THE 35th anniversary of the founding of Foreign Affairs is a suitable occasion for comment on the evolution of United States foreign policy and the rôle we can play today in accord with our enduring national principles. During this third of a century, the American people have altered their conception as to the proper part which their Government should take in world affairs.

Since the founding of this nation, the American people have believed that it had a mission in the world. They have believed that "their conduct and example" ("The Federalist," No. 1) would influence events throughout the world and promote the spread of free institutions. But they have traditionally felt that it would be better for their Government to avoid involvement in international issues. So, with rare exceptions, the United States left the field of international politics to the governments of the "Great Powers" of the nineteenth century.

It took the First World War to bring us into major involvement in world crises and conflicts. Then in the decade of the thirties a series of critical events culminated in the greatest of all wars. By its end, a transformation had been effected. It had become obvious that the conduct and example of our people no longer, alone, sufficed to prevent recurrent challenges to our security and our way of life. It was also apparent that only in association with others could we repel such challenges. Furthermore, our national power had grown to be so impressive as to preclude its being merely a reserved, negative force.

Thus, since 1945, our Government has played a leading rôle in a coalition of free nations dedicated to the principles of international order to which our people have long subscribed.

There still remains a nostalgia for the "good old days." This is reinforced by recurrent demonstrations that, great as is our strength, we are not omnipotent. We cannot, by fiat, produce the kind of a world we want. Even nations which depend greatly upon us do not always follow what we believe to be the right course. For they are independent nations, and not our satellites. Our power and policy are but one significant factor in the world in which we live. In combination with other factors we are able to influence importantly the course of events. But we cannot deal in absolutes. This, to many Americans, is a source of worriment.

The American people may not yet have completely accepted the rôle that history has made inevitable. But at least a good beginning has been made. It is unlikely that there could now be a successful effort to withdraw the United States Government from official and active participation in international affairs. But in order that such participation should command popular support, our foreign policies should be more than politics. They must evidently reflect the traditional aspirations of our people.


United States foreign policy since 1945 has been forced to concern itself primarily with one major threat to the peaceful and orderly development of the kind of international community the American people desire. This is the threat posed by those who direct the totalitarian system of International Communism. Because orthodox Communism represents a materialistic and atheistic creed, it inevitably is repugnant to those who believe in the supremacy of the spirit. Because it seeks world rule through the domination of all governments by the International Communist Party, it is repugnant to all who understand its purposes and, as patriots, cherish national independence. And because it employs fraud and violence to achieve its ends, it is repugnant to all who seek a world society of decency and order.

The United States, as the strongest nation of the non-Communist world, has had the major responsibility for meeting this challenge which, since 1950, has been able to exploit the resources of most of the Eurasian land mass and one-third of the world's population.

Since the death of Stalin in March 1953, there has been a Soviet disavowal of the ruthlessness of the Stalinist period. Internally, that disavowal has found some practical expression. Externally, Soviet policy has been marked by a more diversified range of political, diplomatic and economic tactics vis-à-vis the non-Communist world. This became especially pronounced in 1955. There were such gestures as the sudden consent to a long-overdue Austrian treaty and the overtures to Jugoslavia. At the "summit" conference at Geneva there were professions of peaceful intent and an agreement to reunify Germany by free elections. There were profuse offers of "assistance" to many nations and a plea for "cultural relations."

But nowhere, except perhaps in Austria, did the Soviets yield anything of substance or enter into genuine negotiations on basic issues. Economic and military "assistance" was a Trojan horse whereby influence could be gained to promote political subversion. There was no honest acceptance of Jugoslavia's right to have a national Communist government not dominated by International Communism. And in November 1955 at Geneva the Soviet Government flatly repudiated the July "summit" agreement for German reunification.

The year 1956 gave further evidence that the new rulers in Moscow were not essentially changed. Enticements were mingled with threats. When "de-Stalinization," proclaimed by the Twentieth Party Congress in February 1956, was interpreted in the satellites as justifying more freedom and independence, there were fierce reactions first at Poznan, Poland, and then in Hungary. Obviously, those who presently dictate the doctrines of International Communism are not in fact prepared to accept the consequences of their professed liberalization.

