "soft" currency.
Here again is the possibility of much misunderstanding and suspicion. For example, it is frequently suggested in America that the United States should be admitted after the war to the system of imperial preference set up at Ottawa. The suggestion is that this should be done without any preferential rates of duty being accorded to the British countries by the United States -- indeed, any other treatment would be a violation of the mostfavored-nation principle on which the whole of Mr. Hull's policy is founded. If it were only a matter of affection and gratitude this would undoubtedly be done. There is in England today, and will be after the war, a very strong body of opinion in favor of doing anything that would bring the United States "within the family," and if the suggestion came from America, the anxiety to accept it would be all the stronger. But unfortunately any such suggestion must be examined for the effect it would have on the exchange position. It is, on analysis, a suggestion that American sales in the sterling area should be facilitated, without any corresponding opportunities for British sales in the dollar area. In other words, it would increase the requirement of dollars without increasing the supply. If dollars are already scarce, how can such an arrangement be entered into? It is not possible for Great Britain to treat American goods in the same way as goods from the Dominions, for the Dominions (except Canada) will accept payment in sterling (that is, in London funds which the British Government can procure by taxation, by borrowing from its own public, or, in the last analysis, by credit creation), while American goods have to be paid for in dollars, which the British Government has no means of acquiring once its supplies run out. But supposing that the admission of America to the "Ottawa ring" is officially or semi-officially requested (as it may well be), or that some more ambitious plan for a Customs Union is suggested (which is far less likely), and that the proposal is turned down from the British side, will the motives be understood in America? Are they not far more likely, as things stand today, to be ascribed to British selfishness and ingratitude?
The foregoing paragraphs have dealt with the mutual trade of the United States and the British countries. But difficulties are also to be anticipated in dealings with third countries. The commercial and financial agreements between Great Britain and Argentina, for example, have come in for a great deal of criticism in the United States. Some of this criticism, it seems to Englishmen, is based on misconception. The Argentine exchange control was not imposed at Britain's request. Argentina imposed it for her own purposes, and the so-called discrimination arises from the fact that Great Britain, owing to her large purchases of Argentine goods, was in a position to secure a relaxation of the exchange control, while the United States was not. The criticisms also frequently seem to ignore the fact that United States dollars are as scarce in Buenos Aires as they are in London, and that it really is easier for Argentina to buy British goods than American. But when all this is said and done, it remains true that Great Britain has in recent years contracted a number of agreements giving her trade advantages that are not accorded to the United States. This is contrary to the philosophy to which both countries adhered until ten years ago, and to which the American Government still gives its adherence.
Undoubtedly, Britain would be meeting American wishes in abandoning these practices. But can she afford to do so? The British argument is that her export trade is vital not merely to her prosperity but to her existence. Without exports to pay for her imports, her people starve and her industries come to a stop. After the war there will be an urgent need to rebuild the export trades. It is no longer possible to believe, as it was in the Free Trade era, that imports automatically produce exports, that if bread is cast upon the waters in the form of purchases from overseas it will return in due season in the form of orders from abroad. All over the world, nations are closing their doors and trying to sell without buying. It is essential for Britain to take whatever steps are within her power to ensure that the outside world will take payment in British goods for British purchases of foreign food and raw materials. To suggest that she should not use these methods is to suggest that she should throw away the only bargaining weapon she possesses.
Here, then, is another source of possible misunderstandings and conflict. There are, of course, possibilities of compromise. It is not in Britain's interest to prejudice American trade, merely to secure favorable treatment for her own goods. And there would presumably be no American objection to an expansion of British trade if it did not reduce American sales. On these lines it may be possible to work out satisfactory compromises in individual cases. But the fundamental divergence remains, precisely because the fundamental circumstances are different. Great Britain has a large import surplus and her currency is usually in fairly plentiful supply in third countries. America has a large export surplus and the dollar is likely to be in general short supply. Both countries are following their national interests. It is reasonable to ask that each should do so with care for the interests of the other. It is unreasonable to accuse either country of stupidity or selfishness because it refuses to adopt the viewpoint of the other.
It is no part of the intention of this article to reach a pessimistic conclusion. On the contrary, the writer's view is founded on the hope and confidence that the hour has struck for these two great nations, which have so much more than blood and speech in common, to draw much closer to each other. The purpose served by setting out here the differences of opinion which can be anticipated in the immediate future is to prevent them from disturbing or reversing the movement towards closer collaboration and friendship. How can this be done? There is room for only a few brief indications here.
