EVERY country's international thinking is profoundly affected and perhaps finally shaped by its own history, particularly its experience in time of war. The United States itself provides an admirable example. The First World War ultimately engaged American forces on the grand scale; and those forces played a great part in the getting of victory. It was, paradoxically, American leadership which did so much to create what turned out to be a non-American League of Nations. But, the war over, isolationism once more grew and prospered in the United States. The war was felt by many to have been a European war. It brought, after a decade of prosperity, a world economic depression in which even the powerful United States was, for a time, an almost helpless victim. These things inevitably had their effect on public thinking.

In 1941, when the Second World War had just surmounted its first great crisis, I visited the United States and found a great nation, one of the most powerful of all human history, almost equally divided on the question whether Hitler's war was America's war. Pearl Harbor settled all that. Pearl Harbor was nearer home than Europe had ever been in 1917 and 1918. The Japanese bombs not only blasted American battleships; they blasted isolationism to pieces, and ushered in a period, still enduring, of American world action, and therefore world responsibility, and therefore world thinking. If any historian of the future compares the American policy and the American inner consciousness of the five years after the First World War with those of the five years after the Second World War, he will find what I believe will be the key to the world history of the rest of the twentieth century.

This revolutionary event in international affairs seems to me to demonstrate my initial thesis. The United States has irrevocably gone out into the world because, in economic crisis or in battle, the world has gone into the United States.

Apply this reasoning to Australia, and you will understand some of what may seem to you to be the extravagances of the Australian view about Japan.

The First World War, costly as it was to Australia in human life, was fought thousands of miles away. In the second, Japanese forces successfully invaded Australian territory in Papua and New Guinea, and but for the crucial naval victory in the Coral Sea might have secured a footing on the north of Australia herself. A great division of the Australian Imperial Force, one-fourth of our entire expeditionary strength, was captured at Singapore. The Japanese soldier proved himself an uncivilized enemy and a brutal and inhuman jailer. Nobody in this generation of Australians will ever forget the instances, all too well attested, of brave soldiers murdered after capture, of nurses tortured and destroyed, of prisoners-of-war starved, enslaved, beaten, driven mad, driven into the grave. We are, numerically, a small country. It is, perhaps, for that reason that each of us has at least some friends who suffered under the Japanese and bear the marks of their misery.

Once these things are understood, it is simple to understand that the instinctive reaction of Australia to any proposal for a Japanese peace settlement is, "Keep them down! Don't let them rearm! Don't trust them!" It is true that history proves that such reactions are ephemeral and sometimes dangerous. But we are not living in a world of historians; we are living in a world of men and women, of widowed wives and bereaved mothers; a world tenaciously attached to a justice which precedes mercy, though it may be tempered by it.


It was against the background of thought and feeling just described that the Australian Government had to work out its own attitude to the Pacific peace settlement. It very soon discovered that its own advocacy of a prohibition of Japanese rearmament, an advocacy vigorously and repeatedly pursued, had no hope of success. The United States and the United Kingdom, the two principal free nations, made it clear that they were not prepared to prohibit a substantial measure of Japanese rearmament. And if these Great Powers were not willing to prohibit, and to enforce that prohibition by supervision and occupation if necessary, how could Australia by herself make a prohibition effective? To that question there was, and is, no real answer.

In any event, full reflection suggests that there is a realism in the Anglo-American approach which will impress, even if it will not always convince, the Australian mind. Let me try to express it in my own words.

1. Japan is destined once more, and very rapidly, to be a great industrial power. To prohibit this successfully would be to condemn the most virile people in East Asia to poverty, misery and revolution. No greater threat to Asiatic peace could be imagined. To prohibit it unsuccessfully would be to make the worst of both worlds, for power and hatred would be renewed together.

