Iran’s Crisis of Legitimacy
An Embattled Regime Faces Mass Protests—and an Ailing Supreme Leader
STALIN died, if we accept the official announcement, on March 5, 1953; and within a matter of weeks his successors began a series of conciliatory moves toward the West. Western statesmen at once warned that these probably did not represent any change in Soviet objectives but simply a new strategy. Their diagnosis was nearly unanimous: Moscow aimed to disrupt the Western alliance by pretending that Communist tyranny, imperialism and expansion were being modified and that the costs and pains of joint defense were therefore no longer necessary.
Within three months most of them had forgotten their own warnings, and in every Western government there were officials who acted or prepared to act as though the Soviet menace were actually on the wane. Public opinion was overjoyed, of course, to think that the clouds were parting and that, in the new light of Soviet reasonableness, defense expenditures and efforts could be reduced and taxes cut.
American leaders still repeated that we must proceed warily; but while cautioning in principle against any letdown, many of them accepted it in fact. They excused cuts in taxes on the theory that they need not reduce the military potential; they found plausible reasons for changing target dates for European rearmament previously considered vital; they discovered that to shift appropriations from expensive to less expensive types of armaments would actually increase military efficiency: they were more ready to excuse the lag in arrangements to give warning of an air attack, more complacent about the fact that defenses against attack hardly existed and less willing to vote funds to remedy the situation; they became convinced that our Foreign Service and foreign information activities were too extensive for "peacetime" and could be cut arbitrarily across the board; they reduced foreign military aid and tied strings to new appropriations, the argument being that Europe had used previous American aid as a substitute for taxes to balance national budgets, ignoring the fact that we had urged increased expenditures for strengthening the common defense; they reduced programs for technical assistance for underdeveloped countries although, as one U.N. official put it, that "would leave the world from Indonesia to Lybia strewn with unfinished projects, each a monument to the broken promises of the West;" they urged protectionist trade legislation without regard for its effect on the ability of our allies to continue doing business without our markets and without Soviet-controlled markets either.
Sometimes the proposals were based on reasoning, sometimes on rationalization. Sometimes they came from men experienced in the conduct of political and military affairs, sometimes from isolationists who were happy to be able to put their fundamentalist theories to work again in the old prewar grooves. The excuse, explicit or implied, was the same: the Soviet "soft policy," as it was called, might perhaps be only strategic, but the strategy itself had been forced on Stalin's successors by their innate weakness. When Beria, head of the secret police, was purged, the news was interpreted as confirming the diagnosis.
The death of a dictator is supposed to usher in a period of internecine strife among his heirs. Until the arrest of Beria, however, there had been no firm evidence that this had happened in Moscow. The picture seemed rather one of general relief that the jealous old tyrant was gone, that the incubus of uncertainty and dread which had hung over everyone in the Kremlin was lifted at last. Nor did the new régime behave as though it were wracked with dissension. Contrary to predictions, it was able to function, and not only to make policy but to change visibly the policies of the man who only yesterday was infallible. His very name almost vanished from the speech and writing of his disciples. The disappearance was given point by repeated injunctions against any "cult of personality" or "Talmudism," defined as sticking literally to a master's text rather than interpreting it in the light of new conditions. Lenin's name reappeared, but probably as an added reminder, as The New York Times remarked, that though there are gods, they change. As for the new policy itself, although its results were seen all over the globe--from the about-face on a Korean truce to the substitution of one Hungarian satrap for another on a contrary program--it was not haphazard but followed a pattern. Even if the new rulers in the Kremlin were ready to spring at each other's throats, they seemed to have agreed on the need for more restraint and suppleness in Soviet policy so as to smooth down the antagonism caused everywhere by Stalin's unyielding megalomania.
These were not indications of confusion, nor does the fact that a member of the supreme triumvirate is arrested as a traitor mean that the new régime is so weak that it has no choice but to go on the defensive. In 20 years a succession of mighty political, intellectual and military leaders have been flung into Lubyanka prison and shot when their rivals felt strong enough or when circumstances made scapegoats or grim examples useful. The Soviet state went forward without Trotsky, beside whose name Stalin's had been insignificant, and without Bukharin, Lenin's favorite theoretician, and many, many others as eminent; and the Red Army went forward without Marshal Tukhachevsky. We certainly would be wrong to read all the omens to indicate coming misfortunes for our side, or make up our minds that Stalin's successors were carrying forward with his inexorable self-confidence. But neither must the usual tiresome insistence of Communists on the indestructibility of everything Communist affect our judgment too much in the other direction; and we must not conclude from their choruses of self-encouragement that the leaders are weak and tottering or that Malenkov, Molotov (if one dare put in cold type names that may at any moment join the long list of non-survivors) and their colleagues, whomever the lottery of time and the knack of avoiding lethal hypodermics decide they are to be, are engaged in anything but an operation in the cold war. To find Lenin quoted again is not in itself a cause for satisfaction. For it was Lenin who gave the orders for the New Economic Policy, a retreat from excesses that was only the preparation for a new and ruthless advance; and it was he who said categorically: ". . . the existence of the Soviet Republic side by side with the imperialist states for a long time is unthinkable. In the end either one or the other will conquer. And until that end comes, a series of the most terrible collisions between the Soviet Republic and the bourgeois states is inevitable."[i]
By all the signs, what we face today is an operation in the cold war. It seems designed to gain time by the tactics adopted in other pauses in the development of Soviet imperialism. But Stalin's successors will seek to use the time so gained positively--not simply awaiting a more favorable world situation before forcing the pace again, but working actively to bring that situation about.
