FROM THE ANTHOLOGY: Essays for the Presidency

Foreign Policy in Presidential Campaigns

Signing the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. NARA

THE great quadrennial assize of the American people, completed last November, provoked widespread discussion of American foreign policy. Such discussion raises the general question as to whether or not the partisan struggle for power has, over the years, resulted in the clarification of major issues in the diplomatic field. And, even beyond this, we may ask if partisan rivalry in the field of foreign policy has served the interests of the American people as a whole. The writer, in posing these questions, very obviously is ready with an answer, and the answer is preponderantly in the negative. But before proceeding to examine the matter, I should clear the ground of possible misunderstandings of what it is I am trying to show.

In the first place, no one denies that the partisan struggle is an essential part of the democratic scheme of things. Popular government, to be most effective, requires a party in office and a party in opposition. It requires that the acts of those in office shall be submitted to constant scrutiny and to constant criticism, and that the opportunity shall be afforded to expel from power one political organization and replace it with another. In expressing a doubt as to the utility of presidential elections in clarifying the issues of foreign policy, I do not for a moment intend to denigrate the democratic process itself.

Nor is it intended to suggest that popular government is incompatible with the successful conduct of foreign policy. Though some of our publicists seem to take this point of view, the judgment of history does not confirm any such hypothesis. The totalitarian régimes of Adolf Hitler, of Benito Mussolini and of the Japanese militarists all committed errors greater and more conclusive than any committed by the great democratic nations, and all have disappeared, the victims of their own folly. The brutal régime in power in Russia has many cardinal mistakes in its record--its futile attempt to come to terms with Hitler in 1939,

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