In all the 40 years of Bolshevik rule there is no episode more brutal than the Red Army suppression of the Hungarian people's 1956 uprising against intolerable oppression. And recent Soviet policies in the Near East are inexcusably mischievous.

That area, rich in cultural and religious tradition, yet stricken with historic dissensions and tragic poverty, was chosen in 1955 to be the scene of a new Communist hunt for power. Communist propaganda studiously sought to inflame animosities. The Soviet Government, drawing upon its semi-obsolete war equipment, stimulated an arms race. As a direct or indirect result, violence and bitterness were increased and abject poverty was riveted more firmly as some governments mortgaged the future economic productivity of the people in order to buy Soviet arms. It has indeed been a cynical performance by those who profess to love peace and to desire to uplift the masses.

More than a decade of cold war experience has confirmed our earlier judgments of International Communism. It, and the governments it controls, are deeply hostile to us and to all free and independent governments. Its basic doctrine precludes its changing of its own accord. Self-advertised changes must be considered as mere stratagems.

We need not, however, despair. International Communism is subject to change even against its will. It is not impervious to the erosion of time and circumstance. Khrushchev's speech of February 1956, the July 1957 shake-up in the ruling clique at Moscow, and Mao's speech of February 27, 1957, indicate that even in Russia and the China mainland Soviet and Chinese Communist régimes are confronted with grave internal pressures and dilemmas. The yeast of change is at work, despite all the efforts of "democratic centralism" to keep matters moving in a strictly Leninist pattern. The rulers in Russia do not find it possible to combine industrial and military modernization with the personal repressions of the Middle Ages; and the rulers in China will not find it possible to fit the richly diversified culture of the Chinese into a Communist mold of conformity.

The time may come, indeed we can be confident that it will come, when the nations now ruled by International Communism will have governments which, whatever their label, in fact serve their own nations and their own peoples rather than the insatiable world-wide ambitions of an international Party. There will be broadening participation in government. There will be increasing personal security under law. There will be a significant degree of freedom of thought and expression. And the workers will be permitted to have some choice of the work that they do and to enjoy more of the fruits of their labor. Under those conditions, the people, if not the masters of their government, will at least not be its abject slaves. Vast military power will no longer be completely at the disposal of those who accept no restraints either of a governmental or moral character and whose goal is worldwide rule. When that day comes, we can rejoice. Until that day comes, we shall need to remain on our guard.


During the last two decades, the United States has found it necessary to recast its ideas and policies regarding national security. The course of our thinking and planning has been in the direction of collective security. In our modern world no nation, however powerful, can find safety in isolation, and security for one is only to be achieved through coöperation with other like-minded nations.

The society of nations is undergoing the transformation that occurs whenever primitive societies develop. There is a gradual evolution from conditions where security is a matter of each for himself and the Devil take the hindmost, to a condition where security is a collective effort to which each contributes and from which each benefits. In that way there is greater security at less cost. The society of nations is gradually and painfully evolving from a primitive condition to one where security is a matter of collective effort and where defense is a common defense.

It is not easy to realize these principles in a world where people have long thought of sovereignty as a status unqualified by interdependence. Yet after a second generation of bitter experience, the United States, with many others, sees the indispensability of interdependence. Today we seek security through the strengthening of universal institutions, by regional arrangements, by maintaining military capabilities in conjunction with our allies, and by determined efforts to diminish the risk of surprise attack and to limit and control armaments.

In 1945 the United States took the lead in organizing the United Nations. We hoped that it would become an effective instrument of collective security. But it still falls short of being that. United Nations action in a divided world has often been paralyzed. For example, the U.S.S.R. has exercised the veto in the Security Council about 80 times. No joint U.N. military force has been set up as contemplated in the Charter, although Korea and Suez point to possible progress in this direction. Also, the Assembly, in the Suez and Hungarian crises of last fall, displayed surprising determination and virtual unanimity.

It is sometimes said by way of reproach that in these matters the United Nations applied a "double standard"--severity toward Israel, France and the United Kingdom, and leniency toward the Soviet Union. This charge has no basis in fact. The Assembly resolutions directed against the use of force in Egypt and in Hungary were equally peremptory.