We still do not know whether the operation is a peace "offensive" or a peace "defensive." It might be both. It would be a peace defensive to the extent that the Kremlin felt it must take account of the growing restlessness inside the satellite realm and the increased strength of the free world since the start of the Korean war. It would be a peace offensive to the extent that it aimed to exploit the differences among the Western governments revealed in the past year, encourage the Western love of peace, break the movement toward West European integration, stop the formation of a European army and create optimism among the Western peoples about the possibility of an over-all negotiation and settlement. In one case the action would be forced, on the reasoning that a frontal attack on the free world must be ruled out for the present and that a respite was needed at home and in the occupied countries to enable the expanding Soviet economy to raise the standard of living of workers and peasants.[ii] In the other case the action would be expedient, on the reasoning that the rearmament effort of the Western Powers had overtaxed their resources and that the medicine they needed was a good excuse to let down their guard. Whichever was the leit-motif, Stalin's death came as a golden opportunity to give the switch in strategy the maximum plausibility.
The crux of the situation for us, then, is not whether the current ruling force in the Kremlin is a junta or a committee under a "chairman of the board" or a new personal dictator, or even whether it is "stronger" or "weaker" than Stalin was. A government can, after all, go to war out of a sense of insecurity as well as from reckless strength. What we should watch for most closely are indications whether the régime is more or less rational. We may not be sure for some time. A government that was more rational than Stalin's might be less dangerous in the short run, but in the long run much more so. Time and again Stalin was thwarted by his own pigheadedness--when he tried to destroy the Marshall Plan, when he tried to blockade Berlin, when he tried to coerce Tito, when he tried to seize Korea by force. In each case, if he had used more subtle means he might well have succeeded.
Has this lesson been taken to heart by Stalin's successors? If so, the new régime may be more considerate of the needs of its subject peoples, restoring their previous standard of living to make them forget their lack of independence. It may be more willing to hear the truth from its representatives abroad and thus be more accurate in its appraisals and more skilful in playing its antagonists off against each other. It may be more conciliatory on unessentials in negotiating and less provocative in propaganda. It may make even a considerable payment in a limited sphere in order to gain a greater freedom of manœuvre in a wider one. In a word, it may be more intelligent--not less persistent, simply more knowing and agile.
In his earlier phases Stalin showed that he knew the art of caution; the Spanish Civil War was a case in point. But his liability to error grew with his power and conceit. Shortly before his death it was predicted[iii] that if ever he should become convinced of the impossibility of splitting Russia's enemies he would as a last resort enter into negotiations for prolonged coexistence with them. Perhaps his successors have a more ambitious idea of the meaning of policy--and will use it not merely to remedy a bad situation, but to exploit a good one. If their preparatory work of softening up the Western coalition went well, if it opened the way to negotiations for a general settlement, they then would have two courses open. They could gamble on increased winnings at a conference, or they could resume the offensive in the cold war after an interval in which Soviet Russia had gained on the West in atomic weapons and economic power. That interval might be prolonged, of course, by preliminary but abortive parleys, not meant seriously. In case they pushed ahead to a full-dress conference the possible gains might be great. Thus if hopes for peace and increasing disharmony in the West led its governments to compromise on important principles--if, for instance, accepting Churchill's idea of spheres of influence, they left the Russian-occupied nations still within the Russian orbit--that would be a victory worth all the effort and risks that had been run to secure it. If, on the other hand, there were no compromise because the West could not agree on what payments to make for "peace in our time," the governments which proved intractable could be held responsible before vast sections of world opinion for the renewed fear of war.
If we knew that such were to be the consequences of Stalin's death and the "weakness" of his successors in contrast to his "strength," would we reduce taxes, slow defense efforts and cut foreign aid? Or would we brace ourselves for a more intense trial of wits and strength than any that has gone before?