2. Japan will again become a great industrial power more rapidly than she can become a military power; in her case the one depends so much upon the other. But during the intervening period an undefended Japan would be a constant temptation and an easy prey for the territorial imperialism of the Communists. We must not forget that one of the checks upon aggression today is the fact that, with Western Germany and Japan outside the Soviet orbit, the balance of heavy industrial production weighs down heavily in favor of the free world.

3. Japan must therefore be defended. By whom? Putting aside the question of how far and how long any democracy will be prepared to maintain an army of occupation in a defeated country--a question full of not only economic but psychological and moral considerations--let me look once more at the pure sentiment of it. Armies of occupation in Japan must, having regard to the Communist threat, have two functions. One is to keep the peace in Japan, against the Japanese. So far, our feelings are satisfied. But the other function must be to defend Japan against an external attacker! It would come as a shock to most Australians to be told that, as a punishment for the Japanese, Australian troops were in future to defend Japan while the Japanese themselves went smiling and bowing about their affairs of production and commerce.

The answer therefore is that Japan must be defended, and in particular by the Japanese themselves.

4. The case for a measure of Japanese rearmament is thus complete, unless the Great Powers, i.e. the United States and the United Kingdom, are able and willing to do on the grand scale what I am sure Australia would not want to do, for any length of time, on the small scale.

5. This process of reasoning leaves one question unanswered and, sooner or later, it must be answered. Are both defensive armament and offensive armament to be included in Japanese rearmament? Japan, to be defended against invasion, does not, for example, need long-range submarines. Nor does she need longrange surface ships of war. She may need them against us, or against you. But does she need them against the common prospective enemy?

This is not just an expression of fear. It is a note of warning. At San Francisco and before, we stated our case on this matter. It is a case which should not be overlooked. It is based upon a recollection of the reason for Japan's rapid southward advance in 1941-42. That reason was sea power. No enemy not possessed of superiority at sea could have mounted the series of amphibious operations which led to the rapid collapse of Malaya, the Philippines and the East Indies, and the invasion of the Australian mandated territories. True, the Japanese for a long time had superiority in the air and on the land; but the truly fluid instrument of advance was a powerful navy and a great mercantile marine.

It is this recollection which gave rise to the repeated Australian request, made to both Washington and London, that in any permitted Japanese rearmament there should be a prohibition upon the creation of naval units of a long-range, i.e. an offensive, character.

There is another aspect of this matter which requires thought. The United States proposes a military pact with Japan, under which there will be mutually defensive arrangements against aggressive Communism. Is such an arrangement based upon World Power realism, or upon some specific regional application of the United Nations Charter? Or, more accurately, is it not based upon both?

Australia subscribes to the Charter, and, in and around Korea, some of her best young men have already given their lives in proof of that subscription. Politically, our people may vary in their views about the practical efficacy of the United Nations. There are many who feel that the world's peace is more effectively defended by a democratic group of Powers with superior prepared strength at the points of potential conflict than by resolutions and charters. But that does not mean that they envisage a world perpetually divided between hostile groups of Powers. The balance of power is never quite even. An eternal struggle to preserve it means an eternal danger of war and a never-ending subtraction from those standards of peaceful life to which all decent men and women aspire. Even the realistic critics therefore join in the pursuit of an international law based upon international action.

This, to people like myself, does not involve a conflict between practical groupings of power and the great and noble principles of the Charter. What it means is that, while we gather together with our friends and gird our loins for a possible battle, we see ourselves and our friends as the champions of a new international order in which aggression ends and international differences are settled by reason and not arms. But before the rule of law becomes a world rule, those who believe in it must first defeat, at the bar of world human opinion or by strength if necessary, those who set that rule at nought. In brief, power politics for the sake of power must die. But power politics, to create a state of affairs in which power becomes irrelevant, must still remain one of the great preoccupations of the democratic peoples of the world.