The double standard was not in the United Nations, but in the nations. There was the moral sensitivity of the Western nations, and their decent respect for the opinions of mankind. There was the immorality of Soviet Communism, and its contempt for the opinions of mankind. We can rejoice that, among the nations, there are governments having standards higher than those of the Government of Soviet Russia. That is not a matter of reproach to them, or to the United Nations.

Despite hopeful indications of progress in the United Nations, the nations of the free world which felt endangered have, for the most part, felt it necessary to resort to collective, and usually regional, arrangements to safeguard their security. This has been in entire accord with the Charter. In this development the United States has assumed a major rôle and responsibility. Since 1945 we have entered into collective security treaties with 42 other nations and we have less formal arrangements with several more.

The first such treaty--the Rio Pact--was with our own neighbors of this hemisphere. We went on to broaden the base of collective security through a series of multilateral and bilateral pacts which now encompass much of the free world. The forces of NATO, now including the Federal Republic of Germany, stand guard over the treaty-defined North Atlantic region which includes the vital area of Western Europe. In the West Pacific and Far East, the SEATO and ANZUS pacts and four bilateral treaties establish the principle that a threat to one is the concern of all. In the Middle East, the Baghdad Pact and the Eisenhower Doctrine assure collective response to Communist aggression at points of special danger or weakness. This nearly world-wide system of regional collective security has served all the participants well. It has deterred aggression and given much-needed assurance to peoples who are especially exposed to attack.

We must, in candor, admit that all of the participants do not look upon these arrangements alike. Some consider them broad political alliances, binding the parties, at least morally, to support each other generally. But the net result has been to further the application of the principle of collective security within the society of nations.


Collective security must, of course, be buttressed by military capabilities to deter armed aggression and to cope with it if it should occur. In December 1950, in an address before the American Association for the United Nations, I spoke to this problem, pointing out that, "With more than 20 nations strung along the 20,000 miles of Iron Curtain, it is not possible to build up static defensive forces which could make each nation impregnable to such a major and unpredictable assault as Russia could launch. To attempt this would be to have strength nowhere and bankruptcy everywhere." I went on to say, "Against such military power as the Soviet Union can marshal, collective security depends upon capacity to counterattack against the aggressor;" and I pointed to our Strategic Air Force and our stock of weapons as constituting an arsenal of retaliation.

During the ensuing years the military strategy of the free world allies has been largely based upon our great capacity to retaliate should the Soviet Union launch a war of aggression. It is widely accepted that this strategy of deterrence has, during this period, contributed decisively to the security of the free world.

However, the United States has not been content to rely upon a peace which could be preserved only by a capacity to destroy vast segments of the human race. Such a concept is acceptable only as a last alternative. In recent years there has been no other. But the resourcefulness of those who serve our nation in the field of science and weapon engineering now shows that it is possible to alter the character of nuclear weapons. It seems now that their use need not involve vast destruction and widespread harm to humanity. Recent tests point to the possibility of possessing nuclear weapons the destructiveness and radiation effects of which can be confined substantially to predetermined targets.

In the future it may thus be feasible to place less reliance upon deterrence of vast retaliatory power. It may be possible to defend countries by nuclear weapons so mobile, or so placed, as to make military invasion with conventional forces a hazardous attempt. For example, terrain is often such that invasion routes can be decisively dominated by nuclear artillery. Thus, in contrast to the 1950 decade, it may be that by the 1960 decade the nations which are around the Sino-Soviet perimeter can possess an effective defense against full-scale conventional attack and thus confront any aggressor with the choice between failing or himself initiating nuclear war against the defending country. Thus the tables may be turned, in the sense that instead of those who are non-aggressive having to rely upon all-out nuclear retaliatory power for their protection, would-be aggressors will be unable to count on a successful conventional aggression, but must themselves weigh the consequences of invoking nuclear war.

It is precisely this evolution that Soviet diplomacy and propaganda strive most vigorously to prevent. They oppose all such experimental testing of nuclear devices as is necessary to find ways to reduce fall-out and to reduce size. They seem to prefer that nuclear weapons be only the "horror" type of weapons. They apparently calculate that humanitarian instincts will prevent us from using such weapons. They know that if Soviet conventional forces were operating in Europe the megaton-type weapon with large fission fall-out could not be used by Western forces without endangering the friendly peoples of the area. Under these conditions Sino-Soviet manpower and its conventional weapons would become the dominant military force in Eurasia. Such considerations make it important to combine the suspension of testing with other measures which will limit armament and the possibilities of surprise attack.