In the new strategy the Soviet Union will offer almost everybody something. In certain cases it will be something soothing but unessential, like an exchange of ambassadors or a social civility which by contrast with previous incivility seems significant. In others it will be something more tangible but actually inconsequential because it can be revoked at any moment, like freeing the Soviet zonal border in Austria from restrictions which we ended on the borders of our zone five years ago, an act which nevertheless brought almost reverent gratitude from certain Austrian officials. Or it may be of real importance, like signing the Korean armistice, to be written down in local or military terms as a loss but to be entered in a different currency in another column as a great gain.
Our chief allies were not included, at first, among the recipients of direct Soviet bonuses--though notice that these might come was seen in Malenkov's reference in his speech of August 8 to the Franco-Soviet treaty of friendship and his offer to coöperate with France to prevent the revival of German militarism. Yet even the first indications that Moscow was slackening the cold war made a considerable impression both in England and France; while in Italy the propensity of those politicians who cannot unite and rule to divide and ruin received extravagant encouragement.
All Europe was restive to some degree over the way Americans set the pace in preparations for European defense. The Marshall Plan had called for a degree of psychological understanding on both sides that could not always be forthcoming. There had arisen in Europe a fear that we might plunge ahead recklessly in the Far East, involving all in a conflict of unknown proportions. Over all lay the dread of the atom bomb. Actually, American population centers and industries were about as vulnerable to surprise atomic attack as those of Western Europe; but the realities of atomic warfare had never been explained convincingly to the European public (or, for that matter, to European statesmen), and the mere fact of closer proximity to the source of danger made them figure, in old-fashioned terms, that they were much more exposed. For these and other obvious reasons they naturally listened eagerly, even when unconvinced, to Soviet suggestions that the danger did not lie in Communist imperialism but in American provocation.
In France, the change in Soviet strategy was influential in adjourning once again the effort to ratify the European Defense Community agreements and in spreading a new epidemic of "neutralism." This is not to suggest, of course, that one large body of responsible French opinion which opposes EDC is to any extent friendly to Communism. Many Frenchmen, including some at the Quai d'Orsay, simply do not admit that Soviet Russia has supplanted Germany as the chief menace to France; and for this reason they have well-defined objections to the whole concept of the Schuman Plan and the European Army. They especially dislike substituting a close relationship with Germany for the old Anglo-French entente as the pivot of French policy. It is true that Britain and the United States are part of NATO and that the texts of the NATO and EDC agreements interlock; further, that the British have tried to give special reassurances to nervous friends across the Channel. Thus Churchill said on May 11 of this year: "We accept the principle that there is a specifically close relationship between ourselves and the EDC. In anticipation of the coming into effect of the EDC Treaty we are already working out with the members of the Community the measures that will be necessary, both on the military and on the political side." French doubters reply that it is not the text of military agreements that matters when the political spirit is changing. They feel that to put French soldiers under an international command and flag and to mingle French and German soldiers in that command would affect the orientation of French policy more permanently than French membership in NATO. Germany outmatches France in manpower and industrial potential, and the disparity will grow. So long as American soldiers are on the Continent, they say, the balance will be maintained between France and Germany. But afterwards? Will not France find herself gradually entangled in the execution of German policies, perhaps to regain by force the German lands lost to Poland or--the opposite tack --to get them back by a deal with the Russians? To those who shrug off a possible German-Russian entente they recall Germany's collaboration with Russia after two other great wars--Tauroggen in 1812 and Rapallo in 1922.
The Frenchmen who argue so are not, of course, neutralists, for they would like to see British and American action on the Continent continue and would accept German collaboration in NATO or any grouping that included Britain and the United States and did not leave them face to face with their old antagonists in such a narrow setting. The true French neutralists are the children of the "Third Force" idea--the idea that Western Europe must (and can) make a life for herself by herself, outside the conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. She can do it, they claim, if she avoids taking sides between them--intellectually, emotionally or materially; by husbanding her men, materials and money; and by devoting her energies to internal social reform and economic development.
The French neutralists maintain further that, even supposing France wished sentimentally to side with the United States, it would not be safe for her to link her fortunes with a nation with such a curious Constitutional division of powers and such immature public opinion. They saw wide disharmony in American policy in the Far East as Secretary Acheson or General MacArthur gave it voice or put it into action; and since our 1952 election they claim that the general American course has been unpredictable because Secretary Dulles has had to take account of the divergent elements in the Republican Party represented by President Eisenhower (the world is round), the isolationist and "Asia first" Senators (half a world is better than none) and Senator McCarthy (love me and the world is mine). Some of the French who argue thus are frankly anti-American, others stand very far to the left. Those who are neither find the most cogent part of their argument in the increasing feeling that even if France wished it she simply cannot afford, even with American help, to continue the present rearmament effort in Europe and the costly fight against Communism in Indo-China; and they turn to neutralism because there is no other theory behind which they can take refuge.
