The Hard Truth About Long Wars
Why the Conflict in Ukraine Won’t End Anytime Soon
SPEAKING at a meeting of Young Conservatives in London this fall, I said that the free world was confused and in considerable danger--greater danger, as I believed, than at any time since 1939. Events since that date have reinforced this warning. The West is not doing well in the cold war because fundamentally it is not united. It has a common purpose, but no common plan. The initiative is too often with the Communist powers. It is true that they do not always use it intelligently, but we should not take too much comfort from that. News of failures on the part of Communist governments does not reach their peoples in the form and with the consequences applicable in Western countries. The Communist sapping and mining will go on, and the frontal attack upon us will be repeated.
The margin of safety is now slender. The West has not the defense in depth which it had even in the darkest days of the war. In 1940, when Hitler's forces had swept through Europe past the Channel ports to the Atlantic Ocean, Britain and its Commonwealth partners stood apparently alone. I write "apparently" because westward there was still a mighty power, its faith and its resources unimpaired. Today, the reserves are all engaged, some perhaps not to the best advantage. The free nations have to think and work much more closely together, and do it soon, or the free world will lose out. To be aware of this danger is not to suggest that it need be accepted; but to understand the nature of our peril is a necessary preliminary to meeting it. The purpose of this article is to consider how such a state of affairs has come about and what we can do to mend it.
The death of Stalin marked the end of an era. For a time it seemed as if it would also mark the dawn of a new hope. Stalin's rule had been cautious, powerful and ruthless. Under his direction the alliance of the Second World War became the calculated antagonism of the cold war. When that rule ended, it was uncertain for a while what manner of men would follow him, and momentary optimism was strengthened by events. The most important of these was the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Austria in the summer of 1955, the only concession of real significance made by the Communist powers since the war. It might have heralded other changes, since the stationing of troops in Hungary, for instance, had been accepted by Russia's wartime allies only while Hungary was the corridor to occupied Austria.
The criticism of Stalin's conduct of affairs indulged in by Mr. Khrushchev, who was the more pungent personality in the partnership with Bulganin which succeeded Stalin, also encouraged expectation of less rigid policies in the Kremlin. At least it seemed wise to meet the new men and probe the possibilities. The outcome was the first summit, in July 1955. Apart from some momentary help in relaxing tension in the Far East, this meeting marked no sufficient change in Soviet temper, while at the Foreign Secretaries' Conference which followed in the autumn, Molotov's embattled negatives were again those of the Stalin era. Since then successive events, through Hungary to the predictable failure of the second summit, have unmistakably reaffirmed Soviet policies and purposes. There can be no excuse for failing to understand them now.
Khrushchev believes that the days of the free world, or, as he would describe them, of the capitalist imperialists, are numbered. He will do what he can to shorten their term, pressing existing advantages and probing for new ones in every continent. When the Kremlin now speaks of peaceful coexistence, we all understand that this means communizing the world without war. It does not exclude the use of other methods where non-forcible means do not bring success. To be fair, the aim of the international Communist movement is not concealed. It is to overthrow every existing authority, religion or economic system which stands in the way of bringing the world under Communist power and control. In pursuit of this objective all tactics are legitimate and all double talk is justified. Thus it is possible for Khrushchev to speak at the General Assembly of the United Nations about the aim of the democracies, meaning the totalitarian Communist powers, to liberate all colonial peoples everywhere. He can do this with acclaim, despite the fact that the Soviet Government is itself in political default to the United Nations. Four years ago that Government refused to accept any one of the United Nations resolutions in respect of Hungary, or even to admit its Secretary-General or his representative onto Hungarian territory. In 1960 the Hungarian dictator, imposed by Soviet arms at the expense of thousands of Hungarian lives, goes to the United Nations in Khrushchev's train and is accepted as that unhappy country's representative. It only remains for Mr. Kadar to make a speech against colonialism.
As a result of these tactics, the Soviet leaders hope to persuade some easily deluded persons to forget inconvenient facts. Since 1940 the Western European powers have voluntarily agreed to the independence of 18 different countries with a population of more than 600,000,000 people. During the same period the Communist countries have brought under their rule 12 previously free countries with a population of more than 200,000,000. The Communist deed is even more harsh than these figures tell, because many of these nations had long lived their own free and independent lives, contributing their part in a tolerant civilization. Yet some of the so-called neutral governments can inveigh unblushingly against Western colonialism without reproof, while borrowing Western money without hesitation. In such conditions it is hardly surprising if newly independent nations are confused. There may be confusion in our thought too.
In the early days of October 1956, before Britain and France intervened, the American Secretary of State could see colonialism in the Anglo-French reaction to the seizure of an international canal, even though the plan to restore international control had been endorsed by the principal maritime nations, including the United States. In 1957 Indonesia seized Dutch shipping and held it without compensation. Today the United States finds itself accused of imperialism in Cuba and its extensive properties are grabbed. Robbery does not cease to be such because it is the goods of another nation that are seized in the name of nationalization or its equivalent. There is no present reason to suppose that these practices will lack future imitators elsewhere, yet we have no determined policies as to how to act towards them. For instance, the World Bank rightly declines to make advances to nations which are in financial default, yet no such condition is imposed upon nations which are in political default on their international engagements.