The Soviet Union, in its May 10, 1955, disarmament proposals, said:

There are possibilities beyond the reach of international control for evading this control and for organizing the clandestine manufacture of atomic and hydrogen weapons, even if there is a formal agreement on international control. In such a situation the security of the States signatory to the international convention can not be guaranteed, since the possibility would be open to a potential aggressor to accumulate stocks of atomic and hydrogen weapons for a surprise atomic attack on peace-loving states.

The foregoing is certainly true, at least as regards the use of existing stocks of fissionable material. That is why we do not seek to control existing stocks. We accept their inevitability, limiting our control proposals to newly created fissionable material that can be controlled.

The Soviet statement continued:

Until an atmosphere of trust has been created in relations between States, any agreement on the institution of international control can only serve to lull the vigilance of the peoples. It will create a false sense of security, while in reality there will be a danger of the production of atomic and hydrogen weapons and hence the threat of surprise attack and the unleashing of an atomic war with all its appalling consequences for the people.

This, again, is a true statement. Unless there are effective measures to reduce "the threat of surprise attack," whether nuclear or otherwise, it would be imprudent to interrupt the safeguarded search for methods to apply nuclear power to weapons in a manner to enlarge the possibilities of defense greatly and at the same time greatly reduce the lethal fall-out factor inherent in weapons which are still in a relatively early stage of development.

As nuclear weapons come to provide greater possibilities for defense this will require changes in military and related political strategy. So long as collective security depends almost wholly upon the deterrent of retaliatory power and the ability to wreak great destruction upon an aggressor nation, there has to be almost sole dependence upon the United States. No other nation can afford the cost of maintaining adequate deterrent power. This requires a vast arsenal of planes, weapons and perhaps long-range missiles. These must be constantly renewed to overcome increasing defensive capabilities. This in turn requires vast outlay for experimentation.

However, as nuclear weapons become more tactical in character and thus more adaptable to area defense, there will inevitably be a desire on the part of those allies which are technically qualified to participate more directly in this defense and to have a greater assurance that this defensive power will in fact be used. Such factors are already leading to study of a so-called "atomic weapons stockpile" which could be established by the United States in the European NATO area, and, as becomes appropriate, made available to NATO.

A concomitant of this problem is how to prevent the promiscuous spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world. Without safeguards, such weapons might in the future get into the hands of irresponsible dictators and be used as a form of international blackmail. The world would indeed become an unhappy place to live in if humanity had to accept an ever-present threat of this character.

We are only beginning to envisage the drastic changes in political-military relations which will be consequent upon the rapid growth of scientific knowledge and operating experience in the nuclear field. New weapons possibilities are opening up in rapid succession. Political thinking finds it difficult to keep up with that pace. And, of course, there is inevitably some interval between the thinking and the institutionalizing of the results of thinking.

The development of a common defense has meant, and will continue to mean, heavy outlays for an effective and modern United States military establishment. It has also required, and will continue to require, the United States to give military assistance and support to the military forces of those nations associated with us in collective arrangements or in special need or danger. Such assistance is in no sense to be viewed as charity. It is based on a hard-headed appraisal of our own defense needs. Without it, our own defense costs would be far greater and our security far less. The aggregate military and economic resources of the free world coalition represent the greatest and least costly insurance against war.


The United States recognizes that armaments alone are no lasting guarantee of peace. We are, therefore, pursuing a policy designed to set up safeguards against surprise attack, and to bring national armaments, both nuclear and conventional, under effective international limitation and supervision. It is true that so-called "disarmament" efforts in the past have proved futile. The Hague Peace Conferences, the Versailles Treaty, the Washington Naval Limitation Agreement, the League of Nations Disarmament Conferences, are recent conspicuous examples of failure. But there are important differences today.