In the long cabinet crisis early this summer Pierre Mendes-France, who favors rigid economy and a compromise in Indo-China, and though not a true neutralist had neutralist and leftwing support, missed being named Premier by a narrow margin. The Radicals (even Edouard Herriot) have opposed EDC; they are not neutralist, however, and do not oppose NATO. The Socialists (who supported the candidacy of Mendes-France) are the only great party with leaders who play openly on the theme expressed to the writer by one of them, a former Premier, that "France should make a deal with Russia over Germany's back" --not to mention (at least he did not) the backs of France's present allies. The same source went so far as to suggest that Soviet and satellite territorial gains in Eastern Europe might be guaranteed by the West in return for a Soviet agreement to neutralize and disarm Germany and make a start toward general disarmament. Meanwhile the French Communists, capitalizing on the easing of East-West tension, agitate for a new "Popular Front" that would let them share again in the government of the Republic. The directives for this, of course, come from Moscow.
Similar directives went to Italy, and there the obedient propaganda had even more pronounced effect. The chief gains in the recent elections were on the left, for the Nenni Socialists, the allies of the Communists, and on the right, for the Monarchists and Neo-Fascists. The rightists saw no harm in playing the Communist game to the extent of defeating De Gasperi, the man who had saved Italy from Communism, and in thwarting the policies of European collaboration made possible by the Marshall Plan and NATO. The coming struggle will probably be left versus right, with the center in danger of being pulled to pieces in both directions. Left and right both exploit opposition to De Gasperi's "Atlantic policy."
In these events, Americans once again learned to their grief the uncertainties and disappointments of foreign policy; nothing seems to fail like success.
Prime Minister Churchill spoke on May 11 of the Soviet "change of attitude and, as we all hope, of mood;" and this concept, though it did not create new departures in British policy, did harden certain trends already in evidence. Outstanding, of course, was increased British willingness to end the Korean hostilities without bothering much about the detailed guarantees insisted on by the United States. It had been settled British policy also to develop trade in non-strategic goods with the Soviet bloc and China; and now there were indications that after the war in Korea formally ended there might be a move to drop all limitations on East-West trade. Other established tendencies included a determination to write off Chiang Kai-shek as without present or future virtue or value, and to neutralize Formosa; a desire that the Communist régime's absolute control of China be acknowledged as a hard fact and that room be found for it in the United Nations; and a hope that the United Nations might be used increasingly as a forum for discussion and conciliation as against further efforts to emphasize its other basic function as an instrument of enforcement (at any rate, against possible Communist aggression). To these were now added two specific suggestions made by the British Prime Minister, both significant of the general direction of British thinking. One was that the Locarno approach might be useful in settling the relationship of Western Europe, Germany and the Soviet Union. This contained the germ of the idea, some thought, that the Oder-Neisse line might be guaranteed (since there is no prospect at present of revising it peacefully) and that Soviet hegemony elsewhere in Eastern Europe might be recognized in some form. Churchill's other suggestion was for a top-level Four Power conference, not with an agreed agenda of specific problems but to explore informally the possibilities of an over-all settlement.
Most of these subjects have been thoroughly canvassed already; but two may deserve a fresh look in light of what we suppose are the purposes of current Soviet strategy.
The chief mission of Soviet representatives to the United Nations--apart from using its meetings as a sounding board for propaganda--has been to make sure that Western efforts to equip the organization to enforce peace will fail. Soviet obstruction made it impracticable to proceed by the means outlined in the Charter--creation of a Military Staff Committee, allotment of quotas from national armies to be ready for U.N. duties, etc. A substitute course was then adopted in the "Uniting for Peace" Resolution of November 1950, providing for independent action in the General Assembly when a Soviet veto in the Security Council blocked action against an aggressor. Recent statements of British policy reveal a rather defeatist view of this or any other attempt to give the United Nations teeth. Indeed, the impression one has today is that the British look on the peacemaking rôle of the United Nations as worth supporting but that they think the enforcement rôle probably is not, and this for two reasons. One is that an efficient enforcement agency, NATO, has now been created in the region of most direct British interest, Europe. Besides satisfying Britain's principal defense requirements, a regional defense agency has the merit of not raising such difficulties within the Commonwealth--e.g. with India--as are involved in plans to resist aggression under a general pledge like that in the Charter. Here probably is the second reason why British official statements now minimize the value of the Charter's enforcement provisions and stress the difficulty of applying them. If a world-wide organization is to fulfil any enforcement functions at all it must operate both East and West. Britain would prefer to see the United Nations concentrate its attention on the economic, financial and welfare problems that come before its various committees, leaving responsibility for enforcement in Europe to NATO and in Eastern Asia mainly to the United States.