I do not propose to make any attempt to analyze the economic provisions of the Treaty. It is true that, so far as Australia is concerned, for example, the Treaty creates no obligations upon us and confers no reciprocal rights upon Japan except by virtue of some subsequent act on our part. But, broadly, the economic settlement is a "soft" one. It contemplates, as does the military settlement, the reconstitution of a powerful and self-supporting Japan. It is, one may reasonably assume, not unaffected by the belief that the First War settlement and the events which followed it were "neither the one thing nor the other," were not sufficiently severe and enforced to make Germany powerless to take revenge, and not sufficiently friendly to destroy the desire for revenge.

Clearly, judgment upon such matters must involve the acceptance of risks. We have no assurance that a rearmed Japan will not some day turn against us. We have, for that matter, no assurance that a strengthened and assisted Western Germany will not some day again prove our enemy. But the calculation of risks must be based not upon theory but upon facts.

It is a natural and admirable disposition of mankind to seek permanent solutions. But unfortunately, while there will always be problems, the problems themselves change. We must deal with them as we encounter them; and will deal with them the more successfully if we have not (in our pursuit of the permanent) become too rigid-minded about them in advance. This does not mean that we are to have no principles of international law or practice, no devotion to an international charter, no settled machinery of peace. What it does mean is that in the making of regional settlements we are to be at greater pains to guard against the existing or immediately prospective enemy than to secure ourselves against a possible or remote one. To put this argument quite bluntly, we should be foolish to force a hard and bitter peace upon Japan because we feared that in 15 or 20 years' time Japan might once more become an aggressor, when the real and deadly and present question is whether, inside the next two years, we shall between us be strong enough to resist (and therefore deter) a vast Communist aggression against one manifestation of which we are actually now fighting in Korea.

If the United States, with its tremendous world responsibility and its magnificent and unprecedented preparation to discharge it, chooses to see Japan not as a possible future danger but as a present and important factor in world defensive strategy against Communism, who can with confidence gamble upon the future course of history and say that it is wrong? And in any case, the United States is taking its risk prudently. Pursuant to Article 6 of the Treaty the United States is entering into a defensive pact with Japan. Thus, by a double stroke, Japan is made a coöperator in the short-range defense problem and a potential friend in the long run.

There are, of course, many people who feel that the Japanese people have, by the joint effects of defeat and occupation, "suffered a sea change" into democracy. I do not believe this for a moment. Democracy is a growth from the soil; it is never imposed from without. Witness the easy and swift collapse of parliamentary self-government in Germany and Italy. It needs a tree with deep roots in a deep soil to withstand the winter gales of tyranny. The real question is not whether Japan has already become democratic (a notion which I frankly do not believe), but whether, to quote the recent words of my colleague, Mr. R. G. Casey, "to permit the Japanese people to recover their self-respect and some measure of economic independence offers the best means of promoting the growth of a workable democracy in Japan." It is my own deep belief that, though slavery is the breeding ground of revolution, only freedom and free men can bring forth democracy.

Before I leave the Peace Treaty, I would like to add a few words about the historic question of reparations.

Even the unsophisticated political economists of the Versailles settlement must have realized before long how impossible it is to make the defeated pay for a war except on terms which guarantee unemployment and financial crisis in the victor country. But some financial punishment or recompense may well be required from Japan without financial or economic disaster. This thought at once brings up the claims of former prisoners-of-war for some compensation for the wrongs suffered by them, in breach of all the laws of war, at the hands of their Japanese captors. The United States has already dealt with American prisoners-of-war by paying them a daily allowance out of Japanese assets forfeited to the Republic. Every consideration of justice and decency cries aloud for the imposition of a just penalty to be paid to the innocent by the guilty. It would be intolerable to say that the maltreated American prisoner-of-war should, by the accident of the location of forfeited Japanese assets, be entitled to substantial compensation, while his Australian brother in arms should, by the like accident, secure little or none.