In the last three years, the denial of passage through the Suez Canal, previously enforced illegally against Israeli shipping, has been extended to Israeli goods in transit in the ships of other countries; this despite the many pledges given by the highest world authorities in 1957. According to these, interference with Israeli shipping was not expected to continue, and, if it did, the United Nations would deal with it. Such optimistic expectations have not been fulfilled. The lesson is clear to read. If breaches of international conduct are condoned in one part of the world, they are sure to be repeated in another. To meet these occasions as they multiply and are enthusiastically cheered on by the Communist powers, agreed policies as to financial aid and many other matters will have to be devised by the victims.
All previous experience of militant dictatorships shows that they cannot be bribed from their courses. On the contrary, the more lavish this treatment, the more attractive do the smaller but hungry autocrats become to Communist dictatorships with ambitions for world dominion. But the firmer the resistance to unreasonable demands, the more respect will be won, and respect is a more powerful magnet than money.
The free nations must convince themselves that the Communist dictatorships are determined to seize every advantage to increase their power and press it remorselessly to the end. For this they will abuse any instruments to hand, including the United Nations. The Communist threat to the remaining liberties of the free world is absolute. Unless the West understands and accepts this, its policies will be ineffective and its survival in peril. But even the resources of the West are not inexhaustible and their percipient use is essential; economic appeasement is no more pardonable than its political counterpart.
A realization of this truth does not mean that we should refuse diplomatic contacts or political discussion with powers behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, but it does mean the exercise of the utmost caution as to how and at what level these contacts should be made. Summit conferences should be the exception and not the rule. In certain circumstances they can be useful for general discussion, or to set a climate for negotiation. They are not suitable for detailed diplomacy or for the negotiation of specific problems. These are tasks for Foreign Secretaries or for the normal methods of diplomacy. The fact that Moscow is impatient of such methods does not mean that we should forego them. There was nothing in the experience of the second summit to encourage a third without detailed preparation and indications of chances of agreement, of which there is no sign.
If the West is to conduct itself to the best advantage against the new offensives which we expect from the Communist powers, certain essential conditions must be observed. First, we have to abandon wishful thinking as an influence upon our action. It may be that in the course of time differences between the two most powerful Communist states, Russia and China, will grow and even lead at length to serious political conflict. No man can be sure that this will happen, still less foretell how long it will take. It would be fatal to freedom to base policies on such an expectation. Internal conditions in Russia, and the demand for a greater share of the improved conditions of life which the West now enjoys, may one day exert an influence upon the Kremlin's policies. None can tell when or how important that influence may prove to be. Once again it could be fatal to base any policies upon it.
The only premise upon which the free world can prudently found its decisions and form its practices is that the cold war will continue, that the purpose of the Communist rulers is to dominate the world, and that free men everywhere must organize their lives and effort to combat that determination, if the faith they cherish is to survive. Faced with this challenge, the free nations must unite and integrate more closely than ever before in war or peace. This will not be easy to do, for it requires a pooling of resources, economic as well as political, to an extent we have not yet begun to realize. We have to agree on plans and execute them jointly in every continent, by methods which we explain together, if not in the same words, at least in the same tone and with the same purpose.
It is not possible to limit our joint policies to Western Europe, but it is indispensable to stand firm there. If Communist power were to gain control of the human and industrial resources of this area, its domination of the world could hardly be resisted. But to be firm and united in Europe is not enough. Asia and Africa present greater complexities. Here it is necessary to speak plainly. The bogey of colonialism has done fearful damage to the Western alliance. It has created misunderstanding in the United States of the policies of the Western allies, who were once great colonial powers. It has created anxiety among those allies when interests, which seem to them vital not only to themselves but to the free world, appear to be regarded as expendable by the United States.
This state of affairs can be brought to an end only by some sacrifice of opinion and authority on either side of the Atlantic. My own country, to take only one example, has for long been working on plans in Africa to bring the peoples there to self-government. France has done the same in the greater part of her former African territories. If the policies we have declared and the successive actions we have proposed to give effect to them are approved in the United States, there should be the closest unity in their execution in the remaining colonial territories. Neither you nor we must attempt to forestall the other, nor to get credit at the expense of the other, nor to belittle the sincerity of the other. Our policies and the help we give, financial and economic, should be related and complementary. All this is difficult to do, but it has to be done if Africa is to emerge into a new life and not be an example of the disunity of the West, creating opportunities for Communism. It has also to be done if the suspicions which today weaken the Western alliance are not to undermine it.