An historical note might be interjected at this point. During the San Francisco Conference of 1945 much thought was given to what would happen to the United Nations if one of the Great Powers possessing the veto were itself guilty of aggression. The first tendency was to say that the United Nations would fall apart, leaving members to act as though it had never been. If the specific act of aggression were against a small member, the other Great Powers might ignore it; that would make clear the organization's impotence and reduce it to the rôle of the League of Nations after the rejection of the Geneva Protocol in 1925. If the aggression were against another Great Power, no written provision would prevent the Power attacked from fighting back. Article 51 aimed to legalize this action in self-defense. But legal or not, the result would also be the end of the United Nations. When Soviet Russia's behavior in liberated Poland revealed the extent of her rapacity and ruthlessness, Senator Vandenberg, the leading Republican member of the American delegation, raised very sharply in private conversation with the writer the question whether it was worth while for the United States to go forward with an organization in which Soviet Russia had a veto. The point was made to him that even though an act of aggression committed or supported by Moscow might some day break up the United Nations, the organization nevertheless would have justified itself; for there would still exist a potential coalition of those who remained faithful to the Charter and were ready to act together as it prescribed. To settle any doubt that this would be legal the text of Article 51 was enlarged to cover joint as well as individual rights of self-defense.
This satisfied Senator Vandenberg. It also appealed to the British representatives, who remembered that although the United States had come to the assistance of the European Allies in two World Wars it had done so only after they were bled white and in sight of defeat. The advantage of laying the basis for immediate joint action in another crisis was obvious. They might be reminded of this view today and asked to consider whether it is to the advantage of Britain and the Commonwealth to allow doubts to arise as to whether they still think well of the same general pattern. If they do not, Americans might begin to feel that they were left alone in various areas where their vital interests are involved and where the general intention to stand together against aggression may again, as in Korea, be put to the test; and they might wonder, even though irrationally, whether the automatic character of regional defense organizations should not be minimized to the same extent that this had happened in the parent organization.
All this, of course, is in addition to more general considerations often discussed. Two at least of these are highly important. It is one thing, for instance, to argue that conciliation is the right course when aggression is not clear or when there is a chance of persuading both sides to cease fire and talk. It is quite another thing when it is used as a prepared excuse for failure to act against clear aggression when the risks and costs are high. Secondly, unless there is a sanction of possible force in reserve, potential aggressors are less likely to accept peaceful measures of settlement and these are less apt to be effective. The duty to accept conciliation and the duty to act against aggression go together. Subtract either, and the essential symmetry of an international organization to maintain peace is lost. We hope it will not be. But if it is we shall no longer be able to make collective security under the United Nations what three Presidents have called it, the cornerstone of our foreign policy.
Some differences could be detected recently, also, between British and American views regarding the future of the so-called satellite states. China cannot be termed a Soviet satellite in view of her vast area and population, the distance separating Moscow and Peking, and the fact that the Chinese Communists came to power without direct foreign assistance. The present relationship of the two principal Communist régimes is far from clear; but if we are to judge by the relationship of any two individual Communists we would not suppose that there is any particle of sincerity in it and we would expect it to last while it is profitable to both and not an instant longer. Mao Tse-tung is certainly a Communist; so was--and is--Tito. If Mao felt it would serve his own interests and those of China as a nation to cut loose from Moscow he doubtless could do it; but we have no ground for hoping that if he did he necessarily would take the same attitude toward the West that Tito's National Communist régime has taken. Nevertheless, there are similarities as well as differences between the two régimes, both in origin and situation, and it seems unwise to act as though any modus vivendi between Communist China and the United States is in the nature of things forever impossible. What seems the nature of things can change. In present circumstances the American objectives are to continue frustrating Chinese aggression in Asia and to continue making China's partnership with Russia as unfruitful and unsatisfactory as possible. This does not mean that either we or the British have been wise to entrench ourselves in hard-and-fast contrary attitudes toward China in the unforeseeable future. The drastic change in what we required of Germany in 1945 and what we ask of her today; the unexpected transformation in our relationship with Jugoslavia; and the developments which make us now press Japan to follow an armaments policy which is exactly the one General MacArthur tried to make sure she would not follow--these should warn statesmen and legislators not to predict tomorrow's problems too confidently or try to tie their successors to fixed solutions.