Past efforts have usually proceeded from the assumption that it is possible to establish and maintain certain defined levels of military strength and to equate these dependably as between the nations. Actually, military potentials are so imponderable that this always has been and always will be a futile pursuit. Today there is a new approach. It is proposed to establish a system of international supervision which will make massive surprise attack unlikely. If this happens, then general war becomes less likely and the level of armaments will almost automatically go down.

Today, the great military establishments derive largely from one of two calculations. A potential attacker calculates that he may be able to accumulate the power to gain a decisive initial advantage by surprise attack. Those who feel that they may be attacked calculate that the only effective deterrent to attack is to possess, collectively, power so great and so decentralized that it cannot be rendered nugatory by a massive surprise attack.

New discoveries and their application lead to constantly mounting exertions to develop means of attack and of retaliation and of means of survival. The only effective way to stop the cycle is to establish such international supervision of the great sources of military power that it becomes unlikely that there can be undetected preparation for an attack massive enough to destroy the opposing source of power. That was President Eisenhower's "open skies" concept, first put forward at the Geneva "summit" conference of 1955.

A potential aggressor, subject to inspection from the air, supplemented by a ground component, will know that he probably cannot use vast armament to advantage. And nations exposed to aggression will know that they probably cannot be wiped out at a single blow and that therefore they can rely more than now upon potential military strength rather than strength actually in being. Thus there will be no stimulation, as at present, for an arms race. This will not solve all the problems of armament, or guarantee peace. But the new approach could create an atmosphere in which other measures, now impossible, would become possible.

The most important difference from the past is, of course, the fact that never before has there been such need to reduce the risk of war. Today a general war between the great military Powers could destroy almost all human life, certainly in the northern latitudes. Our working hypothesis must be that what is necessary is possible. We assume that the forces which man has created, man can by wisdom, resourcefulness and discipline harness and control. We persevere in common efforts to free the world from the continuing threat of destruction by the weapons that its civilization has produced.


Nations, like individuals, cannot live to themselves alone. Realizing this, the American people have always given generously of their substance to victims of disaster in many parts of the world and have engaged in innumerable programs of humanitarian assistance. These, until recently, have been the outcome mainly of philanthropic motives. During the past decade they have reflected enlightened national self-interest.

We now see that the world has become so much a unit that wherever the body politic is afflicted the whole is endangered. We realize that peace and prosperity for one requires, in the long run, that all should have the opportunity to pursue happiness. We see the need for more vital domestic forces in all free lands, to resist Communist subversion or attack.

Since 1945, our nation has granted, outright, nearly $50 billion in aid, military and economic. That has evidenced an enlightened conception of our own national interest. It is significant that, despite this assistance to others at the rate of about $5 billion a year, our own economy has developed in a healthy manner. This has been a decade of rising prosperity. In 1946 our national income was approximately $180 billion. In 1951 it was approximately $277 billion. In 1956 it was approximately $344 billion.

The Marshall Plan was the most dramatic of our economic assistance efforts. It provided Western Europe with some of the means, and with the time and opportunity, to save itself. Now we see in Western Europe the development of a degree of unity which had been the vision of enlightened statesmen for many years. There has been, first, the Coal and Steel Community, then the Brussels Treaty for European Union, and now the treaties for a Common Market and Euratom. These developments are momentous in terms of developing unity, strength and well-being in an area which for centuries has been the seat of recurrent wars threatening the very existence of Western civilization.

In recent years, as the Western European economy has been reëstablished, the United States has placed increasing emphasis on economic and technical assistance to the newly awakened and needy peoples of Asia and Africa. As upwards of 800,000,000 people, representing 20 new nations, have won political liberty, one of the momentous issues of our time has been whether this political liberty would also mean the liberation of the people from a quagmire of economic misery and hopelessness. If not, present political liberty may prove a mere transition from one form of colonial rule to another far worse.

All of our aid programs, whether military, economic or technical, are rightly viewed as ventures in mutual security. If we have given more than others, this reflects our greater ability to give. An important question now raised about our mutual security policies is, will there be an early end to them? Recent studies by expert commissions all attest to their continuing necessity.