It is true that, under Article 16 of the Treaty, Japan transfers certain of her overseas assets to the International Committee of the Red Cross for distribution to appropriate national agencies for the benefit of former prisoners-of-war and their families. But, on such figures as are available, the amount so provided will be grossly inadequate. I hope and believe that American opinion will be strong to see that all former prisoners-of-war, whether American or otherwise, will be treated equally and generously, and that the means of doing so will be required from Japan, whose lawlessness and inhumanity in the conduct of war have wrought so deep an injury to so many thousands of gallant men.


Efforts have been made in certain quarters to convert the Japanese Treaty into an Australian party political issue. The significance of these efforts should not be exaggerated. No Australian party or leader has been prepared to say that Japan should be kept unarmed and that Australia should be the policeman for that purpose. It is perhaps thought, by some individuals, that the Australian Government could and should have forced its view upon Great Britain and the United States. Such an argument needs no answer once it has been stated. The Australian Government thought it much more sensible not to go on obstinately "kicking against the pricks," but to seek such a Pacific regional arrangement--of the same derivation as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization--as would strengthen Australia's Pacific position against a possible future resurgence of Japanese or Communist militarism. The discussions were, so far as the United States of America and Australia were concerned, largely conducted by Mr. John Foster Dulles and the then Australian Minister for External Affairs (now our Ambassador at Washington), Mr. P. C. Spender. The negotiations were conducted with great spirit, friendliness and international intelligence. Our sister nation, New Zealand, was a warm and willing coöperator.

The result is now well known. The Security Treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America is constructed around the central Article IV, which says that, "Each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on any of the parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes." This mutual declaration is both historic and momentous. As it is worked out through the Council of Foreign Ministers (which a later Article sets up), it will give a particular force and application to the United Nations Charter in the Pacific, corresponding to the North Atlantic arrangements and to those arrangements for an integrated Middle East Command which have more recently been put in hand.

Two comments upon the Pact should be made, if its full significance to Australia is to be understood.

The first is that the obligations are not all one way. Article II says that, "in order more effectively to achieve the objective of this Treaty the parties separately and jointly by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack."

After the treaty has come into effect, our Australian defense preparations are not merely our own business; we owe them also to our friends, without whose help we cannot hope to maintain our freedom against a major challenge. In other words, our defense effort ceases to be of merely local significance, but becomes part of the concerted efforts of the free world. Americans who fought alongside Australians in the southwest Pacific will know that we mean this, and we shall do our part.

The second comment is evoked by a phrase in the preamble to the Pact, "Recognizing that Australia and New Zealand as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations have military obligations outside as well as within the Pacific Area."

Sometimes, discussing such matters with my friends in the United States, I have encountered the suggestion that British countries like Australia must choose whether to be in or out of the British Commonwealth. In the same way I have heard it suggested that Great Britain has to make some choice between Western European commitments and those which are inherent in the British Commonwealth. No such choice arises. Great Britain's participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has Australia's full approval; ours in the Three Power Pact had the blessing of Great Britain. No responsible person in Australia thinks that Australia could or would stand neutral in a British war of survival, or that Great Britain would be inactive in a struggle for Australian liberty. We are members of a family of nations under the British Crown, and we stand together. But we know that, the divisions in the world being what they are, the peace of the world depends upon the unshakable unity of thought and action of the United States and the British Commonwealth, and of those other great and free nations who hold their liberty in common.

Thus understood, North Atlantic and Pacific Pacts are not a means of creating separate obligations or inconsistent action on the part of British Commonwealth countries. They are, on the contrary, the instruments by which we build our joint and several strengths into the over-all strength of the United Nations, and so make our own unity a vital element in an even greater partnership without which no free nation, or group of free nations, can long survive.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • ROBERT GORDON MENZIES, Prime Minister of Australia; also Prime Minister in 1939-41, and previously Attorney-General, Minister for Trade and Customs, Minister for Coördination of Defense and Minister for Information and Munitions
  • More By Robert Gordon Menzies