But our differences with the British about China are not the same either historically or as a practical matter as our differences about the future of the East European countries now under Soviet control and in two cases garrisoned by Soviet troops. Britain's tradition of maintaining a balance of power on the Continent makes her think of spheres of influence as natural and useful; and she notes that the United States seems to do so too in the Caribbean. When Churchill and Eden visited Moscow in October 1944 they agreed with Stalin on a division of interests in the Balkans--the Soviet Union would have a 75-25 predominance in Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary, while the joint interest in Jugoslavia would be divided 50-50. This agreement made Secretary Hull most unhappy. In May of that year he had opposed a British suggestion to let the Russians have a controlling interest in Rumania if that would secure Britain a controlling interest in Greece. He argued now with President Roosevelt that this new deal was contrary to the principles of any broad system of collective security like that projected in the United Nations.[iv]
After the war, the British Government showed, in proposals regarding Iran, that they still were unconvinced that spheres of influence are iniquitous. And recently, in his speech of May 11, Prime Minister Churchill has intimated that he would be prepared to recognize a special Russian interest and position in Eastern Europe, including specifically Russia's right to make sure of having friendly régimes in states on her borders. What he said was somewhat speculative. But if he meant that a Four-Power conference might consider this a natural price to be paid for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from the area, he is running counter to what Mr. Dulles said a year ago about the liberation of the East European nations and also to President Eisenhower's more cautiously expressed but firm determination that they shall be able to regain their independence.
This is an instance of why there should be prior agreement among the Western Powers on the hard core of each item that appears on the agenda of a Four-Power conference. Churchill's remarks may have been misinterpreted or he may change his mind. But in no case should Eastern Europe be allowed to become an obstacle to Anglo-American harmony on the main outlines of a European settlement; and it need not, if we understand our objectives clearly and explain them well. They are based on the fact that nationalism has been a dominant force among the peoples of East Europe and the Balkans since the days when they fought for and won independence from the Ottoman, Hapsburg and Tsarist Empires. Tito's rebellion against Moscow in 1948 arose out of this nationalist feeling and succeeded because of it. Reminders of how universal it is, and how intense, have been coming since last June from East Germany and the other Soviet-occupied countries; and Malenkov has been trying to offset its effects by promising better living conditions for the peoples who have been working for the benefit of the Soviet economy and the Soviet military machine.
This is our cue to make nationalism and independence the watchwords of our East European policy. Western democracy has offered a contrast to the Soviet terror behind the iron curtain; we should help Western Europe to continue offering also a contrast to Soviet living standards (e.g. in Berlin, our best "show window"). But the most effective thing of all is to make sure the peoples of Eastern Europe know that we are determined they shall have what the Russians do not give--national freedom.
It is not necessary to label the policy "liberation," which Communist propaganda has made to mean a war begun by the United States. In Western Europe people are afraid of an ally with a program which, they are told, increases the risk of war; and East Europeans themselves, having experienced "liberation" at the hands of the Red Army, might find another term more attractive. The substance of what these peoples want is, however, unmistakable--freedom of the individual, freedom of the nation. That must be the basis on which we promise to recognize and support the revolutionary régimes that some day will supplant the present slave régimes. Besides encouraging them morally and intellectually we can help them in other ways when the chance offers, as it did in the Soviet zone of Germany and in West Berlin this past summer. We can offer hope for a new life in America to those brave and ingenious enough to escape from behind the Iron Curtain (as we have done on a small scale in the bill so bitterly opposed by Senator McCarran)--a strong propaganda weapon for democracy against Soviet tyranny, as well as a minimum of Christian fellowship and a method of gaining new citizens of outstanding character. But the effectiveness of everything we do and say will be greatly diminished if we give the impression that we are trying to commit these peoples to a particular social pattern for the future.
An experienced observer of Communist activity in Asia told the writer recently that the Communists make headway there only when they can label their foes as anti-nationalist. We need not allow them this advantage in Eastern Europe. It is more important to encourage the occupied countries to free themselves from Russia than it is to settle in advance their forms of government after they have done it. We must avoid being caught in ideological controversy about types of régime that one social extreme would consider reactionary and feudal and types that the opposite extreme would call radical and revolutionary. The single greatest inducement that we can sincerely offer these peoples is that, unlike the Russians, we are going to help them establish the sort of society they themselves want, and that we are actually taking steps to make sure that this is what will happen.