The time to end such assistance will be when it no longer serves the enlightened self-interest of the United States. Military assistance and defense support represent about 70 percent of the entire program. That is part of our own defense. As regards economic assistance, we can expect private capital gradually to assume increasing responsibility for promoting the development of less well-developed areas, provided there is political stability. It is to be noted that while the dollar value of our mutual security spending has not greatly declined in recent years, an increasing amount of this is in terms of loans rather than of grants. Also, the total of public loans and grants now represents only about 1 percent of our national income, whereas a few years ago grants alone represented about 3 percent.

A cessation of our mutual security programs would, under present conditions, be disastrous. What is needed is to put necessary aid programs on a more long-term, businesslike basis, reducing grant aid to a minimum and applying our assistance in ways that will best help needy peoples to help themselves. As a result of intensive studies independently initiated by the Executive and the Congress, one new instrumentality is now being inaugurated, the Development Loan Fund. This, when adequately capitalized, will place major responsibility on the receiving countries and stimulate self-help and private investment.

United States foreign economic policy has been vigorous in fields other than aid. President Eisenhower's speech to the United Nations in December 1953 dramatized the possible peaceful uses of atomic energy. Much has been accomplished to realize these possibilities through bilateral agreements. Recently the United States ratified the Statute for the International Atomic Energy Agency, which should be a milestone in the general application of this marvelous new resource for the benefit and not for the destruction of mankind.

We recognize that governmental restrictions on trade have in the past throttled world commerce to the detriment of every nation. We have entered into international undertakings, notably the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, to prevent this and to promote the interchange of goods and services. This expansion materially benefits the United States and friendly nations. Measures which might adversely affect a nation are avoided. Economic growth is stimulated throughout the world. The benefits of advances in one country are readily diffused to others.

We do not forget that every government has a primary duty to serve its own people. But usually that service can be best rendered by finding ways which help others also, or which at least do not hurt others. Occasionally, and happily only rarely, situations arise which cannot be resolved by this formula. But in general we seek an international society in which men, goods and ideas flow freely and without obstruction throughout a wide area and in which the opportunity to pursue happiness is open to every man and woman. The United States market, which dependably offers so much that others want, and which dependably buys so much that others would sell, is the great economic stabilizer of the free world. It helps to combat Communism and the self-centered nationalisms which are alike in rejecting the concept of interdependence.

Few economic theories are today as obsolete as those of Marx. They were propagated nearly a century ago in relation to a society which since then has rapidly transformed itself through the force of its own dynamic qualities.

The social and economic basis of democracy has been widened throughout the Western world and the same process is beginning and accelerating in other free world areas. International Communism is a reactionary movement. Its "planning" makes slaves of the producers and creates a new exploiting and ruling class. It is replete with contradictions which, in free countries, have been resolved by a peaceful, yet dynamic, evolution.

We cannot, of course, claim perfection. The dramatic and peaceful development of the social and economic structure of our free societies must and will go forward. But even though we do not claim perfection, we can claim that the social goals which Communism pretends to seek are in fact achieved to a far greater extent within our free society than they are achieved in Soviet Russia or Communist China.


As our country has been swept more fully into the broad currents of human affairs, we have been made more and more conscious of those rapid world movements of our century which seem incessantly to transform the international landscape. Change is the law of life, and that includes international life. Our common problem, in a world of rapid and often momentous change, is to ensure that necessary changes occur in peaceful fashion without upheaval or war. Violent change is never selective change. It destroys the good as well as the bad. Change is beneficent when it is selective, continuing and developing the good while shedding that which is evil, outmoded or inadequate.

We have already alluded to some of the areas where change is most conspicuous. There is first of all the change which will inevitably result from the splitting of the atom. A vast new source of power is available to man, and we can be sure that it will be used to effect momentous changes. It can destroy man, or it can enrich him. The choice is up to man himself. The United States first had the power of fission and used it in war to defend freedom. We feel a special responsibility to help to assure that man's momentous choice shall be "Atoms for Peace."

Another vast force for change is political nationalism. This is operating strongly in Asia and Africa. Since 1945, it has resulted in the creation of a score of new nations. Other peoples are well on their way to political independence.