The first essential is not to pretend that these differences will not arise or that they can be removed just by good will. Good will can work out solutions acceptable to both countries, but it cannot be expected to remove divergences in viewpoint which, as the foregoing paragraphs have attempted to show, arise out of fundamental differences in circumstances. In this connection, a word of caution is perhaps required about the current fashion of elaborating constitutional machinery for the future union of the democratic peoples. No praise can be too high for the zeal and devotion with which these proposals are advocated and no welcome can be too warm for the support they engender in public opinion for the whole idea of closer unity. But no constitutional machinery for union, however perfect, will work unless the peoples are in the mood to compromise their difficulties -- any more than the American Constitution was able to avert the Civil War. It would be as well if some of the energy and skill that go into these schemes could be diverted to the examination of the very real problems that the machinery would have to solve. The League of Nations is a warning of what happens when too much faith is attached to the mere existence of constitutional machinery and too little attention paid to the basic difficulties.
The second prescription should be complete frankness in the discussions of British-American problems. By this is meant something much more than that the publicists should not "pull their punches." That, indeed, is needed, and can be tolerated between two nations with so long a tradition of pointing out each other's weaknesses. What is rather meant is that the two Governments should make it possible for the problems to be discussed in the light of all the relevant information. For example, the whole series of problems arising out of Britain's prospective shortage of dollars could be much more effectively dealt with if the balance sheet of pounds against dollars could be regularly published, with the figures agreed upon between the technicians of both administrations.
A third necessity is constant and unremitting care by all the organs of publicity to keep opinion in both nations fully informed of all matters outstanding between them. There are already plenty of Anglo-American institutions of the glad-handing type. Something much more is required. Efforts are made from time to time by official and unofficial British agencies to see that the British viewpoint is presented in the United States, and the circulation of American periodicals and films in the British countries performs a similar office for American opinions. But this, in a sense, is the reverse of what is wanted. Each of the two countries should be anxious, not so much to expand its own point of view to the other, but to explain the other's point of view to itself. There is room here for a pair of institutions devoted to the task of mutual exposition -- a British-staffed and British-financed institution in England to supply the sound and balanced information about the United States so sadly lacking at present; an American-staffed and American-financed institution in the United States charged with the duty of understanding (not of defending) the British Commonwealth of Nations. Added to this there is, of course, the need of a vastly greater interchange of individuals between the two countries -- not of rubber-necking tourists, who sometimes do as much harm to mutual understanding as they do good in the balance of payments -- but of leaders in every walk of life, who will stay long enough to get below the surface. The two Governments might well join together to encourage and finance the interchange, on the largest possible scale, of scientists, technicians, medical men, university professors, journalists, highway engineers, architects and every other variety of professional and technical experts, so that in every walk of life in each country there will come to be a nucleus of men and women who really know the other. For students, who can stay as long as two or three years, the Rhodes Scholarships and the Commonwealth Fund Fellowships have done an inestimable amount of good and should be extended on the widest possible scale. Perhaps it is not fanciful to see in the hospitality now being shown in America to so many British children the germ of a large-scale scheme for the exchange of school children.
All these unofficial activities, however, will be unavailing without very much closer contact between the two Governments. Long-range negotiation by diplomatic notes will not serve to unravel serious difficulties; the history of the War Debts is an almost perfect example, on both scores, of how not to handle a delicate matter. Fortunately, the contacts that are growing up at present under the pressure of war necessities set an admirable precedent. The first step after the war should be to see that these contacts are maintained. The British Ambassador in Washington should continue to be a member of the British Cabinet: the technical difficulties are no greater, and in some respects less, than those that faced the Chief Secretary for Ireland when, in the old days, he was a member of the London Cabinet. It is to be hoped, too, that, as at present, every department of the British Government whose affairs might conceivably affect the United States should maintain its mission in Washington. By this means, after a time, it would come about that most of the members of a Cabinet and most of the Senior Civil Servants in London would have had American experience. To attain the same end for the leading personalities of American politics is more difficult, since there is a far greater turnover of personnel from decade to decade in Washington than in London. But at least it could be secured that the staff of the American Embassy in London was kept as large in numbers and as varied in experience as at present, and it might even, in time, become appropriate to suggest that United States Senators and Congressmen should be given opportunities of familiarizing themselves with the problems and opinions of all parts of the British Commonwealth. An impressive and increasing number of informed relationships between officials in Washington and their opposite numbers in London have already been created during the past twelve months. The best way of ensuring that they do not wither away after the peace is probably to formalize them within some such structure of committees as is already growing up between the United States and Canada as a result of the Ogdensburg agreement.
These recommendations are neither dramatic nor spectacular. They are not offered as an alternative to the more ambitious plans for creating some sort of British-American federation. On the contrary, they are the necessary supplement to such plans, the essential groundwork of preparation for them. If a federal scheme is to have a chance of working, then hard and detailed spadework of the kind here described will be needed. And if the wider ambitions have to be deferred, then here is something that is easily within the reach of immediate statesmanship.