Agreement now among the Western Powers and neighboring states on a common policy to be followed after the puppet régimes have disappeared would be the sort of concrete evidence that our broadcasters could put to effective use. The commitment should be to follow a strict hands-off policy, with one exception: there must be international control, administered by the United Nations, to protect the rights of different political and social elements, ensure a free discussion and see that the whole people are able to vote for the representatives of their choice. If they should choose a form of national Communism, independent of Moscow, we would have hoped for something better but still could consider that this was progress over what they have today; if they should choose parliamentary government of the Western type, that would not be what Marshal Tito and many local Communists hoped, but still it would be much better than what exists today. Maybe is would be something between the two.
If we can reach an open agreement with Marshal Tito that there are to be free elections under United Nations control in the freed satellite states in his neighborhood (as the writer has reason to believe we could do today), we shall avoid misunderstandings and perhaps grave dangers in the future. Nor is that future necessarily very distant. Little Albania, for example, even without incitement from outside, may at any time liquidate her puppet ruler, Enver Hoxha. This would face the West with difficult decisions that so far have hardly been thought about, let alone discussed among the Western Powers or by them with neighboring Greece and Jugoslavia. The advantages of having a clear set of principles to apply in such a case, as well as to use generally to strengthen our propaganda for freedom, should win over our British allies also, even at the cost of abandoning preparations to sweeten a future negotiation by recognizing any Russian proprietary rights outside the Russian boundaries of 1938.
A Soviet withdrawal to the boundaries of 1938 should not be contingent on the world's recognition of any privileged position for Russia beyond those boundaries but rather on an assurance that within them the Russian Government, whatever its nature, will be safe from foreign attack. The only assurance to this effect which a Great Power like Russia would accept would be reciprocal--not something granted but something shared. It can be found in a system of general security that really functions. This is the proper basis of freedom for the nationalities of Eastern Europe and of security for Russia on her western borders.
The Soviet reply of August 5 to the Western suggestion that the four Foreign Ministers meet to discuss Germany showed once more the difference between Western and Soviet concepts of what is to be gained in a conference. The Soviet note, after criticizing the Western idea of free German elections and complaining about the "militarization" of Western Germany (which, it stressed, must be most disturbing to neighboring nations), went on to say that the Soviet Government nevertheless was prepared to discuss the German problem. Then came the "but." The Soviet Government (the note continued) wished to take advantage of the favorable atmosphere created by the Korean truce to discuss general measures such as limitation of armaments and the banning of foreign military bases; and since Asia was concerned with these questions the participation of the Chinese Communist Government was "essential." Point 1 on the Soviet agenda, therefore, was "measures to decrease tension in international relations." Point 2 was Germany. And seemingly as an afterthought, though we may be sure it was not that, the Soviet note added that a solution of the German problem would help solve the Austrian problem. This boxed the propaganda compass, full circle.
A speech by Malenkov three days later enlarged the play on French fears of Germany and called for French and Soviet cooperation to prevent German rearmament. But still Moscow did not consider the job complete. Anti-German sentiment had been given a fillip in France, but the German friends of Russia were handicapped by the fact that Moscow had made German unification secondary to other objectives. A new Soviet note, delivered August 16, attempted to hold the gain in France while rectifying the error in Germany. The Western position is that the logical and only safe procedure is to hold free all-German elections to choose an all-German government which would then participate in the negotiation of a peace treaty. Moscow now countered with the suggestion that a provisional all-German government be formed by the East and West German Parliaments, and that this weak body, split from the start on every important issue, undertake to prepare and hold elections. The pattern is recognizable. It is the one which brought about the amalgamation of Premier Mikolazczyk's Polish Government-in-Exile with the Provisional Polish Government set up at Lublin under Communist auspices--the result of which was that Poland was soon delivered to the Soviets. And it is the pattern of the Tito-Shubashich agreement, ratified at Yalta, by which the royalist Jugoslav Government was merged with Tito's, to be in turn submerged in it. Further, since the Soviet proposal would forbid the provisional all-German government from taking part in "coalitions and military alliances," EDC would have been smashed for good.
The supposed attractions of the program for all Germans were further built up in the Soviet-East German communiqué of August 23, offering economic concessions in the East zone and promising West Germany the return of war prisoners. And the alternative was underscored by the announcement that Soviet scientists had exploded the hydrogen bomb.
Will the Kremlin now go on to suggest a pause in Indo-China, like the one in Korea? Would the prospect of ending an enormous drain on French resources be attractive enough to make France consider adopting a Tito policy in reverse, following the advice of the ex-Premier mentioned above? If the Soviets offer this payment in Asia in the hope of sealing the success of their aims in Europe, we shall not exorcise the temptations that will beset France by criticizing her as weak and fickle. We can only point out to the logical French mind that to accept the Soviet solution would mean withdrawal from the Western community. The first step toward a solution which we could accept is for both the French and ourselves to comprehend the full consequences--for both of us--of any such catastrophe.