First the United States has to consider the policies which the former colonial nations are pursuing to further the self-government of their territories. If there is agreement upon these, Western unity would be helped by United States action to work out in company with the colonial nations the degree and timing of economic aid or direct financial assistance. Certainly this would have to be related to the activities of the World Bank, but there is room for both. For a former colony to make a success of its independence, education in government, science and industry is indispensable. But this education cannot be forced beyond a certain pace and can be paid for only if there is a taxable capacity in the country. This in turn means a coördinated and enlightened investment policy pursued over the years. Neither education nor income alone is enough, as the Congo has shown. Both are needed and neither can be skimped or we shall have more Congos.
The joint effort of the United States and Britain has to be improved in another sphere. The demand is not extravagant if it is understood that we are engaged in a contest for the survival of a free civilization, calling for as sagacious and complete a use of our resources as did the Second World War. At that time what we had to say to the world was attuned. It should be now. A confusion of voices weakens our message, which is still fundamentally the same, and the sum of its impact on uncommitted nations, if intelligently related, can be much more than the influence of our separate efforts. To realize this, some central coördination is necessary.
The mechanics called for to give effect to closer relationships are important, but they are not impossible to contrive. There should be some organization, probably in Washington, perhaps in Paris to be near NATO, led at a high level, which would make possible the integration of our political and economic policies and their propaganda content and methods, to a greater extent than is provided by the joint standing group in military affairs today. An example of what can be done is the Organization for European Economic Coöperation, a little advertised but most effective promoter of prosperity. Its authority, scope and opportunity will be enlarged beyond reckoning if, as we hope, the United States and Canada now become full members of its successor organization. A closely allied effort in the atomic world and in that which reaches beyond it into space should be made, comparable to the one created between the United States, Canada and ourselves in the war. I doubt whether military planners on either side of the Atlantic are content with the extent and quality of their coöperation; they should not be. The Western alliance needs a joint group to plan policy. That group should reappraise military policies and requirements now that there is a balance of nuclear power. NATO should be associated with this work and the findings should be made available to that body. No single power can go it alone as well as it can go it in company.
Most serious is the health of NATO, which is not robust. This is in no sense the fault of its politically experienced Secretary General, M. Spaak, or of its Commander, General Norstad; both men have been attentive and loyal. The fault lies in events outside their control. At the time of writing (November I, 1960), there are four nuclear powers in the world; there may soon be more. The deterrent is possessed individually by two members of NATO and seems imminent in a third; it is not surprising that there should be a desire that the alliance as such should command some part of it also. With the probable extension of nuclear power outside NATO, we must expect this desire to grow, and it is perfectly natural that it should. NATO needs body, and would have it if it could become a nuclear power. Admittedly, such a proposal presents difficulties, not least in the imperative necessity that may arise for prompt action, which a spread of authority could weaken fatally. Nor must the part played by conventional forces be reduced, or these allowed to dwindle to an extent which would make the organization unrealistic.
On the other hand, it should be possible to work out plans which would give to NATO membership as a whole the sense that it has direct control of some nuclear power. There are indisputable objections to handing over the command of formidable nuclear weapons widely to individual NATO members, but these difficulties could be met by integrated international nuclear units which might be recruited from different NATO countries. There may be other alternatives. The essential is to determine methods which would give the alliance renewed life and meaning. This is necessary if we are to deal effectively with a psychological weakness which is undermining confidence. No single member of NATO likes to feel that for his protection he is dependent upon the decision of one, two or maybe three powers to come to his aid at the critical hour, or it could be the critical minute. Mr. Henry A. Kissinger writes of the problems of peacemaking after the Napoleonic Wars, and gives a warning which is applicable today: "To be dependent on the continued goodwill of another sovereign state is demoralizing, because it is a confession of impotence, an invitation to the irresponsibility induced by the conviction that events cannot be affected by one's will."[i]
I have no doubt that some of the feeling against the United States, which unhappily exists and is probably growing in a number of Western nations, is due to the sentiment that the survival of NATO members depends upon action principally by one member employing, or threatening to employ, weapons which most of them have not got. This idea may be unreasonable, but it is important to be rid of it. An alliance can only mature or decay. The essential is to give NATO the body it lacks today, and some revival of its authority is the only way.
Even more important than this better planning and better execution of our plans is the need for a revival of the faith of the free world. Our material resources are still greater than those of the Communist powers, and the ultimate result cannot be in doubt if our belief is as strong. This is not only a crisis of policies for the West. It is also a crisis of confidence in its own values. If we can reinforce this confidence, we shall still need the unity to express it. If we do not draw closer together quickly, we shall drift until we are apart suddenly. This is the choice. The alternative is more deadly than any we have known. To quote the words of Sydney Smith written in the summer of 1804: "A greater contest than that in which we are engaged, the world has never seen; for we are not fighting the battle of our country alone, but we are fighting to decide the question; whether there shall be any more freedom upon the earth."
[i] "A World Restored." Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957, p. 316.