But the mere act of granting political independence does not of itself assure that the newly independent peoples will in fact have governments of their own choosing or governments able and willing to serve the governed. It does not of itself mean that the society of nations is enriched by new recruits dedicated to principles of interdependence and an international order of law and justice. It is going to be necessary to find policies to cope with new demands of colonial peoples, with strident and embittered nationalisms, and with social unrest among those who tend to feel that political liberty automatically should provide them with new economic opportunity.

The United States, once itself a colony, shares and sympathizes with the aspirations of peoples for political independence. Also, we know the extent to which liberty, for its own self-preservation, requires the self-restraint of moral law and the education to make sound judgments. We can and should play an important part in finding the policies to cope with the political and social ferment of much of the human race.

We recognize, as does the United Nations Charter in Article 14, that there will be constantly arising particular situations likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations and calling for peaceful adjustment. We have noted in recent years the emergence of such situations, for example the disputes over Cyprus, Kashmir and West Irian; between Arabs and Israelis; and over Suez. These not only disrupt world peace and comity. They provide fertile soil for Communist propaganda and penetration.

The United States recognizes that, in the case of such disputes, all of the merits are not on one side. Therefore we do not identify ourselves with any purely partisan approach. The Soviet rulers, unconcerned with the merits and eager only to extend their power, are prepared to back one side against the other if, in return, they obtain political advantages. Because they sometimes gain advantages out of such disputes, their interest lies in creating and exacerbating disputes and preventing their settlement.

This illustrates how important it is for the free world to establish regular procedures for the settlement of disputes between its members. This has already been done in the Western hemisphere through the Organization of American States. Within the past few years several serious disputes between American States have been successfully dealt with by the procedures of this Organization. Its members deserve the highest praise for their loyalty to the peaceful processes of law and justice which they have established. They have set a notable example which ought to be followed more generally.

Largely as a result of United States initiation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is now developing processes for the settlement of disputes between its members. Last year the Secretary-General of NATO was given new responsibilities in this respect.

There are, in the long run, great potentialities in Article 14 of the United Nations Charter which authorizes the Assembly to recommend change in the status quo. The exercise of this delicate function requires knowledge, wisdom and self-restraint. It becomes particularly difficult for the Assembly to exercise this function when a powerful minority of members seeks not fair and just settlements but unsettlements which lend themselves to the use by International Communism of its revolutionary tactics.

Sometimes it is felt that the United States ought more often to use its power to effectuate settlements. The United States can and does exert an influence in quiet and inconspicuous ways as a friend of all the parties. We stand ready to exercise our good offices if and when invited to do so under adequate terms of reference. But we do not assume the right to meddle or be the arbiter of other peoples' affairs.

The most dangerous of all unresolved disputes are those within the areas now under the rule of International Communism. The pattern here is classic. There is the inevitability of change, but the situation is dominated by those who do not believe in peaceful change at the expense of their power. Such a state of affairs has historically produced violent eruptions. Some of the areas in question are especially explosive as they involve the artificial division of historic nations--Germany, Korea and Viet Nam. Others, as lately demonstrated in Hungary and Poland, contain resentments so bitter that many patriots would die in revolt against hopeless odds rather than continue to suffer in silence.

United States policy, as proclaimed repeatedly, will never sanction these injustices nor accept them as permanent. But we strive only by peaceful means to achieve justice. It would not be in the general interest, nor in the interest of the peoples directly concerned, for events to shape up into war. We shall continue to employ all the resources of the United Nations and all diplomatic means and moral pressures to alleviate the injustices and oppressions suffered by these peoples and to make their plight known to world opinion. We have faith in their ultimate freedom and independence. When the Russian leaders decide to serve the interests of Russia, and cease to be the agents of International Communism, they will act in the knowledge that Russia's long-term interests require the reunification of Germany in freedom and the liberation of the satellites. Only thus can Russia achieve its proper desire to be surrounded by friendly peoples. The martyrs of Hungary have not died in vain if they have advanced the coming of that day.

Even such a brief survey of the forces working for change cannot but leave us with a sense of their immensity and the relative paucity of political means for keeping them within peaceful channels. Peace and justice are surely in jeopardy.