If some of the tendencies now visible in Europe continue, a radical revision of policies may be in the making--our own included, whether we are ready for it or not. We may have to fall back on NATO, shorn of the plan for a European Army. To make NATO succeed we shall have to put more vigor and imagination than we have done lately into explaining its function here and abroad --here, that it is an organization which exists for our protection as well as Europe's--abroad, that it is something we believe in and support to the limit. The British may have to think again whether they can really expect to hold a balance on the Continent without committing themselves there more specifically. The French may have to face the fact that the alternative to German contingents in a European Army will be an independent German Army, and decide whether in that case Germany will not be a safer neighbor in NATO than outside it.
We are not opposed in principle to negotiation with the Russians; and we have no reason to fear it in fact provided the terms of reference are precise. The lesson of every past negotiation with Communists is that the agenda is of decisive importance. We want to deal with specific problems in the hope of settling them. Our experience has been that they want to discuss general problems which give opportunities for scoring propaganda points.
Reduction of armaments, on which Soviet propaganda always harps, is a case of point. We speak about disarmament too. But we hold that it will become possible--and is therefore worth discussing--only as a result of previous political decisions which have created an atmosphere of international security. This is not contradictory with our efforts since 1945 to persuade the Soviets to accept any workable and efficient method whatsoever for eliminating the danger of surprise atomic attacks. If ever they would accept an effective system of inspection and control, that would be the best introduction imaginable to the settlement of specific issues which we desire and to the general disarmament which they profess to desire. For several years we discussed the general limitation of armaments with other nations at Geneva. We tried to weigh and equate elements that were completely different in function and that varied in value for different nations in different areas at different times. It was no wonder we got nowhere. In any case, the cart was before the horse; the renewal of Franco-German rivalry and the excesses of Fascism had created the fear of war, and there was no framework of general security. The lesson from those days is that the over-all reduction and limitation of armaments represents one of the last political decisions which governments should be asked to take; it is a final step on the road to peace which has already, in essentials, been won. Before we even approach that stage we must traverse Korea, Indo-China, Germany, Austria, the Soviet-occupied states and the many other areas where national and ideological interests clash and create the threat of war.
In spite of our bafflement, we must go on trying to pin down the Soviets to a discussion of the concrete issues that are creating the risk of war. "It is the policy of His Majesty's Government," said Prime Minister Churchill on May 11, "to avoid by every means in their power doing anything or saying anything which could check any favorable reaction which may be taking place and to welcome every sign of improvement in our relations with Russia." The United States Government has echoed and confirmed that view. This does not mean that we need accept the Prime Minister's idea of a free-for-all discussion with the Soviet leaders. We are not wrong in trying to make them talk to the point. Our error is that our answer to their notes is "No, because . . ." when it should be "Yes, but . . ." The world does not read notes. It is interested in the result, not the reasoning that leads to it. The simple fact of who says no and who leaves the door open for a further try is of immense psychological importance. This is not a "Mr. and Mrs." quarrel; we should be bright enough to leave the last word in every case to them.
The period just before a negotiation with the Soviets would be one of heart-searching and mind-reading. What shall we require? What can we concede? What are the essentials that we must never sacrifice, regardless of risks? When the conference actually comes, if it does, how is the Grand Alliance to be held together, through the vicissitudes of long negotiation, in amity and strength? There are obvious dangers that a conference might establish a false peace or that, in avoiding this, the Grand Alliance might break. There is also the reverse danger. A conference with the Soviet Union will be the occasion for vast numbers of men and women in the West--and, we may believe, in the Soviet East also--to open their hearts to hope. A failure then to reach an agreement would be followed by universal disillusionment which might precipitate desperate actions.
There is no new magic which can be introduced into American policy to alter the present situation abruptly; nor, one might add, is there any new presentation of attitudes in psychological terms which can be devised to take its place. The only argument which will be convincing in Europe is if we ourselves stand by our convictions and continue to give them effect regardless of effort and cost. If one service is more important than another in the attempt to keep the Grand Alliance for peace intact it is to explain again and again to the American people why it is impossible to accept the untested assumption that our adversary has become soft. For the key to the unity and strength of the alliance is American unity and strength.
[i]Cf. "Stalin on Revolution," by Historicus. Foreign Affairs, January 1949, p. 204.
[ii]Cf. "The Soviet Economy Outpaces the West," by Peter Wiles. Foreign Affairs, July 1953.
[iii] "Challenge to the Kremlin," by Harry Hodgkinson. New York: Praeger, 1952, p. 178.
[iv] "The Memoirs of Cordell Hull." New York: Macmillan, 1948, v. II, p. 1451 and 1458.