Courtesy Reuters

The Beam and the Mote

"THE friend of every country but his own!" No American Secretary of State wishes to have George Canning's contemptuous tag applied to him: he knows that it is the duty of our government in Washington to frame and press policies which will protect and advance the interests of the people of the United States. If this is accepted as the basis of the international action that we should attempt, it follows that every other state is entitled to take the same view of its foreign policy. Hence our Secretary of State, in addition to being sure of what he wants, must be prompt in detecting dangers from other quarters, even before they are expressed in the form of wants or demands.

At a time when Burke was denouncing the French Revolution, Walpole advanced the opinion that "no great country was ever saved by good men." This philosophy we repudiate and, in so far as foreign policy is concerned, we agree to -- indeed pride ourselves on -- one important requirement: the means as well as the ends of our policy must pay a "decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

Present discontents in the international field (a euphemism for relations with Russia) derive in part from the fact that Russia seems to attach little importance to the opinions of mankind, and even to suggest that the opinions do not matter. In saying this, I am not unmindful of the jibe which has sometimes had a good basis in fact, that we are prone to judge what other states want in terms of our ideals and to weigh our own international desires and actions on the scales of expediency; that we think the acts of others are irrational, but see reasons for our own conduct which elsewhere is not regarded as rational. Present discontents do not result from that kind of muddled thinking. They are due to a fundamental cleavage.

What the interests of a people seem to be at any epoch

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