Within a stable individual society there are institutions to effectuate and legalize change--usually parliamentary bodies which make and re-make laws so that political, economic and social changes occur peacefully and with legitimacy. In the international field, concepts of sovereignty which have become obsolete lead nations to feel that they can put what they deem to be their own national rights and interests above the need of the whole society of nations--the need for peaceful settlements. It will probably be a long time before there is any universal mandatory process for effectuating international change. But there can and should be a far greater willingness than there now is to subordinate national interests to the interest of the world community, to use existing agencies such as the Court of International Justice and to develop and accept a body of written or unwritten international law.


Two significant facts stand out respecting United States foreign policy. The first is that our policies have developed as a reflection of deeply ingrained national characteristics. The second is that our policies have been influenced and modified by changing world conditions in the effort to apply our basic concepts to actual conditions and to the challenges they have presented.

These two features of our policy are by no means incompatible. To hold to national judgments of right and wrong does not mean that we are so closely wedded to doctrinaire concepts that we cannot adjust our policies to the demands of the hour. To think of our policies as shifting and changing in order to cope with varying situations need not be to infer that no central and governing core of principle gives them continuity. In this article we have dwelt mainly on the manner in which policy has adapted itself to new and challenging problems; but the manner and conduct have been guided throughout by certain principles.

These principles were unforgettably formulated by George Washington in his Farewell Address. He there points out that "of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports." And he went on to emphasize the primary importance of a general diffusion of knowledge. "In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened."

Because of our religious beliefs we attach exceptional importance to freedom. We believe in the sanctity of the human personality, in the inalienable rights with which men are endowed by their Creator and in their right to have governments of their own choosing. But we also believe that individuals as well as governments are subject to moral law. We recognize that liberty, whether it be individual or national, can be dangerous license unless it is exercised under the disciplines of moral law and with adequate knowledge and education to assure that moral judgments in fact take all relevant factors into account.

We are as a nation unsympathetic to systems and governments that deny human freedom and seek to mold all men to a preconceived pattern and to use them as tools to aggrandize the state. We are also unsympathetic to assertions of sovereignty which do not accept the concept of social interdependence. As Americans we have built our nation on the federal principle, drawing together what were sovereign states into a coöperative community. We thus naturally invoke the idea of coöperation between nations in the pursuit of ends which correspond with the aspirations of all people.

Despite a certain superficial indifference to the niceties of law observance, Americans have developed a profound respect for law as the basis of social and civic life. We conceive of man-made law as an effort to apply the moral law to the conditions of time and place. Our Constitution is the oldest basic written law in the world today. This concept of law permeates our entire political system and gives it a stability and moderation rarely matched among contemporary governments. We yearn to see the behavior of nations in their relations with one another rest upon the foundation of agreed legal principles derived from moral concepts. We abhor arbitrary government which reflects only the caprice of a tyrant.

These concepts, taken together, constitute our American way of life. They represent, for us, the idea and reality of freedom under law--of which the most authoritative is moral law. It is inevitable that they should influence our foreign policy. For, under a representative form of government, foreign policy is valid only as an expression and a projection of national character and national convictions. Whoever would understand our policy should try to comprehend us as a nation.

The constancy of our national character is what, even in such a swiftly changing era, gives stability and continuity to our foreign policy. It is well that this is so, for it enables those who understand the United States to comprehend also the mainsprings of its action and thus estimate, in their own interest, what the response of the United States to any situation is likely to be.

The fact has an important bearing on our alliances. As leader of a great coalition, we can never hope to please all countries. But we can win respect if it is felt that we are acting in true character.

It is important also in relation to those who are hostile to us. Potential enemies will be less inclined to gamble on our behavior --with all the risks of miscalculation--if they can count with a reasonable degree of certainty upon our national conduct.

So toward all, whether friendly or not, we should act as a people proud of our heritage, assured in our convictions and confident in our destiny. We have no desire to impose upon others the pattern of our thought and our institutions. Yet we may take pride in the fact that our principles are drawn from the great thinkers of the eighteenth century "age of enlightenment" who impressed their ideas deeply upon modern Western culture as a whole. These principles are not narrowly parochial but universal in their application. In America they were the inspiration of the greatest democratic experiment in history. In so far as our national behavior reflects these principles, it is certain to meet, in the long run, with understanding and respect.

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